Did you know…

Did You Know The Following Facts About Effigy Mounds?

by Gary Maier, MD

-that the word “effigy” means “portrait” in French

-that the effigy mounds were nearly all portraits of animals constructed of sacred earth

-that the builders of the effigy mounds were the ancestors of today’s Indian Nations

-that the effigy mounds were constructed from about 700 AD until about 1250 AD

-that the effigy mounds were constructed in a contiguous area mainly in the lower two-thirds of Wisconsin with some in eastern Minnesota and Iowa and northern Illinois and in no other place

-that the Effigy Mounds National Monument is located in McGregor, Iowa

-that the builders had constructed conical and linear mounds for over one thousand years before they started to construct effigy mounds

-that many conical, linear and effigy mounds were burial sites and are protected from destruction under laws like the Burial Sites Act in Wisconsin

-that the remains of the deceased are often not found in the mounds because they were cremated before burial

-that there was construction at some sites for over a thousand years with later people building on the work of earlier people

-that once the builders began to construct effigy mounds they often went to earlier sites and added effigy mounds to complete the meaning of the site

-that the Nations that constructed the effigy mounds were divided into Clans

-that the Clans were divided into three Realms: the Air, the Land and the Water

-that the Ho-Chunk Nation is divided into twelve clans: Eagle, Pigeon, Thunder, Warrior, Bear, Buffalo, Deer, Elk, Fish, Snake, Water Spirit and Wolf.

-that they have four Air Clans including the Eagle, Hawk, Pigeon and Thunderbirds

-that they had six Land Clans including the Bear, Buffalo, Deer, Fox, Elk, and Wolf, and two Water Clans including the Snake and Water-Spirits (These were erroneously called Panther mounds by the Europeans)

-that each Clan had an effigy mound representative of the Clan

-that the great majority of the effigy mounds are water-spirit, bear and bird mounds

-that special ceremonial sites included at least one effigy mound from each realm

-that some effigy mounds align, that is they point to the place on the horizon that the sun or moon rises or sets on the shortest and longest days of the year (Solstice) and on the two days called the Equinox when the light of day is equal to the dark of night

-that there are other geometric patterns incorporated in some mounds groups that reflect the special knowledge of the secret “Lodges” including the Medicine lodge

-that ceremonies were performed at some sites to celebrate the feasts of the particular Nation including the Green Corn Ceremony which celebrated the renewal of the earth

-that these ceremonies have continued at some sites in Wisconsin an unbroken manner right up until today

-finally, that western researchers have been working with some members of the Nations to document the location and even the meaning of particular effigy groups.*

*(AES is one of those Societies that is engaged in this process as our mission statement declares. Please join us at AES to explore how you might learn more about these Wisconsin treasures and maybe even help us study and protect them).

References/Sources/Further Readings

1. Ancient Earthworks Society (AES) Mission Statement

2. Indian Mounds of Wisconsin: Birmingham R. A. and Eisenberg L. E., UW Press,  2000

3. Effigy Mounds A Guide to Effigy Mounds National Monument: Lenzendorf D., Eastern National, 2000

4. The Eagle’s Voice, Maier G. J., Oakwood Press, 2000

5. Marquart BCC

6. Scherz J., New Alignments at Aztalan

7. The Winnebago Tribe: Radin P., Univ. Nebraska Press, 1990

8. Ho-Chunk Elders