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Lewis Mound Group

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Last Updated: 12 December 2020

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Lewis Mound Group

Added to NRHPDecember 15, 1984
Coordinates43030N 89180W / 43.00833N 89.30000W / 43.00833; -89.30000 ( Lewis Mound Group ) Coordinates : 43030N 89180W / 43.00833N 89.30000W / 43.00833; -89.30000 ( Lewis Mound Group )
LocationIndian Mound Park, McFarland, Wisconsin
NRHP reference No.84000809

On August 25 1804, Lewis, Clark, and several of their men walked nine miles to Spirit Mound from their camp on the South bank of the Missouri River. They were determined to see the Mound that was so feared by indigenous people of the area. In his journal, Clark explains the legend of Spirit Mound:. And by different nations of Indians in this quarter is supposed to be the residence of Deavels. That they are in human form with remarkable large heads, and about 18 inches high, that they are very watchful and are arm'd with sharp arrows with which they can kill at a great distance; they are said to kill all people who are so hard as to attempt to approach hill; they state that tradition informs them that many Indians have suffer by these Little People. So much do Maha, Soues, Ottoes and other neighboring nations believe this fable, that no consideration is sufficient to induce them to approach the hill. One evidence which Inds give for believing this place to be the residence of some unusial spirits is that they frequently discover large assemblages of birds on this mound. The Intense heat fatigued everyone, especially Lewiss dog Seaman, who was sent back to the river to rest. Finally, Lewis and Clark reach the top of Spirit Mound where they behold most beautiful landscape; Numerous herds of buffalo were seen feeding in various direction; Plain to North NW and NE extends without interruption as far as can be see. Today, Spirit Mound is one of the few remaining physical features on the Upper Missouri River that is readily identifiable as place Lewis and Clark visited and record. Spirit Mound is a High Potential Historic Site on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. On August 25 1804, Lewis, Clark, and ten other men hiked about nine miles north of the Missouri River to visit Spirit Mound. According to Clark, Omaha, Sioux, and Oto tribes traditionally believe that hills were inhabited by devils in human form with remarkable large heads and about 18 inches high. They were said to be very watchfull and armd with sharp arrows with which they can Kill at great distance. Men encounter no such inhabitants, but find hills situated on elivated plain in level and extensive prarie with steep assent to height of 65 or 70 feet, leaveing level plain on top of 12 feet in width & 90 in length. Clark observed that soil consistencies with surrounding terrain indicate Mound was a natural landform. He write of view, from top of this Mound we behold most butifull landscape; Numerous herds of buffalow were seen feeding in various directions, Plain to North N. W & N E extends without interuption as far as can be see. In 1868, European-Americans began to settle in the area.

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Powerful symbols of living traditions

The Teton encounter had no quick ending and escaping its tangles prove no easy task. When the expedition resumed its progress up the Missouri River on September 29, Black Buffalo was on board keelboat while Partisan was waiting on the wings. Standing on a sandbar, Partisan and two OF his warriors demand transportation as far as Arikara Villages. When Captains refuse, Black Buffalo suggests that a carrot or two of tobacco and ferry ride from one bank to other might placate Partisan. Lewis and Clark wearily comply, hoping this would be the last Teton request. The expedition's attention was now turned to the first signs of Arikaras. AT mouth OF No Timber Creek, know today as Chantier Creek, Americans abandon Arikara settlement. Describe by Truteau in mid-1790s Village had been occupied until the end OF century. Clark writes that nothing remains OF Village but the Mound which surrounds town. Ordway, who always had an eye for simple but revealing detail, notes remains OF cornfields on rich bottomland around empty village. In subsequent days, the expedition would see more abandoned towns, all mute testimony to many years of Arikara migration along Missouri. On following day, September 30, Some OF last scenes in the Teton drama were played out. With Black Buffalo still on board, explorers bring their flotilla to sandbar opposite Sioux encampment. As men ate breakfast, Captain talked with several warriors. Indians were told about bad treatment expedition had suffered AT hands of Teton bands lower down the River and were warned not to try the same. Those brave words were carefully matched by the generous amount of tobacco, and the American party moved on without incident. In the afternoon, the wind Pick up and Missouri suddenly becomes choppy Lake. Rocking dangerously, keelboat seemed ready to founder. Black Buffalo, fearing for his life, plead to be put ashore. Perhaps relieved to be free OF their Indian passenger, Captains give the Chief some gifts and advise him to keep his men away. In early October, as the weather turned cold and windy, expedition encountered even more traces of Arikaras. On first OF month, they found another abandoned townsite, fortified Island settlement of substantial size. Clark describes ruins as only mound circular walls 3 or 4 feet high. But Lewis and Clark find more than Arikara remain around the Cheyenne River; They also find Jean Valle, independent trader. The Frenchman was engaged in Sioux Trade and had a small supply of goods for that purpose. Valle gave Captains important bit of information about Upper Missouri Trade patterns When He Report that many OF Sioux were currently AT Grand River Arikara Villages. Lewis and Clark would soon learn much more about that Arikara-Sioux connection, and disrupting it become one of the Captains' leading diplomatic objectives.

