Cahokia Mounds Mississippian Culture National Designation Initiative

Southwestern Illinois and the St. Louis region are home to one of the most important achievements in our continent’s ancient history– Cahokia Mounds (Collinsville, IL).

Between 1000 and 1200 AD, the Mississippians created an agrarian community, built hundreds of earthen mounds and established today’s Cahokia Mounds, an Illinois State Historic Site and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Monks Mound stands as the tallest earthen manmade structure at over 100 feet tall.  Radiating from Cahokia Mounds, the Mississippians established numerous satellite villages and mound groups throughout southern Illinois and the St. Louis region. Through maize and surplus materials, they established a complex trading system that stretched from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and to the west and east. Greater Cahokia grew to become the largest city in North America for hundreds of years. Many mounds have been destroyed over the centuries, but many remain intact still today.

Many of the First Nations have origins in the Mississippian culture. The mounds are sacred places and a part of their narratives and heritage. The protection of the mounds is critical to preserving this heritage as well as the living culture of indigenous people across the continent.

Seeking Designation as Cahokia Mounds Mississippian Culture National Historical Park

The feasibility study we completed in 2014 concluded that the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site and the satellite mound sites meet all the National Park Service criteria when presented together as a holistic view of the Mississippian Culture. They are stronger together and through a collaborative model of preservation, ownership, and management. Together the mounds can and should stand as Cahokia Mounds Mississippian Culture National Historical Park.

This is an initiative with tremendous public support. As a part of this effort, Heartlands Conservancy has continued to engage stakeholders and technical advisors and conducted 13 regional public meetings to gather input. We have met with and continue to seek guidance from 11+ First Nations with origins in the Mississippian Culture. We thank them for their support and efforts, including, Absentee Shawnee Tribe, Cherokee Nation, Chickasaw Nation, Eastern Shawnee Tribe, Loyal Shawnee Culture, Miami Tribe, Osage Nation/Tribe, Ottawa Tribe, Peoria Tribe, Ponca Tribe, and Quapaw Tribe.

A National Historical Park designation requires approval by the US House and Senate and ratification by the President of the United States. In 2019, companion bills, HR3824 and S.2340, were introduced in Congress and heard by the Sub-Committees for National Parks in each chamber.  The 116th Congress ended in 2020 before the full committees could consider the bills.

HeartLands Conservancy continues advocacy; the legislation was introduced in July 2019 and reintroduced in the 117th Congress S.1211 – Cahokia Mounds Mississippian Culture National Historical Park Act.

For breaking information about the effort to establish the National Historical Park, please follow our Facebook page.  Join us as we ensure that the Cahokia Mounds and surrounding mounds sites are preserved for future generations. You, too, can be part of the team by acting today. Volunteer. Donate. Contact your legislators. Your support is needed so that when this initiative is complete, the story of our ancient heartlands will continue to be shared as one of the most significant pieces of history the world has to offer.


October 29, 2019

HeartLands Conservancy’s Mary Vandevord testified at a hearing with the US House of Representative Subcommittee for National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands in Washington, D.C. Vandevord presented all of the letters of support along with US Representative Mike Bost. To see Mrs. Vandevord’s testimony, please fast forward the video to 58:38.

September 2019

Press Conference on HR3824 with Representative Mike Bost

Why a National Park Service Designation?

A National Designation will give influence to preserve what remains of the mounds in our region and embrace their vitality and heritage through interpretation, economic vitality, and conservation. We advocate for the mounds currently on public lands to enter in the designation. We support all private property rights. We can assist those who wish to preserve their private property through donation, willingness to sell, or place a conservation easement to prevent future undesirable development or harm to the archaeological and cultural resources.

Special Thank Yous

HeartLands Conservancy would like to acknowledge support from the State of Illinois leadership and General Assembly and the efforts of First Nations, archaeologists, funders, donors, communities, St. Clair County, Madison County, the State of Illinois, and partner agencies and organizations across the region and country.  Archaeologists from across the country and the states Missouri and Illinois participated through their documentation research, findings, conferences, and the technical advisory team. Individuals were from Washington University in St. Louis, University of Illinois, SIUE, the IAS-Illinois Archeological Survey, the Illinois State Archaeological Survey, and former National Park Service archaeologists.

And to members of our team who continue to persist on this initiative:

HeartLands Team: Laura Lyon, Ed Weilbacher, Mary Vandevord

Support Team: Suzanne Kutterer-Siburt (independent consultant), John Kelly (PARC)

In the News…

In 2014 Senator Durbin (D-IL) requested the National Park Service to conduct a Reconnaissance Survey. The study was completed in 2019 and can be found here.

Letters of Support

Letters of support have been received by many people, organizations, public agencies, and First Nations. The list continues to grow, and here are just some of the support letters we have received for this effort.

First Nations:
The Chickasaw Nation
Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma
National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers
Osage Nation
Osage Tribal Museum
Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Indians
Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma
Ponca Tribe of Nebraska
Quapaw Nation

State of Illinois:
Governor JB Pritzker
Illinois General Assembly Resolutions (2014 & 2019)
Former Governor Bruce Rauner
Former Gov Pat Quinn
Former Lt. Governor Sheila Simon
Former State Representative Jerry F. Costello II

Federal Legislation & Letters of Support:
Senator Richard Durbin [D-IL]  Lead Sponsor
Senator Tammy Duckworth [D-IL]  Co-Sponsor
Rep. Mike Bost – Lead Sponsor
Former Rep. Clay, Wm. Lacy [D-MO-1]  original LeadCo-Sponsor
Former Rep. Shimkus, John [R-IL-15] original Co-Sponsor
Rep. Davis, Rodney [R-IL-13] original Co-Sponsor
Rep. Schakowsky, Janice D. [D-IL-9]
Rep. Rush, Bobby L. [D-IL-1]
Rep. LaHood, Darin [R-IL-18]
Rep. Foster, Bill [D-IL-11]
Rep. Davis, Danny K. [D-IL-7]
Rep. Cole, Tom [R-OK-4]
Rep. Underwood, Lauren [D-IL-14]
Rep. Kinzinger, Adam [R-IL-16]
Rep. Wagner, Ann [R-MO-2]
Rep. Kelly, Robin L. [D-IL-2]
Rep. Cleaver, Emanuel [D-MO-5]
Former Congressman William Enyart – Letter

Regional Entities:
America’s Central Port
East-West Gateway of Council of Governments
Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau
Leadership Council of Southwestern Illinois
Metro East Park & Recreation District
Mississippi River Coordinating Councils
Sierra Club – Piasa Palisades Group
United Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR)

Madison County, IL
Monroe County, IL
St. Clair County, IL

Municipalities and Townships:
City of Belleville, IL
City of Breese, IL
Village of Cahokia, IL
City of Carlyle, IL
City of Collinsville, IL
City of East St. Louis, IL
Edwardsville Township, IL
City of Fairview Heights, IL
City of O’Fallon, IL
Village of Maryville,IL
City of Mascoutah, IL
City of Red Bud, IL
Village of Smithton, IL
City of St. Louis, MO
City of Troy, IL
City of Waterloo, IL

Archaeological and Historic Groups:
Association of Midwest Museums
The Archaeological Conservancy
Carondelet Historical Society
Illinois Association for Advancement Archaeology (IAAA)
Illinois Archaeological Survey (IAS)
Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS)
Kathryn M Buder Center for American Indian Studies – Washington University in St. Louis
Oklahoma Archaeological Survey
Powell Archaeological Research Center (PARC)
St. Louis Society of the Archaeological Institute of America
University of Illinois (Prairie Institute Cahokia Initiative)