I've recently watched two movies that feature the Indian burial ground as a plot point, however in these two films they both actually show a physical burial ground, which appears to be made up of concentric circles of rocks. I've never seen this anywhere other than in movies, and my Google searches mostly lead me to more images from these movies, so I'm curious where the inspiration for these came from. The two films (there may be others) that I saw these in are Pet Semetary (1989) and Bone Tomahawk (2015). Are these portrayals based on any actual burial ground ruins?
First of all, it’s important to note that the Indian Burial Ground, which is sometimes abbreviated to IBG, is a trope, and not a real thing. Pre-Columbian peoples identified as hundreds of totally different communities, families, or nations, without very many similarities between them. That extended to the burying and treatment of the dead; in some arctic communities, the dead were simply left on the ice to be eaten by predators (what else are you going to do up there?), whereas other groups practiced more familiar burial forms ranging from mass graves to careful and solemn burials to burials performed quickly and with great fear of the corpse. The IBG concept is wrong right from the get-go; depending on how you look at it, there’s either no such thing or an unending variety of them.
(See also TV Tropes' page on the subject.)
The only thing I've found that somewhat resembles the images in these movies is the Medicine Wheel/Medicine Mountain National Historic Landmark, formerly known as the "Bighorn Medicine Wheel":
The stones are arranged in the shape of a wheel, 80 feet across and with 28 spokes emanating from a central cairn. The cairn, a ring-shaped pile of rocks, is large enough to sit in and is surrounded by six others that lie along the wheel’s circumference. Oddly enough, this configuration is not unique to Wyoming. Rather, hundreds of similar stone wheels exist throughout North America.
Known as medicine wheels, or sacred hoops, these special structures have been built by American Indians for centuries. With uses ranging from the ritual to the astronomical, the medicine wheel has been appropriated over time by New Age spiritualists, Wiccans, and Pagans.
This is an excellent question..unfortunately, most of the answers to your question aren't excellent answers--at all. Stephen King who wrote "Pet Sematary" was born in Portland Maine and is a native of Bangor Maine. Therefore he's well aware of the history of Algonquin Indian tribes that inhabited Maine his home State. He's also keenly aware of the ghost story legends of Maine about the Mi'KMac Indians. He's also keenly aware of early Pilgrim settlements..that actually did dig up corpses and ate them ..unfortunately there's no oral transmission of any Indian tribes doing the same thing. The Pilgrims however did and still didn't survive the Winters all along the New England Coast all the way down to Virginia in the States--whole colonies wiped out..no on survived the winter when the ships arrived the following year was commonplace in the early settlements especially in Maine--it's bitter cold there.
Just like with Keebric's "The Shining" based on Stephen King's other work of fiction it mixes fact with fiction. The Overlook Hotel in Colorado is actually the Ski Lodge on Mt Hood in Oregon--so the opening credits of driving in Colorado to arrive at a lodge that's in another state shares the same accuracy as "facts" in "Pet Sematary" about the Mi'KMaks and burial grounds in an area in Maine Aroostook County way far away in Maine from where S. King lives and where Mi'KMac Indians do live to make his work of fiction "suspension of disbelief" all the more real. Therefore like with "The Shining" novel by S. King vs. the Kubric movie "the Shining" which S. King hated - is just like w/S. King's "Pet Sematary" vs. Mary Lambert's movie "Pet Sematary" except Lambert had the good sense to hire King to be the screenplay writer for the movie but it's still not the same as the book in both cases.
In "Pet Sematary" the Mi'KMac Indians are referred to, and yes, they are an actual Indian tribe, and yes the Mi'KMac Indians did once occupy large swathes of Aroostook County including the location in Maine where the movie takes place.
So the movie taking place in Ludlow, Maine is an area where Aroostook Mi'kMac / around Presque Isle once lived - the very northern tip of Maine or some 5-8 hours further north than where King lives--he's still writing a horror fiction story about his State--a signature of his writing style. The bulk or all the other tribes of Mi'kMac Indians have origin & history in the NorthEast Provinces of Canada. The whole story of Mi'KMac Indians to survive a winter eating corpses is a figment of S. King's prolific imagination, but that too is also based on historical facts, just not Native Indian facts. Since King was born/raised in New England and is an excellent writer, means he's a prolific reader as well.
His movie motifs and lei motifs as Lambert's approved "Pet sematary" cematary creation for the movie (film) are often copied and spoofed as actual Indian Burial mound fact. Since King mentions Mi'KMacs in his Novel "Pet Sematary" it's also carried over to the movie--which are true--Mi'KMac's they exist, and King mixes this with his own created stories of fiction.
You can visit on the Web Canadian Mi'KMac burial sites--none of which appear like in the movie. It's a fictional creation based on an amalgam of Stonehedge/European burial sites and as another poster mentions, European Wikkan / Other with just about everything else to make it spooky to you included--but none of it based on Archaeology of anthropologic Mi'KMac known sites (or Canadian Mi'KMaq). The Sematary was created by the studio -even King quoted he added/used some partial Mi'KMac pictograph writing symbols in the scene of the burial site (see Mi'KMaq writing system -OR - Canadian Encyclopedia search "Mi'KMaq") All done to sell a movie. Nothing more. That's it.