Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara
Traditional Culture
  Who's Who
Since Time Immemorial
All My Relations
Village Life & the Turning of the Seasons
Great River
Eagle Trapping
References Cited

  Contemporary Culture
  Arts and Artists
Recommended Web Sites

  Relationship with U.S.
  Intertribal Trade
The Fur Trade
Story of a Medal
Making Treaties
The Shrinking Reservation
References Cited

Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Land Cessions
Federal man and Old Dog.
Photo courtesy of Three Tribes Museum.
Surveyor for allotment and Old Dog.
Photo courtesy of Three Tribes Museum.
Map of Crow-flies-high
Village near Ft. Buford.

Drawn by Goodbird (Wilson: 1929).
Black Hawk, sub-chief of
Crow-Flies-High band.

Photo courtesy of Calvin Grinnell, Black-Hawk's great-great grandson, and the Three Tribes Museum.

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Calvin Grinnell
Where the old trail ends near the shore of Lake Sakakawea.
A 1942 North Dakota map showing the old #8 highway and Fort Berthold reservation

Knife River > Culture > The Shrinking Reservation
Old Dog's Allotment
Old Dog was born in 1850 at Like-a-Fishhook Village. His parents, Many Bears and Sweet Grass, from the Hidatsa village at Knife River, had survived the 1837 smallpox epidemic.
Old Dog in Fox Society dress
Photo courtesy Three Tribes Museum.

Old Dog's era symbolizes the tremendous changes and near extinction of the Hidatsa and Mandan people in the 1800's. Once a numerous people, only a few, less than 1,100, remained after "the sickness" had run its course. The survivors re-established their village in 1844-45 at a place called Like-a-Fishhook, about 50 miles upstream.

The buffalo were fast disappearing and attacks by the Sioux against the weakened Mandan and Hidatsa increased. In 1851, the Treaty of Fort Laramie was negotiated and the Three Tribes signed as parties to the agreement. This agreement defined the boundaries of the land to which the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara claimed title and was also to provide much needed annuities ($50,000) for a period of 50 years. This provision was later changed to 10 years.

In the 1870's, the US Government made an attempt to relocate the Fort Berthold Indians to Indian Territory. Tribal leaders who looked at the land in what is now Okahoma would have no part of this plan. Although removal to Indian Territory was thwarted, the gradual erosion of tribal land ownership continued.


Old Dog's allotment document
Courtesy of Calvin Grinnell
In 1891, the first 949 allotments of land were made to the Fort Berthold Indians. Old Dog received Allotment No. 253, 160 acres of land located north of the Missouri River about 1 mile from the community of Elbowoods.
Old Dog and his wife, Many Dances, along with other Fort Berthold families, soon established farming and ranching operations. His son, Martin Old Dog, inherited this land after Old Dog's death in 1928. The land was productive and for a period of about 55 years it sustained the family's farming and ranching operation. In the mid-1950's this allotment, along with many others along the Missouri River, became covered with waters from the Garrison Dam. image
Martin Cross Sr. bales hay from the last harvest before his land is flooded by the Garrison Dam.
Photo courtesy Three Tribes Museum.
The Real Site of Fishook Village, by Martin Bears Arm, courtesy of State Historical Society of North Dakota 799 Old Dog was born in earthlodge No. 50 and lived there until he moved to Allot. No. 253, about 20 miles to the Northwest.
Story of a Village
The following story of Crow-Flies-High Village is excerpted from Carling Malouf's research, conducted before the flooding of the village sites (Malouf: 1963).

"The history of Crow-Flies-High Village began early in the 1870s. There was a Hidatsa chief named Heart, or Crow-Flies-High, who lived at Like-A-Fishhook Village, better known now as Fort Berthold. This was the economic, political, and military center of the combined Arikara, Mandan, and Hidatsa tribes, and this chief was one of the leaders of the community.

These were difficult times at Fort Berthold. The buffalo herds were depleted, and the remnants were hundreds of miles to the west. Government assistance was inadequate, the Indian gardens were small, and much damage was being caused by the rigorous climate, grasshoppers, and worms (Sperry, 1874, p.242). Besides, the Dakota Indians were hostile, and several villagers had been killed by them. …Diseases also took a heavy toll of life. Nearly half of the Indians, according to Sperry, were actually living off the reservation, "serving as scouts at military posts hereabouts, hunting for game, visiting friends among other tribes, or making winter quarters at various places between Forts Buford and Peck, where the conditions for getting a living during the winter" were more favorable then they were nearer home (ibid., p.242). …But in general, the outlook for the future seemed bleak, indeed, and Hidatsa social organization was showing signs of deterioration.

Finally a decision was made, and about 1870 they moved upstream The official version of this movement was given a few years later by an Indian agent:

"This band of Indians under the leadership of Crow Flies High, quite a noted Gros Ventre character, separated from the bands of Arikarees, Gros Ventres, and Mandans of this place several years ago, owing to a disagreement on the part of Crow Flies High and the present Gros Ventre chief in regard to the elevation of the former to the distinguished honor of chieftainship. Being defeated in his ends, Crow Flies High and his followers to Fort Buford, 120 miles west of here, and remained there." image
Crow Flies High
Photo courtesy Three Tribes Museum

After leaving Fort Berthold, the band moved upstream along the Missouri River, settling near Fort Buford. Two earthlodges were constructed in the settlement, one by Bobtail Bull, a Mandan, and the other by Bull Head. The others constructed cabins. There was no "dance hall" erected in this village, but if an earthlodge was needed for a ceremony, one of the two existing structures was used. Crow-Flies-High remained as chief of the exile band, while Black Hawk acted as an assistant. Many Antelopes replaced Crow-Flies-High as military chief at Like-A-Fishhook Village. Bobtail bull, incidentally, was also regarded as a chief of the exiles. The informants denied that any of these persons possessed important medicine bundles.

