Mandan Mecca: The rise and fall of an American people, 1738-1838


Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowships




From 1738 to 1838, as Anglo-Americans created the United States, another great nation rose and fell on the North American continent. That nation was the Mandan Indians, located on the upper Missouri River in present-day North Dakota. The Mandans numbered between 6,000 and 13,000 in 1738, when Europeans first visited their country. In the half century that followed, they rose to immense power and prominence, drawing visitors from far and wide seeking culture, commerce, and influence. But by 1838, the Mandans were nearly gone, diminished to fewer than one hundred, and no longer viable as a nation. This project explains why—why they became so powerful so fast, and why they collapsed so completely, despite their peaceful relations with European and Anglo-American powers.