The Crow Creek Village Site

The Crow Creek site is a National Historic Landmark in Buffalo County, South Dakota. It is near the southern edge of the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation along the east bank of the Missouri/Lake Francis Case North of Chamberlain.

The Location of the Crow Creek Site

The Crow Creek village is also known by a number that archaeologists use to keep track of sites. The number is 39BF11. This number is part of the trinomial (three number) system. The 39 stands for South Dakota. BF stands for Buffalo County. The 11 means that it was the 11th site recorded in the county. The Nebraska State Historical Society excavated at 39BF11 in 1954-55 because the it was threatened by construction of a dam and reservoir on the Missouri River. The Universit y of South Dakota discovered that erosion and looting had uncovered human bones near the end of the fortification ditch and were asked by the Corps of Engineers to remove some of them so the bank could be stabilized. These 1978 excavations uncovered the remains of nearly 500 people, the victims of the largest prehistoric massacre known from North America. Excavations also had the permission and cooperation of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribal Council and the Arikara nation.

Map of the Crow Creek Site

On this map you can see that the site had a large fortification ditch. The people built the site on a point of land formed by two creeks that flowed into the floodplain of the Missouri River. Wolf Cree k came in from the north along the river's edge and Crow Creek came in from the east. The ditch was nearly 1250 feet long and about 6 feet wide and 6 feet deep, although this can vary from place to place aong it. You can also see horseshoe shapes called b astions protruding from it. These allowed you to shoot at an enemy from straight on and from two sides. On this black and white air photo you can see the ditch and the depressions of earthlodges.

Crow Creek from the air, looking south.

On the map you can also see circular depressions. These indicate the location of earthlodges lived in by the Initial Coalescent people. An earthlodge was a very good shelter for the plains. It was a low dome covered with earth. The lodge floor was dug in to the ground a foot or two. Shorter posts were put into the ground aroung the outside edge of the circular floor. Taller, stronger posts were usually put in a square in the center. Beams were then placed between the outside posts and the center posts. Th e posts and beams would be interwoven with saplings the covered with mud mixed with grass. This is called wattle-and-daub construction. The whole thing would then be covered with earth. A covered entry would extend from the main lodge. A smoke hole in the center would be left open above the fire pit or hearth so that smoke could get outside. Lodges were a bit dark, but still very comfortable all year round. The paintings that follow show what a lodge might be like inside and what a village like Crow Creek might have looked like.

Inside an Earthlodge

How Crow Creek Village Might Have Looked


Return to Opening Crow Creek Screen

Return to "Who Were the Crow Creek People?"

What Happened During the Massacre?"


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