Lewis & Clark & Extraterrestrials

Yes, Lewis & Clark really did take a side trip to investigate some possible ETs.

Lewis & Clark investigated possible extraterrestrials
Photo Courtesy of Stephen Leonardi on Unsplash

A very interesting story about possible extraterrestrials is found in archived Government journals written up by Lewis & Clark in 1804. They took a side trip to check out possible ETs residing on a very strange hill in what is now South Dakota. I like to think Lewis & Clark were the original “Men in Black”, although “Men in Brown” might be a better description. Let’s take a close look at this curious part of their expedition.

Beginning several hundreds of years ago, in what is now South Dakota, several local Native American tribes have feared the “Little People” of Spirit Mound. Each tribe told the same story of a tribe of “little spirits” that lived on “Paha Wakan”, “Canotina Paha” or “Mountain of the Little People”. Nearly identical stories have been handed down within the Omaha, Otoe, Sioux and other tribes for “90 generations of elders” — in other words, for several thousands of years. The most recent story was perhaps one of the best, as it helps us pin down some timing for this fairly recent event.

The stories all describe very small humanoids with extraordinarily large heads who lived on Spirit Mound. Anyone who approached Spirit Mound was attacked and usually killed by “tiny fast arrows” launched accurately from a long distance. These beings were vicious and very protective of their site on the mound.

A sign along the trail at Spirit Mound tells the story of the “little people”
A sign along the trail at Spirit Mound tells the story of the “little people”
A sign along the trail at Spirit Mound briefly tells the story of the “little people”

As the most recent story goes, roughly 200 years ago a party of 350 brave Lakota warriors decided to advance on Spirit Mound in an attempt to once and for all rid the region of these menacing creatures. They stealthily approached under cover of night, but the “little people” were somehow completely aware of their approach. Their horses were attacked and chased away, and every single one of the 350 warriors were either killed or permanently crippled or maimed. After that failed attack, no one from any of the neighboring tribes ventured near the site, and no type of compensation would entice the locals to go to the hill, until many years later when the entities suddenly left.

An interesting point is that the Lakota tribe had no horses until about 1700, so this story is of relatively recent origin, less than 100 years prior to Lewis & Clark’s visit, and not some story handed down for hundreds of generations.

The land north of the Missouri River in South Dakota, just north of Vermillion, is flat prairie as far as the eye can see, except for one 90 foot high mound or hill with a short ridgeline that runs perfectly north and south. Geologists believe this hill is a natural feature of the otherwise flat landscape, but no digging is allowed on the property to absolutely verify that it is not man-made.

Spirit Mound South Dakota
Spirit Mound South Dakota
Spirit Mound South Dakota

According to the South Dakota Division of Game, Fish and Parks, on clear days the summit offers views as far away as the Big Sioux River to the Southeast, the James River to the West and the Nebraska Bluffs to the south. These landmarks are roughly 20 miles in every direction, so the encompassed area is over 1000 square miles. Spirit Mound is the best spot in the entire region to provide a secure vantage point where game or enemies alike could be spied upon as they approached from a very long distance.

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in mural at Montana State Capitol
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in mural at Montana State Capitol
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in mural at Montana State Capitol

On August 25, 1804, Lewis & Clark decided to hike a few miles north of the Missouri river, their main exploration route, to check out the rumors and stories of the little “Deavels” living on an isolated, strange hill. Here’s their journal entry, complete with misspellings that I’ll leave as they are:

“Capt Lewis and my Self Concluded to visit a High Hill Situated in an emence Plain three Leagues N. 20 W. from the mouth of White Stone river, this hill appear to be of a Conic form and by all the different Nations in this quater is Supposed to be a place of Deavels or that they are in human form with remarkable large heads and about 18 inches high; that they are very watchfull and ar armed with Sharp arrows with which they can kill at a great distance; they are said to kill all persons who are so hardy as to attemp to approach the hill; they state that tradition informs them than many indians have suffered by these little people and among others that three Maha men fell a sacrefice to their murcyless fury not meany years since- so much do the Mahas Souix Ottoes and other neibhbouring nations believe this fable that no consideration is sufficient to induce them to approach this hill.”

The top point of Spirit Mound is one of the few places in the country where we know for exact certainty that Lewis & Clark stood. Rivers meander over time, and landmarks can be elusive, but this hill is still how it was in 1804. Visit it when you can, as it is open to the public, and the 0.8 mile gentle hike to its summit is worth the trip.

