July in South Dakota can be hot and windy, but it is also the time when native berries ripen in the prairies and mountains. The Lakota referred to July's moon as the "moon when the berries are good". Other tribes across the country also noted July's moon as a sign of ripening fruit. The Choctaw called this moon, the ":moon of the blackberry"; the Assiniboine, of the Northern Plains, call it the moon of the "red berries"; the Anishinaabe, of Canada and the Great Lakes, know this moon as the "raspberry moon"; the Shawnee, of the midwest (Ohio, Pennsylvania) called it the "blackberry moon"; and the Zuni of the Southwest knew this moon as the time when "limbs of trees are broken by fruit.
The people who lived in our village one thousand years ago would most certainly have picked the wild berries at this time and dried them. Later in the cool months of late autumn and winter the dried berries would be added to pemmican. Pemmican was made during the cold months because that was when the bone grease was extracted from the bones of bison. Bone grease was then mixed with the dried berries, dried grains, and dried meats. The bone grease has such great preservative properties that it gave pemmican a shelf life of at least eight years.
Pemmican was an important trade item for our villagers. We have found trade items from as far away as south Florida and the northwestern United States. We have found points from Canada, copper from the Great Lakes, and volcanic rocks such as obsidian and lava from the regions far to the west of South Dakota. Just this summer, we uncovered a point that was from Cahokia, a large city that was located in what is now Illinois.
Pictured below are some of the berries found on our prairies and in our mountains.
From left to right: Buffalo berry, Chokecherry, Elderberry, Wild Plum, Spice Currant
When you visit the Prehistoric Indian Village, you will find chokecherries growing in Audrey's Garden. If you walk along the Lake trail, you may find wild plums and spice currants!
(Photo of the Cahokia Point found at our site during this summer's dig)
Our long, cold winter has finally ended. Migratory geese, ducks, coots, and pelicans have all returned to their summer breeding grounds. The grounds of the Prehistoric Indian Village will soon need to be cut. Audrey's Garden and our new Sacred Garden are showing signs of life. Our volunteer gardener, John, has tilled the crop gardens and will soon till a new foundation garden for native wildflowerss around the workshop.
New inventory for the gift shop is arriving almost daily. We are excited about the new pottery from Dove Creek and Dakota Stoneware. Our new childrens' educational toys make us wish we were kids again. Exhibits have been refreshed and the museum and Archeodome have been cleaned.
All of this acitivity makes us think about our Villagers who lived here 1,000 years ago. This was the time to get their gardens prepared; corn, squash, beans, sunflower and other plants needed to be planted soon. Fishing on the creek and nearby river would have been good this time of year, so we imagine the young ones were learning to fish from the elders.
Fresh clay from the creek was available to make new pottery in the spring. As days get longer, much work would be accomplished. Perhaps some would go off to forage for roots and fresh greens for the spring larders. With the spring rains softening the earth, it would have been easier to dig new cache pits, erect new drying frames, and build new lodges.
Out on the prairie, bison, deer, antelope, and elk would be giving birth to young ones. Western meadowlarks, robins, dicksissels, and other songbirds would be busy building nests. Their young are timed to hatch when insects are abundant on the prairie. Goldfinches, little yellow jewels of the plains, wait a bit longer to raise their young. They need thistle seed, which ripen in mid to late summer, to feed their hungry chicks.
So, it's no wonder that this spring feels like a rebirth for us. We can't wait for our summer visitors to arrive to show them how beautiful our site is. Our dig begins June 12th and ends July 11th this year. Archeology Days, our biggest event of the summer, is going to be held June 30th and July 1st. And, we have a gift for all our visitors during Archeology Days - admission will be free this year during the event!!
It's September, a time when things begin to slow down considerably here in South Dakota. There's a distinct change in the the air as the weather makes its slide to autumn; grasshoppers and crickets march across the grounds of the Village in invasion-like numbers. It's a time to think of what we've accomplished so far this year.
