Day 8, Sunday, Sept. 13, Mandan, ND to Medora,
ND – 225 miles, total 1504
This was an early-start day departing at 7:30 am to visit the North
Dakota Heritage Center. It was well worth the early effort as the
exhibits were organized in historical sequence and clearly labeled. In
1999, Tyler Lyson, a high school sophomore, discovered Dakota – a Duck
Bill Dinosaur – which is currently on exhibit in Japan.
Oil is a great asset to the North Dakota economy.
The Legislature approved an 8-million expansion to the Heritage Center.
The center has been collecting objects since 1895’ the present center
opened in 1981. There is no admission charge. They have many visits
from student and schools.
We would have liked another hour there, but we
pressed on with our busy day, driving on to the Lewis & Clark
Interpretive Center at Washburn, ND. Jeff Carlson was our very helpful
guide and followed us through the center to answer our questions. We
saw the dugout canoe. Lewis & Clark learned much from the Mandan
Indians. From this point west the Captains began exploring new
territory for which they had little prior information.
A wonderful exhibit of Prince Maximillian, the
German explorer who came in the 1830 s to study the Indians. He
published a journal of his years in the US with illustrations by a Swiss
artist, Karl Bodmer, whose images of Indians include ritual dances,
landscapes familiar to the Plains tribes. His work is detaialed,
haunting and breathtaking. The colors Bodmer used are alternately
subtle and vivid. Looking at his illustrations, you gain knowledge
about costume, weaponry, body decoration and other matters related to
At 11:05 we rushed on to our next stop, Fort
Mandan. Historian Tom brought our flag. We raised it on the Fort
flagpole and sang the Star Spangled Banner. Our guide, Alexis said it
took 800 to 1,000 cottonwood trees to build Fort Mandan. She described
the Fort rooms: blacksmith shop, guard’s room, interpreter’s room
(Sakakawea, Charboneau, and York (?). Jean Baptiste (Sakakawea’s son)
who was born Feb. 11, 1805). Next the Captains’ room, storerooms and
private/enlisted men’s rooms (8-9 to a room).
We finished our visit with a nice picnic on the
Fort grounds. Weather was perfect, sunny and breezy. Then we each gave
our Indian names recorded by Beverly. On the bus we watched a video on
Buffalo Bird woman, a Hidatsa.
At 12:30 we departed for the Knife River Villages.
We walked to the river to oversee the evidence of where the earth lodges
had been built. Then Ranger Ella Matheson gave us a detailed
presentation of the role Indian men and women carried out. Men did 24/7
protection of the village. Women made major contributions completing,
building and decorating the lodges. Bedposts were secured to the ground
so as not to move. The Medicine Religious Shrine was used only the
Indian responsible for the spiritual rites. The brought their horses
into the lodges to keep them safe. Their crops were sunflowers, beans,
corn, and squash. The garden tools were made with the shoulder bone of
the buffalo attached to a handle; white-tail antlers were used to dig.
The raised enough food to trade for flint, mirrors, cloth, pots and
1839 a smallpox epidemic hit the village. In six months two of ten
lived. More problems followed. In 185l the US government wanted the
Treaty of Fort Laramie signed. Indians were promised land and
provisions for 50 years. Railroads then allowed the 1852 Homestead Act
by President Lincoln and the 1880’s DAWES Allotment Act gave 160 acres,
designed to separate the Indians. Of course, they did not have tools to
such land – no water wells, no money for wagons or horses. Then they
were forced into sending their children to boarding schools, causing
social and family disruption. And in 1934 the Indian Reorganization Act
was meant to teach Indians to govern themselves. In the 1950’s
the Missouri River was dammed causing immense emotional trauma to the
Indians. Tribal leaders wept. And so the litany of broken promises and
broken treaties totally demoralized the American Indian culture.
Currently Ranger Ella sees hope among the Indians at recent Pow Wows.
They are seeking to reconnect with their Indian tribe cultures and
languages and to better their lives.
We departed the village, setting our watches to
Mountain Time while driving to Painted Canyon Scenic Overlook in the ND
Badlands, On the way Dick, our geologist, contributed the basics of
celestial navigation, using the sextant, which measures angles. He
explained longitude and latitude. He related that Andrew Ellicot, one
of the foremost surveyors in the US, helped Lewis with measuring
location of all places explored. On our way, Tom pointed out the
interesting geese sculpture along I-94 (at exit 72) Painted Canyon
Scenic Overlook was a spectacular panorama. Clouds dimmed some of the
canyon; however, light broke through the clouds and created a
moving-life changing scene. Wind was very strong at the observation
Our day ended with dinner at the Chuckwagon Buffet.
We are staying at the Badlands Motel, with a little local color of
locomotive sounds coming through Medora periodically. This area is in
Theodore Roosevelt National Park. I read that he came to North Dakota
after his first wife’s death and his mother’s death occurred on the same
day. He was devastated and he found fulfillment in the “strenuous life”
that he lived in North Dakota. I have seen his sayings carved in the
great lobby of the NY Museum of Natural History. He was the reason that
great institution was founded, and he made many contributions to it. In
the Dakota Territory he became alarmed by the damage that was being done
to the land and its wildlife. He witnessed the destruction of some big
game species. Conservation increasingly became one of Roosevelt’s major
He pursued this interest in natural history by
establishing the US Forest Service by signing the 1906 Antiquities Act,
which proclaimed 18 National Monuments. He got congressional approval
for the establishment of 5 National Parks and 51 Wildlife Refuges and
set aside land as National Forests.
Douglas Brinkley, the historian, has just
published Teddy’s biography, Wilderness Warrior, which details all of
TR’s conservation work. I saw the author, Brinkley, interviewed for one
hour on C-Span. He feels this is his best work and he spent several
years completing it.
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