The Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, also known as the Three Affiliated Tribes, is located on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in central North Dakota. The reservation stretches across 988,000 acres of wide-open plains and grasslands, and along both sides of the longest river in North America, the majestic Missouri River, or its native name of “Awati.”
Lewis and Clark stayed with the Mandan when they passed through the Upper Missouri region on their expedition to the Northwest, including five months in the winter of 1804–1805. Sakakawea then joined the expedition as an interpreter and native guide. Because of her role in salvaging the expedition, she was honored with an image on the U.S. dollar coin. On the return trip, the expedition brought the Mandan chief Sheheke with them back to Washington, DC.
The native lands of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara people once extended from North Dakota across the Missouri River basin through western Montana and Wyoming. The Mandan, or “Nueta,” were prosperous farmers and traders, noted for their excellent maize cultivation and crafting of Knife River flint. The Hidatsa, or “Nuxbaaga” are considered a parent tribe to the Crow in Montana. The Arikara, or “Sahnish,” lived as a semi-nomadic people on the Great Plains.
The Three Affiliated Tribes perfected the construction of earth lodge homes over hundreds of years of life on the harsh Northern Plains. Today, visitors can experience these sacred structures at the reconstructed Earthlodge Village on the shores of Lake Sakakawea near New Town. Also of interest to adventurers, is Buffalo Ranch, which provides tours and viewing of buffalo in their natural habitat.
Three Affiliated Tribes Museum in New Town serves as a heritage center to display and preserve the history and culture of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara people. In addition, a new MHA Interpretative Center at New Town, North Dakota, will open in the fall of 2020, and dedicated to the Arikara people. The center features ten offices, a 250-seat event room, gift shop, coffee shop, kitchen for preparing traditional meals at events, and a classroom for cultural educational classes such as traditional food, beading, and tanning hides. An outside amphitheater with 500 seating is also under construction.
In addition to the Missouri River, Lake Sakakawea offers excellent opportunities to enjoy the pristine waters of North Dakota. 4 Bears Casino & Lodge operates a yacht charter for public tours and private events, and Mossett Bay features boating, camping, and swimming. Also within the reservation, 760-acre McLean National Wildlife Refuge is managed as part of the Audubon National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
4 Bears Casino & Lodge is a perfect base camp for visitors and offers rooms overlooking Lake Sakakawea, a full-service RV park, and lakeside cabins. Lodge amenities include an indoor pool, jacuzzi, sauna and exercise room. For fine dining, the Bison Room Steakhouse overlooks beautiful Lake Sakakawea and features North Dakota prime beef, fresh seafood flown in daily, and made-from-scratch desserts. Also inside 4 Bears Casino & Lodge, Cache Buffet features soups, salads, entrees and numerous specialty stations, including pizza, pasta and dessert bars. For a quick bite, the Corner Café serves burgers, fries, chicken strip baskets, and more.