Discovering Native American Culture in North Dakota

There are plenty of things to love about America. From bustling cities like New York City and Chicago to national parks such as Grand Canyon, Death Valley and Yellowstone, you’ll find something that tickles your fancy whether you’re an urban explorer or die-hard adventurer. But that’s not all, the United States also boasts a fascinating Native American culture.

If you’re looking to immerse yourself in this centuries-old culture, there’s no better place to start than North Dakota. Of course, there are hundreds of different tribes and nations within the spectrum of “Native American culture”. However, the specific Native American culture in North Dakota is what you’re probably most familiar with.

Native American culture in North Dakota
Native American culture in North Dakota

Native American Culture in North Dakota

Nowadays, there are about 30,000 Native Americans still living in the state of North Dakota. All of them are part of the First Nations group, which, although each separate tribe has its own language, history and culture, are connected by common beliefs and core values. As is the case with virtually all native cultures, all over the world, the First Nations also have great respect for the planet and nature.

Tribes that have had a strong influence on North Dakota culture today are members of the Lakota/Dakota Nation.

As a visitor to Native American North Dakota,  you are welcome to explore the reservations and discover the beauty of the Native American culture.

Bison in Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Bison in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Buffalo Trails Tour

One of the most iconic features of Native American traditions and Native American culture in North Dakota used to be the buffalo hunt. On the northern edge of the Great Plains, the Badlands with its mesas and vast grasslands provided a home to enormous herds of buffalo. Sheep, cattle, antelope and deer still roam these plains.

In this majestic landscape, the Dakota and Lakota hunted buffalo for centuries.

Starting this spring (2017) in Hettinger, North Dakota, you can go on an exploratory journey through these lands on the Buffalo Trails Tour. Visit the Chamber of Commerce in Hettinger for more information. Highlights include the Dakota Buttes Museum and “Prairie Thunder”, a buffalo mount. Nearby, absolutely make sure to drive the Standing Rock National Native American Scenic Byway and visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park, still home to huge herds of buffalo.

Native American earthlodge village at New Town
Native American earthlodge village at New Town

North Dakota’s Historical Sites

Many preserved sites illustrate the beauty of Native American culture in North Dakota. However, if your time is limited, it’s recommended to focus on the following three.

  • On-A-Slant Indian Village: Located in Fort Abraham State Park, this historic village used to be the home of several thousand people from the Mandan tribe.
  • Earthlodge Village: This superb site lies on the northern shore of Lake Sakakawea in New Town. It’s a magnificent place to spend the night—you can sleep in teepees and earthlodges.
  • Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site: Arguably the most important Native American historic site in North Dakota, this area was home to the Hidatsa and Mandan tribes. It’s where Sakakawea lived when she got acquainted with the Lewis and Clark Expedition. A hugely significant site, in other words, in the history of Native American culture and the United States.

Published by Bram Reusen
Bram Reusen is a Belgian travel photographer, writer and the founder of Travel. Experience. Live. He now lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA. From backpacking and adventuring to slow travel and cycling trips, Bram focuses on nature and adventure travel. His passions are hiking in national parks and sampling craft beers.

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