Larry & Lee Ann's Journey travel blog

Arriving at the site...

Inside the museum was info on this interesting boat...

I'll bet it was difficult to balance!

These pelts were amazingly soft...

A cache pit, similar to a root cellar. Used for corn, beans,...

Earthlodge, first framed then women laid bunches of willow branches, dried prairie...

Larry entering the lodge behind the heavy thick hide...

The main focus in the earthlodge was the central fire pit with...

An earthlodge housed between ten and twenty people, usually sisters and their...

Central firepit...

Beds were located around the outer ring in the areas between support...

Items used & a lovely hide...

Items hung for safety?

Love the heads on the buffalo hides, lol!

Lovely basket work...

Looking across the lodge...

Back out on the grounds...Nice tipi...

Hidatsa Village, contained over 100 earthlodges. Between 820 and 1200 people lived...

Awatixa Village, also known as Sakakawea Village, 60 earthlodges. In 1834, a...

Awatixa Xi'e Village, also known as the Lower Hidatsa Village. 50 earthlodges....

It's a beautiful day in a beautiful area! We really enjoyed all...


Our 3rd & final stop today was at the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site. Established in 1974, this site preserves the historic and archaeological remnants of the Northern Plains Indians. This area was a major trading and agricultural area. There were three villages that occupied the Knife area. In general, these three villages are known as the Hidatsa villages. Broken down, the individual villages are Awatixa Xi’e (lower Hidatsa village), Awatixa and Big Hidatsa village. Awatixa Xi’e is believed to be the oldest village of the three. The Big Hidatsa village was established around 1600.

At the Knife River Site there are visible remains of earth-lodge dwellings, cache pits and travois trails. The remains of the earth-lodge dwellings can be seen as large circular depressions in the ground. These dwellings were as large as 40 feet in diameter. Many were once large enough to house up to 20 families, a few horses, and dogs. The dwellings were constructed at ground level. As the dwellings were abandoned the walls and roof collapsed and created the visible outer circular rim.

Sakakawea (Sacagawea) lived among one of the villages of the Knife River. The presence of Sakakawea and her son on the expedition was extremely crucial to the safety of Lewis and Clark and their party. Other tribes encountered during the expedition did not feel threatened by the party. This is due to the fact that war parties did not allow women and children to accompany them.

The Knife River Villages served as an important major central trading and agricultural area. The Native Americans served as middlemen in the trading business, stretching from Minnesota, to the Great Plains of the south to the Pacific west coast. Their trading business largely consisted of furs, guns, and metals such as copper.

The villages thrived until 1837, when a series of smallpox outbreaks nearly wiped out the population. Any survivors of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara villages migrated north to the village of Like-a-Fish-Hook. The smallpox outbreaks from 1837-1840, had a 90% death rate among the infected. The two Mandan villages that had been in contact with Lewis and Clark experienced the horrific effects of the virus. Out of 1,600 villagers, 31 survived. The smallpox epidemic was largely spread through the trading business. Despite warnings of outbreaks, Native Americans still visited trading posts and exposed themselves to the virus. Once the infected Mandan villages were empty, neighboring villages would raid the village and carry back the virus via blankets, horses and household tools. So sad :(

We started our visit watching the 15 minute orientation film 'Maxidiwiac' about the life of Buffalo Bird Woman who lived at the Knife River Indian Villages. Then we explored the museum and learned about the history and culture of the Hidatsa people. The exhibits featured artifacts recovered from the village sites as well as decorative arts of Northern Plains Indians.

And finally we headed outside to see the full scale reconstructed Earthlodge, Hidatsa garden, and drying racks. Very interesting and a great way to end our full day of reliving some Lewis & Clark history!!!



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