POTEAU – State Rep. Lundy Kiger, R-Poteau, recently met with Spiro Mounds Director Dennis Peterson and officials from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) to discuss a new project that could bring more tourism to one of the greatest assets Eastern Oklahoma has – the Spiro Mounds.
Kiger said the Spiro Mounds is Oklahoman's only archaeological center with 12 mounds that contain evidence of a Native American culture that occupied the 150-acre site from 850 AD to 1450 AD. The population was estimated at approximately 10,000.
Kiger met with Peterson and ODOT last week to discuss highlighting a location near the mounds that many call Round Mountain, Turley Mountain or Rabbit Mountain.
“There are many artifacts that have been found at the bottom of the structure, and you can still see ruts that were made from years past of people from that time who used the mountain for many different possible things such as worship, tribal leadership meetings or a hunting advantage,” Kiger said.
Peterson said the mountain also was used by many in the early days for navigation down the Arkansas River.
Kiger discussed the option of working with ODOT to develop a historic site on one of the highways with the best vantage site for people to see the mountain and a drawing showing the land and how it looked with the population spread out over the region the tribe once occupied. He said this new addition would enhance the historical value of the Spiro Mounds and bring in more tourists, which in turn would boost the local economy.
“It's unusual that a tall structure stands today in an area that has been flooded before flood control was developed on the Arkansas River,” Kiger said.
Peterson said this structure survived the floods and that made it a great site for navigation.
While talking to Peterson, Kiger said he also learned the real artifacts from the mounds that were uncovered decades ago and that now reside in the Smithsonian, the University of Oklahoma and other national museums will be on display in February 2021 at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum (the former Cowboy Hall of Fame) in Oklahoma City.
“This will give people an opportunity to see the culture that is embedded in the Spiro Mounds and will create greater interest in people coming to the site in Eastern Oklahoma,” Kiger said.
Peterson also said he's working with a group from Arkansas that is developing the Butterfield Stage Coach line that ran through the area. The group is looking to discuss a trail system that covers the old stage line allowing people to use the trail from Arkansas to Oklahoma.
This could be another great opportunity for increased tourism, Kiger said. ODOT is a member of the group in Arkansas and said they will contact them to try and coordinate efforts.
“With Oklahoma once being known as Indian Territory, we need to learn more about the history before the Five-Civilized Tribes located here in the late 1800's,” Kiger said. “There is so much history that we need to teach our children to understand how important Eastern Oklahoma is to the development of not only our state but for the nation when you add in the fort at Fort Coffee and historical sites before they burned during the Civil War.”
The Spiro Mounds is now open to the public again. The Interpretive Center Houses are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Entrance costs $7 for adults, $5 for senior citizens and $4 for children. Family packages are $18. Visitors must pay with cash or checks only.
Lundy Kiger represents District 3 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes part of LeFlore County.