Tribal History Notes on the Arikara as told to Col. A. B. Welch


The Arikara Indians … who are they and when did they come to Dakota

Soldier tells the history of the Arikara to Welch (1920)           

How They Came to Live with the Gros Ventre and Mandans (1923)        

Crow Ghost talks about Events in Arikara History (1926)           

Excavation at Mih-Tutta-Hang-Kush by Welch (1926)

Arikara who went to France in WWI from Fort Berthold

The Animal and Bird People give laws to the Arikara (Eli Perkins, 1921)

An Arikara Tradition of Origin (Eli Perkins, 1921)

The Arikara Come Across the Ocean story (Eli Perkins, 1921)

The Lost Arikara Sinew Hunters Band story (Mrs. Wild, 1922)

Sioux Kill off a band of Arikaras (Charles McLaughlin, 1926)

A Visit to the old Arikara Village at the site north of mouth of Grand river (1939)



The Arikara Indians … who are they and when did they come to Dakota (1925) 

Welch Article, probably written c.1925

The Spaniard Coronado, led an expedition into the middle of the country, now the United States, in 1541.  He was in search of a fabulously rich country which had been reported by priests and hunters, where gold was commonly used as we use other metals today.  He called this the country of Quivira, and with a strong expedition, proceeded up into the western central territory, under the guidance of two Indians … Turk and Ysopete.  These two Indian guides were of the Arikara people, as we know them today.

They led the expedition into the country of the Arkansas and Kansas Rivers and there they found numerous villages of the group known as Caddo, and the Pani, or Pawnee, were of that group.  There are known to be many different ways of spelling the name Arikara.  Nearly every explorer spelled it in a different way than the others.  The Dakotah still call the Arikara, the Padani or Palani.  They were always at war with the Dakotah, and the common picture of an enemy among the Dakotah on all my Winter Counts, and other picture writing, shows a pompadour dress of hair.  Old Arikara Indians tell me that it has reference to the way they wore their hair in a sort of horn-like affair.  Many early explorers speak of the derivation of the name “Pani” as referring to the same thing  – “a horn.”

The present day Arikara, or Ree, often goes to visit the Pawnee people.  The old people tell me that they can understand each other and that they “are our relatives.” As Coronado found them settled along the Kansas river, there can be little doubt that they are, indeed, an offshoot from the Caddo Group and moved into the Dakotas at not a very remote date.

In the fall of 1719 a French adventurer named Des Tigne found the Panis where Fort Riley, Kansas, now stands.  He planted the French standard there.

On Le Seuer’s map of 1701 (SD Hist.Coll.Vol.I,p49) the Arikaras are shown to occupy a position along both east and west sides of the Missouri river some distance west of the James river; and also shows the villages of the Panis (Pawnee) to the south of the Platte river.

Alexander McKenzie’s map of 1793 shows the Arikara to be just below the mouth of the Knife River in N.D> and Lewis and Clark show the first Arikara village to be just south of the Cheyenne river. McKenzie says that they were called Pawnee and nearly all the early explorers on the upper Missouri river called them Pawnee.

From the “Gazetteer of the Western Continent,” Boston, 1804, we find that: Forty leagues up the Platte you come to the Nation of the Panis, composed of about 700 warriors in four villages … they often make war upon the Spaniards in the neighborhood of Santa Fe … at the distance of 450 leagues from the Mississippi and on the right bank of the Missouri, dwell the Aricaras, to the number of 700 warriors, and some sixty leagues above them, the Mandan Nation, consisting of about 700 warriors, likewise.  Edward E. Hale, who in 1854 published a book entitles “Kansas and Nebraska,” speaking of the Pawnees (p19) says: Farther west the Otoes and Omahas, on the Nebraska and Platte rivers, are the Pawnees, whose language is utterly unlike the Dakotas … They have occupied this neighborhood at least since 1719.  Another division of the Pawnees are the Ricaras, sometimes called the Black Pawnees (Welch note: However, Black Pawnees are Wichita).


As the parent family with which the Arikara were identified, if not actually sprung therefrom, are important in this paper, we shall quote from Dunbar, Vol.4 American Magazine of History.  Speaking of the relationship between the Wichitas, Commanches and Caddoes, he says: Of the one northern branch, the Arikaras, our information is more satisfying.  The reason of their separation from the Pawnees is not certainly known.  There has, however, been an old tradition among the Pawnees that they drove them from the once common settlement on the Platte river.  The exact date of the movement of the Arikaras northward from this region is also unknown; but we may safely conclude it to have been quite ancient from the fact that their migration up the Missouri must have been before the occupying of the country along that stream by the powerful Dakota tribe one hundred fifty years ago.  So this places the coming of the Dakota as 1730.

Thwaite, in “Bradbury’s Travels,” Vol 5 of “Early Western Travels,” p 113, says: that this igration into the Missouri river country was sometime in the 17th century.  He also says that they were living in villages along the Missouri below the mouth of the Cheyenne, in 1797.

Dunbar says:  Of all the branches thus far mentioned, the Arikaras most nearly resemble the Pawnees.  In personal appearance, in tribal organization and government, in many of their social usages, and in language, they are unmistakably Pawnees.  He is also authority for the statement that the Pawnees have tradition that they migrated to the Platte river region from the south and secured possession of it by conquest. (Welch note: SD Hist.III p291 says tribes conquered were the Otoes, Ponca, Omahas and Skidi … but Skidi were Pawnee). The period of this migration is so remote that they have retained no account of details.  This agrees with the Arikara legends told to me on many occasions that the Arikara came from away south, some even saying that they came from an island beyond the western sea.  Their Holy bundles contain (so the Arikara have told me) dried birds, pieces of wood or stone, taken from the several places where they stopped for a season while upon their great journey.

So, with the positive statement that they were living below the Cheyenne in 1797, we will trace their journeys to their present location on the Elbowoods Reservation in N.D.

We have seen that Thwaite, the historian, says that the Arikara lived below the Cheyenne in 1797 and that Lewis and Clark first came into contact with them at the vicinity of the Grand River in 1804.  Where were they during the intervening time?  Perhaps, two years after Thwaite’s date of 1797, a general movement was undertaken by them in a northerly direction toward the Mandan Nation which was above them on the Missouri river and whose principal, central point was a short distance north of the present city of Mandan, N.D., which stands on the heart and Missouri rivers.  We will review the cause of this movement.

The Sioux claimed all the country east of the Missouri river from the mouth of the Niobrara and as far north as Devils Lake from time immemorial.  Their hunting parties crossed the Missouri in the vicinity of Pierre at the mouth of Wakpe Sica (Bad River), called Teton river by Lewis and Clark and Little Missouri or Teton river by Maximillion, and hunted the buffalo ranges far to the westward. This was especially true of the Teton Division of that Nation  often done, also, by the Yanktonnaise, and in these expeditions they came into contract with the Pawnee enemies from the south of the Niobrara.

The Arikara, being the most northern tribe of those people, naturally became the bitter enemies of the Sioux and, it being very probable that the Arikara became firmly settled along the west bank of the Missouri after their expulsion from the Caddoes and trek toward the north, it was inevitable that they should clash with the fierce warriors of the Sioux. Especially was this true on account of the Arikara being in possession of horses, which the Sioux did not posses east of the Missouri.  My Winter Counts both show the years when they first obtained horses and it is reasonable to suppose that these horses were obtained from the Arikara, who, in turn, stole them from their Wichita and other Caddoan relations.  They came from Santa Fe, that northern outpost of the Spanish civilization, and Spanish brands were often found among the Arikara horses as far north as their Cheyenne and Grand river villages.  The year with the Sioux first had horses is 1798, and the same Count (No-Two-Horn’s count) tells of a large war party of Sioux attacking the Crows in the winter-time, west of the Black Hills, in 1786.  It is evident, therefore, that the Sioux were “at home” in the western part of South Dakota at that time.

