Friday, October 7, 2016

Remembering A River

A view of the Cannonball River looking west. 
Remembering A River
Significant Mentions In Historic Resources
By Dakota Wind
Cannonball, ND – The Lakȟóta people keep their collective memory alive in pictographic records called winter counts. One such winter count, the Brown Hat Winter Count, reaches back to what ethnologists and historians might call “myth-history,” to circa 901. This history reaches back hundreds of years and recalls the arrival of the horse in 1692, the first horse stealing raid in 1706, inter-tribal conflict, contact with traders, smallpox, starfalls, eclipses, comets, sun dances, white bison hunts, conflicts with soldiers, treaties, the arrival of settlers, the boarding school and reservation era, and survival.

If the Cannonball River were excluded from primary resources like journals, maps, and winter counts, our North Dakota history would be poorer for it. There is a continuous cultural occupation of this Missouri River tributary reaching back to circa 1300 through the tribal histories of the Mandan, Arikara, Cheyenne, Yanktonai Dakota, and Hunkpapa Lakota.

I scheduled a viewing of the Dakota Access Pipeline Class III survey report with the North Dakota State Historic Preservation Office at 4:00 PM on March 1, 2016. The report is in three thick volumes, and there was no possible way that I could view the entire thing in one sitting, however, I narrowed my search to the Cannonball River and Beaver Creek. According to the authors of this report, they admitted to no tribal consultation. They don’t have to, because the pipeline does not physically cross the reservation border. The report doesn’t mention much in the way of history and culture. What is mentioned, can’t be shared, because it may lead to the destruction of the resource.

The Lakota world view perspective places south as the orienting direction. Here is the Missouri River, the Cannonball River on the right (west), and two Missouri tributaries on the left (east) (Beaver Creek, top; Long Lake Creek, bottom).

What it doesn’t say needs to be shared. The report does not mention the flood of 1825 opposite of the mouth of the Cannonball River - thirty lodges, or about 150-180 people drowned. There was no mention of The Charger’s last camp on Beaver Creek either. The Charger was a major historic figure in the War of 1812, he fought in three conflicts in Ohio, met President Van Buren, met King George III, led as many as 700 Dakȟóta-Lakȟóta under Col. Leavenworth’s command of the Missouri Legion in 1823 in the first ever US military campaign on Plains Indians against the Arikara. A major historic figure? A former US president and an English king certainly thought so.

The Charger (inset) and the location of his last winter camp on Beaver Creek where he died the winter of 1839-1840. 

These few things were brought to the attention an individual at the ND SHPO on March 1, 2016, along with where he could find this information. The following day, that individual responded that this info is also be found in the British Museum Winter Count, in London, England.

The north and south banks of the Cannonball River are rife with physical evidence of historic and cultural occupations of people who are still here. This physical evidence of village remains and midden mounds are complemented by surviving oral tradition; there are various mentions in historic journals from English resources (i.e. John Evans) to American resources (i.e. Manuel Lisa, Corps of Discovery, etc.). As to whether or not the historic occupations of the Arikara, Cheyenne, and Mandan Indians ever interred their deceased in the vicinity of the Cannonball River mouth, it is absolutely preposterous to say that there are no burial grounds nearby – to say so would be to suggest that no one ever died in any of the cultural occupations. Alfred Bowers’ Mandan informants told him that their ancestors buried their deceased “in earlier times.”

The Sitting Rabbit Map of the Missouri River. The Cannonball River is listed on this map as "Big River." 

The Sitting Rabbit map of the Missouri River, from the North Dakota-South Dakota border to the North Dakota-Montana border, was commissioned by Orin Libby in 1906. At the time, Libby was the Secretary of the State Historical Society of North Dakota (SHSND). Libby sought out Sitting Rabbit, a Mandan Indian man, to capture the geography of the Missouri River as they knew it. Sitting Rabbit didn’t disappoint in his efforts. In fact, the Mandan Indian villages at the mouth of the Cannonball River, both the north and south bank villages, are called the Big River Villages. The Mandan Indian name of the Cannonball River is the Big River. This precious map is still in the collections of the SHSND. The SHSND has graciously uploaded this map for public viewing on their ND Studies website.

The origin of the Sičáŋǧu began with a conflict at the Cannonball River.

The Brown Hat Winter Count (aka Baptiste Good Winter Count; Sičáŋǧu, “Brulé”) in the winter count collections at the National Museum of The American Indian in Washington DC, has been made available in its entirety online. This winter count recalls 1762-1763 as the “people were burnt winter.” The entry details a great prairie fire that caught up to their village. Many people and horses were killed in this fire. Survivors themselves were burnt about their legs and made it through this trial by jumping into Long Lake. This band of Lakȟóta had fought the Cheyenne in the Cannonball area. The Cheyenne had retaliated by crossing the Missouri River at the mouth of the Cannonball River and tracking the Lakȟóta along Long Lake Creek, where they set fire to the plains. The late Albert White Hat Sr. (Rosebud; Sičáŋǧu), recalled the oral tradition of the Sičáŋǧu as taking place in the Bismarck region. The conflict which resulted in the formation of the Sičáŋǧu began at the mouth of the Cannonball River. The identity of one of the tribes of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (The Seven Council Fires; “The Great Sioux Nation”) tied to this location is significant.

