The Mandan population was 3,600 in the early 18th century. It is estimated to have been 10,000-15,000 before European encounter. Decimated by a widespread smallpox epidemic in 1781, the people had to abandon several villages, and remnants of the Hidatsa also gathered with them in a reduced number of villages.
The religion and beliefs of the Mandan tribe was based on Animism that encompassed the spiritual or religious idea that the universe and all natural objects animals, plants, trees, rivers, mountains rocks etc have souls or spirits. The Great Plains tribes such as the Mandan believed in Manitou, the Great Spirit.
In contrast, relations between the Mandans and the Corps were friendly throughout the duration of the expedition’s stay. The Mandans supplied the Americans with food throughout the winter at their newly constructed home, Fort Mandan, in exchange for a steady stream of trade goods.
Meeting the Tribes In October 1804, the westbound Lewis and Clark expedition was making its way up the Missouri River when it reached the five earthlodge villages of the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes.
Clans. The OIN consists of three clans: Turtle, Wolf, and Bear. Each Nation member belongs to one of these clans.
The Mandan were the first Plains Village group to become a modern Indian tribe. This group of people settled along the Missouri River in North Dakota about 900 years ago. They had followed the Missouri River up from Iowa, southern Minnesota, and South Dakota.
The Mandan tribe depended on the soil for a large part of their daily diet. They grew a variety of crops to include beans, squash, sunflowers, and tobacco, with corn being the main vegetable. Corn was ground into corn meal using a mortar and pestle. It was then boiled into a pudding or mixed with other foods.
On July 26, 1806, Lewis, Drouillard and the Field brothers departed Camp Disappointment and traveled down the Marias River. That evening, they encountered eight Piegan Blackfeet and the two parties agreed to camp together at Two Medicine Creek.
Sacagawea was born circa 1788 in what is now the state of Idaho. When she was approximately 12 years old, Sacagawea was captured by an enemy tribe, the Hidatsa, and taken from her Lemhi Shoshone people to the Hidatsa villages near present-day Bismarck, North Dakota.
Lewis wrote, “This place we have named Fort Mandan in honour of our Neighbours.” Clark “fixed on a place for to build a fort and Set to work.” As described by Gass, “the huts were in two rows, containing four rooms each, and joined at one end forming an angle.
Lewis and Clark planned to winter near long-established villages inhabited by large numbers of the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes, north of present-day Bismarck, North Dakota.
The men finished building a small log fortress by Christmas Eve; they named their new home Fort Clatsop, in honor of the local Indian tribe. During the three months they spent at Fort Clatsop, Lewis and Clark reworked their journals and began preparing the scientific information they had gathered.