The confluences of the Knife, Heart, and Missouri Rivers in North Dakota have been the home and meeting place of peoples of many cultures for dozen of centuries. Indian hunters roamed the area for several thousand years in search of bison and other large game. For several millennia this region was also a traffic-way for native traders dealing Knife River flint, a translucent, coffee-colored stone quarried along the banks of the Knife and its tributaries to the west. This stone was widely traded throughout much of North America. Beginning about 1,000 years ago, the big-game hunting cultures were replaced by viillage farmers who were the ancestors of the Mandan and Hidatsa Indian tribes. For many generations their villages were the focal point of an extensive trade system, which linked the largely sedentary farmers who dealt in corn and other garden produce with the surrounding foot nomads who dealt in weaponry, clothing, exotic raw materials, and ornaments.
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