3 Native American National Wonders to Explore
America's true roots cannot be acknowledged without its earliest inhabitants.
Visiting public lands can be a meaningful way to understand and appreciate these nations, along with their history, perspectives, and contributions.
Around 100 A.D., a civilization known as the Anasazi appeared in the southwestern part of the United States. As the Anasazi became increasingly sophisticated, their dwellings at Mesa Verde (present-day Colorado) evolved into elaborate towns built under overhanging cliffs. It is theorized the settlements were built in these locations for defense or protection, but, whatever the reason, the villages took skilled and ingenious craftsmanship and demonstrated how adaptable the ancient civilization was.
Around about 1000 B.C., the Adena peoples became settlers of the Ohio River Valley once they introduced farming to their nomadic lifestyle. Adena burial practices included mound-building. Along with burial mounds, the Adena erected beautiful effigy mounds, great earth piles fashioned to represent various animals. We may never know with certainty why these impressive monuments were built. The most famous is The Great Serpent Mound in rural southwestern Ohio. In the shape of a snake with open jaws and a coiled tail, it measures approximately 1,300 feet in length and ranges from one to three feet in height. It has been speculated it was a way to mark time, document a celestial event, or served as a place of worship to a supernatural snake god.
The Cahokia Mounds, located near present-day Collinsville, Illinois, is the pre-eminent example of a religious and economic center of the Mississippian culture (800–1350 A.D.), which extended throughout the Mississippi Valley and the southeastern United States. The 120 earthen mounds built were once part of a complex that also featured ball courts, a large plaza, a solar calendar known now as Woodhenge (composed of 48 wooden posts encircling a central post), and fields of various crops.
These public lands have been widely described as national wonders as they allow visitors to recognize Native American history, and honor the resilience and traditions of these proud people.
Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. “Mesa Verde National Park.” UNESCO World Heritage Centre, whc.unesco.org/en/list/27/.
Jarus, Owen. “Mesa Verde: Cliff Dwellings of the Anasazi.” Live Science, Live Science, 15 June 2017, www.livescience.com/27360-mesa-verde.html.
“Adena Culture - Ohio History Central.” Ohiohistorycentral.org, ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Adena_Culture.
“Ohio’s Adena Culture | Mound Builders.” Touringohio.com, touringohio.com/history/adena-culture.html.
Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. “Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site.” UNESCO World Heritage Centre, whc.unesco.org/en/list/198/.
“Cahokia Mounds.” Illinois.gov, 2019, www2.illinois.gov/dnrhistoric/Experience/Sites/Southwest/Pages/Cahokia-Mounds.aspx.