Illinois Congressman Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) introduced legislation Tuesday that would establish Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville, Illinois as a national park.
"Outside of the midwest, many people haven't heard of Cahokia. So many Americans have no idea what this land means to us," Bost said. "That is why I have introduced H.R. Bill 3824, a bill to make Cahokia Mounds a national park."
A thousand years ago on the banks of the Mississippi River, the largest civilization in the world at the time resided in Cahokia — now the Metroeast area. The reminents of the ancient society are mounds scattered around St. Louis and the various towns near the Mississippi River.
Bost said the park would include mounds in Madison, St. Clair, and Monroe Counties in Illinois and St. Louis, Missouri.
Cahokia volunteer and Collinsville native Bill Egan said his connection to the mounds goes back to his childhood when he used to sled down the steep sides of the mounds during the winter.
Back then, he said he had no idea about the rich history under the ground. Egan said he would be happy if the site was established as a National Park becuase the status would help the historical site maintain and improve the mounds.
It's taken nearly eight years to get to this point.
CEO and President of HeartLands Conservancy Mary Vandevord said in 2011 her organization was asked to take part in a collaborative effort to research the feasability of Cahokia Mounds becoming a unit of the National Parks Service.
"That effort began in 2013 with an inclusive engagement that included 12 native American tribes and nations, archeologists, and community leaders at the local, state, and regional level," Vandevord said. "The study found that Cahokia Mounds with other key mounds groups in the St. Louis region uniquely and hostically represent the Mississippian culture . In fact, they represent the most significant and unsurpassed example of the time period."
Bost called his bill establishing the site as a national park the next logical step as Cahokia is a national historic landmark, a world heritage site, and on the national register of historic places.
"This status would help raise the national profile of Cahokia and preserve this amazing piece of history," Bost said.
The cost to the government to establish Cahokia as a national park would be minimal, he said.
When Cahokia orginally opened, Egan said up to 500,000 people came to the mounds. Today, the annual number of visitors is around 300,000.
Bost said if his bill is passed, people from across the country and the world will have a better opportunity to learn about America's first city.