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Osage Heritage Sites Visit explores prehistoric Osage sites

Osage Nation members, hosted by the Osage Nation Historic Preservation Office, traveled to St. Louis, Mo., to participate in the Annual Osage Heritage Site Visit.

The visit, which provides for Osage members’ travel, lodging, and food expenses, is an annual program that allows Osages to learn and experience Osage significant sites throughout Osage ancestral lands. The visit also provides an opportunity for Osages to hear firsthand from expert scholars through tours and information presented at each heritage site. This year’s visit focused on prehistoric sites in Missouri and Illinois, areas that many Osages do not often get a chance to explore.

The St. Louis Heritage Site Visit began with a visit to the Pfeffer Site and the Emerald Mounds Site in Lebanon, Ill. The Pfeffer Site was once home to many small mounds, but is now occupied by a suburb. Archaeologists Dr. Pauketat of the University of Illinois and Dr. Susan Alt of the University of Indiana lead a walking tour of the neighborhood to point out the remaining mound and traces of others left in the front yards of many homes. After a short bus ride, Dr. Pauketat and Dr. Alt presented a history of the Emerald Mound Site, as well as their current theories on the mound’s original function. The site was undergoing archaeological investigations on ceremonial areas surrounding the large mound, and Osage members had the opportunity to speak with all members of the excavation crew and to walk to the top of Emerald Mound.

On the second day of the Heritage Sites Visit, the group explored a rock art site within Washington State Park, south of St. Louis. Dr. Carol Diaz Granados and Jim Duncan, the foremost scholars on Missouri rock art, lead a tour of the petroglyph site. Following the somewhat rainy outdoor tour, the group enjoyed an indoor presentation by Dr. Diaz Granados and Mr. Duncan that emphasized the connections between Osage iconography and the rock art of the region.

The final day of tours began with a visit to Cahokia Mounds State Park. The group arrived as the doors to the Interpretive Center opened and spent time exploring the museum on their own after a short presentation by Dr. Bill Iseminger, Assistant Site Manager. The group then followed Dr. Iseminger up the 100-foot climb to the top of Monks Mound, the largest earthen mound in the Americas. Along with information provided by Dr. Iseminger, the group also took in breathtaking views of Cahokia and the skyline of St. Louis across the Mississippi River. The group then visited Woodhenge, a circular calendar, which is over 400 foot in diameter with posts over 20 foot high. 

Later, the group traveled back over the river to explore the remains of the St. Louis Mound group. The St. Louis Mound Group once mirrored the giant complex of Cahokia, but was destroyed in the late 1800s during the construction of the city of St. Louis. The first stop was a trip to Sugarloaf Mound, the last standing mound of the St. Louis Mound Group and property of the Osage Nation. In an effort to preserve Sugarloaf Mound the property was purchased by the Osage Nation in 2009 and will be the future home of an interpretive center.

The day ended with a stop at the site of Big Mound, the largest of the mounds that once comprised the St. Louis Mound Group that stood over 30 feet high. At present, the site of the mound is now memorialized by a boulder and small park area. This small memorial site was created after vigorous objection by the Osage Nation to the construction of the new interstate bridge on top of the site of Big Mound. Unfortunately, the Heritage Sites group found the park was not well maintained, with graffiti and trash marring the memorial. While this last site visit was a slightly frustrating end to the trip, the Heritage Sites Visit was an overall success that allowed Osages a chance to experience prehistoric Osage sites and learn about the connections to ancestral lands.

The Osage Nation Historic Preservation Office would like to offer our sincere thanks to the many people who assisted with this highly successful event:

Dr. Tim Pauketat and Dr. Susan Alt, along with the field school students of the Emerald Mound Site, for their wonderful hospitality; Dr. Carol Diaz-Granados and Jim Duncan for their willingness to share their excellent work; Dr. Bill Iseminger, and his fellow staff members at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, for their hospitality and assistance in the description and interpretation of the site; St. Louis preservation proponent and friend Tim Ogle; The staff at our hotel and the many fine restaurants that served us, which contributed to making the trip a success; and many thanks go out to our bus driver Ken, whose presence ensured our safe travels.

We look forward to continuing the annual Osage Heritage Sites Visit and hope that those Osages who are interested will continue to check our website for updates on the next visit, tentatively planned for sites in Arkansas!


Osage Nation Historic Preservation

Original Publish Date: 2015-08-11 00:00:00


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As an independent news organization, we strive to report news and information with fairness and balance. While being the official news organization of the Osage Nation, we base our news judgements on our loyalties to our readers and Osage citizens, and we are not directly beholden to the Executive, Legislative, or Judicial branches of the Osage Nation.

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