523 East Capitol Ave
Pierre, SD 57501-3182

Phone: 605-773-4503


Make a Contribution

Current Projects need your support

Be a Friend

Other ways to help

Giving Options

Recent News

About SD Parks and Wildlife Foundation

Board of Directors

Annual Report

Blood Run Native American Historical Site - near Sioux Falls

At first glance, the Blood Run National Historic Landmark (designated in 1970) looks like other hilly, wooded river bottom land - extraordinarily beautiful. But several things mark it as unique. First, it is like a natural island in a sea of residential and commercial development a few miles southeast of Sioux Falls straddling the Big Sioux River in Iowa and South Dakota. Second, on close and educated examination, there are signs of past human habitation everywhere on the forest floor and meadowlands. In fact, this is one of the oldest sites of long-term human habitation in the United States. Third, the site has been identified by the National Park Service in 2000 as having national importance worthy of Park development.

bark lodge reconstructionThe river, abundant wildlife and wood for fuel, fertile flood plains, availability of catlinite (pipestone) and protection from winds made the area a crossroads of Native American civilization from 1300 - 1700 AD. Occupants were primarily Oneota Indigenous Peoples, including Omaha, Ioway, Oto and Yankton Sioux Tribes.

These tribes combined hunting and gathering with agriculture and lived in semi-permanent sites. By 1700, Blood Run was a significant cultural center for ceremonies, trade, and social purposes and frequented at times by as many as 6000 Oneota Native Americans. Several possible reasons for site abandonment around 1750 are debated, and might be resolved with additional research.

Burial mounds, refuse pits, and signs of earthen enclosures remain. Some items of pottery, tools, trade goods and jewelry have been placed in safekeeping and more on private land need protection. The site is a time capsule of Indigenous culture. No other Oneota site of such size and integrity is known to exist in the United States.

Blood Run location mapThe Blood Run site should be accessible to the public because of this unique history, but of South Dakota's 1200 acres of historical significance, only 200 acres are currently owned by the State. These 200 acres were acquired thanks to a joint effort by the Federal government, the SD Department of Game, Fish and Parks (GFP), and the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce and Development Foundation in 1996. The land purchased 15 years ago will be part of, but not the primary focus, of public access to Blood Run.

The Opportunity: Now a private landowner, Buzz Nelson, has offered to sell his 300 acres in the Blood Run Landmark to the State. Most of the property is native forest and has never been developed. It is an ideal location for a premier State Park. GFP has secured an option to purchase this property. The option runs through November of 2011. The state has also begun to plan Park development with the help of a federal grant and a private contribution. Most important, GFP in partnership with its charitable support organization, the South Dakota Parks and Wildlife Foundation (PWF), is raising the public and private funds needed for site purchase, and long-term development.

Blood Run Area MapBlood Run Plan

The Cost: It will take a combination of Federal, State, local, foundation and private dollars to purchase and develop the Blood Run site. The land purchase price alone is currently estimated to be $5,000,000. The cost to provide initial functional development (hiking trails, Park headquarters, access, parking, and some interpretation) is over $1,000,000 more. The long-term vision of a world-class visitor center, preservation of important cultural resources, and compatible recreation opportunities will require even more.

visitor center e trance conceptA partnership of state, local and federal programs is being formed to provide most of the money for land purchase. Funds have been included in both the current South Dakota and Presidential budgets, but must be authorized by state and federal legislatures. Time is of the essence because of the late 2011 option expiration date.

One million dollars in matching funds has been committed for purchase of the Buzz Nelson property by major private and foundation donors. Jeff Scherschligt, President/CEO of Howalt McDowell Insurance and President of the Board of Directors of the PWF has led fundraising efforts for land purchase and development of a Master Plan. These commitments are in the form of irrevocable pledges until there is assurance that public funds are appropriated.

Given the likelihood of funding for purchase of the Nelson property, contributions for development of Blood Run as a premier State Park are being sought from all with an interest in outdoor education and recreation, development of tourism, and Native American culture and history. Pledges of any size are encouraged. Payment of pledges will not be requested until the Nelson purchase is complete.

If the Nelson land is not purchased by the public, it will soon be lost to private development. As Doug Hofer, Director of the Parks Division of Game, Fish and Parks, told state legislators in February 2010:

"We have a one-time-only opportunity to move forward on a premier state park that can one day house a world class visitor center at the doorstep of Sioux Falls. Protection of this important cultural site and native forest from residential development will insure that the important history and integrity of this area can be shared with future generations."

Blood Run PictographThe Benefits: A premier State Park on the edge of Sioux Falls celebrating the historical and cultural legacy of the Oneota would encourage tourism from all over the globe, a greater understanding of Indigenous Peoples by South Dakotans and their guests. Allison Hedge Coke, in her book Blood Run (Salt Publishing 2006) indicates that more and more citizens across the globe are responding to efforts to "protect, preserve, and honor an Indigenous mound builder site" at Blood Run (p. 94) It would also enrich our quality of life, benefit employee recruitment to the region and enhance regional marketing. It would also provide more opportunities for outdoor recreation and preserve valuable urban open space.

Imagine the enhanced attraction of tours focusing on Native American history and culture in our region, the possibilities of tying together the many recreation areas along the Big Sioux, and the educational opportunities for generations of our youth. The jobs created and revenues generated are consistent with the objectives of South Dakota's goals for economic development.

How You Can Help: Become involved in the master planning process for Blood Run. In February and through the spring, the Department of GFP will be scheduling public input sessions, stakeholder meetings and surveys to obtain public input. If you would like to be informed of these public sessions, please email the Parks Division Director, at

To arrange a presentation for your club, group, or an individual, contact Dick and Sue Brown, Development Directors for the SD Parks and Wildlife Foundation, at or 605-673-4017.

To discuss a major contribution to Park development, contact Dick and Sue Brown, Development Directors for the SD Parks and Wildlife Foundation, at or 605-673-4017.

To make a pledge for development of Blood Run State Park contingent on purchase of the Buzz Nelson site: The South Dakota Parks and Wildlife Foundation has secured the necessary private matching funds and is working to secure Federal, state and local funding for purchase of 305 acres of land now owned by Buzz Nelson in the Blood Run National Historic Landmark southeast of Sioux Falls. If government funding is secured and the state's option on the land is exercised in November 2011, GFP will begin development of a premier Blood Run State Park.

Blood Run ViewMany individuals and companies have expressed an interest in contributing to Park development. Until purchase of the Nelson property is complete, GFP and its charitable support organization, the South Dakota Parks and Wildlife Foundation, are seeking pledges rather than contributions. These pledges would be contingent on land purchase in calendar year 2011 or 2012.

When completed, Blood Run State Park will be a premier destination for people with an interest in Native American history, natural beauty, and outdoor education and recreation.

To obtain more information, contact us or contribute online.