Northern Plains Tribes - Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site (U.S. National Park Service) (2023)


The Assiniboine tribe (pronounced uh-SIN-uh-boin) was the principal trading partner for Fort Union. In fact, the post was built on land in Assiniboine territory specifically at the tribe's request. Not surprisingly, then, the Assiniboine looked to Fort Union with protective eyes, helping to keep the post safe from occasional hostilities that might erupt among the tribes that came here to trade. To learn more about this Upper Missouri tribe, please see our Assiniboine page.


The Crow Indians were probably the second most common tribe at Fort Union, especially in the early years. The Crows' home was up the Yellowstone River and the south bank of the Missouri was considered the northern limit of their hunting grounds. Bands of Crow people were often found at Fort Union awaiting their turn to trade their buffalo robes, which were in high demand amongst the traders as Crow women were widely held to be the best tanners of prime winter buffalo cow hides.

(Video) Fort Union National Historic Site, North Dakota.

The Crow are also a Siouan-speaking people, but their language is not mutually intelligible with the Sioux language. The Crow are widely held to be a splinter group of the Hidatsa, a riverine tribe covered below. The Crow and the Hidatsa were close allies and were culturally and linguistically similar.


The Blackfeet are often thought of as one tribe however they were actually three closely allied and related tribes, the Piegan, the Blood, and the Blackfoot. For many years the Blackfeet traded almost always with the Hudson's Bay Company of Canada, discouraging (often violently) attempts by American traders and trappers to enter their territory. However, after the construction of Fort Union Kenneth McKenzie made it one of his goals to win over the Blackfeet Indian trade to the American side. To effect this he sent Jaques Berger, a company employee who had lived among the Blackfeet, to bring them to Fort Union. Berger was successful and the Blackfeet began trading with the American Fur Company at Fort Union. Soon, the Company would build Fort McKenzie, and later Fort Benton, closer to Blackfeet territory. Even so, bands of Blackfeet would still occasionally show up at Fort Union to trade and visit with their friends.

The Blackfeet speak an Algonkian language and share some cultural similarities with other Algonkian tribes. For a time they were allied with the Atsina (Gros Ventre), a closely related group of the Arapaho Indians. They were also allied with the small Sarsi tribe of north-central Alberta, Canada.

(Video) WATCH: Historical Fort Has Amazing Fur Trade History

Plains Cree

Like the Blackfeet, the Plains Cree are a Algonkian speaking people. However their language and culture are very different to that of the Blackfeet. At one time the Cree people all dwelled in the forests of Eastern Canada and the United States. During the 1700s bands of the Cree began following the British and French fur traders westward onto the plains. These bands became known as the Plains Cree and adopted the general Plains culture of buffalo hunting and tipi dwelling.

Plains Cree and their close allies, the Plains Chippewa, were often found at Fort Union, especially in the company of their other close ally, the Assiniboine. In the later years at Fort Union the Plains Cree may have been the second most common tribe present, surpassing the Crow.

Plains Chippewa (Ojibwa)

The Plains Chippewa like their allies the Plains Cree, are an Algonkian speaking people. At one time they controlled most of the land around the Great Lakes, but war with other tribes and European settlers gradually forced them westward. By the 1700s many bands of Chippewa had entered modern day North Dakota and Saskatchewan, adopting the Plains lifestyle as they did so.

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The Plains Chippewa (also known as the Ojibwa) frequently traveled with their allies, the Plains Cree and Assiniboine, and were thus often found trading at Fort Union.


Most likely the first "modern" Indian tribe to inhabit the modern-day state of North Dakota, the Mandan are a Siouan speaking people that arrived in the area in the 1400s or 1500s. The Mandan were an earthlodge dwelling people, living in semi-permanent villages and towns along the Missouri River and primarily using hide tipis only when hunting buffalo or otherwise traveling. The Mandan were an agricultural people, growing large gardens of corn, beans, squash, and tobacco.

The Mandan were well known to fur traders by the time Lewis and Clark arrived at their villages in 1804. The Mandan provided Lewis and Clark with important information about the Missouri River further upstream and allowed them to build a small fort for a winter camp near the villages, which the Captains named Fort Mandan in honor of their new friends.

