The U.S. Attorney General’s Office in Cedar Rapids has chosen not to press charges even though documents released by the National Parks Service show officials at Effigy Mounds National Monument in northeast Iowa oversaw unauthorized construction projects that damaged the site in the process. The projects were developed up until 2009.
Now that investigations are wrapping up, the monument’s new superintendent, Jim Nepsted, says he’ll have to go back and review which projects can be kept — such as a water line for the headquarters area — and which should be removed. “I think there’s a greater understanding that in a park like Effigy Mounds, development probably isn’t appropriate,” Nepsted says. “We just need to get a lot smarter about what we put in, where we put it in, who we talk to in advance and so on. I think that’s definitely happening now.”
The documents from the National Parks Service indicate 78 structures and boardwalks were constructed without authorization over a 10 year period at Effigy Mounds National Monument. The park’s former superintendent, Phyllis Ewing, was relieved of her duties in 2010 — but the U.S. Attorney General’s office in Cedar Rapids chose not to press charges.
Johnathan Buffalo is the Historic Preservation Director for the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa. He’s been involved in conversations with parks officials about how best to move forward. “At least Effigy Mounds is protected…no matter what happens, at least you could correct it. You could correct what was wrong,” Buffalo says.
Parks officials are working to repair the damage and regain the trust of the 12 Native American nations represented at the monument. Buffalo says the area was once a site where people lived. “When you say Effigy Mounds, what you expect to see is mounds, but it looks quite different,” Buffalo says. “So the question has always been, what are you preserving?” Effigy Mounds is comprised of almost 200 known mounds, likely built between 500 and 1300 A.D., along the Mississippi River. Some are built in the shapes of various animals, but the majority are cone-shaped.