The purpose of the Northern Plains National Heritage Area is to encourage long-term respect, enhancement, interpretation, and appropriate development of the region's heritage resources. The heritage area tells the story of the heritage and lived-in landscape along the Missouri River in central North Dakota, from the ancestral homelands of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara people, to the Oceti Sakowin (the Sioux Nation), and the origins of an agrarian way of life; to the expansion of the United States across the Northern Plains, including the Lewis and Clark expedition and the U.S. Dakota Wars; through early American settlement by immigrant farmers who established cooperative social, political, and economic activities suited to life on the Northern Plains; to the modern adaptation of these lifeways within the region reflected and defined by the Northern Plains National Heritage Area.

* indicates the current step in the planning process
Step 1. Initiate project and conduct public scoping on heritage area designation: June 2016
Step 2. Prepare draft management plan for heritage area: July 2016-December 2017
Step 3. Release draft plan public: February 2018 *
Step 4. Submit plan for final review to National Heritage Area Program Office: May 2018
Step 5. NPS submits final Plan to Secretary of the Interior for approval: Summer 2018
Step 6. Begin implementation of management plan: Once approval has been received