A view of Apple Creek, south and east of Bismarck, N.D.
The Origin of Apple Creek
The Origin of Apple Creek
Tȟaspáŋ Wakpála Ohútkȟaŋ
By Dakota Wind
BISMARCK, N.D. - I’ve often wondered about the origin of the name of Apple Creek here in North Dakota.
Apple Creek is a tributary of the Mní Šhošhé (The Water A-Stir; Missouri River), converging with it at the base of Pictured Bluff, just south of the University of Mary, off of HWY 1804.
It begins somewhere in field near Wing, ND, and winds a quiet meandering path south and west towards the Missouri. Nearly four miles east of Bismarck, about on HWY 10, is the Apple Creek Country Club. I’ve not personally been to the country club, mainly because the only golf I’ve ever played was mini, but the 18-hole golf course incorporates the natural environment, which includes the Round Leaf Hawthorn tree.
Another creek with a differing name is the Little Heart Creek, shown here with the name "Bad Water Creek," which is how the Nu'Eta (Mandan) knew it.
Apple Creek is, or was, known among the Nu’Eta (Mandan) Indians as Black Bear Creek, at least according to the Sitting Rabbit map of the Missouri River.
The Mandan used to live in the vicinity of Heart River for hundreds of years. In 1781, they were struck by a epidemic of smallpox. The survivors abandoned their villages and moved north to Knife River, where the Corps of Discovery encountered them in 1804.
Near where the Apple Creek converges with the Missouri River is where General Sibley’s command of about 4,000 soldiers relentlessly chased a group of Dakota and Lakota in a running battle that began west of present-day Jamestown, ND in mid-July, 1863 and ended at about present-day General Sibley Park in Bismarck, ND, on Aug. 2 two weeks later.
The Lakota who’ve lived on the Great Plains and who traded with the Mandan Indians knew of this meager tributary of the Mní Šhošhé. The Lakota have names for landmarks, wildlife, seasons, and rivers. And they personified all, believing – and some still do – that all these things aren’t just animated, but live and have lives of their own, that all have spirits or souls of their own too.
A thornapple tree, or Hawthorn, in bloom at Cashman's Nursery, Bismarck, ND.
In English, the Round Leaf Hawthorn is named for the shape of its leaf. In Latin the tree is called Crataegus cyclophylla, and I don’t know what the hell that means, but I’m sure that it means something really important to science.
In Lakota, the same tree is called Tȟaspáŋčhaŋ, which meant “Of-Red-Tree,” in reference to the dark red or swarthy color of the fruit which resemble little apples and are edible. The creek was called Tȟaspáŋ Wakpála, or as a free translation may have it, “Apple Creek.”
Mary Ann Barnes Williams’ book, “Origins Of North Dakota Place Names,” has it as the unusual name “Qui-Apelle” was given the creek by the early French-Canadians for the many Red Haw or Thorn Apple thickets bordering its banks. Another version is that the name Apple Creek is an inaccurate translation of the Dakota Indian name for it, which it [sic] Taspan Wakpala; Taspan (thorn apple), Wakpula [sic] (creek).