Customer feature: Fort Ancient Earthworks and Nature Preserve Gift Shop

Nestled in the heart of Oregonia, Ohio, the Fort Ancient Earthworks and Nature Preserve is more than just a historical site; it’s a portal to the past and a celebration of Native American heritage. Operated by the Ohio History Connection, this treasured site has been drawing visitors since its establishment in 1891 as Ohio’s first state park. In 1968, the addition of the gift shop added a new dimension to the visitor experience, providing a space where history, art, and culture converge.

The Fort Ancient Gift Shop was born out of a need to enhance the visitor experience and generate additional revenue to support the preservation efforts of the site. Today, it serves a dual purpose: attracting more visitors and offering them a unique opportunity to engage with Native American culture through a curated selection of items. The shop’s mission is to educate and inspire, while also supporting Native artists.

The name “Fort Ancient” carries a fascinating, albeit incorrect, historical narrative. When European settlers first encountered the site, they mistook it for a hill fort like those found in Europe. However, this ancient earthwork, with its carefully constructed gaps in the mound “walls,” was not designed for defense. Instead, it is believed to have served as a ceremonial gathering space. This rich history has earned the site the designation of being the 25th UNESCO World Heritage Site in the United States and the first, and only one, in Ohio.

The gift shop boasts a diverse array of merchandise that appeals to history buffs, art lovers, and casual visitors alike. From branded merchandise like t-shirts, mugs, and pens to a wide selection of books authored by Native writers and academics, the shop is a perfect for those looking to delve deeper into Native American history and culture. The shop also features an impressive collection of Native-made items, including food and gifts from SweetGrass Trading Company, jewelry, and artwork.

When visitors step into the Fort Ancient Gift Shop, the goal is for them to leave with more than just a souvenir. The shop strives to be an educational space where people can learn about the site’s history and the broader history of Native Americans in the United States, both past and present.

Sarah Winningham, visitor services supervisor, noted the importance of working with Native-owned companies like SweetGrass Trading Company. “As the person ordering for the shop, my goal is to provide the most Native-made items I can for guests to see and experience,” she said. “I want to support Native artists and help build ties to those whose tribes have historic ties to Ohio.”

A key aspect of the shop’s philosophy is its commitment to supporting Native artists and businesses. By partnering with Native American companies like SweetGrass, the shop ensures that the items it offers are authentic and contribute directly to the Native communities.