Mandans, an Indian tribe of the Dakota family, dwelling on the Upper Missouri. According to their traditions, they came from under the earth, where they lived near a subterranean lake. They ascended by means of a grape vine, which a heavy woman broke, so that part of the tribe were left below. About 1772 they are said to have resided 1,500 m. from the mouth of the Missouri, in nine villages, encircled with earth walls, two on the east and seven west of the river. The Sioux soon after drove the eastern villages to the Rickaree or Arickaree country, further up the river, and they emigrated again before those on the west followed them. Lewis and Clarke found them 1,600 m. up the river, in two villages, one on each side of the river, and as they were friendly built Fort Mandan near them. By the advice of the explorers they made peace with most of the neighboring tribes. In 1822 they were estimated at 1,250 in number, and though some placed the population much higher, it did not probably exceed 2,500. They made a treaty with Gen. Atkinson and the agent O'Fal-lon, July 30, 1825, recognizing the authority of the United States, and making peace.
They continued to lose severely by their wars with the Sioux, who to this day pursue them with unrelenting hatred, parties under White Bonnet having twice attempted to destroy their village in 1870. In 1832 they dwelt at Fort Clarke, near the mouth of Knife river, and were supposed to number 2,000. In 1837 the smallpox broke out among them, and reduced the tribe to 145 souls in all, chiefly women and children. The survivors took refuge with the Rickarees. They are often spoken of as having been entirely swept away; but they gradually regained numbers, and always maintained a distinct tribal organization. In 1845 they removed to their present abode. In 1850 they numbered 50 lodges and 150 souls, and in 1852 had increased to 385. They are now (1874) with the Rickarees and Min-netarees at Fort Berthold, Dakota territory, on the left bank of the Missouri, in lat. 47° 34' N, Ion. 101° 50' W. An executive order of April 12, 1870, set apart a reservation of 8,640,000 acres for the three tribes, in northwestern Dakota and eastern Montana, extending to the Yellowstone and Powder rivers. Under a treaty made July 27, 1866, government appropriates $75,000 a year for the three tribes.
The Mandans were reported in 1873 as numbering 479. Though always friendly, living in a permanent village, they have had no missionaries and very feeble attempts at a school. The Mandans live partly by agriculture, having 100 acres in corn and potatoes, and possessing 150 horses, but they have no cattle or proper implements. They extend their hunts west to the Rocky mountains, north to the British line, and south to the Black hills. - The Mandans are of lighter complexion than many of the tribes, and gray hair, even in young persons, is common. This, and a story based on very vague hearsay that Welsh soldiers at Fort Chartres conversed in their language with the Mandans, has led to many attempts to trace their origin to Madoc's supposed Welsh colony. Their houses are of wood; some of them are polygonal in shape, with an excavated cellar in the centre. The wooden frame is covered with earth, and the roof is a favorite resort. Quadrangular log cabins are also used. Besides pipes, arrows, bows, etc, they make matting of wild rushes, baskets of willow bark woven in different and intricate colored patterns, large beads, and a very substantial black pottery; some of the vessels hold three gallons and are capable of standing great heat. Their canoes are made of skins.
They place the dead, wrapped in skins, on scaffolds, and when these fall they gather the skulls and place them in circles. They have a strange annual religious ceremony, relating to the great canoe and Xu-mokhmuckanah, the first or only man. They have many peculiar dances and a fearfully cruel initiation rite for young warriors.