antony mulberry Native American history abounds throughout North Dakota
Statues are pictured in front of the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn.
This month frigid weather might have some North Dakotans longing for summer and the months when they can explore the outdoors. Fortunately, there is so much history to be seen in North Dakota that many people might not need to plan trips for outside the state.
Hundreds of years before people of European descent first arrived in the region that would become North Dakota, there was already a thriving metropolis near modern day Washburn.
During the summer months, people can visit the Knife River Indian Villages site at Stanton, about 23 miles from the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn, and learn more about the interconnected villages that were a major trading hub from the 1500s on.
one of those towns was bigger than St.
The Knife River Indian Villages is just one of many sites across North Dakota that were of historical significance for the first North Dakotans, the indigenous tribes who lived and worked here hundreds or thousands of years ago.
everything that has happened in North Dakota is Native American history, said Hanna. American history of this area is comparatively new. western North Dakota, the longest inhabitants are the Hidatsa, a tribe that much later joined with the Mandans and later the Arikara to form the Three Affiliated Tribes after a smallpox epidemic.
their own tradition, they been in North Dakota forever, said Hanna.
The Hidatsa and Mandan trading villages along the Knife River were reached by the Lewis and Clark expedition in the fall of 1804 and they wintered there. This was the site where the expedition met the famous Sakakawea, the Lemhi Shoshone woman and wife of the fur trader Toussaint Charbonneau, who served as an interpreter and guide during their travels. She gave birth to a son at Fort Mandan and carried the baby on her back thousands of miles from North Dakota to the Pacific Ocean.
Children play Native American games.
Visitors can also visit Fort Mandan, where there is a reconstructed fort. The site of the original fort is under the waters of the Missouri River. This was the site where the the Corps of Discovery wintered, where they set out on their expedition to explore the western United States. They had set out from St. Louis, Mo., in 1804 and reached Fort Mandan located two miles from Washburn later that year. By that time, the area was frequented by fur traders and other Europeans. A number of languages would have been heard by new arrivals at Fort Mandan, from the tribal languages of Hidatsa, Mandan, Assiniboine, Arikara and others to European languages including English, German and French, just as in urban areas today, said Hanna.
But the villages along the Knife River, inhabited by members of the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes, were a destination location for tribes from Minnesota to the Pacific Coast several hundred years beforehand.
Hanna said people from different tribes traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to trade or purchase items. Popular items for trade included guns, Knife River flint, metals including copper, furs, and varieties of food that could not be found anywhere else.
For instance, there were about 13 different types of corn available hundreds of pounds in store that tribesmen traveled to sample.
many of those tribes, it was a luxury item, said Hanna. corn was the best and they loved those certain flavors of Mandan corn.
Hanna said one variety of corn is still grown at the site so modern day visitors can sample the corn that indigenous tribes traveled so far to taste.
Also at the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site near Stanton, which was established in 1974 to preserve the historic and archaeological remnants of Northern Plains Indian tribes, is a reconstructed earth lodge like those that would have been present when the tribal members lived there. According to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, an earth lodge would have been about 40 feet in diameter and housed up to 20 families, including some of their dogs and horses.
Further along the path are the sites of the original earth lodges of the villages. People can see the large circular impressions left behind in the earth.
Lewis and Clark day, it was an island in the river, said Hanna. was where they had their first sit down with Mandan chiefs.
Prior to that, it was the site of a conflict between Mandan tribal members and the Yanktonai Dakota Sioux tribe.