The Lewis and Clark team found Spirit Mound to be devoid of humanoid life, reporting that insects and birds thrived on or above the side of the hill away from the wind. They reported observing buffalo as far as they could see across the plains, a site that we can only imagine today… along with the little people who quite possibly resided there in the past.

Q & A About Spirit Mound and the Little Humanoids

Several obvious, and not-so-obvious questions come to mind about Spirit Mound and its legends. Here’s a few, with the best answers we could find:

How many witnesses were there to these sightings?

Since the legends come from four independent Native American tribes, the answer to this question appears to be dozens to several hundreds. The stories are consistent among the various tribes.

Could these ‘little people’ have been another type of animal?

Their characteristics reportedly included large heads, approximately 18 inches tall (although it’s doubtful anyone got close enough to measure accurately), human-like (bi-pedal), and capable of protecting themselves very effectively. There are no other bi-pedal animals known to have inhabited that area. Some other animals have been known to be aggressive and attack, but not with arrows, and not from “a great distance”. No known animals fit the descriptions provided by multiple sources.

Aliens photo created by kjpargeter — www.freepik.com

When did the ‘little people’ live on Spirit Mound?

The fact that the “little people” frightened away the horses of the war party means that this attack had to have taken place after the introduction of horses to North America, by the Spanish starting about the year 1540. Between 1680–1694, the Pueblo Indians started raising and trading horses to other tribes. The Lakota had no horses until about 1700, so this story is of relatively recent events, and is not local lore handed down for hundreds of generations. We have no hard marker for when these stories began, but the mention of horses during the night attack forces this story’s timeframe to be within 100 years prior to Lewis & Clark’s visit in 1804. The fact that the Little People were nowhere to be found in 1804 or anytime after that means that they quit inhabiting Spirit Mound in that same time frame, during the 1700s.

Where did the ‘little people’ go?

It is possible they migrated to (or perhaps came from) Ocheyedan Mound in northwest Iowa, which also had a similar story of angry little devils at its summit. Or, they might have moved on to the Pryor Mountains or to any one of the hundreds of other places “little people” were reported by the Native American tribes of the era. Or, perhaps they were rescued and taken back to their extraterrestrial home. There’s no evidence supporting this, but I like to imagine it as a possible explanation for their fairly sudden disappearance.

Ocheyedan Mound Iowa, courtesy Stewy

Why is there no archeological evidence of a race of small humans near Spirit Mound?

If these stories are merely myth, as most historians put forth, that would explain why nothing has ever been found, that we know of. For the most part, Native Americans have always left as little impact on the land they occupy as possible. The remains of the warriors who were killed or crippled by the inhabitant’s have all disappeared hundreds of years ago. Likely too, the “little people” walked just as softly on the land. No one knows the life expectancy of these little people or if they ever suffered any casualties in all the fighting, but their bodies would also likely be long gone by now. The constant winds and natural elements would likely have eroded any earthen structures in a relatively short period of time. In short, there are many natural explanations for the lack of any physical evidence of the “Deavels”.

To the best of our knowledge no archeological digs have ever been done at the site, and for the foreseeable future none will be. There are two basic issues to contend with when considering this type of investigation. First, Native Americans of the area would likely object to such digging and disturbing of this culturally significant site, and that must be respected. Also, ever since 2001, when the area was sold to the Spirit Mound Trust and then made into a State Park, there have been rules and regulations intended to maintain the mound in its natural state, again precluding any significant digging or disruption of the terrain.

What might be found if digging were to be allowed?

That is the 64 million dollar question! If Spirit Mound is purely mythological story-telling at its finest, then most likely nothing would be discovered. Even if this high spot in the prairie were the site of an alien encampment within the past couple hundred years, it’s still quite possible nothing would be discovered. However, there’s always that slight chance, no matter how small, that something was left behind, something not of this earth, yet something artificially manufactured in some way. A tiny nut, screw, strand of fiber optics, or other exotic materials or artifacts of an unknown origin might prove that humans are not alone in this Universe. That would be huge, of course.

Are these the only “little people” reported by Native Americans throughout the years?

