Cahokia Parks and Recreation

Recreation options are many in Cahokia. The Prairies Golf Course, an 18-hole public golf course owned by the Village of Cahokia is open year round. The Cahokia Park features a swimming pool, athletic fields for baseball and soccer, picnic facilities including 4 pavilions, an ice-hockey rink, playground, basketball courts and a lake. The Cahokia Public Library and the Red Bird Lanes Bowling Alley are also located in Cahokia.

Cahokia invests resources in revitalized football program

David Kvidahl :: Huddled together, the children watched intently. Not quite old enough to join, they sat off to the side or straddled bikes, daydreaming about their time.

When their turn comes, practice will look different. It will sound different. That’s the plan, at least.

After missing the playoffs the last six seasons, Cahokia High has a renewed energy and vision for its football program.

The school made football a priority this season. The coaching staff is new, experienced and bigger. Cahokia signed a deal with adidas to provide its athletic programs with quality gear at a reasonable rate, no small thing for an impoverished school district and community.

Cahokia is banking on football to be a beacon.

“Football is the flagship of any school,” Cahokia athletics director Earl McDowell Jr. said. “Track and field has been our bread and butter. The buzz around the community is at an all-time high. It’s a new beginning.”

The Comanches open their season at 7 p.m. Friday by playing host to Highland.

John Clay was the first piece of the new foundation. A former Northwest High and University of Missouri standout lineman, Clay was hired during the winter to replace Antwyne Golliday, who resigned after 13 seasons. The Comanches qualified for the playoffs between 2003 and 2009 but have been shut out since. They finished last season 4-5.

Clay, 52, brings with him a wealth of personal and professional experience. He was a first-round pick by the Los Angeles Raiders in the 1987 National Football League draft. Clay played two seasons before an injury ended his career.

He spent 13 seasons as an assistant coach at East St. Louis. He left after the 2013 season for the top job at Confluence Academy, where he lasted one year.

His experience at Cahokia should more closely resemble his time at East Side. The neighboring communities are similar in many regards, including their socioeconomic makeup. They are also linked through the branches of family trees.

It was one of the selling points for new defensive coordinator Marion Stallings. A 1971 East St. Louis graduate, Stallings was on staff with his alma mater’s football team for nearly 40 years. His tenure ended in 2014, but the 62-year-old was not ready to hang up his whistle. When Cahokia reached out, Stallings didn’t hesitate.

“I ran over here. Cahokia and East St. Louis, it’s almost one,” Stallings said. “Some of these kids, I coached their dads and taught their moms. By coming here, it was comfortable.”

Stallings might be comfortable, but his biggest challenge as a defensive coach will be to make his players uncomfortable.

The Comanches have their share of athletic talent, but it has to be hardened in the weight room and on the field.

“The skill set is there. We have as many athletes as anybody in this metropolitan area,” Stallings said. “What is not here is the discipline of practice, the football IQ and last, but not least, the physicalness of the game. We have to get more physical. We can increase the football IQ, but that pounding, that physicalness, that toughness you need, that’s what we’re working on.”

Work comes in many forms at practice. Stallings drilled the linebackers on proper tackling technique on one side of the field. On the other, Clay had the linemen going through their steps. In the middle of this grass classroom was senior quarterback Wayne Grant.

The 5-foot-9, 155-pound Grant went over throwing on the run and handoff exchanges under the watchful eye of offensive coach Byron Gettis. A 1998 Cahokia graduate, Gettis, 36, was a four-year starter at quarterback and overall standout athlete. Gettis played professional baseball for eight years as an outfielder and spent three months in the big leagues in 2004 with the Kansas City Royals. He played football four years at Southern Illinois as a tight end. Last year, he was the interim head coach for Lindenwood University–Belleville’s football team.

As the offensive coordinator this season, Gettis sees his return to Cahokia as a unique opportunity to make a difference in his hometown.

“Yeah, we love football, but we’re using football to really teach the young men and the kids about life. Football is just the tool,” Gettis said. “This is our future, so this is how you turn the community around. You get the youth involved in sports. Football taught me so many things.”

