Aboriginally, Hidatsa villages were built on flood-free terraces of the Missouri River. These permanent villages were located adjacent to bottomland gardening areas and valuable timber stands. Villages were compact and fortified by ditches and palisades. Houses were large, circular, earth-covered Structures built upon a substantial foundation of timber beams and posts. The Hidatsa also constructed more temporary versions of earthlodge encampments in the wooded bottomlands that served as winter quarters.
During the early 1800s, the three Hidatsa subgroups, the Hidatsa proper, Awatixa, and Awaxawi, lived in villages that numbered approximately eighty, fifty, and twenty earthlodges respectively, with populations of about one thousand, seven hundred, and three hundred. By the late 1860s, when the Hidatsa had relocated into a single village and were experiencing the acculturative influences of reservation policies, the square log cabin began to replace the traditional earthlodge. By this time, family size had declined significantly and the Hidatsa were being encouraged to alter their family Structure to the nuclear family model of rural American agrarian life. The cohesive, nucleated earthlodge settlement plan disappeared in the 1880s, when the village was dismantled and the Hidatsa were placed on family allotments and scattered along the Missouri Valley. The creation of Garrison Dam in the 1950s inundated the small farming and ranching communities that the Hidatsa developed in the rich bottomlands of the reservation, and they have been relocated to towns or isolated homes in the upland prairie.