Transcript — Episode 410 Talking Cahokia with Dr. Gayle Fritz

August 30, 2023

This transcript accompanies episode 410 Uncovering Cahokia’s Food History & Forgotten Farmscapes where we talk to Dr. Gayle Fritz about the food history of the Native America metropolis Cahokia and the food and farming impacts it had. Castmagic is the AI tool (link to Castmagic & give me a referral fee that doesn’t impact your cost) that helps with some of the content shared here and on social channels. 


Janice Person [00:00:01]:

Food is more than just what’s on our plate. It’s the places where it’s grown. It’s the people who grow it and so much more. Join me, Janice Person, your host on Grounded by the Farm every other week as we talk about the foods we love.

Everybody, this is Janice, and today I have a different conversation. You know, the last episode was about Cahokia Rice, and that name was something. It’s a brand, it’s something unique to that farm. But it really got me thinking about doing something on part of the history in the area where I live, which is St. Louis. And earlier this year, we went out to the Gila River Indian community and learned about that history. Well, I felt a little bit like I was denying my own local area, because in St. Louis, you look out and there’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is a place outside of St. Louis where native peoples had such incredible things going on. I’ve learned about it a little bit, but I was able to convince somebody. Gail Fritz, she was a professor at the university in St. Louis. It’s called Washington University. She’s an anthropologist, and she has studied deeply in on this piece of Cahokia and what it means for food and agriculture. Is that kind of a decent introduction for you?

Gayle Fritz [00:01:25]:

Yeah, perfect.

Janice Person [00:01:26]:

Okay, so what I wanted to talk to her about, a lot of people are not really familiar with the native peoples in their area. And here it’s different than in Arizona, where we have a reservation and it’s tribal grounds, and it’s very clearly from a certain group of people. Cahokia Mounds is a state historical project and a UNESCO site, is that right?

Gayle Fritz [00:01:51]:

It is. It’s a state historic site that’s administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Janice Person [00:01:59]:

That’s right.

Gayle Fritz [00:02:00]:

And it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But that’s a sort of a ceremonial it’s a wonderful thing to be part of, and they’re very helpful, but they.

Janice Person [00:02:12]:

Don’T manage the funding and all that kind of stuff is one of the things. Right. So Cahokia and the Mississippian, the native peoples to this area, what time period are we talking in history? Because it’s well before Columbus and stuff were coming over.

Gayle Fritz [00:02:28]:

Yes. Cahokia was a major concern. We call it a city, the largest metropolitan and urban area north of Mesoamerica of its day, between about 10, 13, 50 or 1400 Ce. The name Cahokia came from a member, a tribal group affiliated with the Illinois Confederacy, and they were here much more recently at European contact. But the original population of Cahokia, when it was a big, major concern much earlier, we’re not exactly sure who those people were. And that could have included descendants who eventually belonged to the Illinois Confederacy because people came from all over. And when Cahokia dispersed, when the population became much, much smaller after 1350 Ce, they probably went away in different directions and are represented today by many different tribes, but especially probably by Siouan speakers and possibly some Muskogian speakers, along with the possibility of the Algonquian speakers, such as the historic Cahokia here.

Janice Person [00:03:38]:

Really? East, I think, is mound building peoples, right? I’ve heard weird things about mound building and why they were built and stuff at different times, but never from anybody I thought had any credentials in the topic. Is it something for ceremonial purposes? Is it for the housing of the rulers?

Gayle Fritz [00:03:59]:

The earliest mounds in North America are actually now in Louisiana, in Florida, and those are 5000, 6000 years old.

Janice Person [00:04:08]:

Oh my God.