Teaching is a focal point for this staff. Already this season there is a sense among the 50 or so players in the program things are different. It starts with the depth and knowledge of the men with the whistles in their mouths.

“It’s different because there’s a lot more coaches, there’s a lot more teaching going on,” Grant said. “A lot more is getting done.”

Clay wants the players to get it done at practice and the other parts of their lives. One of the reasons he became a coach was to help kids like these break through and have the opportunity to get their college education paid for.

“The thing I’m trying to get them to understand is it takes hard work. Nothing is going to be given to you,” Clay said. “You have to get the grades, you have to get the test scores. You have to put in the work in the offseason. You have to perform on the field.”

And even if the players don’t earn a college scholarship, there are still benefits and lessons to be gleaned that come from playing the game.

“Hopefully you learn some discipline and skills that help you in whatever you do,” Clay said. “If you decide to go to a trade school or go to work right away, you’ll have some skills to take with you and hopefully help you in your livelihood.”

Grant already was headed in that direction. He has a 3.8-grade point average and an offer to play at Missouri Baptist University. But there are many others who can benefit from a revitalized program.

“The environment is great. We’re in tune with the coaching staff. We’re excited about this. They make it fun,” Grant said. “We bring the intensity with us wherever we go. We’re loud, everybody knows when Cahokia is in the house.”

You can email David Kvidahl at and follow him on Twitter @DavidSTLhss 

New Discoveries from Cahokia’s ‘Beaded Burial’…

The people buried in one of America’s most famously ornate prehistoric graves are not who we thought they were, researchers say.

A new study of 900-year-old human remains originally unearthed in Illinois almost 50 years ago reveals that their burial has been fundamentally misunderstood — from the number of people actually buried there, to the sexes of those interred.

The dead were elites in the ancient city of Cahokia, a cultural hub of the Midwest that, at its peak around the year 1100, was home to as many as 10,000 people.

[Read about a recent discovery in the heart of the city: “Ceremonial ‘Axis’ Road Discovered in Heart of Ancient City of Cahokia“]

And the new discoveries made at their burial site — part of a mass grave known as Mound 72 — could have anthropologists re-thinking the politics, culture, and cosmology of one of America’s most influential prehistoric cultures.

“Mound 72 burials are some of the most significant burials ever excavated in North America from this time period,” said Dr. Thomas Emerson, director of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS), in a statement to the press.

When Mound 72 was first excavated in 1967, researchers uncovered more than 270 people buried there in a series of mass graves.  Many of them were victims of human sacrifice.

But the mound’s centerpiece was a scene that that archaeologists described as a resplendent grave of six elite men.

Four of the skeletons were arranged in a sort of three-sided frame. One was just a bundle of bones; two others were laid flat; the other was face-down, with one of its legs bent up to his chest.

The men were buried with ceramics, gaming stones, copper-covered shafts, jewelry, and artifacts that have been traced from as far away as Oklahoma and Tennessee.

In the center of these remains were two more bodies, one stacked on top of the other, and blanketed with more than 20,000 beads made from marine shells. The coating of beads appeared to be arranged into a tapered shape, resembling the head of a bird.

In this tableau, many anthropologists at the time, including the mound’s excavator, Dr. Melvin Fowler, saw obvious references to the belief systems of modern Native American groups, from the Sioux to the Osage.

Specifically, they theorized that the so-called Beaded Burial was an homage to the myth of the Birdman, a legendary falcon-warrior hero whose beaked face has appeared on artifacts from Cahokia to Georgia.

In some traditions, Birdman is interpreted as a version of Red Horn, another heroic figure whose twin sons fought off a race of giants.

Thus, these anthropologists said, the two men buried under the bird-shaped blanket of beads must have been warrior-kings, patriarchs who were living proxies of the Birdman/Red Horn legend.

“One of the things that promoted the concept of the male warrior mythology was the bird image,” Emerson said, referring to the supposed arrangement of the beads.
In keeping with this idea, the four other men in the grave were suggested to be the warriors’ henchmen, or possibly stand-ins for other, supporting players in the Birdman/Red Horn story.

Regardless, the implications were clear: Cahokia was ruled by male warriors.