The war between the Arikara and the Sioux was of long duration.  For over forty years the flaming warriors of the Sioux swept small parties of Arikara hunters from the earth; they attacked their villages and prevented the Arikara women from attending to their corn cultivation, which often took them some distance from their villages to the fields; they stole their horses and gradually mounted their warriors and were able to strike quickly and withdraw with a better degree of safety than warriors afoot.  The Arikara were nowhere safe from the Sioux and the diminishing number of fighting men became a matter of great concern to them.  The Mandan people, on the north, also pressed them, although more evenly matched as to numbers of fighting men.  Their position between these two elements became untenable and a move was made, looking toward peace with the Mandans, and a possible alliance with them against their common enemy, the Sioux.  This peace and alliance was finally accomplished, and the Arikara prepared to migrate into the country of their new allies and did do so about 1799, deserting their southern villages and journeying to the country north of the Heart River, N.D.

Lewis and Clark Journals have considerable to say regarding the difficulties between the Arikara and Mandan people and also to the various efforts at lasting peace between them.  At one place they camped on the north (east), at seven miles from our last night’s station and below the old village of  the Mandans and Ricaras.  The next morning, three miles further on, they passed an old village of the Mandan Nation, which had been deserted many years, and situated a short distance above it, on the same rising ground are two old villages of the Ricaras, one at the top of the hill and the other on the level plain, which had been deserted only five years ago.  Above these villages for several miles is an extensive low ground, in which are situated, at three or four miles from the Ricara villages, three old villages of the Mandans, near together.  Here the Mandans lived when the Ricaras came to them for protection, and from this they moved to their present situation above.

As the Journal was written in the fall of 1804, the statement is clear that the Arikara deserted two old villages in 1799, at a point which is eleven miles below the Mandan village of Mih-tutt-hang-kush (The present Fort Clark) yet the statement is made by them that “the Ricaras came to them (the Mandans) for protection.”  On pages 177-188 of their Journals, they say that the Mandans were settled forty years ago in nine villages (vicinity of Heart River), seven on the west and two on the east side of the Missouri.  Continuing they say that the Sioux and small pox so reduced them, that they finally moved up the river opposite to the Ricaras…..The same causes reduced the seven remaining villages to five, till, at length, they emigrated in a body to the Ricara nation … to the two villages on the northwest side of the Missouri while the single village took a position on the southeast side.  In this situation they were found by those who visited them in 1796; since which time the two villages have united into one.  They are now two villages, one on the southeast side of the Missouri and the other on the opposite side, and at a distance of three miles apart.

There appears to be a clash of statement here, but from a close study of other writers, it is conceded that the Arikara came to the Mandan for protection and stayed with them for several years, until quarrels between them broke into open hostilities.  The Mandan Chiefs told Lewis and Clarke that the “Arikaras had killed some of their Chiefs, they had retaliated on them; that they had killed them like birds, until they were tired of killing them so that they would now send a chief and some warriors to smoke with them. (pages 168-9).”

From all accounts it appears that the question of living together had not been very successful for long, because the Arikara evidently were either driven out by the Mandan, or left of their own free-will and once more took up their habitation on the west bank of the Missouri River, far to the south of the Mandan villages above the Heart River, and where they were found by Lewis and Clark in the vicinity of the Grande river.

We will quote somewhat copiously from the records of Lewis and Clark regarding the deserted Pawnee and Arikara villages, as their records have considerable influence upon the knowledge we have of the Arikara movement from the time of their separation from the parent stock, the Pawnee of the Kansas river country, and the travels this people experienced after that separation.

The first mention made of any habitation of the Pawnee on the trip of Lewis and Clark referred to the mouth of the Niobrara river, at which place Capt Clark ascended some three miles to a plain where there were the remains of a Pawnee Village (Vol I, p90).

At seven and a half miles above their camp below the future site of old Fort Pierre, S.D., the journal says: We came to a small creek on the south (west) side and which we called Notimber Creek from its bare appearance … above the mouth of this stream, an Arikara band of Pawnees had a village five years ago, but there are no remains of it except the mound which encircles the town.

Seventeen miles further up the stream:  We had passed a large island in the middle of the river, opposite the lower end of which the Ricaras had a village on the south side (west) of the river; there are, however, no remains as of now, except a circular wall three or four feet in height, which encompassed the town. According to their records, this spot is two miles below the mouth of the Cheyenne river, and the old site should be very near Township 28, Range 9, which is Scotty Philips buffalo pasture today.

In 1811, Bradbury, the naturalist, who was a member of the Hunt-Astoria Party, speaks of this same site as having been deserted and says great quantities of bones and fragments of earthenware were scattered in every direction .. This village is said to have been the last great defensive point of the Arikara against the Sioux, but I do not vouch for the truth of the statement.  It hardly seems probably, from my knowledge of the nature of old time Indian wars, that the Arikara would gather in one spot to make a last stand.

According to the Lewis and Clark Journals, the next mention of a village site was of one located upon Lahoocat Island, 42 miles north of the mouth of the Cheyenne river, which they speak of an as an old Aricara village in the center of Lahoocat Island.  The Aricaras were known to have lived here in 1797 and the village seems to have been deserted about five years since.  It was surrounded by a circular wall, contaiing 17 lodges (Vol I, p 133).

Thirty miles further (from Lahoocat Island) a village supposed to belong to the Aricaras; it is situated upon a low plain on the river, and contains about 80 lodges of an octagon form, neatly covered with earth, placed as close to each other as possible, and picketed around.  The skin canoes, mats, baskets and articles of furniture found in the lodges induced us to suppose that it had been left in the spring.  We found three different kinds of squashes growing in the village.  At a point about four miles up the river from this village of 80 lodges, the Journal continues: An Aricara village or wintering camp composed of about 60 lodges, built in the form as those passed yesterday, of willows and straw mats, baskets and skin canoes remaining entire in the camp (p 136).  This last village is located just the mouth of a river called, by the Aricaras, Sawawkawna, or Pork river.  This is the Sar-war-car-no river of Maximillion, and the present Moreau river.

The Journal notes that 14½ miles further an island called Grouse Island on which are the walls of an old village; the island has no timber, but is covered with grass and wild rye (p 131).  Twelve miles higher up they passed the Wetawhoo river on the southern side (west) … so-called by the Aricaras.  This is the river called Wetacko by Maximillion and the present day Grand River.

Continuing, the Journal states:  Two miles above the Wetawhoo and on the same side, is a small river called the Maropa by the Indians….One mile further we reached an island close to the southern shore (west) from which it is separated by a deep channel of sixty yards. About half way a number of Ricara Indians came out to see us.  We stopped and took a Frenchman aboard, who accompanied us past the island to our camp on the north side of the river…Captain Lewis then returned with four of the party to see the village.  This village is situated in the center of the island near the southern shore, under the foot of some high, bold uneven, hills and contains about sixty lodges.  The island, itself, is about three miles long, covered with fields in which the Indians raise corn, beans and potatoes.  Here they found a French trader named Gravelines and other Frenchmen whose names they do not mention.

As to the relation of the Arikara with the Pawnee, the Journal states:  The three villages which we have just left are the residences of a nation called the Aricaras.  They were originally colonies of Pawnees, who established themselves on the Missouri, below the Cheyenne, where the traders remember, that twenty years ago, they occupied a number of villages.  From that situation a part of the Aricaras emigrated to the neighborhood of the Mandans, with who they were then in alliance.  The rest of the nation continued near the Cheyenne (River) till the year 1797, in the course of which, distressed by their wars with the Sioux, they joined their countrymen near the Mandans.  Soon after a new war arose between the Ricaras and the Mandans, in consequence of which the former came down the river to their present position.  In this migration those who had first gone to the Mandans kept together, and now live in the two lower villages, which may thence be considered as the Ricaras proper (p 139-162).

Above this camp with the Arikara, 32 miles according to their reckoning, they found immediately opposite our camp on the north side, the ruins of an ancient fortification, the greater part of which is washed into the river; nor could we distinguish whether more than that the wills were eight or ten feet high (p 148). Three miles above that (which would make the point 149 miles above the mouth of the Cheyenne) they were visited by a hunting party of thirty Arikara, who traded them meat for fishhooks and beads.  A mile above where the hunters visited them they came to an encampment of eight lodges of Arikara, and there were numbers of these Arikara on both sides of the river. Four miles further up they came to a small stream, emptying in from the west, where were many high hills, resembling a house with slanting roofs.  They called this an old village of the Sharha or Cheyenne Indians and they made camp in the vicinity above a camp of ten Ricara lodges on the north side, where they visited and were received very kindly by the people, and mention that the fair sex received our men with more than hospitality.


