History & Culture


In 1832, artist George Catlin visited the Knife River Indian Villages and painted this scene titled <i>Hidatsa Village, Earth-covered Lodges on the Knife River, 1810 Miles Above St. Louis</i>

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Imagine a busy earthlodge village full of life and excitement. Women sitting on platforms singing to their gardens, girls playing with homemade leather dolls, boys practicing with their first bow and arrow, old men smoking tobacco and laughing at each other's stories.

You see faces from across North America and even the world. You hear Hidatsa and Mandan and maybe even Lakota, English, French, or German. You smell corn boiling in a clay pot, sage smoke filling the air, and sweet wildflowers blowing in from the prairie.

Or perhaps you hear the howling winds of a winter blizzard. Thick wood smoke stings your eyes and cold air nips at your nose but the thick buffalo robe around your shoulders keeps you warm. Strange visitors enter the earthlodge bringing gifts of tobacco and in return ask for information of the land to the west.

In 1974, the United States Congress established Knife River Indian Villages National Historic site to preserve and interpret an area rich with history and culture. Click on the links to the left to learn more about the people and places that make this park special.

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