Making things right at Double Ditch after 2011 flood

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BISMARCK, N.D. - In the record Missouri River flood of 2011, many neighborhoods in the Bismarck-Mandan area suffered significant property damage.

Most of them have since recovered, thanks to insurance money, FEMA funding, or personal expenditures.

But there's one community that's been slowly suffering, simply because there was no one around to fight back. Someone has finally come to the rescue.

This is the site of the Double Ditch Indian Village, north of Bismarck. Ten generations of Mandan Indians lived here in earth lodges from the late 1400s to the late 1700s. And here along the bank, is where the flood of 2011 caused the land to slump, crack, and erode, exposing the remains of eighteen ancient inhabitants.

"We pretty much panicked and went, oh, we've got to fix this because we knew this was a Mandan site for 300 years. And there were thousands of people that lived here, and there would be burials continually exposed," said Fern Swenson,State Historical Society:.

The state legislature appropriated $3.5 million to stabilize the site. Workers are now excavating the area, and will then put in a rock trench above the high water mark, and install vertical pipe piles to keep things in place. Then they will put back some dirt and plant prairie grass. But all that digging has exposed another 150 or so remains, which have been turned over to the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation for reburial elsewhere.

"Maybe make a meal for them, offerings of tobacco, wrap them in certain cloth that will protect them. And then, of course, we ask them for forgiveness for disturbing them," said Calvin Grinnell, MHA Nation Historian.

By the time the project is finished in November, there will be additional trails and interpretive signs in place, along with a landing and launching area for kayaks and canoes, giving visitors a much more inviting setting to witness history.

The village site remains open to the public. The east entrance is along Highway 1804, but the construction zone is closed.