Tuesday, June 9, 2009

New Town, North Dakota

Day 20, was a travel day from Bismarck to New Town, ND. On the way, we stopped several times. Our first stop was in Washburn, North Dakota, at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center and Fort Mandan. Bill and I were a little delayed in getting to the first because one of our guests had car trouble. We made it just in time for the guided tour at the interpretive center. Our guide was so knowledgeable, then we found out he had a Master’s Degree in History.

Ft. Mandan played a very important part of the Lewis & Clark expedition as this is where they stayed over the winter months when the Indians warned them that they would never make it over the mountains before the snow. Also Sacagawea (spelled many different ways) delivered her baby boy at this location. The Ft. itself was a reconstructed version of the closest point to the original site as they could put it. The original site is believed to be currently in the middle of the Missouri River. Maybe after the Missouri River shifts, in another few hundred years, they’ll be able to locate the original site.

Further down the road was Knife River Indian Village. We saw a great 15 min. film about the Plains Indian tribes narrated by an ancestor of the Indians. She told of her memories as a very young girl about their rituals and lifestyle. She talked about how they wintered near the river in their temporary tepees and during the summer months they lived on the plains. Our guide was an elderly park ranger who had the opportunity to talk directly to this Indian woman to learn more about their culture. She told of how the Indian women were in charge of making the houses. The men would place the main posts which were very large and was the structural frame of the house. The women completed the rest of the house. This is a picture of just the doorway. They didn’t call it a doorway, however, they called it the mouth. The earthlodge was like a face.
An indian woman had to prove herself to have the honor of leading in the building of the lodge. She would then be the head of the house. The lodges lasted about 10 years.

The temporary winter shelters along the river usually only lasted a year as they would be destroyed upon their return. They also tended to the gardens, which included sitting on a wooden frame rack, singing to the crops (as they believe they had a soul and singing to them would help them to grow) and throwing stones at critters or anyone trying to steal their crops.

As we drove to New Town, N.D. we saw a train towards us. It’s weird seeing a train just alongside the highway with not much separating the train from the highway. We’ve seen and heard quite a few trains while on the road. Some were moving along way faster than we were and it would have been nice to be able to load our trailer onto it!

While driving through North Dakota, we noticed A LOT of “new” oil drilling going on. We found out that with the price of oil so high and they have a new method called “horizontal drilling” which makes it well worth their while to drill for oil. Some of the farmers are becoming millionaires bringing in 800 barrels of oil per day!

Driving through North Dakota and into Montana was so different than the East Coast I could not stop taking pictures of how far you could see the road ahead & the hills, or mounds, or bluffs, or whatever they call them. Yes, that is the road ahead curving to the left and back to the right.

Day 21, New Town was just a one nighter, where we stayed at an Indian casino. I’ve never been
in an “Indian” casino before so I went in to check it out, along with my allotted $20. Well, it’s quite different than what I’m used to. It’s far from luxurious and there was no noise coming from the area of the slot machines, which to me means NO ONE IS WINNING! So I never even ventured in that room. The next morning when I went over to find a cup of coffee, EVERYTHING, I mean EVERYTHING was closed! Casino included! I guess the Indians do things differently, at least in North Dakota.

On to Fort Peck, Montana. Enroute we stopped at Fort Union Trading Post.

Fort Union attracted more renowned people than any other fur trading post. The fort’s busiest years were 1830-1850, employing up to 100 people. Fort Union was an internationally known trading post. The traders would be wined, dined, and smoking of a pipe prior to negotiations.
Since the fort was dismantled and taken down river to build another Fort Benton there is very little that is original. The fireplace is original. Also the color of paint on the bourgeois (he is the man in charge of the post) house, red, white, blue, and green are the original colors used.

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