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.



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    Wow, these look amazing! I’ve been under the impression that the dakotas don’t exist because I’ve never met anyone from there! I was planning on just going to South dakota to see Mt Rushmore, but I think I’ll add North dakota to my list now, thanks!

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      Native American Tribes have joined forces to promote tribal tourism so they can share their heritage and History. Cultural tourism is booming right now because more and more travelers appreciate the experience and the contact with locals 🙂

  4. 6

    What a cool way to explore North Dakota! I never think about doing cultural tourism within my own country, and your post has given me some new ideas for domestic travel. I love the idea of doing a fully immersive experience, or learning more about indigenous dance.

    • 7

      We never think about our own backyard, especially when it comes to tribal tourism experiences like these! I’m glad I’m giving you more ideas 🙂

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    Super cool! I would love to experience such a distinct culture first hand. I would also love to experience how they hunt buffalo. Thanks for sharing. Sad when I went here I did get to experience some of these cultural activities.

  8. 14

    This looks like susch a great experience! My best friends family is from a farm in North Dakota and this has me wanting to go back and visit with her! Thank you!

  9. 16

    Great piece! I love the pictures of the man dancing with his colorful outfit. I wish I knew more about Native American culture and it’s really cool that you got to have such a unique and informative experience. Learning other cultures is so important to build understanding

    • 17

      It’s a diverse culture but I know the main points are the respect for nature and Earth, with a big focus on community and well-being.

  10. 18

    This seems like SUCH an amazing experience! I know absolutely nothing about North Dakota (except that it’s north of South Dakota…maybe?) and so had no idea of any of the culture or history of the state. I’ve read blogs about people visiting certain tribal regions in the States just to look at their way of life from the outside, as an attraction and not a learning experience, but that idea doesn’t quite sit right with me! I much prefer the stance and idea of these — truly learning about the history and culture and not just as a holiday visit. I especially like the sound of 1, 3 and 4!

    • 19

      Your geography is right, Rhiannon! It also borders with Canada 🙂 The goal is for the experiences to be as immersive as possible and I believe they’re on the right track!

  11. 20

    Oh this looks like a wonderful way to experience native culture. I’d love to see the bison in person. I can only imagine wht it would have been like to rely on the hunting and survival of the bison for your own survival

    • 21

      Definitely, Jean! There is so much we don’t know about native culture that we need to put the word out that these experiences exist now.

  12. 22

    OMG! That’s something totally new to me that I haven’t seen in any travel blog so far! Meeting the indigenous locals and tribes of any place is something I always like to do. I still haven’t been to the American continent though. But when I plan, I’ll surely go here. Those native huts in the village looks so true to nature!!!

    • 23

      I’m always willing to share local cultural events. I find them to be very important for the communities and their cultural identity. And, indeed, it’s not every day you see the topic of tribal tourism on travel blogs 🙂

  13. 24

    I found this post to be incredibly informative and eye opening! Having grown up in Minnesota, I had NO idea that this type of tourism existed. It seems like such a great way to better understand Native American culture and traditions. I would jump at the opportunity to have an experience like this one day – especially camping at Earthlodge Village!

  14. 26

    I didn’t know that North Dakota is promoting Tribal cultural experiences. So little is known about the Native Americans. I myself love to explore the tribal cultures of my country India.

    • 27

      They are indeed, Abhinav, but I think most people when they think tribal tourism they think of countries in Asia or Africa. North Dakota Tourism is focusing a lot on their native heritage, which I think is great.

  15. 28

    Thank you for sharing this. I would love to visit some of the local tribes and learn more about their culture. On my recent trip to iran I visited a nomadic tribe, the Qashkai, which I found to be an Incredible and educational experience. There is so much we can learn from the People living Close to nature. Great post 🙂

    • 29

      Thank you so much Torgeir! I love how their values are community-based (and also the connection to nature) even if their tribes are different. So much to learn from them, indeed.

  16. 30

    North Dakota is one of the few states I haven’t yet visited in the US, I will visit because I want to visit all 50. This is the first article I’ve read on North Dakota, I had no idea of the Native American Tribes up there or the Tribal Tourism and I’ve put it on my list of things to do list. If you had showed me the picture of the Knife River Indian Village, I would never have guessed it was in the US! I love how the tribes dress up, this makes for brilliant people photography!

    • 31

      I’m glad I could inspire you to visit North Dakota and experience tribal tourism. The Native Americans associations are committed to sharing their culture with visitors and I’m glad I can help to spread the word.

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    Thank you Suzanne! I’m glad North Dakota Tourism’s message is getting across. Obviously the current events raise some concerns but we can’t ignore the amazing legacy in the region too. There needs to be a balance between it all.

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      I know, right? It’s amazing all the new activities and experiences that cultural tourism can bring. Tribal tourism is definitely opening doors into a new dimension 🙂

  20. 37

    It would be interesting to visit and learn more about the local tribes! I like the traditional clothing. Learning about buffalo hunting would be fascinating too!

    • 38

      It was so hard to narrow down all the possible experiences to these 8. I especially love their sense of community and respect for ancient cultural practices. Super important these days.

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    • 40

      Thank you, Chandrika! The world is a beautiful places with so much to uncover. Hope you make it to North Dakota one day to experience these tribal tourism cultural experiences 🙂

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