Exploring the history and culture of the first nations living on the Missouri River in North Dakota

Directions: Hours: Fees:
One-half mile north of Stanton, ND on County Road 37. Summer: 9 am – 5 pm

Winter: 8 am – 4:30 pm

Free entry

On our way through Stanton the previous night we had noticed the Knife River Indian Villages National Monument – so we decided to stop by and see the exhibits. The Knife River joins the Missouri close to Stanton and is the spot where the main Hidatsa and Mandan villages were sited – and was the home of Sakakawea. As with all the National Park Service the center is fantastic and we first of all get our bearings by watching an orientation film on the history of the Indian villages. There were something like 120 lodges in these villages with 10 to 30 people in each. Inside the visitor center there is an exhibition on the lifestyles and cultural aspects of these Indian tribes. We even got the chance to try out some of the everyday items like a buffalo skin – which was amazingly heavy.

After warming up on the inside we braved the outside – to be fair it was warm but blowing a bit of a gale. The outside exhibits included a earth lodge – which was surprisingly warm and comfortable. Later we inquired about whether they did sleepovers but apparently there is a bit of a rodent problem. The lodge is a single room but included all the requirement for comfortable living including storage for the vegetables grown through the summer, which are stored in a pit under the ground. After viewing the recreated earth lodge we walked down toward the village – the original lodges were long gone but there were clear to see undulations in the ground where they had been. Being all alone in this space had a very spiritual affect on all of us.

 

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