Yellow Owl of the Mandan T-Shirt
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.