Information on the Mandan and Hidatsa Indians
Recorded by Members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition,
Oct. 27, 1804-April 6, 1805
When Lewis and Clark visited the area of modern Stanton, North Dakota there were two Mandan villages on the Missouri River, and three Hidatsa villages further up the Knife River.
The first Mandan village was Matootonha (or Mitutanka), on or near the later site of the now defunct village of Deapolis in Mercer County. Archaeologists have labeled the site "Deapolis;" it was destroyed by gravel pit operations in the 1950s. The second village was Rooptahee (Ruptdre, Nuptadi), in McLean County, North Dakota. It has been destroyed by river changes and no trace of it can be found today. It is called the Black Cat site, after the village chief during the Lewis and Clark period. The Mandans were an agricultural people who lived - and continue to live - on the Missouri River. Cultural traits and ancient village sites suggest an origin far to the southeast in the Mississippi Valley, but they have been on the Missouri longer than Europeans have been in North America. Europeans first mentioned them in 1719, but the first account by a visitor comes from Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de La Verendrye, who encountered them in 1738. They may have been living near the Hidatsas even then, but outsiders did not distinguish the two tribes until later.
The presence among the Mandans of certain unusually light-complexioned and fair-haired persons led to speculations about European origins, some saying that they were the fabled "Welsh Indians," the story that brought John Evans up the Missouri in 1796. All such theories have proved to be fables. In addition to their farming and hunting, the Mandans were important as middlemen in a vast intertribal trade network. They were generally peaceful and accommodating in their relations with whites, as with Lewis and Clark, and were less aggressive in their relations with other Indians than their allies the Hidatsas. The presence among them of prominent men of Cheyenne and Arikara birth suggests a relatively low degree of ethnocentrism. They had a rich ceremonial and religious life, of which Lewis and Clark saw only a small part.
The Hidatsas were of the Siouian language family and lived in three farming villages of earth lodges near the mouth of the Knife River, in Mercer County, North Dakota. While ethnologists speak of one people called Hidatsa, there were at least three divisions within this group, corresponding roughly to the three villages, each conscious of being somewhat different in language, culture, and antecedents. The Amahamis said that they had always lived on the Missouri River. The Hidatsas proper and the Awaxawi said they came from eastern North Dakota, the former being the last to arrive. Apparently the Awaxawi and Hidatsas proper lived near the mouth of the Heart River before moving north to the Knife River, where all three groups were established by 1787. The first village going north (upstream) along the river was that of the Amahami, called Awaxawi. The second village going upstream was Metaharta, also called the Sakakawea site from its association with Sacagawea, Lewis and Clark's Shoshone interpreter. The third village was the Big Hidatsa site, home of the Hidatsas proper. The captains frequently referred to the Mandan and Hidatsa villages by numbers from south to north; the Mandan villages were numbers 1 and 2, so the Awaxawi village was number 3, Metaharta number 4, and Big Hidatsa number 5.
The Hidatsas have been known by many names, and were called many different names in the Journals of Lewis and Clark. Because this can be very confusing, a brief explanation follows. The term Hidatsa may come from hirdaca but has an uncertain etymology. The Hidatsas were also called the Minitari, which comes from m'ttintari (literally, "water ford"); this is what the Mandans called the Hidatsas. The name Gros Ventres was apparently derived from the Plains sign language designation for these people, which used both hands to indicate an expanded stomach. Travelers' accounts made the point that the tribe had no larger stomachs than others. "Big Bellies" is a literal translation of the French Gros Ventres. The name has been a source of confusion, since "Gros Ventres" is also a name applied to the Atsinas, a semi-nomadic tribe of Algonquian language stock who apparently broke away from the Arapahos and lived well to the west of the Hidatsas. Nineteenth-century writers attempted to resolve the confusion by distinguishing between the "Gros Ventres of the Missouri" (Hidatsas) and the "Gros Ventres of the Prairie" (Atsinas).
All of these groups suffered from the great smallpox epidemic of the 1780s and from Sioux attacks. Reduction of population and the need for a defensive alliance were no doubt responsible, at least in part, for the Mandan and Hidatsa villages drawing closer together in the late eighteenth century. These Indians were sedentary farmers who lived in permanent earth lodge villages and hunted to supplement their agricultural products. However, the Hidatsas proper are said to have learned corn growing from the Mandans. The Hidatsas seem to have had a stronger military tradition than the Mandans. John Bradbury noted in 1809 that the Awaxawi had only fifty warriors, yet they, like the others, carried out raids against the Shoshones and Flatheads in the Rockies. It was in one of these Hidatsa raids that Sacagawea was captured.
The smallpox epidemic of 1837 reduced the Mandans and Hidatsas, nearly wiping out the Mandans entirely; only 125 of 1,600 Mandans survived. In addition, the Hidatsa villages of Metaharta and Awaxawi were destroyed by raiding Lakota Sioux in 1834. After the epidemic the Hidatsas absorbed the remnants of the Mandans and moved to Like-a-Fishhook village, near the Fort Berthold trading post, in 1845. The Arikaras joined them there and the defensive alliance of the three tribes, once proposed by Lewis and Clark, was finally consummated. The "Three Affiliated Tribes" - the Mandans, Hidatsas and Arikaras - are centered on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota.
The following excerpts from the journals of Lewis and Clark and their men present a picture of the Mandans and Hidatsas as the Anglo-Americans saw them. The modern reader must be careful to understand that what these white men saw was not necessarily correct from the Indian perspective. For instance, Lewis and Clark often noted that the women of various tribes worked like slaves. They did not understand that the Mandan and Hidatsa women owned the lodges and the farm fields in which they worked. They worked very hard - there can be no doubt of that - but their work was not conducted in servitude to male "masters." The fruits of their labor - agricultural products - were the major reason that the Mandan and Hidatsa villages became the center of a trade network. Semi-nomadic plains tribes who spent most of the year following the buffalo herds came to the Mandan and Hidatsa villages for corn, beans and squash to supplement their diet. They traded furs, most notably buffalo hides, for the vegetables. In turn, European traders recognized these villages as major rendezvous and trading points at which they could obtain furs - primarily beaver - in exchange for European manufactured goods such as iron kettles, muskets, gunpowder, cloth and blankets. It must be remembered that it was the work of the women which originally began and sustained this trade network, making the Mandan and Hidatsa two of the richest tribes in North America in terms of material wealth, ease of living and food stocks.
The following passages have been freely adapted and excerpted from the original texts, and the spelling has been corrected to make them easier to read. For students wishing to quote these passages, the Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, edited by Gary Moulton and published by the University of Nebraska Press, is the recommended source. For those who wish more in-depth information about Lewis and Clark's relations with various Indian tribes, including background from the Indian perspective, the best book is James P. Ronda's Lewis and Clark among the Indians. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984. The very best way to obtain accurate information from the tribal perspective is to contact tribal councils for individual tribes - in other words, to consult the people themselves.
18th of October 1804
We met 2 Frenchmen in a canoe, who informed us they were trapping near the Mandans and were robbed of 4 traps & part of their skins and several other articles by Indians he took to be Mandans. Those men returned with us.
19th October Friday 1804
Near one of those knolls, on a point of a hill 90 feet above the lower plain I observed the remains of an old village, [NB: high, strong, watchtower &c.] which had been fortified, the Indian Chief with us tells me a party of Mandans lived there. Here first saw ruins of Mandan nation.
[Clark, writing five miles south of Mandan, North Dakota on the west side near Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park].
20th of October Saturday 1804
I saw an old remains of a village on the side of a hill which the Chief with us Too ne tells me that nation [Mandans] lived in. A number of villages on each side of the river and the troublesome Sioux caused them to move about 40 miles higher up, where they remained a few years & moved to the place they now live. [This was the On-a-Slant village, which today has several replicas of earth lodges in the Fort Lincoln State Park].
21st of October Sunday 1804
An old Mandan Village above the mouth of this little river. I saw a single tree in the open plains which the Mandans formerly paid great devotion to run cords through their flesh & tie themselves to the tree to make them brave.
21st October Sunday 1804
Some distance up this river is situated a stone which the Indians have great faith in & say they see painted on the stone, "all the calamities & good fortune to happen to the nation & parties who visit it." A tree (an oak) which stands alone near this place about 2 miles off in the open prairie which has withstood the fire they pay great respect to, make holes and tie strings through the skins of their necks and around this tree to make them brave. (All this is the information of Too ne is a whippoorwill) the Chief of the Arikaras who accompanied us to the Mandans. At 2 miles passed the 2nd village of the Mandan, which was in existence at the same time with the 1st. This village is at the foot of a hill on the starboard side on a beautiful & extensive plain.
22nd of October 1804
An old village on the starboard side and the upper of the 6 villages the Mandans occupied about 25 years ago. This village was entirely cut off by the Sioux & one of the others nearly, the Small Pox destroyed great numbers.
23rd of October Tuesday 1804
A cloudy morning, some snow. Set out early. Passed five lodges of Indians which were deserted, the fires yet burning. We suppose those were the Indians who robbed the 2 French trappers a few days ago. Those 2 men are now with us going up with a view to get their property from the Indians through us.
24th of October
Passed an old [village] of a band of Me ne tarres [Hidatsas] called Mah har ha where they lived 40 years ago on the larboard side. Came to on an island caused by the river cutting through a narrow point 7 years ago. On this island we were visited by the Grand Chief of the Mandans, a 2nd Chief and some other, who were camped on the island. Those Chiefs met our Arikara Chief with great cordiality, & smoked together. Capt. Lewis visited the camps, 5 lodges, and proceeded on & camped near a 2d camp of Mandans on the starboard side nearly opposite the old Arikara & Mandan Village which the Arikaras abandoned in the year 1789.
