Growing up, this was Columbus Day. That has been changed officially this year to Indigenous Peoples’ Day which seems fitting. What we need right now is to learn what Indigenous People know far better than Europeans, to live with the earth. There are endless lessons about respect for nature, for water and for animals the people from whom we stole this land could teach. Madison has great examples to study. We have a tremendous cultural and historical resource.
The shores of the four (5) lake region; Lakes Mendota, Monona, Wingra, Waubesa and Kegonsa, where we live were filled with ceremonial effigy mounds. Madison land and water is sacred. The Indigenous People who lived here between the year 650 and 1200 sculpted, carved and dug the earth into shapes of animals, cones, and spirits. They are sacred, sites of ceremonies and celebrations of the earth and spirit world. A few are also burial sites.
Lake Wingra’s shores had a large number of mounds. It is a unique lake in that it has several springs. The mounds near them celebrate the water spirits. The shapes have elongated bodies and are categorized as panthers.
I went walking Sunday at Governor Nelson State Park on the north shore of Lake Mendota. The path led us near a panther mound! The plants hide the form of the mound but the long tail of the spirit animal is visible, even after 1000 years.
Wisconsin is an area with many effigy mounds. Unfortunately, over the last 300 years 80% of them were paved over, cleared for buildings, or dug to utilize the gravel. I find that very distressing. Now there are signs posted to prevent people walking over them and strict laws against excavating or disturbing the contents. I hope we can learn respect for water and the earth that the few remaining mounds exemplify.
What is worth saving? How shall we go about it?