North Dakota Eclectics

Historic (1738 A.D. - Present)

Since the early Native American people who were the first to populate the area of North Dakota did not leave a written record, the periods in which they lived are known as the Prehistoric Period.

The Historic period begins with the documented reports of the first Europeans to move into the region.

A Frenchman by the name of Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, the Sieur de la Verendrye, came to the area of North Dakota from Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba in 1741, keeping a journal which became the earliest written record of the people who were living in the area of North Dakota at that time. Thus, this is the year assigned as the beginning of the Historic period.

Europeans began settling North America in the 1500s, but there is no written record of any of them coming to North Dakota before Verendrye, although it is known that the Native American people of the area had obtained goods made in Europe prior to this time, as cloth, metal, and glass were found to be in use among them. These materials also changed the way in which the Native American people lived. Most likely, these goods were obtained through their participation in the trade network that began during prehistoric times. Thus, they had obtained European glass beads, metal pots, sheet metal, axes, knives, and cloth before anyone in the area had ever met a European person.

After 1738, Europeans began to trade directory with the Native North Dakota people, although this developed slowly during the 1700s and early 1800s. French, English and Spanish traders made expeditions to Native villages, trading manufactured goods for meat, furs, and garden crops. The Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara, in turn, traded these manufactured goods to other tribes.

The traders established forts on the northern plains by the 1830s. The local people would bring furs and meat to the forts to trade for manufactured products, and European traders also continued to visit local villages. By then, the United States of America had been established, and traders from this nation also joined the trade network.

This trade network had a large impact on the lifestyle of the Native people along the northern plains. Rather than producing clay pottery, they began using metal pots. Sheet metal was used for arrow and spear points, replacing chipped stone, and glass beads were used rather than porcupine quill decorations on clothing. Cloth replaced the tanned hides formerly used by Native peoples, while they traded their beaver and buffalo hides to the Europeans.

Of Interest