Quite the contrary! There are multiple stories of small mummified human-looking adult corpses found during the 20th century in caves throughout the west, such as in Wyoming, Oregon, Montana, and elsewhere. Many tribes have stories of little people and their interactions with those tribes. In Colorado, there are the “Ant People” described in Hopi legends. In Oregon there are the “Babyfeet” people reported by several Native American tribes. The Flathead Indians of Montana tell of small dwarfs living in the northern Rockies. Nearby, the Crow Indians had troubles with vicious little people in the Pryor Mountains to whom they left offerings for safe travel. The Ocheyedan Mound in northwest Iowa had a similar legend of a small race of hostile humans inhabiting the summit of the hill. The list is long, and the similarities in the stories are remarkable. Also, there are many petroglyphs with debatable symbolism possibly showing “small people” throughout the country.

Casper history enthusiast Bob David holds the Pedro Mountain mummy, about 1950. Casper College Western History Center.
Casper history enthusiast Bob David holds the Pedro Mountain mummy, about 1950. Casper College Western History Center.
Casper history enthusiast Bob David holds the Pedro Mountain mummy, about 1950. Casper College Western History Center.

Is Spirit Mound a natural feature of the landscape, or could it be some type of artificially built hill?

This hill is the only “bump in the land” for many miles in all directions, and hence looks to be completely artificial at first glance, perhaps some sort of a burial mound or artificial fortress of some sort. However, according to the South Dakota Geological Society, Spirit Mound supposedly has Niobrara chalk at its core, the same rock seen in outcroppings along the Missouri River, and is mantled by a variable thickness of glacial till deposited at the end of the last ice age. Geology experts believe a hill stood in that spot eons ago and was simply worn down to its present shape by a passing glacier.

What were these ‘arrows’ that could kill at a ‘great distance’?

Based on these accounts, the little people had a weaponry that was technologically far superior to anything the Native American’s had. The Native American’s only name for any similarly perceived weapon was “arrow”. The claim that these “arrows” could kill at a great distance meant that they could be fired with great precision at a greater distance than conventional arrows.

Throughout history, people have always described the unknown in terms of what they know. For example, in the Bible a possible UFO encounter was described in Ezekial in terms of wheels within wheels, faces in four directions, and so on. The state of the art for technology in that day was “wheels”, so that’s the limiting factor in the descriptions. Even today, UFO’s have “headlights” and “laser beams”, and similar descriptions couched in terms of our technology’s state of the art, whereas in reality the lights might serve purposes far beyond our ability to guess what they’re for.

The “sharp little arrows” that were “accurate at very long distances” could easily be, in terms of our knowledge today, high-powered infrared laser beams, or tiny smart darts capable of homing in on targets. In terms of future or extraterrestrial technology, anything’s possible. The point is, to the natives at the time, “arrows” were the verbal tools of description they had to work with.

Are there indications the little people might have been technologically advanced?

Yes. As described above, the “arrows” could very likely have been weapons beyond our comprehension, and at the very least the fact that they could kill at extreme distance indicates some sort of advanced weapon compared to the standard bows and arrows of that time.

Also, the fact that the war party tried to attack by cover of night and were not only discovered, but completely massacred, means that these beings probably had the means to detect intruders by some other means that just visual sight. Consider that these 350 brave warriors who attempted a night time attack were undoubtedly very stealthy, skilled, and careful to be attacking using the cover of darkness for surprise. In terms of today’s technology, night vision goggles, geophone and geomagnetic transducers, perimeter alarms and other relatively simple gadgets could easily have detected the intruders. In terms of any extraterrestrial technology, there are a myriad of other possibilities as to how the surprise attack was thwarted. The point is that they were not surprised by the sneak attack, an indication that advanced technology could easily have been used.

Spirit Mound is prime real estate… why would ALL the tribes stay away from it?

This is a good point. Spirit Mound provides a great strategic view of the surrounding plains. Access to it would provide a tactical advantage for anyone who lived on or near it. To be able to see 1000 square miles, hunting would be simplified, defense would be easy.

Since it held such tactical advantage, any tribe holding Spirit Mound as their territory would likely be under constant threat of some other tribe attempting to take it. The amount of potential blood shed, had it not been a no-mans-land, is likely much higher than the 350 warriors who were killed in the night time raid. So, it is possible, however improbable, that there was a type of truce agreement to stay off the land, and that the elders concocted the legend of the little people in an effort to save their own tribes’ population from either attempting to gain or hold the hill in battle.

