ROCHELLE – Currently on display at the Flagg-Rochelle Public Library is a collection of Native American artifacts belonging to Steve O’Connor of Rochelle.
The exhibit will be in place at the library for the remainder of November, which is National Native American Heritage Month. It features artifacts found in the region, including Wisconsin and suburban Illinois.
O’Connor became the owner of the collection after his late father owned it. His father was a member of the Fox Valley Rocks & Minerals Society and received the artifacts from lifelong collector August Mier.
“My son and I frequent the library, and library officials have mentioned it’s Native American Heritage Month,” O’Connor said. “I told them about what I had. I’m also a board member of the Flagg Township Museum and they have their own exhibit there. Most people don’t know about August Mier and how much this genre of things is rare.
O’Connor thinks it’s important for residents, especially students, to see historic artifacts like his. Most of the areas they originated from have been developed and are now towns like Naperville, Batavia, and St. Charles.
“Here’s a chance to see something,” O’Connor said. “These are from areas that are long gone. Almost all of the farmland where a lot of this came from is gone.”
A lot can be learned by watching and learning about artifacts, O’Connor said. He thinks the collection speaks of the intelligence of the earlier civilization.
“They found out which plants were medicinal and which were dangerous,” O’Connor said. “It must have been centuries of trial and error and they passed on that information. They did a lot of trading. Objects from the Upper Peninsula have been found throughout the Midwest. They understood safety and survival. They would stay on the east side of rivers and water bodies. It was because of the prairie fires. They wanted to get a natural barrier between them and the fire. They followed the bison. They would stay where there was a solid riverbed where the bison would cross. There were some in the Rockford area.”
In the future, O’Connor would like to find someone to take over the collection to take care of it. It is getting old and does not want to risk breaking and spreading. He also received the rare field notes from Mier.
“This stuff shouldn’t be in my house,” O’Connor said. “It should be in a museum.”
O’Connor’s preservation of the collection is an attempt to honor not only his father, but also Mier.
“It’s about their foresight to realize that this stuff is irreplaceable and has value,” O’Connor said. “My father saw the value in history and the knowledge that comes with it. These probably have no value to anyone other than a person who appreciates it. There are always things about our local history that I really appreciate. It’s just hard to get kids interested. You don’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.