This description of high hills and the creek, correctly described the old village site on John Grass’ allotment of land at the mouth of Grass Creek, and identifies the inhabitants as being Sheyenne. This is quite an extensive ruin at this date and must have been a very strong position.  Even at this date, the color of the grass indicates much cultivated ground and a village of a great many lodges.  It is situated just south of the creek’s mouth upon the Missouri low lands and it is quite probable that the river (Missouri) washed the west bank of the valley and swept by the village within a few feet.  This is the “Dead Village” of my Story of 1823 and already in ruins in 1804.

The Journal continues:  Just above our camp we passed a circular wall or fort, where the Sharha or Cheyennes lived formerly.  I believe that they refer to two of the artificial mounds just north of (and across) the creek at John Grass’ homesite.  These would, perhaps, appear to them as seen from their boats as they passed along, a wall, but in reality, it is composed of two mounds.


Some miles further upstream they mention having come to the mouth of a stream they called Warraconne, or Elk Shed Their Horns.  This is the present Beaver Creek, coming in from the east.  Here they assisted some hunters kill a great number of goats (pronghorn antelope) as They were crossing the river.  This is about 12 miles below the Cannon Ball.

Thursday, 18th (October); After three miles we reached the mouth of Le Boulet or Cannon Ball River…..We here met with two Frenchmen in the employ of Mr. Gravelines, who had been robbed by the Mandans of their traps, furs and other articles, and were descending the river in a peroque, but they turned back with us in expectation of obtaining redress through our means.

As the Arikara history is so closely connected with that of the Mandan Indians, we shall quote further from their Journals as the expedition journeyed through the Mandan country, where they arrived shortly after.  The first indication of the Mandans was seen on October 19th.  On page 388, the Journal reads … a distance of twenty seven and a half miles north of the Cannon Ball and about 192 miles north of the Cheyenne were found the remains of the first Mandan Villages.

The records say:  We encamped on the north (east side), opposite the uppermost of a number of round hills, forming a cone at the top, one being about ninety another sixty feet in height, and some of less elevation.  Our chief tells us that the calumet bird (Note:  The old chief probably meant the Thunder Bird) lives in the holes formed by the filtration of water from the top of  these hills through the sides.  Near to one of these holes, on a point of a hill ninety feet above the plain, are the remains of an old village which is high, strong and has been fortified; this our chief tells us is the remains of one of the Mandan villages, and are the first ruins which we have seen of that nation in ascending the Missouri;  opposite to our camp is a deep bend to the south (west) at the extremity of which is a pond (SD Hist Voll VolIII, p 389).

From the distances traveled and the description of the camp and buttes, we locate this camping place on the east shores of the river somewhat above Schmidt, from which point they could plainly see these two buttes on the west shores.  In fact, they would be the dominating feature of the landscape.  (Note: It is on the highest of these two buttes that the Dakotah received the “Woman in White,” which see as the year 1785 in No Two Horns Winter Count).  The “deep bend” mentioned, is probably the valley of the Little Heart River, in which it is quite reasonable to suppose a “pond” existed in its windings through the low-lands which surround the stream.  These buttes are directly on the Mandan-Fort Lincoln-Cannon Ball Highway.

The remains of an old village…of one of the Mandan villages, are on the hill to the immediate west of the second hill on the road as one proceeds south.  Old Sioux Indians have pointed this location out to me and have told me that the path up the hill had a ditch across it.  I have not examined this site.  The Sioux call this butte Pahawakan  – Spirit or Holy Hill, from the incident of the “The Woman in White” visitor.  This was the first indication of the Mandan they had seen and probably locates the farthest point south at which they had a village at any time within Indian traditional history.

On the east side, the explorers might also have seen two small buttes, higher up from the plain and on the northern slopes of a range of hills and to the north of their camp, locally known as the Hay-Stack Buttes.  On the highest of these buttes, the Mandans, as they have told me, received a visit from a spirit who presented to them the article known as “The Turtle Drum.”  This, they still posses, although no white man has stated definitely that they have seen it.  It is in one of the Holy Bundles of the Mandan at this time.  In conversations with old Mandan people, notably Crows Heart, the First Chief now, I have been told that there formerly was a village on the east side of the river in the vicinity of these small buttes on the east side.  White people, who live near there, have also told me that they have picked up things there at the tip of the range of hills, which indicate that there may have been, at least, a small Mandan village at that location.  I have not examined this site.

Twelve miles, more or less, the explorers found the remains of a village covering six or eight acres, formerly occupied by the Mandans, who, says our Ricara chief, once lived in a number of villages on each side of the river, till the Sioux forced them forty miles higher.  It is interesting to note that they mention the distance “higher” in terms of miles.  It is quite probable that the old chief told them it was a distance which corresponded to a certain time it took to make the journey, either afoot or on horse, and that the recorder placed it arbitrarily at forty miles.

This record relates to the old village site at old Fort Abraham Lincoln, without a doubt.  Old Mandans have told me that it is now called “The Lop-Sided Village,” but it is generally known by students as the Slant Village.  This is on account of the fact that the excavation for the lodges were made in a hillside and when the walls were erected the lodge had the appearance of being tilted.

This village was placed upon a sort of point extending from a line of high hills (upon which, in 1872, the Infantry Post of Fort Abraham Lincoln was built) to the Missouri banks.  This point is about forty feet above the low land at its lowest extremity, where it has been cut by the N.P.Ry. Cannon Ball Branch.  Just how much of this point was carried away by water cannot now be determined.  The railway, however, has cut away at least 100 feet.  To the south of this sloping location is a deep water course, now filled with trees, and to the south of that a broad, nearly level valley or “first bench land,” upon which was later erected the Cavalry Post of Fort Lincoln, occupied by the Seventh Cavalry, Gen. Custer’s outfit.

No doubt this level land was once filled with fields of corn and other produce, tended by the Mandan women.  To the north of the site the point bends back in a sharp curve with steep banks, while on the east, in time when this was the principal village of the Mandan, swept the Missouri.  So three sides are protected from the sudden approach of an enemy by natural defenses.  The west is ringed around very closely by a high range of hills which afforded a splendid view for a lookout, over a country extending for many miles.

It is to be regretted that Lewis and Clark did not go into more detailed description of this important village site.  It is here where the Hidatsa, or Gros Ventre, first made their appearance, finally, after several years, being allowed to cross from the east side of the river and take up residence with the Mandan.  Old Mandans have told me that there formerly was one of their villages at the slope on the east of Birds Bill Hill, about three miles to the south of Slant Village.  The land is now all plowed but shows indications of lodge sites.  I have not examined the ground for evidence.

The next day the party came to the mouth of a creek called Chissetaw, just above their camp of the preceding night.  This is the Heart River of today, flowing down to the Missouri, through the modern city of Mandan.

Old Chief Ahketahnasha, the Arikara who accompanied the expedition from the Grand river villages to the Mandans, told Lewis and Clark that at some distance up this river (Heart) is situated a large rock which is held in great veneration and visited by parties who go to consult it as to their own, or their nation’s, destinies, all of which they discern in sort of pictures or paintings with which it is covered.  The Journal continues;  At about two miles off from the mouth of the river the party on shore saw another of the objects of Ricara superstition; it is a large oak tree, standing alone in the open prairie, and as it alone had withstood the fire which has devastated everything around, the Indians naturally ascribe to it extraordinary powers.  One of their ceremonies is to make a hole in the skin of their necks through which a string is passed and the other end tied to the body of the tree; and after remaining in this way for some time they think they become braver.  This was evidently said concerning some custom of the sun dance or similar ceremony of bleeding and suffering for honor’s sake or in performance of some vow.

A second Mandan village ruin was found about two miles from the last camping place which was in existence at the same time as that mentioned.  It is situated on the north (east) at the foot of a hill in a beautiful and extensive plain, which is now covered with herds of buffalo; nearly opposite are remains of the third village on the south (west) of the Missouri; and there is another also about two miles further on the north (east), a little off the river.

