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Myths Amid The Mounds

August 22, 2010, 10:00 PM by Perry Groten

Myths Amid The Mounds
SIOUX FALLS, SD - A sprawling stretch of wilderness along the Big Sioux River could become South Dakota's newest state park.

The Game, Fish and Parks Department plans to ask the legislature next year for permission to develop Blood Run National Historic Landmark.

Blood Run is located just beyond the booming residential and commercial development of southeast Sioux Falls.

Ancients secrets are buried deep beneath the rolling hills of Blood Run

"What you get in any of these circumstances over the years of time are all kinds of myths get built up," Augustana archeologist Adrian Hannus said.

Augustana archeologist Adrian Hannus knows this mythical terrain well. He excavated artifacts from Blood Run back in 1984.

"One of the really interesting pieces that came out of that work in '84, which was preserved in one of the bottoms of these deep pits was a flap of tipi hide that was made out of elk and it was still preserved after several hundred years," Hannus said.

Down through the centuries, groups of Native Americans were drawn to the rushing waters and lush vegetation of Blood Run. Their settlements ebbed and flowed right along with the river as these mobile societies left a lasting cultural imprint on the landscape.

"That's the part about the prehistoric record that is so intriguing. Groups come into the area for a period of time, leave the area, there may be one-hundred, or every thousands of years go by and then different groups come into the same area. And what's drawing them into the same area of course is water," Hannus said.

Time and technology have taken their toll on the Indian burial mounds that were a once-bountiful feature along the hillsides.

"What's happened to the mounds, largely now is they've been farmed, cut down so they are not very prominent on the landscape and some of them have been destroyed through the graveling activities that have gone on out here," Hannus said.

Finding the roots of Blood Run's menacing name itself has proven elusive for researchers.

"The idea was in the myth that the creek was running red with blood from some major battle. Well, there's absolutely zero evidence for any kind of major battle or minor battle and probably the name of the creek was derived from the fact that there were very heavy iron deposits in it," Hannus said.

Much of Blood Run looks exactly as it did more than 300 years ago. Down here in the Big Sioux River bed they would have planted their gardens, including corn, squash, beans. A lot of the same things you probably have growing in your own garden.

"It's not like going over to the friendly grocery store and pickup up whatever you need this evening for dinner. You're having to grow it, find it as a wild plant, or hunt it as a wild animal," Hannus said.

Hannus wants South Dakota to step up efforts to preserve Blood Run and protect it from any future development encroaching the hilltops. He hopes designating it a state park will yield more answers to the enduring mysteries that permeate this prairie, where a leisurely summertime hike is a journey far back in time.

Game, Fish and Parks hopes to find out within the next three months whether it can secure federal funding to develop Blood Run. Private donations would also go toward the project. If everything goes according to plan, Blood Run would open as a state park by late 2012, complete with a visitors center.

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