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Products for grant HB-267613-20

The Destruction and Afterlife of the Indian Mounds of St. Louis, Missouri
Patricia Cleary, CSU, Long Beach

Grant details:

Mound City: The Place of the Indigenous Past and Present in St. Louis (Book)
Title: Mound City: The Place of the Indigenous Past and Present in St. Louis
Author: Patricia Cleary
Abstract: In the mid-1800s, daguerreotypist Thomas Easterly documented the rapid physical transformation of St. Louis, Missouri, with striking images of new buildings, roads, and railways, as well as vestiges of the Indigenous past and present. Perhaps most striking was the Big Mound, a massive earthen structure over 300 feet long. Part of a ceremonial district on the west bank of the Mississippi River, it was the largest of over two dozen mounds that once dominated the St. Louis skyline. When European colonists established St. Louis in the 1760s, they traded with nearby and distant tribes and recognized the mounds as antiquities. In the early 1800s, the city’s most distinctive feature earned it the nickname “Mound City.” Despite their renown, the mounds were gradually surrounded, claimed as sites for reservoirs and buildings, and razed in the name of progress. Even as the mounds were destroyed, business owners memorialized them with Mound City Brewery, Mound City Baked Hams, and Mound City Coffin Company. Such boosterism took place within the context of several discourses related to Indigenous peoples. Ignoring Indigenous peoples’ traditions on mounds, amateur archaeologists hotly debated whether the mound builders were ancestors of contemporary native peoples or peoples from farther afield. At the same time, the “myth of the vanishing Indian” was a corollary to policies of forced relocation and assimilation. The false notion that Indigenous peoples were disappearing served to rationalize white settlers’ claims to Indigenous lands and legacies. In an era of Manifest Destiny and Indian removal, the destruction and later celebration of the mounds shaped a civic identity both connected to and divorced from Indigenous history in the 1800s and 1900s. In recent years, Indigenous activism has underpinned efforts to protect and preserve the sacred mound spaces in St. Louis and to honor the cultures and legacies of native peoples.
Year: 2023
Publisher: University of Missouri Press
Type: Single author monograph
Copy sent to NEH?: No