The Bergdorf Hills rise unobtrusively in south-central North Dakota east of the badlands and were not fully described until 1923, in a book by the youngest son of a prominent New York family, Meyer Bergdorf, who went west at the age of twenty, exasperated by the wealth and insouciance of his parents.

Bergdorf disembarked the Great Northern Railroad at Bismarck in May, 1918. He took three disheveled Lakota into his employ, outfitted them and rode south into the basin of the Heart River. He told the Indians he only wanted to look into that country, that he wasn’t searching for anything specific. Indeed, he had intended to get off the train in Fargo, but gazing from the train door at Fargo’s streets and stores he’d been so put off by the town’s earnestness he’d returned to his seat.