Standing Rock Monument – Fort Yates, North Dakota - Atlas Obscura

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Standing Rock Monument

Fort Yates, North Dakota

This stone, said to have once been a young woman, is sacred to the Dakota and Lakota nations. 


The Standing Rock Reservation covers more than two million acres of grass plains, rolling hills, and buttes running alongside the Missouri River. The reservation takes its name from a sacred rock formation that resembles a woman with a child on her back. This sacred stone stands outside the Standing Rock Agency office in Fort Yates, North Dakota.

The stone once stood in an Arikara village in the vicinity of the old town Winona, directly across the river from Fort Yates. As early as 1740, it had been documented that a Wakan (“holy” or “sacred” in the Lakota language) stone, described as a woman and a child turned to stone, had been carried from place to place for generations by the Dakota and Lakota People.

There are several versions of the story explaining the origin of the stone. According to the one inscribed on the plaque, it is the body of a young woman and her child. She refused to accompany her people as they were forced to move south, and eventually turned into stone.

Another version holds that the woman had been forced to marry and was unhappy about it. Upon returning to her family, the woman went to an isolated place near the village and slowly started turning to stone, her small faithful dog climbed up into her lap and would not leave. Eventually, both she and her dog turned completely to stone.

Before his death in 1890, the Lakota leader Sitting Bull held a council where it was decided that the stone should no longer be moved and should remain at Fort Yates, North Dakota. On November 6, 1886, the stone was fastened to a pedestal and spiritual leader Fire Cloud conducted a dedication ceremony near the banks of the Missouri River.

Know Before You Go

The monument is located in the car park near the waterfront of the Missouri River, on the east side of Standing Rock Ave, near the Standing Rock administrative building.

Also located nearby (near the intersection of 92nd st and Dyke Rd) marks the original burial ground of Hunkpapa leader Sitting Bull, who was killed on December 15, 1890 at  Fort Yates, the final burial site is at Mobridge, South Dakota.

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