Today’s time at Fort Berthold was quite remarkable. We started the day at Crow Flies High, a large bluff top named after a famous Hidatsa chief. From the top of the bluff, when the lake water is low, you can see the foundations of several buildings that were either lost or moved when the Garrison Dam flooded the riverbottoms. This is also the location where Clark spotted Lewis and reunited on their way back to the white civilization.
Afterward, we went to the Four Bears Museum to learn more about the history and culture of the Hidatsa, Mandan and Arikara peoples. Everyone explored the museum and then the group came together to ask the curator, Joe, one burning question that they had after seeing the exhibits. He shared what he knew about creating star quilts and the transition that the people here had from a bartering system to that of the US dollar. He also spoke of the personal impact made by the construction of the Garrison Dam. When he was growing up many elders refused to even go to the river-turned-lake. His grandmother spoke of something black, very bad, swimming in the water. He then wondered aloud if that black snake was the oil now being extracted from the ground at breakneck pace. After speaking about the burial customs of the local tribes, he spoke of the logistics of moving their dead from the riverbottoms to the lands that are now inhabited. Some were moved, some were left -- and some coffins/bones still occasionally appear as erosion around the lake occurs and will float on top of the lake. When this happens, the bones are taken to a spot designated for this purpose and reinterred. One of the saddest moments was when he spoke of how some people, heartbroken over the loss of their riverbottoms, decided to stay and let the waters rise around them.
In the afternoon, we took advantage of the beautiful lake, which has now become a world-class destination for boaters and anglers. The water was chilly but refreshing. Hard to swim, however, knowing what was once beneath you...
This evening was spectacular. We went to the annual Mandaree pow-wow to take in the dancing, drumming, and Indian tacos! We were able to witness several types of dance, such as traditional (men’s & women’s), grass (men), jingle (women), fancy shawl (women), and fancy bustle (men). Chad was able to see and talk with the elder who led his naming ceremony and Leslie was able to meet up with a cousin she had never before met. Everyone, however, felt welcomed and deeply moved by the experience.
Tomorrow we head home with minds filled with information and hearts burning for action. We look forward to your help as we process this remarkable week together.