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Indian Burial Mounds at UW-Madison

Tuck in tangle of Virginia creeper and garlic mustard, barrow, simple hemisphere of compacted soil, is lost to any but most interested observer. Every day, scores of people amble or jog past desk-size structures on their way to the tip of Picnic Point unaware that a HUMAN monument, perhaps as ancient as Egypt pyramids, is within arms reach. Hide in its leafy niche, mound is one of dozens of very old and still sacred Burial Mounds found on UW-Madison campus. Together with much larger and more enigmatic effigy mounds, tumuluses represent unique signature on landscape, inscribed hundreds or thousands of years ago by Native peoples for reasons archaeologists, Native Americans and others still debate. But one thing is clear: There are more earthen monuments in greater variety on UW-Madison campus than any other university or college campus anywhere in North America, and probably the world. Worldwide, these are extremely rare resource, note Amy Rosebrough, Wisconsin assistant state archaeologist and UW-Madison graduate student in anthropology. There are more Burial Mounds on UW-Madison campus than any other campus I am aware of, and there are certainly more effigy Mounds. This is the only place in the world where people create large structures in the shape of animals for burial. Throw the Arboretum into calculus, and today there are 38 effigy and Burial Mounds in six groupings on UW-Madison campus. At least 14 more have been lost to development. One large mound on Bascom Hill, ironically the location of Madisons first cemetery for early white settlers, was level when Bascom Hall was constructed in 1857 and at least two mounds were destroyed when the Agricultural Hall was built in 1901. Today, mounds are protected by law, and they remain important to Native Americans. The occasional offering of tobacco, wrap in patterned cloth and tied to the branch of a nearby tree is silent testament to the spiritual significance of Mounds to American Indians today. In Midwest, there are at least 15 000 earthworks, built between 350 and 2 800 years ago. Wisconsin, in particular, was a place where Native people leave their mark on the landscape by constructing edifices for Burial or, perhaps, when it comes to effigy Mounds in shapes of animals, birds and spirits, for the benefit of totemic relationships: There are more in Wisconsin than elsewhere. In terms of density of earthworks, were at the top of the heap, according to Rosebrough. In Madison area, which must have been a busy place in prehistory, there are an estimated 1 300 extant effigy mounds, including the world's largest known Bird effigy, with a wingspan of 624 feet, on the grounds of Mendota Mental Heath Institute. But sadly, most of Midwests Burial and effigy Mounds have been destroyed by 175 years of agricultural, urban and rural development. Others were and continue to be lost to depravations of illegal prospecting for artifacts and some were destroyed by early Archaeological investigations.

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Archaeology in Trempealeau, Wisconsin