This theory seems reasonable, but it is just as speculative as the theory of aliens holding the hill. Also, there’s a logical inconsistency with this theory — like who then would have been responsible for the death of the war party?

What is the main reason these stories force so much speculation?

There is no physical evidence. All the witnesses are long dead, so all information is 2nd 3rd, and 4th hand information. Even Lewis and Clark’s information was 2nd hand since they did not see the Deavels themselves. The only real witness testimony Lewis and Clark can attest to is that the Deveals were not there when they visited in 1804, and that the local population’s fear was genuine with regard to going anywhere near Spirit Mound.

Our Investigation

We visited Spirit Mound and its interpretive center in Vermillion, South Dakota in 2009. It became a state park in 2001 and visitors to the mound and the accompanying interpretive center (W. H. Over Museum) are very welcome. We took many pictures and logged a lot of GPS data around the site. Go to Google Earth and put in these coordinates to see the view of Spirit Mound from space (latitude: 42 deg. 52 min 26 sec North — longitude: 96 deg 57 min 32 sec West ).

We found the trailhead signs from the parking lot to the summit to be informative and educational, and the walk was found to be quite doable for just about anyone. We walked to the top of Spirit Mound and indeed found the view spectacular and enjoyable, even with a very strong wind. This hill holds obvious strategic advantages of great expansive views and elevation over any intruders.

Noticing the rock on the summit of Spirit Mound.

The rock at the top pf Spirit Mound
The rock at the top pf Spirit Mound
The rock at the top pf Spirit Mound

We noticed a natural looking granite stone, less than a meter in diameter, at the top of the hill that appeared out of place. This rock bore a striking resemblance in shape and orientation to the hill itself. We speculated about its placement and that it could have been used as a map of sorts to help discuss battle strategies or to plan hunts. Of course it might have been put there in more recent times, there’s really no way to tell.


We kept our eyes peeled along the trails for any tiny unnatural artifacts that might have been left at the site by visitors over the past few hundred years, whether human or otherwise. It’s always a long shot, but if anything is ever discovered there it could be of extreme importance to the whole human race. Unfortunately, digging in the area is not allowed, and it would realistically require disrupting a lot of the hill before any chance that an artificial artifact might be discovered.

Why isn’t this hill mentioned in current UFO lore?

The reason that this legend isn’t high on the radar of the UFOlogist community is that the stories are so old, and there is no realistic way to verify them. Lewis and Clark certainly didn’t have UFO’s on their mind (as far as we know) or even on their ‘radar’. Also, this little piece of property in South Dakota doesn’t get much press.

But it could easily be a place where aliens have stood and Lewis and Clark’s blatant dismissal of anything out of the ordinary might very well be classified as the government’s first UFO cover up! Whoever they were, and wherever they came from, the Deavels of Spirit Mound sent very real fear into the local population, and their mystery has yet to be adequately solved.

Our observations and conclusions

We concluded that Spirit Mound was prime real estate for anyone who would occupy it at any time in history and that it did not make sense that there would be a conspiracy by Native American tribes to concoct a story to keep everyone away from it.

The top of the mound provides a strategically advantageous location with a great view in all directions, as it’s the highest point around for many miles. Assuming for the moment that an extraterrestrial expedition needed or wanted to set up camp in the area for whatever reason, Spirit Mound would be an ideal spot to do so. From the summit you could easily spot any intruders from a long distance, and it would be easy to protect that spot in case of any type of attack by land. If they had weapons that could kill from a great distance, they could keep their base secure until they could find a better place to live or were spirited off the planet by a rescue party.

Plan your visit

An exhibit in the W.H.Over Museum
An exhibit in the W.H.Over Museum
An exhibit in the W.H.Over Museum

Vermillion is a pleasant college town just a few miles south of Spirit Mound. The W. H. Over Museum, located at 1110 Ratingen St., is definitely worth the visit. Plan to spend some time there, as you can learn a lot about the Native American history of the area, about Lewis and Clark and their expedition through the area, and about other clues to Spirit Mound and its origins.

In addition to UFO investigations, John’s passion and mission is sharing Python code to help demystify life’s challenges and to have fun. John is the author of Python for Numworks , Python for OpenSCAD, and many other titles.

Author, inventor, entrepreneur — passionate about alternate energy, technology, and how Python programming can help you hack your life.

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