Kite Aerial Photography


 

Introduction

Large Format Images

Kite Aerial Photography

Aerial Mosaics

Discussion

Related websites

 


Knife River Indian Villages
National Historical Site
North Dakota

by Shawn Salley


Introduction
Villages of Hidatsa and Mandan Indians are preserved at the Knife River Indian Villages National Historical Site. The National Historic Site, which was established in 1974, preserves the historic and archaeological remnants of the Northern Plains Indians. At these villages Lewis and Clark obtained the services of Sakakawea (Sacagawea) and her husband, Charbonneau, for there journey to the west coast. The Awatixa Hidatsa Village, which is now being eroded by the Knife River in the center of the park, is thought to be the original home of Sakakawea.


View of the Mandan Villages as visualized by George Catlin. The lodges are circular mounds built up with earth along the sides and the roof. George Catlin, 1837-39, oil.


The current remnants of the earth lodge structures are seen as depressions in the ground. These, however, are not depressions carved into the ground. The center of the lodge was once at ground level, and after the lodge was abandoned, the surrounding dirt collapsed from the lodge walls and roof to create the rim of the depressions. The circular features measure up to 12 meters (40 feet) in diameter.


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Large Format Images
Conventional Aerial Photography, or large format aerial photography, is acquired at high altitudes. The images analyzed are Digital Orthophoto Quadrangles (DOQ) from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and QuickBird imagery from DigitalGlobe. DOQ's are taken every 10 years through the USGS. This type of aerial photography is computer generated imagery that removes displacement from camera tilt and terrain relief. It combines qualities of the original photograph with a geo-referenced map. The QuickBird data is satellite imagery which records high-resolution data in the visible and near-infrared range. The QuickBird satellite photos are acquired using the Google Maps search engine.


 Link to the:   Big Hidatsa Site
  Awatixa Village Site
  Visitors Center Area


DOQ imagery from the southern portion of the National Historical Site. In this photo, the two villages closest to the visitors center are visible. Notice the pitted appearance of the earth lodges in and outside the mowed portions.

1 - Visitors Center, 2 - Awatixa Xi'e Village, 3- Awatixa Village (Sakakawea Site), 4 - Knife River.

QuickBird imagery of the Awatixa Village. This is the site traditionally thought to be Sakakawea's village. Notice how the Knife River is eroding into the village site.
DOQ imagery of the Big Hidatsa Village. The Hidatsa Village is north of the Awatixa and Awatixa Xi'e Sites. Notice several more earth lodges outside of the mowed path.
QuickBird imagery of the Big Hidatsa Village. This satellite image shows multiple earth lodge depressions that cannot be easily seen on the surface.


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Kite Aerial Photography
During an early autumn day in October 2003, we visited the Knife River Indian Villages to conduct Small Format Aerial Photography. A sunny sky with a southern wind created favorable conditions for utilizing kite aerial photography (KAP). At two sites, the Awatixa Village and the Big Hidatsa Village, KAP was conducted to document the fall conditions at this archeological site. The time of the year allowed for an optimal viewing of the vegetative differences. The depressions allow the different vegetation to be active during autumn conditions, showing the earth lodges with good detail. The field crew included Shawn Salley, Dr. James Aber, and Billy Jacobson.


High oblique kite aerial photograph taken from the Awatixa site looking south to the Awatixa Xi'e village and the visitors center. Circular patterns in the vegetation show many lodges between the two sites in the unmowed area.
Low oblique view of Knife River looking north. A portion of the Awatixa site is seen to the lower left.
A vertical shot of the Awatixa site shows how Knife River has eroded into the village destroying a portion of the village. Part of the park's management program is to minimize the erosion of the villages.
Low oblique view of the Big Hidatsa Village looking south toward the maintenance building. This is the largest maintained area of this historical site. The lodge structures are between 30 and 40 feet across.
An eastern view of the Big Hidatsa Village shows multiple lodges that are not in the maintained area. The small white patches in this area are animal burrows (squirrels and gophers).


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Aerial Mosaics
Utilizing the computer software D Joiner to merge the kite aerial photography, a mosaic of the Big Hidatsa Village was constructed. This mosaic can be used to see the village as a whole. The views from this mosaic maintains the high detail from KAP while allowing a complete view of the site. Other methods of acquiring these same views would require the cost of using airplanes and large format photography.


Mosaic view of the Big Hidatsa Village looking toward the southeast. Further to the east (not seen in the image) is the Missouri River. The Big Hidatsa Village lies on a river terrace of the Missouri River. Image processed by S. W. Salley , 4/05
Low oblique view of the Big Hidatsa Village looking south toward the maintenance building. The scale is more accurate around the maintained village site, yet the view becomes distorted towards the margins. The fragmented border is due to the absence of data. Image processed by S. W. Salley , 4/05
A mosaic vertical view of the Big Hidatsa Site. Since the kite was flown above this area, it is an accurate spatial representation of the village. After geo-referencing the image, an accurate scale is obtained. Image processed by S. W. Salley , 4/05


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Discussion
Visible remains of earth-lodge dwellings, cache pits, fortification ditches, and travois trails are preserved in extraordinary condition at the Knife River Indian Villages National Historical Site. The most notable feature of the park is the remnants of the earth lodge dwellings. Kite aerial photography allows an extraordinary view of these historic sites.  Utilizing joining software to mosaic the imagery, an aerial perspective of the whole site can be obtained at minimal costs. With the use of kites, small format aerial photography provides a useful tool to visualize the spatial aspects of this important archeological site.


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Related Websites

 

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Special thanks to Knife River Indian Villages NHS for
permission to conduct kite aerial photography.



 

This web presentation is for the fulfillment of:
ES 555: Small-Format Aerial Photography
as outlined in the Emporia State University's Earth Science Curriculum. 

Please direct questions to the author


© S.W. Salley (2005). All rights reserved. All illustrations and ideas presented in this paper are intellectual
      property of the author. Permission must be obtained from author to use any content of this report.