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Prairie project under way at Indian Village

One thousand years ago, the landscape to the south and west of the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village consisted of prairie land, while the east and north were part of a floodplain.

The prairie is long gone, replaced by a golf course and housing developments. But the Indian Village is attempting to grow native grasses on its site and show visitors how the area might have looked back then.

A plot of land near the Thomsen Center Archeodome was chosen for a prairie restoration project in 2011. In 2012, MJ Aviation, a crop-dusting company from Letcher, began applying herbicides to the site. Three applications of herbicide were made, successfully preparing the site for seeding.

Millborn Seeds, of Brookings, donated the seed. Research was conducted to identify the types of plants that grew in the region 1,000 years ago. Because the Indian Village is an archaeological site on the National Register of Historic Places, typical agricultural tools could not be used. Students from the horticulture, landscape and design class of Mitchell High School, taught by Jeff Hoffman, volunteered to complete the seeding of the site. They hand-sowed the seed, raked it into the thatch and stomped the ground to ensure the seeds made contact with soil.

The goal is to create paths through the site, with signs identifying the plants and how early Native Americans would have used them.