Sometimes, I’m a bit insensitive. What I mean, and I actually feel a bit guilty explaining this, is that I tend to focus on white history. And lately, that narrow perspective, I’m talking about the national scope, has come under heavy fire, and for good reason. So, a state park, one focused on the Mississippian people, which was a Native American group, is definitely in order.
When discovered in 1835, this area was a place of deserted ruins. And because it was an ancient place that told a story, some fought to preserve the remains. Yet, instead, it was sold as farmland.
Later, an archeological excavation, and a desire to restore the ritual and burial mounds, fueled the push to make this area a state park.
Unfortunately, most of the large effigy mounds found at Aztalan State Park are reconstructions,
as is the partial stockade – which is strewn about in segments
Today, even if most of the remains are gone, you get a sense of the ancient community that once resided near the Crawfish River.
Placards, placed along a green path, inform a visitor about the village’s leisure, eating, spiritual, social, farming and hunting practices.
This is my second visit to the place. Somehow, this peaceful bit of land has its own distinct aura. It literally settles in your soul.
I think Heidi felt it too.
Near the entrance of the park, and I’m sorry to say I didn’t get a photo, lies the only mound to survive the farmer’s plow. It is known as the Princess Mound and overlooks the Aztalan grounds.
Of course, as is with any such sacred sites, there are legends and misunderstandings attached to this ancient settlement. Its name, a misspelling of the word Atalan, refers to the original grounds of the Aztec culture. I found no literature supporting that pioneer’s hopeful belief.
When I left this particular park, an understanding stirred in my brain. Somehow, I felt I had witnessed an ancient villager’s perspective, a first person insight, and gained the sense of belonging and kinship. A small, tight-knit community existed, and every member’s role was vital.