Indian mounds part of Plaquemine Pow Wow

RITA LYNN JACKSON Contributing writer

The Grand Opening of the final installment of the People of Iberville series of exhibits, The American Indians of Iberville, begins at 9:30 am on Saturday, April 6, at the Iberville Museum in Plaquemine.

American Indians from across the United States will be on hand to open the two-month exhibit, and will participate in the Plaquemine Pow Wow on Saturday and Sunday at the Museum grounds.

School groups are invited to view the exhibit free of charge throughout the run. Following is information on the Indian mounds of Iberville Parish.

The town and the bayou which served as the only inland waterway from the Mississippi into the Atchafalaya Basin and into the Teche country for hundreds of years was named by the American Indians.  The Illinois Indian word Piakimin means persimmons. Those first inhabitants of this area probably saw many persimmon trees in the area and lining the banks of historic Bayou Plaquemine; thus, the name they chose for this place.

American Indian presence in Iberville Parish is evidenced by the many Indian mounds and middens scattered throughout the parish. Mounds are structures built of earth or shell according to some plan. Middens are dump heaps. They are composed of the refuse of a group which lived nearby: shells; bones; broken pottery; tolls of stone, horn, and bone; the black earth which results from the decomposition of organic matter. 

The better known mounds in Iberville Parish are located near Rosedale where in 1840 Austin Woolfolk built his home on a large mound, naming his plantation Mound Plantation; at Bayou Sorrel, south side one mile from Lower Grand River; on Australia Plantation located six miles above Plaquemine, and in Bayou Goula.

-Bayou Goula Mound

Perhaps the largest and most important is the mound at Bayou Goula, located within one half mile from the village of Bayou Goula. This mound was most carefully explored in the spring of 1940, as a W.P.A project under the direction of James A Ford, of archaeologist of Louisiana State University School of Geology. Many artifacts were taken from the mound at that time, including bones of Indians, dogs, bears, also flint knives, stone axes, pottery, other crude instruments and numerous brightly colored beads, this latter no doubt being received by the Indians from the very early settlers in barter and trade. The Bayou Goula mound is described in detail in Father Paul du Ru’s journal of the year 1700. Du Ru was the Jesuit priest who accompanied Pierre Lemoyne, Sieur d’Iberville on his “Mississippi Expedition” which was to establish French presence in Louisiana.

- Bayou Sorrel Mound

The “Mound on Sorrel Bayou, Iberville Parish” was described in detail in the Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. According to the 1913 journal, “the mound is located about one ½ miles along Sorrel bayou from its junction with Grand River in full view from the water on property owned by A Wilbert’s Sons. The mound is 16 feet in height in the form of a truncated cone, with a diameter of 140 feet. It has been used extensively for burial purposes during the last seventy years (in 1913) and is covered with crosses and headstones. The people of Bayou Sorrel had built a cemetery on the existing Indian mound.

Archaeological research in its platform showed that the mound increased during aboriginal occupancy. It was composed largely of black soil containing ashes, charcoal fragments of mussel-shells, fish, deer and other animal bones, as well as skeletal remains of humans. The human remains at different levels of strata, the first of which was 7.5 beneath the surface and above undisturbed clay indicates that the mound was used as a burial ground and built upon for decades. The journal also described pottery, tools and weapons found beneath the surface of the mound.

Information on other mounds located within Iberville parish boundaries on Grand River, Bayou Pigeon, Alabama Bayou, Bayou Grosse Tete and the Atchafalaya River are described in the same journal. Exact locations and description of contents are a part of this report. 

-Indian Mound Plantation

As stated above, in 1840 Austin Woolfolk erected his home on an Indian burial mound located between Rosedale and Maringouin along Bayou Grosse Tete. During construction of the home, many Indian relics including the skeletal remains of two babies contained in an earthen vessel were excavated from the large mound. Two other smaller mounds were located on the plantation property at the time according to the 1930’s Works Project Administration’s travel guide, Louisiana: A Guide to the State.

Rita Lynn Jackson is the coordinator of the exhibit and Plaquemine Pow Wow