Once they had left the reservation they were no longer able to obtain Government aid, rations, or equipment. For nearly 25 years the band had to be self-sustaining. At first they were able to provide for themselves with bison and other game animals, but later, when these sources of food and supplies were gone, they had to rely more on farming and on other means of getting a livelihood. Early during their exile they were attacked by hostile war parties. Once an enemy group stole some of their horses. A party of Hidatsa warriors went in pursuit and in the conflict which followed, Two Bulls was killed. Soon afterward they were able to kill three men of the enemy party in revenge. Relationships with the Army staff at Fort Buford were apparently satisfactory at first. Among the exiles, Crow-Flies-High was elevated to military chief, the position he had lost to Many Antelopes at Like-A-Fishhook Village.
The Indian settlement at Fort Buford was not occupied continuously because it was primarily a winter camp and base for their hunting expeditions. During many of the summers they occupied Crow-Flies-High Village, where they grew crops. From their Fort Buford camp, however, they traveled north, west, and south in search of game. Often they traveled up the Yellowstone River, past Glendive, Mont., and as far upstream as Miles City. Sometimes when up the Yellowstone, they crossed overland to the Little Missouri, then moved downstream to the Missouri River proper. This was just one of several hunting routes they followed when in search of game.

Crow-Flies-High Village, at best, seems to have had a net occupation of nearly ten years.

The original reasons for the exodus were more or less forgotten over the decades. Instead, new obstacles faced them in making an adjustment to reservation life. They chose to remain away rather then conform to the program of integration which was being followed by government officials. If they returned to the reservation, for example, they would have had to give up their children to go to school, and they would have been required to assume an allotment of land and its cultivation.

In 1889 an Indian agent, Thomas H. B. Jones, and Col. W. W. Junkin met with Crow-Flies-High and discussed the return of his band to the reservation. Jones (1889, p. 174) reported the meeting thus:

We held council with Crow-Flies-High, with a view of obtaining his consent to the adoption, by his tribe, of the civilized pursuits of the other Indians, and to the advisability of placing all their children of school age in school the coming fall, or as soon as the Catholic Mission school (now under course of construction) should be complete. After four hours' argument and persuasion, I am happy to report that we succeeded in getting his consent. These Indians will take up allotments, and commence farming the same, as soon as they can be supplied with sufficient agricultural implements.

Crow-Flies-High's band was still widely scattered up and down both sides of the Missouri River in 1894, when it was finally decided to move back onto the reservation. For a quarter of a century they had been without government assistance, and besides, Whites had appropriated much of the land, further reducing their chances of making a living.

The Indian Agent, an Army Captain, boastfully announced to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs: "It is a source of gratification that the band of Crow-Flies-High was forced upon the reservation in the spring of 1894…"" (Clapp, 1895, p. 232). There is no real evidence except the assertion of Captain Clapp that force was necessary to make the Indians return to the reservation. At least part of the military escort consisted of Indian scouts who belonged to the Indian band.

At Tobacco Creek, a few miles above Newtown, they were all reunited as a band for the first time in many years. At this time Crow-Flies-High relinquished his chieftainship in favor of a younger man. He knew that he would not live much longer, so he began to examine the qualifications of several prospective successors in his own clan. Finally he decided to support a more distant kinsman, Long Bear, as his choice for chief. After this, the band formed a long column which moved southward toward the reservation, traveling along the north bank of the Missouri River. Rufus Stevenson, who was then a mere lad, still remembers seeing the long line of Red River carts (a two-wheeled vehicle), pack and saddle horses, and travois wending their way toward the reservation. The arrival date is given as April 2, 1894 (Clapp, 1984, p. 222).

When they reached the reservation most of them settled near the mouth of Shell Creek, southeast of Newtown, N. Dak. One final earthlodge was built there.

Chief Crow-Flies-High died of pneumonia in 1900" (Richards, 1900, p. 315) (Malouf: 1963).

After the Dam

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Edwin Benson talks about his memories of the river before Garrison Dam.
Elbowoods flooding, 1954
Photos courtesy Three Tribes Museum
North Dakota Highway NO. 8

ND Highway No. 8 was the main road through Elbowoods, connecting Mountrail, McLean and Dunn Counties. It was identified by a square black and white highway sign bearing an Indian head with the number 8. Highway 8 followed section lines and the reservation line from north to south. The reservation line was a barbed wire fence with iron posts painted green and white. Highway 8 entered the reservation from the north coming down Grinnell Hill about 5 miles north of Elbowoods.

At this point, a panoramic view of the timber, fields and grasslands surrounding Elbowoods and the Missouri River could be seen. The highway continued past Elbowoods, around the bend near what used to be called the Sheep Pasture and then across the Four Bears Bridge. The road then passed Guimont's store in Dunn County and began a steep ascent up Four Bears' Hill to the upland on to Halliday.

One of the familiar summer sights in Elbowoods on Highway 8 was John Welch, an old man with white hair who mowed the highway grass with a horse-drawn mower. He began his job in Parshall mowing the west side of Highway 8 with 4 work horses - two horses pulled the mower and two were tethered behind the mower. He camped along the way in yards of nearby homes. He mowed as far as the Four Bears Bridge and then turned and mowed the other side working his way back to Parshall. This job took several weeks to complete. - Marilyn Hudson

Background photo of the Four Bears Bridge by Sonja Schierle, Linden Museum, Stuttgart.