John Evans composed this map of his journey up the Missouri River. Roughly half the Corps of Discovery's expedition was already mapped before they came. 

The Beinecke Library Map, at Yale, CT, the only evidence of John Evans travels (his journals may have been destroyed or lost) provides the only testimony of his journey on the Upper Missouri River. This map was referenced and annotated by the Corps of Discovery. Evans recorded on his map a series of streams, many unknown to him by name; one of the outstanding streams he recorded was the “Bomb River,” or the Cannonball River.

The Corps of Discovery mention the Cannonball River as “La Bullet” on October 18, 1804. Referencing Evans’ map, Captain William Clark walked that evening in search of the remarkable places mentioned by Evans, but couldn’t find them, though by then, the Corps’ campsite was north of the mouth of the Cannonball River. Co-Captain Meriwether Lewis noted on this same date that the cannonball concretions were “of excellent grit for Grindstones,” and had his men select one to “answer for an anker.”

The Pictographic Bison Robe details a huge inter-tribal conflict on the Northern Plains.

The Pictographic Bison Robe, at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, MA, details the intertribal conflicts amongst the Arikara, Mandan, Hidstsa, Hunkpapa Lakota, and Yanktonai Dakota in the Heart River and Cannonball River area along the Missouri River during the 1790s. This same robe details one of many conflicts between the tribes of the Upper Missouri River which concluded in the 1803 Battle of Heart River, which saw the expansion of the Huŋkphapȟa territory. This conflict is remembered in the Drifting Goose Winter Count (aka John K. Bear Winter Count) as Tȟa Čháŋte Wakpá ed okíčhize, or “There was a battle at Heart River.” The expansion of Huŋkphápȟa territory is significant. This territorial boundary is recognized in the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty.

Ensign Nathaniel Pryor, a sergeant of the Corps of Discovery during the expedition, recorded on September 9, 1807, that the Arikara and Mandan were at war. The Mandan had killed two Arikara at the mouth of the Cannonball River. Testimony of the conflict at Cannonball River was delivered to Pryor at the Grand River by the Lakȟóta. Pryor’s previous experience with the Arikara and Lakȟóta made him aware that the best policy was to place every confidence in their word; they had no reason to lie.

Manuel Lisa, a fur trader of the American Fur Company, recorded that tensions were high on the Northern Plains among tribes who were pro-English trade, those who were pro-American trade, and American Fur Company trappers in the fall of 1812. The Crow and Lakȟóta had killed American trappers, the Hidatsa had stolen American Fur Company horses, the Arikara had indiscriminately killed trappers be they English or American, and the Cheyenne had robbed and whipped American Fur Company trappers on the Cannonball River.

The native blue flax fascinated Bradbury. 

Botanist John Bradbury made a journey to the Cannonball River in 1811. Bradbury noted late in the day on June 20, the “valley of Cannon-ball River, bounded on each side by a range of small hills, visible as far as the eye can reach; and as they appear to diminish regularly, in the proportion of their distance, they produce a singular and pleasing effect. The Cannon-ball River was muddy at this time; but whether it is constantly so or not, I could not learn. It is here about one hundred and sixty yards wide, but so shallow that we crossed it without swimming. We camped on a very fine prairie, near the river, affording grass in abundance, nearly a yard high. The alluvion of the river is about a mile in breadth from bluff to bluff, and is very beautiful, being prairie, interspersed with groves of trees, and ornamented with beautiful plants, now in flower.” Among Bradbury’s findings was a species of flax he identified as linum perenne. The Lakȟóta know the native blue flax as Čhaŋȟlóğaŋ Nabláǧa (“Hollow-Stem To-Blossom-From-Within”) and employ the seed in their food stock.

Bradbury returned again to the Cannonball River on July 7, 1819, for the express purpose of procuring additional botany specimens.

The location of the 1825 spring flood is remembered in the pictographic record. 

The Blue Thunder Winter Count, the No Two Horns Winter Count, and the High Dog Winter Count, all of which are in the collections at the State Historical Society of North Dakota - the High Dog Winter Count is on display in the Early Peoples Gallery - all recall a devastating flood in the spring of 1825. The High Dog Winter Count remembers the flood as Mní wičhát’tÁ, or “Many died by drowning.” The Blue Thunder Winter Count remembers the flood as Mní wičhát’tÉ, or “Many died by drowning.” According to the High Dog Winter Count, this fatal winter camp was opposite of the mouth of the Cannonball River, and the site is remembered as Étu Pȟá Šuŋg t’Á, or “Dead Horse Head Point.” The Steamboat/Thin Elk Winter Count, in the collections of the Buechel Museum at the St. Francis Indian School on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, records that it was thirty lodges of Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna Dakȟóta who drowned in the Horsehead Bottom flood.

