Fort Abraham Lincoln – On-A-Slant Village

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Fort Abraham Lincoln, North Dakota

Last week we visited the Custer House, last residence of George Armstrong Custer. If you missed that post, you can read about it here. For this week’s Travel Tuesday, we travel north inside the state park to visit the On-A-Slant Indian Village. The opening photo features the entrances to three earth lodges, replicas that depict the lifestyle of the Mandan Indians. The Mandan people lived on this site for about 200 years, starting around 1575. The lodges were built into natural depressions in the ground, built up from the plentiful wood supplies along the Missouri River. Built on somewhat sloping ground, the location for the village was well protected by natural barriers on three sides. A deep ravine to the south, high bluffs to the west and the river to the east meant attackers would most likely come from the north.

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In the Mandan culture, the woman of the family was responsible for building and maintaining the dome-like structures. Layered with earth and tree trunks, a layer of thatch and finally covered in a layer of earth. A small opening was left at the top center for smoke from the cooking and heating fire to escape. The image above depicts the interior of one of the reconstructed single family lodges. At the left in the photo is a wall of wood covered with an animal skin. This short wall provided some privacy and a windbreak from the open entrance behind. The park charges a $6 per person for the interpretive tour. The tour fee also includes an interpretive tour of the Custer House and is well worth the cost for the narratives as you visit several lodges including the largest community lodge.

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The image above shows the exterior construction of a lodge. During inclement weather, the opening in the ceiling would be covered by a bullboat, the small craft doing double duty when not used for fishing in the nearby Missouri River. The most plentiful wood along the river is cottonwood. The soft wood weathers and breaks down easily requiring the rebuilding of a lodge every six to eight years.

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My wife, Lynn, and I are not tall people, even so, we needed to duck our heads a bit to get under the lowest beam at the interior of the doorways. In the photo above, we are standing in front of the community lodge, the largest of the reconstructed lodges. More about the history of On-a-Slant Village and the Mandan Indian history can be found here.

Next week’s Travel Tuesday will take us to part 3 of our visit to Fort Abraham Lincoln. High on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River, companies B and C of the U.S. Army Sixth Infantry built the first buildings in the fort. Eventually, the Seventh Cavalry buildings were constructed south of the Infantry buildings. More on this story in the final installment of our visit to Fort Abraham Lincoln in Morton County, North Dakota.

More about Fort Abraham Lincoln’s Custer House can be found here.

John Steiner

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13 thoughts on “Fort Abraham Lincoln – On-A-Slant Village

  1. I visited this village when I was living down around Bismarck. Fascinating place. I love to learn how other people made their way, went about their daily lives…

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