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Fort Totten State Historic Site - History

Fort Totten is one of the best-preserved frontier military posts in the United States. The fort was built between 1868 and 1873 as a military outpost, but it actually served for most of its history as a Native American boarding school. The troops stationed there policed the surrounding military reservation, guarded overland mail and transportation routes, and oversaw Dakotas living on the Devils Lake Indian Reservation. Units here included detachments of the famous 7th Cavalry. Sixteen of the original structures used by the U.S. military between 1867 and 1890 still stand at Fort Totten State Historic Site.

Totten Indian School BandDecommissioned as a military post in December 1890, Fort Totten became an industrial school for Native American children in January 1891. The military buildings were adapted to the various needs of the school. Dakota children were the first students at the boarding school but were later joined by Chippewa children from the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation and others. Students at the Fort Totten Indian Industrial School received vocational and academic training in skills such as seamstressing/tailoring, harness making, shoemaking, baking, farming, dairying, printing, and carpentry.

The Fort Totten school functioned as a tuberculosis preventorium from 1935 to 1939, an experimental program to house and educate children considered at high risk for contracting tuberculosis. In 1940, Fort Totten returned to its day and boarding school function until 1959 when the facility and students moved to a new school just east of the site. Fort Totten became a state historic site in 1960.

Totten Air ViewThe original brick military structures bordering the parade ground are the Adjutant's Office, two First Lieutenant's quarters, two Second Lieutenant's Quarters, Commanding Officer's Quarters, Chaplain's and Surgeon's Quarters, Hospital/Chapel, Commissary Storehouse, Quartermaster's Storehouse, Powder Magazine, three Company Quarters, and Bakery. A fourth Company Barracks was demolished, and the school replaced it with a wood-frame gymnasium in 1922. Soon after, the gymnasium burned to the ground, and a new one was built in 1923.

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417 Cavalry Circle
Fort Totten, ND 58335
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Winter Hours (Tuesday of Labor Day Weekend-Memorial Day Weekend):
Weekdays by appointment only

Summer Hours (Memorial Day Weekend-Labor Day):
Daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Grounds are open year-round, Monday - Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Contact Fort Totten:
phone: 701.766.4441

Contact SHSND:
phone: 701.328.2666