About 85 people attended the 16th Annual Meeting of the Friends, held at the Arboretum Visitor Center on a cold and icy winter day in April, to hear retired Wisconsin State Archeologist Bob Birmingham speak about the mound-building culture in the Four Lakes region (see the summary below).
Outgoing president Gisela Kutzbach reviewed the work of the Friends in 2017, highlighting the many people who have made volunteer contributions during the year and thanking the members for the support they provide with time and money. Contributions include: field trips, raising and planting native plants, garlic mustard removal, and citizen science in the form of plant monitoring, birding, bat monitoring, bluebird trail and purple martin house support. In addition, the Friends have made significant financial contributions, supporting five Prairie Partner Interns since 2007, as well as direct contributions to the stewardship of the Preserve and other projects. She emphasized the good cooperation we have with with the Preserve staff.
Gary Brown, UW Director of the Lakeshore Preserve, introduced the Preserve staff: Laura Wyatt, Bryn Scriver and Adam Gundlach. He reported that the University continued to support the work at the Preserve without budget cuts. One major project last year was the renovation of Fire Circle 3 with the donation from an alumnus.
Adam Gundlach, field project coordinator of the Preserve, summarized the restoration work in Eagle Heights Woods since 2014, with the financial support of the Friends EHW fundraiser. The work has included vegetation surveys, hazard tree removal to protect trail users and the mounds, trail reconfiguration to reduce erosion and impact to the mounds, brush removal and prescribed fires. The staff has provided tours at the site for the Friends and for classes. Continuing work planned for the site includes: ongoing brush removal, resprout control, oak regeneration, trail management and improvements to the herbaceous layer.
The Friends thanked departing Board members Carolyn Byers, Galen Hasler, and Mike Parsen for their excellent services for the Friends and the Preserve and elected new Board members Lillian Tong and Steve Sellwood, and returning Board members Gisela Kutzbach, Olympia Mathiaparanam, and Mitchell Thomas. The crowd enjoyed the appetizers and deserts as well as informative poster exhibits. Doris Dubielzig, Vice president, was the excellent MC for the meeting, and Carolyn Byers and Glenda Denniston recorded the event in photos.
Robert Birmingham, who authored (with Amy Rosebrough) Indian Mounds of Wisconsin, noted that mound building only occurred in a relatively short period, even though people were in the area since the glaciers receded about 13,000 years ago. The reason for the beginning of the mound-building culture is still not certain; it seems to coincide with a period of increasing population and cultural complexity, about 2000 years ago. At this time, round burial mounds seem to appear and be used for social elites. This period seems to have lasted about 400 years.
From about 700 AD to 1100 AD, there was another period of mound building, which produced the effigy mounds that are present in the area. This period seems to have ended with the invasion of the Mississippian culture from Cahokia, which can be seen at the site at Aztalan. Probably this culture blended with the pre-existing culture in the area and is ancestral to the native Ho-Chunk people of this area today.
There may have been 15,000–20,000 mounds in southern Wisconsin originally. Most have been destroyed, although preservation work (much of which was started by Charles E. Brown in the early 1900’s) has protected many of them. Nowadays the public has far more regard for the mounds and is much more interested in protecting them. Some new mounds are still being identified.