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Histories:  Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:

"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":

Chapter 3

Significance and Authorship

(by George H. Squier)

-As transcribed from pages 27 - 28

The simple "conical" mounds have from the first been recognized as having been mortuary, monuments, but their authorship was ascribed to an unknown race, while both the purpose and authorship of the more complex mounds were among the unsolved puzzles of a half century ago; the unknown race which was assumed to have built them being conveniently called "Mound Builders." The studies of the past thirty or forty years have, however, wrought a pretty thorough revolution in our knowledge of the subject. It is now definitely established, though once the contrary was held, that many of our Indian tribes were in the habit of building mounds. Articles of European manufacture have been found in some mounds, and even the building of mounds witnessed by whites.

Having settled the more general question of authorship, we were placed in a fair way to settle the more specific ones, as to the particular tribes concerned, and the purpose. It has also been long recognized that in the effigies, linear and taper linear, Wisconsin possessed a peculiar assemblage of forms but little developed elsewhere. We have also learned that even in Wisconsin this type was confined to a somewhat sharply defined area extending through the south central part of the state. When the whites first entered the region the area was claimed by, and in part occupied by the Winnebago tribe, the members of which appear to understand the significance of the effigies. They are simply visible representations of. the clan or gens totem. The gens, perhaps even more than the tribe, was the social unit which most profoundly influenced the life, not only of American Indians, but of barbarous races throughout the world, and the object, natural or imaginary, which was assumed as the guardian patron of the gens, was its totem. But few of the tribes made visible representations of it. Those which our Alaskan tribes carve from wood offer another example. The purpose of the linears and taper linears is not as well determined as of the effigies. It is conjectured that the taper linears were conventionalized effigies, and that the linears served in some way in the games and rituals of the tribe. No very direct evidence seems as yet to be available.

These three forms, effigies, linears, and taper linears, are so closely associated that we must regard them as the work of the same tribe, and their distribution furnishes us a good criterion for determining the actual limits of the territory held by that tribe. What we may regard as the state south of Green Bay, extending as a narrow band down the Wisconsin, main body is that taking up the greater share of the eastern part of the but showing only slight evidences along the Mississippi until we reach the rich development of the Trempealeau Prairie; above which it ceased entirely. Both the conical and elongate mounds were built by other tribes besides the Winnebago, so that their distribution is far more general. Outside of Trempealeau Prairie, as above outlined, mounds are not numerous. A group once existed between Arcadia and Independence, and two mounds still exist at Independence. So far as I have been able to learn none have existed above that. But, while earthworks are lacking, artifacts, in the shape of arrow and spear points, also celts, have been found in all parts of the country, Mr. Risinger of Winona having a particularly fine collection, nearly all made from the county.

 


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