I’m now heading home and have reached the Great Plains. Even though Sioux Falls, SD, is not right on the Lewis and Clark Trail, this town has featured several L&C exhibits and programs, especially during the summer at the peak of the tourist season. In the journals is a brief reference to the falls of the Sioux River, but it is unclear whether or not the expedition actually saw them or had only heard about them. I went to a historical museum that had a temporary exhibit about Plains explorers, with a small section on Lewis and Clark, but unfortunately missed the summertime comedy water ski show with its L&C theme!
Between Sioux Falls and my present location in Bismarck, ND, I stopped to take a picture of the famous Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD:
The Corn Palace, with its exterior decorated with various parts of the corn plant.
Bismarck and Mandan, ND, across from each other along the Missouri, are where it’s at right now. In progress is one of the National Signature Events, called the Circle of Cultures. Also in this region are numerous museums, parks, and historic sites related to the expedition. Even the Dakota Zoo has interpretive signs containing quotations from the journals as the expedition encountered various animals.
I drove north of Bismarck to go to Sakakawea State Park on Lake Sakakawea, a huge reservoir (“the largest man-made lake within a single state,” boasts a brochure) formed by Garrison Dam. North Dakota uses the “k” spelling of her name. There was only one L&C interpretive sign at the park.
Autumn prairie and Lake Sakakawea, near Garrison Dam.
Much more interesting was the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site. This park contains the remains of several Hidatsa winter villages, one of which was the home of Sacagawea and Charbonneau. The villages were on the Knife River near its confluence with the Missouri. The park includes a museum with exhibits about traditional Hidatsa life, an impressive replica of an earthlodge, and trails to the village sites.
A map of the L&C trail and an enlargement of the Sacagawea coin (a rather peculiar choice of items, in my view) have been squeezed into the regular exhibits in the Knife River museum.
Exterior of a traditional earthlodge, about 40 feet in diameter.
Furnishings and firepit inside the earthlodge.
There isn’t really that much about Sacagawea, but it was pretty fascinating to stand at the site of her Hidatsa home. All that's left of the villages are round depressions in the ground and the remains of trash heaps along the perimeters. Of course, much has been archaeologically excavated over the years, as well.
The site of Sacagawea's Hidatsa village where she met Lewis and Clark.
The Knife River. As it has changed course over time, the river has cut into and destroyed part of the village site.
The ranger told me that in their summer tours (no tours this time of year), they “interpret Lewis and Clark from the point of view of the Indians.” She said one of the Hidatsa leaders had said that the men of the expedition smelled awful, and that only two were worth anything: the blacksmith and the gunsmith.
The expedition’s winter camp at Fort Mandan was downriver from the Hidatsa villages, near two Mandan villages. The Mandans had suffered a devastating smallpox outbreak in the late 1700s and had moved north to be closer to the Hidatsas. A couple decades after Lewis and Clark passed through, the Mandans and Hidatsas would be hit with smallpox again and nearly exterminated. I will be visiting Fort Mandan probably tomorrow.
[All photos by K. Dahl, copyright 2004.]