Prince Maximilian von Wied-Neuwied travelled into the interior of North America during the summer of 1833. Wied-Neuwied has written probably the most about the Cannonball River than any previous or post visitors. An excerpt is shared here: “On the north side of the mouth, there was a steep, yellow clay wall; and on the southern, a flat, covered with poplars and willows. This river has its name from the singular regular sand-stone balls which are found in its banks, and in those of the Missouri in its vicinity. They are of various sizes, from that of a musket ball to that of a large bomb, and lie irregularly on the bank, or in the strata, from which they often project to half their thickness when the river has washed away the earth; they fall down, and are found in great numbers on the bank. Many of them are rather elliptical, others are more flattened, and others flat on one side, and rather convex on the other. Of the perfectly spherical balls, I observed some two feet in diameter.”

Capt. Seth Eastman painted this scene of Fort Rice, Dakota Territory.

On July 29, 1864, after spending two weeks hastily constructing Fort Rice, General Sully took his command of 2200 soldiers, which included a detachment of Winnebago Indian scouts, and ascended the Cannonball River on the south bank, his punitive campaign on the Isáŋyathi Dakȟóta anew. Known or unknown, Sully also marched against the Thítȟuŋwaŋ Lakȟóta (Húŋkpapȟa, Itázipčho, Sihásapa, and Mnikȟóžu), and Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna Dakȟóta, two Siouan groups who had nothing to do with the 1862 Minnesota Dakota Conflict. Sully received a dispatch from Fort Rice at midnight on July 22 that the Dakȟóta were on the Knife River. The next day Sully’s command crossed the Cannonball River near present-day communities of Porcupine and Shields, ND.

In 1878, the Huŋkphápȟa chief, Ištá SápA (“Black Eye/s”), met with William Wade, a cattle rancher on the Cannonball River, and shared this about the terrible 1825 flood: “...we camped on this bottom land just below was the Wolf Month [February] and it had been warm for a long time. One night the water started coming in over the ground from the river and before we could get to higher ground we were surrounded by water and ice chunks. Our only chance was to get to high ground before we would all be covered up with water. We tried to carry our tepees and supplies but finally had to leave them and many of the women were drowned trying to save their children. Most all our old people drowned and many others. Most all our horses went under and you can still see their heads (skulls) laying [sic] along at the foot of the hills after so many, many years. Two Bears (Mato Nopa) a Yankton chief [sic], saved the lives of several women and children by carrying them from camp to the higher ground.”

William Wade’s daughter, Mamie, met her share of pre-reservation Dakȟóta and Lakȟóta people. Among them was Annie Skye. Skye relayed to the younger Wade that smallpox struck the Lakȟóta in 1837. They were camped at the mouth of the Cannonball River when “out of a clear blue sky smallpox hit them. After the death of several of their number, who were put to rest up on platforms suspended in trees, they decided to move away from this infested locality.”

Dr. Harriett Skye, Annie Skye’s granddaughter, offers a contemporary perspective on current events near the Cannonball River: “I believe that as long as they remain peaceful and unarmed, and each day they are there, is a win. This kind of action confuses those who would come in with their guns and armor because their intent is to kill. They arrested people who were praying, but the powers that be know that the world is watching, but more importantly, know that our Ancestors are watching because they fought and died so we could be here. This struggle is everyone’s struggle to maintain our clean water. Water is life.” Dr. Skye was inducted into the North Dakota Heritage Center’s Native American Hall of Honor in September, 2016.

Dr. Fenn's "Encounters At The Heart Of The World." Get yourself a copy.

Dr. Elizabeth Fenn, Pulitzer Prize winning author of “Encounters at The Heart of The World: A History of The Mandan People,” writes that the Huff phase - located between the Cannonball River and Heart River in a time frame from about circa 1300 to about 1450 - was when and where the Mandan became the Mandan. They developed the Okipa ceremony in this location during this time. The South Cannonball site was unprotected, that is, there were no palisade walls, nor defensive moats surrounding their village there. The fortifications at the North Cannonball site may well represent a key transformation in plains village life, as drought caused strife in the Missouri River valley. This may have been cause for the Mandan to move closer together - and build fortifications - for safety. But we need archaeological study to sort these things out.

By the time Mandans moved north from the Cannonball area to Huff and the Heart River, they had embraced the key trait that made them Mandan: the Okipa ceremony, with its multi-day reenactment of their own rich history. The Cannonball area, according to Fenn, represents “the oldest Mandan cultural horizon.”

One of Deloria's thought-provoking works. Another one is "Custer Died For Your Sins." 

The late Vine Deloria Jr. essayed that for many Americans, “the first and most familiar kind of sacred lands are places to which we attribute sanctity because the location is a site where, within our own history, something of great importance has taken place. Unfortunately, many of these places are related to instances of human violence. Every society needs these kinds of sacred places because they help to instill a sense of social cohesion in the people and remind them of the passage of generations that have brought them to the present. A society that cannot remember and honor its past is in peril of losing its soul. Indians, because of our considerably longer tenure on this continent, have many more sacred places than do non-Indians.”

