Erie Indian Moundbuilders Tribal Nation

Erie Indian Moundbuilders Tribal Nation
Fred Axtell, (Dancing Owl), Research Manager &
Victoria Taylor-True


In about 1000 B.C. we marked the beginning of a new period for man in North America. This period lasted until about 700 A.D. and was called the Woodland Period. During the Woodland Period, a new culture emerged and made significant settlements in what is now known as West Virginia. These people are known to us as Mound Builders. They were named that because of their practice of creating earthen burial mounds and other earthworks. Mound Builders lived over a wide range from the Atlantic, the Midwest and the Ohio Valley to Mississippi Valley. The term "mound builders" refers to several other cultures which span a period of about 20 centuries.

Mound builders were some of the first intensive farmers of North America's eastern woodlands. Their sophisticated cultures would not have been possible if it weren't for what they knew as the three sisters; corn, beans and squash. Three groups of mound builders are called Adena, Hopewell, and Mississippians. They did not call themselves Adena, Hopewell or Mississippians, but were given these names by modern scientists.

The first group of people who developed this unique way of life were the Adena people who lived from about 1000 B.C. to approximately 100 A.D. Later on another group of Mound Builders, the Hopewell, lived from about 100 A.D. to 700 A.D. and represented greater refinement over earlier the Adena culture. Different cultures extended Mound Builders to about 1300 A.D. Different archeologists give different dates.

For them to make the mounds, they first gathered baskets of dirt. They carried their burdens to a clearing, dumped the soil, and stamped it down with their feet. They retraced their footsteps many times. Days passed, and as the ribbon of workers relentlessly emptied baskets, a shape emerged and grew to great height. Variations of this scene were repeated for some 5500 years throughout the rich bottomlands of the lower Mississippi Valley.

Adena mounds were usually built in sizes ranging from 20 to 300 feet in diameter. Adena lived in wide areas including much of present day Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky and parts of Pennsylvania and New York. Adena people were a well-organized society, since construction of mounds took a great deal of effort and organization.

Many people for labor were required since the Adena had not developed any sophisticated means of construction. Large amounts of earth had to be moved by basket loads. Mounds have been used more then once. In mounds there were multiple burials at the different levels. Over the period of time, mounds started to increase in size.

People who died were cremated after death, placed in small log tombs and covered with earth. People who were important were buried in the flesh and laid to rest with variety of artifacts such as flints, beads, pipes, and mica and copper ornaments.

The largest of the sites was the Grave Creek Mound. This site is late Adena Period and was built in successive stages over a period of 100 years or more

Map drawn from Time-Life Book called "Lost Civilizations; Mound builders & Cliffdwellers"

                                               Copyright © 2005-2009 Erie Indian Moundbuilders Tribal Nation. All Rights Reserved.