The two villages mentioned in the foregoing paragraph as being on the east banks of the river, refer, no doubt, to the sites just north of the Bismarck Water Company’s reservoirs and the Northern pacific bridge.  The one on the west bank has reference to the extensive Young Man’s Village, often called Big Village by old Mandans,

Next morning mention is made of an old Mandan Village on the south (west), near our camp; at four miles another on the same side.  The first refers to the Crying Hill village ( sometimes called Two Face Stone Village, corrupted in early times to Tattoo Face Village), now covered with residences and schools and railroad property with the city limits of Mandan.  The last one named evidently refers to the site of a village located along the banks of a small water-washed gully on the Jay Boley Farm, a few miles north of Mandan.

The next day they passed eleven Teton warriors on the move and, soon thereafter, they found another Mandan village site on the upper end of what they called an island.  I believe they refer to the site on the point of land directly over Mr. Sperry’s St. farmhouse on the south side of Burnt Creek, on the east bank of the Missouri.  There are some stories about this village which I have had from the Sioux.  I have been on the site and found the stumps of many of the palisades which surrounded in on the south; the east, north and west being protected by very steep approaches and running water.

Eight miles above their last camping place they found another site on the west bank of the Missouri.  I do not know this one.

The Journal says of these villages:  These villages, which are nine in number, are scattered along both sides of the river within a space of twenty miles;  almost all that remains of them is the wall which surrounded them, the fallen heaps of earth which covered the houses and occasionally human skulls and the teeth and bones of men and different animals, which are scattered on the surface of the ground (p156 ).

The next day’s records relate passing an old village on the north (east), which was the former residence of the Ahnahaways, who now live between the Mandans and the Minnetarees, some sixteen miles from the mouth of Burnt Creek by as it ran then.  This probably is the village site now known as The Village of the Double Ditch, so-called from the fact that it is built on a high headland of the Missouri with a deep gully on the north and south sides and two ditches across from one gully to the other, on the east.  The river flows at the foot of a steep bluff on the west.

On October 24th, they met the first Mandans; a head man with a hunting party of five lodges.  They camped at eleven miles north of the Village of the Double Ditch and below the old village of the Mandans and Ricaras.  At this place, more Mandans joined them and appeared to smoke with their enemy, the Arikara chief, very amicably.

On October 25th they passed three miles further on an old village of the Mandan Nation, which has been deserted for many years…..on an eminence about forty feet above the water, and extending back for several miles on a beautiful plain.  A short distance above it, on the continuation of the same rising ground, are two old villages of Ricaras, one on the top of the hill, the other on the level plain, which has been deserted only five years ago (1799).  Above these villages is an extensive low ground for several miles, in which are situated, at three or four miles from the Ricara villages, three old villages of the Mandan, near together. Here the Mandans lived when the Ricaras came to them for protection, and from this they moved to their present situation above.  They camped that night at a point eleven miles above the last stopping place.

October 26th they placed the Arikara Chief on shore to join the Mandans, who were in great numbers along it.  We proceeded to the camp of the grand chiefs, four miles distant.  Here we met a Mr. McCracken, one of the Northwest or Hudson Bay Company, who arrived with another person about nine days ago to trade for horses and buffalo robes….t one mil above the camp we passed a small creed, and at three more a bluff of coal of an inferior quality on the south (west).  After making eleven miles we reached an old corn field where the Mandans had cultivated grain last summer, and camped for the night on the south side, above a half a mile below the first village of the Mandans……A crowd of men, women and children came down to see us.

October 27th.  We proceeded and anchored off  the village. Captain Clark went on shore….and then proceeded to the second village on the north….and encamped at four miles of the north (east), opposite to a village of Ahnahways.  We here met a Frenchman named Jesseaume, who lives among the Indians with his wife and children, and who we take as an interpreter.

This situation became their winter quarters in the vicinity of the Mandan villages.  However, as this paper is to give tangible history of the Arikara, we will not take up the history of the expedition further, other than to say that through the good graces of the officers of the expedition, the pipe was smoked by the Mandans with the Arikara chief, and a party went back to the Arikara, by Big White, the Chief (Shahaska) with the Arikara chief, for the purpose of making a peace compact between the tribes.  This party was ill-treated by the Sioux, who beat them and stole their horses.  This information was known to the Mandans within eighteen days after the party set out.  The Sioux were not anxious for the Mandan and Arikara to be at peace.  However, a very good understanding had been arrived at, although a few men were killed by wild, young fellows on each side, the peace between the Mandan and Arikara, was pretty-well founded in 1806 when the expedition returned down the Missouri.

The Arikara establishments along the Grand river are frequently spoken of by early traders and trappers as a place where horses could be procured, and that country appeared to be the principal meeting place of the Arikara.

In 1823 the villages of Grey Eyes, above the mouth of the Grand River, attacked and defeated a trading party under the leadership of Gen. Ashley of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. Col. Leavenworth was dispatched from Fort Atkinson, north of present Omaha, to chastise them for this act of treachery.  The results of this, the first punitive expedition into the north Missouri river territory, were very disappointing in many ways.  Although the Arikara villages were destroyed and the people scattered, they remained very bitter against the Whites for many years.  After the fight at the Grand river villages, the people fled to their relatives, the Pawnee, where they are supposed to have stayed for seven years.  The Sioux held the territory of the Grand after this expedition.  Upon the return of the Arikara from the Pawnee country, they went to live with their friends, the Mandans, in the vicinity of Fort Clark, where they lived until removed to the Fort Berthold Villages, where the Mandan, Arikara and Gros Ventre have stayed together to this day.

It is claimed (SD Hist Coll Vol II) that the Arikara were found by Catlin in 1832 at the mouth of the Cannon Ball.  It is certainly true that the remains of an old Arikara (?) village is upon the immediate north bank at its mouth,  In 1833, they visited the Pawnee in a body and stayed two years.  In 1835, they journeyed north and joined the Mandans as set out above.

The three tribes of the Pawnee most often spoken of by very early explorers were the Xaui, Kitkchaki and Skidi.   The Arikara separated from the Skidi.

Completely surrounded by enemies and subjected to forays at all times, these intrepid people protected their buffalo ranges and villages with great vigor and were strong antagonists.  They lost, however, many of their warriors in battle and women and children by capture.  Small pox swept many of them away in the years 1825, 1838 and 1852.  Their numbers are variously estimated to be from 10,000 to 15,000 in 1835, by people who were in touch with them either in the lien of trading or exploration and study.

Dunbar, who spent three years among the northern group of three tribes, estimated the Arikara to umber10,000 in 1835.  Taking that as a fair basis and comparing the official county in 1879, which was 1,440, it is seen that there was a decrease of 8,560 during these 44 years.  This can be ascribed to the small pox scourge which took so many of the children with whom it was very fatal.

In various publications, the name of the Arikara is spelled in many different ways.  Accountable for the careless manner of some early explorers; people of different tongues in an endeavor to put the sounds into their own language; different tribes giving sounds in their own “Patois,” or dialect; others with the pronounciation of a name is “corrupted,” or changed in slight manner:

Harals, Harahey, Tareque, Parike, Arike, Aras, Archs, Arahei, Arachs, Awahi, Ricarse, Rickaree, Richaras, Rickaras, Arikaras, Ree.

They are still called “Palani,” or Padani” by the Sioux, which is probably derived from the old name “Pani,” their own name for themselves.


Soldier tells the history of the Arikara to Welch (1920) 

Soldier, an Arikara, says: I was born in 1831 on he Grand River country.  We call it Broad River country.  In 1832 we all went away to the Pawnee country.  They are our relatives.  We went by way of the Black Hills, where we saw some white men who had powerful medicine to kill their enemies with.  Then we went on to Painted Butte, across the Elk river (Yellowstone).  The next spring we hunted with the Hidatsa at the “Five Villages.”  There were two villages, one on each side of Branching River (Knife).

In 1837, in the fall, we went from the Hidatsa and winter-camped across from where Washburn now is, on the Missouri river.  Many of the people died from small pox there.  I lived with my parents at Antelope Village, or Upper Village of the Mandans then, and the sickness came to us there too.  My parents and sister died.  Then I went to the Lower Village of the Mandans (Fort Clark Village) with my Grandmother.  Her name was Skunk Woman.  Many of the people left the villages and died along the river trails and were left there.