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Also a Siouan speaking group, the Hidatsa (the group from which the Crow split) moved westward into the Upper Missouri Region in the 1600s, encountering the Mandan and arriving prior to the fur traders. The Mandan and Hidatsa were closely allied and during their first meeting the Mandan called them Minitari or Crossing the river. However, their languages are different and they shared limited "Plains" culture traits.

The Hidatsa also provided some information to the Lewis and Clark Expedition, but were not as openly warm as the Mandan were. Whoever, it would be in the Awahtixa village where Lewis and Clark would find Sacagawea and Charboneau. The Hidatsa and Mandan could often be found at Fort Union until the American Fur Company eventually build Fort Clark, and later Fort Berthold, for their trade. In the late 1800s, after Fort Union was closed, a band of Hidatsa, tired of the reservation life and wars with their enemy the Lakota as well as inter-tribal politics, moved their village to the old Fort Union garden in order to be closer to Fort Buford a United States Army post. They would return back to Fort Berthold by the late 1880s.


The Arikara are a semi-sedentary tribe like the Mandans and Hidatsas, however they are more related to the Pawnee and speak a Caddoan language. They were living along the Missouri River in modern-day South Dakota the during the 1700s and had peaceful relationships as well as battles with the Mandan, Hidatsa, and some fur traders. The United States Army in 1823 attacked their main villages in retaliation for an Arikara attack on William H. Ashley's fur trade expedition which sources say began when two trappers crept in to the villages in the middle of the night to find female companionship after a couple of days of trading. After the battle with the United States Army 6th infantry, the Arikara temporarily adopted the nomadic Plains lifestyle. Eventually they returned to their sedentary lifestyle and by the 1830s were again living in villages along the Missouri.

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Following the 1837 smallpox epidemic, which was particularly devastating to the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara, the Arikara allied themselves with the Mandan and Hidatsa in 1862 and moved in with their former neighbors for equal protection from the Lakota. Today, these three tribes are known as the Three Affiliated Tribes.

Sioux or Lakota

The Sioux are made up of three large tribes that share a common language (with only slight dialect differences) and culture. The three divisions are the Dakota, the Nakota, and the Lakota (named here for their dialects). The Eastern Dakota lived mainly in Minnesota though some bands would venture further west onto the Plains following the 1862 Minnesota Uprising War. The Nakota, or Middle Sioux, consisted of the Yankton and Yanktonai, and dwelt in modern-day central North Dakota and eastern South Dakota. The Lakota, or Western Sioux (also known as the Teton Sioux), were the largest Sioux tribal group, made up of seven bands. These seven consisted of the Oglala, Brule, Hunkpapa, Minneconjou, Sans Arcs, Blackfeet (not to be confused with the Blackfeet tribe, above), and Two Kettle. The Lakota inhabited a vast area from the Missouri River west to the Bighorn Mountains and from the Platte River north into the extreme southern parts of the Canadian Plains.

The Lakota did not make an appearance at Fort Union until the 1840s and did not start showing up in large numbers until the late 1850s. By the time Fort Union closed in 1867 the Lakota had moved in in large numbers and taken the territory from the Assiniboine. It was primarily the Hunkpapa Lakota in the Fort Union vicinity, but family groups or individuals from most bands could be found from time to time in the area.

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Who are the northern Plains Indians? ›

Sioux or Lakota

The Nakota, or Middle Sioux, consisted of the Yankton and Yanktonai, and dwelt in modern-day central North Dakota and eastern South Dakota. The Lakota, or Western Sioux (also known as the Teton Sioux), were the largest Sioux tribal group, made up of seven bands.

Who built Fort Union Trading Post? ›

John Jacob Astor (1763-1848), founder of the American Fur Company. Astor's company built Fort Union near the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers' confluence in 1828.

What are the names of the Plains Indian tribe? ›

These include the Arapaho, Assiniboine, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Comanche, Crow, Gros Ventre, Kiowa, Lakota, Lipan, Plains Apache (or Kiowa Apache), Plains Cree, Plains Ojibwe, Sarsi, Nakoda (Stoney), and Tonkawa.

Was the Sioux tribe friendly? ›

These men and their followers were not at peace with the U.S. government or with white settlers at the time of Custer's expedition, nor were they pacifists by inclination or habit. The Sioux or Lakota were a proudly warlike people, and under Sitting Bull's leadership, they had recently clashed with U.S. forces.

