The Mounds Initiative

In a Nutshell

The Mounds – America’s First Cities initiative is in the process elevating the national designation of Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site and thematically-connected mound complexes deemed significant and in public ownership as a non-contiguous National Monument/Historical Park in a collaborative partnership with IHPA.

Project Information


The Mounds – America’s First Cities’ Project Team, led by representatives from HeartLands Conservancy, have spent the last 18 months studying the Mississippian culture and occupation and have produced a feasibility study with all findings and recommendations.  The intent with the study is elevating the Mounds and associated Mound Centers to a National Designation within the National Park Service.

Through engagement with the public-at-large communities, civic leaders, and the American Indian Tribes/Nations, the team determined that a National Designation is feasible and that Cahokia meets all NPS criteria.  The other mounds sites where reviewed and it was concluded that they, too, are nationally significant if they are thematically connected to Cahokia – demonstrating the larger culture and advancements. They are stronger as a whole. They all can stand as a non-contiguous National Historical Park together.

The hope is a National Designation will give influence to preserve what remains of the mounds in our region. But, next steps such as further outreach and collaboration, publicity and expanded outreach are vital to reaching our goal.


The next steps of The Mounds – America’s First Cities include further public outreach (meetings, exhibits, educational materials, etc.), further outreach to the American Indian Nation/Tribes and early implementation of the recommendations.   Continued fundraising efforts are imperative to this project as the funding needs for the next twelve months is $100,000.
Click here and download a letter of support template
. Fill in your contact information and mail it back to HeartLands Conservancy.

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Writing to our senators about The Mounds – America’s First Cities is important to our success.   Correspondence is a good way to make sure that the findings of the study are communicated with people of influence. You can contact your senators by writing an e-mail or a letter, by calling, or by visiting.



No negative affects to our natural and cultural resources have been identified due to the proposal for a National Designation. It is anticipated that the implementation would result in positive impacts to preserve, conserve and improve more resources. It would help protect and prevent further demolition of significant archeological resources.
A baseline economic impact analysis of Cahokia Mounds was conducted and estimates on economic impact were developed. The analysis outlined the potential economic impacts from increased patronage and saw that by using visitation trends and case studies, attendance could increase between 10 and 25 percent in three years. These figures were based on assuming the following: national designation by the National Park Service, leveraging the UNESCO designation, forming strategic partnerships and modernizing facilities and improving connectivity.

Overall, increased global attention would attract additional visitors annually which would have a favorable economic impact on our region.
Protecting the Mississippian sites within our region and educating the public are vital tasks for the project team as well as the community at large. The benefits of a national designation are plenty, and with collaboration with The American Indian Tribes, expansion of the Mounds Heritage Trail, partnerships with educational institutions and expanded outreach, implementation of the next steps is what’s ahead.


Laura Lyon, Mounds Initiative Project Manager
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Ed Weilbacher, Vice President for Building Greener Communities
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Dave Eustis, President & CEO
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HeartLands Conservancy | 406 East Main | Mascoutah, Illinois 62258
Phone: (618) 566-4451 | Fax: (618) 566-4452
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More InformationMore Information

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site

NPR Story