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June 04, 2010 04:55 PM

Augie Archeologist Doubts Casino Is Burial Site

Larchwood, IA

The Flandreau Santee Sioux are asking the state of Iowa to investigate the site of the new Lyon county Casino because it's located within a few miles of the Blood Run Indian burial grounds.
But one South Dakota archeologist doubts that any human remains are located under the construction site. The Augustana archeologist says the casino location is too flat to be a burial site.

Even before the Lyon County casino received the final go-ahead, members of the Santee Sioux asked Adrien Hannus about the possibility of remains being buried at the casino site. At the time, Hannus couldn't give them a definitive answer, not knowing the exact location of the casino. But now that the area is well-marked, Hannus is quite certain that no remains are buried there.

Blood Run is a lush landscape along the Big Sioux River filled with scenery and history. It was a network of Native American villages dating back more than 300 years, where Indians buried their dead underneath mounds amid the rolling hills.

"They wanted to put their dead in as close proximity to the world of the spirits as possible. And so, they chose higher ground. And we do too. Many of the cemeteries that we have are on hillsides," Augustana archeologist Adrien Hannus said.

Hannus is very familiar with Blood Run. In the 1980's, he removed Indian artifacts that were unearthed by gravel companies working at this National Historic Landmark.

"And we find material relating to the site that probably covers quite a few thousand acres actually on both sides of the river," Hannus said.

Blood Run is located just more than three miles from the Lyon County casino. Close enough, some say, for Indian remains to be buried at the construction site. But Hannus doesn't believe that's the case.

"The collected wisdom would be that you wouldn't be looking at a lower area on the landscape for where they'd be burial features.  You'd be looking at a higher area on a landscape, like along a drainage system," Hannus said.

Hannus says the casino site is too low for a burial ground. While Indians from the Blood Run-era may have passed near the present-day casino location, Hannus say it's doubtful any of them were buried there.

Hannus says even if remains were found at the site, it wouldn't be the end of the casino project. Construction would only be temporarily stopped while the remains were removed and reburied somewhere else.

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