Blood Run National Historic Landmark

Tradition: One Place, Many Voices

Blood Run is a site with many pasts and visions for future "pasts" and as such, has a story to tell that is rich and diverse, with a history enriched and complicated by its many voices. Occupied before and during European colonization Blood Run is a place where much can be recollected about Indian and American histories of the past and the future, if we listen.

History is not given and tradition is not static.

James Collins 1998:50-51 as quoted in Nabokov 2002:234

Visiting the back country where a lot of American Indian history took place and still unfolds can yield more than touches of local color.  You enter the past in three dimensions, seasonal climate, and diurnal time.  You recognize the topographical appeal of bygone settlement sites, the food-procuring or home-protecting attractions of creek side, estuary, floodplain or forest fringe, and the practicality of high grounds for surveillance or defensible draws in a skirmish.  You are even tempted to deduce former aesthetic sensibilities.  Then the places themselves talk back.

Nabokov, 2002:1

The early contact period on the eastern Plains was a dynamic time in many ways for Native American people.  Traditional ways and materials were often compromised as European goods were introduced.  With an occupation span that brackets this time period, the Blood Run site is of particular interest in helping elucidate the material culture and lifeways of several tribes exposed to initial European contact.

Dale R. Henning and Shirley J. Schermer, 2004:435


Click For More Information on Ancient Burial Protection
Aerial view to southeast, mounds south of Blood Run Creek, rail right-of-way across center. 

 Even commonplace landscapes can have mythic importance, and Blood Run is such a place.

Lance M. Foster, 2008:152


Image Credit: Gilbert Wilson 1912  Minnesota Historical Society photo V-46-1912
Goodbird’s wife (a Lakota woman) demonstrating in 1912 gardening with scapula hoe similar to those used at Blood Run.

The remains of garden crops encountered in the pits regularly include corn, but beans, sunflower, and tobacco do occur rarely. Many native seeds of nutritious plants like amaranth and chenopodium, now considered weeds, appear in abundance. 

Henning and Schnepf, 2012:16


Scapula Hoes from Blood Run

“Scapula digging tools abound on the site.  By far, the majority of these implements are fashioned of bison bone, but a few elk specimens have been noted.”

Dale R. Henning and Shirley J. Schermer, 2004:516

 
Oneota Pot from Blood Run

“Keyes [a distinguished archaeologist] saw a close relationship to known sites in the Upper Iowa River valley and identified the occupants of Blood Run as participants in the long and widespread tradition that archaeologists call Oneota.” 

Henning and Schnepf, 2012:9


Reconstructed lodges comparable to those on Blood Run.

The Blood Run villagers lived in both round and long oval houses. These were probably covered with bison hides and woven mats, their edges held down with stones.    

Henning and Schnepf, 2012:13


Copper ornaments from Blood Run


Man-in-the-Moon bead (ca. 2 cm) from Blood Run.


Copper Snake similar to one found at Blood Run.

The early contact period on the eastern Plains was a dynamic time in many ways for Native American people.  Traditional ways and materials were often compromised as European goods were introduced.  With an occupation span that brackets this time period, the Blood Run site is of particular interest in helping elucidate the material culture and lifeways of several tribes exposed to initial European contact.

Dale R. Henning and Shirley J. Schermer, 2004:435


Blood Run end scrapers were commonly used to prepare hides for the fur trade.

The most consistently patterned flake tools on Blood Run are end scrapers...these tools are so regular in form and method of manufacture that even small fragments of them are readily identifiable.

Dale R. Henning and Shirley J. Schermer, 2004:486


(Right) Blood Run end scraper, (left) 200X magnification showing hide polish on working edge.


Preserved hide from a Blood Run pit feature.

Truly astonishing is that in the bottom of one of the pits excavated in 1985, a hide bundle was found pressed along one side.

Henning and Schnepf, 2012:16


Antler tine with incised lines from Blood Run.

One antler tine ca. 17 cm long and decorated with arrows and pairs of transverse incised lines was recovered from Feature 5…enough remains to suggest that it functioned as a handle for an end scraper. 

Dale R. Henning and Shirley J. Schermer, 2004:517


Wisconsin Historical Society. Image ID: 7358
Ho-Chunk woman tanning a buckskin

Artifacts found at Blood Run indicate that red pipestone, probably from the nearby Pipestone Quarries, was brought to the site and made into pipes, tablets with incised pictures, and other items. Evidence for this includes left over debris, unfinished pipes, and small drills and cutting tools used in manufacturing.