“A second category of sacred lands has a deeper, more profound sense of the sacred. It can be illustrated in…[when] Joshua led the Hebrews across the River Jordan into the Holy Land. After crossing, Joshua selected one man from each of the Twelve tribes and told him to find a large stone. The twelve stones were then placed together in a monument to mark the spot where the people had camped after having crossed the river successfully. In the crossing of the River Jordan, the sacred or higher powers have appeared in the lives of human beings...the essence of the event is that the sacred has become a part of our existence.”

“It is not likely that non-Indians have had many of these kinds of religious experiences, particularly because most churches and synagogues have special rituals that are designed to cleanse the buildings so that their services can be held there untainted by the natural world. Non-Indians simply have not been on this continent very long; their families have rarely settled in one place for any period of time so that no profound relationship with the environment has been possible.”

Deloria concluded: “The third kind of sacred lands are places of overwhelming holiness where the Higher Powers, on their own initiative, have revealed Themselves to human beings. We can illustrate this point in the Old Testament narrative. Moses spent time herding sheep on Mount Horeb. One day to his amazement [he] saw a bush burning with fire but not being consumed by it. Approaching this spot, Moses was startled when the Lord spoke to him. ‘Put off thy shoes, for the place where thou standest is holy ground.’ This tradition tells us that there are places of unquestionable, inherent sacredness on this earth, sites that are holy in and of themselves. These holy places are locations where people have always gone to communicate and commune with higher powers.”

Wood's book details the Huff Phase of the Mandan Indians, which also includes some narrative of the North Cannonball site. An aerial view of this site is within these pages.

Dr. Ray Wood, renowned expert in Plains Indian cultural and archaeological sites on the Upper Missouri River and whose first-hand field experience goes back before the dams of the 1950s, interprets the data from John Evans 1796 map in regard to the Cannonball River locality that what Evans recorded as “Jupiter’s Fort” is without a doubt a prehistoric Mandan village. According to Wood’s findings regarding the North Cannonball site, “Not only was it a defensive setting, but the village was also fortified by a curving ditch that isolated a level upland spur from the adjoining upland. The village today is badly disturbed by plowing, but from the air one can clearly see the fortification ditch and the numerous bastions protruding from it. Little wonder that Evans referred to it as a fort…” In his “Prologue To Lewis & Clark: The Mackay And Evans Expeditions,” Dr. Wood essays the number of remarkable Indian village sites north of the Cannonball River. Remarkable. Extraordinary. Outstanding. Significant.

The ND SHPO conducted a follow-up survey west of HWY 1806 and found that no significant sites were destroyed. The physical evidence, or lack thereof, cannot be disputed. According to the chief archaeologist’s published note, he and his associates were looking west of HWY 1806, perhaps because Mr. Tim Mentz conducted his own survey and called attention there with his findings. The North Cannonball site, and the mouth of the Cannonball River, the confluence of history and culture, is east of HWY 1806.

The Cannonball Ranch was a main stop in North Dakota's history. 

In 1999, the Cannonball Ranch was inducted into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. It’s one of the oldest ranches in North Dakota. According the ND Cowboy of Fame, the ranch served as a gathering point as early as 1865. The ranch included a hotel, a general store, a ferry crossing, a steamboat landing and fueling station, a military telegraph station for Fort Rice, and a stage line to the Black Hills in the 1870’s and 1880s. The ranch also included two houses, a barn, a blacksmith shop, a bunk-house, an ice house, a laundry, and tennis court.

The North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame’s strict criteria for eligibility to be recognized is that a ranch must have been “instrumental in creating or developing the ranching business, traditions, and lifestyles of North Dakota’s western heritage and livestock industry.”

In 2010, Walmart planned to construct a supercenter near Wilderness Battlefield (a Civil War battle ground) and people invested in the history of that site grew concerned. Eventually, enough people held that ground as sacred and historical that plans for the supercenter were dropped in January 2011. Coincidentally, Walmart and state officials had argued that no significant battles occurred on that site.

The sum of the north bank of the Cannonball River with a million years of geological history, 700 years of continual occupation, inter-tribal conflict, smallpox, botany, trade, steamboat traffic, US military history, and early ranching, have made that location significant.

Mr. Leroy Curly developed a Lakota alphabet in the 1980s. I employed this alphabet executed in a brush script using acrylic on watercolor. 

Spiritual pilgrimages were conducted on the plateaus of the “Hummit.” There would be little to no traces of these vision quests, and there shouldn’t be. People went to pray, not leave evidence. In September of 2016, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Rt. Rev. Curry, made a pilgrimage of his own to the Cannonball. He listened and prayed with the community there. Curry’s visit calls to mind Psalm 99:9, “Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy hill; for the Lord our God is Holy.” The mystery of creation can be seen there today as the early peoples beheld it.

