“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Bismarck in Burleigh County, North Dakota — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)

Double Ditch State Historic Site

Double Ditch State Historic Site Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Connor Olson, November 2, 2019
1. Double Ditch State Historic Site Marker
Inscription.  Double Ditch Indian Village, overlooking the Missouri River, was a large earthlodge village inhabited by Mandan Indians between AD 1490 and 1785. The remains of earthlodges, midden mounds (trash heaps), and two fortification ditches are clearly visible today. Recent investigations revealed two additional fortifications systems not evident on the present ground surface. Along the Missouri River in North and South Dakota, Double Ditch is the most spectacular prehistoric earthlodge village that continues to be well preserved.

Who are the Mandans?

The Mandans are one of the best-known agricultural tribes of the Missouri Valley Region. They developed a rich and elaborate culture based on farming and bison hunting. According to Mandan oral history, Double Ditch was one of seven to nine villages simultaneously occupied near the mouth of the Heart River. The Mandan population in this area probably totaled 10,000 or more during this time.

Why were earthlodge villages important?

Double Ditch was occupied for nearly 300 years. The earthlodge villages were centers of trade between the Mandans, their nomadic

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neighbors, and later, Euroamerican traders. The earliest known direct contact between white traders and the Mandan Indians occurred December 1738 near present-day Bismarck. After 1763 trading between Mandans and Euroamerican traders increased.

Why was Double Ditch abandoned?

A massive smallpox epidemic swept the interior of North America about 1781-1782. This catastrophe was apparently responsible for the abandonment of Double Ditch and all other Mandan villages near the Heart River. By the year 1800 the Mandan population was reduced to perhaps 1,200 individuals. In 1804 Lewis and Clark were traveling upriver and observed a band of Teton Dakotas camping near the abandoned Mandan village. Native American people told Lewis and Clark that the village had been vacant for about twenty-five years. The Mandans had moved to new villages farther upriver.

What happened to the Mandans?

Descendants of the Mandan people who lived at Double Ditch live today on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, farther up the Missouri River near New Town.

Photo captions:
Middle center: Mandan village sites near the Heart River after AD 1490
Lower middle: Timeline showing Double Ditch in relation to other villages and events since AD 1500

Erected by State Historical

Fieldstone shelter at Double Ditch image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Connor Olson, November 2, 2019
2. Fieldstone shelter at Double Ditch
Society of North Dakota.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: ExplorationNative Americans. A significant historical year for this entry is 1490.
Location. 46° 56.189′ N, 100° 54.054′ W. Marker is near Bismarck, North Dakota, in Burleigh County. Marker can be reached from North Dakota Route 1804, on the right when traveling south. Located in fieldstone shelter. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Bismarck ND 58503, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Stone Shelter (here, next to this marker); Homes (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Square Buttes (about 500 feet away); Mandans and the Practice of Farming (about 600 feet away); Archaeological Excavations in 1905 (about 600 feet away); Mandan Origin Stories (about 700 feet away); Final Occupation of Double Ditch (about 800 feet away); Hunting and Gathering (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Bismarck.
Also see . . .  Double Ditch State Historic Site. (Submitted on August 14, 2020, by Connor Olson of Kewaskum, Wisconsin.)
Credits. This page was last revised on August 18, 2020. It was originally submitted on August 14, 2020, by Connor Olson of Kewaskum, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 112 times since then and 31 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on August 14, 2020, by Connor Olson of Kewaskum, Wisconsin. • Mark Hilton was the editor who published this page.

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May. 30, 2023