Tailgaters vs. preservation at mounds

Baton Rouge, Louisiana (AP) September 2010

Less than two weeks after LSU announced plans to block off 6,000-year-old Indian mounds on football weekends to protect them from traffic, it took down the barricades.

University spokesman Herb Vincent tells The Advocate that ropes and poles around the mounds were removed early Saturday for safety reasons. Later that day, children used signs reading “Please do not slide on the mounds” and “Help preserve the mounds” as sleds. Rebecca Saunders, archaeology professor and associate curator of the LSU Museum of Natural Science, said the preservationists were “dumbfounded” the barricades were removed by the university without their knowledge.

“It certainly is not very honorable and it doesn’t teach the students a good lesson when they put in all this work,” Saunders said of the protection and education efforts. “It certainly never occurred to us we’d meet this kind of resistance.”

The mounds were made by prehistoric American Indian tribes and are older than the Egyptian pyramids. The mounds are believed to have been used for ceremonial and marking-point purposes

Saunders said the concept of sledding down the sacred mounds is akin to climbing up and down a historic church.

“It’s like they’re destroying a church,” she said.

Rob Mann, southeast regional archaeologist in LSU’s geography and anthropology department, said he regularly gets calls from private citizens who want help protecting American Indian mounds on their property.

“It puts me in a bad light if my own university won’t take steps to properly preserve them,” Mann said.

Vincent insisted LSU leaders want to protect the mounds.

“We thought it was a hazard,” Vincent said of the ropes and poles. “We remain concerned about the mounds, and we’re looking for alternative ways to protect them.”

Vincent said using security or police is unlikely.