24th October Wednesday 1804
We have seen no game on the river today, a proof of the Indians hunting in the neighborhood. Passed an island on the larboard side made by the river cutting through a point, by which the river is shortened several miles. On this island we saw one of the Grand Chiefs of the Mandans, with five lodges hunting. This Chief met the Chief of the Arikaras who accompanied us with great cordiality & ceremony smoked the pipe &c. Capt. Lewis with the interpreter went with the Chiefs to his lodges at 1 mile distant. After his return we admitted the Grand Chief & his brother for a few minutes on our boat. Proceeded on a short distance and camped on the starboard side below the old village of the Mandans & Arikaras. Soon after our landing 4 Mandans came from a camp above, the Arikara Chief went with them to their camp.
25th of October Thursday 1804
Passed an old village on a high plain where the Mandans once lived. After they left the village & moved higher the Arikaras took possession, and lived until 1799 when they abandoned it & flew from the just revenge of the Mandans. A very extensive bottom above the village above the center of which the Mandans lived in the 2 villages on the larboard side. But little timber. Several parties of Indians on each side of the river going up, in view in every direction. We are informed that the Sioux has latterly taken horses from the Big Bellies or Minitarres [Hidatsas] and on their way homeward they fell in with the Assiniboins who killed them and took the horses. A Frenchman, Menard, who resided with the Mandan for 20 years past was killed a few days ago on his way from the British establishments on the Assiniboin River, 150 miles north of this place, to the Mandans, by the Assiniboin Indians. We were frequently called to by parties of Indians & requested to land & talk. Passed a very bad place & camped on a point starboard side opposite a high hill. Several Indians visit us this evening, the son of the late great Chief of the Mandans who had 2 of his fingers off and appeared to be pierced in many places. On inquiring the reason, was informed that it was a testimony to their grief for deceased friends, they frequently cut off Several fingers & pierced themselves in different parts, a mark of savage affection. Those Indians appear to have similar customs with the Arikaras, their dress the same, more mild in their language & gestures, &c. &c.
25th of October Thursday 1804
Proceeded on, passed the 3rd old Village of the Mandans, which has been deserted for many years. This village was situated on an eminence of about 40 feet above the water on the larboard side. Back for several miles is a beautiful plain. At a short distance above this old village on a continuation of the same eminence was situated the (Arikara's Village) which have been evacuated only six years. Above this village a large and extensive bottom for several miles, in which the squaws raised their corn, but little timber near the villages. On the starboard side below is a point of excellent timber, and in the point several miles above is fine timber. Several parties of Mandans rode to the river on the starboard side to view us. Indeed, they are continually in sight, satisfying their curiosities as to our appearance &c. We are told that the Sioux has latterly fallen in with & stolen the horses of the Big Belly [Hidatsas]. On their way home they fell in with the 19 Assiniboin who killed them and took the horses. A Frenchman has latterly been killed by the Indians on the track to the trading establishment on the Assiniboin River in the north of this place (or British fort). This Frenchman has lived (20) many years with the Mandans. We were frequently called on to land & talk to parties of the Mandans on the shore. Several Indians came to see us this evening, amongst others the son of the late great Chief of the Mandans.
Thursday 25th. A great many of the natives, some on horseback and some on foot appeared on the hills on the north side, hallooing and singing.
26th of October 1804
We set the Arikara Chief on shore with some Mandans, many on each side viewing us. We took in 2 Chiefs (Coal and Big Man), and halted a few minutes at their camps on the larboard side, fortified in their way. Here we saw a trader from the Assiniboin River called McCracken. This man arrived 9 days ago with goods to trade for horses & robes, one other man with him. We camped on the larboard side a short distance below the 1st Mandan village on the larboard side. Many men, women & children flocked down to see us. Capt. Lewis walked to the village with the Chief and interpreters. My rheumatism increasing prevented me from going also, and we had determined that both would not leave the boat at the same time until we knew the disposition of the natives. Some Chiefs visited me & I smoked with them. They appeared delighted with the steel mill which we were obliged to use, also with my black servant [York]. Capt. Lewis returned late. [The Coal was apparently an Arikara by birth, and was later adopted by the Mandans. He was a rival of Black Cat, considered by the captains to be the head chief of the Mandans. Big Man, also called "Le Grand," was (according to Clark) an adopted Cheyenne prisoner. These men, Coal and Big Man, were chiefs in the first Mandan village. Hugh McCracken was a British free trader who worked for neither the Hudson's Bay Company or the Northwest Company].
Friday 26th Oct.
At 10 o'clock we halted at a hunting camp of the Mandans, consisting of men women and children. Here we found an Irishman who was here trading with them from the Northwest Company of Traders. We delayed about an hour with them, & proceeded on. Took 2 of the natives on board with their baggage in order to go to their village. The greater part of that camp kept along shore going up to the villages. We camped on the starboard side below the 1st village at an old field where the Mandan nation had raised corn the last summer, & sunflowers &c., of which they eat with corn. Capt. Lewis walked up to the village this evening, found the nation very friendly &c.
27th of October Saturday 1804
We set out early and came to at the [first] village [Matootonha] on the larboard side where we delayed a few minutes. I walked to a chief's lodge & smoked with them, but could not eat, which did displease them a little. Here I met with a Mr. Jusseaume, who lived in this nation 18 years. I got him to interpret & he proceeded on with us. We proceeded on to a central point opposite the Knife River, & formed a camp on the starboard side above the 2nd Mandan village & opposite the Mah-har-ha village and raised a flagstaff. Capt. Lewis & the Interpreters walked down to the 2nd Village of Mandans, & returned in about an hour. We sent 3 carrots of tobacco to the other villages & invited them to come down and council with us tomorrow. We endeavor to procure some knowledge of the principal chiefs of the different nations &c. well. A number of Indians bring their wives &c. to the camps of our party on shore &c.
27th of October Saturday 1804
This village is situated on an eminence of about 50 feet above the water in a handsome plain. It contains houses in a kind of picket work. The houses are round and very large, containing several families, as also their horses which is tied on one side of the entrance. A description of those houses will be given hereafter. Passed the 2nd village and camped opposite the village of the Weter Sooiz or ah wah har ways which is situated on an eminence in a plain on the larboard side. This village is small and contains but few inhabitants. Above this village & also above the Knife River on the same side of the Missouri the Big Bellies [Hidatsas] Towns are situated. A further description will be given hereafter as also of the Town of Mandans on this side of the river, i.e. starboard side.
Saturday 27th. These Indians have better complexions than most other Indians, and some of the children have fair hair. This place is 1,610 miles from the mouth of the River du Bois, where we first embarked to proceed on the expedition. There are about the same number of lodges, and people, in this village as in the first. These people do not bury their dead, but place the body on a scaffold, wrapped in a buffalo robe, where it lies exposed.
Saturday October 27th
The Mandan Indians are in general stout, well made men; and they are the lightest colored Indians I ever saw. We saw several of their deceased placed on scaffolds, and was informed of it being their custom by the interpreters among us.
28th of October 1804
The wind so hard from the southwest we could not meet the Indians in councils. Those who visited us we sent to the nearest village. Consulted the Black Cat chief about the chiefs of the different villages, who gave his opinion to us.
Sunday 28th of October 1804
Many of the Gros Ventres (or Big Bellies) and Watersons [Amahami] came to see us and hear the council. We made up the presents and entertained several of the curious chiefs who wished to see the boat, which was very curious to them, viewing it as great medicine, as they also viewed my black servant [York]. The Black Cat, Grand chief of the Mandans, Capt. Lewis & myself with an interpreter walked up the river about 1½ miles. Our views were to examine the situation & timbers for a fort. I presented a jar to the chief's wife who received it with much pleasure. Our men very cheerful this evening. We sent the chiefs of the [Hidatsa] to smoke a pipe with the Grand chief of the Mandans in his village, & told them we would speak tomorrow.
29th of October 1804
After breakfast we were visited by the old chief of the Big Bellies or me ne tar res [Hidatsa]. This man has given his power to his son who is now on a war party against the Snake [Shoshone] Indians who inhabit the Rocky Mountains. The southwest wind very high. We met in council under an awning and our sails stretched round to keep out as much wind as possible & delivered a long speech similar to what had been said to the nations below. The old chief was restless before the speech was half ended, observed his camp was exposed & could wait no longer &c. At the conclusion of the speech we mentioned the Arikaras & requested them to make a peace & smoke out of the sacred stem with their chief which I introduced and gave him the pipe of peace to hand around. They all smoked with eagerness out of the pipe held by the Arikara chief Ar-ke-tar-na-Shar. We mentioned our hands that were to be discharged here, also the robbery committed on the 2 Frenchmen below, & requested them to answer us tomorrow. Gave the chief small presents and a few presents for each village. Shot the air gun which both surprised and astonished the natives, and soon dispersed. Our Arikara chief came [and] told me he wished to return to his nation tomorrow. I put him off & said we would send a talk by him after the chiefs had spoken to us. We gave a steel mill to the Mandans which was very pleasing to them.
29th October Monday 1804.
The old chief of the Gros Ventres was very restless before the speech was half ended, [and] observed that he could not wait long, that his camp was exposed to the hostile Indians, &c. &c. He was rebuked by one of the chiefs for his uneasiness at such a time as the present. We at the end of the speech mentioned the Arikara who accompanied us to make a firm peace. They all smoked with him (I gave this chief a dollar of the American coin as a medal with which he was much pleased). In council we presented him with a certificate of his sincerity and good conduct &c. We also spoke about the fur which was taken from 2 Frenchmen by a Mandan, and informed of our intentions of sending back the French hands. After the council we gave the presents with much ceremony, and put the medals on the chiefs we intended to make, viz., one for each town to whom we gave coats hats & flags, one grand chief to each nation to whom we gave medals with the President's likeness in council. We requested them to give us an answer tomorrow or as soon as possible to some points which required their deliberation. After the council was over we shot the air gun, which appeared to astonish the natives much, the greater part them retired soon after. The Arikara chief Ar-ke-tar-na-shar came to me this evening and tells me that he wishes to return to his village & nation. I put him off, saying tomorrow we would have an answer to our talk to the satisfaction & send by him a string of wampum informing what had passed here. An iron or steel corn mill which we gave to the Mandans was very thankfully received. Again the prairie was set on fire (or caught by accident) by a young man of the Mandans. The fire went with such velocity that it burnt to death a man and woman, who could not get to any place of safety. One man, a woman & child much burnt and several narrowly escaped the flame. A boy half white was saved unhurt in the midst of the flame. Those ignorant people say this boy was saved by the Great Spirit medicine because he was white. The cause of his being saved was a green buffalo skin was thrown over him by his mother who perhaps had more foresight for the perfection of her (self) son, and less for herself than those who escaped the flame. The fire did not burn under the skin, leaving the grass round the boy. This fire passed our camp last [night] about 8 o'clock P.M. It went with great rapidity and looked tremendous.
