Scott Air Force Base News

Scott remembers the tribes of the Mississippi lands

Pictured is an aerial view of Cahokia Mounds circa 1922.
Pictured is an aerial view of Cahokia Mounds circa 1922.

Scott AFB is continuing its Centennial celebration by acknowledging the importance of Native American heritage this month. The base has a long history of association with Native American cultures with ancient habitation sites located here that stretch back several thousand years.

Southern Illinois was home to many Native American cultures throughout time, with the pre-Columbian Paleo-Indian, Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian cultural traditions before the coming of the Europeans. Later, Native tribes, such as the Illinois, Meskwaki, Chippewa, Kickapoo, and others, inhabited Illinois. Some tribes covered areas now known as Collinsville, Mascoutah and Cahokia.

Southern Illinois was home to many Native American cultures throughout time, with the pre-Columbian Paleo-Indian, Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian cultural traditions before the coming of the Europeans.

The most notable prehistoric site is Cahokia Mounds, but Piney Creek Ravine, Millstone Bluff, Fountain Bluff, Kincaid Mounds, Modoc Rockshelter, and Sand Ridge were also important. Cahokia Mounds is listed as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations to commemorate its significant importance in prehistoric North America. It was the largest community ever formed north of Mexico, with 120 mounds spread over 6 square miles. During its peak from 1050-1200 AD, it had a population of 10-20,000 people of the Mississippian culture, and many large and small sites surrounded it.

Interestingly enough, some of the first aerial photographs of Cahokia Mounds were made by two pilots from the Army Air Service flying out of Scott Field in 1922—Lt. G.W. Goddard and Lt. H.K. Ramey. Though not confirmed, Ramey may have been related to the Ramey family who owned much of Cahokia Mounds at that time.

Cahokia Mounds was the largest community ever formed north of Mexico, with 120 mounds spread over 6 square miles. During its peak from 1050-1200 AD, it had a population of 10-20,000 people of the Mississippian culture, and many large and small sites surrounded it.

These photos have been very useful for archaeologists as they show the locations of many of the mounds—some of which are now gone—as well as soil discolorations that led to the discovery of the locations of defensive walls that once enclosed the central portion of the site.

To honor Native American Heritage Month, the base has held several events. At the Centennial Fall Festival, Staff Sgt. Marceline Williams performed a traditional Native American dance while the children made tipis and canoes. William Iseminger, an archeologist representing Cahokia Mounds who contributed information to this article, shared his display while tribal artist Kathy Dickerson displayed her crafts. Additionally, children enjoyed Native American folklore and stories at a library reading, while also making their own dreamcatchers at the Youth Center.

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