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“We Are Still Here” throughout the Mississippi River Valley

May 28, 2013Patrick NunnallyRiver Meaning, RiversComments Off on “We Are Still Here” throughout the Mississippi River Valley

A recent article from the Indian Country Today Media Network serves as an important reminder both of the time-depth during which people have lived with the Mississippi and of the fact that the descendants of those earliest inhabitants remain on the river today.

Winterville Mounds, near Greenville Mississippi, likely date back 1000 years or more.  Officials are planning an expansion and upgrading of the historic site, a process that involves a representative from the Chickasaw Nation, now located in Oklahoma after the federal government’s 19th century removal policies.

Winterville Mounds State Park is far from the only site associated with indigenous people along the Mississippi River. The National Park Service has a strong presence at Poverty Point National Monument in Louisiana and at Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa.  Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, just east of St. Louis, is owned and managed by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and has been recognized as a World Heritage Site.  Farther north, the City of St. Paul manages Indian Mounds Park.

In the Indian Country Today article, Brady Davis of the Chickasaw Nation said, “The story of Winterville—and all of Mississippi’s Native American history from pre-Columbian time to today—is an interesting and important one. It’s a common perception that American Indians are only in the past, but we want to remind them and make them aware that they are still here,” Davis said. “The connection from past to present is really important.”

He’s right, of course, and his insight holds true for the entire length of the great river.  As those of us who are newcomers to the river and its valley grapple with issues such as climate change, loss of habitat for fish and wildlife, and general issues of river sustainability, we need to ask questions of, and listen to, those whose tenure here is measured in centuries.


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