What We Should See but Don’t

What We Should See but Don’t

Talk by James P. Scherz, Nov., 2014

Washington, Indiana


Since about 1980, we have been surveying effigy mound groups and related ancient ceremonial sites in Wisconsin and neighboring states. At some of the very isolated sites, very early on, we saw ribbons and small offerings, a clear indication that someone from the native communities was still   visiting the ancient sites.  Three state archaeologists were asked which tribe had been responsible for the  building of these ancient mound  groups.  As if from a indoctrination script, all three said that the mound builders were some ancient lost people with no connection to any living Indians. It was clear that there was something  wrong with his orthodox view and I began talking with some  of the Native American students on campus.  They  said  that I had to talk to the ”Man Above,” which I later learned was a title for  the head of the Native American lodges in the area. This was similar to the title of “Worshipful  Master” used in the semi-secret White Man’s Masonic lodges.

I finally located the local “Man Above” in his trailer house in an isolated woods near the Wisconsin Dells. Jones seemed to know that I was coming, and we hit it off excellently. Knowing the nature of secret lodges, since my father’s grandfather had been a Templar in Germany, I knew there were certain things (because of initiation oaths) that could not be shared with the common person. I said I understood that, and if I asked something that he could not share with me to say so, and not to lie about the matter. “Fine,” was the reply.

After about 5 years, we thought we understood the geometry used in the layout of the effigy mounds , and chose Lizard Mound Park for the last group to test the pattern. When we pulled up to begin surveying, there was Pamita, who I never had met before. He said that he was the “Keeper of the Site” and could tell us about how it was built and used, provided that we did not intend to dig in the mounds. We only wanted to survey and study the geometry of the group. That was what he wanted to hear, and over many days and nights in his old and small limestone house, I learned more from Pamita than I really wanted to know. He told me about small clues (which he called Toths) left by the priests who laid out the mound groups. These were inconspicuous rocks atop the mounds, meant to be overlooked by the common person, even at the  time that  the  mounds  were  constructed.   He  said  that  after all  the  effort  constructing  a mound. if a rock was left on top of it, it was for a purpose. He said that the priests could read these Toths and that the geometry of the layout would be open to the m, but overlooked by the non-initiated commoners. He further stated that the area is where the Lizard Mound Group had been constructed had once been a beach with no rocks. He said that if I found any rocks in the area, they would have had to be brought in and were important to the encoded language of the group. Although I had obtained a masters degree in civil engineering and minored in geology, I had overlooked this important fact about the old sand beach, until Pamita pointed it out.

I assumed that our surveys at Lizard Mound Park would be our last before I devoted my efforts to some other surveying and mapping research. But I was wrong.  Once I understood Pamita’s Toths, and learned how to read some of them. I became engrossed in an effort which has lasted to this day (some 30 years later).

In upper Michigan I saw indicators along the roads which led me to ceremonial areas and native graveyards along the Au Train River .  Later, I  learned from  natives  in the  area that this route had once been used to move copper from Lake Superior to Lake Michigan in ancient times when the water was much higher. Although not written down, such memories are still intact.