The next day we were greeted by a cool rain as we drove from Bismarck to Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, a National Park Service site established in 1974. This was the camp of the Mandan tribes with whom Lewis and Clark spent the winter on their journey west. The Mandan village consisted of large earth lodges made from massive timbers and packed clay. The original earth lodges on the site have disappeared leaving only large indentations in the earth but there is a model earth lodge by the visitor’s center which is open to the public. What happened to the Mandan? Two massive outbreaks of smallpox, one in the late 18th century and the other in 1837 nearly wiped out the entire population which had inhabited the lands since the 1400s. Today the Mandan are joined with the Hidatsa and Arirkara and identify themselves as MHA. Our historian today was Dakota Wind, a Lakota from Standing Rock who is currently pursuing his PhD in history.
Some days the ocean is just gorgeous and presenting the world with great waves for surfing!