Burial Mounds

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Large burial mound at White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

Approximately 12,500 conical burial mounds built by the ancestral Dakota dot the landscape of southern Minnesota, and were particularly common in what is now the Twin Cities area. The mounds range in age from 2,500 to 600 years old, but Euro-Americans encountered Dakota people still living around and with the mounds in the 18th and 19th centuries.

While the Dakota always maintained their relationship to the mounds, there was general disbelief by Euro-Americans that modern Native Americans built them until the 20th century; past theories about the original Moundbuilders have included everything from a vanished “superior race” to extraterrestrials. The mound pictured here was among the hundreds in the Twin Cities vicinity alone that were later destroyed. Archaeologists estimate that as many as 80 percent of the Native mounds that were once part of Minnesota have been dismantled, largely from agriculture, looting, and road-building.