What was the most powerful tribe in North America? ›

The rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful tribe in American history.

How do you get Indian benefits? ›

How to Apply: To find out if there is a Tribal TANF program in your county of residence, contact your county social services agency. You may also call or walk into a Tribal TANF Office and apply for services.

What state is Fort Union trading post in? ›

The fort site is about two miles from the confluence of the Missouri River and its tributary, the Yellowstone River, on the Dakota side of the North Dakota/Montana border, 25 miles from Williston, North Dakota.

What time zone is Fort Union trading post? ›

The fort is in the central time zone (North Dakota), and the parking lot is in the mountain time zone (Montana).

Who owns the trading post? ›

The Trading Post was a classified advertisement newspaper first published in Melbourne in 1966, named for the generic concept of a trading post.
Trading Post (newspaper)
FounderCharles Falkiner Margaret Wilkins
First issue1966
Final issue2009
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What is a Native American name for a girl? ›

What are some popular Native American baby girl names? Here at The Bump, we feature a list of some of the most beloved and common Native American baby girls. Cheyanne, Alaska, Denali, Winona, Tallulah and Onida are just a few that top the list.

What are the 3 main Indian tribes? ›

Californian - Tribes living in the area that is today the state of California such as the Mohave and the Miwok. Great Basin - This is a dry area and was one of the last to have contact with Europeans. The Great Basin tribes include the Washo, Ute, and Shoshone.

What are 3 native tribes? ›

Prominent tribes include the Algonquin, Iroquois, Huron, Wampanoag, Mohican, Mohegan, Ojibwa, Ho-chunk (Winnebago), Sauk, Fox, and Illinois.

What are the oldest Native American tribes? ›

The "Clovis first theory" refers to the hypothesis that the Clovis culture represents the earliest human presence in the Americas about 13,000 years ago.

Do they prefer Lakota or Sioux? ›

Many Lakota people today prefer to be called Lakota instead of Sioux, as Sioux was a disrespectful name given to them by their enemies. There are seven bands of the Lakota tribe. In South Dakota, there are four Lakota reservations: Pine Ridge, Rosebud, Standing Rock, and Cheyenne River.

What language do Sioux speak? ›

Sioux is a Siouan language spoken by over 30,000 Sioux in the United States and Canada, making it the fifth most spoken indigenous language in the United States or Canada, behind Navajo, Cree, Inuit languages, and Ojibwe.

What is a cool Native American name? ›

Popular Baby Names, origin Native-American
AhanuHe laughs (Algonquin).Native-American
AhigaHe fights (Navajo).Native-American
AhoteRestless one (Hopi).Native-American
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What do Native Americans prefer to be called? ›

The consensus, however, is that whenever possible, Native people prefer to be called by their specific tribal name. In the United States, Native American has been widely used but is falling out of favor with some groups, and the terms American Indian or Indigenous American are preferred by many Native people.

What is the most popular tribe in America? ›

The Navajo tribe is the most populous, with 308,013 people identifying with the group. The Cherokee tribe is the second most common, with 285,476 Americans identifying with that group. Native Americans in the U.S.

Do Native people get money? ›

The U.S. government officially recognizes 574 Indian tribes in the contiguous 48 states and Alaska. These federally recognized tribes are eligible for funding and services from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, either directly or through contracts, grants, or compacts.

What do Native Americans get for free? ›

Although Native Americans are citizens of their individual tribes or nations, they are also citizens of the United States. This gives all of them the right to a free public education just like any non-native child would attend elementary and secondary school.

Do Native Indians get money? ›

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Financial Assistance and Social Services (FASS) program provides assistance to federally recognized American Indian and AlaskanNative (AI/AN) tribal members in the following ways: General Assistance: Cash assistance to meet essential needs of food, clothing, shelter, and utilities.

Where were trading posts usually located? ›

The locations of trading posts were often associated with nearby Native villages or temporary camps of those who came to trade. 26. American Fur Company Post at Fond du Lac (c. 1816-1842).

What tribe established a trading post and post office? ›

In 1866 after the Civil War Elijah J. Brown, a white trader, was selected by the government to lead Seminole refugees from Kansas to I.T. They settled near the site of Wewoka, and Brown established a trading post. He served as postmaster when the post office was established on May 13, 1867.

