1,000-year-old mound in Kalamazoo was built by indigenous people to commemorate ceremonies, radar probe finds

KALAMAZOO, MI – The Kalamazoo Town Commission has received a report with new information on what ground penetrating radar revealed inside a mound in Bronson Park, and what will soon honor the history of space.

The investigation revealed areas at the base of the Native American mound that appeared to represent a structure or series of tall poles built in a circle before the mound was built, said David Brose, PhD.

“The mound itself had been built to commemorate certain ceremonial activities that had taken place in or around some sort of circular structure,” Brose said during a presentation on the mound on Monday Oct. 4 to the plenary committee of the Kalamazoo Town Commission. Meet.

The mound, located in the park in the center of downtown Kalamazoo, is believed to have been created by indigenous people who lived in the Kalamazoo region.

Brose is an associate researcher at the University of Michigan. He earned a doctorate in philosophy, prehistoric archeology, as well as a master’s degree in anthropology from the University of Michigan, he said, and he co-chairs the committee focused on public education regarding the mound and its preservation.

No evidence of burial has been found, Brose said, and the mound is estimated to be around 1,000 years old.

Phyllis Davis, city councilor for the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Michigan’s Pottawatomi Indians, addressed the city board on Monday.

“Ceremonial practices took place in this area, so we know this place was very honored and respected,” Davis said. “So for our tribe, we see this as a way to preserve that; to teach the community about the history of Michigan and the indigenous peoples who have lived in this region for thousands of years, and to enrich the lives of everyone.

The mound is located near the southwest corner of Bronson Park, near the stage and the intersection of South Park and West South streets in downtown Kalamazoo.

Related: A look back at the evolution of Bronson Park: 1830-2016

Raised fields for agriculture, like corn, have been found in Kalamazoo County and elsewhere, Brose said.

“In Kalamazoo County, those ancient raised garden beds took on geometric shapes,” Brose said, possibly for ceremonial reasons.

He showed a diagram of a geometric shape found somewhere south of the mound in Bronson Park.

“The mound has always intrigued people,” said Brose, describing the various times the community has excavated parts of the mound to try to determine what it was used for. A dig took place in 1832, he said.

The mound once served as a root cellar, storing potatoes and other things that were used to feed the prisoners in the prison. Later, a time capsule was added.

“And that’s basically where it stayed for a century,” Brose said.

Another search took place in 1954, he said. They found gravel and those who did the excavation decided to replace the existing time capsule and install one. The new capsule is still around today, Brose said.

In September 2019, contractors accidentally started digging the mound until they were told they were in the wrong area of ​​the park.

Related: Contractor mistakenly digs around Native American mound in Kalamazoo

The city placed sod on top of the mound and had it fenced.

The Native American dirt mound that the city began digging by accident at Bronson Park in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Tuesday, September 17, 2019. The mound suffered minor damage after city officials realized the company was digging the wrong area of ​​the park on Monday. The city immediately planted grass and fenced off the mound. Joël Bissell | MLive.com

More change is coming for the Bronson Park mound

New landscaping is planned for the site, said Deputy City Manager Jeff Chamberlain. The changes made are based on the recommendations of a committee that focused on the project.

Chamberlain said the information they learned caused them to change the focus of the committee on how to do proper education about the mound, its history and the people who used it.

Related: Signs will mark the Kalamazoo Native American Historic Reserve

As part of the effort, Chamberlain said, four signs will be placed at the site, one in each direction – north, east, south and west of the mound.

Commissioners shared positive comments on the plans for the mound in Bronson Park.

Conscience will be awakened in the community through this work, said Commissioner Jeanne Hess.

Davis agreed that the mound and its preservation provide an educational opportunity.

“This is a great teaching for young children or for anyone looking to learn new and expand the information they already have,” she said. “This is a great opportunity for all of us to really take a good look at who we are as a member of the human race.”

Work on the project is expected to begin in the spring.

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