In 1938, in the segregated negro park in Memphis, the Civilian Conservation Corp was digging earth to construct a swimming pool. They were not expecting to find artifacts from Pre-Columbian Native Americans. The University of Tennessee investigated the site and their research showed people were living in that area dating back to at least 1000 BCE. It was thought to have been abandoned and later rebuilt. It is believed it was heavily used from 1400 until 1541 when explorer Hernado de Soto came to town.
"Chucalissa" means "abandoned house" in Choctaw. Chucalissa Indian Village museum began in 1956. Memphis State took over operation of the site in 1962 and now known as the C.H. Nash Museum. During the 1970s and 1980s, the museum had exhibits including replica houses, a burial mound and visible residential mounds. Visitors were allowed to walk in and around these exhibits, which allowed an in depth view of Native American life and funeral practices.
The burial mound closed in the early 1990s due to NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) legislation. During the 1970’s there was a replica village of high-pitched thatched-roof huts, but it was removed from the site because it was believed to not be accurate to the originals. Their main purpose was to be shelters for visitors to the museum.
The main platform mound overlooks the site. The front is covered by concrete. The mound was built between 1350 and 1600 CE. It is 25-foot-high and measures 150 feet long at its base. Scientific evidence suggests two 50-square foot buildings once stood on the platform's surface.
Contemporary tribes thought to have ancestral links to Chucalissa during its different occupations include the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Quapaw.
The tour includes an introduction video, visiting an exhibit hallway once known as the Hall of the Sinti (a Choctaw word for “snake”), a hands-on look at Native American artifacts in the Hands-On Archaeology lab, an exhibit dedicated to the history of Southwest Memphis and a tour of the grounds.
On the grounds is a medicinal herb garden that containing plants once used by Native Americans for medicine and food. A concrete path encompasses the mound complex that allows visitors to get a close up view of the mounds. Visitors are then encouraged to explore the half-mile-long nature trail that features more plants species once used by Native Americans.
There are also many opportunities for the public to get involved in museum projects. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and on Sunday from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM. It is closed on Mondays and major holidays. T. O. Fuller State Park is right next door to Chucalissa with outdoor recreation, camping and RV facilities.
Children Under 4 ....Free
Ages 4-11 ...............$3.00
1987 Indian Village Dr. 1987 Indian Village Dr. Memphis, TN 38109