|Fort Abraham Lincoln Foundation||
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Fort Abraham Lincoln
As the Northern Pacific Railroad advanced west across Dakota Territory, the US military kept pace. When the railroad reached the Missouri River in 1872, Fort McKeen was established on the west bank of the river as a small infantry post. In November of that year, Fort McKeen was renamed Fort Abraham Lincoln.
Fort Abraham Lincoln was expanded to house six companies of the 7th Cavalry under the command of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer in 1873. Their mission was to further the advancement of the Northern Pacific Railroad and guarantee the westward expansion of the American frontier.
By 1874, Fort Abraham Lincoln was the largest and most important fort in Dakota Territory, housing a combined 650 cavalry and infantry soldiers. The fort was also the starting point of the 1874 Black Hills Expedition undertaken to confirm rumors of gold in the area.
May 17, 1876, the troops left Fort Lincoln on the Centennial Campaign, which took the 7th Cavalry into the valley of the Little Big Horn. They were attempting to force non-treaty Indians back to their respective reservations. Outnumbered, outgunned, and out-maneuvered, over 260 men were killed during the ensuing battle, including all five of Custer's companies.
In 1883, the cavalry was detached to Fort Meade, in present-day South Dakota, the NPRR was completed to Montana, and Fort Abraham Lincoln’s importance declined. The post was officially abandoned in 1891 by order of Congress. Fort Abraham Lincoln and General Custer’s 7th Cavalry would leave a lasting legacy for years to come.
On-a-Slant Mandan Village
Long before Lewis and Clark ventured up the Missouri River in 1804, the Mandan people had been thriving on a very productive agricultural lifestyle in the Heart River area. For most of a thousand years, the Mandan (Nu'eta) called the region home, living in a succession of earthlodge villages. Rich in culture and tradition, Mandan men hunted buffalo and other game, while women grew several varieties of corn, squash and beans. Food surpluses and more-or-less permanent settlements led to trade with other Native American nations and the Mandan became central to an ancient inter-tribal trade network.
Around 1575, families from three nearby villages came to build a fortified village on a tract of gentle sloping land located on the west bank of the Missouri River, about a mile south of its confluence with the Heart River. This is the village known to history as On-a-Slant.
In 1781, the Mandan of On-a-Slant village suffered greatly during a smallpox epidemic that swept from Mexico to Canada and from the Mississippi to the Pacific coast. The last chief of On-a-Slant, Good Boy, rallied the survivors and joining with survivors from other villages, moved north to establish a city near their Hidatsa allies, near what is now the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site.
The Mandan of On-a-Slant Village left a legacy that still lives on.