A Visit to the Town Creek Indian Mound
The Town Creek Indian Mound is a great day trip destination, especially if there are history buffs and nature lovers in your family. This historic site is a recreation of an ancient Native American tribal center and it recreates the environment of the Pee Dee tribe that inhabited southwestern North Carolina. It is an interesting walking tour with authentic Pee Dee huts that can be entered and explored, plus a fact-filled museum and a protected nature walk.
One of the most popular historic sites in North Carolina, the Town Creek Indian Mound is also one of the longest-running archeological sites in the Southeast. Located on the bank of the Little River in Montgomery County, NC, the site is a recreation of a Native American settlement built by the Pee Dee culture, and dates back to about a thousand years ago. After 50 consecutive years of archeological excavation, The Town Creek Indian Mound was opened to the public as a historic attraction. It is also still yielding information to archeologists and researchers.
The Pee Dee
The Pee Dee culture was part of the Southern Appalachian Mississippian tradition of Native American Cultures that inhabited the American Southeast. The Pee Dee came into their own and established an individual cultural identity at about the beginning of the 12th century. They built the site that is now known as the Town Creek Indian Mound at roughly that time, and inhabited it for roughly 300 years. The Southern Appalachian Mississippian culture were known for their centralized settlements that were ceremonial, defensive, and religious hubs for surrounding villages. The Town Creek Mound site is one such settlement. The pre-columbian Pee Dee people developed an individual cultural identity with unique customs and traditions that have become known to modern anthropologists largely through the exploration of Town Creek Indian Mound. The Pee Dee culture has survived to the present day.
A proper tour of the site begins after a visit to the visitor center, where there is an abundance of historical information including site artifacts such as tools and weapons, reconstructions of people and wildlife, and informational displays. There is also a short movie that tells the history of the Pee Dee culture.
Next comes the trail to the site, the grounds of which are now a protected and cultivated prairie grass environment. The entrance to the site is through a stockade gate with a narrow slotted opening designed to prevent alien tribal invasions. Inside, there are several reconstructed buildings, the main one being the hut atop the famous ceremonial mound. There is also a burial house and a mortuary.
The site was a ceremonial gathering space for the Pee Dee, and a fortified shelter as well. Tribal gatherings and important ceremonies took place here, as well as burials. The Stockade surrounding the enclave was a protection against marauding tribes, and as such was positioned with a lookout station with a view toward the Little River, where an approach to the settlement was likely to be made.
The pyramidal mound that gives the site its name has been the subject of archeological study for over five decades. Many human burials have been discovered in the mound, as well as in other spots around the stockade enclosure, revealing its significance as a religious center.
The Temple Hut
The hut on top of the mound was rebuilt several times over the occupation of the settlement. It was the temple, or the building where religious ceremonies took place. A sacred fire was kept burning in the hut, and animal paintings were displayed on each interior wall. Each different animal represented a different one of the surrounding tribes that met within the stockade.
The Mortuary in the Burial House
Another of the recreated buildings on the site is the Mortuary in the Burial House. Inside this circular hut is an audio visual display that reenacts the burial of a small child from one of the Pee Dee clans. Much is known about the Pee Dee burial rituals through archeological study of the site, and the ceremony is retold through recorded speeches that match up to reconstructions of Pee Dee tribal members and leaders.
The Nature Trail
Leading from the rear of the stockade is a nature trail that starts from the Little River and winds for about a mile before it ends back at the visitor center. There are signs all along the trail that point out the different animal and plant species from the area. A large portion of the trail lies on the border between cultivated and wild forest, making a visible contrast to each side.
The Town Creek Indian Mound is located just past Mt. Gilead on Town Creek Mound Road (see map below.) It open year round Tues-Sat 9-5 and Sunday 1-5, but closed on major holidays.
Admission is by donation, and self-guided tours are always available. For guided tours call (910) 439-6802, and for more information on special events, visit nchistoricsites.org.
Town Creek Indian Mound