People of the Willows Mandan/HIdatsa Villages of the Missouri River

The stories told by Buffalo Bird Woman and recorded with the guidance of her son, Edward Goodbird, have become a valuable source of information on the Mandan and Hidatsa. Buffalo Bird Women was born and lived in Hidatsa villages along the Knife River in 1840. Later in the 1800's she and her fellow Mandan were forced to live on allotments at Fort Berthold. Her stories tell of deeply ingrained Hidatsa ways the guided her ancestors for hundreds of years. They also tell of the deep scars left by the small pox epidemics, wounds that were only eclipsed by the forced removal from their traditional homelands. The pictures shown here and from Hidatsa Villages along the Knife and Heart Rivers, tributaries of the Missouri River in central North Dakota.

“Sometimes in evening I sit, looking out on the big Missouri. The sun sets, and dusk steals over the water. In the shadows I see again our Indian village, with smoke curling upward from the earthlodges; and in the river’s roar I hear the yells of warriors, the laughter of little children as of old. It is but an old women's dream. Again I see but shadows and hear only the roar of the river." (Buffalo Bird Woman)
"Often in summer I rise at daybreak and steal out to the cornfields , and as I hoe the corn I sing to it, as we did when I was young. No one cares for our corn songs now”. (Buffalo Bird Woman"
On-a-Slant Mandan Village
Entrance to Ceremonial Lodge, On-a-Slant Mandan Village
On-a-Slant Mandan Village
We no longer live in an earthlodge, but in a house with chimneys…. But for me I cannot forget our old ways”. (Buffalo Bird Woman)
Central Fire, Ceremonial Lodge. On-a-Slant Mandan Village.
“I am an old woman now. The buffaloes and black tail deer are gone, and our Indian ways are almost gone. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that I ever lived them”. (Buffalo Bird Woman)
It is but an old women's dream. Again I see but shadows and hear only the roar of the river, and tears come from my eyes.” (Buffalo Bird Woman). Earth Lodge Depressions. Awatixa Village along the Knife River.

Note: Awatixa Village, also known as Sakakawea Village, was visited by Lewis and Clark in 1804. Historians believe this is the Mandan/HIdatsa village where the Corps of Discovery met Sakakawea, who was to become a valuable addition to the expedition as they moved westward. Awatixa is also believed to be one of the Mandan Villages depicted by artist George Catlin around 1830. This village was abandoned in 1834 after Sioux warriors burned the community. It is estimated that around 500 people lived in the nearly 50 lodges that were located here.

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