Blood Run

The archaeological site called Blood Run was an enormous Oneota village, located on the terraces and hills of both sides of the Big Sioux River in South Dakota and Iowa. Archaeological evidence at the site indicates that it was occupied for at least 8,000 years. Oneota groups lived there between 1200 and 1750 AD. It is the largest Oneota cultural site known in Iowa, estimated to have covered an area of between 650 and 1250 acres.

Blood Run

Blood Run, OSA File Photo

When Blood Run was mapped by the surveyor T.H. Lewis in 1889, the site included some 275 burial mounds, and one or two possible effigy mounds, one reportedly in the shape of a serpent. An embankment of earth 1-2 feet high and 15 feet wide enclosed an area of about 18 acres. Stone circles covered the landscape. Many of these stone and earth features have been destroyed by gravel mining, railroad construction, farming, and looting. 

Living at Blood Run

Blood Run's stone circles were 30-foot-diameter rings of glacial boulders. They may have been tipi rings, each with a 3-4 foot diameter opening on the southeast side for a doorway. Garden plots as well as plant remains from storage pits are evidence that corn and beans were planted in hills. Bison hunting and a wide variety of gathered plants rounded out the diet for the Oneota people at Blood run. 

During the historic period, Blood Run was primarily known as an Omaha village, but the Ioway are known to have been present in numbers at Blood Run on at least one occasion during the 18th century. Based on the variety of pottery designs, it is possible many different tribes were based on the Big Sioux River during a portion of the year. Other tribes who are thought to have lived at Blood Run include the Otoand some Sioux, Arikara and Cheyenne bands. 

Today, approximately 950 acres of Blood Run are preserved in the Blood Run National Historic Landmark


Henning, Dale R. and Thomas D. Thiessen.
2004. Dheigihan and Chiwere Siouans in the Plains: Historical and Archaeological Perspectives. Memoir 36. Plains Anthropologist 49(192) part 2.