I lived at Fort Clark Village for 24 years.  Close by there, on a creek, was a trading store.  The white man was called Big Knife.  He married Lucky Woman, an Arikara, daughter of Star and Son-of-Star.  There was a white doctor here too and he vaccinated Young Hawk’s wife, who was Chief Woman by name.  Gerrard was interpreter for the white doctor.

That same year, 1837, a steamboat came up the river and landed at this village.  There were other white men there also.  The white trader, Big Knife, died at Fort Clark and was buried there.  His son, Bears Arm, and his daughter, Anne Snow, are still living (1920). Another trader came, his name was Dawson and, after him, Gerard was the next trader there.

There was a Hidatsa village up the river a short distance, too.  In 1838 the village at Fort Clark was abandoned and we moved up to Fort Berthold.  This was the trading post which left the Clark Village.  It was about a quarrel with some Dakotahs and the Hiatsa sided with Gerrard.  The traders went on boats and went up-river.  It was a long ways for us to go then, so we moved there, too.  White Shield lead us then, and I lived at Berthold in a round house until the place broke up.  Later there were two villages of the Arikara opposite Berthold.

I belonged to the Crow Society, Foolish Dogs, Black Mouths and the Buffalo Society.  In 1904 I was made Chief and was given a war shirt by Dogs Backbone, who had resigned.  This shirt came from Soup, the former Chief.  Others who can wear the shirts are Bears Teeth, Strikes Two, Standing Soldier and Sitting Bear.  I was wounded close to Dickinson by the Dakotah in 1854 and ten of us were killed and a trader’s wagon was burned then.

My grandfather was He Holds the Enemy Back.

My father was Bears Arm, born about 1767 and died at Fort Clark in 1837.

My mother was Assiniboine Woman, born 1787 and died 1837.

My uncles were Many Bears and Angry Horse.

My brother was Good Day.

Soldier’s story of Strikes Two:


Strikes Two was born in 1844 at Fort Clark Village.  Father was Arikara Chief and mother was Young Woman Village. Father’s father was Holding Medicine and mother’s father was Old Elk.  Father’s mother was People They Know Her and mother’s mother was Old Woman Mist.

In 1861 we left Clark and, before the ice broke in the spring, built two villages across from Fort Berthold.  During that summer we were bothered so much by the Dakotah that we crossed the river and joined the people at Berthold.  In the winter of 1861 Berthold was attacked by the Sioux and driven away by Gerrard and a few men  – Pierre Garreau, Dawson’s son, Hair on Upper Lip (a negro) and the following Arikara:  Black Road, One Horn Wandering, Paint, White Face Bear, Young Fox, Bull Neck, Strikes Enemy, Rough Horn, Spotted Horse, Weasel Tail, He Hawk, Bull Head and Stabbed.  Hidatsa present were Snake Cane, Hay Wolf, Hard Horn, Pan, Many Bears and Pointed Knife. Mandans present were White Bear, Leggins, Bald Headed Gun and Bad Gun.  (Welch comments: This fight against the Fort was led by John Grass.  Mrs. Wild told me her uncle, Girrard, killed 7 Sioux who had reached the palisade.)

One October, 1872 day while a scout, Strikes Two rode out from Fort Lincoln looking for some Dakotah to kill.  They killed his horse and wounded him with a shot just above the knee,  Standing Soldier (Young War Eagle) took him on his own horse and got him back to the fort.  Elk Tongue and Wolf Looking (Arikara Scouts) were both killed in this fight.  The white soldiers went out then and drove off the Sioux.  The white doctor wanted to cut off his (Strikes Two’s) leg, but War Woman and White Basket Woman, both Arikara, helped him dig out the bullet.  He went back to Berthold and had to use a cane for the rest of that winter.

Soldier’s story of Little Sioux:

This man was born at Fort Clark in 1857.  His first name was One Wolf.  His father was Dakotah Small Brave and his mother was an Arikara named Young Holy Woman.  He remembers a white trader who ran opposition to F.F.Gerrard at Fort Clark.  They called him Going on Slide.  His store was a short distance north of the Fort Clark Village.  When four years, the people left Fort Clark and went to Berthold.  He had a brother named Red Wolf and two sisters, named Young White Buffalo Woman and Young Bird Woman.  Red Wolf’s wife was named Young Big Horn Woman.  He enlisted at Fort Lincoln on the hill in 1875.


He went with Custer and, after his return, he went as hunter with the Northern Pacific Rwy gangs to the Yellowstone.  He killed 105 head of game that summer  – one buffalo, a few mountain sheep, antelope and, the rest, black tail deer. He received $160.00 for the summer work. He then was mail carrier from Fort Rice to Fort Lincoln at $25.00 per month and furnished his own horses.  In 1882 his uncle, Stabbed, was hunting in the Bad Lands and the Dakotah wounded him and run off his horses.  Stabbed died on the prairie  – did not reach home.  The Government did not allow the Indians to make war on each other at this time (note: new law in 1882) so the Government paid for the horse which had been killed and those run off.

Soldier’s story of Young Hawk:

Born at an Arikara village just below Mannhaven in the winter camp of 1859.  His father was Forked Horn and died in 1894.  His mother was Red Corn Silk Woman, born about 8135, died in 1911.  His mother’s father was Wolf Skin Arrow Sheath and her mother’s name was Eagle Woman.  In youth Young Hawk was named Striped Horn, later Crazy Head and then he took his uncle’s name of Young Hawk. At the time Red Bear was killed by the Dakotah during an attack on Fort Lincoln in 1872, Young Hawk was present and fought there then.  He also went on Custer’s first trip to the Black Hills in 1874 and tells some rather strange stories of Custer’s temper…One time he shot  at Charley Reynolds and Bloody Knife.  Another time Issaih, the black man, was beaten by Custer for not taking the right trail.

Soldier’s story of Red Star:

This man was also called Strikes the Bear and he was born at old Fort Clark in 1858.  His father, who had the same name, was also born at that place in 1828 and died there about 1860.  Red Star’s mother, Woman Goes into every House, was born at that place about 1831.  She and her little girl, Owl Woman, were killed in an attack of the Dakotah on one of the two villages across from old Fort Bethold.

Red Star says that when the soldiers fired upon the double villages at the mouth of the Grand River in 1825 (note: Leavenworth Expedition, 1823), many of the Arikara villagers went down to their relatives, the Pawnee, and some went up the river to the Mandan villages at Fort Clark.  His mother’s family went to this village.  Her father’s name was Man that drives Horses Away.

Big Star was Red Star’s foster grandfather and he was born at the Arikara village at the mouth of the Cannon Ball.  Red Star’s grandfather, White Geese, was the son of Star and the father of Big Star was Looking for Kettle. He had a brother named Red Willow and a sister, Owl Woman.

Red Star went with Young Hawk to enlist at Fort Lincoln.  The officer in charge of the scouts was a Lieut.Varnum, they called him Peaked Face.  A scout who did not get up in time for breakfast did not get any.  Also the scout who did not get wood and water when told to, went without meals.  A scout who got drunk, lost his horse, and had to go on foot.  A scout found asleep on duty went afoot the rest of the day.  Scouts did not drill.  Roll call was taken at evening on horseback.  During the Custer affair he was called Strikes the Bear, which was changed after that time to Red Star.  Sacrifices and gifts to Mother Corn were made in the ceremony which was performed by Paint.

Soldier’s story of Red Bear:

An Arikara born at Fort Clark, September 1853(?).  His father was Red Man, or Red Bear, and was killed in the fight at Fort Lincoln in 1872.  His father was born among the Pawnee in 1793.  His mother was White Corn born in 1837 at Rock Village across from Expansion. Her father was a white man, a trader, at that village.  White Corn’s mother was Pretty Stalk of Corn and died at Fort Berthold about the time it broke up.

Red Bear’s early name was Pretty Elk.  His father gave Chief Owl two large decorated buffalo robes to name him. Also a large pile of dried meat.  Red Bear went through the Sun Dance after his father died, so he could represent his brave father.  He married Shell Woman in 1876 and separated after two years.  In 1883 he married Pretty Goods and they were also separated and he then married one of Sitting Bear’s wives, as according to law they could have but one, and the Sitting Bear had more than that, and it let them out of a bad predicament.  Her name was Sioux Woman and she died in 1890.  He then married Julia Bull Neck. He was judge of Indian Offenses at the Arikara.  He went to Washington with Enemy Heart in 1910.

