About the Shoshone, Hidatsa, and Mandan Indians

[Shoshone Indians] | [Hidatsa Indians] | [Mandan Indians]

Shoshone Indians

Before Europeans came to America, the Shoshone Indians numbered about 60,000 and lived throughout a large area extending from what is now Southern California through Nevada into parts of Idaho and Utah. During the summer months, they would travel widely to hunt and gather, but would spend the dry winter in clan groups around various springs. In the spring and fall, representatives from all the clans gathered together - these were spiritual gatherings as well as meetings for decision making.

Equipped with only bows and arrows, Shoshone tribes had been continually raided and robbed by the Minitaree Sioux and Blackfeet, who were armed with rifles supplied by white traders. Due to this major disadvantage, in nearly every conflict with other tribes, the Shoshones would forfeit many of their possessions and lose many Tribal members to enslavement or death.

This is how Lewis and Clark first met Sacagawea. She had been kidnapped and enslaved by the Mandan Sioux who were living in Fort Mandan, ND. The Mandan gambled her away to Charbonneau, a white fur trader who had lived among them for many years.

The Lewis and Clark expedition encountered a Shoshone tribe for the first time in August 1805. In his log entry dated for August 17, 1805, Clark recorded that: "I had not proceeded on one mile before I saw at a distance Several Indians on horseback comeing towards me, The Interpreter [Charbonneau] & Squar [Sacagawea] who were before me at Some distance danced for the joyful sight, and She [Sacagawea] made signs to me that they were her nation [Indian sign language of sucking her fingers]..." In his entry for that same day, Lewis recorded that "...the Indian woman [Sacagawea] proved to be a sister of the Chief Cameahwait. The meeting of those people was really affecting [emotional], particularly between Sah-cah-gar-we-ah and an Indian woman, who had been taken prisoner at the same time with her and who, had afterwards escaped from the Minnetares and rejoined her nation."

Today the Shoshone live on reservations in California, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming.

Hidatsa Indians

This group of Native North Americans was also known as the Minitari and the Gros Ventre. After their separation from the Crow, with who they were once united, they occupied several agricultural villages on the upper Missouri River in North Dakota. They were in close alliance with the occupants of other villages, the Arikara and the Mandan. The Hidatsa villages, complete with circular earth lodges, were enclosed by an earthen wall. Hidatsa traits included the cultivation of corn and an annual organized buffalo hunt. They had a complex social organization and elaborate ceremonies, including the sun dance. After a smallpox epidemic in 1837, they moved up the Missouri, establishing themselves near the trading post of Fort Berthold. Today, with the Arikara and Mandan, many Hidatsa reside on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota.

Mandan Indians

The Mandan were a passive tribe of the Plains area and were culturally connected with their neighbors on the Missouri River, the Arikara and the Hidatsa. The Mandan had interesting cultural traits, including a myth of origin describing that their ancestors climbed from beneath the earth on the roots of a grapevine. It is believed that at one time the Mandan lived further east, but they historically migrated westward up the Missouri River. By the mid-18th century, they occupied nine villages near the mouth of the Heart River in south central North Dakota. After withstanding a severe smallpox outbreak and attacks of the Assiniboin and the Sioux, the Mandan moved farther up the Missouri River, opposite the Arikara villages. It was here that the Mandan survivors merged into two villages on opposite sides of the Knife River. In 1804, they were visited by the Lewis and Clark Expedition, who reported in their journals that the tribe numbered some 1,250. It was during this visit that Sacagawea became part of their team. In 1837, after an epidemic of smallpox and cholera, the Mandan were reduced to some 150, all dwelling in a single village. In 1845, when the Hidatsa moved from the Knife River region to the Fort Berthold trading post, the few Mandan joined them. In 1870, a large reservation was designated for the Mandan, the Hidatsa, and the Arikara in North Dakota at the Fort Berthold Reservation.

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