Discover North Dakota's Native American culture

Many tribes, histories and languages have influenced today's North Dakota.

The Native American Experience

North Dakota's individual tribes have distinct and different origins, histories and languages. Plains Indians are united by core beliefs and values that emanate from respect for the earth and an understanding of humankind's relationship with nature. The tribes which have had a great influence on today's North Dakota are the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara; the Yanktonai, Sisseton, Wahpeton, Hunkpapa and other Dakotah/Lakotah (commonly known as the Sioux) Tribes; and the Pembina Chippewa, Cree and Metis.

Visitors are welcome to explore the reservations and discover the beauty of Native American culture.

A few notable Native American historic attractions in North Dakota include:


Mandan, Hidatsa & Arikara Nations

Story of the People

The Mandan and Hidatsa, and later Arikara tribes, lived-peaceful lives in earthlodges along the Knife and Missouri rivers. By 1862, diseases like smallpox wiped out entire villages, forcing survivors to band with other groups. The three tribes came together in Like-a-Fishhook Village, but maintained tribal identity. The Fort Laramie Treaty established the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in 1851. The reservation's 12 million acres stretched from the Missouri to beyond the Yellowstone River in Montana. Politics in the late 1800s reduced the size of the reservation to about one million acres.

The Reservation Today

The Fort Berthold Reservation straddles the north and south shores of Lake Sakakawea, named after the Indian woman who accompanied the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Communities on the 980,000-acre reservation include Twin Buttes, White Shield, Mandaree, New Town and Parshall. There are about 10,400 members enrolled with the Three Affiliated Tribes. Cattle ranching and farming are important to the economy, as well as some tribe-owned businesses in New Town and Mandaree. The 4 Bears Casino & Lodge employs about 400 people.

Standing Rock Nation

Story of the People

The Standing Rock Nation is part of the Lakota/Dakotah/Nakotah nation that once controlled a vast area from the James River in North and South Dakota to the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. When gold was discovered in 1874, Congress claimed the Black Hills and the vast country occupied by the Teton Lakota people. The area was broken into six smaller reservations, including Standing Rock Reservation, home of the Yanktonai, and Hunkpapa bands of Teton Lakota, as well as other Teton Lakota nations.

The Reservation Today

The 2.3-million acre reservation, bordered by Lake Oahe on the east, covers all of Sioux County in North Dakota, and Corson, Campbell, Perkins and Walworth counties in South Dakota. North Dakota communities on the reservation are Cannon Ball, Fort Yates, Porcupine, Solen and Selfridge. There are about 13,900 enrolled members in the Standing Rock Tribe. The Tribe owns two casinos, Prairie Knights in North Dakota and Grand River in South Dakota, employing more than 500 people. Ranching is also an important part of the economy, including a tribe-owned bison herd.

Spirit Lake Nation 

Story of the Pepple

This is one nation with several different language dialects but only slightly differing cultures. The tribe migrated to the Great Plains from near Lake Superior and by the early 1800s dominated the northern plains. In 1867, a treaty established about 245,000 acres for the Fort Totten Reservation in Benson, Nelson, Eddy and Ramsey counties.

The Reservation Today

Many Dakota/Lakotah people, including Sisseton, Wahpeton and Yanktonai, now live at Fort Totten near the south shore of Devils Lake. There are about 4,900 members enrolled in the Spirit Lake Tribe. The tribe owns two companies, Sioux Manufacturing and Dakota Tribal Industries, each employing about 125 people.  Other important employment includes the casino and bingo hall and a member-owned grocery store in Fort Totten.

Turtle Mountain Band of Pembina Chippewa

Story of the People

The Turtle Mountain Reservation is in Rolette County in the wooded, rolling hills of north-central North Dakota. The ancestors of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa migrated from the Great Lakes in the late 1400s. Drawn by the fur trade, they became middle men serving as trappers, voyagers, guides and caretakers of the land. The Pembina Chippewa developed lasting relationships with the Cree and French.

Offspring of Chippewa or Cree Indians and French Canadians are known as Métis. North Dakota's first community, Pembina, was built by the Chippewa and Métis people. The Turtle Mountain Reservation was established in 1882.

The Reservation Today

The reservation is located on 46,000 acres in Rolette County and includes the community of Belcourt. The tribe has 29,161 members, of whom about 13,000 live on or near the reservation in Rolette County. The tribe operates several enterprises, like Turtle Mountain Manufacturing, Uniband Data Processing and the Sky Dancer Hotel and Casino, which employs more than 1,000 people.

Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Tribe

Story of the People

The Sisseton-Wahpeton Band is a subdivision of the eastern or Dakotah Indians. Within the three major divisions of the Dakota-Lakota-Nakota Nation, there are seven major bands, which are referred to as the Seven Council Fires. At the time of initial contact in the mid-1700s with European traders and missionaries, the Sisseton Wahpeton bands resided in villages extending from Manitoba, Canada, to the present homelands on the Lake Traverse Reservation and further south in Minnesota and northern Iowa.

The Reservation Today

The Sisseton-Wahpeton Lake Traverse Indian Reservation, and its headquarters at Agency Village, is located primarily in South Dakota. Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate has an enrollment of approximately 11,300 members. More than 110,000 acres span North Dakota and South Dakota, including glacial lakes, coteau hills and several state parks. As a sign of respect for the alliance of the Seven Council Fires, the Sisseton and Wahpeton Bands have erected seven torches in front of Dakota Magic Casino.  Each torch represents a band of the Dakota-Lakota-Nakota people and the seven district council communities on the reservation.

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