Push Is Underway to Make Cahokia Mounds, Other Local Indian Sites Part of the National Park Service

By Gillerman, Margaret | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), April 13, 2014 | Go to article overview

Push Is Underway to Make Cahokia Mounds, Other Local Indian Sites Part of the National Park Service


Gillerman, Margaret, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Ancient Greece had its Parthenon, Egypt its Pyramids and St. Louis its Cahokia Mounds and more than 550 other Mississippian mounds that experts say are of comparable importance to North American ancient civilization.

Now, an effort is gaining strength to urge Congress to designate Cahokia Mounds and the similar sites in the St. Louis area a part of the National Park Service as a national historical park or to get the president to designate Cahokia Mounds a national monument. Either designation, proponents say, would give the ancient Native American mounds more protection, more status and more tourism. A network of connected trails could link the mounds and sites in Illinois, where most are located, and Missouri, proponents say.

"The current plan includes creating a national historical park not only for Cahokia but for the significant mound centers of the Mississippians throughout the bistate region," said Bill Iseminger, an archaeologist who is assistant director of the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. This, said Iseminger, who is sometimes called "Mr. Mounds," would "enable us to protect a lot more of it."

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn endorsed the idea last month, and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has asked the Park Service to review the proposal. Under the plan, the state of Illinois would retain ownership and operation of the 2,200-acre Cahokia Mounds, which was the site of the largest Pre-Columbian city north of Mexico.

"The time is now to protect these resources," says a new report by the private regional not-for-profit Heartlands Conservancy, the group leading the effort.

Adding urgency is a remarkable recent find, some of which could be endangered, said Ed Weilbacher, who heads special projects for the Heartlands Conservancy.

Before and during construction of the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge, archaeologists uncovered more than 1,500 ancient Indian homes estimated to have housed 5,000 people over the years in and around the former St. Louis National Stockyards in the Metro East. But that's only a tiny fraction of what archaeologists and others expect could be uncovered on adjacent land, next to East St. Louis.

The artifacts found during the bridge construction are being cataloged and researched by the Illinois State Archaeological Survey at the University of Illinois. Other finds include storage pits, refuse pits, food-processing areas, sweat lodges and other aspects of the culture.

All were part of a Mississippian civilization that flourished from 1000 A. …

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