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Repairs begin at historic Mandan village in North Dakota

Posted August 4

— A large construction project is underway in central North Dakota to stop erosion at a historical Native American village where hundreds of burial sites are at risk.

Contractors are in the process of scraping and leveling dirt at the Double Ditch Indian Village Historic Site, The Bismarck Tribune reported . Preservationists and members of the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation fought for funding for the project during the state's most recent legislative session.

The site is an earth lodge village where thousands of Mandan people lived and traded along the Missouri River from 1490 to 1785. The site, which has been owned by the state since 1936, began seriously eroding after flooding in 2011.

Nearly 150 burials have been unearthed since contractors began scraping the eroding river bank, said Fern Swenson, director of the archaeology and historic preservation division at State Historical Society of North Dakota.

"That just highlights the importance of stopping this erosion so that it doesn't continue further into the site," Swenson said.

The contractors' next steps include building a rock trench at the river's edge and putting in pipe pilings along the bluff to stabilize it. The area will also be reseeded with prairie grasses, and extra supports will be added to support areas not currently eroding.

The historical society will also add other features to the site, including a path down to the water and a non-motorized boat dock for kayaks and canoes will be among the new features.

Swenson said the project is below budget so far, at about $3 million.

The site remains open, but visitors are required to use an entrance away from the construction.

Members of the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation have been kept informed of the progress, said MHA Nation Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Calvin Grinnell, who said he was pleased with the construction.

"We had no choice really. We have to do it," Grinnell said. "The other option would be the slump would fall into the Missouri River and our ancestors bones would be washed down the river. And I don't think anybody wants that."

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