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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Bismarck in Burleigh County, North Dakota — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
 

Bullboats

 
 
Bullboats Marker image. Click for full size.
By Connor Olson, November 2, 2019
1. Bullboats Marker
Inscription.  Bullboats, round-bottomed watercrafts, were used by the Mandans, Hidatsas, and Arikaras to transport goods and people along waterways. Bullboats were indispensable for river traffic and for hauling loads of driftwood for cooking and heating fires. They were made by stretching a bison hide over a framework of pliable wood, such as willow or ash, creating a watertight vessel. The bullboats were constructed so that the hide runs length-wise along the bottom of the frame to avoid friction against the water. Generally one person would kneel or sit in the front of the boat and use a single paddle to direct the bullboat forward. If two people were traveling, they might sit side by side and paddle as if in a canoe.

When not in use, bullboats were removed from the water and placed in the shade or taken into an earthlodge. When unprotected from the sun or wind, the bullboat could warp or the hide covering could split.

Owl-woman, a Mandan born about 1840, demonstrated the process of constructing a bullboat to Gilbert Wilson, anthropologist, and Edward Goodbird, Hidatsa, in the early 1900s. This series of photos illustrates the process.

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Captions:
Edward Goodbird, Hidatsa, and a woman paddle in their bullboat, circa 1909.
Owl-woman and her daughter Many-growths build the framework for a bullboat.
Owl-woman and her daughter Many-growths trim the hide covering and attach the hide to the frame. The green hide was tied tightly over the completed frame with the hair of the hide on the outer side.
Constructed bullboat with paddle. Owl-woman reported to Gilbert Wilson that once the hide covering was attached to the frame it would dry in the sun for three days with its interior facing the sun. During this time it was protected from rain.

 
Erected by State Historical Society of North Dakota.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Native AmericansWaterways & Vessels.
 
Location. 46° 56.354′ N, 100° 54.139′ W. Marker is in Bismarck, North Dakota, in Burleigh County. Marker can be reached from Double Ditch Loop. 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. Hunting and Gathering (within shouting distance of this marker); Potande and the Mandan Fishery (within shouting distance of this marker); Glaciation and Forming the Missouri River Trench (about 400 feet away, measured in a
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direct line); Mandan Origin Stories (about 400 feet away); Mandans and the Practice of Farming (about 500 feet away); Square Buttes (approx. 0.2 miles away); Double Ditch State Historic Site (approx. 0.2 miles away); Stone Shelter (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Bismarck.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on January 15, 2021. It was originally submitted on January 10, 2021, by Connor Olson of Lemmon, South Dakota. This page has been viewed 40 times since then. Photo   1. submitted on January 10, 2021, by Connor Olson of Lemmon, South Dakota. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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Feb. 24, 2021