The following chiefs were made in council today:
Mar-too-ton-ha or Lower Village of the Mandans,
1st chief Sha-ha-ka or Big White 2nd do. Ka-goh-ha-mi or Little Raven.
Roop-tar-hee or Second Village of the Mandans
1st and Grand Chief Pass-cop-sa-he or Black Cat, 2nd chief Car-gar-no-mok-She, Raven Man chief
Mah-har-ha 3rd Village
chief Ta-tuck-co-pin-re-ha (White Buffalo Robe Unfolded) (Man resse-sar-ra-ree or Neighing Horse)
Me-ne-tar-re Me-te har-tar
1st chief Omp-se-ha-ra, Black Moccasins, 2nd do. Oh-harh or Little Fox
We sent the presents intended for the Grand Chief of the Mi-ne-tar-re or Big Belly [Hidatsa], and the presents, flag and wampum by the Old Chief and those intended for the chief of the Lower Village by a young chief.
The following chiefs were recommended in addition to those, Viz.-
Oh-hee-nar Big Man- [NB: a Cheyenne prisoner adopted by them] a Chien
Ar-rat-tana-mock She-Wolf Man Chief
Te-tuck-co-pin-re-ha White Buffalo Skin Unfolded
Min-nis-Sur-ra-ree (Neighing Horse)
Lo-tong-gar-ti har Old Woman at a Distance
Mar-noh-tah the Big Stealer (out at war) [NB: (who was then out at war & was killed afterward]
Man-se-rus-se- Tail of Calumet Bird
Shd hake ho pin nee Little Wolf's Medicine
Ar-rat-toe-nomook-gu (Man Wolf Chief) (at war)
Cal-tar cs td (Cherry grows on a bush), old chief and father to the above mentioned chief Maw-pah-pir-re-cos-sa too. This chief is near this hunting and a very considerable man.
To the 1st chiefs we gave a medal with the impression of the President of the U.S.
To the 2nd chiefs a medal of weaving & domestic animals.
To the 3rd chiefs a medal with the impression of a man sowing wheat.
1 Ea pa no pa- Two Tailed Calumet Bird, young chief
2 Warherassa The Red Shield, young chief of Big Belly - big town
[Called The Grape, this chief was an elderly Hidatsa who had turned his authority over to his son, Man Wolf Chief. Big White was the principal chief of the lower Mandan village, Matootonha; his proper name was Sheheke, translated as "Coyote." The name Big White, or Big White Man, was given by the whites. He accompanied Lewis and Clark to Washington on their return journey in 1806. Returning him to his people became a major problem to the captains in their later capacities as governor and Indian superintendent; because of Sioux and Arikara hostility he did not reach home until 1809. The Mandans did not believe his tales of the wonders he had seen, and he lost much of his prestige and influence; perhaps his long absence had in any case allowed rivals to supplant him. He is reported as expressing a desire to return to the whites and live among them, but he was killed in a Sioux raid on his village in 1832].
Monday 29th Oct.
The council was ended about 4 o'clock P.M., another gun was fired, & then our officers gave the or each head chief a medal & a flag and made a 1st & 2nd chief to each village & gave the head chiefs a suit of clothes and a quantity of small goods for their nations, cocked hats & feathers &c. &c. Gave also a steel corn mill to the Mandan nation which pleased them very much. The captains requested them to assemble again tomorrow if possible to give us answer to what we had said to them respecting making peace with the Arikaras and all other nations & whether they mean to go to see their Great Father &c. Capt. Lewis shot the air gun which pleased them much. They returned home to their village. Hoisted the flag we gave them as well as the officers gave an American flag for each village &c. &c.
30th October Tuesday 1804
Two chiefs came to have some talk, one the principal of the lower village, the other the one who thought himself the principal man, & requested to hear some of the speech that was delivered yesterday. They were gratified, and we put the medal on the neck of the Big White to whom we had sent clothes yesterday & a flag. Those men did not return from hunting in time to (hear) join the council. They were well pleased (2nd of those is a Cheyenne).
Tuesday 30th Oct.
The natives were a number of the men & women about our camp with some corn & bread made of the corn meal parched & mixed with fat &c. which eats very well. They expect us to give them some small article in return for their produce, such as corn, beans, squashes &c. of which they raise plenty of for themselves & to trade with other nations &c.
31st of October Wednesday 1804
The main chief of the Mandans sent 2 chiefs for (us) to invite us to come to his lodge, and hear what he has to say. I with 2 interpreters walked down, and with great ceremony was seated on a robe by the side of the chief. He threw a robe, highly decorated, over my shoulders, and after smoking a pipe with the old men in the circle, the chief spoke. "He believed all we had told him, and that peace would be general, which not only gave himself satisfaction but all his people. They now could hunt without fear & their women could work in the fields without looking every moment for the enemy. As to the Arikaras addressing himself to the chief with me, you know we do not wish war with your nation. You have brought it on yourselves. That man pointing to the 2nd chief and those 2 young warriors will go with you & smoke in the pipes of peace with the Arikaras. I will let you see my father addressing me that we wish to be at peace with all and do not make war upon any." He continued to speak in this style (refer to notes). He delivered 2 of the traps to me which was taken from the Frenchmen, gave me 2 bushels of corn. I answered the speech, which appeared to give general satisfaction, and returned to the boat. In the evening the chief visited us dressed in his new suit, & delayed until late. The men danced until 10 o'clock, which was common with them.
[undated, October 31, 1804]
Black Cat or Pose-cop-sa-he 1st chief of the Mandans & 2d Village:
"I believe what you have told us in council, & that peace will be general, which not only gives me pleasure, but satisfaction to all the nation. They now can hunt without fear, and our women can work in the fields without looking every moment for the enemy. As to the Arikaras we will show you that we wish peace with all, and do not make [war] on any without cause, that chief pointing to the 2nd of the Village and some young men will accompany the Arikara chief home to his Nation to smoke with that people. When the Indians of the different villages heard of your coming up they all came in from hunting to see, they expected Great presents. They were disappointed, and some dissatisfied. As to myself I am not much so, but my village are." He believed the road was open; and he would go and see his great father. He delivered up 2 traps which had been taken from the French, & gave me a robe & about 12 bushels of corn & smoked &c. I answered the speech & explained many parts which he could not understand of the speech of yesterday.
Wednesday October 31st
The men that went with Captain Clark found among the Indians at this village corn, beans, simblins, and many kinds of garden vegetables. They & the Arikara nation are the only Indians that we saw that cultivated the earth that reside on the Missouri River. Their village consisted of about 200 lodges built in the manner that the Arikara build their lodges. This village we supposed contained 1,500 souls. They were governed by a chief called the Black Cat. They behaved extremely kind to the party, and the only animal that was among them was some horses, which are stout serviceable animals. This village <is> was situated on a large high plain, and they plant in a bottom lying below it and to appearance are a very industrious set of people. [It should be noted that Whitehouse was wrong about the mandans being the only Missouri River farmers - the Otos, Missouris, Omahas, and Poncas were also farming people].
1st of November Thursday 1804
At about 10 o'clock the chiefs of the Lower Village came and after a short time informed us they wished us to call at their village & take some corn, that they would make peace with the Arikaras. They never made war against them but after they killed their chiefs they killed them like the birds, and were tired and would send a chief and some brave men to the Arikaras to smoke with that people. In the evening we set out and fell down to the Lower Village, where Capt. Lewis got out and continued at the village until after night. Capt. Lewis came down after night, and informed me he intended to return the next morning by the particular request of the chiefs. We passed the villages on our descent in view of great numbers of the inhabitants.
The 1st of Nov. Mandan Village
The Main Chief Big White & 2 others, i.e. the Big Man or Sha-ha-ca and [blank] came early to talk, and spoke as follows, after smoking, viz:
Is it certain that the Arikara intend to make good with us our wish is to be at peace with all. We will send a chief with the Pawnee chief and some young men to smoke and make good peace-? Are you going to stay above or below this cold [season?].- Answer by C.L. We are going down a few miles to look [for] a place, we can find no place above proper. The Pawnee know we do not begin the war, they always begin, we sent a chief and a pipe to the Pawnee to smoke and they killed them. We have killed enough of them, we kill them like the birds, we do not wish to kill more, we will make a good peace. We were sorry when we heard of your going up but now you are going down, we are glad. If we eat you shall eat, if we starve you must starve also. Our village is too far to bring the corn to you, but we hope you will call on us as you pass to the place you intend to stop. C[aptain] L[ewis] answered the above.
Thursday 1st November 1804.
Capt. Lewis, myself and several more of the party halted at the 1st village of the Mandans in order to get some corn. The head chief told us that they had not got the corn ready, but if we would come tomorrow they would have it ready. They gave us 3 kinds of victuals to eat which was very good. They were very friendly, gave the pipe round every few minutes &c. They live very well, have plenty of corn, beans, squashes, meat &c.
3rd of November Saturday 1804
Mr. Jusseaume with his squaw & children came down to live, as interpreter. We receive a horse for our service. In the evening the Ka goh ha mi or Little Raven came & brought us on his squaw [with] about 60 weight of dried buffalo meat, a robe, & pot of meal &c. They delayed all night. We gave his squaw an ax & a few small articles & himself a piece of tobacco.
4th of Nov.
The Indian's horses & dogs live in the same lodge with themselves.
5th November Monday 1804
A camp of Mandans a few miles below us caught within two days 100 goats by driving them in a strong pen directed by a bush fence widening from the pen &c. We are told by our interpreter that 4 Assiniboin Indians, have arrived at the camps of the Gros Ventres & 50 lodges are coming.