Soldier’s story of One Feather:

This man was born in 1832 in the land of the Pawnee, after the Arikara had left the Grand River country when the soldiers fought them there.  The people came back to Fort Clark by way of the Rosebud and Yellowstone Rivers.  His father’s name was Blue Bird, his mother was Young White Girl, his grandmother was Young Woman Ahead.  His father and mother both died of small pox at Fort Clark in 1851.

The Hidatsa sent a peace pipe and eight horses to the Arikara at Fort Clark for them to come up and live with them at Fort Berthold.  Three bands went under White Shield, Charging Bear and White Horse.  These Hidatsa(?) were led by Poor Wolf and the Mandans were headed by Crows Heart.  They wintered at the Heart Village and in the spring went over the river and made two villages.

He was a Custer scout and crossed the river with Reno.  He was first married at Fort Clark, giving a mule and a dressed elk skin for his wife.

Soldier’s story of  Running Wolf:

Born at Fort Clark village in 1856.  Father was Gun Pointing to Breast, mother was Chief Woman Village.  Mother’s father was The Only Crow Head.  Both his parents had smallpox at Clark in 1857.  Married to Young Calf Woman.  Is a member of the War Dance Society of Arikara.  Three hundred Sioux came once and invited his village to fight.  During that fight five Arikara were killed and one Mandan, but no Dakotah.

Welch on His view of Migrations of the Arikara:

In close observation of the remains of Arikara villages, I believe that it often happened that the village which was at the south end of the line of villages would remove and go to the head of the line of villages, farther north, performing a sort of whirling migration.  This will explain how the Grande River villagers, after the destruction of their villages by Col. Leavenworth’s expedition and, after having lived with the Pawnee for several years, at last established their villages in the vicinity of the Knife River, at the north, or head, of the line of Missouri river villages.  It is natural to believe that they had to go to the north end of the country in order to find a suitable location not already occupied by a village.



How They Came to Live with the Gros Ventre and Mandans in 1862 (1923) 

Joe Packineau talks to Welch, Dec. 3rd, 1923

The Gros Ventre moved into the Berthold area in 1845. The Mandans went to live with them  (Gros Ventre, or Hidatsa) at the new village at Fort Berthold before the Arikara came there.  The Gros Ventre wanted them to come, so the chief decided to carry the pipe to them.  He dressed his daughter up very fine with beads and porcupine quills and a bonnet on her head.  She carried the pipe before her.  The chief wanted her to have that honor.  So she walked before them to the lodge of the Arikara chief.

The chief told them what the Gros Ventre wanted; to have the Arikara come and live with them; they would be strong and friendly; the Gros Ventre would give them all a nice place to erect their lodges; they would set aside some very good corn land for them; they would help them fight the Sioux and the other enemies.

So he had brought his holy pipe and hoped that they would not “step over it,” but pick it up and smoke it.

So the Arikara chiefs talked it over and said, “Our medicine is buried so deep that it comes over our arms.  We cannot reach it.  Our stone and the green tree stand outside of our medicine lodge.  They have been moved enough.  We will not dig them up any more.“

This meant that they stepped over the pipe of the Gros Ventre and the peace was not made.  The Gros Ventre were disappointed and went away.  When they got to a little hill close to a deep gully they stopped and brought out the pipe again.  The chief presented the stem to God, the four winds and to the earth, then.  He prayed and said, “God, come and hear what I say.  Be quick now.  These stubborn Arikara have stepped over my pipe.  I don’t like that.  I’ll tell you what I want.  I want you to send the Sioux after them.  Right away.  Hurry up now and do this for me.  Don’t be a long time about this thing.  Do it for me right now.”  Then they smoothed out the place where they dumped out the ashes from the pipe, and went to their own village.

In four days after that, a very large camp of Sioux came and camped right where the Arikara were.  They traded with them. The Gros Ventre went over there and traded with the Sioux too.  Then they went back home.  But the Sioux stayed for several days, eating corn and meat.  But at last they began to fight each other and killed a lot of Arikara.  The young men of the Gros Ventre wanted to go and help them, but the chief said for them to stay until he wanted to say the word.  So the fight lasted all day.  The Gros Ventre could see it going on.  It must be pretty hard fight too.  At last the chief said, “Get your horses.  We will go over there now.”  So they rode hard there after they crossed the Missouri river and soon came to the place where the Arikara village was fighting the Sioux.  The Gros Ventre chief rode right through both people.  He said for the Sioux to give back all the women and children they had taken and for the Arikara to do the same. After they did this he said that he would take the side of the one who was fired on first, if they started again.  So they stopped fighting.

The Sioux were mad and said, “We will come again for some women and children, in four days.  Look out.  We will come hard then.”  The Gros Ventre went back to Fort Berthold village.

The next day the Arikara began to come over to them.  They brought all the things they had, in bull boats.

The Gros Ventre chief told them that they were cowards not to wait for the Sioux in four days.  But the Arikara were afraid and then the Sioux did come, all of the Arikara were over on the north side of the river, safe with the Gros Ventre and Mandans.  They will tell you that they are very brave people, but that is how they came to live with the Mandans and Hidatsa at Berthold, where they have lived ever since.



Crow Ghost talks about Events in Arikara History (1926)    

Crow Ghost talks to Welch, Mandan, Jan. 29th, 1926


“My father was part Ree.  The Padani had some trouble a long time ago at Grand River (He was referring to the 1823 war).  After that the Padani went to visit their relatives, the Pawnee down sough.  They stayed there a long time.  About eight years.  Then they came back up this way.  They moved around a lot after that.  Then in a few more winters the Hewahktokta (Gros Ventre) had a big sickness.  They got it first.  Then the Mowatani (Mandans) go it too.

The people at the village at Fort Clark were mostly Gros Ventre then.  A lot of Sioux got together.  They went up there.  They sent twenty horse riders toward that village.  The Gros Ventre saw them then.  They started to circle them.  The Sioux led their horses like they were worn out then.  The Gros Ventre came on.  They followed the Sioux horse riders  They went out between the Sioux then.  The Sioux were in a big circle around them.  They caught them that way.  They killed most of the Gros Ventre.  After the fight the guns and bows were counted.  The Sioux captured 120 guns and bows.  It was a big fight.

Then the Padani went in to that village there at Fort Clark and stayed there then.  After a little time the black pox got them too.  My father’s brother and his mother died there.  Many Padani died that way there.  It came fast.  The Padani went away them.  They went to the Pahazizi (Slim Buttes) for a while and moved around.  When they came back to Fort Clark, the Gros Ventre were not there.  They lived across the river.  It is called Fort Berthold now.  The Mandans went too.  The Gros Ventres went first.  It was about twenty winters after that when the Padani crossed over to that place to live.  I know all these stories of the Padani.  My father told them to me.  He knew them.

Crow Ghost told me the story of the war with the Arikaras in 1823, in which his grandfather was a member of the Teton Allies of Leavenworth.  We made a flag like the U.S. flag of that date, with thirteen stripes and 25 stars, 5 x 8 feet and gave it to him on Sept 8th, 1915.  A young woman was the interpreter.  His wife brought out the “holy cross” given to his grandfather either by Leavenworth or Pilcher after the destruction of the defense of the Rees at Grand river in 1823.  It was a coppery colored crucifix about one and one half inches high and showed much wear as the arms were almost worn away.  It appears to be authentic.

He said, “the flag is the same thing as my grandfather got.  Padomi (thanks).  That was a great fight there.  The grandfathers of your father, Chief Grass, Fireheart and myself were all there and each chief got a flag and a holy cross.  The flags have all been lost.  This cross was my grandfather’s cross.”

The Dakotah burned the Palani villages this side of the mouth of the Grande river.  We attacked first and it became dark.  The Palani villages had walls around them of trees standing in the ground.  The Rees went away and crossed the Minisosa Wakpe.  The Dakotah went after them and killed forty of them there.  Then they came back.  The big guns of the soldiers killed some more, my grandfather said.  The Dakotah got plenty of horses and much corn they had gathered together so they went away into the hills where they found some more Palani.

After the soldiers went away in boats, we went back and burned the villages because the white man with us told us to.  We got a lot of things there first and found an old woman there.

After that we kept the Arikara out of the Grand river country and lived there ourselves.



