- June 8, 2020
Things That You May Not Know About Mandan People
ThingsThat You May Not Know About Mandan People
ThingsThat You May Not Know About Mandan People
Mandanpeople were as considered a small community who had a strong beliefin their cultural practices, their lifestyle amazed most peopleacross the world. Their cosmology was way beyond what mostcommunities practice today. The Mandan community was known topractice agricultural farming and trade. They were quite hospitable,and their reputation was renowned across the globe. Today, thecommunity is quite smaller as compared to the period back in the18thcentury due to the importation of epidemics such as smallpox,cholera, and whopping cough. Besides this, some assimilated to othercultures, thus leading to the downfall of the Mandan communityEncounterat the Heart of the Worldis a book that talks about the history and the cultural life of theMandan Indians who were located for centuries at the upper MissouriRiver.
Atthe heart of the world is a book written using historical andchronological updates. This is because most of the events that tookplace are only available in the archives since the Mandan communityoccupied the North Dakota area approximately 300 years ago1.Therefore, by use of literature books and historical accounts, it waspossible for the author to trace back the life and culture of theMandan group. Besides this, the narrator`s visit to the site makes itpossible for the audiences to trace back the history of the communitysince there existed evidence that they had occupied the area at onepoint in their lives.
ElizabethFenn, the author of the book, has used the art of narration todescribe the life of the Mandan community. Her narration skillsmainly focus on the history of the Mandan community, theirhomesteads, and culture in general. The narration has been used indescribing the general outline and the history of the Mandancommunity such as the story of the creation of Mandan’s first man.Besides the use of narration, flashback is also incorporated in thenarrative in describing the land that the Mandan community had firstsettled. This is evident from the introduction presented by thenarrator. The author creates an imaginative view to its audience bydescribing the landscapes and the environment surrounding the plainsand hills of North Dakota2.In order to create harmony and dramatic pauses in the narrative, theauthor has also used several forms of interruptions bringing us backto the present world. This has been used in the narrative to capturethe attention of the audience and not to focus too much on theflashback. Fenn also uses descriptive analysis to describe the plainsof Dakota. She talks of the Huff Indiana village, the double ditchthat existed in the plains of the upper Missouri river and thepainted woods in the locality.
Fennalso uses symbolisms and imagery in her narrative to describe theeconomic activities of the Mandan community. She compares the life ofBuffalo bird woman in describing the importance of corn also known as“koxate” among the Mandan. The cultivation of corn and engagingin trading of corn to other neighboring communities were thecommercial activities of the Mandan. The political lifestyle of theMandan has also been demonstrated by Fenn through the description ofthe “white koyote” and chief good boy3.This is an indication that the community had a centralized form ofgovernment where authority came from. Besides this, she also mentionsof the “red feather man” who the Mandan believed to be theirspiritual leader and foreseer. This is also an indication that theMandan were religious and believed in the High Deity.
Fennuses a blend of the past and present to create a similarity of thepresent land of the Mandan community and the present North Dakota.She relates the community back in 1804 by listing their settlement,and then shifts later in 1978 to indicate the existence of thecultural heritage from the same community. This is evident in chapter3 where she talks about the archeological discovery of "House12" where the Mandan community settled4.The settlement gave an insight into the patterns and design that theMandan community incorporated while building their homesteads. At thesame instance, Fenn goes ahead to relate their present house to theMandan, thus linking the two different scenarios. This is alsoevident from her description of the “earth lodges,” eagletrapping exercise, corn farming, and other economic practice. Thiscomparison helps to relate the two histories linking them back to theMandan community.
Despitethe above work of Fenn, her analysis does not clearly bring out thecultural details of the Mandan community. In her analysis, she mainlyfocusses on their economic activities and leaves out details abouttheir political and social lifestyle. The political structure ofMandan is said to be composed of not only chiefs but also elders, warand civil leaders, headmen, and town elders. They played importantroles in ensuring the Mandan community was well organized andcoordinated. In addition to this, it is clear that the narrativemainly focuses on the lives of the Mandan in the periods of early1800s to that of the 19thcentury. Little focus has been drawn on the state of this communityin the 20thand 21stcentury. She also focuses on a good part of the book giving detailson how the community was stricken by two waves of smallpox, theNorway rats, whooping cough, cholera, and the invasion of foreignsettlers to their land5.
Afterthe invasion of the epidemics, Fenn fails to give details on theachievements of the community as well as how they ended up settlingin the Fort Berthold Indiana Reservation. When the IndianaReorganization Act of 1934 was formed, we are not told on what termsdid the Mandan agree to or the role they played in the formation ofthe Act6.Fenn gives us a brief summary on how the Mandan people managed tosurvive their ordeals. Despite the enthusiastic, commence of thenarrative, the book ends up in a gloomy mood, due to the destructionthat the Mandan community faced.
Inconclusion, it is evident from the narrative that Fenn managed toincorporate several styles and dialogues to shed light on the livesand cultural heritage of the Mandan community. Her incorporation ofarcheological, epidemiology and geology features helps her to createa clear view of the community’s historical background. Fenn’s ownencounter at North Dakota helps to enrich the narrative creating adistinct perspective of the Mandan people. The narrative acts as asolid base for other researchers as it gives a clear review of thelives of Mandan community. It is an indication of communities thathad strong cultural heritage.
Fenn,Elizabeth A. Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of theMandan People. Hill and Wang, 2014.
1 Fenn, Elizabeth A. Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People. Hill and Wang, 2014.
2 Fenn, Elizabeth A. Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People. Hill and Wang, 2014.
3 Fenn, Elizabeth A. Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People. Hill and Wang, 2014.
4 Fenn, Elizabeth A. Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People. Hill and Wang, 2014.
5 Fenn, Elizabeth A. Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People. Hill and Wang, 2014.
6 Fenn, Elizabeth A. Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People. Hill and Wang, 2014.