The excavated massacre remains at Crow Creek, 39BF11. Note: photograph used with permission the Arikara nation (Three Affiliated Tribes)Wanagi is Gone!

Video Guide





1980, 30 minutes. South Dakota Public Television.


Archaeologists in 1978 discovered a mass burial at the Crow Creek site (39BF11), located on the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. Eventually remains of over 500 men, women and children were disinterred. They had been killed during an attack on the fortified village in which they lived. Archaeologists determined that the event occurred around AD 1325.

Because there was evidence that looters had found the remains, and because erosion threatened to further damage the burial site, archaeologists recovered and analyzed the skeletons. The dig and laboratory analysis took place in close cooperation with Crow Creek tribal members. After analysis, the remains were reburied at the site, at which time Wanagi returned.


1. How did Crow Creek tribal members and archaeologists cooperate at Crow Creek?

2. How did interpretations of the massacre made by Crow Creek tribal members differ from the archaeological findings? Why are they so different?

3. How can archaeologists learn about sex, age, trauma and disease from bones?

4. What lessons can be derived from the Crow Creek investigations regarding relationships between Native Americans and archaeologists?

5. Although the video does not address this matter, can you comment on what kinds of information archaeologists used to determine that the victims of Crow Creek were ancestral Arikara?

For a review of this film, see Zimmerman, Larry J., 1986,  Tell Them About the Suicide: A Review of Recent Materials on the Reburial Issue. American Indian Quarterly 10(4):333-43.

For additional information, see the bibliography below, the Crow Creek Massacre web site, and the South Dakota Paleopathology web site.

Background image: The Crow Creek National Historic Landmark, 39BF11, Buffalo County, South Dakota. The dark depressions are the floors of earthlodges, greener due to water retention. The long (nearly 370 meters), serpentine fortification ditch with bastions is visible on the landward side. The massacre remains were excavated in the deep erosional feature near the top of the photo where the two-track roads come together.

A Partial Crow Creek Massacre Bibliography

Bamforth, Douglas B.
1994 Indigenous People, Indigenous Violence: Precontact Warfare on the North American Great Plains. Man (N.S.) 29: 95-115. (Heavily uses Crow Creek)

Bumsted, M. Pamela
1984 Human Variation: Isotopic C13 in Adult bone Collagen and the Relation to Diet in an Isochronous C4 (Maize) Archaeological Population. Los Alamos National Laboratory, LA-10259-T Thesis (originally PhD Dissertation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Kivett, Marvin F. and Richard E. Jensen
1976 Archeological Investigations at the Crow Creek Site (39BF11), Ft. Randall Reservoir Area, South Dakota. Publications in Anthropology, 7. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society.

Krech, Shepard III
1994 Genocide in Tribal Society. Nature 371: 14-15. (A response to Bamforth, 1994).

Symes, Steven A.
1983 Harris Lines as Indictors of Stress: An Analysis of Tibiae from the Crow Creek Massacre Victims. MA Thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Willey, P.
1981 Another View by One of the Crow Creek Researchers. Early Man 3(3): 26.

1982 Osteology of the Crow Creek Massacre. Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

1990 Prehistoric Warfare on the Great Plains. New York: Garland.

P. Willey and T. Emerson
1993 The Osteology and Archaeolgoy of the Crow Creek Massacre. Plains Anthropologist Memoir. Essays in Memory of Robert Alex. 38(145):227-269.

Willey, P., A. Galloway and L. Snyder
1997 Bone Mineral Density and Survival of Elements and Element Portions in the Bones of the Crow Creek Massacre Victims. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 104:513-528.

Zimmerman, Larry J.
1981 The Crow Creek Massacre. In D. Holden (ed.), Dakota Visions: A County Approach. Center for Western Studies, Augustana College, Sioux Falls. pp. 265

1997 The Crow Creek Massacre. In J. Carman, (ed.) Material Harm: Archaeological Studies of War and Violence. Glasgow: Cruthine Press. pp. 75-94.

Zimmerman, Larry J. and Robert A. Alex
1981 How the Crow Creek Archaeologists View the Question of Reburial. Early Man 3(3):25-26.

1981 Digging Ancient Burials: The Crow Creek Experience. Early Man 3(3):3-10.

Zimmerman, Larry J. and Lawrence E. Bradley
1986 Simulation of Competition for Scarce Resources: The Crow Creek Massacre in Ancient North America. Proceedings of the 2nd European Simulation Congress. Society for Computer Simulation, Ghent, Belgium. pp. 763-768.

1993 The Crow Creek Massacre, Initial Coalescent Warfare and Speculations about the Genesis of  Extended Coalescent. Plains Anthropologist, Memoir. Essays in Memory of Robert Alex. 38(145):215-226.

Zimmerman, Larry J. and James R. Stewart
1989 To Dehumanize and Slaughter: A Natural History Model of Massacres. Great Plains Sociologist 2:1-17.

1991 An Application of the Massacre Model to a 700 Year Old Mystery. Great Plains Sociologist 4(1): 23-39.

Zimmerman, Larry J. and John B. Gregg
1986 Malnutrition in 14th Century South Dakota: Osteopathological Manifestations. North American Archaeologist 7(3):191- 214.

Larry J. Zimmerman and R. Whitten
1980 Mass Grave at Crow Creek in South Dakota Reveals How Indians Massacred Indians in 14th Century Attack. Smithsonian 11(6):100-109.

L. J. Zimmerman, P. Willey, T. Emerson, M. Swegle, J. Gregg, P. Gregg, T. Haberman, E. White, C. Smith and P. Bumsted.
1981 The Crow Creek Site Massacre: A Preliminary Report. Corps of Engineers-Omaha District.

J. Gregg, P. Steele, P. Gregg, L.J. Zimmerman and H. Ferwerda.
1981 Ante-Mortem Crow Creek Osteopathology. Plains Anthropologist 26(94):287-300.

J. Gregg, P. Gregg, L. J. Zimmerman and S. Clifford
1981 Craniofacial Anomalies in the Upper Missouri River Over a Millennium: Archaeological and Clinical Evidence. With. Cleft Palate Journal 18(3):210-222.

J. Gregg, L. J. Zimmerman and M. Allison
1981 Possible Trepanematosis in 14th Century Dakota Territory: A Progress Report. Paleopathology Newsletter 34:5-6.

J. Gregg, J. Steele, H. Ferwerda, L. J. Zimmerman and P. Gregg
1981 Otolaryngic Osteopathology in 14th Century Mid-America: The Crow Creek Massacre.   Annals of Otology, Rhinology, and Laryngology 90(3):288-293.

J. Gregg and L.J. Zimmerman
1981 Para-Mortem Osteopathology in the Crow Creek Massacre Victims. South Dakota Journal of Medicine 34(2):7-12.

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