Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lodge of the Blacktailed Deer and Camp Greene

Looking west across the Missouri River valley I can see the block houses, on a higher resolution of this picture (for I can't upload a higher one on here) and in another picture, I can actually see the Council Lodge of the On-A-Slant Mandan Indian Village. 
Lodge Of The Blacktailed Deer And Camp Greene
North Dakota Landmarks You Must Visit
By Dakota Wind
GREAT PLAINS - Lately, as I’ve been making the drive to work in Bismarck, Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, the greatest park in North Dakota, has been drawing my eye.  I can see it across the Missouri River from where I park my car.  I can also see the profile of Little Heart Butte on the far horizon, standing boldly as a long-forgotten sentry watching the river and the plains.  Sometimes when I’m driving out to the University of Mary another land feature that grabs my eye is the Mandan Site, a butte known to the Nu’Eta as the “Lodge of the Black Tailed Deer.”

This picture of Keith Bear was taken on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, home of the Arikara, Hidatsa, and Mandan Indians (also known as the Three Affiliated Tribes).  Herb Ascherman, Photographer.

The Lodge of the Black Tailed Deer is where the Mandan, the Nu’Eta, say they came up into the world.  I heard the story from traditional storyteller and flute-player (and flute-maker) Keith Bear, and I’ll sum it up for you here:

A long time ago, the Nu’Eta lived under the earth.  They didn’t know about the sun, the moon, the stars, or the blue sky at that time.  Then came a day when some Nu’Eta hunters came to a large root (grapevine root or prairie turnip root depending on who you hear the story from) and decided to climb it after noticing a shaft of sunlight pierce the shadow.  The hunters climbed the root to the top and saw for themselves, ganges of bison, herds of deer, elk, and antelope, and saw how the sunlight played upon the Missouri River.  They saw grass swaying in the wind and felt the breeze for themselves.  The hunters descended the vine and returned to their village to share what they saw.  The Nu’Eta decided that they would go to the surface to live there.  The hunters returned to the root and the people began to carefully climb it.  They say that a pregnant woman, heavy with child, was in a hurry to bear her baby in the new world, and she began to climb the root regardless of the warnings the people shouted at her that few climb it at a time.  When she got halfway up the root, it came loose and snapped, dropping her back to the people below.  Some of the Mandan, the Nu’Eta, made it to the surface.  The Nu’Eta say that there are still people waiting to come out of the earth. 

The butte mentioned in the story above is pictured here, on the west bank of the Missouri River, south and west of the University of Mary.  It is the dark pyramidal shape in about the middle of this picture.  The cottonwood forest on the floodplain below is thick.  With autumn on the land, the leaves are turning brown and will eventually be a brilliant yellow. 

The butte Lodge of the Black Tailed Deer is called that only when talking about the origins of the Nu’Eta.  It is called Eagle Nose Point, or Bird’s Bill Point, when talking about the temporary village of discontented Nu’Eta who lived there to work out their angst.  Ensign Nathaniel Pryor mentioned encountering such a group of Nu’Eta discontents while bringing the Mandan Chief Shehek Shote back to the Mandan from his three-year odyssey to meet President Jefferson in 1809. 

The butte is known by still another name in relation to the name of the bottomlands that settlers bestowed upon it: Sugarloaf Butte. 

There is nothing left of Camp Greene, at least nothing remains of the camp that you'd see today.  There is a darker "patch" of trees in about the middle of this image, on the other side of the Missouri River.  This photo was taken at the Annunciation Monestary near the University of Mary looking west across the Missouri River. 

North of the butte, but south of Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, the greatest park in North Dakota, is the site of Camp Greene. 

Brevet Brigadier General Oliver Davis Greene pictured here as a second lieutenant. 

Camp Greene was established in April 1872 at the mouth of the Little Heart River as a military supply station for the protection of the Northern Pacific Rail Road survey crew preparing to head west for Yellowstone country.  Co. K of the 17th Infantry commanded by Lieutenant OD Greene came up on detached service from Fort Rice.  Originally, Camp Greene was to become a permanent post.  Three months later, the garrison was withdrawn and stationed on a bluff overlooking the Heart River to establish Fort McKeen.   

Greene’s story is an interesting one too.  He was brevetted four times throughout the Civil War and eventually became Brevet Brigadier General Oliver Davis Greene.  Greene served in the Maryland Campaign of 1862.  At Antietam, Greene kept form of his command under fire and became a Medal of Honor recipient.  Like most officers after the war he was taken back down to regular army rank, for Greene that meant being a lieutenant.  Greene retired in 1897 with the regular army rank of colonel.