Indian Mounds Are the Write Stuff for Park Director

By F. N. D'Alessio Of The | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), October 13, 1994 | Go to article overview

Indian Mounds Are the Write Stuff for Park Director


F. N. D'Alessio Of The, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Roger G. Kennedy, author of a new book on American Indian mounds, reduced his 300-page text to a single word as he examined artifacts from a 1,600-year-old mound in Ohio.

"Wow!"

The remark is typical of Kennedy, who displays unashamed enthusiasm for his work.

His current job is Director of the National Park Service, and it's a sign of Kennedy's zeal that he's the first director since the 1920s to wear his Smokey Bear-style uniform daily.

Kennedy is also - or has been at some time - a museum director, a banker, a bureaucrat, an historian, a foundation president, an amateur archaeologist, an NBC correspondent, a northwoods canoe guide and an architecture buff.

Much of that background surfaces in his latest book, "Hidden Cities: The Discovery and Loss of Ancient North American Civilization."

The book describes the successive waves of mound building that began sometime before 1250 B.C. in Louisiana and climaxed around A.D. 1300 with the construction of large earthen pyramids near Cahokia. He also speculates on the Great Dying of the 1500s and 1600s, when microbes carried by Europeans preceded the settlers over the Appalachians and decimated the American Indian tribes.

Kennedy concentrates less on the mounds themselves than on their discovery by early European explorers and settlers - many of whom either destroyed the structures or attempted to explain them away as the work of someone other than American Indians.

"There is as much to say about Euramerican lack of understanding of Indian history as there is to say about the Indians themselves," he explains in his introduction.

His text hops - sometimes confusingly, but always enthusiastically - from descriptions of mounds in the Ohio Valley to discussion of Thomas Jefferson's racial attitudes, cultural analysis of the Book of Mormon and praise for the achaeological discoveries of Bartholemy Lafon, a New Orleans architect with a sideline as a successful pirate. …

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