For the past 20 years, the Prehistoric Indian Village has been preserving the history of Great Plains Native Americans off the shores of Lake Mitchell.
To celebrate the 20-year anniversary, archeology students took a break from digging for ancient Native American artifacts on Tuesday and joined members of the Prehistoric Indian Village Committee for a dinner at the historic landmark.
"This dinner is also an opportunity for our members to interact with the archaeology students from the University of Exeter who are digging right now," said Cindy Gregg, Prehistoric Indian Village executive director. "It's been wonderful seeing how the Indian Village and the Thomsen Center Archeodome have provided history about Native Americans for people from all over the world."
The event featured a dinner of foods that were once consumed by Native Americans over 1,000 years ago. Prehistoric Indian Village Committee Chairman Matt Culhane opened the dinner by recognizing some of the local donors who have helped fund renovations and additions to the Indian Village.
From bison to smoked venison, Gregg said the food was prepared in a way that closely replicated the cooking style of early Native Americans.
"It's unique that our guests will be eating the same foods that were eaten here when the Great Plains Indians occupied this area," Gregg said. "We are proud of this place, and we are grateful for our members and archeology students."
Jerry Gary was the chairman during the construction of the Thomsen Center Archeodome in 1998 and played an instrumental role in creating the archeology site that calls Mitchell home. He said the growth the Archeodome and Indian Village have experienced over the years is a testament to the community support.
Reflecting back on the Indian Village's development over the years, Gary said he's proud to have been a part of constructing the national historic landmark that's provided Native American history and archeological opportunities for kids and students.
"It's the only archeodome in the nation, and I love seeing how great of an experience everybody has when they visit," Gary said. "As the site develops, we continue to see the visitor numbers grow. And the worldwide awareness of this archeology site is also continuing to grow."
Since 2002, archeology college students from the University of Exeter College-a college known for its prestigious archeology program in Exeter, England-have trekked over 4,000 miles to spend a month digging for ancient artifacts at the site early Native American tribes once occupied.
Some past discoveries found at the Archeodome have helped archaeologists and historians better understand how the early Plains Native Americans lived.
Tess Townend, an archeology student at the University of Exeter, is one of the diggers and has already uncovered old bison bones during her time in the dirt at the Archeodome.
"It's been really fun so far, and this an interesting culture we've not really looked into much," Townend said upon finishing an afternoon of digging.
Dr. Adrien Hannus, Augustana University professor of anthropology, has been leading the group of Exeter students in their archeological digging over the years. Thanks to Hannus, the group of archeology students were presented with an opportunity to get hands on archeological experience. The college funds the student's trip in full each year.
In addition to the summer full of activities, the Indian Village will be offering free admission to all children under the age of 12 through its new Families Matter program. The program was made possible through a grant from the BNSF Railway. Gregg said it's another avenue to promote the unique activities taking place at the Indian Village along the shores of Lake Mitchell.
"We are committed to this place, and we know how important preserving this unique history of Native Americans truly is," Gregg said.