Excavation at Mih-Tutta-Hang-Kush by Welch (1926)

Walter Renden and I started at 6:00 am, and the first stop was at the fortification with star-shaped walls and bastions north of Sanger.  Then we made another stop at Pretty Point, a few miles farther (#7 on this map).  This is a good location for a village, and the debris line is now under two feet of drifted river sand and soil and the forty-foot bank is steep, with the river at its foot.  I do not believe the inhabitants lived there long.  When we arrived at the old Mandan village north of Fort Clark, we parked the car and walked over the site (#30 on this map), examining the old fur trader’s fort and lodge ruins.  What we considered the Sacred Lodge is about 45 feet in diameter.

Then we looked for probable graves toward the southwest, but east of the N.P.Railway line.  At two feet, in one place, I struck a skull and started to be careful.  After a little digging we had the following collection from this one grave:

Skull, probably Arikara, as that tribe occupied the site after 1839 and until 1862, when they removed to Fort Berthold Village.  The Mandans and Gros Ventre buried in trees and upon scaffolds, while the Arikara buried in the ground.  The body had been laid out full length  – feet toward the east and face upward.

At the west of his head we found a bundle of tanned skins and this extended under his head.  In the bundle were four pipes of red Catlinite, all in pipe form, but only two of them with holes drilled.

About the neck had been brass, or copper, heavy wire and a string of either horse or buffalo teeth, drilled and strung with old blue trade beads.  There are 47 of them, and 41 one-quarter inch beads.

We found five brass bells; two butcher knives, brass-studded belt of white man’s tan leather, about a dozen lower jaws of some carnivorous animal (which were, perhaps, his totem as there were no holes in them for stringing): two eagle claws; three brass wire ear rings; pipe stems and paint sticks; both arms had on brass coils and flat wrist bands; yellow, white, brown and red mineral paint chunks; two fishhooks of metal; a a fur string from a round ring in the wood); several, large hand-made squared spikes (which the owner probably filched from the trader’s building); a rib-bone arrow straightener with two holes; two stone shaft polishers; a knife stone of some red stone; six half-inch round lead balls; we also noticed several very small blue beads, but were not sure that they had been on this party’s clothing, so did not take them. A gourd had also been buried with the body.

The burial, evidently, had been carefully done.  The right femur had been broken in life and mended, but left a large swelling at point of fracture and for some distance below.  Grave was about 100 yds due west of the old trading station of James Kipp.

This man possessed bone and stone implements, also trade material of the very early fur trading posts.  He was, evidently, a bow and arrow man and, from the worn four and three-quarter inch wooded, round, brass-studded frame holding a 2½ inch mirror (from which the mercury had dropped off, and which was held by condition of his teeth, I believe that he was 50 to 60 years old when buried.  From the fact that the iron nails were buried with the body, it appears that metal was a valuable possession.  An iron dish, six inches in diameter, was also found in the grave.  He valued lead balls



Arikara who went to France in WWI from Fort Berthold

In my own company:


Joe Young Hawk           A.E.F….wounded, leg off.

William Deane

Robert Winans

Tom Rogers           A.E.F…..cited for bravery


Other volunteers from Berthold:

Daniel Hopkins           A.E.F……………………

Philip Star

Henry Perkins

Charley Fox A.E.F……………………

Ernest Fox




The Animal and Bird People give laws to the Arikara (Eli Perkins, 1921)

Eli Perkins of Armstrong, N.D., , tells Welch about an Arikara Tradition of the Two Face (Tatoo Face) Village; Mandan, N.D., Oct. 17th, 1921”


One time the men of the Two Face Village (on the site of Mandan, N.D.) wanted to kill meat for winter.  They went toward the northwest country.  Up along the Knife, or by the big hill out west there (Young Man’s Butte, by Richardson, N.D.).

There was a young boy went along.  He was only 16 or 17 years old.  When they got away out there, they saw a magpie bird sitting on a buffalo head and eating it there.  The boy’s name was Two Birds.  The magpie said to him, “You are going to be a great man among the people.  You must do as I tell you to do.  I will go with you all the way.” So he thought what God was talking to him and said, “All right.”

So he did what the magpie bird told him to do and tied twelve buffalo heads to his flesh and started to follow the bird.  He traveled for forty days, dragging along the heads through the grass and brush.  He suffered terribly.

At last he came to those hills now known as the Blue Buttes, up by the Missouri river north of here. When he got there, there came another bird.  It was a Packing Bird.  It said to him, “You come now with me.  Everything is prepared for you.”  So he went to the top of a flat butte there, and all the birds and animals were gathered there together, waiting for him.

These animal and bird people told him that he had been selected for a long time to be a great man among his own people at Two Face Village.  They had a great council then.  At last they gave him all the laws which were to be used to govern the Arikara.  He went back to this village and became the best man the people ever had and very wise, too.  He was their chief for a long time.  At last he died, after he had lived for 139 years, and his people were very strong and great hunters and very happy together.  Because the Magpie and the animals gave him the laws.



An Arikara Tradition of Origin (Eli Perkins, 1921)

Eli Perkins of Armstrong, N.D. talks to Welch, Mandan, N.D,, Nov. 17th, 1921:

When I asked him about Tatoo Face Village of the Arikara, which in olden times stood on the present site of Mandan, he said:

“My grandfather told me about that village.  It was situated all around the end of the hill just east of Mandan, and even spread out into the timber of the lowlands there.  It was a large place and the people were strong as there were about three thousand of them there.

But you have the name wrong.  It is not Tatoo Face Village, but the Two Face Village, and I will tell you how it got its name as my grandfather told me a long time ago.  It was this way, that name:

Up on a hill close by was a rock.  It was a holy stone to the people.  It acted very funny, that stone did.  Sometimes all the people were gathered there by that stone on the hill top.  They sat there and smoked.  Then some man would say, “Well, I will carry around the stone now.”  So he would go there and all the people watched him as he picked up the stone.  It came easy the first time he carried it around.  It was not heavy a bit.  He would carry it around a certain distance and go around the village and the hills with it.  Then he would carry it back and put it in the same place there.

Then, again, the people would be there, smoking and having a good time.  Again, the same man would come then, and go to this rock.  He would say, “Now, grandfather, I am going to carry you around again.  You make as heavy as you can do.”  He bent over to pick up the stone.  It was very heavy now.  He tried to pick it up.  He could not.  It was too much heavy.  He could not move it now this time.

It was like that all the time.  The first time, a man could carry it easily.  The next time, he could not move it at all.  It was a holy stone.  It was a two face stone.

Because of this two-time acting, the people said, “It is two-faced,” and so they called this village, the “Two-Face Village,” for this stone, which was one thing once and then the next time it was another thing.”



The Arikara Come Across the Ocean story (Eli Perkins, 1921)

Eli Perkins also told me the following story:

He had been a soldier in the Philippines in 1906.  He was with the Fourth Cavalry.  His organization went to Jolo.

He said that, while there, he found that he could understand the Moros very well; that they spoke his language quite well; that a man told him, in Moro language, that he certainly was a Filipino and taken captive by the Americans.

Then he told me the following story of the Arikara journey to this country:

“The old men say that we came from the south and west and that, at one time, we lived across the ocean somewhere.  The people started to go somewhere from that place and, after traveling, they got stuck in the river or ocean.

Then, at that time, a woman came to them. She was a spirit woman.  She said, “If you people want to cross this water, I will make a bridge for you.”  So they said they did want to go across.  She worshipped the God than and got spiritual and then said, “Come with me.”

The road was not a bridge but as dry as bone.  The water went away from that place.  She said, “No man must look back now, and must not notice anything only to get across.  If you want to get over you may do it, but if you are afraid you cannot do it.”



The Lost Arikara Sinew Hunters Band story (Mrs. Wild, 1922)

Told by Mrs. Wild, June 1922:

“We lost a band once a long time ago.  It was on a buffalo hunt.  We were all together on this hunt, which led into far places.  It is not known just where this hunt was, but it was far away, perhaps toward the northwest into the Montana Blackfeet country.  During this expedition for winter meat, we had obtained all we wanted.  However, some of the people did not have sinews enough to last them, and they decided to go again after the herds, which were moving fast, to get sinews for their sewing and binding.

