In September 1838, Indiana State Militia forcibly removed 859 members of the Potawatomi tribe to a reservation in Kansas. This event, known as the Trail of Death, represents one of the closing chapters of the long and troubling history of Native American genocide in Indiana. Roughly 100 years later, societal attitudes had shifted dramatically and the State of Indiana embarked on a massive project to document and protect what remained of pre-Columbian culture in the state.
This project was the excavation of Angel Mounds. The over 600-acre location contains the remains of a Mississippian era (1000-1450 A.D.) village that was home to more than 1,000 people. Like the site itself, the excavation was also impressive in scale. With a donation from Eli Lilly, the Indiana Historical Society purchased the property from the Angel family in 1938. The archeological work itself was made possible through large-scale funding and man-power provided by the Works Progress Administration, a program of President Roosevelt’s New Deal. Archeological work began in 1939 and continued until 1942 when the all encompassing WWII war-effort slowed progress. Today, Angel Mounds is a state historic site and has been recognized as one of the best preserved pre-contact Native American sites in North America.
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