Mississippian culture refers to a Native American civilization that dominated a large portion of the Eastern United states between the years of 800 and 1600 CE. A vast network of Native American tribes, settlements, and villages were included within this civilization. They were primarily linked together via a trade network, which was responsible for spreading significant cultural influence.
It is so called Mississippian culture because it originated from the Mississippi River valley. Similar traits were exhibited in the nearby Tennessee River Valley as well. The culture began to flourish in 800 CE. It remained dominant in the area until the exploration of Hernando de Soto. There are very few signs of Mississippian culture existing past 1540, which is around the time that Hernando was exploring that region of North America.
What Are Their Traits?
This particular culture can be identified by observing its cultural traits. Not every village or settlement would follow the exact same activities or exhibit the same traits, but you could always find some of these traits in each settlement.
The building of large, earthen mounds is one of their most significant traits. The mounds may be used as the base for housing, for temples, or even burial sites. They were most often square in shape. Some were rectangular and very few had a circular shape. The Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Illinois has the largest of the remaining mound structures.
Other traits included extremely long trade routes that could reach as far north as the Great Lakes and as far south as the Gulf of Mexico. They institutionalized social inequality and developed a chiefdom system in their villages.
What Happened To It All?
There are still many Mississippian sites remaining in part in the United States. As for the people themselves, it is believed that many of the historic and modern era Native American tribes descended from these Mississippian people. This includes the Choctaw, Cherokee, and Apalachee.
The Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is located in Illinois in between the cities of Collinsville and East St. Louis. It was designated by the UNESCO World Heritage Site as a cultural heritage site in 1982. Prior to that, it was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1966. And even further back than that, it was listed as a U.S. National Historic Landmark on July 19 of 1964.
The mounds are the remnant of a Native American city that existed somewhere between the years of 600 and 1400 CE. It was believed to be the largest of all the settlements in the area. The mounds of the site are massive and said to be the largest archaeological site from that era that is north of Mexico.
Overall, it covers an area of 2,200 acres, which is roughly 3 and a half square miles. However, in its prime, it covered at least 6 square miles. There were at least 120 large mounds made by man at the time. Today, only 80 of those mounds still exist. The mounds are built in a variety of shapes and sizes. They served different functions as well, just like a criminal defense attorney. While it isn’t as large as it once was, it is still an extremely impressive sight.
A Brief History.
The area was settled sometime around 600 CE. This is referred to as the Late Woodland Period. The building of the mounds wouldn’t begin until around 800 CE, which marked the emergence of Mississippian culture.
The name that the settlement originally used is still unknown. The inhabitants did not leave behind any written words, symbols, or records aside from what was used decoratively on pottery, wood, and metal. Nonetheless, it is obvious that they were an advanced people who were rich in culture. Each year, visitors flock to the area for a glimpse of what it was like to live in America more than 1,400 years ago.
If you would like to learn more about Cahokia Mounds, this video does a great job showing giving in-depth info!
The history of the Mormon Church goes back to the 1800’s and Joseph Smith. While his flock originated in the east, they moved westward, establishing settlements as they went. After Smith passed away Brigham Young took over and began what would eventually be known as the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail.
This trail is 1300 miles long and spans from Nauvoo, Illinois, to Salt Lake City, Utah. At the time it was established, Nauvoo had been the main settlement of the Mormons. However, Young set out to to what is now known as Salt Lake City. Along the way they had some folks stay in various locations and set up establishments.
For more than two decades men and women traveled back and forth on the trail as their numbers grew through multiple conversions. They had to escape the frigid winters but had yet to establish their new home in Utah at first.
The trail is also known for the Mormon handcart pioneers who developed a method for getting more folks transported safely. At that time many people simply couldn’t afford to purchase the horses and carts necessary for the long trip. However, these handcarts allowed for people to still make the trek, even if they had limited resources.
These carts were constructed of wood and could be pushed or pulled by people. They could carry provisions for the ride on the trail and a few personal items for the family. While not as ideal as a large covered cart and wagon train being pulled by fine horses, these innovative carts allowed thousands of Mormons to make the trip to Salt Lake City using the carts.
Along the way there were some struggles along the Mormon Trail, including a harsh weather winter incident in what is now Casper, Wyoming. Two parties exhausted their food supplies before rescue workers were able to find them. More than 200 faithful followers were lost as a result.
Although the trail was very popular for many years, it eventually became obsolete. In 1869, the First Transcontinental Railroad was completed, opening the way for inexpensive and dependable travel for people interested in going either direction.
Today, many of the sites along the Mormon Trail have historical observance points and information regarding their part in this important event in American history. It is a fascinating look at how Europeans expanded westward in pursuit of their own search for answers and freedom.
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Located in Massac County, this National-era fort is a historic part of the state. It’s an extension of the colonial times when settlers were present in Massac County. This dates back to the mid-1500s.
This read will offer insight into the reasons for this National-era fort and why it is heralded as one of the most prominent parts of Massac County.
It was set as a Spanish fort in the mid-1500s by a man named Hernando de Soto. He was a famous Spanish explorer who spent time in this part of America learning about the area. However, he was well aware of the anguish among local Natives who wanted to get rid of the new entrants.
This meant they were willing to attack using their weapons and manpower.
This is why Hernando de Soto took to time to address the issue with a simple fort in this part of America. He wanted to ward off all attacks and make sure his men had time to react if they had to flee or fight back.
In essence, the real fort was set up in 1752 by the French who were in the area.
They were looking to combat the Indians and wanted to grab control of the land. This meant they had to set up a fort in the region and that is when the established the “Fort de L’Ascension.”
The name “Massac” comes from a French Naval Minister. The fort was named after him and has remained the same ever since.
President George Washington
It was in the year 1778 when President Washington felt it was appropriate to rework the fort and get it back into running shape. The purpose of the fort would be to act as a safe point in their war against the Indians. Many American ships and interests were running through the region, and this fort was a safe zone necessary at the time.
Over time, the fort has gone out of use, but it remains a part of the Illinois State Park.
It is a part of the area’s rich history and a monument of what the land has gone through over time. In fact, it is now used by reenactors as a way to reconnect with the past and relive some of the most prominent moments in its history. They collect together and perform various skits based on the fort’s history.
If you are an outdoor lover then Southernmost Illinois is a paradise. The Giant City State Park contains camping, horseback riding, rappelling and so much more. Take a stroll down the Giant City Streets and see huge bluffs of sandstone that were formed almost 12,000 years ago. At the visiting center, there are scheduled tours that talk about the local flora, fauna, and the history of the park. The camping site The Giant City Lodge has cabins, swimming pools, gift shop and a lounge. Don’t forget to check out the rock climbing and horseback riding.
For those who don’t prefer the outdoors, there’s a great night light with restaurant and cafes, wineries, orchards, museums, and a whole section dedicated to Superman! Did you know that the Superman museum was located in Illinois? I did not. I thought Smallville was in Kansas, so this is a true mystery as to why the Superman museum is in Illinois.