So, many of the people went again from the main camp of the Arikara in the hunting country, to follow the game.  We have never seen them since.  They went away and became lost to us.  Scouts failed to locate them again.  Finally, the main camp came back to the Missouri river country, alone.

We have tried to locate the people, or descendants, of that band.  We have tried to find them at school and in Carlisle and Hampton.  We have visited many peoples and always try to find them.  Sometimes we thought we had done so, but the clue always led to other people and tribes.  In Canada we heard of some people who talked something like we do, but it proved to be a false clue.  We have also tried to locate them by studying the ceremonies and traditions of the Indian peoples, but have not succeeded in locating this Sinew Hunters Band.

We think that they might have been overwhelmed in a battle with some hostile people or it might be that they wandered far away, spent the winter in some good place, and remained there.  But it must have been far, for in that instance, they would have sent a message back to us.  But none ever came.  They are lost to us.

Some of the younger men are going to Alaska some time, to visit those people there.  They hunt for those Sinew Hunters people of the Arikara who were lost long ago in the buffalo hunting time.”



Sioux Kill off a band of Arikaras (Charles McLaughlin, 1926)

Charles McLaughlin, August 16th, 1926, told me of a desperate fight between a band of Arikaras and some Sioux.  This was on the Grand River in S.D., about two miles from the point known as Bull Head Station.  The Arikara made a regular fort of stones and the Sioux call it now “Iyan Najin” (Standing Stones).  The old fort is still there and he wants me to get a photograph of it before it is torn down.  Elk Nation, now living, was a member of the Sioux party.  The Sioux killed every member of the Arikara party.



A Visit to the old Arikara Village at the site north of mouth of Grand river (1939)

On the Oct. 14th, 1939 I drove to Wakpala, S.D., where live the Sihasapa (Blackfeet) Dakota, where I called to the group of tents and log houses where lives John Cadotte (whose Indian name is Standing Alone) and who is the nephew of Chief John Grass, being the son of his sister.  Also here I met, again, his own sister, Mrs. Cross Bear (who goes by the name of Auntie Cross).  She is 84 years old now.  I made arrangements to come again the next day and take her over to the Missouri River to point out the spot where her father lies buried in the ground.  I then drove on to spend the night at Mowbridge, S.D.


In the morning of the 15th, I went to the Sihasapa camp again, picked up Auntie Cross and a good interpreter whose name is Brown Wolf (the last of his family, by the way) as well as Mrs. Angela Boleyn who is writing the story of Chief John Grass, and we went via little-used trails through the hills and arrived at a point a short distance from the mouth of Oak Creek, where the aged Indian woman pointed out the site of the old Grand River Agency (previous to establishment of Fort Yates).  I had her describe the place where her father was buried first, and then we drove to a spot on the edge of the hills overlooking the wooded valley of the Missouri.  Here had been buried soldiers of the U.S.Army and it was plainly to be seen that bodies had been disinterred and removed to the grave yard at Fort Abraham Lincoln.  Later they were taken up again and found final resting place in Arlington at Washington.


She stood on the edge of the hill, her calico dress whipped by the wind, her hair done up in a black cloth; slowly she turned her head and her eyes riveted upon a certain spot, partly down the hill; she stood for a few moments with her hand covering her mouth, her thin nostrils dilated, then motioned with her flat hand to a certain spot where there was a two-foot ring of stones almost covered with sod and grass.

“There,” she said, “He was sick.  The soldiers liked him.  They took him to the hospital then.  He died there.  They buried him in the ground (This was rather unusual as the Sioux buried on scaffolds or in the forks of trees)  They blew a horn, too. (Taps?) They put stones on him.  I was not there.  I was away toward the Black Hills for meat.  When I returned I saw this place then.  He was my father.  His name was Wahacankeyapi (Uses Him as a Shield).  He was the father of John Grass, too.  There’s where he is.”


I placed many other stones upon the grave.  Then we drove away, going north a short distance; opened a wire fence and came upon a flat space where the hill dropped down toward the river and there were two ravines running east and west.  Between these ravines lie the remains of a prehistoric village enclosed by a circular wall and ditch.  The ditch is well-preserved and in places is five feet deep.  Originally it must have been 20 feet wide and at least six feet deep.  Probably had a palisade as additional protection.  I did not count the earth lodge sites, but there were well-defined, and the diameter of the circular village from ditch to ditch was about 150 paces.  The site has not been plowed and it is very little disturbed by amateur digging.  It has the appearance of being too high above the water for a long defense, as attackers could keep them within the walls and from obtaining water.

We were compelled to go westward and follow other trails to the site of the Arikara village, and the intervening hills makes it difficult to say how far above the village is situated. However, it is said to be “six miles north of the Grand River”  – of course on the right bank.

From my studies of the terrain from maps and the expedition of Col. Leavenworth in 1823, I recognized the site as we approached.  In the fall of 1804 Lewis and Clark landed here and again upon their return from the Pacific Coast in the fall of 1806, and here he found the Arikaras; in 1807 came Manuel Liza, the trader; many other explorers and traders and hunt4ers; from the location the Arikaras easily prevented travel on the river  – until in 1823, they held up and fought Gen. Ashley of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, killing thirteen of his engages.  This resulted in Col. Leavenworth penetrating to the village on a punitive expedition; the formation of the Missouri Legion; the burning of the village after it had been evacuated by the Arikara in the nighttime; the flight of the Rees after their Chief, Grey Eyes, had been slain: their stay with their relatives, the Pawnees in the south, for years, and final return via the Black Hills, Little Missouri river, the Kildeer Mountains and entrance to the villages of the Mandans-Gros Ventres at the Fort Clark-Knife River vicinity in 1837.

The lodge sites are well-defined at this date, the ground never having been plowed; the ditch is plainly to be seen; even the entrances to the lodges are to be made out; game bones, broken pottery and other camp debris strewn about.  I picked up several large shards of pottery, a split-rib smoothing bone, a hide scraper of flint; there were many large blue beads, a few white ones and red upon the ant piles.

I stepped off the diameter of the largest lodge…it was 65 feet  – the entrance still sloping downward.  I did not count the sites of the lodges, but they were quite close together, with openings in almost every direction  – a few deep depression indicated probable grain caches.  This village has been so often described that it isn’t necessary for me to explain its strategic value.  Unlike the first village above described, it has not yet been recarpeted with original prairie grass  – and it was deserted 117 years ago.  The Arikaras buried in the earth, and a hill to the northwest (upon which Leavenworth probably placed his artillery during the attack) was the most important burial site.  The entire summit of the hill has been dug up by souvenir hunters; at places I saw where paint bags of green, red, brown colors, had been carelessly thrown out upon the ground and left; at other places, rather large beads, mostly blue, were to be seen, and we gathered up a handful of them.  They are sunburned and lusterless.  At one place were a few teeth, well-preserved, but the human bones have crumbled into dust.  Brown Wolf told me that another hill point, just west, was also a burial place, but we did not go there.  The records of the SD Hist. Soc. State that there were 149 earth lodges in this village when Leavenworth invested it in 1823.


Brown Wolf handed me a Catlinite pipe fragment he picked up.  The Sioux tell me that tapered holes in pipes indicate they were made by the Cheyenne Indians.


However, the greatest find was a blue-green stone which the Mandans call Mahpiya-to (Blue Cloud).  This is the first one I ever found.  Mrs. Grass found one years ago and gave it to Mrs. McLaughlin at Yates, to give to me, but I never received it.  However, she showed it to me.  It was plain, while this one has two white lines at the bottom, and four white spots between the lines.  This one is broken through the hole and the piece is lost.  It is flat on the back and the sides indicate that the piece was poured into a mold.  The Mandans claim that no one could obtain this stone but one woman.  This woman would purify herself, go into the bottom timber for several days, and when she came back she would have one of these Mahpiya-to which had been given to her by a spirit while she was away.  But one stone was made in one year and was given to a virgin among the people, and worn upon her forehead.  It is really a rare decoration and I know of no other one except the one Mrs. McLaughlin had when she died and which has never been found.  She, being an Indian woman, possibly did not dare to possess it and returned it to the hills.  This fragment of the famous Mandan stone is as important an object in relation to western Indian as is the jeweled tiara worn by King Tut.