Mounding evidence: Ana María León, ‘Big Mound: settler destruction as historic preservation’, The Journal of Architecture, 2023


Abstract; In 1869, the Osage burial monument known as Big Mound, located in the middle of downtown St. Louis, was destroyed. But the desecration of the site did not end there. The multiple destructions and memorialisations that this sacred site subsequently endured reveal the markers of settler colonialism, a form of occupation that replaces Indigenous populations with invasive societies. We can see this pattern take shape in the narratives constructed around the site, in the manner in which its destruction was enacted and recorded, and in the commemoration efforts made in 1929 under the sponsorship of the Colonial Dames of America. This association is dedicated to honouring the memory of settlers, the agents involved in the destruction and dispossession of Indigenous populations. The installed by the group prioritises them over the Indigenous builders it is supposed to commemorate. Aggressions to the site have not stopped. In 2014, the Missouri Department of Transportation moved the marker to make way for the construction of the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge. A few efforts have been made to palliate these actions and commemorate the monument. However, these efforts have elided and erased the claims of its builders — the Osage Nation — and constructed an image of these sites as empty, abandoned ruins built by supposedly distant, disappeared groups. By disconnecting the original builders from contemporary Indigenous groups, they have followed settler colonial frameworks resulting in acts of both physical and conceptual un-making that extend to the present. Undoing these frameworks is the first step towards reconsidering the broader site, which extends beyond the monument.

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