Table

Unitof Lithicsof Potteryof Historics
1364281
26811170
31,2383201
4305481

Archaeologists Danielle Benden and Robert Ernie Boszhardt walk across Little Bluff Mounds in Trempealeau. Two have been co-directing Archaeological Excavations in Trempealeau for the last decade, inviting community members to join in digs uncovering 1 000 year old homes of Mississippians. They have developed TRIP, series of three-interconnect exhibits that interprets Mississippian story in the context of the 13 000 year human history of the region and Interpretive hiking trail to Little Bluff Mounds. Its experience Benden has shared with many over the course of the Trempealeau Archaeology Project, community-wide quest to uncover the history of Mississippians, group of 100 to 200 people who left the city of Cahokia, 2 200-acre tract near what is now. Louis and paddled 500 miles up the Mississippi River to Mountain Whose Foot is bath in water. Benden and Boszhardt, both formerly with Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center, recently developed the Trempealeau Interpretive Path: TRIP initiative to share wealth of discoveries. TRIP includes curriculum resources, with activities and breakdowns of their findings, and a three-part exhibit. Artifacts on display at Shirley M. Wright Memorial Library include historical illustrations and artifacts collected during both group digs and by local individuals. The expansive indoor exhibit in Perrot State Park Nature Center, completed last September, offers a comprehensive 13 000-year history of the region, with a look at geological, topographical and cultural changes in the area, and houses a display of traditional Native American clothing. Lastly, new informational kiosk, signage and Interpretive pathway have been added to Little Bluff Mounds, Center of Mississippian settlement. Construction of platform Mounds was labor intensive, with millions of baskets filled with dirt hauled to the 100-Foot peak of Bluff, leaving behind deep recesses in the ground, called borrow pits. Rectangular wooden structures with thatched roofs were erected atop mounds, and upon digging trench at location, Boszhardt discovered the top of temple and hearth, where the spiritual leader was likely tasked with keeping fire burning constantly. Artifacts and carbon dating indicate Mississippians only stayed in the area for half a century, later settling in Aztalan in southeast Wisconsin. While the reason for their departure is unknown, it is not believed to be caused by conflict, as the lack of walls and barriers indicate they live peacefully with neighboring locals. However, perimeter of settlement has continued to expand with each discovery, sign of a once bustling area.

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What are the Effigy Mounds?

Within the span of only a couple of centuries, new and distinct culture has arisen in Wisconsin. Archaeologists call it the Effigy Mound culture. The name is inspired by unique burial mounds constructed by Native communities of southern Wisconsin. Some effigies are in form of birds, bear, deer, spirit animals or people. Other mounds are abstract, such as combinations of embankments with dome-shaped mounds. Mound builders usually bury their dead in small pits or lay them on carefully prepared surfaces. Mounds were then built over corpses as grave markers. Sometimes objects such as cooking pot or arrow were included in the Mound. More often, no items were left behind at all. Archaeologists believe Effigy Mound communities were egalitarian. No evidence has been found of long-distance trade in exotic, valuable or ritual items or burial possessions that indicate rank or status.

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The Inhabitants

Around 1100 or 1200 AD, largest city North of Mexico was Cahokia, sitting in what is now southern Illinois, across the Mississippi River from. Louis. Build around 1050 AD and occupied through 1400 AD, Cahokia had a peak population of between 25 000 and 50 000 people. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cahokia was composed of three boroughs connected to each other via waterways and walking trails that extend across the Mississippi River floodplain for some 20 square km. Its population consists of agriculturalists who grow large amounts of maize, and craft specialists who make beautiful pots, shell jewelry, arrow-points, and flint clay figurines. The city of Cahokia is one of many large earthen mound complexes that dot the landscapes of Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys and across the Southeast. Despite the preponderance of Archaeological evidence that these Mound complexes were the work of sophisticated Native American civilizations, this rich history was obscure by the Myth of Mound Builders, narrative that arisen ostensibly to explain the existence of Mounds. Examining both the history of Cahokia and historic myths that were created to explain it reveals the troubling role that early archaeologists played in diminishing, or even eradicating, achievements of pre-Columbian civilizations on the North American continent, just as the US government was expanding westward by taking control of Native American lands. Today it is difficult to grasp the size and complexity of Cahokia, composed of about 190 mounds in platform, ridge-top, and circular shapes align to plan city grid oriented five degrees East of North. This alignment, according to Tim Pauketat, professor of anthropology at University of Illinois, is tied to summer solstice sunrise and southern maximum moonrise, orientating Cahokia to the movement of both the sun and moon. Neighborhood houses, causeways, plazas, and mounds were intentionally align to this city grid. Imagine yourself walking out from Cahokias downtown; on your journey you would encounter neighborhoods of rectangular, semi-subterranean houses, Central hearth fires, storage pits, and smaller community plazas interspersed with ritual and public buildings. We know the Cahokia population was diverse, with people moving to this city from across midcontinent, likely speaking different dialects and bringing with them some of their old ways of life. The largest mound at Cahokia was Monks Mound, four-terrace platform mound about 100 feet high that serves as the citys central point. Atop its summit sits one of the largest rectangular buildings ever constructed at Cahokia; it likely serve as ritual space. In front of Monks Mound was a large, open plaza that held chunk yard to play popular sport of chunkey. This game, watched by thousands of spectators, was played by two large groups who would run across the plaza lobbing spears at rolling Stone disk. The goal of the game was to land their spear at a point where the disk would stop rolling. In addition to the chunk yard, upright marker posts and additional platform mounds were situated along plaza edges.

