Les and Jan Hosick started Dancing Leaf Cultural Learning Center
in Stockville, NE in 1987, and moved to their present location
in 1998. The Hosicks converted a 115 acre former Boy Scout camp
into a tribute to the prehistoric peoples who inhabited the
loess hills and canyons surrounding Medicine Creek near
They turned the old Boy Scout trading post into a museum filled
with fossils, artwork and artifacts, the earliest dating far
beyond man's time on this planet.
|Les describes some of his
They had both grown up in this area an
knew it was a treasure trove of fossils ranging from mastodon
teeth and jaw bones, mammoth teeth and tusks on into the
earliest human inhabitants' traces, arrowhead, spear heads, pots
and so much more. There is much to see and do.
can spend a few hours, overnight or several days. Dancing Leaf
offers you a choice. Get a day pass and see the museum, Earth
Lodge Tour, Medicine Wheel Tour or spend outdoor time canoeing
on spring fed Opal Lake, hiking the trails or even take a Guided
Plant Hike. For longer visits, you can bring your own tent or RV
or rent one of the comfortable furnished cabins. You can even
rent the earth lodge and spend the night as the primitive people
did. If you stay over for a meal, you will get to sample some
buffalo stew much like the Native Americans enjoyed.
Both Les and Jan are passionate amateur anthropologists and the
museum, although small in size, is huge in impact. A tour at
Dancing Leaf covers a lot of territory. Les led us from the days
when this part of Nebraska was a giant inland sea to the time of
the earliest native people, called the Upper Republican Culture
and believed to be the ancestors of the Pawnee Indians, and the
impact of the European settlers on their way of life by means of
fossils and artifacts.
|One of the rental cabins at
I learned more about the people who once
worked and struggled in this land in an hour than I had in four
years as an anthropology major in college.
For the most part, the fossils and artifacts are not behind
glass cases but right out there where they can be touched and
handled. Les brought these early people to life for us. After
listening to him, you no longer though of the native people as
|Entrance to the earth lodge
He explained the complexity of their
knowledge. One thing he said particularly amazed me. He said,
"The way we keep track of time, every minute, day, week, month,
year are a function of time all of that is our way of keeping
track of the passing of time. It is amazing to see that these
people knew what they knew about the sky. What our modern
computers show, they knew from their medicine wheel. Things
savages could not possibly know. They knew that each 18.6 years
the moon repeats its cycle. They knew that the planets repeated
Yes, touring the museum with Les is pretty amazing. He takes you
through the changes that occurred causing Paleo-Indians
to settle here in Nebraska and begin farming. Bowls and pottery
show this era. Then when the Europeans introduced horses about
500 years ago, the Native Americans once more reverted to a
nomadic existence to provide grazing for the horses. The record
is all there in Dancing Leaf Museum written clearly in fossils
and artifacts left by these native people.
|Sacred symbols within the earth
Going beyond the treasures in the museum,
Dancing Leaf has its own medicine wheel. It's constructed just
as the native people would have built it and is a marvelous
engineering feat when you consider the fact these people didn't
even have a written language.
For me the highlight of the tour was when
Les led us to the Earth Lodge. It is a marvel. Built as an exact
replica of what archeologists believe the Paleo-Indians lived in
around 800-1,300 years ago would have built. The structure is
rounded and covered with a healthy looking sod with a long,
narrow entrance tunnel leading into the lodge area. Les
families, maybe three or four generations lived together in
It was a warm day in May 2014 when I entered the lodge. The
temperature inside was several degrees cooler than outside.
Looking around at the raw branches supporting the lodge, the
buffalo skull and tortoise shell placed symbolically at the back
center of the lodge, the overhead opening and the hides covering
the sleeping area built in around the lodge, I felt I was back
in time to 1300 or 1400 BC.
Dancing Leaf Cultural Learning Center is the next best
thing to a time machine.
|Inside the earth lodge
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