What is a trade fort? ›

Trading forts. Europeans built forts as trading bases along the West African coast; they temporarily housed enslaved Africans until they were loaded onto ships.

What are the bases for time zones? ›

There are 24 hours in a day, and 360 degrees of longitude encompassing the globe – dividing 360 by 24 gives you the 15 degrees of longitude that equates to a one-hour difference in each time zone. Based on this, you can then deduce that there are 24 time zones around the world.

What states are on PDT? ›

North America
  • California.
  • Idaho - western counties Show. Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Clearwater, Kootenai, Latah, Lewis, Nez Perce, Shoshone and north part of Idaho.
  • Nevada.
  • Oregon - except most of Malheur county.
  • Washington.

Which states follow PDT? ›

It runs through several U.S. states, including California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. It also passes through Canada in the North, and Mexico in the South.

What were trading posts used for? ›

Typically the location of the trading post would allow people from one geographic area to trade in goods produced in another area. In some examples, local inhabitants could use a trading post to exchange local products for goods they wished to acquire.

What is inside a trading post? ›

A trading post was a general store where furs could be traded, but it wasn't only that. It was also a storehouse for the furs, a workshop where some of the trading items were made (axes, for example) and living quarters. In some places it also served to defend the colony against enemies.

What is a trading post company? ›

trading post. noun. : a station or store of a trader or trading company established in a thinly settled region where local products (as furs) are exchanged for manufactured goods. Last Updated: 4 Jan 2023 - Updated example sentences.

What is the #1 name for a girl? ›

Top 5 Names in Each of the Last 100 Years
YearRank 1Rank 4
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What is the best girl name to have? ›

Top 1,000 Baby Girl Names of 2021
  • Olivia.
  • Emma.
  • Charlotte.
  • Amelia.
  • Ava.
  • Sophia.
  • Isabella.
  • Mia.
Aug 12, 2022

What is the rarest Indian tribe? ›

The Sentinelese are an uncontacted tribe living on North Sentinal Island, one of the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean. They vigorously reject all contact with outsiders.

What is the biggest Indian tribe? ›

Tribal groupTotalAmerican Indian/Alaska Native alone
American Indian tribes
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What are the five major tribes? ›

Background on the Dawes Commission

The Dawes Act of February 8, 1887 marks a turning point in determining tribal citizenship. This Act developed a Federal commission tasked with creating Final Rolls for the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma (Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks, and Seminoles).

Do native tribes believe in God? ›

We further believe that many of our Native traditions affirm the presence of God, our need for right relationship with our Creator and the world around us, and a call for holy living.

Can you be apart of two Native American tribes? ›

Each tribe sets its own requirement for tribal membership. Generally speaking, a person can only be a member of one tribe even if they meet the qualifications of more than one Indian nation, according to a research paper by Carol N.

Which is the largest tribe? ›

The Santhal are the largest and one of the oldest tribes in India, They are spread across Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal.

What is the oldest human tribe? ›

A new genomic study has revealed that Aboriginal Australians are the oldest known civilization on Earth, with ancestries stretching back roughly 75,000 years.

What bloodline is Native American? ›

Genetically, Native Americans are most closely related to East Asians and Ancient North Eurasian. Native American genomes contain genetic signals from Western Eurasia due in part to their descent from a common Siberian population during the Upper Paleolithic period.

What is the oldest tribe today? ›

Collectively, the Khoikhoi and San are called the Khoisan and often called the world's first or oldest people, according to the biggest and most detailed analysis of African DNA.

What race is Lakota? ›

The Lakota (pronounced [laˈkˣota]; Lakota: Lakȟóta/Lakhóta) are a Native American people. Also known as the Teton Sioux (from Thítȟuŋwaŋ), they are one of the three prominent subcultures of the Sioux people. Their current lands are in North and South Dakota.

What is black in Lakota? ›

In Lakota culture, black denotes honor, respect, adulthood. It also acknowledges the wind, water, the lightning and thunder that reside in the west. All of this is called Wakinyan (of the air) and it does not mean merely “thunderbird.” Wearing black face paint is earned by a warrior.

What race is Sioux? ›

The Sioux or Oceti Sakowin (/suː/; Dakota: Očhéthi Šakówiŋ /otʃʰeːtʰi ʃakoːwĩ/) are groups of Native American tribes and First Nations peoples in North America.

