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Senators renew push to make Cahokia Mounds part of National Park System

U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin and U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth on Tuesday sent a letter to President Biden urging him to use his authority under the Antiquities Act to incorporate the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site under the National Park System and offer additional protections for the ancient mounds in St. Clair and Madison counties.

In their letter, the senators call back to Durbin’s 2014 request for the National Park Service  to conduct a reconnaissance study to determine if the site meets requirements to be a unit of the National Park System. The study, which was concluded in 2016, found that Cahokia Mounds met all four of the criteria – significance, suitability, feasibility, and need for NPS management.

“We write to encourage you to use your authority under the Antiquities Act to designate the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site as a unit of the National Park System.  We support elevating, protecting, and sharing this important archeological and cultural resource that represents the people and landscapes that once made up one of America’s first cities in the Western Hemisphere,” the senators wrote.

“Given the importance of this area and the support of the National Park Service, we support using your authority under the Antiquities Act to declare the Cahokia Mounds as a unit of the National Park System,” the senators said.

Earlier this year, Durbin introduced the Cahokia Mounds Mississippian Culture National Historical Park Act to elevate the site from its current designation as a National Historic Landmark to a National Historic Park, offering additional protections for the ancient mounds.

The City of Cahokia was inhabited from 700 A.D. to 1400.  At its peak, from 1050 to 1200, the city covered nearly six square miles (larger than London at that time) and between 10,000 and 20,000 people lived there.  More than 120 mounds were built over time.  The site is named for the Cahokia subtribe of the Illinois tribe, who moved into the area in the 1600s.

 

Find a copy of the letter below:

 

November 30, 2021

Dear President Biden:

We write to encourage you to use your authority under the Antiquities Act to designate the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site as a unit of the National Park System.  We support elevating, protecting, and sharing this important archeological and cultural resource that represents the people and landscapes that once made up one of America’s first cities in the Western Hemisphere.

Cahokia Mounds was the central hub and largest city built by the Indigenous Americans of the Mississippian Culture that ruled and traded over half of North America, more than 1.25 million square miles.  This area was the first known organized urban area and government north of Mexico; and at its peak, it was larger than most European cities, including London.  Cahokia boasted advanced mass production agriculture and commerce, relying on the local river system as a continental trade route.  Some of the mounds built from AD 900-1400 still stand as earthen monuments and remnants of Mississippian Culture.

Cahokia Mounds has been recognized as a National Historic Landmark, an Illinois State Historic Site, and a World Heritage Site by the United Nations (UNESCO).

Cahokia at one time had over 120 mounds, but many have been lost to development.  The current National Historic Landmark designation affords some limited protection around Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site.  However, many other mound sites are threatened as new roads are built and development further encroaches on the remaining cultural resources of the region.

In 2016, the National Park Service completed a Reconnaissance Survey to determine if the area meets the criteria to be included as a unit of the National Park System.  The survey concluded the site demonstrates national significance, suitability, feasibility, and has a need for National Park Service management.

Given the importance of this area and the support of the National Park Service, we support using your authority under the Antiquities Act to declare the Cahokia Mounds as a unit of the National Park System.

 

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