Near Stanton, North Dakota
Reaching the mouth of the Knife River (on 27 October 1804), a little over sixteen hundred miles from the mouth of the Mississippi, the expedition arrived in the midst of a major agricultural center and marketplace for a huge midcontinental region. The five permanent earthlodge communities there offered a panorama of contemporary Indian life.
Two of the villages were occupied by Mandan families that included about 700 adult males. Two others were Hidatsa, or Minitaree, communities with a total of 650 adult males. The fifth was a small village of Amahamis, refugees from regional war and pestilence. The combined populations totaled about 4,400 persons, according to the American travelers' estimates.
The small bumps in the field on the near-right side of the photograph are the remains of earthlodges in the Hidatsa village the captains knew as Metaharta. The Knife River turns south for about a mile before joining the Missouri a little beyond Stanton, North Dakota (upper left), which grew over the site of the Amahami community.
Today, most of the descendants of the Indians Lewis and Clark met here, plus the surviving Arikara people, live on the Fort Berthold Reservation; its headquarters are in New Town, North Dakota. Ironically, the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site is not on the reservation.
From Discovering Lewis & Clark from the Air
Photography by Jim Wark
Text by Joseph Mussulman
Reproduced by permission of Mountain Press.