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Park Concludes 60th Anniversary Celebration

Effigy Mounds National Monument

National Park News

The year 2009 marked the 60th anniversary of Effigy Mounds National Monument and the 100th anniversary of the legislative efforts to create a national park in the state of Iowa.  These efforts began on April 6, 1909, spanned two world wars and the Great Depression, and came to a successful conclusion with the authorization of the park on October 25, 1949. 

Highlighting a year-long emphasis on the 40 years of passion and vision that led to the birth of Iowa’s first national park unit, Effigy Mounds celebrated the 60th anniversary of President Harry S. Truman’s proclamation establishing the national monument during the weekend of October 24th and 25th

This weekend was not intended to be one of platforms, speeches, bands and pageantry; rather, activities mirrored the emphasis held throughout 2009 by providing visitors an opportunity to personally experience and better understand the history of the national park movement in Iowa, the establishment of Iowa’s first national park unit, and the special importance of the resources the monument protects and preserves.

Highlighting the anniversary weekend in October were a U.S. Postal Service 60th anniversary pictorial postmark cancellation station in the visitor center, special extended walks to the monument’s major American Indian mound groups led by park ranger/archeologist Bob Palmer, exhibits documenting the movement to create a national park in Iowa, and a display of museum items rarely seen from the monument’s Ellison Orr collection.

A lantern light evening tour featured a talk with legendary Indian mound surveyor Increase Lapham (played by Wisconsin historian Rob Nurre) and the illumination of a bear-shaped effigy mound on the visitor center lawn previously thought to be entirely destroyed by early 20th century cultivation. Participants gazed breathlessly in the darkness as visitors began to place glow sticks along the perimeter of the mound which had been surveyed as part of the activity. The mound was part of a group containing two bear and three conical mounds relocated through a Midwest Archeological Center study conducted by Jim Lindsay.

A series of annual and special anniversary related events, exhibits and publications were featured throughout the year, leading up to the actual anniversary on October 25th. In July, the American Indian Heritage Celebration of Arts and Culture highlighted the anniversary year, continuing a tradition of hosting affiliated tribal members at the monument begun during the 50th anniversary in 1999. Prior to 1999, there had been few tribal visits during the monument’s first 49 years – partly due to American Indian policy in the 19th century which resulted  in the relocation of many affiliated tribes hundreds of miles to the south and west.

The Heritage Celebration weekend also included one of four Saturday teacher workshops scheduled through the summer. Teacher reservations in the workshops reached capacity (65 per day) only two weeks after they were opened in February. Teacher interest also had been increasing after the monument received the 2007 Archaeology Education Award from the Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center (MVAC), University of Wisconsin at La Crosse, presented during MVAC’s 25th anniversary annual meeting. Effigy Mounds was the first non-academically accredited organization ever to receive the award.

Other normally presented special events were held throughout the year, with an anniversary twist – including Bald Eagle Appreciation Day, Hawk Watch Weekend, Family Archeology Day, Founders Day, living history moonlight hikes, and two volunteer natural resource conservation projects.  Anniversary exhibits in the visitor center remained on display until the end of December.

The year 2009 was also the 100th anniversary of the national park movement in Iowa as well as the 50th anniversary of the Iowa Office of the State Archeologist. Today's national monument preserves 2,526 federally-owned acres containing over 200 American Indian earthen mounds, 31 being animal shaped "effigies". However, in 1929, the proposed “Upper Mississippi National Park” was to encompass an area stretching from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, to a point 45 miles south of Dubuque, Iowa. To highlight the importance of the resources eventually preserved in the significantly smaller monument, interpretive staff designed and created the official Iowa Archeology Month poster. The poster was entirely dedicated to the story of the establishment of the monument, preservation of its archeological resources and was featured on the NPS Archeology website.


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