Gayle Fritz [00:04:08]:

And so those were for probably completely different purposes than the ones that we see now at Cahokia and other sites at that time period, which we lump into Mississippian, mississippian mound builders. And then in between the 5000, 6000 earliest mounds and the ones that were still being built in European contact, but not that late at what is now Cahokia mounds. But there were many different purposes and many different sizes and shapes and functions of mounds in between. And even as late as the Cahokia mounds, they were multipurpose different functions. Some were platforms for buildings that could have been the houses of some of the leaders. Some of them were probably more like meeting houses, very large meeting houses. Some of the flat top mounds are called temple mounds because we think that the buildings on top of them were ceremonial ritual. Some of them were used for burials. There are many of them that have burials and those tend to be conical and we call them burial mounds. Some of the ones nearby, the burial mounds might have had structures on them, but not domestic. Well, they would have been probably more like charnel houses for the processing of the deceased before they were interred. Some of them are marker mounds. They might have had there’s a million.

Janice Person [00:05:41]:

Kinds of mounds, basically many different kinds of it. Part of what I think is so interesting is, you know, locally, wherever you are, if there’s something in your state so many parts of the US. We actually do have great resources and they’re coming on all the time. I’ve seen a number of things being built in Oklahoma to represent the various tribes and peoples that ended up living in Oklahoma. And I’m from Memphis. I told you I’ve got Chuckalissa back on my list. I told people the other day I was going to sign back up for another field trip to go out there. And it’s been a university run property for as long as I know, which means it’s always been involved in research. So I think people ought to figure out where they’re from, go and find what the native peoples in that area were up to and sort of learn about that because that’s part of the history we don’t get in our books sometimes in the US. So now let’s talk about what you’re really good at and what you really know, food and farming. So we’re talking about cahokia. A friend and I were talking about it somewhat like a metropolis or something where people might come in, do trading, whatever, and may return home. Is that part of what was Cahokia? And if so, farming and food would be the first thing people would want to trade is my assumption.

Gayle Fritz [00:07:05]:

Yes. We know that there was a great deal of long distance trade at Cahokia, but also there were over 10,000 people, as many as 15 or 20,000 people, who seemed to have been permanent residents at the height. So they had to also eat daily in addition to probably think in terms of having something extra to trade for outside types of goods when that opportunity arose, which probably was often.

Janice Person [00:07:31]:

Well, and in this area, things grow so well. So I know some of the local, like the native plants to the Americas. Tell me about those. Like, the Three Sisters is the big one everybody talks about, but you help me understand what I should know about the food grown in Cahokia.

Gayle Fritz [00:07:49]:

Well, the Three Sisters is used primarily to describe the iroquoian system of intercropping maize or corn. I think usually I call it go ahead and just call it corn, but it’s the maize and beans, the common beans and squash. And corn was big at Cahokia as well. That was shared with the Iroquois and Three Sisters, but beans were not one of the staples. In fact, they’re fine, almost no beans.

Janice Person [00:08:21]:

They’re huge in Arizona with the people we were talking to.

Gayle Fritz [00:08:24]:

Yes. And it turns out it was such a surprise to archaeologists when we started being able to really precisely date small individual seeds that the beans seemed to right here in this area, seemed to post date 1251, 200 or 1250. And Cahokia was biggest between 1001, 300. So you get a few beans at.

Janice Person [00:08:47]:

The very end of the cahokia.

Gayle Fritz [00:08:49]:

At the very end. But you do get the corn, definitely, and you get the squash. And the big surprise about squash is that the major species that we find was actually domesticated in eastern North America, whereas corn was domesticated in Mesoamerica, as were beans, which weren’t here yet. The type of squash they grew was domesticated thousands of years before corn came in. Really? Yeah, and it was native to the Southeast.

Janice Person [00:09:21]:


Gayle Fritz [00:09:22]:

And it was represented today by the yellow crookneck summer squash that people the.

Janice Person [00:09:28]:

One that people have in every garden everywhere, that zucchini is what we have everywhere. But that crooked yellow squash is really common.

Gayle Fritz [00:09:37]:

It’s the yellow squash. But the Halloween pumpkin, the orange ones, and the other non crookneck type things that they grow in the Southwest that also came from Mesoamerica was not the most popular squash, although we think it might have come in like beans at the very end. But we’re not sure about that because the seeds are so similar. But work needs to be done on that.

