Custer Lives!

Mandan Indian Village


In July 2008, while visiting Fort Abraham Lincoln in North Dakota, I visited the reconstructed Mandan Indian Village. You must purchase a separate ticket for a guided tour of the village. It was raining lightly as I drove to the portion of the park the Indian village is located. I checked for the next tour time and it was about twenty minutes away. I went inside a small office/history center and checked out the exhibits. The center was clean and well laid out. The young ladies working inside were friendly and were able to answer my questions.

When I exited, tour guide was right on time. He was extremely knowledgeable of both the Mandan Indian culture and the US Army of Fort Abraham Lincoln's era. I also discovered he was a fellow Hoosier from Bloomington, Indiana. I reside in Indianapolis.

The Mandan were a culture that lived along the banks of the Missouri River. Unlike most Plains Indian tribes, the Mandan built permanent villages. Instead of living a nomadic existence, the Mandan grew crops in addition to hunting. The Mandan were also a light skinned tribe, where the women claimed ownership of the completed huts. Sadly, I was told by a guide the last fullblood Mandan Indian died in 1995.

As I approached the village I was astonished at the size of the dwellings. The lodge was circular with a domed roof and a square hole at the apex to allow smoke to escape. The exterior was covered by reeds and twigs, covered with hay and earth. The lodge also featured a portico-type structure at the entrance. The interior consisted of four large pillars with crossbeams supporting the roof.

The largest hut we entered was a community or government type of building. There were numerous exhibits in the huts including informational exhibits and artifacts. The village was surrounded by a stockade fence much like you see in the movies surrounding the US Army forts in the west.

The view as you approach the Mandan Village.

It doesn't show up in this reduced size photo but there is a stockade fence behind the treeline.

A look inside a Mandan canoe of the latticed frame. Note the hole in the paddle.

The bottom of the canoe was formed from animal hide.

Inside one of the huts.

My tour guide inside another hut.

Looking toward a hut entrance.

A side view of a hut shows the timber entrance and a storage platform.

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