The center of what is now the state of Ohio long has been a gathering place.

In the wake of the departure of the last great glacier about 15,000 years ago, a few hunter-gatherers called central Ohio their home.

Over the course of several centuries, the people who followed the great animal herds of bison, elk and deer began to settle down.

Why they did this remains a subject of some debate.

Perhaps there was a need for more food, and an agricultural predilection tended to keep people in one place for a time.

Perhaps there was conflict with the growth of population and people stayed in one place to defend themselves. Or perhaps people just got tired of chasing animal herds.

In any case, they did. By the beginning of the last millennium, sophisticated cultures had emerged in the Ohio Valley. Because they left no written language, we do not know what these people called themselves, but in retrospect, we have given them names such as Adena, Hopewell and Fort Ancient.

We know because of archeological and other evidence that these cultures were gone from the Ohio Valley by the mid-1400s.

We call them the Mound Builders because of their characteristic burial, ceremonial and defensive earthen architecture.

We know generally where they went: to the west and the south.

We also know the Ohio Valley continued to be occupied in the years that followed.

By the beginning of the 17th century, a group of people called the Erie occupied the southern coast of the lake that bears their name.

By the mid 1600s, a group of native nations along the Mohawk River Valley in upstate New York had resolved their age-old differences and formed a new confederacy. They called themselves the Haudenosaunee, or "people of the long house." Other nations called them the Iroquois.

Driven by disagreements with the Erie, the Haudenosaunee swept into Ohio and virtually annihilated the Erie in a series of wars in the 1650s.

In the wake of the destruction of the Erie, the "people of the five nations" (later six) occupied the Ohio Valley for most of the next century.

But by the late 1730s, the Haudenosaunee were beginning to feel threatened. Dutch and English expansion up the Hudson River joined French expansion down the St. Lawrence River. In response, the Haudenosaunee pulled back into what is now New York to protect their ancient homeland.

Ohio was not completely abandoned. Much of the northeast corner of the state continued to be occupied by the Seneca nation.

Groups of Iroquois origin but with no direct allegiance called themselves Mingo and lived in Ohio, as well.

But nature abhors a vacuum. The decline of the Iroquois presence in the Ohio Valley made the area attractive to other people.

From the west, the Miami people came out of Indiana and occupied the western Ohio river valleys that bear their name -- the Great Miami, the Little Miami and the Maumee.

From the east, the Delaware had been pushed across Pennsylvania and by the mid 1750s had crossed the mountains and had settled in Ohio.

From the north, the Wyandot people, sometimes called the Hurons, came south and settled in the Black Swamp country of northwest Ohio.

Then there were the Shawnee. Claiming to be Ohio's original residents, the Shawnee had traveled far, but by 1750, they returned here.

These were the major tribes in Ohio at the time when settlement from the newly formed United States began in earnest.

Because two major rivers came together at the forks of the Scioto River and because several major trails crossed nearby, central Ohio became home to several Native American nations.

To the north were the Wyandot and the Delaware. To the south were the Shawnee. At the forks of the Scioto, near what is now the Arena District, was a Mingo village.

Many of the people from these diverse tribes resisted settlement.

Initially, Gen. Josiah Harmar led an expedition into what is now northwest Ohio, seeking to find people to fight. He found them and decided to leave without defeat -- or victory.

Discouraged by the lack of progress, Gov. Arthur St. Clair led an army of his own north. It suffered the worst defeat ever experienced against Native America.

Then, in 1794, Gen. Anthony Wayne defeated an assembly of warriors at the Battle of Fallen Timbers.

Over the next 40 years, a series of treaties led to the removal of most Native Americans from Ohio.

In 1842, the last of the Wyandots left from their ancestral home in Upper Sandusky.

A few remained. Bill Moose claimed to be the last of the Wyandot.

When he died in 1937, his funeral was well-attended.

Today, representatives of several different Native American nations live in Columbus and central Ohio. They not only remind us of who we are, but of who we have been.

Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.