The French Explorer La Verendrye Describes the Mandan People

“They keep the streets and open spaces very clean. Their fort is surrounded with a ditch fifteen feet deep and from fifteen to eighteen feet wide. Built slightly higher than the ground around, they enter the fort on steps made of pieces of wood which they can remove when threatened by an enemy. This fortification has nothing ‘savage’ about it.

The whole tribe is very industrious. Their dwellings are large and spacious, divided into several apartments with wide planks. Nothing is lying about; all their belongings are placed in large bags hung on posts. Their beds are made in the form of tombs and are surrounded by skins.
Their fort is very well provided with cellars, where they store all they have in the way of grains, meat, fat, dressed skins, and bearskins. They have a great stock of these things, which form the money of the country.

Interior of a Mandan Earth Lodge by Karl Bodmer.  Courtesy of the Lewis and Clark Fort Mandan Foundation.

They make wickerwork very skillfully, both trays and baskets. They use earthen pots that they make, like many other nations, for cooking food. They are for the most part great eaters, and are very fond of feasts.

The men are large and tall, very active, and the greater part fairly good looking. They have fine features and are very affable. Most of the women do not have Indian features. The men play a kind of ball game on the open spaces and ramparts of the fort.”

By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton


Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council.

Subject Matter

Social Studies

North Star Dakotan:

Journals and Art Work: The Indian People, The Trade, and The Land

The Indian People

The Purchase and Exploration of Louisiana

The Fur Trade

Dakota Territory

The Military Frontier

The Reservation System

George Armstrong Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn

The Great Dakota Boom, 1878-1890

Reservation Troubles, 1886-1890

The Making of a State and a Constitution

The North Dakota Economy, 1890-1915

Life on the Indian Reservations

The North Dakota National Guard and the Philippines

North Dakota, The Great War and After

The Nonpartisan League's Rise to Power

The Nonpartisan League in Power

The Nonpartisan League's Decline

The 1920s

1930s: North Dakota's Economic and Political Climate

The New Deal in North Dakota

The Road to World War II

North Dakota and American Society

North Dakota Optimism and Economic Developments

North Dakota and Political Change

Related Links Brief biography of Pierre Gaultier de Varennes et de La Verendrye with maps and illustrations.