6th of Nov.
Mr. Gravelines our Arikara Interpreter & 2 of our French hands & 2 boys set out in a canoe for the Arikaras. Mr. Gravelines is to accompany the Arikara chiefs to the City of Washington in the spring. [Arketarnashar, or Piaheto, the chief Gravelines accompanied, died in Washington in 1806].
9th Nov. Friday 1804
The Mandans graze their horses in the day on grass, and at night give them a stick of Cottonwood to eat. Horses, dogs & people all pass the night in the same lodge or round house, covered with earth, with a fire in the middle.
Saturday 10th Nov.
The 2nd chief & a squaw came from the 1st village down in a buffalo hide canoe. Brought us some fat buffalo meat.
Sunday 11th Nov.
A Frenchman's squaw [Sacagawea?] came to our camp who belonged to the Snake nation. She came with our Interpreter's wife & brought with them 4 buffalo robes and gave them to our officers. They gave them out to the party. I got one fine one myself.
12th November Monday 1804
Early this morning the Big White, principal chief of the lower village of the Mandans, came down. He packed about 100 weight of fine meat on his squaw for us. We made some small presents to the squaw & child, gave a small ax [with] which she was much pleased. The interpreter says that the Mandan Nation as their old men say came out of a (small lake) where they had gardens. Many years ago they lived in several villages on the Missouri low down. The smallpox destroyed the greater part of the nation and reduced them to one large village and some small ones. All (the) nations before this malady was afraid of them. After they were reduced, the Sioux and other Indians waged war, and killed a great many, and they moved up the Missouri. Those Indians still continued to wage war, and they moved still higher, until they got in the country of the Pawnee [Hidatsa]. With this nation they lived in friendship many years, inhabiting the same neighborhood until that people waged war. They moved up near the watersoons & winataree [Amahami] where they now live in peace with those nations. The Mandans speak a language peculiar to themselves (very much). They can raise about 350 men, the Winatarees about 80 and the Big Bellies about 600 or 650 men. The Mandans and Sioux have the same word for water. The Big Bellies [or] Minitarees & Ravens [Crow] Indians speak nearly the same language, and the presumption is they were originally the same nation. The Raven Indians have 400 lodges & about 1200 men, & follow the buffalo, or hunt for their subsistence in the plains & on the Cote Noir & Rocky Mountains, & are at war with the Sioux Snake Indians. The Big Bellies & Watersoons are at war with the Snake Indians & Sioux, and were at war with the Arikaras until we made peace a few days past. The Mandans are at war with all who make war on them, at present with the Sioux only, and wish to be at peace with all nations, seldom the aggressors.
Tuesday 13th Nov.
Some of the Sioux [Assiniboin] Indians came here with a chief of the Mandans. They asked for whiskey &c. but we gave them none.
14th of November, Wednesday 1804
Only two Indians visited us today owing to a dance at the village last night in concluding a ceremony of adoption, and interchange of property, between the Assiniboins, and the nations of this neighborhood. Our interpreter [Jusseaume] informs that 70 lodges, one of 3 bands of Assiniboins & some Christinoes are at the Mandan Village. The Christinoes are about 300 men speak the Chippewa Language. They live near Fort Des Prairies.
16th November Friday 1804
Several Indians come to camp today. The Assiniboins is at the Big Belly [Hidatsa] Camp. Some trouble like to take place between them from the loss of horses &c. as is said by an old Indian who visited us with 4 buffalo robes & corn to trade for a pistol which we did not let him have. Some horses sent down to stay in the woods near the fort, to prevent the Assiniboins stealing them.
18th Nov. Sunday 1804
The Black Cat, chief of the Mandans, came to see us. He made great inquiries respecting our fashions. He also stated the situation of their nation. He mentioned that a council had been held the day before and it was thought advisable to put up with the recent insults of the Assiniboins & Christinoes until they were convinced that what had been told them by us, (until) Mr. Evans had deceived them & we might also. He promised to return & furnish them with guns & ammunition. We advised them to remain at peace & that they might depend upon getting supplies through the channel of the Missouri, but it required time to put the trade in operation. The Assiniboins &c. have the trade of those nations in their power and treat them badly, as the Sioux does the Arikaras, and they cannot resent for fear of losing their trade. [For the Mandan point of view of this meeting see Ronda pp. 89-90].
20th November Tuesday 1804
Several Indians came down to eat fresh meat. Three chiefs from the 2nd Mandan Village stayed all day. They are very curious in examining our works. Those chiefs inform us that the Sioux settled on the Missouri above Dog [Cheyenne] River, threaten to attacked them this winter, and have treated 2 Arikaras who carried the pipe of peace to them very roughly, whipped & took their horses from them &c. &c. & is much displeased with Arikaras for making a peace with the Mandans through us. We gave them a satisfactory answer &c. &c.
22nd of November Thursday 1804
Dispatched a pirogue and 5 men under the direction of Sergeant Pryor to the 2nd Village for 100 bushels of corn in ears, which Mr. Jusseaume let us have. Did not get more than 80 bushels. I was alarmed about 10 o'clock by the sentinel, who informed that an Indian was about to kill his wife in the interpreter's fire about 60 yards below the works. I went down and spoke to the fellow about the rash act which he was like to commit and forbid any act of the kind near the fort. Some misunderstanding took place between this man & his wife about 8 days ago, and she came to this place, & continued with the squaws of the interpreters. 2 days ago she returned to the village. In the evening of the same day she came to the interpreter's fire apparently much beat, & stabbed in 3 places. We directed that no man of this party have any intercourse with this woman under the penalty of punishment. He the husband observed that one of our sergeants slept with his wife & if he wanted her he would give her to him. We directed the sergeant Ordway to give the man some articles, at which time I told the Indian that I believed not one man of the party had touched his wife except the one he had given the use of her for a night, in his own bed. No man of the party should touch his squaw, or the wife of any Indian, nor did I believe they touch a woman if they knew her to be the wife of another man, and advised him to take his squaw home and live happily together in future. At this time the Grand Chief of the nation [Black Cat] arrived, & lectured him, and they both went off apparently dissatisfied. The grand chief continued all day. A warm day, fair afternoon. Many Indian anecdotes. One chief & his family stay all night.
Thursday 22nd Nov.
The pirogue returned towards evening with about 12 bushels of mixed colored corn in ears tried which the natives took out of the ground where they bury it in holes in their village.
25th of Nov. Sunday 1804
Capt. Lewis, 2 interpreters & 6 men set out to see the Indians in the different towns & camps in this neighborhood. Two chiefs came to see me today, one named Wau-ke-res-sa-ra, a Big Belly [Hidatsa] and the first of that nation who has visited us since we have been here. I gave him a handkerchief, paint & a saw band, and the other some few articles, and paid a particular attention which pleased them very much. The interpreters being all with Capt. Lewis I could not talk to them. [This chief was probably Red Shield. See Ronda p. 91].
27th of November Tuesday 1804
The Indians in all the towns & camps treated Capt. Lewis & the party with great respect, except one of the principal chiefs Mar par pa Par ra pas a too or (Horned Weasel) who did not choose to be seen by the Capt. & left word that he was not at home &c.
Tuesday 27th Nov.
Capt. Lewis & command brought with them three chiefs from the upper villages of the Gros Ventres [Hidatsa]. They appear to be very friendly. Gave us a little corn & were glad to come & see us. They said that the Mandan Nation told them that we would do them harm, & that was the reason they had not been to see us before. We had a dance this evening.
28th Nov. Wednesday 1804
At 8 o'clock the Poss-cop-so-he or Black Cat, Grand Chief of the Mandans came to see us. After showing those chiefs many things which was curiosities to them, and giving a few presents of curious handkerchiefs, arm bands & paint with a twist of tobacco, they departed at 1 o'clock much pleased. At parting we had some little talk on the subject of the British Trader Mr. Larocque giving medals & flags, and told those chiefs to impress it on the minds of their nations that those symbols were not to be received by any from them, without they wished incur the displeasure of their Great American Father.
