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Honoring Human History

American Prairie sees the northern Great Plains as a pivotal landscape that has shaped the development and spirit of America. 

We are committed to preserving the elements of national heritage that have colored the area and shaped the story of Montana’s grasslands. The prairie’s human history endeavors seek to reveal stories of settlement and habitation while honoring the spirit of those who made the northern Great Plains their home, from the Indigenous Peoples who lived on the land for centuries to the pioneers who followed in the footsteps of explorers like Lewis and Clark.

Showcase

Located in the Sun Prairie unit, this one-room schoolhouse was used from 1943-57 and reconstructed to its original appearance for visitors to enjoy. 

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Heritage Projects

Prairie Union School

Our first restoration project involved the Prairie Union School, which is located about 50 miles southeast of Malta and was in service from 1943 to 1956. American Prairie is pleased to showcase the Prairie Union School as a resource for future generations to better understand the courage and resilience of their pioneering ancestors. The preservation of this one-room schoolhouse is dedicated to those who obtained their education at this and other similar schools across the regional grasslands. Visit the school.

Regina Town Site

In 2014, a landowner in the region donated a parcel to American Prairie that includes the former site of Regina, a small town that developed at the height of homesteading in the early 1900s. Thanks to expertise from the Phillips County Historical Society, we will install an educational sign at the site in 2016 that celebrates the town and its former inhabitants as emblematic of an important period in our nation’s history. As part of your trip to the prairie, take a homesteading driving tour that leads you to the stories, artifacts, and lifestyles of settlers that arrived in the region at the turn of the 20th century.

Indigenous Interpretation and Access

Visitors to American Prairie learn about the history and cultural heritage of the region through our staff, visits to points of interest, and interpretive exhibits. An essential component of that cultural heritage is the deep history and continued modern presence of Indigenous communities on this landscape. American Prairie is committed to honoring their legacy and connection to the land, and to working together to tell this story and share the land. Learn more about our collaborations here.

Working with neighboring tribal communities, our campgrounds’ welcome signs and interpretive displays feature greetings in the languages of both the Aaniiih and Nakoda, honoring two of the tribes that lived for millennia in this region and continue to call the area home today. Our staff has also collaborated with the Nakoda Aaniiih Economic Development Corporation and Aaniiih Nakoda Tours to provide interpretive guide services and offer expert interpretation of the region in and around American Prairie, focused on the oral traditions and history of the Nakoda and Aaniiih people of the Fort Belknap Indian Community. Our human history timeline in the National Discovery Center also benefited from consultation and feedback from members of the Aaniiih Nakoda Community.

While we are committed to public access across American Prairie lands as a core part of our mission, we recognize that these lands contain sites of historical, spiritual, and cultural significance to local tribes. We are working to find and acknowledge these sites, and to work with our tribal neighbors to welcome members of the Indigenous community to visit and access such sites. You can find our Indigenous Land Acknowledgement here.