The Cannonball River, and specifically the North Cannonball site, and its importance to the first nations, to North Dakota, must take into account its religious or spiritual significance, its role in inter-tribal conflicts, its role in the 1837 smallpox epidemic which struck the Húŋkpapȟa, its role as the starting point in Gen. Sully’s 1864 punitive campaign, and the historic Cannonball Ranch.

The Cannonball River, and all its attributes is important to all North Dakota citizens, to new citizens, and most importantly of all, the future. Let us put our minds together, to educate ourselves and one another about the things we hold dear, to resolve to respect our story, our histories, and our sites of significance.

Keúŋkeyapi. That’s what they said. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Historical Conflict And Trade At Cannonball River, A Review

Challenges And Conflict On The Cannonball
Confluence Of Indians & Traders, A Review
By Dakota Wind
Cannonball, ND – Is the Cannonball River so different today than it was two hundred years ago? Yes and no. The river still drains into the Missouri River as it has done for thousands of years, but the similarities depart from there. The Cannonball River drains into a stretch of the Missouri River that is more lake now than flowing stream.

600 years ago, the Mandan lived in two earthlodge villages, the Big River Villages, on the north and south banks at the Cannonball River and Missouri River confluence. The Cheyenne lived in an earthlodge village located at present-day Fort Yates, ND, and occupied the region including the Cannonball River from around 1700 to about the turn of 1800 before taking up the nomadic horse culture for themselves and moving west. The Arikara contested the Cheyenne occupation, and even came to live at the Big River Village on the north bank for a time.

Tracy Potter’s “Sheheke: Mandan Indian Diplomat” offers a summary of the backstory which sets up the Mandan Indian protagonist Shehek Shote (“White Wolf;” aka Sheheke, or “White Coyote”) in the post-contact and early trade era on the Upper Missouri River. Potter references living oral tradition of the Mandan people, and archaeology of the ancient territory of the Mandan, as well as writings from the early fur traders including the Corps of Discovery to show the struggle and survival of the Mandan on the prairie steppe.

Potter’s teeters back and forth between a biographical epic of White Wolf who journeyed east to parlay with President Jefferson and his return, and a historical summary of the Mandan people. The tale concludes with a grand gesture of self-sacrifice and service to a country that has largely forgotten that White Wolf died protecting Americans on the frontier when the War of 1812 spread to the Missouri River.

Sheheke: Mandan Indian Diplomat was released in 2003 as a companion book to all the Corps of Discovery excitement during the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial. Its a genuine original concept, with a focus on the story of a native man, a civil chief of a peaceful first nation, at a time when a dozen books a month were coming out about the Corps of Discovery. It’s 2016 and Potter’s book deserves a second closer look at its brief narrative involving the conflicts on the Cannonball River in light of the current energy interests there.

Inter-tribal conflict is a part of the collective history of the first nations. Different languages yield different world views and values, which may lead to conflict, but contests for control of natural resources is universal in the history of humanity anywhere in the world at any time.

During the Corps of Discovery’s mission, they selected various tribal leaders to journey downriver and east to meet with the great father of the new United States. In 1804, the corps selected Arketarnawhar Was-to-ne (“Is A Whippoorwill”) and a company of six others from the Osage, Missouri, and Pawnee nations, to entreat with President Jefferson. Is A Whippoorwill died in the spring of 1805; the other tribal representatives soon died as well. Jefferson wrote a missive telling the Arikara that their beloved leader had promised their friendship to the Americans before dying, and that he was buried in the east.

The Arikara received official word of their leader’s death in the summer of 1807. By then, the Arikara and Mandan were at war with one another. One of the conflicts between the two nations was at the Cannonball River, where the Mandan had fought the Arikara and killed two of their warriors. The Mandan wanted and supported trade with the Americans; the Arikara wanted the same too, but wanted their leader back more.

In the fall of 1812, war tension spread west. The Hidatsa supported the English in their trade. The Mandan supported trade with the American Fur Company. The Arikara indiscriminately harassed all white trappers and traders on the Upper Missouri. The Cheyenne were withdrawing from the Missouri River for the deep west, but lingering trade drew them back to the Missouri River. The American Fur Company had set up shop with Fort Manuel Lisa near present-day Kenel, SD near the ND-SD border.

The Arikara reported to a Fort Manuel trader that the Cheyenne had robbed and whipped a trader at the Cannonball. The trappers were so nervous when the sun went down, they shot a skulking dog thinking it was a Cheyenne. What’s not reported, is the Cheyenne were lied to and robbed in trade themselves. Their retaliation was just. They didn’t kill the trader, only suffered him to be humiliated for his corrupt dealings. Some of the Cheyenne were still on good terms with the traders at Fort Manuel Lisa and had planned on wintering there in 1812-1813.

Fort Manuel Lisa was attacked and burned in December 1812. Lisa and his men, even the Cheyenne were anticipating attack from the Arikara, but it was the Thítȟuŋwaŋ (“Teton”), persuaded by English trade agent Col. Robert Dickson who had married into the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (“Seven Council Fires;” Great Sioux Nation), who carried the fight to the trade fort.