30th of November Friday 1804
This morning at 8 o'clock an Indian called from the other side and informed that he had something of consequence to communicate. We sent a pirogue for him & he informed us as follows. Viz: "five men of the Mandan Nation out hunting in a southwest direction about eight leagues was surprised by a large party of Sioux & Panies [Arikara]. One man was killed and two wounded with arrows & 9 horses taken. 4 of the Watersoon Nation [Hidatsa] was missing, & they expected to be attacked by the Sioux &c. &c.["] We thought it well to show a disposition to aid and assist them against their enemies, particularly those who came in opposition to our councils, and I determined to go to the town with some men, and if the Sioux were coming to attract the nation to collect the warriors from each village and meet them. Those ideas were also those of Capt. Lewis. I crossed the river in about an hour after the arrival of the Indian express with 23 men, including the interpreters, and flanked the town & came up on the back part. The Indians not expecting (not) to receive such strong aide in so short a time was much surprised, and a little alarmed at the formidable appearance of my party. The principal chiefs met me some distance from the town (say 200 yards) and invited me into town. I ordered my party into different lodges & I explained to the nation the cause of my coming in this formidable manner to their town was to assist and chastise the enemies of our dutiful children. I requested the Grand Chief to repeat the circumstances as they happened, which he did, as was mentioned by the express in the morning. I then informed them that if they would assemble their warriors and those of the different towns I would to meet the Army of the Sioux & chastise them for taking the blood of our dutiful children &c. After a conversation of a few minutes amongst themselves, one chief, the Big Man Chien said they now saw that what we had told them was the truth, when we expected the enemies of their nation was coming to attack them, or had spilt their blood were ready to protect them, and kill those who would not listen to our good talk. His people had listened to what we had told them and carelessly went out to hunt in small parties, believing themselves to be safe from the other nations, and have been killed by the Panies & Sioux. "I knew," said he "that the Panies were liars, and told the old chief who came with you (to confirm a peace with us) that his people were liars and bad men and that we killed them like the buffalo, when we pleased. We had made peace several times and your nation (& they) have always commenced the war. We do not want to kill you, and will not suffer you to kill us or steal our horses. We will make peace with you as our two fathers have directed, and they shall see that we will not be the aggressors, but we fear the Arikaras will not be at peace long.["] "My father, those are the words I spoke to the Arikara in your presence. You see they have not opened their ears to your good councils but have spilt our blood." Two Arikaras whom we sent home this day for fear of our people's killing them in their grief, informed us when they came here several days ago, that two Towns of the Arikaras were making their Moccasins, and that we had best take care of our horses &c." A number of Sioux were in their towns, and they believed not well disposed towards us. Four of the Wetersoons are now absent. They were to have been back in 16 days they have been out 24. We fear they have fallen. My father, the snow is deep and it is cold. Our horses cannot travel through the plains. Those people who have spilt our blood have gone back. If you will go with us in the spring after the snow goes off we will raise the warriors of all the towns & nations around about us, and go with you." I told this nation that we should be always willing and ready to defend them from the insults of any nation who would dare to come to do them injury during the time we would (stay) remain in their neighborhood, and requested that they would inform us of any party who may at any time be discovered by their patrols or scouts. I was sorry that the snow in the plains had fallen so deep since the murder of the young chief by the Sioux as prevented their horses from traveling. I wished to meet those Sioux & all others who will not open their ears, but make war on our dutiful children, and let you see that the warriors of your great father will chastise the enemies of his dutiful children the Mandans, Wetersoons & Minitarees, who have opened their ears to his advice. You say that the Panies or Arikaras were with the Sioux, some bad men may have been with the Sioux. You know there is bad men in all nations, do not get mad with the Arikaras until we know if those bad men are countenanced by their nation, and we are convinced those people do not intend to follow our councils. You know that the Sioux have great influence over the Arikaras and perhaps have led some of them astray. You know that the Arikaras are dependant on the Sioux for their guns, powder, & ball, and it was policy in them to keep on as good terms as possible with the Sioux until they had some other means of getting those articles &c. &c. You know yourselves that you are compelled to put up with little insults from the Christinoes & Oss' abo' (or Stone Indians), because if you go to war with those people, they will prevent the traders in the north from bringing you guns, powder & ball and by that means distress you very much. But when you will have certain suppliers from your Great American Father of all those articles you will not suffer any nation to insult you &c. After about two hours conversation on various subjects, all of which tended towards their situation &c. I informed them I should return to the fort. The chief said they all thanked me very much for the fatherly protection which I showed towards them, that the village had been crying all the night and day for the death of the brave young man who fell. But now they would wipe away their tears, and rejoice in their father's protection, and cry no more. I then paraded & crossed the river on the ice and came down on the north side. The snow so deep, it was very fatiguing. The chief frequently thanked me for coming to protect them and the whole village appeared thankful for that measure. [The events of the day from the Indian point of view are discussed in Ronda, 95-98].
2nd of Dec. 1804
Visited by several Mandan chiefs and 4 Cheyenne Indians who came with a pipe to the Mandans. Sent a speech to their nation, a flag & some tobacco, also written a speech to the Arikaras & Sioux, inform them what they might depend on if they would not open their ears, &c.
Sunday 2nd Dec.
A number of the Shian or dog Indians [Cheyenne] came from the village to visit us. We gave them victuals & used them friendly. Our officers gave them some tobacco & a few small articles of goods &c.
6th of December Thursday 1804
At 9 o'clock a man & his squaw came down with some meat for the interpreter. His dress was a pair of moccasins of buffalo skin, (a) pair [of] leggings of goat skin & a buffalo robe, 14 rings of brass on his fingers. This metal the Mandans are very fond of.
7th of December (Wednesday) Friday 1804
The Big White, Grand Chief of the 1st Village, came and informed us that a large drove of buffalo was near and his people was waiting for us to join them in a chase. Capt. Lewis took 15 men & went out joined the Indians, who were at the time he got up killing the buffalo on horseback with arrows, which they done with great dexterity. His party killed 14 buffalo, five of which we got to the fort by the assistance of a horse in addition to what the men packed on their backs. One cow was killed on the ice after drawing her out of a vacancy in the ice in which she had fallen, and butchered her at the fort. Those we did not get in was taken by the Indians under a custom which is established amongst them, i.e. any person seeing a buffalo lying without an arrow sticking in him, or some particular mark, takes possession. Many times (as I am told) a hunter who kills many buffalo in a chase only gets a part of one, all meat which is left out all night falls to the wolves which are in great numbers, always in the buffaloes.
Sunday 9th Dec.
A number of the savages came to our garrison. Some of them brought some fat meat and gave [it] to our officers.
Monday 10th Dec. 1804.
One of the Mandan Indians who had been wounded by the Sioux came to our officers to be cured.
Friday 14th Dec.
A number of the Mandans came to see us. 14 of them eat in my room at one time. The Big White dined with Capt. Lewis.
Saturday 15th Dec. 1804
I & 2 more of the party went up to the 1st & 2nd villages of the Mandans. Traded for a little corn &c. They had all their corn in holes made in the ground close in front of their lodges. Although the day was cold & stormy we saw several of the chiefs and warriors were out at a play which they call [blank]. They had flattish rings made out of clay stone & two men had sticks about 4 feet long with 2 short pieces across the fore end of it, and nothing on the other end, in such a manner that they would slide some distance. They had a place fixed across their green from the head chief's house across about 50 yards to the 2nd chief's lodge, which was smooth as a house floor. They had a battery fixed for the rings to stop against. Two men would run at a time with (stick) each a stick & one carried a ring. They run about half way and then slide their sticks after the ring. They had marks made for the game but I do not understand how they count the game. They gave us different kinds of victuals & made use at in every lodge that we went in. They were very friendly.
21st December Friday 1804
The Indian whom I stopped from committing murder on his wife through jealousy of one of our interpreters, came & brought his two wives and showed great anxiety to make up with the man with whom his jealousy sprung. A woman brought a child with an abscess on the lower part of the back, and offered as much corn as she could carry for some medicine. Capt. Lewis administered &c.
22nd December Saturday 1804
A number of squaws, women & men dressed in squaw's clothes came with corn to sell to the men for little things. We procured two horns of the animal the French call the rock mountain sheep [bighorn]. Those horns are not of the largest kind. The Mandan Indians call this sheep Ar-sar-ta; it is about the size of a large deer, or small elk. Its horns come and wind around the head like the horn of a ram and the texture not unlike it. Much larger and thicker, particularly that part with which they butt or outer part which is [blank] inches thick, the length of those horns, which we have is. [Male transvestites were to be found among a number of plains tribes. The Anglo-Americans called them by the French traders' term "berdache," from the French bardache, a homosexual male. See Ronda, pp. 130-131].
Saturday 22nd Dec.
A great number of the savages visited us, brought corn & beans to trade with us. They wanted of us looking glasses, beads, buttons & other kinds of articles pleasing to the eye.
23rd December Sunday 1804
Great numbers of Indians of all descriptions came to the fort, many of them bringing corn to trade. The Little Crow loaded his wife & son with corn for us. Capt. Lewis gave him a few presents, as also his wife. She made a kettle of boiled simmons, beans, corn & chokecherries with the stones, which was palatable. This dish is considered as a treat among those people. The chiefs of the Mandans are fond of staying & sleeping in the fort.
Tuesday 25th. None of the natives came to the garrison this day; the commanding officers having requested they should not, which was strictly attended to.
Saturday 29th Dec.
A great number of the natives, men, women & children visited us the whole day as we got the blacksmith's shop fixed. They brought their squaw axes & kettles to fix and mend, for which they gave us corn & beans, squashes &c.
Sunday 30th Dec.
A great number of the Mandans came to trade with us. They brought us corn & beans, squashes, also some of their kind of bread which they make of parched corn and beans mixed together & made in round balls. They have a sweet kind of corn which they boil considerable of it when it is in the milk & dries it which they keep through the winter season.
Fort Mandan on the northeast bank of the Missouri 1600 miles up, Tuesday January the 1st 1805
The day was ushered in by the discharge of two cannon. We suffered 16 men with their music to visit the 1st Village for the purpose of dancing, by as they said the particular request of the chiefs of that village. About 11 o'clock I with an interpreter & two men walked up to the Village (my views were to allay some little misunderstanding which had taken place through jealousy and mortification as to our treatment towards them). I found them much pleased at the dancing of our men. I ordered my black servant [York] to dance, which amused the crowd very much, and somewhat astonished them, that so large a man should be active &c. I went into the lodges of all the men of note except two, whom I heard had made some expression favorable towards us, in comparing us with the traders from the north. Those chiefs observed what they said was in jest & laughter. Just as I was about to return the 2nd chief and the Black Man, also a chief, returned from a mission on which they had been sent to meet a large party 150 of Gros Ventres who were on their way down from their camps 10 miles above to revenge on the Shoe tribe an injury which they had received by a Shoe man stealing a Gros Ventres Girl. Those chiefs gave the pipe, turned the party back, after delivering up the girl, which the Shoe chief had taken and given to them for that purpose. I returned in the evening, at night the party except 6 returned, with 3 robes, and 13 strings of corn which the Indians had given them. The Black Cat with his family visited us today and brought a little meat.
Tuesday 1st Jan. 1805
About 9 o'clock 15 of the party went up to the 1st village of Mandans to dance as it had been their request. Carried with us a fiddle & a tambourine & a sounding horn. As we arrived at the entrance of the village we fired one round then the music played. Loaded again, then marched to the center of the village, fired again, then commenced dancing. A Frenchman danced on his head, I and all danced round him for a short time, then went into a lodge & danced a while, which pleased them very much. They then brought victuals from different lodges & of different kinds of diet, they brought us also a quantity of corn & some buffalo robes which they made us a present of. So we danced in different lodges until late in the afternoon. Then a part of the men returned to the fort, the remainder stayed all night in the village.
Wednesday 2nd Jan.
Capt. Lewis and the greater part of the party went up to the 2nd village of the Mandans a frolicking, after the same manner as yesterday at the 1st village. A number of Indians and squaws came to the fort from the first village. Brought us corn to pay our blacksmiths for repairing their squaw axes, bridles &c. The most of the men returned toward evening & said that the Indians were much diverted at seeing them dance. They used them very friendly &c.