Janice Person [00:09:59]:

Well, part of that is that technology to let us know things. Like, my guess is when I was in elementary school, if they’d tried to teach me this, they wouldn’t have known enough of the science to get it right. And the people who should have caught history and written it down weren’t capturing things. Is that the case? Is history just getting so much better by the tools that science gives us?

Gayle Fritz [00:10:21]:

The tools, the genetic tools are a big they play a big part in this. But also there was some sort of I would call it a prejudice against giving the North American, especially the eastern North American Native Americans credit for that kind of domestication. And it would have been the Mesoamericans. They had the big civilization and they were the master farmers.

Janice Person [00:10:45]:

Is that what we would call, like, the Aztec people as Mesoamerica?

Gayle Fritz [00:10:50]:

Yes. Aztec and their predecessors. Maya. The other Mesoameric. But here it turns out that the eastern North American natives did, in fact domesticate not only this type of squash, which is a different subspecies, but very, very distinct genetically and could have been distinct even morphologically, but people weren’t paying enough attention to it. And sunflowers. Sunflowers were domesticated here in eastern North America, possibly in Missouri or Tennessee.

Janice Person [00:11:20]:

We need really big credit for that.

Gayle Fritz [00:11:22]:

Big credit, yeah. And then a whole suite of others that have not survived the test of time that we refer to as the Eastern agricultural complex or the lost crops.

Janice Person [00:11:35]:

So that one’s really interesting to me. And I told you I had talked to Terry Button and his family. Ramona has been bringing back temporary beans and they have all the different colors of temporary beans now. And they’ve gotten know, sometimes it was just a small handful that one family still had somewhere. They were slowly able to work it up. So what are those other foods that we’ve maybe lost and would love to find again? And what did they offer? The diet, I think, is a really important question because corn is a great starch. You can eat that. And it gives you a lot of the things that we’re familiar with. But if we didn’t have beans in this part of the world, that protein is lacking. So was that covered in different ways?

Gayle Fritz [00:12:22]:

I think protein in eastern North America was covered a lot by the deer and the fish. Yeah. But several of these lost crops are very high in protein. One of them is closely related to quinoa and which everybody reveres as being so high protein. It’s in the same genus. It looks like a lamb’s quarter that people might find. But the lamb’s quarter that is growing in most of our gardens and on our sidewalks, we think is a European. But there are native cousins in the same genus, Kinopodium. And one of them was domesticated independently here in the Midwest. River in the heartland all around St. Louis several thousand years ago and was still being eaten in large quantities at Cahokia when corn, it looks like it was intensified along with corn. Not that corn came in and replaced it, but that it became they were complementary or something. Well, it would have certainly had a lot more protein than maize. And then there’s a relative of the sunflower, a close relative that we call marshalder or sumpweed. And it also, like sunflower, was selected for larger seeds, larger and larger seeds or fruits. And it also is high in lipids like sunflower. So we find quite a bit of that. And then there were two native grasses that we call may grass and a little barley. And especially the maygrass turns out to have a high protein content. And then there’s Erect knotweed, which is related to the Japanese buckwheat. Have you ever eaten buckwheat pancakes?

Janice Person [00:14:05]:

My family loves Japanese food.

Gayle Fritz [00:14:07]:

The erect, knotweed seeds that we find at Cahokia and other archaeological sites, sometimes hundreds of thousands of them, in burned caches where they had been stored in pits and something went wrong, and they just end up in these. Black lenses that when you excavate them and do the proper flotation techniques to separate the seas from the soil that some of them are caches of buckwheat looking a relative of that. And so it’s like triangular, it’s got sharp sides. All of those are found in quantity at Cahokia. And they had been domesticated here and grown in quantity for centuries, if not thousands of years.

Janice Person [00:14:47]:

Wow. Wow. Mind blowing. Most of us haven’t really learned our history from the northern parts of Americas other than US. History. To think about the things that were here long before. What else in terms of the dynamics of this community and things, could you tell me? That would blow my mind, because I will say I understand they were incredibly advanced in terms of the tools that they developed and things along that line.

Gayle Fritz [00:15:20]:

They were just master farmers, and agriculture was the foundation of the economy. And the other thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that there was a division of labor in terms of farming versus hunting. And the agriculture and the gathering of wild plants was done primarily by women.

