The Mississippian Indians, who are they? They are the ancestors of the American Indians and they lived around 1,000 AD and after. Their home was in the American South-east in the Mississippi Delta Area. Their name came from the area they lived in, the Mississippi Valley. The social order and politics was ran by chiefdom's, and were divided by occupation, social, religious, and economic lines. It was a complex social system built around large man made mounds with flat tops.
The Mississippian culture is thought to have started near St Louis about the time of the discovery of corn and spread rapidly to the rest of the valley. The cultural boundaries are about the size of Western Europe and have been defined into three distinct major areas. 1. The Central Mississippi or American Bottoms with its center at Cahokia, Illinois. 2. The Caddoan Area in Texas, Louisiana, and Eastern Oklahoma with its center at Spiro, Oklahoma. 3. The Tennessee-Cumberland Area with many large sites.
Looking at the map you will see the Oneota Indian homeland. Oneota was the main component of the upper Mississippian culture. They lived in the area known as the Prairie Peninsula. This area was located in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri, Nebraska, and into Manitoba. They were ancestors of the Ho-Chunk Tribe and others.
The oneota mined copper and beat the ore into display objects. Catlinite, also known as red pipestone was mined or traded for and used to carve pipes.
Fort Ancient Culture flourished from 1000-1750. They lived along the Ohio River in southern Ohio, northern Kentucky, southeastern Indiana and western West Virginia. They were descendants of the Hopewell culture and adopted Mississippian Indian influences. Fort Ancient culture evolved into the modern Shawnee.
Middle Mississippian is where the Mississippian Period started. Their time was from 1000 to 1750. They were located in Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas.
The Plaquemine Mississippian started about 1000 A.D. and ended sometime after 1350. They were ancestors of the Troyville-Coles Creek Indians, Tunican, Chitimachan, and Muskogean Tribes.
The South Appalachian Mississippian culture appears to have adopted the Middle Mississippian culture. Their culture thrived in Alabama, Georgia, northern Florida, South Carolina, and central and western North Carolina and Tennessee.
Caddoan Mississippian Eastern Oklahoma, Western Arkansas, Northeast Texas, and Northwest Louisiana. Their descendants were Caddo Nation in Oklahoma and the Pawnee.
The Mound building time was called the Mississippian Period. This is when the discovery of corn took them from the earlier woodland period into the Mississippian period. During the Woodland period they did raise crops, but they were more foragers and hunters. These crops did extend food reserves especially for the winter and early spring. Corn lessened the demand for fresh meat because its harvest produced much more grain than any of the other crops. Now instead of hunting, other endeavors could be pursued.
The villages were made up of a number of mounds, larger villages had more mounds. In the area around the larger mounds there was an open level plaza. The plaza was probably used for social and ceremonial events. There would be one mound in the plaza area that would be for ceremonial and community use.
It would be like a stage for the people in the plaza. The largest mound was the home of the leader, a temple, a townhouse, or other building that was important to the community. The lesser mounds were for homes of lesser officials and structures for communal or ceremonial use.
Just like a town they had a residential neighborhood that was located beyond the plaza. This is where the majority of the population lived. There were multiple burial grounds or cemeteries which were probably divided up for families or by rank. The entire mound complex including the residential neighborhood was surrounded on three sides by wooden walls.
The walls were built on an embankment of earth, which would look like a frontier fort. This wall was built to help protect against the warring factions of the day. Just like today, some groups didn't like another group. Also their expanding population would require more area and resources.
The Mississippian community was made up of villages, farms, and hamlets. They would be scattered for miles along the Mississippi river valley. Every community was supported mainly by farms. The farms main crop was corn, but other crops were also being raised. Foods such as maygrass which would be harvested in late spring when their winter stores would be running low. Goosefoot was a backup food used when the corn harvest was low.
Other foods such as knotweed, beans, little barley, squash, marsh elder and sunflower were also raised in their fields. There were wild plants that grew in the surrounding area that were harvested and stored for later use also. Some of them were wild bean, american lotus, arrowhead, grapes, persimmon, sumac, hickory, acorn, berries, greens, cattail, and wild sweet potato.
Meat was a lesser part of their diet. The Mississippian Indian didn't raise any of their meat so it had to be obtained from the surrounding area. Some of the meats that they ate were Deer, aquatic turtles, fish, freshwater mussels, beaver, and muskrat.
The Mississippian farmers needed tools to farm and the most important Mississippian tool was the chert hoe. Chert is commonly called flint. The chert that was used by the Mississippian Indian was a high grade variety that came from Southern Illinois quarries, one was the Mill Creek chert.
The Mississippian Indian religion was based on the fact that all things are related. The spiritual life of the Mississippian Indians were greatly influenced by the natural environment. When hunting, they would pray to ask forgiveness to the animals they hunted for taking their lives.
Animals such as turtles, ducks, frogs and other animals that lived in more than one environment were thought to be some kind of messenger or mediator between people and the spirit world.
Mississippian Indian ceremonies and rituals were held on top of the mounds and were led by priests and chiefs. These events were to mark the passing of the seasons, celestial events, and the harvesting of crops. The common people would observe these rituals and ceremonies in the plazas at the base of the mounds.
Tobacco was a part of these rituals and would be grown in their fields. It was first grown during the Woodland Period. The tobacco was smoked in a pipe and the smoke would carry a message to the spirits.
The Mississippian Indian was engaged in trade because of the fact that they had items that were found too far away. They had to be imported. They had volcanic glass from the Rocky Mountains, mica from Appalachia, marine shells from the Gulf Coast, bauxite from present-day Arkansas, and copper from the upper Midwest.