5th of January Saturday 1805
Several Indians visit us with their axes to get them mended. A buffalo dance (or medicine) for 3 nights passed in the 1st Village, a curious custom. The old men arrange themselves in a circle & after smoke a pipe, which is handed them by a young man. Dress up for the purpose, the young men who have their wives back of the circle (corn) go to one of the old men with a whining tone and [request] the old man to take his wife (who he resents naked except a robe) and (or sleep with him). The girl then takes the old man (who very often can scarcely walk) and leads him to a convenient place for the business, after which they return to the lodge. If the old man (or a white man) returns to the lodge without gratifying the man & his wife, he offers her again and again. It is often the case that after the 2nd time (he) without kissing the husband throws a nice robe over the old man & and begs him not to despise him, & his wife. (We sent a man to this medicine (dance) last night, they gave him 4 girls) all this is to cause the buffalo to come near so that they may kill them. [Ronda, pp. 131-32, discusses the ceremony in its cultural setting].
7th of January Monday 1805
Several Indians returned from hunting, one of them the Big White, Chief of the Lower Mandan Village. Dined with us, and gave me a sketch of the country as far as the high mountains, & on the south side of the River Rochjohn [Yellowstone]. He says that the river [Yellowstone] receives 6 small rivers on the south side, & that the country is very hilly and the greater part covered with timber. Great numbers of beaver &c.
Wednesday 9th Jan. 1805
2 inexperienced hunters went out today, the day proved to be very cold & stormy. One of them returned to the fort about 8 o'clock in the evening with one of his feet frostbit, the other stayed out all night. In they morning some men were going for them expecting they were froze, but they came in before they started, well & hearty. Some of the natives went in the prairie a hunting. In the evening as they were returning one of them gave out; they left him behind. Some of his friends or his father went after him, expecting to find him a corpse, but after they left him he came to so that he changed his position to the woods, & broke branches to lie on. So his life was spared, but his feet was froze very bad. They got him to our fort. Capt. Lewis doctored him.
13th of January Sunday (1805)
A cold, clear day (great number of Indians move down the river to hunt). Those people kill a number of buffalo near their villages and save a great proportion of the meat, their custom of making this article of life general leaves them more than half of their time without meat. Their corn & beans &c. they keep for the summer, and as a reserve in case of an attack from the Sioux, which they are always in dread, and seldom go far to hunt except in large parties.
16th January Wednesday 1805
One of the 1st war chiefs of the Big Bellies Nation [Hidatsa] came to see us today with one man and his squaw to wait on him. We shot the air gun, and gave two shots with the cannon which pleased them very much. The Little Crow, 2nd chief of the lower village, came & brought us corn. This war chief gave us a chart in his way of the Missouri. He informed us of his intentions of going to war in the spring against the Snake Indians. We advised him to look back at the number of nations who had been destroyed by war, and reflect upon what he was about to do, observing if he wished the happiness of his nation he would be at peace with all, by that by being at peace and having plenty of goods amongst them & a free intercourse with those defenseless nations, they would get on easy terms a great number of horses, and that nation would increase. If he went to war against those defenseless people, he would displease his Great Father, and he would not receive that perfection & care from him as other nations who listened to his word. This chief, who is a young man, 26 years old, replied that if his going to war against the Snake Indians would be displeasing to us he would not go, he had horses enough. We observed that what we had said was the words of his Great Father, and what we had spoken to all the nations which we saw on our passage up. They all promise to open their ears and we do not know as yet if any of them has shut them (we are doubtful of the Sioux). If they do not attend to what we have told them their Great Father will open their ears. This chief said that he would advise all his nation to stay at home until we saw the Snake Indians & knew if they would be friendly, he himself would attend to what we had told him.
Sunday 20th. I went up with one of the men to the villages. They treated us friendly and gave us victuals. After we were done eating they presented a bowlful to a buffalo head, saying, "eat that." Their superstitious credulity is so great, that they believe by using the head well the living buffalo will come and that they will get a supply of meat.
Sunday Jan. 20th
We still continued to have clear cold weather. Some of our men went up to the 1st Mandan Indian Village. On their return they informed us that they had been well used by the Indians of that Town, and that they had given them plenty to eat of buffalo meat, beans, & pounded corn boiled. They informed us that after they had finished eating that the Mandan Indians put a quantity of the same victuals into a wooden bowl. They then brought forward the head of a buffalo, which they fell down & worshipped, and then set before it the bowl of victuals, and said (as our interpreter who was with us told us) "Eat this, and tell the live buffalo, to come in to us, so that we may get plenty of buffalo meat to eat." They let this bowl remain before the head of the buffalo, till our men left their village. The party who was at this village also says that those Indians possess very strange and uncommon ideas of things in general. They are very ignorant, and have no ideas of our forms & customs, neither in regard to our worship or the deity &c. They are Indians of very quick apprehension of anything in their way; and conceited in themselves to a fault. This they judged from the first answers they gave to questions they asked them; the whole of which was told to our men by the interpreter that they took with them from the fort.
1st of February Friday 1805
A war chief of the Minitarres [Hidatsa] came with some corn. Requested to have a war hatchet made, & requested to be allowed to go to war against the Sioux & Arikaras who had killed a Mandan some time past. We refused, and gave reasons, which he very readily assented to, and promised to open his ears to all we said. This man is young and named Seeing Snake. This man's woman set out & he pursued her in the evening.
6th February Wednesday 1805.
Visited by many of the natives, among others the Big White, the Coal, Big-man, Hairy Horn and the Black Man. I smoked with them, after which they retired, a deportment not common, for they usually pester us with their good company the balance of the day after once being introduced to our apartment. The blacksmiths take a considerable quantity of corn today in payment for their labor. The blacksmiths have proved a happy resource to us in our present situation as I believe it would have been difficult to have devised any other method to have procured corn from the natives. The Indians are extravagantly fond of sheet iron of which they form arrow-points and manufacture into instruments for scraping and dressing their buffalo robes.
8th February Friday 1805.
Visited by the Black-Cat the principal chief of the Roop-tar-he, or upper Mandan village. This man possesses more integrity, firmness, intelligence and perspicuity of mind than any Indian I have met with in this quarter, and I think with a little management he may be made a useful agent in furthering the views of our government. The Black Cat presented me with a bow and apologized for not having completed the shield he had promised, alleging that the weather had been too cold to permit his making it. I gave him some small shot, 6 fishing-hooks and 2 yards of ribbon. His squaw also presented me with 2 pair of moccasins, for which in return I gave a small looking glass and a couple of needles. The chief dined with me and left me in the evening. He informed me that his people suffered very much for the article of meat, and that he had not himself tasted any for several days.
12th February Tuesday 1805.
The horses appeared much fatigued. I directed some meal brands [be] given them, moistened with a little water, but to my astonishment found that they would not eat it but preferred the bark of the cottonwood which forms the principal article of food usually given them by their Indian masters in the winter season. For this purpose they cause the trees to be felled by their women and the horses feed on the boughs and bark of their tender branches. The Indians in our neighborhood are frequently pilfered of their horses by the Arikara, Sioux and Assiniboins and therefore make it an invariable rule to put their horses in their lodges at night. In this situation the only food of the horse consists of a few sticks of the cottonwood from the size of a man's finger to that of his arm. The Indians are invariably severe riders, and frequently have occasion for many days together through the whole course of the day to employ their horses in pursuing the buffalo or transporting meat to their villages, during which time they are seldom suffered to taste food. At night the horse [is] returned to his stall where his food is what seems to me a scanty allowance of wood. Under these circumstances it would seem that their horses could not long exist or at least could not retain their flesh and strength, but the contrary is the fact. This valuable animal under all those disadvantages is seldom seen meager or unfit for service.
15th of February Friday 1805
We dispatched two men to inform the Mandans, and if any of them chose to pursue those robbers, to come down in the morning and join Capt. Lewis who intended to set out with a party of men very early. By 12 o'clock the chief of the 2nd Village, Big White, came down, and soon after one other chief and several men. The chief observed that all the young men of the 2 villages were out hunting, and but very few guns were left. Capt. Lewis set out at sunrise with 24 men to meet those Sioux &c. Several Indians accompanied him, some with bows & arrows, some with spears & battle axes, a (few) 2 with fusees. The morning fine, the thermometer stood at 16' below 0, Naught. Visited by 2 of the Big Bellies [Hidatsas] this evening. One chief of the Mandans returned from Capt. Lewis's party nearly blind. This complaint is as I am informed common at this season of the year and caused by the reflection of the sun on the ice & snow. It is cured by gently sweating the part affected by throwing snow on a hot stone.
19th of February Tuesday 1805
Visited by several of the Mandans today. Our smiths are much engaged mending and making axes for the Indians for which we get corn.
20th February Wednesday 1805
Visited by the Little Raven very early this morning. I am informed of the death of an old man whom I saw in the Mandan Village. This man informed me that he "was 120 winters old. He requested his grandchildren to dress him after death & set him on a stone on a hill with his face towards his old village or down the river, that he might go straight to his brother at their old village underground." I observed several Mandan (of) very old, chiefly men.
21st February Thursday 1805
Visited by the Big White & Big Man. They informed me that several men of their nation was gone to consult their Medicine Stone about 3 days march to the southwest to know what was to be the result of the ensuing year. They have great confidence in this stone and say that it informs them of everything which is to happen, & visit it every Spring & sometimes in the Summer. They having arrived at the stone give it smoke and proceed to the wood at some distance to sleep. The next morning return to the stone, and find marks white & raised on the stone representing the peace or war which they are to meet with, and other changes, which they are to meet. "This stone has a level surface of about 20 feet in circumference, thick and pores," and no doubt has some mineral qualities effected by the sun. The Big Bellies [Hidatsas] have a stone to which they ascribe nearly the same virtues.
27th of February Wednesday 1805
A few Indians visit us today, one the largest Indian I ever saw, & as large a man as ever I saw.
