TODDVILLE — Humans have occupied Wickiup Hill for at least 8,000 years, and the area is rich in what archaeologists call “prehistory.”
The site near Toddville, northwest of Cedar Rapids, shows evidence of Native American burial mounds and villages — enough that preservationists intend to nominate it for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
Linn County supervisors have hired Leah Rogers, with Tallgrass Archaeology, to research and prepare that application. Linn County Conservation maintains a learning center and trails at the 751-acre area.
Rogers, who has been studying the Wickiup area for almost 30 years, will be paid $15,000 for completing the nomination papers by February 2021.
“The sites we’ve found have been little disturbed except by erosion,” Rogers said. “This will definitely expand on what we already know.”
Maura Pilcher, chairwoman of the nine-member Linn County Historic Preservation Commission, which is paying for the application, said if Wickiup is listed on the national register, it would become eligible for more state and federal grants.
The burial mounds at Wickiup Hill are protected under state law and their location is not advertised since the intent is to protect them, Rogers said.
She said the mounds were looted over the years, and it is unknown what remains.
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“We regard them as spiritual and cultural sites” that are not to be disturbed, she said.
The Wickiup Hill area — and its springs that continued to flow during the winters — was once home to the Oneota, Ioway and Meskwaki people, Rogers said.
Most of the artifacts found at Wickiup over the years are preserved at the office of the state archaeologist, though the Wickiup Hill Learning Center has a small collection on display.
If the area wins a national register designation, Rogers hopes it can apply for grants to create a “professional, permanent” display of archaeological finds.
The designation also would bring more awareness of the site’s value “as an archaeological resource,” Linn County Conservation Director Dennis Goemaat said.
Goemaat said there have been discussions about creating new programs such as an online, interactive map for people to learn more about Wickiup Hill while they’re walking on the property’s trails.
“We’re not putting the sites in danger,” Rogers said. “Doing this project will enable us to get more information to the public in the right way.”
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