His last home.

Trip Start Mar 04, 2005
1
16
253
Trip End Dec 31, 2014


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Where I stayed
A Prairie Breeze RV Park

Flag of United States  , North Dakota
Wednesday, September 9, 2009

We have had a good week here in Bismarck and had one last day of sightseeing to do before we headed down the road.  Today's road trip took us to the town of Mandan, about 18 miles SW from where we've been staying.  We had been told to plan on spending most of a day at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park and arrived early so that we would have plenty of time for our visit.

The early history of this park encompasses a Mandan Indian village and we made this our first stop.  The site contains a beautiful visitor center which was built by the ever present CCC crews of the 1930's.  The Mandan village, called On-A-Slant, is open only by guided tour and we headed out with our Lakota guide. 

We learned that the Mandan occupied this site from the 1500's until  1785 when it is believed they died off due to a small pox epidemic.  The site contained stationary pit homes which housed families based around a matriarchial system. The site is situated on a bluff overlooking the Missiouri River and protected on all but one side by the river, creeks or hand dug ditches.  The open side contained a tall wooden fence.  It is believed that these structures we created more to keep predators (animals) out than enemies since the Mandan were not warlike people. 

The highlite of the tour for us was when we learned our guide was fluent in both Mandan and Lakota/Dakota.  He had learned both in the reservation schools and at his grandparents home.  He gladly spoke to us in both of these languages and explained to us the differences in inflections and tone.  It quickly became clear to us how easy it would be to mis-interpret these complex languages and how difficult the job of interpretor was.  As a side note our guide is a direct link to the history of this time. Our guides grandmothers great-great-great grandfather was a scout for General Custer. How's that for history.

Fort Abraham Lincolns 'claim to fame' is the fact that it is the Cavalry post from which Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer set out from with the 7th Cavalry on his way to the Little Big Horn.  We've visited the Little Big Horn previously and I think you all know how that battle turned out.  The Post was closed down and abandonded in 1891.  The buildings were left behind and quickly became dismantled by settlers in the area who used the wood to build their homes.

A non-profit group called "Friends of Fort Lincoln" has worked over the years to write grants and collect monies with which to re-construct buildings on the Post grounds.  In 1989 they re-built the "Officers Quarters'"which was home to the Custer's while they were stationed here.   Tours of the home are given by guides dressed in period clothing. 

After taking the very informative tour of the home we wandered around the reconstructed barracks building and stable.  Last up we took a drive up to the Infantry Post which was closed in the 1870's when it moved down and joined the Cavalry Post.  We enjoyed our trip 'into the past' and would recommend this stop, along with the town of Bismarck to anyone who happens to find themselves traveling across Interstate 94.
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