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On April 24, 1987, Thomas Emerson at the State Historic Preservation Office received a telephone call from a Chicago lawyer who wanted an answer to a simple question: "Are there any laws that protect old Indian villages and graves that are on the National Register?" Unfortunately, the answer was a simple “no.” At the time, Emerson did not suspect that this question would initiate a more than four-year struggle to save one of the most important historic sites in the country. The site, known variously as the Zimmerman site, the Grand Village of the Kaskaskia, Old Kaskaskia Village, the Grand Village of the Illinois, or simply llLS13, was purchased by developers who planned to build vacation homes on it. Eventually, after a private and public campaign that reached an international level, Governor James Thompson authorized the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) to seek condemnation of the property to bring it into public ownership. In April 1991, a final settlement was reached and the site was purchased by the state. It is currently under the administration of the IHPA and has been renamed the Grand Village of the Illinois State Historic Site.

The Grand Village is the most important surviving village and burial site of the seventeenth-century Illinois Confederacy. In addition, it is the location of the initial French-Illinois contact and of the first Catholic mission in the Illinois Country. The site also contains materials that represent an unbroken sequence of late prehistoric, protohistoric, and Historic Indian cultural development from the ninth to the last quarter of the eighteenth century.


This article was originally published in Highways into the Past: Essays on Illinois Archaeology in Honor of Charles J. Bareis. Illinois Archaeology. 1993. Vol. 5 (1&2).


Copyright is retained by Illinois Archaeological Survey and is published here with their permission.