Janice Person [00:15:44]:


Gayle Fritz [00:15:44]:

So that is something to really give the women credit for.

Janice Person [00:15:49]:

It’s still done that way in a lot of Africa and places and the Iroquois too.

Gayle Fritz [00:15:54]:

Not so much the Southwest. It’s interesting that the Southwest had become both men and women doing a lot of the farming, but at Contact, and we have really no reason to believe that it would have been different at Cahokia or Chuckalissa or the other Mississippian societies. The women would have been the farmers producing massive amounts of produce of corn and then here at and, storing it.

Janice Person [00:16:22]:

For the winter, storing it for the.

Gayle Fritz [00:16:24]:

Winter, building big pits. And we know from the hadatsa in Mandan up at the Missouri River at Contact these pits that they lived in big earth lodge villages. And as described by Lewis and Clark and others who followed them, huge amounts of corn and other crops were being grown and stored in these huge bell shaped pits that had boats in the bottom of them to really to line them.

Janice Person [00:16:51]:

Yeah, because you have to kind of cool it and stuff so that the airflow is there’s a lot to storing food and keeping it.

Gayle Fritz [00:17:00]:

The technology is complicated. Yes. Okay.

Janice Person [00:17:05]:

I still have trouble with canning so I’m not going to go there. But seriously, to think that they were able to make it through winter yes. With that kind of storage of things I’m sure they were still hunting as well. But a lot of those things also hibernate.

Gayle Fritz [00:17:22]:

We think that the cold winters this far north were one of the reasons why those now lost crops along with sunflower and squat were originally domesticated because they had relied before that happened, they had relied heavily on the nuts and they still did the nuts. And you can, of course, store nuts and process nuts into storable products. But it looks as if these somewhat weedy plants themselves that were being harvested and brought back and deposited in the more nitrogen rich soils of the villages were starting to become more attractive to the people who could see. Their potential and then started saving the seeds and planting them and then having small garden plots and having larger and larger plots that we might buy. Certainly before Cahokia was a city that we might call fields.

Janice Person [00:18:25]:

Well, you had to if you have 10,000 people there right? I’m sure it builds over time or something but you have to have a really organized system of food for a crowd that big no matter what it is.

Gayle Fritz [00:18:38]:

Exactly. And the other thing that I might say would be somewhat surprising, and that is also debatable, is that assuming with very good reason that the farmers were women, I would also say that they were the organizational powers, the organizational leaders. And that’s something that has not been assumed or given really serious thought to when we talk about the hierarchy, because we know it was a complex society. We know that everybody was not equal, it was hierarchical. But people have even depicted it in exhibits at museums that the individuals at the top were men and that it’s not until you get down to the lower rungs where you have the actual food producers.

Janice Person [00:19:28]:

I’m thinking that’s because most of the men put together those exhibits but go ahead.

Gayle Fritz [00:19:35]:

Could well be. I predict backwards that for the whole thing to work organizationally people who had the actual expert knowledge of the soils and the crops and everything else were the ones who were making the decisions about where to grow them and how much to grow and how to because.

Janice Person [00:19:54]:

They would have had the time and the space in that space specifically. Whereas the hunters, their job is to go off and do other things and come back. Right. So they wouldn’t necessarily see what was growing. Where you’re talking nitrogen rich. Right. So you’re getting from the waste of animals and humans.

Gayle Fritz [00:20:13]:

Yeah. There probably were not animals back then. The dog was domesticated, the only domesticated animal, and I don’t know that they were pinning any of it was all hunting.

Janice Person [00:20:24]:


Gayle Fritz [00:20:25]:

But women would have had the skills, the knowledge, and if that knowledge had been removed from them, I think there would have been trouble.

Janice Person [00:20:38]:

I love it. We mentioned nuts a minute ago, and I told you before we started the recording that I had been listening to a book, braiding sweetgrass. And one of the things she had talked about was how nuts would be carried with people when they were moving, because they knew that this was a way that they could sustain their family and their future generations. So pecans are somewhat at that time, what kind of nuts did they have in cahokia?

