"This village is built upon an open prairie, and the gracefully undulating hills the rise in the distance behind it are everywhere covered with a verdant green turf, without a tree or a bush anywhere to be seen. This view was taken from the deck of the steamer when I was on my way up the river" (Letters and Notes, vol. 1, p. 204, pl. 80). - George Catlin
The Arikara people call themselves Sahnish, meaning "the People". Their close relatives are the Skiri Pawnee. Both are part the Caddoan group of tribes. In 1796 the Arikara were living in two consolidated villages just below the mouth of the Cheyenne River. These were the remnants of 32 villages built further south along the Missouri that had been decimated in the 1780s by three smallpox epidemics. By the time of the Lewis and Clark's visit in 1804, the Arikara had again moved north and settled in three villages near the Grand River. These villages housed about 2,000 people in 60 earth lodges that belonged to extended families. The round, earth-covered dwellings aroused the interest of Patrick Gass - a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition and former carpenter - enough for him to note their design in his journal.
The Arikara were a horticultural people who raised corn, beans, squash, tobacco and other goods for their own sustenance as well as
trade. They were noted for their special relationship with "Mother Corn", who taught them their knowledge and farming practices as well as their ceremonies. Their success in farming helped balance the power with their neighbors, the numerous but not-farming Teton Sioux, who exchanged dried meat and hides for corn.
In 1823, the Arikara attacked a group of traders led by William Ashley, killing fifteen men. The Arikara may have carried a grudge over the mysterious death of one of their chiefs who traveled to Washington, DC or were angered by being bypassed by the Ashley expedition when they went up river, upsetting the trade balance. Whatever the cause, Ashley was able to convince the army to send out a punitive expedition, In August 1823 Col. Leavenworth lead 230 soldiers, 50 volunteer trappers, and a large contingent of Sioux warriors, perhaps 750, in an attack against the villages. Leavenworth shelled the villages with two batteries of howitzers but failed to aggressively push his overwhelming military advantage. As the result of a truce, the Arikara slipped away during the night. Thus ended the first, large-scale, military-Indian conflict on the Northern Plains.
The Arikara remained at the Grand River until 1832 when they rejoined their kindred, the Pawnee, on the Loup River. In 1837 they journeyed back north, ending up at the Mandan villages on the Knife River in the midst of another smallpox epidemic. Their final move was in 1862 to Like-a-Fishhook Village on Fort Berthold.
Long Soldier Winter Count Icon 1837 - 1838 Small Pox Year
Standing Rock Native American Scenic Byway
On the east side of Fort Yates, overlooking Oahe Reservoir, is the Standing Rock Monument from which the Standing Rock Agency derived its name. According to legend, the stone is the petrification of the Arikara wife of a Dakota man with her child on her back.
The Standing Rock Native American Scenic Byway offers access to authentic history and culture of the Lakota/Dakota people, along with casino entertainment, great food and lodging, and uncrowded outdoor recreation.
Grand vistas present the Missouri River along the same routes traveled by Lewis and Clark, Sakakawea, and Sitting Bull.