At the center of the Northern Plains is a rugged section of Badlands, buttes and fertile grasslands, where cattle and sheep graze, and deer and antelope still roam.
This region, bordered by the ND towns of Hettinger, Reeder and Scranton, and the SD towns of Lemmon, Bison and Buffalo is where Native people conducted the last hunts of the majestic wild buffalo that once roamed freely in huge herds.
To honor that history and contemporary buffalo events that occurred here, a Buffalo Trails Extravaganza will be held in Hettinger, at The Granary Sunday, June 11, at 2:00 pm. Everyone is invited for an entertaining afternoon with Darren Thompson, a Native American flute player, the Borderline Singers and Bart Damjanovich, a performer with the Pearly Shells and the Cedar Tones. Short videos from ND Sen. John Hoeven and SD Rep. Kristi Noem who sponsored the legislation to make the bison our national mammal last summer and various artists will also be included. Buffalo meat samples will be provided. The purpose is to let people in the local communities “know what the rest of the world is about to hear.” Learn of the only place in the world where the entire buffalo story comes together.
The tour is ready for visitors, complete with the self-guided 88-page tour book Buffalo Trails in the Dakota Buttes, available in both print and eBooks at local stores and HettingerND.com/BuffaloTrails.
Visitors can follow the Buffalo Trails tour with the guidebook in hand, filled with stories and history, in full color. Hettinger’s Dakota Buttes Visitors Council has developed a world-class trip whereby people can visit 10 sites of significant historic and contemporary buffalo interest in the area.
Information on the tour can be found at NDTourism.com/BuffaloTrails. Rack Cards are in 21 North and South Dakota rest stops. The Buffalo Trails Facebook links are now live and signs identifying the designated sites.
At the center of these events are previously untold stories and authentic, unspoiled places to witness where they took place.
The sites include two of the last great buffalo hunts and the valley of the last stand—the final harvest of 1,200 buffalo by Sitting Bull and his band on October 12 and 13, 1883.
These are well-documented traditional Native American hunts that somehow fell through the cracks of U.S. history. Often showcased is the shameful history of the buffalo’s final days as a wasteful slaughter by white hide hunters. That happened, of course, but it is not the whole story. Instead, it is a heroic saga befitting the noble beasts themselves.
Just before the last wild herds disappeared forever, one Native American family returned to save buffalo calves. A likely place on the South Grand River where Pete Dupree may have come with team and buckboard wagon is identified. The Duprees saved five calves and became internationally famous as one of five family groups who helped save the buffalo from extinction.
Also included on the tour are Prairie Thunder, a full-size mounted buffalo at the Dakota Buttes museum, and an authentic buffalo jump at Shadehill, S.D. A present-day view takes tourists on live buffalo adventures with a public herd, private and tribal buffalo herds, a rare white buffalo and perhaps the opportunity to tour a buffalo ranch. The sites are well-marked with so you can visit at your convenience.
At no other place in the world, can the history of these events be brought together. This is the place where all segments of the Buffalo story come together including contemporary buffalo ranching.
Tourists can plan their Buffalo Trails jaunt from anywhere in the world by way of online connections. North Dakota Tourism is adding the Buffalo Trails Tour to its Best Places and pitching it for international tours. South Dakota Travel will soon provide links as well.
For more information, contact Earleen Friez, Dakota Buttes Visitors Council (701-567-2531, firstname.lastname@example.org).