Blown Away in South Dakota

top of nicolett towerI almost felt like I’d be blown away at the top of the Nicollet Tower in Sisseton South Dakota. nicollet towerDave and I had just climbed nearly a hundred steps to reach the lookout point from which we could see the vast prairie landscape which is the traditional home of the Sisseton-Wahpeton people and covers parts of  three states, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. view from nicolett towerIt was sooooo windy up there……. but my what a view!

Dave checks out a map which shows the area we could see from the tower.

Dave checks out a map which shows the area we could see from the tower.

The tower is named after a French explorer, mapmaker and astronomer Joseph Nicolas Nicollet who came to the United States at age 46 determined to map the area between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

There are sketches in the interpretative center at the tower that show Nicolett exploring the area.

There are paintings by J.S. Wilson in the interpretative center at the tower that show Nicollet exploring the area.

He traveled extensively in the region on two trips one beginning in July of 1838 and another in July of 1839.  

Because he had such good repoire with the Dakotah people they agreed to the building of the tower in Nicolett's honour

Because he had such good rapport with the Dakota people they agreed to the building of the tower in Nicollet’s honour

He was very interested in the First Nations people he met and made the acquaintance of many with the help of his guides Joseph LaFromboise and Louison Freniere. nicollet writing in his diaryHe listened to aboriginal stories and legends and recorded the traditional Dakota names for places.

A copy of Nicolett's map is featured prominently in the interpretative centre

A copy of Nicollet’s map is featured prominently in the interpretative centre

He was careful to include the traditional First Nations names for places on the map he created on his return to Washington D.C. He presented the map and made a report to the Senate about his travels in 1843.  js wilson nicollet tower paintingHis map and diaries record the beauty and potential of the area and were responsible for much of the settlement that would happen there later. This might have given Nicollet second thoughts because he wrote so movingly of the culture and way of life of the aboriginal people that was forever changed by the settlers who arrived. nicollet tower

The Nicollet Tower stands on a spot Nicollet called the Coteau des Prairies, the Hill on the Prairie.  Having climbed the hill to view the valley all around he wrote in his diary, ” I pity anyone whose soul would not be moved by this spot.”keith likenessThe interpretative center at the tower is hosted by Keith Likeness who is a veritable encyclopedia about the history and geography of the area. Since one of the reasons we’ve come here is so I can find information for a novel I’m writing Keith was the perfect resource. 

dave at nicollet towerThe Nicollet Tower is built with eighty year old Douglas Fir trees about 75 feet high and each weighing close to 5000 pounds. The tower is a marvel of construction and gives you a marvellous  view of the landscape. 

Other posts………

A Roof With a View

Discovering Sacagawea

Up in the Trees With a Man Who Knew It All

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Filed under History, Sisseton

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