Gayle Fritz [00:21:08]:

Archaeologically, we find the thick hickory nuts. Pecans are a thin shelled member of that family and genus, but it’s surprising that we don’t find more pecan shell, and it’s very distinctive. What we find is the thick hickory nuts, and there are several species in this area that could be. It’s hard to tell from a little burned fragment what species it is. The cherokee today and some of the other native groups process hickory nuts. They eat pecans. Everybody loves pecans, but they process more of the thick shelled hickory nuts because you can pound it into a well today. They make balls that they call Kanuji out of it. In fact, I think there’s a picture it lends itself to mass processing and trading.

Janice Person [00:21:59]:


Gayle Fritz [00:21:59]:

And I think one of the reasons we don’t find more hickory nutshell, we find lots of it up in the uplands and at earlier sites. But once you get to Cahokia with ten to 20,000 or 15 to 20,000 people, permanent residents and more close by when you get into what we call Greater Cahokia, I think probably then a lot of the gathering and processing of the nuts, primarily hickory nuts, was going.

Janice Person [00:22:25]:

On outside in one of the satellite.

Gayle Fritz [00:22:27]:

Areas, and they were trading it in after they had already removed most of the nutshell. And that later, when the population of cahokia declines, we start finding more sites with more of the hickory nutshell and acorn. We don’t think of acorn as being a big, wonderful food, but they certainly knew how to process it and were.

Janice Person [00:22:50]:

Eating, I think, further to the east. It’s like chestnuts were a big thing in the appalachian area. Right. So I was trying to translate in my mind what else would be in this area, and I totally had forgotten acorns.

Gayle Fritz [00:23:03]:

Acorns were important in general. I’m not sure about right here all of the time, but they were important. And we certainly find the nutshell and walnuts as well.

Janice Person [00:23:14]:

So do you know much about the farming methodologies that were used in this part, or is that outside your purview, really?

Gayle Fritz [00:23:21]:

We’re pretty sure about the tools.

Janice Person [00:23:23]:


Gayle Fritz [00:23:23]:

And you mentioned the rice farmer finding.

Janice Person [00:23:26]:

The hose, the blade part of the hoe and stuff. Right.

Gayle Fritz [00:23:30]:

So we find those here, too. And there’s a type of church called Mill Creek Church that’s from south of here in Illinois that was being traded up. And we find the whole hose, and they’re beautiful.

Janice Person [00:23:43]:

Oh, wow.

Gayle Fritz [00:23:44]:

And they have this silica polish on them. Some of them are so big, are so massive, that I think they had multiple purposes. I don’t think they were just being used.

Janice Person [00:23:54]:

They may have been used in other ways.

Gayle Fritz [00:23:56]:

Again, at European contact, the primary digging tool was a stick, and it would have been especially fashioned and fire hardened with, like, hickory, nice hard wood. It didn’t have an attached blade, but it was used to form the hills and to dig the holes to deposit the seeds. And women produced a lot of food, corn and other crops.

Janice Person [00:24:25]:

I’m just going to say you’re talking about using hand tools to produce food for like 10,000 people. Yes.

Gayle Fritz [00:24:33]:

And some of mind blowing to me there were other types of ho blades other than church. There was deer antler or elk antler or scapula or bison. Even though we don’t think of there being a lot of bison around here, it wasn’t that far away. And then we know that there were.

Janice Person [00:24:55]:

The open plains are really pretty close. Yeah, that’s amazing. Part of what sounds so wild to me is how much they would be able to sharpen stones and stuff to fashion something that would allow them to then either cut open the soil or even take the skin off of an animal that they were going to prepare for food and to be able to use the leather and stuff like that. It’s impressive how many different kinds of tools they had to have that many years ago.

Gayle Fritz [00:25:29]:

Absolutely. Master flint, nampers, and tool fashioners. And that doesn’t even include the textiles that have almost all vanished. There aren’t that many from open sites like Cahokia. In special contexts, we get little fragments of textiles, and sometimes we get the textile impressions on pottery. But that would have been the weaving would have been another incredible skill and one that would have been important for the women in terms of carrying and storing.