Catlinite (pipestone) manufacturing waste from Blood Run

 
Catlinite pipes from Blood Run.
Click here for a 3D rendering of a catlinite pipe.

Many objects from Blood Run that suggest ceremonial importance are made of red pipestone, probably catlinite, a material commonly found on the site.

Dale R. Henning and Shirley J. Schermer, 2004:511


Catlinite (pipestone) tablet with some incised figures and motifs enhanced.


Lead ball from Blood Run.


Metal Arrow Point from Blood Run


Metal and chipped stone arrow points from Blood Run.

Projectile points are usually associated with either hunting or conflict.   

Dale R. Henning and Shirley J. Schermer, 2004:479

The large numbers of animal bones found in the pits show that bison were readily available and pro­vided the principal meat consumed.  

Henning and Schnepf, 2012:15


Photo Credit: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.
Notch-eeníng-a, No Heart, Chief of the Tribe (Ioway), 1832, George Catlin


Photo Credit: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.
Sháw-da-mon-nee, There He Goes, Omaha, 1832, George Catlin

Among the tribes that participated in the Oneota cultural tradition are the Winnebago, Ioway, Oto, Missouria, Omaha, Ponca, Osage and Kansa. The Omaha and Ponca were once a single tribe, but separated around A.D. 1700 as did the Ioway and Oto.  Oneota sites have been identified across much of Iowa, from central Minnesota and Wisconsin south to central Missouri, east into Indiana and west into central Kansas, eastern Nebraska and South Dakota.While these listed tribes traced their origins east of the Mississippi River, the pressures of European diseases to which they had little resistance and attacks by more powerful eastern tribes, drove them westward. When first contacted by Europeans all but the Winnebago occupied permanent villages west of the Mississippi River.

Henning and Schnepf, 2012:11

The inability to guarantee their [the Chiwere-Siouan Ioway] own security even after their subsequent movement must have represented a challenge to their identity a as an independent, autonomous entity.  Their presence in northwestern Iowa would at the least have been dependent on the benevolent attitude on the part of the resident Omaha, given the marked disparity in Omaha and Ioway population sizes at the time.

Colin M. Betts, 2010:103

Click For More Information on Ancient Burial Protection
Click For More Information on Ancient Burial Protection
LiDAR image of Blood Run showing earthen mounds. Burial mounds, such as these, are now protected by Iowa law.

…mound ceremonialism as a dynamic tradition with a continuous legacy among Oneota groups that extends well beyond the Woodland tradition.  Its application by early historic Oneota groups in Iowa to foster a demographic revitalization is one of the first of what would become many native responses to the challenges of European contact in North America.  

Colin M. Betts 2010:107

This intensity in construction is characteristic of the often-fervent nature of revitalization movements.  The specific occurrence of mounds at Blood Run can be explained at the intersection of the timing of the Blood Run Oneota occupations and the site’s role as a focal point of regional interaction patterns.

Colin M. Betts, 2010:104

References Cited

Betts, Colin (2010) Oneota Mound Construction:  An Early Revitalization Movement.  Plains Anthropologist Vol. 55, No. 214, pp97-110.

Collins, James (1998) Understanding Tolowa Histories:  Western Hegemonies and Native American Responses, pp. 50-51.  New York:Routledge.

Foster, Lance (2008) 214. Blood Run National Historic Landmark, IA: Peace on the Prairie, in American Indian Places, A Historical Guidebook, edited by Frances H. Kennedy, pp. 152-153.  Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, New York.

Henning, Dale R. and Shirley J. Schermer (2004) Artifact Analysis, in Dhegihan and Chiwere Siouans in the Plains: Historical and Archaeological Perspectives, Part II:Central Siouans in the Northeastern Plains:  Oneota Archaeology and the Blood Run Site edited by Dale R. Henning and Thomas D. Thiessen, pp.435-522.  Plains Anthropologist Memoir 36, Volume 49, No. 192.

Henning, Dale R. and Gerald F. Schnepf (2012)  Blood Run: The Silent City. Booklet sponsored by the Lyon County Historical Society and the U.S. National Park Service.

Nabokov, Peter (2002) A Forest of Time, American Indian Ways of History.  New York:Cambridge University Press.