The village is currently the only open to the public archaeological site located in South Dakota. Guests of all ages are welcome to visit, learn about the history, and actually watch history in the making as the site is still an active excavation area.
The site was discovered by a Dakota Wesleyan University student in 1910. However, it wasn’t until 1975 (after it was designated national historic landmark) that the site was officially taken under the wing of the newly formed preservation society. The mission of the village is to help promote understanding about the very first inhabitants of the land through helping with research, and engaging the public with both educational programs and access to the site. It is a 501(c)3 non-for-profit organization that exists through donation, purchases at the village, state and city funding, and grants.
Audrey’s Garden - One of the newer exhibits at the village is considered a “living” exhibition. Inspired by Audrey Kinsella, a board member as well as the very first executive director and a long time volunteer until she passed away in 2013. One of her biggest dreams was for the village to have a garden that could be used to teach visitors about the plants native to the area that the original occupants would have been using for medicines, foods, dyes, and ceremonies. It showcases over 35 species of plants, each outfitted with plaques that have information about each plant and how it may have been used.
The main draw of the visit is the actual archaeological site. The excavations at the site take place at the “Archeodome” at Thomsen Center. Depending on what funding looks like, sometimes the excavations take year round in the temperature regulated environment. Also located at the Archeodome are the exhibits and the laboratory. There are even exhibits that are designed for and cater to children. Meant to engage them through hands-on learning experiences, kids can learn about how to sort and separate stone, ceramic, and bone artifacts. There is also an area called “Kid’s Dig,” where the kids can actually excavate the area and search out plastic arrowheads which can be taken to the gift shop and exchanged for a real arrowhead that they can take home!
The other area to make sure to check out when visiting the village is the museum. Boehnen Memorial is a museum that is home to a reproduction of a full sized earthen lodge that houses an entire buffalo skeleton, multiple exhibits, and a tech center.
There is a fee charged for admission, as the village is considered a non-for-profit organization that doesn’t not receive any federal funding. Funds that are raised through admission, as well as purchases made in the gift shop and donations, are what support the costs of the village (which include utilities and other overhead costs). Adults pay full cost, while seniors, children and students are offered a slightly discounted admission. Children under the age of five are free.
Archaeological Awareness Day: Held in July, these days are meant to bring history to life! It is by far the most popular event held at the village. Presenters of all types come from all over the nation and the world to share their knowledge, passion, and skills with the general public. Some of the more popular presenters in the past have been a flint knapper who took a regular piece of jasper or flint and shaped it into a projectile point, and a potter who taught visitors how to use techniques used over a thousand years ago to create their own piece of pottery that they were then able to take home. Play games, take lessons, and learn!
Lakota Games: Held on ice in January, the Lakota Games is easily the biggest Winter event offered! Come learn about the games enjoyed by some of the ancestors that lived at the village long ago, taught by an ancestor of one of those people. With authentic stone, wood, bone, and feather game equipment, people of all ages will enjoy! Hot chocolate is even served afterward to help guests warm back up! This event is offered free of charge.
Considered one of the more unique and excited gift shops in the state of South Dakota, the Antiquary offers a wide variety of both regional and Native American made items like jewelry, pottery, art, and children’s gifts. All purchases made at the Shoppe go back into the village to help fund their special events and programs.
Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village, 3200 Indian Village Road, Mitchell, SD 57301, Phone: 605-996-5473
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