Janice Person [00:26:04]:

I knew cotton very well. And so you think about those kind of fibers that you’re using realistically, that stuff breaks down when it’s in the soil. And that degradation that we don’t get with polyester is why we don’t have fabrics from places like Cahokia, because the kinds of fabrics they had were biologically based. Either plant, animal in some shore, some of those fibers for baskets are a lot harder to break down river cane, things like that. And so that’s why we have maybe a little bit more of the basket type of weaving and stuff that we can occasionally find. Is that right?

Gayle Fritz [00:26:41]:

I think, the mats and the baskets. Yes, but you’ve brought up clothing, and I should have included that with the bags, because, again, the museum exhibits tend to show the people wearing skins, and yet at European contact, they are described as we have examples on artwork on statuary of, like, shawls that look like lace shawls that the women are wearing. I think they probably had some we know that they had some really well crafted woven dresses and skirts and shoes and other items of apparel.

Janice Person [00:27:21]:

Amazing. Yeah. I think you fail to think about how amazing people could have been that long ago when you’ve just not had exposure to it for so long. And to think about the native peoples that were here and the things that they did all those years ago before Columbus came. And we still have them, like the mounds. So when you go to Cahokia, there are these amazing mounds that take you a long time to climb up. This is not some tiny little rise. It is serious space, like the elevation is serious. And to think that that has worn for thousands of years now.

Gayle Fritz [00:28:07]:

Yes. When there were 110 mounds, all within a very short walking distance with a palisade around some of them and courtyards.

Janice Person [00:28:18]:

And tall, and they were created with, like hand tools and things like that.

Gayle Fritz [00:28:24]:

So it would have been when you arrived, know, upstream or downstream or whatever and came into this ceremonial and domestic environment, it would have been just awe.

Janice Person [00:28:37]:

I was going to say awestruck. Right. Like when people go to New York and see Times Square or something for the first time, it would be similarly high impact because who would have thought? I mean, the mounds here were similar to the kinds of things we have in other parts of the world that we’ve heard about.

Gayle Fritz [00:28:57]:

Yes. And all around then, this precinct, urban and ceremonial precinct, there would have been fields, and those would have been impressive, too, because they would have been big. And the soil here is so rich. I think people would have there’s a higher concentration of primate agricultural soil even today, as you know, from the horseradish and all the corn and soybeans that they grow and occasionally some sunflowers wheat. Then it would have been I think visitors would have thought, wow, this is just a lot of food.

Janice Person [00:29:34]:

It would be striking to the eye, I’m sure. Well, is there anything that I really missed that you’re like, Janice? I can’t believe you didn’t ask me about this, because I know one of the things when we talked about those lost crops, I understand some people are still doing some work in that area. If I wanted to find out more information about that. Where might I look?

Gayle Fritz [00:29:56]:

My colleague at Washington University, Dr. Natalie Mueller, has some wonderful videos on her website at the university and she has been involved with a group called the Lost Crops Network. But if you google Natalie Mueller, Mueller and Lost Crops, you will find these great videos and links to her publications and to I’ll make sure I put.

Janice Person [00:30:27]:

Some of that in the notes for this. I also want to mention you have a book that I picked up. I haven’t gotten to read it yet, so I’ll put that in the notes as well. And I think we’re going to be able to go over to Cahokia and maybe take some photos and some video.

Gayle Fritz [00:30:40]:

Yes, I was actually going to show you one of the sites that’s not on the state historic I’m going to get back, but it’s called the Spooniman site. And it’s where some of these figurines, some of these flint clay figurines that were probably associated with a fertility ritual.

Janice Person [00:30:59]:

Well, I assume there has to be quite a bit of space that maybe isn’t protected as part of the state historic site. Knowing that you said this is something that’s off of the map normally. So how big do you think Cahokia was?

