An expedition led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark entered North Dakota in 1804 and wintered near the present town of Washburn on its way to the Pacific Coast. This temporary post, Fort Mandan, was frequently visited by nearby Indians. The Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1806 returned down the river on its way back to St. Louis.
With several notable exceptions, contact between the Native peoples and American traders, explorers, and military personnel in the Northern Plains remained peaceful during the early 19th Century. Indians became instrumental in the fur trade; major trading posts at Fort Union and Fort Clark, and others of lesser significance, catered mainly to Native trappers and hunters. In exchange for their meat and furs, the Indians received guns, metal tools, cloth and beads, and other trade goods. This exchange forever altered Indian cultures, and it often brought dangers; in 1837, for example, smallpox virtually wiped out the Mandan people at Fort Clark.
Around this time, as ledgend has told there was a large band of Dakota Souix camped at the Hawksnest. Huyawayapaahdi (huya-waya-pa-a-hdhi) the Dakota Indian name for the Hawksnest. Interpeted this means "where the eagle brings something in its beak." With displacement of the indian came compition between tribes. The Dakota suspecting that a camp of Chippewas was nearby. Souix scouts were about searching for the compeating tribe with no sign of them. Then they saw an eagle fly into the trees with something peculiar in it beak and which they soon after discovered to be a piece of buffalo meat which had been cut off with a knife. On further inquiry with their scouts they were able to indicate from what direction the eagle had come. The warriors went out and located the enemy camp and chased them off their hunting grounds.
In 1863, Dakota Territory was opened for homesteading. Campaigns intended to punish Santee Sioux who participated in the Minnesota Uprising pushed through northern Dakota and were led by General Henry H. Sibley and General Alfred H. Sully.
General Sibley with his army of 3,300 picked Indian fighters 225-mule wagon train set out for Dakota on June 16, 1863, to hunt down Little Crow and his cohorts of the Minnesota Massacure. They entered this area July 22, 1863. Camp Kimball located just N.E. of the Hawksnest on the Pipestem River. Captain William H. Kimball, whose name was used on the camp was assistant quartermaster for Sibley. He had charge of the pontoon train, which was equipped to lay temporary bridges over streams. They had little to do that dry summer.
Indians would cross near this same spot on their way to the Hawksnest.
From Mr. Brackett's diary, one of Genral Sibley soldiers. "We crossed the James River and its branch now known as the Pipestem. Very little water in either stream. Mail today with St. Paul papers to July 11, but there was no word of the great victories won at Gettysburg and Vicksburg some days before." While at Camp Kimball the Indian scout with got extremely nervous, sensing the nearness of the Sioux. Trenches were thrown up and shallow holes dug to prepare for an attack by Indians. Pickets were posted every night, although the scouts had not seen any of the Sioux warriors. It was while we were at this camp that some wagons were sent to the Hawksnest for wood for cooking purposes. The cooks did not like using the buffalo chips if at all possible. The teamsters were badly deceived as to the distance and found it nearer five miles than two which they had estimated it to be.
There was an old cavalry saber which was found a short distance north of the Camp Kimbell site and which was probably lost by one of these cavalry men.' The sword that was dug up on the Kallberg land by John Imler, who was breaking up the land, in 1902. I believed that the sword once belonged to Lt. Beaver. The sword laid on the prairie probably 40 or more years and it was over a year after it was found before soaking in kerosene permitted removing the sword from the scabbard. It was the extra fine sword that had been carried by Lieut. Beaver. (The sword is now in the museum of the Masonic temple at Fargo.) Lt. Beaver was ambushed near Apple Creek by the Indians and riddled with arrows. His fine horse was also killed. This plot of ground has been purchased by the State Historical Society and the D.A.R. of Carrington and they have placed a marker on the area.
In the morning the army continued westward and we met a large company of Pembina Hunters near Hawks Nest Hill. The priest accompanying the mixedbloods had a boy he had ransomed from renegade Sioux. There was a large number of such Indians Sibley was told, were but a few days travel ahead. Later that day the troops camped about 8-10 miles southwest of the Hawksnest. This spot named Camp Grant had a humorous evening. A group of soldiers were sent out to retrive buffalo chips for the fire. They spent too much time away from camp so the sentries we ordered not to let them back into camp. Those soldiers spent the night out side camp with no provisions or tents, howlling and begging to be let back into camp. It turned out that the Sioux were camped just south of Pettibone. We batteled them for two days at Big Hound and Buffalo Lake. The hostiles were on the run.
On September 3, Sully's forces attacked a peaceful hunting camp of Yanktonai Sioux at Whitestone Hill; this was the last major battle of the Indian Wars period to be fought east of the Missouri.
1864 a second military expedition led by Sully battled Sioux at Killdeer Mountain and in the Badlands. This diminished Dakota resistance, forcing many onto reservations to avoid starvation.
A chain of military outposts, beginning with Fort Abercrombie in 1857, continually increased Federal power, and the great slaughter of the northern bison herds after 1870 eventually caused the nomadic tribes to submit. Some bands of Dakota resisted into the 1880s, but their old way of life on the plains was lost.
Seventh Cavalry, Company C., of Fort Totten, with Captain Tom Custer as commander, following the long established trail from Devils Lake, up over Hawksnest and to Fort Lincoln. That Company C was made up of young farmers eager for patriotic duty. They continued on with General George Custer and his company on to the Little Big Horn massacre.
The Hawksnest had a much reverence to the Indians and was a prominent land mark and camping place for them when travling between Standing Rock Reservation and Fort Totten. Their travel was as near a bee line as possibble, especially southwest of the Hawksnest. The trail came right over the Hawksnest hills out of the southwest, then circled over to a line which is about the Wells-Foster county line. Then they continued almost due north , angling a little east to reach Fort Totten. The Indians traveled with travois, and later wagons. Their ponies were piebald or calico type. They carried a full cargo of entrails, tainted meats, green or untanned skins and dried roots. They often stopped to dig brown cat-tails and other roots, pick buffalo peas, indian beans, berries, wild mustard, and many other plant specimens for dyeing clothing, medicinal purposes and feathering the nests of their papooses. They traveled with many dogs.
There was a large flat rock at the east end of the ridge just south of Cathay which was used as a nesting place by a pair of Amercian eagles and which was something of a sacred stone to the Indians. Often found it bedecked with bits of red cloth pieces of colored glass, shiny stones and (indian tobbaco), kinnekinnick.
In 1873 the Hawksnest was named by John H. Porter. A survey team from the rail road near present day Melville, needing more wood for stakes, sent a party of men to the wooded hills in the west. Upon there return the men said the hills were invested with hawks, it's a reglar Hawksnest. Other earlier names include "Chief Hill," "Great Coteau," and "Pilot Knob"
In 1890 according to government figures there were 8,174 Indians living in North Dakota. By the same year, the number of white men had swelled to 191,000. There was a leap of more than 1,000 percent in just 8 years..
The Indian way of life was already a part of the past when the white settlers began breaking up the sod here. The buffalo had disappeared none of the pioneers in this area saw a wild bison although the prairie was littered with buffalo bones. The picture of the proud Sioux warrior was almost as much a memory for the pioneer generation as it is for us. The Indians who journeyed across the prairie in wagon trains were a conquered people.