Mythological evidence suggests that the Hidatsa migrated into the Missouri River valley from the northeast, near Present-day Devils Lake, North Dakota. Acquiring maize agriculture from the Mandan, the Hidatsa established several Villages nearby. Archaeological evidence suggests that some Hidatsa were present in their historically known location by the early 1600s. Nearby groups included the Mandan and Crow, with whom the Hidatsa were allied, and the Dakota, Cheyenne, Assiniboin, and Arikara, all of whom the Hidatsa counted as enemies.
Sustained contact with Europeans began during the late eighteenth century, when the Hidatsa were brought into the fur trade. In 1804, the Hidatsa established peaceful relations with the United States as a result of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. While initially prospering from the fur trade, frequent intertribal warfare with the Dakota, coupled with extensive loss of life from the 1837 smallpox epidemic, caused the Hidatsa to relocate into a single village near the relative safety of Fort Berthold in 1845. The Hidatsa were subsequently joined by the Mandan and Arikara, resulting in the formation of the Three Affiliated Tribes and the Fort Berthold Reservation during the 1860s within traditional Hidatsa territory. Throughout the historic period, the Hidatsa have maintained peaceful relations with the United States.