The commodities traded in prehistoric times between Indian groups were mostly garden produce, hides, meat, and other perishable items of the hunt. While little evidence of these goods has survived, certain nonperishable artifacts traded into the villages from distant places provide a few clues. Some of the best evidence for prehistoric trade is found in the stone used to make everyday tools and implements. Knife River flint, which the villagers traded widely, is one such stone of particular importance: it is a dark brown, glassy material which was in great demand for producing durable, sharp-edged implements. Exotic materials, including shells and copper, moved through trade routes to Knife River villages in small quantities, usually in the form of pendants and beads used for personal adornment.
The earliest European visitors observed the villagers to be shrewd traders, exchanging corn, beans, squash, and other horticultural products with their nomadic neighbors for the dressed hides, feathers, lodge covers, and clothing articles of widely dispersed peoples such as the Assiniboine, Plains Cree, Crow, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Klowa, Kiowa-Apache, and Comanche. Their experience within this trading network prepared the Hidatsas and Mandans to be discerning traders with the Europeans.
The earliest contacts were not with Europeans themselves, but with European products. These were obtained through a network of other Indians who were trading furs directly with the French and other Europeans at forts and contact points along the eastern border of the continent. Glass beads and iron fragments dating from 1600-50, found at the Hidatsa Village and Awatixa Xi'e Village, are evidence of this early trade at Knife River.Questions for Maps 3 and 4
1. Maps 3 and 4 show trading relationships in both prehistoric and historic times. What is significant about the place the Knife River region held in both time periods?
2. List the trade items noted on Map 3. What are potential uses of these items?
3. Determine the trading partners of the Hidatsas and Mandans during historic times. Place a check mark beside the names of Indian nations you recognize. Which of these groups are mentioned in your American history textbook?
* The maps on this screen have a resolution of 72 dots per inch (dpi), and therefore will print poorly. You can obtain a high quality version of Map 3 and Map 4 , but be aware that each file may take as much as 35 seconds to load with a 28.8K modem.