28th of February Thursday 1805
[The Arikara] express a wish to visit the Mandans, & know if it will be agreeable to them to admit the Arikaras to settle near them and join them against their common enemy the Sioux. We mentioned this to the Mandans, who observed they had always wished to be at peace and good neighbors with the Arikaras, and it is also the sentiments of all the Big Bellies [Hidatsa], & Shoe Nations. Mr. Gravelines informs that the Sissetons and the 3 upper bands of the Tetons, with the Yanktons of the North intend to come to war in a short time against the nations in this quarter, & will kill every white man they see. Mr. Tabeau also informs that Mr. Cameron of St. Peters has put arms into the hands of the Sioux to revenge the death of 3 of his men killed by the Chippaways latterly, and that the Band of Tetons which we saw is disposed to do as we have advised them, through the influence of their chief the Black Buffalo. Mr. Gravelines further informs that the party which robbed us of the 2 horses latterly were all Sioux, 100 in number. They called at the Arikaras on their return, the Arikaras being displeased at their conduct would not give them anything to eat, that being the greatest insult they could peaceably offer them, and upbraided them.
Saturday 2nd March 1805
The savages continue to visit us in order to get their implements of war made. They bring us in pay corn and beans, dried meat & persimblans &c.
7th of March Thursday 1805
The Coal visited us with a sick child, to whom I gave some of Rush's Pills. Charbonneau returned this evening from the Gros Ventres & informed that all the nation had returned from the hunting.
8th of March Friday 1805
Visited by the Greasy Head & an Arikara today; those men gave some account of the Indians near the Rocky Mountains. A young Indian same nation & different village stole the daughter of the Black Man, he went to his village, took his horse & returned & took away his daughter.
On the 9th of March we were visited by the Grand Chief of the Minitarees [Hidatsas], to whom we gave a medal & some clothes & a flag. Sent a Frenchman & an Indian with a letter to Mr. Tabeau informing them [and] the Arikaras of the desire the Mandans had to see them &c.
9th of March Saturday 1805
I went to the upper Mandan Village & smoked a pipe, the greatest mark of friendship and attention, with the chief, and returned. On my return found the Minitaree chief about setting out on his return to his village, having received of Captain Meriwether Lewis a medal, gorget, armbands, a flag, shirt, scarlet &c. &c. &c. for which he was much pleased. Those things were given in place of sundry articles sent to him, which he says he did not receive. 2 guns were fired for this great man.
Saturday 9th March 1805.
A number of the savages called the Big Bellies chiefs came to the fort to see the commanding officers. Capt. Lewis showed them the airgun, quadrant & spyglass &c. which they thought was Great Medicine.
10th of March Sunday 1805
We are visited by the Black Moccasins, chief of the 2nd Minitaree Village and the chief of the Shoeman Village or Mahhdha. Those chiefs stayed all day and the latter all night and gave us many strange accounts of his nation &c. This little tribe or band of Minitarees call themselves Ah-nah-ha way or "people whose village is on the hill." This nation formerly lived about 30 miles below this but being oppressed by the Assiniboins & Sioux were compelled to move 5 miles the Minitarees, where the Assiniboins killed the most of them. Those remaining built a village very near to the Minitarees at the mouth of Knife River, where they now live and can raise about 50 men. They are intermixed with the Mandans & Minitarees. The Mandans formerly lived in 6 large villages at and above the mouth of Chischeter or Heart River, five villages on the west side & two on the east. One of those villages on the east side of the Missouri & the largest was entirely cut off by the Sioux & the greater part of the others and the smallpox reduced the others.
March 16th, 1805.
Mr. Gurrow, a Frenchman who has lived many years with the Arikaras & Mandans, showed us the process used by those Indians to make beads. The discovery of this art these nations are said to have derived from the Snake Indians who have been taken prisoners by the Arikaras. The art is kept a secret by the Indians among themselves and is yet known to but few of them. The process is as follows. Take glass of as many different colors as you think proper, then pound it as fine as possible, putting each color in a separate vessel. Wash the pounded glass in several waters; throw in off the water at each washing. Continue this operation as long as the pounded glass stains or colors the water which is poured off, and the residuum is then prepared for use. You then provide an earthen pot of convenient size, say of three gallons, which will stand the fire. A platter also of the same materials sufficiently small to be admitted in the mouth of the pot or jar. The pot has a niche in its edge through which to watch the beads when in blast. You then provide some well seasoned clay with a proportion of sand sufficient to prevent its becoming very hard when exposed to the heat. This clay must be tempered with water until it is about the consistency of common dough. Of this clay you then prepare a sufficient number of little sticks of the size you wish the hole through the bead, which you do by rolling the clay on the palm of the hand with your finger. This done, put those sticks of clay on the platter and expose them to a red heat for a few minutes, when you take them off and suffer them to cool. The pot is also heated to cleanse it perfectly of any filth it may contain. Small balls of clay are also made of about an ounce weight which serve each as a pedestal for a bead. These while soft are distributed over the face of the platter at such distance from each other as to prevent the beads from touching. Some little wooden paddles are now provided from three to four inches in length, sharpened or brought to a point at the extremity of the handle. With this paddle you place in the palm of the hand as much of the wet pounded glass as is necessary to make the bead of the size you wish it. It is then one of those little arranged with the paddle in an oblong form, laying a stick of clay crosswise over it. The pounded glass by means of the paddle is then roped in cylindrical form around the stick of clay and gently rolled by motion of the hand backwards and forwards until you get it as regular and smooth as you conveniently can. If you wish to introduce any other color you now perforate the surface of the bead with the pointed end of your little paddle and fill up the cavity with other pounded glass of the color you wish, forming the whole as regular as you can. A hole is now made in the center of the little pedestals of clay with the handle of your shovel sufficiently large to admit the end of the stick of clay around which the bead is formed. The beads are then arranged perpendicularly on their pedestals and a little distance above them supported by the little sticks of clay to which they are attached in the manner before mentioned. Thus arranged the platter is deposited on burning coals or hot embers and the pot reversed with the aperture in its edge turned towards covered the whole. Dry wood pretty much doated [NB: doughted] is then placed around the pot in such manner as completely to cover it; it is then set on fire and the operator must shortly after begin to watch his beads through the aperture of the pot lest they should be destroyed by being over heated. He suffers the beads to acquire a deep red heat from which, when it passes in a small degree to a paler or whitish red, or he discovers that the beads begin to become pointed at their upper extremities, he (throws) removes the fire from about the pot and suffers the whole to cool gradually. The pot is then removed and the beads taken out. The clay which fills the hollow of the beads is picked out with an awl or needle; the bead is then fit for use. The Indians are extremely fond of the large beads formed by this process. They use them as pendants to their ears, or hair and sometimes wear them about their necks.
22nd of March 1805
Visited by the 2nd chief of the Grand Village of the Minitarees [Hidatsas] to whom we gave a medal & some clothes acknowledging him as a 2nd chief. He delayed all night, & saw the men dance, which is common amusement with the men. He returned the 23rd with Mr. La Rocque & McKenzie, two of the North West Company's clerks. Some few drops of rain this evening for the first time this winter. Visited by many Indians today.
[March 23, 1805]
24th of March Saturday 1805
After breakfast Mr. Larocque and Mr. McKenzie and the chiefs & men of the Minitarees leave us. Soon after we were visited by a brother of the Burnia who gave us a vocabulary of his language. The Coal & many other Mandans also visit us today.
[March 28, 1805]
But few Indians visit us today. They are watching to catch the floating buffalo which break through the ice in crossing. Those people are fond of those animals tainted and catch great numbers every spring.
[March 29, 1805]
The obstacle broke away above & the ice came down in great quantities. The river rose 13 inches the last 24 hours. I observed extraordinary dexterity of the Indians in jumping from one cake of ice to another for the purpose of catching the buffalo as they float down. Many of the cakes of ice which they pass over are not two feet square. The plains are on fire in view of the fort on both sides of the river. It is said to be common for the Indians to burn the plains near their villages every spring for the benefit of their horses, and to induce the buffalo to come near to them.
April the 2nd Friday 1805
The 2nd Chief of the 2nd Mandan Village took a miff at our not attending to him particularly after being here about ten days, and moved back to his village. The Mandans killed twenty one elk yesterday 15 miles below this. They were so meager that they [are] scarcely fit for use.
April the 6th Friday Saturday 1805
Visited by a number of Mandans. We are informed of the arrival of the whole of the Arikara nation on the other side of the river near their old village. We sent an interpreter to see with orders to return immediately and let us know if their chiefs meant to go down to see their great father.
Sunday April 7th
We proceeded on and encamped on the north side of the Missouri River, opposite to the first Village of the Mandan Nation. This village lies on the south side of the river and contains 300 lodges. The land adjoining it is prairies, which gradually rise from the river. The soil is very rich, producing Indian corn, pumpkins, squashes & beans in abundance. The natives have large fields, which they cultivate and which produces plentifully. They have likewise gardens, which they plant & have several kinds of garden vegetables in it, such as lettuce, mustard &c. They have likewise growing in their gardens gooseberries which is superior in size to any in the United States & currants of different kinds. They are in general peaceable, well disposed people, and have less of the savage nature in them than any Indians we met with on the Missouri River. They are of a very light color, the men are very well featured and stout; the women are in general handsome. This town or village contains from the best calculation we could make 2,000 inhabitants. They are governed by a chief called the Big White and the Indians here live to a very old age, numbers being 100 years old.
Walked on shore, and visited the Black Cat, took leave of him after smoking a pipe as is their custom, and then proceeded on slowly by land about 4 miles where I waited the arrival of the party.
Monday April 8th
We passed in the afternoon a village inhabited by a nation of Indians called the Big Bellies or Gros Ventres [Hidatsa], which also lies on the south side of the Missouri River. We proceeded on and encamped on the north side of the river on its bank, having come 14 miles this day. The second Village of the Mandan Indians lies on the north side of the River Missouri. It is situated on a prairie of a vast extent, the soil of which appears to be exceeding rich and productive. The natives have large fields which they cultivate, and plant the same as those of the first village. They have among them a number of fine horses, and are very expert in managing them in riding. The Inhabitants of this village are in color and form the same as those of the first village. This village contains 200 lodges and by the best calculation 1,500 souls, and is governed by a chief who is called Black Cat as before mentioned.
