North Dakota Eclectics


The Mandans were perhaps the first to come to the area that was to become North Dakota. Their specific origins are unknown, but it is certain that they came to North Dakota from the south, probably from the Missouri and Ohio river valleys. It is known that they came from the south because they left the remains of deserted villages along the Missouri River, including some that were later inhabited by other tribes.

When Verendrye visited the Mandans in 1738, they were living in large fortified villages near the mouth of the Heart River, near where it joins the Missouri. These villages were still there at the time of the Revolutionary War.

The Mandans were said to have occupied nine villages along the Missouri River in 1750, near where the Heart River joins the Missouri, near where Bismarck and Mandan now are. Seven of their villages were on the west side of the Missouri, while two were on the east. In 1804 and 1805, Lewis and Clark found that their numbers had been reduced to two villages, one on each side of the Missouri River, where it is joined by the Knife River, near where Stanton now is. Lewis and Clark estimated their populations to be about 1,250.

By 1837, their numbers had increased to about 1,600 but, that same year, it was reduced to one hundred and twenty-five, as a result of a smallpox epidemic. Together with attacks from the Sioux, the tribe was nearly wiped out. However, by 1852, their populations had increased to three hundred and eighty-five and, by 1870, their numbers had reached four hundred and fifty.

In 1845, when the Hidatsas moved north from the Knife River, some of the Mandans went with them, and others followed later. In 1851, 1866, and 1870, there were treaties imposed by the United States government that established them on Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.

Of Interest