“Fowler’s and others’ interpretation of these mounds became the model that everybody across the east was looking at, in terms of understanding status and gender roles and symbolism among Native American groups in this time,” Emerson said.

But, having recognized inconsistencies in the records of Fowler’s half-century-old excavation, Emerson and four of his colleagues undertook a new investigation of the bones from the Beaded Burial.

And they found that many of the men buried there weren’t men.

“We had been checking to make sure that the individuals we were looking at matched how they had been described,” said Dr. Kristin Hedman, a physical anthropologist with ISAS, also in the press statement.

“And in re-examining the beaded burial, we discovered that the central burial included females. This was unexpected.”

Working independently, physical anthropologists analyzed all of the skeletal remains from the Beaded Burial, with a focus on sex-related traits in the pelvis, thigh, and cranium.

Each of the researchers determined that the two people at the center of the Beaded Burial consisted not of two men, but of a man and a woman.
Likewise, the bundle of unarticulated bones were those of both a male and female, and the team even discovered remains that had never been reported before, those a child between the ages of 3 and 6, alongside another female.

All told, the researchers accounted for the remains of 12 people, not six, and at least four of them were female.

This discovery calls into question the idea that Cahokia was a warrior-led patriarchy, Emerson said.

“The fact that these high-status burials included women changes the meaning of the beaded burial feature,” he said.

“Now, we realize, we don’t have a system in which males are these dominant figures and females are playing bit parts. “And so, what we have at Cahokia is very much a nobility. It’s not a male nobility. It’s males and females, and their relationships are very important.”

The earlier misinterpretation of the burial is an example of an “upstream approach” to anthropology, Emerson said, in which observers try to reconstruct ancient societies based on what they see in more recent ones.

In this case, he said, the prevalence of falcon-warrior symbolism in historic Native American groups, especially in the South, led archaeologists to see those symbols in Mound 72.

Indeed, while Fowler and his colleagues thought the arrangement of beads looked like a bird’s head, Emerson’s team notes, “the intentionality of this image is questionable.”

“People who saw the warrior symbolism in the beaded burial were actually looking at societies hundreds of years later in the southeast, where warrior symbolism dominated, and projecting it back to Cahokia and saying: ‘Well, that’s what this must be,’” Emerson said.

“And we’re saying: ‘No, it’s not.’”

In fact, the team says the new evidence supports a completely different interpretation of the Beaded Burial, and the worldview that it symbolized.

Rather than being based on male-dominated warfare, they suggest that the key motifs of the burial, and Cahokian cosmology, may have to do with agriculture.

Much of the imagery found in figurines and pottery from this period, Emerson noted, is of females, and the images relate not to war but to fertility.

“For me, having dug temples at Cahokia and analyzed a lot of that material, the symbolism is all about life renewal, fertility, agriculture,” he said.

“Most of the stone figurines found there are female,” he added.

“The symbols showing up on the pots have to do with water and the underworld.

“And so now Mound 72 fits into a more consistent story with what we know about the rest of the symbolism and religion at Cahokia.”

The findings of Emerson’s team are likely to spur debate and re-investigation among scientists who study America’s largest prehistoric city.

But the team points out that its findings don’t suggest that the ancient city was not a hierarchy. What they show is that Cahokia’s hierarchy was not dominated by men.

“Really, the division here is not gender; it’s class,” Emerson said.

Emerson and his colleagues report their findings in the journal American Antiquity.

Article courtesy of Western Digs.

Church host forum to bring police and youth together

CAHOKIA, IL (KTVI) – On Wednesday night parents and teens filled the Power of Change Christian Church to ask police some tough questions and they got the answers they were looking for.

Parents, students and law enforcement gathered at the first Save Our Sons forum to have open dialogue about how to interact with police and your rights as a citizen. For the most part the audience asked intense questions about police brutality, deadly force, daily interactions and what to do if you`re pulled over. Panelist from Illinois State Police, Cahokia and St. Louis city police along with a St. Clair County judge were on hand to answer questions and explain the law.

Panelist also say if you have a complaint you should file it immediately after the incident and with a supervisor while your memory is fresh.

The church is planning to have similar events throughout the month to help educate the community and bridge the gap between teens and police.

BY  – Fox 2 News