Red Cloud Park Field School 1999
by: Robert Boszhardt, Regional Archaeologist, Mississippi
Valley Archaeology Center
The 1999 MVAC public field school was held during the July heat wave at Red
Cloud Park on La Crosse's north side. The park occupies the south end of a
high sand terrace called "Indian Hill" overlooking the La Crosse River
floodplain. Historic records indicate that Indian Hill was a camp site for
Winnebago (Ho-Chunk) families in the early 1800's. The park is named
in honor of Mitchell Red Cloud, a Korean War Medal of Honor recipient.
Shovel testing in the park with students from Logan and Longfellow Middle
Schools in recent years identified a concentration of prehistoric artifacts in
the southeast corner of the park, and this is where the excavations were
conducted this summer. The goal of the excavations were to find out how
old the site is, how deep the artifacts go, and how well bone may have
The crew consisted of grade school and high school students, teachers and
members of the public from all across Wisconsin and Minnesota. Over two
weeks, the crew excavated a series of 2 X 2 meter squares to depths of nearly
three feet. The dig recovered several chipped stone tools such as spear
tips and a drill, nearly a thousand flakes and numerous pottery sherds.
The pottery and spear tips indicate camps dating to the Middle Woodland period
about 1700 years ago. But flakes were found much deeper, indicating the
site probably was originally occupied about 5,000 years ago.
Throughout the dig, we found virtually no bone, until the last few days when
we came across a large elk antler, that appears to correspond to the Middle
The excavation provided a nice, but hot, opportunity for people to experience
archaeology first hand. In addition to digging, participant LeVern DeVries
demonstrated flint-knapping, and Merlin Red Cloud, a member of the Ho-Chunk
nation and nephew of Mitchell Red Cloud, gave a presentation. The
information learned will be shared with the City for future management purposes.
Open Site Day
Guided tours of the site were held at the LaCrosse Footwear "Open
Site" day on July 28, 1999. Later that day MVAC members enjoyed their
own private tour of the site, followed by a delicious chicken dinner. A
LaCrosse Footwear Employee Day was held on July 29, 1999, with refreshments and
Generous contributions from LaCrosse Footwear, Inc. and George and Ginnie
Schneider helped support the 1999 Public Field School.
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