What is Lakota for white man? ›

Wasicu is currently used in the Lakota language for white people as well as for the English language. In Dakhótiyapi, Waṡicu iapi means the English language. In current usage, waṡicu is used for "white man" and waṡicu ha sapa for "African-American".

How do you say God in Lakota? ›

In Lakota spirituality, Wakan Tanka (Standard Lakota Orthography: Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka) is the term for the sacred or the divine.

What is the Sioux word for hello? ›

In Sioux, hello is hau, pronounced /how/; however, it is a greeting only used by males. The equivalent used by females is han. These greeting can also signify 'yes'.

Where did Northern American Indians come from? ›

The ancestors of the American Indians were nomadic hunters of northeast Asia who migrated over the Bering Strait land bridge into North America probably during the last glacial period (11,500–30,000 years ago). By c. 10,000 bc they had occupied much of North, Central, and South America.

What were the Plains Indian tribes known for? ›

They were as culturally varied as the European immigrants who settled the North American continent. Some of these tribes were mobile, ranging over a large region in pursuit of bison. Many were also raiders, stealing horses and various goods from other tribes.

What are the 3 main Native American groups? ›

Tribal groupTotalAmerican Indian/Alaska Native alone
Latin American Indian1180,940106,204
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Where did Northern Native Americans come from? ›

About 25,000 years ago, Native Americans' ancestors split from the people living in Siberia. Later, they moved across a land bridge connecting Siberia and Alaska, making it into the Pacific Northwest between 17,000 and 14,000 years ago.

Do Native Americans pay taxes? ›

Members of a federally recognized Indian tribe are subject to federal income and employment tax and the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), like other United States citizens.

What DNA is Native American? ›

Genetically, Native Americans are most closely related to East Asians and Ancient North Eurasian. Native American genomes contain genetic signals from Western Eurasia due in part to their descent from a common Siberian population during the Upper Paleolithic period.

What animal was sacred to the Plains Indians? ›

Daily life and ceremonies revolved around the sacred respect the Plains Indians had for the bison -- or Pte Oyate. Pte Oyata means buffalo nation or people, and pte means cow and is the root word for many buffalo terms. Bison were a symbol of life and abundance.

What religion are Plains Indians? ›

The Plains Indians believed in 'Wakan Tanka' the Great Spirit who created the world and all that lived. Everything had equal value and importance. Dances were used when the whole tribe needed to contact the spirits.

What language did the Plains natives speak? ›

Thus the speakers of Algonquian languages included the Blackfoot, Arapaho, Atsina, Plains Cree, and Saulteaux (Plains Ojibwa), all in the northern Plains, while Cheyenne, also an Algonquian language, was spoken in the central Plains.

Do Native Americans get money from the government? ›

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Financial Assistance and Social Services (FASS) program provides assistance to federally recognized American Indian and AlaskanNative (AI/AN) tribal members in the following ways: General Assistance: Cash assistance to meet essential needs of food, clothing, shelter, and utilities.

How do Native Americans get their names? ›

In our culture, traditionally, one was not named at birth. We were gifted a name at an appropriate age based off of elements specific to the that person. This could include (but not limited to) significant happenings to or by the person, or characteristics that define the person.

What is the richest Native American tribe? ›

Wealthy: Members of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Tribe are the richest American Indians in the nation, thanks to $1million annual payouts to each member. Lucrative: The Mystic Lake Casino Hotel includes five restaurants, a 600-room hotel, convention center, 2,100 seat showroom, 8,350 seat amphitheater and a golf course.

Does Native American show up on ancestry DNA? ›

Different DNA tests may produce different results

One testing service may show that you have Indigenous American DNA, while another testing service doesn't. The AncestryDNA test surveys over 700,000 locations in your DNA, but there is still a chance that we missed evidence of Indigenous American DNA.

What race did Native American come from? ›

Previous genetic work had suggested the ancestors of Native Americans split from Siberians and East Asians about 25,000 years ago, perhaps when they entered the now mostly drowned landmass of Beringia, which bridged the Russian Far East and North America.

What genetic disorders are common in Native Americans? ›

Native American Myopathy (NAM) is a genetic disease as well as a genetic disorder caused by a unique gene mutation that almost exclusively effects American Indians. Myopathy is the general term that oversees both a large and diverse group of diseases that can all be defined as a muscle disease.


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