Our renovation of the exterior of the Boehnen Memorial Museum is complete. New siding, new vestibules and a complete new audio/visual wing have made a huge difference in the appearance of the Museum.
We connected with the City of Mitchell's water and sewer infrastructure after 33 years of using well water and a holding tank for waste water. The holding tank had to be emptied every two weeks during the peak summer months. We are so happy that we do not have to do that anymore!
Audrey's Garden, a teaching garden filled with the plants used by our Villagers 1,000 years ago for food, medicine and decorative purposes, was installed in July. It is stunning! With two benches for sitting in contemplation, interpretive signs and an accompanying booklet the garden is going to be very popular.
Our annual Summer Archeology Field School was nothing short of amazing this summer! Right from the get go, the students were uncovering incredible finds. Archaeobotanicals, including 1,000 year-old corn cobs, corn, sunflower and chokecherry seeds, made big news in the archaeological world. The world's media outlets learned of the find and we were news in more than 130 cities around the world! Then, during our biggest event of the year, Archeology Awareness Days, our team found the first ever unbroken ceramic vessel. Our site has been excavated since 1910 and every piece of pottery we've ever found has been in pieces. Until this summer! You cannot imagine the excitement that weekend! Once again, we became a news subject around the world.
As we slow the pace down on the track to the cold winter months, we realize we have much to be grateful for. We have new members who have signed up to help support what we do here at the Village and our community showed its support for us during our fundraising drive for Audrey's Garden (much to our everlasting delight!).
We will enter winter with the last project of the year: a complete renovation of the interior of the Boehnen Memorial Museum. New paint, new carpets, updating the public restrooms to A.D.A. standards, new gift shop and a new office will keep us busy during those cold winter months. The best part, when you enter the Museum next spring, instead of wondering what we are all about, you will look with wonder at the new exhibit we have planned and say, "wow!!!!". No, we're not going to tell you what we are doing with the exhibits - we want you to come and see for yourself! We can't wait to see the looks on your faces and hear the squeals of anticipation from the children!
Our doors will remain open until October 31st, so stop by and visit the only archaeological site in South Dakota that is open to the public!
January 13, 2015
Winter at the Village is normally a quiet, contemplative time for our Executive Director. It's the time she spends writing grants, asking for donations, updating the gift shop, and cleaning her desk. This winter is different. Much different.
After several years of dreaming and planning, we are finally remodeling the Boehnen Memorial Museum. The work began in November when construction crews demolished the east wing of the museum (our video room), took down the siding, and removed the east and south entry way floors. Once the east wing was demolished, the crew began construction of the new wing, to be much larger than the original. The floor and walls are now up, the electrician should be here soon to wire the room.
Did I mention that it is winter here? In South Dakota? That means frigid temperatures. Our hats go off to the construction workers who must work in less than ideal conditions every day. Do we really want to hear how our Executive Director is suffering in her cold (65°F) office when those poor workers are outside in 10°F? I didn't think so...
We are all very excited about the end result of this work, the main part of which should be completed by April, 2015. We will get a new, large media and exhibit room, new siding, new vestibules at the main entrances. The interior will be updated with new paint and flooring. The office space will be moved into the gift shop and the gift shop will be moved into the office space, making for a much bigger and more comfortable gift shop. Our bathrooms will be made ADA compliant. This is truly exciting!
None of this could be done without the generous donations from the family of Lloyd Boehnen, an early supporter of the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village. Lloyd donated much of the funding to build the museum in 1982. It's only fitting that his legacy lives on.
We would be in remiss if we did not mention the family of Audrey Kinsella, also. They have donated the funding for the new landscaping that will be installed once construction is complete. Audrey was our first Executive Director, a board member and an active volunteer and supporter.
To both families, our sincerest thanks. And to our Executive Director, hang in there - spring is not too far away!
Wow, wow, wow!!! Check out this great video of our Archeology Awareness Days!