However, in Wisconsin and other parts of North America, the ability of tribal nations to protect their interests has advanced dramatically over the last century. While the fight for indigenous rights was once advanced through grassroots action, it now can be waged by lobbyists, lawyers and politically savvy tribal leaders.
“This is the Wingra site,” said Ho-Chunk legislator David Greendeer as he pointed to a map. “This is what it looked like in 1914. It was already being excavated by the owner so they shredded the mounds that were down here.”
Smith tilted his head to make sense of the shapes: one looked like a bird with its wings outstretched, another like a fox. Such effigy mounds — large, earthen structures visible from the sky — have historically housed human remains. And for three decades, Wisconsin has protected human burial sites regardless of what they look like or how old they are.
On the ground, effigy mounds often look like small hills on the landscape. From the air, they more closely resemble massive art projects like the Nazca geoglyphs in southern Peru. Archeologists have discovered soil imported from hundreds of miles away, and many of the structures are aligned to the solstice, the equinox and true north. It’s estimated that 80 per cent of the states’ effigy mounds have already been destroyed.