Mandan Indian Tribe
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" I was born upon the prairie where the wind blew free, and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures, and where everything drew free breath. I want to die there, and not within walls." - Ten Bears, Comanche Chief


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Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, also known as the Three Affiliated Tribes, are a Native American group comprised of a union of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara peoples, whose native lands ranged across the Missouri River basin in the Dakotas. Hardship and forced relocations brought them together in the late 19th century. Today, the group is based out of the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota.

The current tribal chairman is Tex G. Hall, who assumed office in 1998.

The Mandan are a Native American tribe currently part of the Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota.

At the height of their culture, the Mandan were prosperous and peaceful farmers and traders, noted for their excellent maize and Knife River flint. Lewis and Clark stayed with the Mandan when they passed through the region, including five months in the winter of 1804-1805. Sacagawea, a Shoshone who had been kidnapped by the Hidatsa at an early age, their native guide whose picture adorns the U.S. dollar coin, joined them there. On their return trip, they brought a Mandan chief to Washington.

The smallpox epidemic of 1837-1838 decimated the Mandan, leaving approximately 125 alive, forcing them to band together with the Hidatsa to survive. Later, the Arikara were forced northward by wars with the Lakota, and also settled with the Mandan. When white settlers began arriving in the late 1800s the three tribes were placed on the Fort Berthold Reservation.

The level of technical skill the Mandan demonstrated with their agricultural and earthen lodge villages set them in stark contrast with other, more nomadic tribes on the Great Plains. This and anecdotal accounts of some explorers seeing European features in the people and their buildings led a few people to the speculative and unproven conclusion the Mandan were, in part, descended from pre-1492 lost European settlers.

The Hidatsa were allies of the Mandan and eventually banded together with them. The Hidatsa name for themselves is Nuxbaaga ("Original People"). They are the parent tribe to the Crow in Montana. They originally lived in the Devil's Lake area of North Dakota before being pushed southwestward by the Lakota. The Hidatsa are a matrilineal people, decent is through the maternal line. Occasionally they have been mixed up with the Gros Ventre in Montana.

The Arikara were forced into Mandan territory by the Lakota (Sioux), between the Arikara War and the white settlement in the 1870s. The Arikara, who lived for many years near the Ft. Clark trading post/Knife River, joined the Hidatsa and Mandan at Like-a-Fishhook Village, near the Ft. Berthold trading post, in 1862. For protection and also for jobs, the Arikara men scouted for the U. S. Army, stationed at nearby Ft. Stevenson. In 1874, the Arikara scouts guided Custer on his Black Hills Expedition. In 1876, a large group of Arikara men led by Soldier accompanied Custer and the 7th Cavalry, this time on the Little Big Horn Expedition. It was the Arikara scouts who were in the lead when the village was attacked. Several scouts drove off Lakota horses, as they had been ordered, and others fought valiantly alongside the troopers. Three Arikara men were killed: Little Brave, Bobtail Bull, and Bloody Knife. During the subsequent confusion, the scouts were cut off from the troopers, and returned to the base camp as they had been directed. After the battle, in which Custer and some 260 others on the U.S. side were killed, the search for scapegoats resulted in undeserved smears directed at the scouts.