Later visitors to the Mandans and Hidatsas included the artist George Catlin, who recorded these impressions in 1832:
The Mandans loved to play games, and tchung-kee was a favorite. Nearly all Indian cultures loved to gamble on the outcome of games, including the Mandan. "The game of Tchung-kee [is] a beautiful athletic exercise," Catlin explained, "which they seem to be almost unceasingly practicing whilst the weather is fair, and they have nothing else of moment to demand their attention. . . . [The game] is played near to the village on a pavement of clay, which has been used for that purpose until it has become as smooth and hard as a floor. . . . The play commences with two (one from each party), who start off upon a trot, abreast of each other, and one of them rolls in advance of them, on the pavement, a little ring of two or three inches in diameter, cut out of stone; and each one follows it up with his 'tchung-kee' (a stick of six feet in length, with little bits of leather projecting from its sides of an inch or more in length), which he throws before him as he runs, sliding it along upon the ground after the ring, endeavoring to place it in such a position when it stops, that the ring may fall upon it, and receive one of the little projections of leather through it."
Another popular game of the Mandan was one in which men would try, one at a time, to see who could shoot the largest number of arrows into the air before the first one hit the ground. Some Mandan warriors could put as many as eight arrows up at one time, "thrown from the same bow."
The Mandan O-Kee-Pa Ceremony.
George Catlin was the only Euro-American to graphically describe and illustrate the Okeepa ceremony, which dramatized the Mandan explanation of the creation of the earth. Lewis and Clark did not observe this ceremony, as they were at the villages at the wrong time of the year. Catlin was accompanied by James Kipp, who by 1832 had lived with the Mandans for eleven years and acted as an interpreter. At the end of the four-day ceremony, Catlin set up his easel inside an earth lodge and painted all the details he could remember of the ritual on canvas. Much of plains Indian life was based on personal sacrifice, whether it be of a favorite dog or horse, or the best or most costly goods given to a friend in need. At the time of a death, close relatives cut their hair and slashed their arms in mourning; some even cut off the tips of their fingers as a physical sign of loss. Pain, suffering, hardship, and sacrifice were a part of life on the harsh plains, and these elements were summed up in the Okeepa.
The Okeepa was an annual event which began when the willow leaves became fully grown, and the ceremony was started by the appearance of The Old Bear, a powerful medicine man. Dressed as "The First Man" and walking slowly across the prairie toward the village, his naked body was painted with white clay and was loosely covered by white wolf skins. Entering the village, he opened the medicine lodge, which was kept closed except on ceremonial occasions. After identifying himself as the only survivor of the great flood which has destroyed humanity, The Old Bear called to each of the heads of household to come out with a sharp cutting tool to be sacrificed so that the great flood would not happen again. That evening, a dance called the Bel-lohck nah-pick was made around the sacred Ark, a barrel-shaped structure in the middle of the central plaza. This dance was given four times on the first day, eight on the second, twelve on the third and sixteen times on the last day. Eight dancers were dressed as buffalo and were divided into pairs representing the four cardinal directions. Two other dancers were painted to represent "night," two to represent "day." These same twelve dancers performed the Bull Dance throughout the four days of the Okeepa. Between dances the villagers noisily and lustily paraded through the village in an atmosphere somewhat like a Mardi Gras celebration. At nightfall, The Old Bear went to his lodge, and perfect silence reigned until he reappeared the following morning.
On the second day of the Okeepa, The Old Bear left his lodge and began dancing through the streets, the young men emerging from their lodges. These were the men who were to make the sacrifice and endure the four days of torture. The Old Bear led them to the medicine lodge, where they would stay until the end of the ceremony. Chief Mah-ha-toh-pa (Four Bears) personally led George Catlin and James Kipp into the medicine lodge at this point. It was an extraordinarily high honor for an outsider to be invited to witness the most sacred ritual of the Mandan people. During the next few days, the young men fasted and were exhorted by the medicine man and the elders to face their coming ordeal bravely. The beginning of their test came on the fourth day, when at about noon a solitary figure approached the village, his naked body painted black with white rings and large painted white fangs on his face. Around his waist was an enormous red male sexual organ of carved wood. This was O-kee-hee-de, the evil one. He ran quickly into the village, scaring the women and children, finally joining in the bull dance and "losing his power," then submitting to gradual attacks by the women and children in which his red organ was wrested from his body and he was driven back out onto the prairie. The woman who had captured the organ harangued the crowd for a time, and then ordered the bull dance stopped and the Pohk-hong begun.
Inside the lodge, it was time for the candidates to face their ordeal. They came forward, one at a time, already weak from four days of fasting and no sleep. Catlin recalled that "An inch or more of the flesh on each shoulder, or each breast, was taken up between the thumb and finger by the man who held the knife; and the knife, which had been hacked and notched to make it produce as much pain as possible, was forced through the flesh below the fingers, and was followed by a skewer which the other attendant forced through the wounds (underneath the muscles, to keep them from being torn out), as they were hacked. There were then two cords lowered from the top of the lodge, which were fastened to these skewers, and they immediately began to haul him up. He was thus raised until his body was just suspended from the ground, when the knife and additional splints were passed through the flesh in a similar manner on each arm below the shoulder, also below the elbow, on the thighs, below the knees." Each candidate was thus prepared, hanging from the ceiling of the lodge by stout cords attached to skewers in their breasts, their personal shields, bows, and other items, including buffalo skulls, attached to skewers on their thighs and elbows, and hung as weights. The attendants then spun the candidates around using long poles, until the agony of the young men made them cry out to the great spirit, and they finally fainted from the pain.
After the candidates had fainted and dropped their personal medicine bag in their unconscious state, they were lowered to the floor of the medicine lodge. The skewers in their breasts were removed, but the weights were left attached to various parts of their bodies. No one was allowed to assist the candidates, who now trusted their lives "to the keeping of the Great Spirit." As the young men regained consciousness, they began to crawl or walk, if they could, around the medicine lodge. Those with incredible fortitude approached an elder sitting by a buffalo skull, who chopped off the little finger of their left hands with a hatchet as a further sacrifice to the Great Spirit. At the conclusion of this ordeal, the men were led outside, where the people of the tribe watched from the tops of the earth lodges and the central plaza. Two strong young men took each candidate in tow, wrapping strong rawhide straps around his wrists and pulling him at a frightening pace around the plaza, the buffalo skulls and other weights dragging behind, being held by the skewers. This was Eh-ke-nah-ka-nah-pick, "the Last Race." Finally, the young man's stamina was spent, and once more, one by one, the candidates fainted on the ground. This was the end of the Okeepa ceremony; the candidates were now full Mandan warriors, the world had been put back into balance, and the Great Spirit had been pleased.
Mandan culture was also observed by Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuweid and Swiss-born artist Karl Bodmer in 1833-34. Both Maximilian and Bodmer were fascinated with the culture of the Mandans, just as George Catlin and Lewis and Clark had been before them. The prince noted that Mandan men had a series of six societies, which could be joined in succession as a person advanced in age. The Buffalo Bull Society was the last and most prestigious of the six. Leadership of this group was a high honor in the tribe, reserved for warriors who had distinguished themselves in battle. A person entering the society was usually about forty, and had been a member of all the previous five societies for younger men. A man had to purchase his way into these societies through gift-giving and good works.
Hidatsa Scalp Dance.
Maximilian and Bodmer witnessed this fascinating dance at Fort Clark in the spring of 1834. Hidatsa women, who for the duration of the dance dressed like the men of the tribe, appeared in war shirts with painted faces and weapons, even wearing coup feathers in their hair. The dance was a chance for the women to celebrate the brave feats of the men in the tribe. The men provided the music for the dance.
In 1833 the winter village of the Mandan was located in the timbered bottom land on the Missouri River at the Fort Clark site below the bluffs. In times of emergency the better-defended summer village on top of the bluffs could be used. The summer Mandan village was located on a high peninsula, with steep bluffs on three sides, which projected over the Missouri River. There were about 65 earth lodges and several auxiliary buildings in the village. The summer village was sometimes re-occupied as early as February or March, and a seasonal move took place between the two villages. Dogs were very often impressed into service. Maximilian noted that unlike the Sioux, the Mandan did not eat dog meat.
One of the most important paintings ever made, from both an ethnographic and historical perspective, Karl Bodmer's watercolor of the interior of a Mandan earth lodge gives us a unique view of their culture. Although Catlin showed the interior of the medicine lodge in his drawings of the Okeepa ritual, he did not illustrate a typical home. In Bodmer's painting, lances, paddles, and war shields are seen on the right, while woven baskets and pottery are on the left. The size of the structure can be understood by observing the horses on the left-hand side, who could be stabled inside the earth lodge. An extended family of five to sixteen, or as many as thirty people lived inside such a lodge, which lasted for seven to twelve years before a new lodge had to be built. "In the centre of the hut a circular place is dug for the fire," wrote Maximilian, "over which the kettle is suspended. This fire-place, or hearth, is often enclosed with a ledge of stones. The fuel is laid, in moderately thick pieces, on the external edge of the hearth, crossing each other in the middle, when it is kindled, and the pieces gradually pushed in as they burn away. The Indians are not fond of large fires. The inmates sit round it, on low seats, made of peeled osiers, covered with buffalo or bear skin . . . The beds stand against the wall of the hut; they consist of a large square case, made of parchment or skins, with a square entrance, and are large enough to hold several persons, who lie very conveniently on skins and blankets." In the fire pit area, with its smoke-hole overhead, a willow back rest can be seen between two of the seated figures, which include two men, a boy, a woman, a girl, and two dogs. This was the home of Dipauch, an older man who shared information about his culture with Prince Maximilian. Most Mandan men had one wife, but some had as many as four. This extended family, plus any grown sons, with their wives and children, might inhabit an earth lodge.