Located on the southeastern edge of the town of Fort Totten, this site preserves a military post built in 1867 and used continuously as a military reservation until 1890 when it became a boarding school for Indian children. The brick buildings, which replaced an earlier log fort, appear much as they did when built of locally made brick in 1868. Original buildings are now being used to house museum exhibits.
Fort Totten served American Indian policy from 1867 to 1959. Constructed as a military post, it became an Indian boarding school, Indian health care facility, and a reservation school. Initially, the fort policed the surrounding reservation. The soldiers enforced the peace, guarded overland transportation routes, and aided Dakota (Sioux) who lived near Devils Lake after 1867. Fort Totten was decommissioned in 1890.
On January 5th, 1891 the former post became the property of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The post served as an Indian boarding school until 1935. Academic and vocational training prepared Indian youth for life off the reservation. Enrollment sometimes topped 400.
For four years (1935-1939) the site was used as Tuberculosis Preventorium run by the Federal Government. This successful program was aimed at small groups of Dakota children who had or were susceptible to Tuberculosis. They were taught basic studies as well as being treated for Tuberculosis.
When this program was shut down, the site returned to being a Community and Day School for the Reservation with gradually more input and control being given to the Tribal leaders of the Reservation.
Fort Totten became a North Dakota State Historic Site in 1960 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.