Potter’s “Sheheke: Mandan Indian Diplomat” is a wonderfully short historical book in clear light prose, but it’s deep and rich enough for serious study. His book is dedicated to the Mandan people and includes many Mandan and Hidatsa descendants in his acknowledgements. Get your copy from the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum store. The book isn’t listed on the website, but it’s available on the floor. Get your copy today! 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Fur Trade Era On The Upper Missouri River, A Review

The cover of Sunder's book 
The Fur Trade Era On The Upper Missouri
Cannonball River Part Of History, A Review
By Dakota Wind
Cannonball, ND – The first edition of John Sunder’s “The Fur Trade Era On The Upper Missouri, 1840-1865” was published in 1965 by the University of Oklahoma Press. The book focuses on the closing days of the American Fur Company on the Northern Great Plains which effectively concluded with the punitive campaigns of generals Sibley and Sully.

The fur trade has an interesting history in North America. The French and English hooked native peoples with trade goods such as mirrors, knives, kettles, beads, and guns. American Indian tribes even made war on one another for a hundred years in the Great Lakes region until the beaver was effectively hunted out at the turn of 1700. Then the fur trade turned west.

Sunder takes readers to the last of the trading posts on the Upper Missouri, from Fort Berthold where the Arikara, Hidatsa, and Mandan became utterly dependent on the US military for aid in their struggle for survival against the elements and the hostilities of their traditional enemies, the Teton Lakota, to Fort Union Trading Post.

Sunder’s narrative is a carefully constructed study of the last trading posts. That is to say, that this book is dry in its detail, but everything within is genuinely valued and included for its contribution to the development of the American West. This includes mentions of rivers and streams on the Upper Missouri River that have been exploited for their material value, rivers and streams that were inter-tribal conflict sites, and river and streams that have served as important points of interest for river traffic.

Here’s a short excerpt from Sunder’s The Fur Trade Era On The Upper Missouri, 1840-1865 which happens to pertain to the Cannonball River, a western tributary of the Missouri River, and of some interest to the energy industry.

After brief stops at Forts Buford and Union, the St. Ange reached the mouth of the Poplar River. Since the mid-July channel of the Missouri was too low to allow Captain La Barge to go up-river beyond that point, he unloaded freight destined for the Blackfoot country, then swung the steamer around and rode the current downriver to St. Louis, carrying a large cargo of robes and furs and new Indian-country curiosities: spherical stones from Cannonball River and a caged wild songbird resembling an Old World finch. Father De Smet, who disembarked at Fort Union, accompanied Alexander Culbertson and thirty Indians in a small wagon and cart train overland from Yellowstone to Fort Laramie to attend a scheduled September meeting between St. Louis Indian Superintendent Mitchell and the northern Plains tribes.

These spherical stones, concretions, from the 60-million-year-old Cannonball Formation – unique to North Dakota – continue to be a part of North Dakota’s identity and geologic history, so much that a lovely collection of the stones are prominently featured at the new east entrance of the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum. The stones were collected from Harmon Lake recreation area. There's precious few stones remaining at the Cannonball River. 

Sunder’s book is available at the NorthDakota Heritage Center & State Museum’s gift shop. The book is not listed for purchase on the website, but it's on the floor. Get your copy today!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Medicine Bear Winter Count Variant

A picture of the Medicine Bear Winter Count from the collections at the Montana Historical Society (picture courtesy of the Montana Historical Society).
Waníyetu Wowápi Tȟá Matȟó Wakȟáŋ Akhé
A Medicine Bear Winter Count Variant

By Dakota Wind
Helena, MT - Medicine Bear was an itáŋčaŋ, one of four principal chiefs, of the Pȟabáksa (Cut-Head) division of the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna (Yanktonai). He was forty years old when the reservation era, the time of nothing, began. By then he kept a winter count, a history of his band of Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna, rendered in his own hand, on muslin cloth. It seems he kept one on brain-tanned buckskin as well.

A variant of that winter count has surfaced in the collection at the Montana Historical Society. The paint on this variant is much worn and flaked (charcoal, but probably mixed with bear grease or other animal fat), but there is enough distinction in the images and execution of style in the pictographs that this researcher has determined that the hide winter count is a variant, if not the originator, of the Medicine Bear Winter Count.

The waníyetu wowápi, winter count, is a pictographic record, a mnemonic device, in which each image represents a year with a story of the people, in this case, Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna. It is not a calendar, not in the sense that you can look ahead and see the next month or year, but a record to look back at previous years.

The traditional homeland of the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna lies between the Mníšoše (Water-Astir; Missouri River) and Čaŋsáŋsaŋ Wakpá (White Birch River; James River), and south of Mní Wakȟáŋ (Water With-Energy; Spirit Lake) on the Northern Great Plains. Occasionally the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna ventured as far east as Ohio, and as far west as the Čhaŋsótka Wakpá (Towering Tree River; Little Missouri River).

