Encounters at the heart of the world : a history of the mandan people

by Elizabeth A. (Elizabeth Anne) Fenn, 1959-

Book, 2014



Call number

E99 .M2


Publisher Unknown


"A book that radically changes our understanding of North America before and after the arrival of Europeans Encounters at the Heart of the World concerns the Mandan Indians, iconic Plains people whose teeming, busy towns on the upper Missouri River were for centuries at the center of the North American universe. We know of them mostly because Lewis and Clark spent the winter of 1804-1805 with them, but why don't we know more? Who were they really? In this extraordinary book, Elizabeth A. Fenn retrieves their history by piecing together important new discoveries in archaeology, anthropology, geology, climatology, epidemiology, and nutritional science. Her boldly original interpretation of these diverse research findings offers us a new perspective on early American history, a new interpretation of the American past. By 1500, more than twelve thousand Mandans were established on the northern Plains, and their commercial prowess, agricultural skills, and reputation for hospitality became famous. Recent archaeological discoveries show how they thrived, and then how they collapsed. The damage wrought by imported diseases like smallpox and the havoc caused by the arrival of horses and steamboats were tragic for the Mandans, yet, as Fenn makes clear, their sense of themselves as a people with distinctive traditions endured. A riveting account of Mandan history, landscapes, and people, Fenn's narrative is enriched and enlivened not only by science and research but by her own encounters at the heart of the world"--… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member mreed61
Believe it or not, this is another book that is overfilled with footnotes. Still, it was fantastic research on the Mandans,Hidatsas, Arikaras, Yankton Sioux, and a little bit on the Crees, Blackfeet, Crow and a few others. I learned a great deal about the northern end of the Louisiana Purchase, its history before French "ownership", and the eventual acquisition by the US. You just have to read it. It's not hard to read, and I'd be writing another book just based on my description. :) Elizabeth did it much better than I!… (more)
LibraryThing member muddyboy
A detailed well researched study on the Mandan native American tribe who once flourished in what is today South Dakota. This book graphically portrays the typical struggle that many tribes had to go through once they made contact with European white men. At first there is mutual optimism that these groups will both benefit - especially due to trade. There is much unique data unearthed by the author regarding tribal customs. Many ceremonies have a high degree of sexual content. Although this is a minor tribe among hundreds their experience is a blueprint to what happened to native Americans post European contact.… (more)
LibraryThing member bness2
A fascinating and unvarnished look at the Mandans and related tribes in North and South Dakota. Fenn has done meticulous research for this book, and although sometimes the information content is a bit dense, it is still quite an enjoyable read. It is also a sad book, as the Mandans are one of the tribes that were nearly decimated from a combination of new diseases, small pox being the most prominent, but also including whooping cough, measles and cholera. By the middle of the 19th century they were a straggling band of survivors living in a single village.… (more)

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