Obtrusive cemeteries at ancient Native American Mound sites

Conus Mound in Marietta, OH’s Mound Cemetery – notice the loss of the dry moat around the mound – Source: bewareoftherug.blogspot.com

View of Conus Mound shortly after American settlement – Source: openvirtualworlds.org

Initially, the idea of locating a modern (post-European settlement) cemetery on or amidst an ancient Native American Mound or Mound Complex might have seemed like a logical use of the land, as they are both burial sites. During the 19th-century, it was a fairly common practice to do this in the United States. The case could have been (and was) made that doing so would help protect the ancient archaeological site from development or relic hunters for however long the cemetery remains in existence and would allow the mound site to be seen and visited by the general public.

Elpege Picou Cemetery in Louisiana built upon the Native American Mound – Source: waymarking.com

However, the imposition of a modern cemetery and its related uses and activities upon an ancient Native American burial site has many problematic aspects to it. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Theft/appropriation of the cultural context of the burial site, itself. Is it still a Native American Mound or Mound Complex when it’s partially or entirely occupied by or surrounded by a post-European settlement cemetery?
  • Theft/appropriation of the cultural identity of the original occupants laid to rest.
  • The disturbance of the existing sanctity and sacredness of the site.
  • The legacy of those buried on the site many centuries prior, as well as those who constructed the mound(s) is dishonored by the imposition of a similar land use, yet which is distinctly from another era.
  • Physical disturbance and destruction of ancient archaeological artifacts and a historical site used for burials and/or ceremonies by the addition of the cemetery and possible related uses such a chapel, church, mausoleum, drives, and parking.
  • Destruction of the original intent, design, aesthetics, and in some cases, the purpose of the mound site by the imposition the post-European cemetery.

Postcard showing Indian Mound and pavilion in Vicksburg National Cemetery – Source: misspreservation.com

From an overall impact perspective, imagine how you would feel if the cemetery where your relatives were laid to rest was later being physically altered by another society or culture. Would that be acceptable? For some, it may not be a problem, while others may have enormous concerns about it. Regardless, without some form of permission by original occupants or their ancestors, it seems quite brazen to just assume it is okay to alter the physical, religious, and cultural aspects of their legacy. Thankfully, it has been a number of years since a cemetery has been placed at an ancient Native American Mound or Mound Complex and today’s laws would likely prohibit it.

Effigy Mounds at Forest View Cemetery in Madison, WI – Source: foresthill.williamcronon.net

Effigy Mound at Forest Hill in Madison, WI – Source: foresthill.williamcronon.net

Here is a list of the 33 ancient Native American Mound sites that have been altered in 16 different states to some degree by the addition of a cemetery upon or around the site. As the accompanying images with this post indicate, there are varying degrees of alteration/damage that have taken place.

Indian Mound at Hodgen’s Cemetery in Tiltonsville, OH – Source: en.wikipedia.org

MOUND(S)-EARTHWORKS/CEMETERY (YEAR)/CITY/STATE

  • Calvary Cemetery Enclosure – Calvary Cemetery (1872) – Dayton, Ohio
  • Cemetery Mound – Indian Mound Cemetery – Arcadia, Florida
  • Cemetery Mound – Indian Mound Cemetery – Wahoo, Nebraska
  • Cemetery Mound – Mound Hill Cemetery (1806) – Eaton, Ohio
  • Cemetery Mound – Mound Hill Cemetery (1824) – Seville, Ohio
  • Cemetery Mound – Indian Mound Cemetery (1857/1905) – Young County, Texas
  • Cemetery Mounds (3) – IOOF Cemetery (1812) – Marion, Indiana – added 3/21/21
  • Conus Mound – Mound Cemetery (1801) – Marietta, Ohio
  • Fairmount Mound – Fairmount Cemetery – Jacksontown, Ohio
  • Forest Hill Effigy Mounds – Forest Hill Cemetery (1857) – Madison, Wisconsin
  • Indian Mound Cemetery Mound – Indian Mound Cemetery – Breaux Bridge, Louisiana
  • Indian Mound – Indian Mound Cemetery (1863) – Moravia, New York
  • Indian Mound – Indian Mound/Ramsay Cemetery (1867) – Ocean Springs, Mississippi
  • Indian Mound – Elpege Picou Cemetery (1901) – Cocodrie, Louisiana
  • Indian Mound – Vicksburg National Cemetery (1866) – Vicksburg, Mississippi
  • Johnson Cemetery Mound – Johnson Cemetery – Tunica, Mississippi
  • Lilbourn Mound – Mounds Park Cemetery – New Madrid/Howardville, Missouri – added 3/18/21 – Thank you, John
  • Mound Cemetery Mount – Mound Cemetery (1860s) – Arkansas City, Arkansas
  • Mounds Cemetery Mound – Mounds Cemetery – Brickeys, Arkansas
  • Mound Cemetery Mound – Mound Cemetery – Armory, Mississippi
  • Mound Cemetery Mound – Mound Cemetery – Chester, Ohio
  • Mound Cemetery Mounds – Mound Cemetery (1852) – Racine, Wisconsin
  • Oakville Indian Mounds – Old Settler’s Cemetery (1840s) – Oakville, Alabama
  • Odd Fellows Cemetery Mounds – Odd Fellows/Flag Spring Cemetery (1863) – Newtown, Ohio
  • Reily Cemetery Mounds – Reily Cemetery – Reily, Ohio
  • Riverside Mounds – Riverside Cemetery – Stoddard, Wisconsin
  • River View Cemetery Mounds – River View Cemetery (1869) – Aurora, Indiana
  • Romney Indian Mound – Indian Mound Cemetery (1859) – Romney, West Virginia
  • Scott Mound – Warren Cemetery (1828)- Pelham, Tennessee – added 3/19/21
  • Siple Mound – Old Methodist Burying Ground (1820) – Petersburg, Indiana
  • Sumnerville Mounds – Sumnerville Cemetery (1830) – Sumnerville, Michigan
  • Tiltonsville Cemetery Mound – Hodgen’s Tiltonsville Cemetery (1870s) – Tiltonsville, Ohio
  • Vegors Mound – Vegors Cemetery – Homer, Iowa
  • Woodland Cemetery Mounds – Woodland Cemetery (1846) – Quincy, Illinois

Mound Cemetery – Arkansas City, AR – Source: deltabyways.com

For those Native American Mounds and Mound Complexes that have been impacted by the addition of cemeteries, here are a few ideas on ways to reduce further harms to the mounds:

  • Prohibit adding any more graves on the mound(s) themselves.
  • Consider moving and re-interring non-Native American graves from the mounds.
  • Prohibit further disturbance to the mounds themselves and the areas of context surrounding them.
  • Work with Native American representatives to respectfully honor and sanctify the sacred site.
  • Direct all future burials to portions of the cemetery that are well-away from the mound(s).
  • Create a standalone, non-profit, Native American-led conservancy or land trust to oversee the long-term care, maintenance, and protection of these mound(s).

Romney Indian Mound – Indian Mound Cemetery in Romney, WV – Source: en.wikipedia.org

SOURCES:

This entry was posted in archaeology, civility, culture, diversity, historic preservation, history, human rights, humanity, land use, Native Americans, pictures, spatial design and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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