Email this sample to a friend

Transformations in Mississippian Native American Culture

By Jabe Fincher

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2012 Jabe Fincher

Transformations in Mississippian Native American Culture

By Jabe Fincher

At least 300 years separate the Mississippian cultures from the best ethnographic descriptions of their descendants, the historic southeastern Indians. A major transformation took place across this span of time. Inadequate documents and archaeological information make it difficult to determine the precise nature of these changes. But much of the result can be explained by the term "deculturation"-a loss of cultural elements, including, it is assumed much of the Mississippian mythology, beliefs, and ceremonialism.

One of the cultural elements long assumed to have been lost during this transformation was the platform mound, which is a sort of identifying feature of the Mississippian era. The nature and symbolism of Mississippian platform mounds still remains largely a mystery.

A few ethnologists have noticed certain features in southeastern ritual that seem relevant to the problem of the Mississippian mounds. It appears, in fact, that although Indians of the historic era were no longer building large mounds, the beliefs underlying the practice survived. When viewed at the level of symbolism the problem dissolves, and the "loss" of platform mound ceremonialism can be seen as merely a change of emphasis within an unbroken ritual tradition. This imagery of people coming from a hollow in a mound is analogous to several Muskogee texts in which ancestors come from the underground. A Tuckabatchee example compares this emergence to ants pouring out of the earth, presumable from an anthill, which substitutes for the mound in the Kasihta example.

Previous Page Next Page Page 1 of 2