SPIRIT MOUND TRUST
P.O. BOX 603
VERMILLION SD 57069
Spirit Mound Trust History
In 1984, brought together by a common concern
for preserving Spirit Mound, Larry Monfore, Amond Hanson, William Farber and Jim Antonen, decided that they would raise money
to purchase and save Spirit Mound and the long road to creating the Spirit Mound Trust and restoring Spirit Mound had started.
On April 14, 1986, the articles of incorporation were completed and the group officially became the Lewis and Clark / Spirit Mount Trust, Inc. The Trust's Statement of Purpose declares: "The Lewis and Clark / Spirit Mound Trust is dedicated to the purchase, preservation, and restoration of Spirit Mound, of the of the few remaining Missouri River landmarks visited by Captains Lewis and Clark on their historic journey of 1804-1806."
In the beginning, in order to begin raising capital, the Trust conducted a membership drive with dues of $10 yearly, and by 1988 had 250 members and $4500 in it's account. In the early years the trust garnered a fair amount of local support and interest. However, despite fund raising efforts and grant applications, they scarcely raised enough money to make a dent in the cost of purchasing the Mound.
A breakthrough came in 1996 when Stephen Ambrose's book Undaunted Courage was published. The book, along with Ken Burns' subsequent PBS documentary about the journey, brought about renewed interest in the Lewis and Clark story throughout America. The realization that the bicentennial could bring thousands of travelers across the country caused many communities to start making preparations for the celebration. However, in South Dakota, no one seemed to be planning anything for the event.
Fortunes began to change in 1998 when Jim Peterson, a local resident and USD professor emeritus who had interest in the Spirit Mound Project, saw that South Dakota was falling behind and realized the opportunity Spirit Mound offered. Peterson gained the support of the state of South Dakota, but the trust was unable to raise the required local match of $144,000 to recieve the funding from the State. Meanwhile, Senator Tim Johnson, a Vermillion Native, stepped in and pledged to aquire the funding needed ($600,000) and negotiations with the landowners started.
The $600,000 was acquired from the Land and Water Conservation Fund and was added to the National Parks Service for the acquistion of the 320 acres. This legislation also set up a cooperative agreement between the Secretary of the Interior and the Spirit Mound Trust for the restoration, interpretation, and long-term perservation of, and public access to, Spirit Mound.
Teamwork between the state and the Trust was required to make the money available and work out the details of the land ownership, restoration and future maintenance. After much negotiation, an agreement was reached for SD Game, Fish, and Parks to own and manage the site under the condition that money be provided for the restoration project and a trust fund established to defer future maintenance costs. Through multiple grants and donations, the money for the restoration project was raised and the state was satisfied that the project could be carried out. On July 29, 2001, Senator Johnson came to Vermillion and presented a symbolic check for $600,000 for the purchase of Spirit Mound and the surrounding land.
Today, a half-mile walking trail winds around the Mound and allows visitors a clear walk to the summit. The National Park Service has remained very active in the project by providing and maintainting most of the interpretive signage for the site. The W.H. Over Museum has provided additional interpretation of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
The Spirit Mound Trust today serves several roles, including advisor to the park managers, fundraiser to help the development of the prairie ecosystem, and promoter of research and education to connect the prairie to the community. The basic support funds for diversity and research come from the interest and yearly fees of all members of the Spirit Mound Trust, supplemented by merchandise sales and other local fundraising efforts.