This region of the country has a wealth of fascinating Indian history and culture. Sitting Bull, Four Bears, Running Antelope, George Armstrong Custer, General Crook, Buffalo Bird Woman, Rain-in-the-Face, these are just some of the famous names that played a role in the drama of life here. On display is the beauty, power, and spirit of the legendary tribes of this area. Through historic and contemporary photographs, stone and bone artifacts, rock art images, plant samples, quotations, art prints, text, animal hides and skulls, feathers, and beadwork, their compelling story is told.
The Mandan, Arikara, and Hidatsa were well known for their gardens, in which they grew squash, melon, sunflower, corn, and beans using tools made of stone or bone. Other stone artifacts include projectile points from Paleo-Indian, Archaic, Late Archaic, Middle Woodland, Late Woodland, Plains Village and up to the Historic Period.
Photographs, artifacts, and archival materials depict an era rich in Western history and lore, from the earliest cattle drives from the Southwestern states, to the establishment of huge open range ranches, such as the HT, the Hash Knife and the OX; the first independent small sheep and cattle ranchers, and finally the arrival of homesteaders in the early 1900’s. This “sea of grass,” the last great open range in the United States, attracted six million head of cattle trailed here between 1866 and 1885. The fascinating details of cowboy and ranch life, their horses and equipment, rodeos, a sheep herder’s life, farm implements, schoolrooms, tiny little post offices, and housekeeping in a homestead shack are on exhibit.
The Bowman County Historical and Genealogical Society published the book, A History of Bowman County 1907-2007, as part of the Bowman County Centennial in 2007. An authentic sod house was constructed in the spring of 2006, located on the east museum grounds.
Recently, collections of oral histories, films of local events, and historic photographs have been digitized thanks to a preservation grant from the North Dakota State Archives. Funds are being raised for a history project to place historical markers at the sites of early schools in the area.
Now in the planning stages is a complete replica of Main Street, 1910, to depict life in the once-thriving small towns along the Milwaukee Road railway that ran east to west across this part of the country, known as the Last Frontier. A building on the east grounds of the museum is being prepared to house this exhibit.
This winter new exhibits will be installed on the different trails that went through the area (cattle, military, trade, etc.), along with an exhibit of Messer Pottery and rotating local history displays.