Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




On December 22, Congress authorized the Flood Control Act of 1944, later named the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program (PSMBP). The primary purpose of the PSMBP, which would require the construction of six main stem dams on the Missouri River, was to provide flood control, navigation, irrigation, and hydropower. The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara nations, the Three Affiliated Tribes, maintained a reservation and way of life on Fort Berthold which lay in the direct path of the water that would form the reservoir behind one of the dams, the Garrison Dam.

It is important to acknowledge that the Garrison Dam also affected many non-Indian farmers and communities, like those of Sanish and Van Hook. Their story and desire for justice is worth inclusion and is an integral part of assessing the full impact of the Garrison Dam upon all North Dakotans. For the sake of time and space their story will be left for future scholarship.

This thesis explores the impact of the Garrison Dam on the Three Affiliated Tribes located on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota. Congress ignored both the concerns raised by the Tribes and the alternatives they suggested, and the Tribes were forced to sacrifice their lands and way of life for what was termed “the common good.” This is yet another chapter in the long history of troubled Indian policy. A comparison of the experience of the Three Affiliated Tribes with that of other groups, the Cherokee relocation in the 1830s for example, will suggest that despite over one hundred years of experience, the American public and federal policy makers had learned little.

Legislative histories and transcriptions of congressional hearings provide policy-related material. United States Army Corps of Engineers archives and Fort Berthold tribal records reveal information related to the dam and reservoir. The intent of this study is to record a neglected aspect of the government’s efforts to control the Missouri River. I intend to show that the Garrison Dam was arguably one of the most destructive acts perpetrated against an Indian tribe during the twentieth century. A pristine environment was forever altered, and the damage caused by the Garrison Dam touched many aspects of Indian life: social, political, and economic. Their environment was forever altered and their story needs to be told.