NEW TOWN - Visualize sitting around a fire visiting with family or friends in an earth lodge like the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara people lived in years ago.
People can spend the night there and also go on a trail ride.
Visitors to the Three Affiliated Tribes' Earth Lodge Village have such opportunities available.
Overlooking Lake Sakakawea west of New Town, the Earth Lodge Village, operated by the Three Affiliated Tribes' Tourism Department, has six dome-shaped structures made of logs and earth. A much larger structure is the ceremonial lodge.
There is no charge to visit the Earth Lodge Village, a facility open in the summer months.
However, reservations must be made to stay overnight in the Village in the earth lodges or camping on the site. The large ceremonial lodge also is available by reservation for family gatherings or other special gatherings.
Delphine Baker, with the Tourism Department's Interpretive Center Development, said they have four horses and are doing trail rides from the Village when requested. There is a charge for the trail rides.
On Wednesday, the Boys and Girls Club visited the Village for games and a barbecue rib cookoff. A traditional dance also was held for visiting Russians.
Other plans are in the works for the Village.
Those plans include purchasing kayaks and paddleboats that will be available for rent, said Baker.
"We're also working on getting a pontoon so we can do some lake tours," said Clancie Sorensen, with the Tourism Department who works at the Village.
This is Sorensen's first summer working at the Village. Originally from the Twin Buttes/Halliday area, he now lives at New Town. He has spent most of his life working in education, including working with at-risk youths. After working all over the U.S., he said he's back home on Fort Berthold to work. He said he
likes working for Tourism at the Village and learning more about the Three Affiliated Tribes' history and culture.
Sorensen, who was in the ceremonial lodge on this rainy June day, pointed out items throughout the ceremonial lodge, a 190-square-foot structure with a concrete floor.
Numerous hides bear, deer, etc. were laid out in various areas. Warbonnets and other items were hanging from posts. A large drum stood on one side of the earth lodge.
"The majority of these are buffalo hides and are for sale," he said, indicating a nearby table covered with the hides.
The hides are sold for about $800 and up, Baker said.
A very large photo on one side of the main lodge shows a group of men with one of the men wiping his eyes.
"That was the signing after they had already started flooding our land," said Sorensen, referring to the construction of the Garrison Dam that began in the late 1940s, completed in the mid-1950s and
created Lake Sakakawea.
Lake Sakakawea is the third-largest man-made lake in the United States.The lake is 178 miles long and has more than 1,500 miles of shoreline, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District.
"... all of our fertile valley land was taken away because it was all flooded," Sorensen said. He said Elbowoods, formerly the Fort Berthold Indian agency, was covered with water and a new town was developed. "This was how New Town came to be," he said.
Sorensen planned to build a fire in one of the smaller earth lodges on this day, but had not had time
yet due to the arrival of visitors.
"You see on the top of the roof up there," Sorensen said, pointing to the top of one of the smaller earth lodges nearby.
"That is actually a bull boat which was made from willow and a buffalo hide, and they would use them
in the water to transport goods. When they weren't using it as a boat, they would use it to cover the smoke hole of the earth lodge," he said.
"Every earth lodge has a fire pit in it," Sorensen said, referring to the smaller earth lodges.
"On the outside here we have scaffolds built," he said. He said the scaffolds were used to tan hides
and cure meat. "I imagine they used it for vegetables too, to dry them out," he said. He said after corn, squash, pumpkins and other vegetables were harvested that often they would store them in cache pits, or underground storage areas.
A garden is located near the earth lodges. "Jason Morsette is the one who did most of the work of seeding and tilling the garden, but we all try to help when we can, where we can," Sorensen said.
Metal sculptures on the buttes overlooking the Village were made by metal sculptor Tony Moran.
Others with Tourism involved with the Village include Randy Phelan, tribal tourism director; Darian Morsette, marketing manager; and Amos Hinshaw, Earth Lodge Village groundkeeper.
For more information about the Earth Lodge Village visit (www.mhanation.com), then go to "Departments," then scroll down to "Tribal Tourism" and click on it.
Or call the Tribal Tourism Department at 627-2243.
The Three Affiliated Tribes' Earth Lodge Village is located about 1 1/2 miles west of the 4 Bears
Casino & Lodge, west of New Town. It remains open until about late September.