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The Transition in Archaeological Ideology

During the time of Clark Mallams research, there was the beginning of a transition from culture-Historical approach to processual approach in Archaeology. Previous research on Effigy Mounds had focused on describing, recording, or establishing culture-Historical sequences with regard to Mounds, which portray them as a consistent cultural identity that persisted for 1300 years. Mallam, however, had a more holistic conception of culture and focussed his analysis on ideology. He saw ideology as being a vital expression of dynamic relationships between people and their surroundings. According to Professor Emeritus Harvey Klevar, Mallam was strongly influenced by the writings of Willa Cather and therefore had more female perspective in male-dominated anthropology of time. He firmly believes that if mechanistic approach to Archaeology persist, Mounds would continue to be viewed as ceremonial object whose function is unknown. R. Clark Mallam, Iowa Effigy Mound Manifestation: Interpretive Model

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LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging)

The eastern half of the United States has a wide variety of Ancient and Historic earthen mounds, ranging from simple conical mounds to large platform mounds and complex concentric circles. These earthen architectural structures were built by many different American Indian groups over several thousand years. In the Midwest, Effigy Mounds built in shapes of bears, birds, panthers, snakes and water spirits were particularly prevalent. These mounds are primarily found in southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois, eastern Iowa, and southeastern Minnesota. They date to about AD 650-1200, and were probably built by ancestors of Ho-Chunk and other Midwestern tribes. Mounds are commonly located on flat high areas overlooking rivers and streams, especially where they intersect wetlands and lakes. These areas have good views, and mounds would probably have been visible from long distances, especially if nearby trees were remove. Excavations of mounds have uncovered human remain; besides burial sites, mounds probably also function as territory markers and as multi-purpose ceremonial places. Lakes and marshes associated with Effigy Mounds were productive sources of food, especially in winter. People who built and use Mounds live in small nearby villages. They hunt, fish, and gather wild plant products, but also had small gardens where domesticate plants such as sunflowers and squashes were grow. Thanks to the foresight of energetic citizens, local politicians and community leaders, some of these Effigy Mounds are preserved in parks. One Group of Mounds is protected in National Monument. Congress and the President created National Monuments through the agency of Antiquities Act, which allows the Federal government to set aside public lands. Effigy Mounds National Monument, located on the Mississippi River in northeastern Iowa, protects over 200 Mounds of Native American origin, 31 of which are bird and Bear Effigy Mounds. Mounds still have much to tell us and new technologies are revealing their secrets. The Elevate perspective that aerial photography and LIDAR provide allows more detailed and complete comprehension of the full extent of Mounds on Landscape than do terrestrial reconnaissance. The Story of documentation and Study of Native American earthen Mounds is a fascinating chapter in American archeology. Euroamerican settlers moving westward across the United States could not believe that ancestors of Native Americans make earthen mounds that they encounter. The Sheer size of sites such as Cahokia, in western Illinois, and expertise in delineating effigies such as the Great Serpent Mound snake devouring egg in present-day Ohio, make it difficult to accept that Indian communities that were reeling from the effects of disease, displacement and colonization were descendents of people who had capacities to carry out these massive earth moving Projects. The very first publication of Smithsonian Institution was devoted to questions of origin, antiquity, and identify of moundbuilders. Ephraim Squier, journalist, and Edwin Davis, physician, meet in Chillicothe, Ohio in 1845. They were both intrigued by the variety of ancient mounds in the area, and began spending time together.

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Sources

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