Collections from North Dakota National Parks

National Park Service, Centennial One Object Exhibit

In celebration of the National Park Service Centennial in 2016, this exhibit showcases one object from every national park museum collection in North Dakota. We invite you to explore museum collections from Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site, Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Without artwork like the Swiss artist Karl Bodmer’s Fort Union on the Missouri, Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site would not exist today and the nation might not have a National Park Service (NPS). Circulated widely in the middle 1800s, prints of paintings by Bodmer and his contemporary George Catlin transformed people’s attitudes toward the Great Plains. This Bodmer painting is Fort Union’s most famous, and but one of many he made while touring the Upper Missouri with his employer, German naturalist Prince Maximilian of Wied. With assistance from the American Fur Company, which owned Fort Union, Bodmer and Maximilian produced the most thorough ethnographic record of the Upper Missouri tribes from the 1800s, including the Assiniboine shown here trading and camping at Fort Union in 1833. At Fort Union, Native Americans traded bison robes, beaver pelts, and other furs for imported manufactured goods such as cloth and guns, which transformed the Plains Indians’ cultures and lifeways. This confluence of cultures at the country’s longest operating fur trade post (1828–1867) inspired Congress to establish the national historic site in 1966 and later to fund reconstruction of the post. Bodmer’s painting proved vital to historians and architects who reconstructed the post between 1987 and 1993, as did the extensive 1980s archeological excavations that recovered hundreds of thousands of fort-era artifacts that are now curated at the park. Combined with archeological discoveries, these illustrations provided the evidence needed to design and build the most accurate reconstruction possible.

Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site, FOUS 2761

Unearthed through archeological excavations, pottery reveals glimpses into everyday life of the Hidatsa Indians who occupied the present-day Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site.

Only women could purchase the rights to own the sacred knowledge of pottery making. Pottery making was usually practiced in the privacy of the earthlodge.

Located on the Knife River in west-central North Dakota, the village now known as Lower Hidatsa was inhabited from the 1600s until the smallpox epidemic of 1782.

Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site


Theodore Roosevelt's interest in hunting brought him to North Dakota in 1883. Roosevelt could not have imagined how his hunting adventures in this unfamiliar environment would forever alter the course of his life. This genuine Roosevelt artifact represents his love for hunting.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, THRO 83

Credits: Story

Park museum staff from: Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site, Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

National Park Service, Museum Management Program Staff: Amber Dumler, Stephen Damm, Ron Wilson, and Joan Bacharach

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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