Burial Mounds Threatened By Quarry Seeking Profits
In the woodlands of Wisconsin an effigy mound of a bird towers 50 feet above a sand and gravel quarry. At one time, there were seven mounds on the site, known as the Ward Mounds. There was also a canine effigy, and others of various shapes. Most have been destroyed, but the bird effigy remains intact.
The quarry beneath the bird effigy contains $10 million worth of sand and gravel. The quarry and the mounds are owned by Robert Shea of Wingra Redi-Mix, Inc. Shea has gone to court for his right to destroy the bird effigy to get to the gravel beneath.
The Ward Mounds, located in Dane County, have been called the “Heart of the homelands of the Ho-Chunk Nation,” by Ellsworth Brown, Wisconsin state archaeologist and director of the Wisconsin Historical Society. Brown described the area in Dane County as a sacred location.
The majority of effigy mounds are known to have been burial grounds, but that can be difficult to prove as remains decompose over time, and the mounds were built hundreds of years ago.
Effigy mounds in the Wisconsin area were built by the Ho-Chunk Nation as long as ago as 700 BC and as recently as 1300 AD. They were often created to represent the animals and birds, and were considered grave markers. Currently, there are approximately 3,200 effigy mounds in the state and over 9,000 mounds of other types. “We don’t know the exact amount there are, but many were destroyed as early as 1820 and [the] 30s,” said Kurt Sampson, director and curator of the Dodge County Historical Society in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “In Wisconsin, they did not pass a burial site protection law until 1985-86. The law protects all burials and historic cemeteries with Statute 157.7,” even those that are privately owned.
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