Gayle Fritz [00:31:14]:

I think people that were connected with Cahokia were living as far away as a day and a half walk away. We know that, for example, right now in downtown St. Louis, where there were 24 mounds that have been all destroyed and they’re just north of the arch, that those people had the same pottery and they were very closely connected. They were part of the greater Cahokia area. And then as you go up to like Scott Air Force Base east of here and you get up onto the higher elevations, there’s still a lot of corn fields there today, lots and lots. It’s more prairie soil, so it might have been a little bit harder to work. But there are sites up there, dozens of sites, and some of them with mounds that looked like they were part of this big bang, this explosion of when 1000 to 1050 Ad, when thousands of people were living, came and then were living here for generations. So how many miles is that? It just got airport based.

Janice Person [00:32:22]:

That’s a long way.

Gayle Fritz [00:32:23]:

And then all the way to the north end, almost near Alton there are sites and then all the way down to where the bottom land.

Janice Person [00:32:34]:

I think this is part of the reason why it’s hard to just say, here’s what we find at Cahokia, right? The mounds part that is protected. We know what we found here. But then, quite frankly, when you’re talking big metropolitan area, major area, not all of it has been searched by archaeologists. I mean, people have been farming it, people have been ranching it, people have been building houses on it, whatever it is, right. Chances are. There’s a lot of history that’s still to be discovered, and I know some of it washes up sometimes because the land is eroding in a bad storm and you just happen to find some extra things. If people found artifacts that they would like to provide to someone, do you know, is there, like, a center at Cahokia or something? I do know that they’re taking some donations and things as they try and get more artifacts together and the museum space improved and some things like that.

Gayle Fritz [00:33:38]:

Yes. The museum is being massively redone. A new roof has just been put on it, and now it is awaiting a new HVAC system. So, unfortunately, it’s closed, but the staff is still there. Laurie Belnap, the site superintendent, would be a person to call. When you call the main number for Cahokia Mounds Visitor Center, someone will answer. And there are very dedicated volunteers and state employees, staff members who would be happy to talk to you about any artifacts you found. They used to have, every year, an artifact identification day, and that’s one of the things that they won’t be having until it reopens. But they are having a kids day on October the 7th, and I expect that to be a huge event. It always was in the past. They haven’t had one for a couple of well, since COVID but now that’s something to go, and people can bring things there, and there will be lots of staff members and volunteers. And as you said, they’re now asking for donations of money to help with this.

Janice Person [00:34:51]:

Something like that takes real support, right?

Gayle Fritz [00:34:54]:


Janice Person [00:34:54]:

You can’t capture our history if you don’t have the money to help make the machine work.

Gayle Fritz [00:35:00]:

And because the gift shop has been closed, there has been less money coming in. You can shop online still, and they have had I can’t remember when the next one is, but they have had some Saturdays where the gift shop has, in fact, been open.

Janice Person [00:35:15]:

And I know they do like events for the solstice, different pieces of nature and the environment.

Gayle Fritz [00:35:22]:

They’re still doing a solstice and Equinox for a year. Bill Eisenger, who was the chief interpreter at Cahokia Mounds for 40 years or more, I think is still doing a great job at those observances various lectures. In fact, tomorrow, the Cahokia Archaeological Society is having a meeting at the Collinsville Public Library, and he will be speaking.

Janice Person [00:35:47]:

Oh, neat. All right, well, thank you very much for this. I so appreciate your time. I know this is an odd way to spend your day, but I appreciate your having me over. And it’s so nice that I could just get some more information because I really am so impressed with the way our history formed, but I didn’t always know it. So, to me, finding some of these missing blocks that come before what we considered our history, it’s really important for me to get the big picture and to show people appreciation for the things their ancestors brought us. I mean, I knew squash, but I did not realize sunflower and some of those other things were quite in the same space.

Gayle Fritz [00:36:31]:

So it’s a significant part of American history and it’s been a pleasure to talk to you about it. Thank you.

Janice Person [00:36:37]:

Thank you. As always, I want to thank you for listening. If you’re sharing it with friends and family who also like this space of food and farming and always interested in learning more, sharing that, I really appreciate it. We’re going to go ahead and we’ll talk to you again in two weeks. You can always find us on social media in the meantime. Thanks.

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