Having grown up in east central Indiana, Chris Flook knew that several Native American tribes have lived in the area over the centuries.
When he was in his early 20s, what astounded him was how little people, himself included, knew about them.
“I was fully an adult before I embarrassingly learned that I knew very little about the local history and archaeology of Native Americans,” said Flook, a telecommunications lecturer. “I was researching local history for a project and discovered a great deal of information about Native Americans. I ended up being so fascinated by the topic and kept reading on it for several years.”
That discovery yielded his first book, “Native Americans of East-Central Indiana.” Released in 2016, it pulls information from a trove of scholarly research conducted in the last few decades, including material from Ball State’s Center for Applied Anthropology Laboratories.
Flook explores the history of Native Americans who lived in what are now Delaware and Madison counties from about 2,000 years ago until 1816, when Indiana became a state. These tribes had a major effect on the area, having created mounds and enclosures as well as developed farming communities. But as settlers displaced Native Americans, many of their stories went untold.
“I just took that overall concept from these fantastic researchers and scholars and wrote it in a comprehensive way, hopefully making it accessible for those of us who aren’t professional scholars.”
Flook hopes his work will help Indiana residents better understand the contributions of Native Americans.
“There is a tremendous amount of misunderstanding, ignorance and flat-out insensitivity toward Native American history,” he said. “People have been living along the White River for thousands of years. These cultures were diverse and intriguing. Too often, the whole Native American experience is pushed to the back and becomes only scenery as we tell our stories about Indiana.”
Immersive learning becomes a cornerstone
Since joining Ball State in 2007, Flook has used his local connections — he’s vice president of the Delaware County Historical Society — to meld immersive learning with history.
During the last few years, Flook’s students have created a website and documentary about majestic older homes in historic districts and aging courthouses throughout Indiana. In 2014, another group of students spent a year traveling to Ohio, Oklahoma and up and down the White River in Indiana to produce a documentary that examines the Lenape tribe’s experience, whose people migrated to Indiana after being forced from the Atlantic coast following the Revolutionary War. That documentary and subsequent research led to including the Lenape’s plight in the book.
And in recent weeks, his students have traveled across Indiana to document the passage of a ceremonial torch to mark Indiana’s bicentennial. They have taken photos, written stories, used social media and are creating a documentary to showcase the project.
“I like popularizing history. Most of the immersion projects are done to popularize concepts and research from fantastic historians and scholars,” said Flook, who is also working on a history of Muncie’s Beech Grove Cemetery.
In the next two years, he also plans to publish a photography book of nearly 1,000 villages, hamlets and small towns in Indiana.
About Chris Flook
Position: Lecturer of telecommunications; joined Ball State in 2007.
Education: BA in telecommunications (2003) and MA in digital storytelling (2007), both from Ball State.
Specialization: Web design, video editing, motion graphics
His favorite books: “1491” and “1493” by Charles C. Mann; “Gone Girl,” by Gillian Flynn; “Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People,” by journalist Tim Reiterman; “The Golden Bough: A Study in Comparative Religion” (retitled in its second edition “The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion,”) by Sir James George Frazer; “The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age,” by John Michael Greer.