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Tour Native American sites in Mississippi

By Kara Kimbrough/Laurel Leader Call

As the Fourth of July holiday approaches, all thoughts are on the first settlers of the U.S. and their activities in the northeastern part of the country, but in Mississippi, the first residents that actually came to what was known as the Mississippi territory well before the Europeans were Indians.

Today, the state pays homage to these early settlers with a variety of museums and through the preservation of Indian mounds throughout the state.  

At the end of the last Ice Age, Native American or Paleo-Indians appeared in what is today the state of Mississippi and other regions of the southern U.S. Paleoindians in the south were hunter-gatherers who pursued the megafauna that became extinct following the end of the Pleistocene age. After thousands of years, the Paleoindians developed a rich agricultural society. Archeologists called these people the Mississippians of the Mississippian culture.

Descendant Native American tribes include the Chickasaw and Choctaw. Other tribes that inhabited the territory of Mississippi and whose names became those of local towns included the Natchez, the Yazoo, the Pascagoula and the Biloxi.

If you’re interested in viewing the areas that still show visible signs of these earliest settlers, the first stop should be Laurel’s own Lauren-Rogers Museum, which has an interesting collection of Native-American basketry.

To see more of the marks and artifacts Indians left on the state, there no better time than summer to take a road trip and view first-hand the mark that Indians made on our state in the following areas:

NATCHEZ

Natchez is best known for its collection of antebellum homes, but the city’s history reaches further back than the Old South. The Grand Village of the Natchez Indians served as the center of civilization for the Natchez tribe from AD 1200 to 1729. The Natchez Indians vanished following hostile encounters with French settlers in the 1730s.

Excavated nearly two centuries later, the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, the location of the historic ceremonial mound center for the Natchez tribe that occupied this site from about 1200 A.D. until 1730, encompasses a ceremonial plaza, burial mounds, reconstructed Indian dwelling and museum. The Grand Village of the Natchez Indians is listed on the Register of National Historic Landmarks.  

Before leaving Natchez, take time to tour some of the city’s antebellum homes and enjoy Natchez Under the Hill, a historic area filled with shops, restaurants and casino gaming.

NATCHEZ TRACE

Travel northeast on the Natchez Trace Parkway, a scenic route first traced out by buffalo, then followed by Indians, traders and early pioneers. Historic markers along the way recount the Trace’s romantic history.  

About 10 miles outside of Natchez is Emerald Mound, the second largest Indian mound in the United States. This eight-acre, ceremonial earthen structure was built around 1400 A.D.  by ancestors of the Creek, Choctaw and Natchez Indians. Two secondary mounds rest atop the primary mound, and it is believed there were originally a total of four to six secondary mounds that were located along the sides of the primary mound. Artifacts found at nearby Mangum Mound offer a glimpse into the daily life of the first Mississippians.

To Be continued on Wednesday…