In Josephine Waggoner’s book “Witness: A Húŋkpapȟa Historian’s Strong-Heart Songs of the Lakotas” there are listed thirteen bands of Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna. These thirteen groups were split among three different reservations in the late 1800’s, Standing Rock (Wičhíyena), Fort Peck (Wačhíŋča Oyáte), and Crow Creek (Húŋkpathi).

The Montana Historical Society Medicine Bear Winter Count has been correlated with the Medicine Bear Winter Count (Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna) at Dartmouth College, the Blue Thunder Winter Count (Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna) at the State Historical Society of North Dakota (SHSND), the High Dog Winter Count (variously listed as Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna and Huŋkphápȟa) at the SHSND, the Chandler-Pohrt Winter Count at the Detroit Institute of Arts in Detroit, MI, and the John K. Bear Winter Count (Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna). The Lakota Language Consortium standard orthography has been used to write the text of each entry in Dakȟóta.

1823 (1): Wahúwapa šéča ȟápi waníyetu kiŋ (Ears-of-corn dried bury-they winter the). That winter they cached parched ears of corn.

1824 (2): Ȟaȟátȟuŋwaŋ ób kičhízapi. Čhaŋkáškapi yuȟdéčapi ([Water] Fall-dwellers with fight-they. Fence-fortification to-tear-apart-they). They fought with the Chippewa. They tore their palisades to pieces.

1825 (3): Mní wičhát’E (Water many-dead). Dead bodies in the water.

1826 (4): Tȟaspáŋna Wakpána éd waníthipi (Apple-[Little] Creek at winter-camp). They made winter camp at Apple Creek.

1827 (5): Wičháakiȟ’aŋ na wičháša čheȟpí yútA, Isáŋyathi (Starvation and people flesh to-eat-something, Santee). In their desperate hunger, the Santee ate their own.

1828 (6): Wakáŋkadaŋ ób kičhízapi (Thunder-beings with fight-they). They fought with the Thunder Beings.

1829 (7): Makhú Šá čhaŋkáğa thípi káğA Hiŋháŋ Wakpá éd (Breast-bone Red trimmed-logs lodge to-build Owl River at). Red Breast built a cabin on Owl River (Moreau River). The variant depicts a lodge alongside a cabin. The Medicine Bear Winter Count depicts a man wearing a hat (a white man; a trader) next to a cabin.

1830 (8): Pȟadáni ób kičhízapi kiŋ (Arikara with fight-they the). They fought with the Arikara. The variant depicts four figures representing the enemy. The Medicine Bear Winter Count depicts only two.

1831 (9): Nuŋpá kičhíkte (Two killed-each-other). Two men killed each other.

1832 (10): Thí tȟáŋka obléča káğapi (Lodge big square-sides built-they). They built a large cabin.

1833 (11): Wičháȟpi hiŋȟpáya (Star-Nation to-fall-down). The stars fell down.

1834 (12): Matȟó kičhí waníthipi, Čhaŋté Wakpá éd (Bear with winter-camp, Heart River at). They made winter camp with a bear, at Heart River.

1835 (13): Wičhíyena óta wičhákasotapi waníyetu (Wičhíyena many massacre-they winter). Many Upper Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna (Yanktonai) were massacred that winter. Both the variant and the Medicine Bear Winter Count depict a Hupáwaheyuŋpi (Poles Pack-things-up-to-travel), or travois which was used to move their wounded and deceased.

1836 (14): Tȟatȟáŋka Iŋyáŋke tȟóka kte na thi akdí kiŋ (Bison-[Bull] Running enemy kill and camp return the). Running Bull killed an enemy and returned to camp. The variant and the Medicine Bear Winter Count depict a figure above which is featured four horse tracks, killing or counting coup on another figure. The horse tracks represent a successful horse raid against his enemy.

1837 (15): Wičháȟaŋȟaŋ tȟaŋká (Smallpox big). There was an epidemic of smallpox.

1838 (16): Wičháȟaŋȟaŋ aktá (Smallpox again). Another epidemic of smallpox.

1839 (17): Pté sáŋ ktépi (Bison-[Cow] creamy-white kill-they). They killed a female white bison.

1840 (18): Tȟámina Wé Padáni ob kičhize waktékdi (His-Knife Blood Arikara with fight return-in-victory). His Bloody Knife returned in victory from a fight against the Arikara. This is the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna Dakȟóta headman of the Wičhíyena, or PȟabáksA (“Cutheads”) division. In later years he was known as Oscar No Heart. The forehead of the figure in the variant is painted scarlet, indicating that this is a PȟabáksA figure.

1841 (19): Itáŋčhaŋ ktépi (Leader kill-they). They killed a chief.

1842 (20): Tȟatȟáŋka Oyé Wakȟáŋ t’Á. Wakhéya kdézena uŋ wičháknakapi. (Bison-Bull Tracks With-Energy died. Lodge striped using above-the-ground [buried]-they). Holy Buffalo Tracks died. They laid him to rest in a striped thípi.

