Prehistoric sites where people gathered to kill bison are closer to national designation

Capitol News Bureau
KELO Pierre

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota has several dozens of places where people held communal bison hunts as early as 9,000 B.C., State Historical Society trustees learned Thursday.

Jenna Carlson Dietmeier, an archaeologist for the State Historic Preservation Office, identified 31 known kill sites.

They are spread throughout many South Dakota counties, she said.

Each could be nominated individually to the U.S. National Park Service as possible additions to the National Register of Historic Places.

The sites typically have three characteristics, according to Carlson Dietmeier: A bone bed, evidence of human involvement, and evidence of minimal processing, such as primary butchery.

She said bison sometimes were forced to run off cliffs or were herded into impoundments where they couldn’t easily get away. She showed photos of sites and bones to the trustees.

The South Dakota sites are centuries old, from before horses arrived, she said.

Francis Whitebird, a trustee from Saint Francis, asked why researchers continued to use the word “Sioux,” which he said was a blend of French and Chippewa that meant “little snake.”

Whitebird was South Dakota’s first secretary of tribal relations, during the administration of Governor George S. Mickelson three decades ago.

“I don’t speak Native American. I speak Lakota,” Whitebird said. He added, “Just give us an identity.”

Sitting as the State Review Board, the trustees nominated four sets of buildings for National Register placement:

Shady Lawn School No. 8, a one-room, one-story school house outside DeSmet in Kingsbury County;

American Legion Post 8 cabin in Pierre, built in 1942 by the National Youth Administration;

East Side Fire Station and Branch Library in Sioux Falls, built in 1916; and 

Gale Buildings in Canton, with the bank built in 1880 and the commercial block constructed in 1882.

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