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Native American Lead Mining in the Upper Mississippi Valley

Presented by Philip Millhouse

  • Midwestern Regional Director for The Archaeological Conservancy

More about the lecture

The impact of the fur trade on Native American culture has dominated frontier scholarship for over a century. Absent from many of these discussions is the critical role of Native American lead mining in the Upper Midwest. Here the Meskwaki and Ho-Chunk conducted mining operations on a truly industrial scale. As a stable resource, lead provided a substantial income as fur bearing populations diminished.

The mines eventually drew thousands of prospectors and resulting tensions culminated in the Winnebago and Black Hawk Wars. This lecture will discuss Indigenous mining history in the upper Midwest and the subsequent treaties that began the rapacious process of extinguishing Native land claims prior to their forced removal and dispossession.

About the presenter

Philip Millhouse (picture right) is The Archaeological Conservancy’s new Midwest Regional Director. He grew up in the rugged hills of northwestern Illinois where his family lived for over a century reveling in the landscape, telling stories, recording vanishing cultural landmarks, and participating in the contentious local preservation battles of the times. Philip attributes his interest in local archaeology to this heritage, which he cites as inspiration for his participation in archaeological surveys and excavations throughout high school, as well as his undergraduate studies at Beloit College. This trajectory continued into his graduate work at the University of Illinois and dissertation work at the Mississippian John Chapman site near his hometown. Philip has been working at the Chapman Sites for over a decade, working with Indigenous communities and the JDCF to preserve and restores sites across 1,000 acres. He has also been involved in the preservation and restoration of several significant archaeological sites across the Midwest.

Free For Everyone

Our virtual lectures are a part of our Outreach and Education efforts. They are free to our Members and the General Public.  Recorded lectures are posted on YouTube and on the event page after the event occurs.

For questions about the event or how to register, please contact Susan Bowdoin ( or Sarah Webber (