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Officials Seek to Expand Native Historic Site in Mississippi

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Officials met in mid-May to discuss a multimillion-dollar expansion at Winterville Mounds State Park north of Greenville, Mississippi, reported the Associated Press.

One of the largest Indian mound groups in the Mississippi Valley, Winterville Mounds was named for a nearby community. It was the site of a ceremonial center built by Native Americans who thrived from about A.D. 1000 to 1450. The mounds were part of the society’s religious system and were the site of sacred structures and ceremonies. Archaeological evidence suggests that Winterville inhabitants lived away from the mound center on family farms around the Yazoo-Mississippi River Delta Basin. Only a few high ranking tribal officials lived at the mound center.

Originally, the ceremonial center had 23 mounds. Some have been leveled by highway construction and farming. Twelve mounds remain, including the 55-foot-tall Temple Mound.

Mark Howell, Winterville Mounds director, feels it’s time to expand the museum with the increased interest in Native American history.

“It served its purpose 40 years ago,” he said. “It’s inadequate for what we need here today. We need more space. We want a museum that tells about the Native Americans who call Mississippi home.”

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Brady Davis attended the meeting as a representative of the Chickasaw Nation and will serve as a consultant about the new museum. Davis said the exhibits needs to remind people that American Indians are still a “viable group of people today.”

“Our culture is not lost,” he said. “People need to understand, and some do, that these people are still alive. They aren’t coming to learn about a history or see people who are gone.”

He explained that the Chickasaw’s ancestral homeland is in northern Mississippi, but their new homeland is in south-central Oklahoma.

Winterville Mounds is listed as one of 38 National Historic Landmarks in Mississippi, “sites so significant they are meaningful to all Americans,” says the Mississippi Department of Archives & History website. “National Historic Landmarks illustrate and interpret the shared heritage of the United States.”

“The story of Winterville—and all of Mississippi’s Native American history from pre-Columbian time to today—is an interesting and important one. It’s a common perception that American Indians are only in the past, but we want to remind them and make them aware that they are still here,” Davis said. “The connection from past to present is really important.”