As November marks the observance of National Native American Heritage Month, North Dakota Tourism is honoring and celebrating the rich heritage, diverse cultures, and invaluable contributions of Native American communities to the state. Just as the name “Dakota” means “friend” or “ally” in the Lakota language, North Dakota extends a hand of friendship and invites visitors to interact with and experience Native American culture.
Here are some of the best ways to experience Native American culture in North Dakota:
Central North Dakota
The North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum is located on the grounds of the state capitol building in Bismarck and offers visitors an overview of Native American history and culture in the state. It has one of the nation’s largest collections of Plains Indian artifacts, second only to the Smithsonian. Now through April 2025, visitors can check out the new exhibit On the Edge of the Wind: Native Storytellers & the Land, in the Governor's Gallery. This exhibit explores the connections between cultural practices, regional landscapes, and tribal oral narratives. Based on interviews with Native storytellers and knowledge keepers, this exhibition includes photographs, artifacts, and video recordings of elders recounting traditional stories from all over the state.
Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, established in 1907, is the oldest state park in North Dakota. Located in Mandan, the park features a unique insight into the lives of the Mandan Native Americans. On‐A‐Slant Indian Village, which was once home to a thriving Mandan Indian population in the mid‐1600s for 200 years, is now home to five earth lodges that have been reconstructed to give a sense of daily life for the Mandan people.
The entire Standing Rock National Native American Scenic Byway is within the boundaries of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s land. Running parallel to the Missouri River the 350-mile byway follows a path of Lewis and Clark, with numerous historically important sites along the way, including the final resting places of Sitting Bull and Sakakawea. The byway also includes the Lewis and Clark Legacy Trail, a 1-mile primitive nature trail overlooking beautiful Lake Oahe that has signage located along the trails identifying plant species and their traditional Native American uses.
Northwest North Dakota
Head to the newly opened MHA Interpretive Center in New Town to learn about the culture and history of the three distinct Tribal nations that comprise the Three Affiliated Tribes, the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara. The net-zero building houses an expansive collection of artifacts and art sacred to the MHA Nation and living history programs. Don't miss the opportunity to take in the scenic views from the center's observation deck overlooking Lake Sakakawea. Explore the lives of the North Plains Indians on the Upper Missouri at Knife River Villages National Historic Site.
Northeast North Dakota
The Turtle Mountain Scenic Byway, one of the state’s most beautiful drives, winds through the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa tribal lands, and passes Lake Metigoshe State Park, Mystical Horizons and the International Peace Garden.
Fort Totten State Historic Site, home to the tribal land of Spirit Lake Nation, is a museum that was originally constructed as a military post, and later became a boarding school, health care facility, and a reservation school. Spirit Lake Nation land is also home to White Horse Hill National Game Preserve, one of the best places to see bison and the Lake Region Pioneer Daughters Museum, a popular attraction that includes Native American displays and artifacts.
Southeast North Dakota
The Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe is centered around Lake Traverse Reservation which extends across the border with South Dakota. The tribe operates the Dakota Winds Golf Course and the Dakota Magic Casino, both on the North Dakota side of the reservation.
Throughout North Dakota
Rodeos and powwows are important parts of North Dakota's culture. Powwows were originally held in the spring to celebrate the beginning of new life but are now held into the late summer and fall. Visitors can make plans to experience a multi-day festival next year centered around traditional song and dance performances, traditional foods (and some favorite “county fair” foods too), as well as vendors selling arts and crafts. A guide to 2024 powwows held by the different tribal nations in North Dakota is available at ndtourism.com.
For more about native American experiences in North Dakota, visit ndtourism.com/native-american-culture.
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