Thursday, May 26, 2016

2016 Epic Road Trip - Day 13

May 26, 2016

Day 13 - Hazen, ND to Medora, ND - 331 Miles

A long mileage-wise day, but very interesting day.

Before I get into the events of the day, I just had to put in this photo...I thought it was cool.

Ok, enough politics, today was another day of culture and history, with another dose of kitchy added in for good measure.  First stop was the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site on the Missouri River near Stanton, ND.

The native Indians lived on this land for centuries. In 1804-05 Lewis and Clark came upon the Hidasta and Mandan Indians while on their adventure to locate the Northwest Passage across the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase.   They had set out from St. Luis in May and travelled 1600 miles at that point.  With winter approaching, Lewis & Clark decided to hunker down for the winter among the Indians, who were trading foodstuffs and goods with other Indians as well as the French Canadian settlers passing through.  One of the traders was Touissant Charbonneau, who hadmbeen living among the Hidasta.  He asked whether Lewis & Clarke would like him to be an interpreter on their exploration, which L & C happily agreed to.  Along with Charbonneau, though, came his wife, Sakakawea (we call her Sakagewea and put her on the dollar)

The explorers made it all the way to the Pacific, but unfortunately, found no through waterways.  They returned to the Knife River area in August, 1806, but found on their arrival that most of the Mandans had been washed away by the river and much of the Fort had been burned.  
The Hidasti lived in, round extended family earthen huts about 40 feet in diameter.  The Historic site features a recreated hut, fully furnished with fire pit and animal skins for bedding.  This was an agrarian culture, living off the land and making tools from animal pelts, furs, bones, weaving baskets from local willows, etc.

The terrain changed rapidly from prairie land to buttes as we approached the Teddy Roosevelt National Park, also in ND.

Teddy first came to this Dakota area in 1883 on a bison hunting trip.  A year later, his wife and mother both passed away on St. Valentine’s Day.  He returned to this land that he loved to grieve and lose himself in the vast beauty of the area.  He became a cattle rancher here on lands that are now part of the National Park.

When he became President of the US, one of his accomplishments was to establish the National Forest Service and to create 5 National Parks, 150 National Forests and dozens of other areas set aside by the government for futures reserves.

The park is divided into 2 sections, about 60 miles in total distance between them.  Teddy Roosevelt’s ranch is in the mid-section.  Tomorrow we will tour the southern section of the park.

The last stop of the day was at Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site, about an hour or so north of the Teddy Roosevelt National Park and right on the border between North Dakota and Montana.  In fact, the parking lot is in Montana and the Fort is in North Dakota.

Moving forward about 25 years from this morning’s visit to Knife River settlement and trading village, Fort Union was an American company founded to compete with the French Canadians who were raking in the money trading furs, etc.

Fort Union was established by the American Fur Company, run by John Jacob Astor.  This was set up to trade with several different Indian Tribes, the Blackfoot, Crow, Cree, Sioux, Hidatsa, Ojibwe, and Assiniboine.  There were no white women on the Upper Missouri area yet, and so the white traders did a lot of marrying of the Indian women, especially the Indian chiefs’ daughters.  This helped communications as well as trade relations.

The trading lasted at Fort Union for almost 40 years, ending about the time of the civil war.  By this time, white settlers were moving west in vast numbers, transportation routes were better established, and whites learned how to trap the animals for furs, eliminating the need for the Indians.  Eventually, our government restricted the Indians to reservations.

A big bust of Theodore Roosevelt in front of the Roosevelt Hotel in Walford City, ND
Most of today's travel was along the Lewis & Clark Trail
I ended the day at the Red Trail Campground, Medora, ND at the entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, South Section.

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