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.
This is the sense that is created as you hike one of the many trails within the park, which has three village remnants. These villages were a focal point of trade and commerce along the Upper Missouri River from the 15th century to the mid 19th century. 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.