SHSND Home > Historic Sites > Pembina State Museum > History

Pembina State Museum - History

Prehistory of the Red River Valley

Archeological investigations conducted in the Red River Valley reveal that people have been utilizing resources in this area for more than 9,000 years.Pembina Bison

Prehistoric people harvested berries, acorns, and hazelnuts from the Red River’s gallery forests. Pike, catfish, drum, and turtles were harvested from the river, along with freshwater clams which were made into ornaments and tools.

Bison, deer, elk, beaver, muskrat, squirrel, and raccoon were hunted and/or trapped. The archeological record also reveals that ducks were consumed by early people.

Late Prehistory – Just Before the Arrival of Europeans

Before Euro-American contact, Chippewa (also called Ojibway and Ojibwe), Dakota, Assiniboine, Cree, and Cheyenne Indian tribes traveled in and out of the Red River Valley. They led a nomadic lifestyle, hunting, fishing, and gathering plants. They lived in tipis covered with birch bark or tanned hides, depending upon what was readily available.

Before European contact, Indians made their tools from natural materials such as stone, shell, wood, and bone. In the 1700s, European goods such as metal, cloth, glass, and steel began arriving in Pembina through trade with other Native groups.

Fur Trade in the Pembina Region

In the Red River Valley and throughout North America, the fur trade era was a time of transition and change – the meeting and mingling of Native American and European cultures. Each group had something wanted by the other, and each group profited from the exchange. Native cultures traded furs and pelts, and Europeans traded manufactured goods, alcohol, and tobacco.

Early fur traders relied on canoes for transportation of goods. Pembina Ox Cart TrainMost of the fur trade posts were extensions of British (Hudson’s Bay Company) and Canadian (North West Company) operations. These companies retreated north after the 49th parallel was established as the border between the United States and Canada.

By the 1840s, Red River ox carts were the principal means of shipping transportation. Eventually Red River carts were used in conjunction with steamboats and railroads.

By the turn of the century, the fur trade era had ended. Fur bearing animals had been hunted nearly to extinction, and settlers were moving into the region.

Follow Pembina State Museum on Facebook!

805 State Highway 59,
Pembina, ND 58271
Get Directions

Summer Hours (May 1-September 30)
Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sunday, 1-5 p.m.

Winter Hours (October 1-April 30)
Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Closed New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.

Contact Pembina State Museum:
phone: 701.825.6840

Contact SHSND:
phone: 701.328.2666