Tribal Tourism in North Dakota: Top Cultural Experiences

Photo credit: North Dakota Tourism

There is no stronger bond between strangers than the one we realize through travel. No matter how distinct our backgrounds or how differently we do something as mundane as cooking a meal, the realization we get from observing others like us in their cultural environment is priceless. This is the basis of cultural travel and North Dakota Tourism is harnessing the power of that experience through Tribal Tourism.

When visiting North Dakota make sure to include on your must-do list the rich cultural experiences that are made possible through tribal tourism, courtesy of the North Dakota Native American Tribes. These are some of my favorite tribal tourism cultural experiences to have in North Dakota.


Photo credit: North Dakota Tourism

1. Experience community life and embrace tradition during a powwow

Traditionally, these religious celebrations of dance and singing happened during the spring to welcome the new season and the signs of prosperity it often brings. Today, you can experience a powwow throughout the whole year and learn about this fascinating display of culture and tradition.

Make sure you check the dates for upcoming events so you don’t miss the chance to witness one of the most popular displays of the local culture.


Photo credit: North Dakota Tourism

2. Learn more about the technique of hunting buffalos in a Buffalo Trails Tour

Although these days the relationship between the local communities and the buffalos is a peaceful and respectful one, in the 1800’s these formidable beasts meant survival for the Native American tribes settled in North Dakota.

A Buffalo Trails Tour not only gives you the chance to admire the spectacular natural scenery of the Northern Plains, but it allows you to uncover the history behind each landmark. Admiring buffalos in their natural habitat is also possible, as long as you keep a safe distance and respect the animals’ space.

Knife River Indian Villages Earthlodge KnifeRivertribal-tourism-cultural-experiences-north-dakota

Photo credit: North Dakota Tourism

3. Travel back in time to an old village at the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site

Once one of the major Native American trade centers, Knife River today gives you the opportunity to have a rare look into the lives of Native Americans as it was in the 18th century.

The diverse environment allowed them to settle in villages located very close to one another, where neighborly life was possible despite the differences in values, dialect, and customs. Truly an experience we must learn from and carry forward to present day.

At the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, you get to see the remains of three Hidatsa villages and learn more about how they connected with one another and how they lived their daily lives.

Earthlodge Vilalage at New Town-tribal-tourism-cultural-experiences-north-dakota

Photo credit: North Dakota Tourism

4. Have a fully immersive experience at the Earthlodge Village at New Town

What better way to experience life as it was for Native Americans in the past than to camp in a traditional earthlodge? That is exactly what you will have at the Earthlodge Village at New Town (on the north shore of Lake Sakakawea).

Owned, built, and maintained by women, the traditional Hidatsa earthlodges, now reconstructed in this village, are a remarkable symbol of the family’s values and a very impressive way to creatively use the materials the region had to offer into a functional and comfortable home.

5. Follow the interpretative trail at the Chief Lookings’ Village in Bismarck

Whether you decide to have a picnic surrounded by drop-dead gorgeous natural landscapes or simply admire what the locals consider the best view in Bismarck, Chief Lookings’ Village is a must-see place.

Explore the park as you learn more about the History of the area walking the interpretative trail.


Photo credit: North Dakota Tourism

6. Unveil 600 million years of History at the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum

The state museum highlights all historical periods of North Dakota but the fascinating one, when it comes to tribal tourism, is the one that tells the tale of the Early Peoples who first arrived here over 13,000 years ago.

At the Innovation Gallery, you can wander through the comprehensive exhibits to find out more about the lives and culture of the North Dakota Native Americans, their most relevant cultural expressions and the thousands of languages the Early Peoples used to communicate, an important foundation for cultural identities.


Photo credit: North Dakota Tourism

7. Uncover the History of the Three Affiliated Tribes, the oldest in North Dakota

The Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes consider themselves to be living in North America since the beginning of time. These Three Affiliated Tribes share cultural traits and History, but they have managed to stay diverse and distinct from one another.

Learning about these three tribes at the Three Affiliated Tribes Museum is the perfect way to glimpse the cultural complexity of the Native Americans.

8. Shatter preconceptions about the early days of the tribes at the On-A-Slant Mandan Indian Village

Through time, people who are not familiar with the singularities of the different tribes of Native Americans tend to build an image of them as a group of nomadic hunters and gatherers. But, as you will understand at the On-A-Slant Mandan Indian Village, that was not always the case.

The Mandan settled for a sedentary life as they sustained themselves through agriculture. Per the archeological data, this village is thought to have been established in the late 16th century. It was later discovered by Lewis and Clark in 1804, abandoned and practically destroyed, following a smallpox epidemic that hit the tribe some 20 years earlier.

Today, what remains of the village is crucial for archeologists to learn and document the early years of the Mandan society and culture.

Bull Boat at Knife River Indian Villages-tribal-tourism-cultural-experiences-north-dakota

Photo credit: North Dakota Tourism

If you have experienced any of these tribal tourism cultural experiences in North Dakota, please share your thoughts with me in the comments below. If you know someone who is planning to have tribal tourism cultural experiences on their next visit to North Dakota make sure they don’t miss out and share this post with them!  

This post was sponsored by North Dakota Tourism.

If you enjoyed this post, subscribe to Tripper’s newsletter to receive the latest blog posts in your inbox. Because Tripper strives to be GDPR-compliant, for detailed information about the monthly newsletter and how to subscribe please read this page.