On their famous expedition to find a route to the Pacific Ocean in 1804, Lewis and Clark traveled north on the Missouri River from St. Louis, into what is now North Dakota. They set up camp at Four Mile Creek and since at that time, the territory of the Great Sioux Nation reached all the way to present day Wyoming, it is likely they met tribal leaders shortly after they crossed into the state. Later they passed the remains of On-A-Slant Village abandoned in 1781.
When Sioux lands were reduced to the east side of the Missouri River and the South Dakota state line, General Custer and the 7th Cavalry violated the treaty by marching into the Black Hills to find the sought-after gold. When the Sioux did not want to rent their land to the US Government, a series of battles ensued, culminating in the notorious Battle of Little Bighorn, also known as Custer’s Last Stand.
The Sioux resistance to renting the land was led by spiritual leader Sitting Bull, whose gravesite was at Fort Yates, on the Standing Rock Native American National Scenic Byway. Famed for his prophetic visions of battles, he foresaw the outcome of the Battle of Little Bighorn. Sitting Bull survived war, prison, and exile, only to be tragically killed by Indian Agency Police on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. They feared he would support the Ghost Dance, a tribal dance steeped in Christianity, testifying that the second coming of Christ would save the red children, make the world new again, and return the bison to the lands. After Sitting Bull was killed, he was buried right outside Fort Yates and later moved to South Dakota. The Sitting Bull Burial Site State Historic Site is marked by a boulder on a dusty side road two miles west of Hwy-1806.
You’ll learn more of this story along the route of the Byway, as well as other stories of tribal heritage since the corridor lies entirely within the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, spanning 35 miles from Cannon Ball to the South Dakota border. to Cannon Ball, North Dakota. The magnificent vistas and sparkling waters of the Missouri River appear as they would have to Lewis, Clark, Sakakawea, and Sitting Bull. Lewis and Clark stopped along the Byway 14 times and you can too.