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Mary Annette Pember and Vincent Schilling
Indian Country Today

It was a landmark year for Indian Country. Filled with trailblazers, innovators and firsts, the year's most popular stories also told stories of survival, resilience and loss.

Indian Country Today’s story with the highest readership was about the Shawnee tribes’ official return to the Great Serpent Mound in their homelands of Ohio.

For many non-Natives in Ohio, Native Americans are part of a distant, ancient past. In 1830, the Shawnee and other tribes were removed from Ohio and relocated in Oklahoma by the federal Dawes of Indian Removal Act.

Signage at the Serpent Mound park in Peebles, Ohio reminds visitors to stay off the mound. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember)

On June 20, during the Summer Solstice, Glenna Wallace, chief of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma and Ben Barnes, chief of the Shawnee Tribe spent the weekend telling visitors to the Serpent Mound historical site about their peoples’ and ancestors' connection to Ohio and the mound.

"This week I was particularly aware of what it meant for Shawnee people to be at Serpent Mound during the Solstice. I want to be precise when I say this: the Shawnee People and the Serpent belong to one another, and I am excited to bring more of us next time so that more of our Shawnee people will see Her for themselves as well as experience why the Shawnee must reclaim our sacred sites," said Barnes.

(Previous: Indian Country Today’s top 20 stories of 2020)

Stories about the discoveries of children’s graves at Canada’s Indian residential schools and the implication for U.S. schools were also popular. Indigenous women stirred readers' imaginations and admiration as fashion goddess, award-winning children's book authors, leader of the U.S. Office of Indian Energy and survivor of political opposition.

Other readers' favorites included a story about a commemoration of the occupation of Alcatraz Island, the return of bison to the Flathead Reservation in Montana and a poignant tribute to an award-winning filmmaker who died too soon.

Here are this year’s top 10 stories:

  1. Shawnee reclaim the great Serpent Mound by Mary Annette Pember
  2. US boarding schools to be investigated by Kalle Benallie
  3. Digital Smoke Signals founder Myron Dewey dies in tragic accident by Vincent Schilling
  4. Navajo woman chosen to head US Indian Energy by Joaqlin Estus
  5. The Indigenous goddess we all need(ed) by Jourdan Bennett-Begaye
  6. The first Indigenous Caldecott Medal winner by Aliyah Chavez
  7. 400 years later, ‘we did not vanish’ by Dalton Walker
  8. Retracing his ancestor's boarding school escape by Indian Country Today
  9. The bison have returned by Mary Annette Pember
  10. Montana senator says he'll 'block' Deb Haaland's Interior nomination by Mark Trahant
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This story was updated on Dec. 23 to include a quote from Ben Barnes, chief of the Shawnee tribe.

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