1843 (21): Čhaŋčéğa Yuhá ečíyapi ptehíko (Drum Has called-by-name-them bison-to-attract). Drum Owner called the bison.

1844 (22): Wíŋyaŋ onákte (woman prairie-fire-killed). A woman died in a prairie fire. The figure depicted is standing in flame.

1845 (23): Huŋkádowaŋpi (Singing-over-a-relative-they). They sang over someone in ceremony and made a relative. The making-of-relatives ceremony is still practiced among the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (the Seven Council Fires; the name the “Great Sioux Nation” refers to themselves) today.

1846 (24): Šuŋg’híŋzi áwičakdipi (Horse-teeth-yellow captured-return-they). They brought back horses with yellow teeth.

1847 (25): Wašíču nuŋpá kičhí waníthi (Takes-The-Fat two with winter-camp). Two white traders camped with them that winter.

1848 (26): Kičhí ktépi (Each-other killed-they). They killed each other. This year’s entry depicts two men shooting each other.

1849 (27): WatȟókhiyopȟeyA čhúŋkaške éd waníthipi (To-Trade fort at winter-camp). They wintered at a trading post.

1850 (28): Wópȟetȟuŋ waŋ Wičhíyena ópi. Matȟó Núŋpa thíŋktes’a t’eyÁ (Trader a Wičhíyena wound. Bear Two murderer-would-be caused-to-die). An Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna wounds a trader. Two Bear puts the would-be murderer to death. Note: The Two Bear family on Standing Rock insist on the use of “Two Bear” as opposed to “Two Bears.”

1851 (29): Heȟáka šá kútepi (Elk red hunted-they). They hunted a red elk. The variant depicts a lodge in front of the elk indicating that the hunters conferred and prayed about this hunt. The Medicine Bear Winter Count depicts only a leaping red elk.

1852 (30): Matȟó Wašté ečíyapi ptehíko (Bear Good called-them-by-name bison-to-attract). Good Bear called the bison. The variant depicts a lodge in front of the bison indicating that the hunters, in this case Good Bear, prayed about this hunt. The Medicine Bear Winter Count depicts only a charging or leaping bison.

1853 (31): Hé Tópa uŋ waŋ ktépi (Horn/s Four wearing a killed-they). They killed a man wearing a headdress with four horns. Both the variant and the Medicine Bear Winter Count depict a head with what appears to be a shaved horn headdress with four horns, and a trailer of what appears to be ermine tails and a slat (slats were quilled and sometimes decorated with feathers or plumes).

1854 (32): Waníyetu kičhízapi (Winter fight-they). They had a fight that winter.

1855 (33): Phuthíŋ Ská wawáhoye kiŋ (Beard White to-order-things the). White Beard [General William Harney] gave the order.

1856 (34): Wapȟáha waŋ yuk’ézapi (Warbonnet in-particular to-shear-off-they). In a fight, he sheared a war-bonnet off [the enemy’s head]. The variant depicts a wapȟáha (a warbonnet) with what appears to be horns. The Medicine Bear Winter Count depicts the same but without this embellishment.

1857 (35): Tȟatȟáŋka Ináži wiŋyáŋ áwičakdi (Bison-[Bull] Standing woman captured-returned-with). Standing Bull brought back a captive woman.

1858 (36): Waŋbdí Hoȟpí t’Á (Eagle Nest died). Eagle Nest died.

1859 (37): Wókapȟaŋ paŋȟya (Meat-block/pemmican very-much). Much pemmican. The variant depicts blocks or parcels of meat in front of the lodge door. The Medicine Bear Winter Count depicts the same on the lodge.

1860 (38): Šuŋkawakȟaŋ óta áwičakdipi (Horses many captured-returned-with). They returned with many captured horses.

1861 (39): Hitȟúŋkasaŋ Dúta šuŋkawakȟaŋ óta áwičakdi aktá (Weasel Red horses many captured-returned-with again). Red Weasel returned with many captured horses.

1862 (40): Kȟaŋğí tópa ktépi (Crow four killed-they). They killed four Crow.

1863 (41): Akíčhita Pȟá Tȟáŋka kaškápi. Kdí na t’Á (Soldier/s Head Big imprisoned. Return and die). Soldiers imprisoned Big Head. He returned and died. The variant depicts a figure with four feathers, and appears to be wounded. The Medicine Bear Winter Count depicts a figure with three feathers.

1864 (42): Wíŋyaŋ nuŋpá ktépi (Woman two killed-they). They killed two women.

1865 (43): Pȟatkâša Pȟá čhapȟÁ t’ekíyA (Jugular-vein-scarlet Head [Western Painted Turtle] stab to-cause-one’s-own-death). Western Painted Turtle Head [or “Turtle Head”] was stabbed to death.

1866 (44): Wóoyake Wičháša ktépi (Story Man killed-they). They killed Storyteller.

1867 (45): Waníyetu osní (Winter cold). It was a cold dark winter. The accompanying text of the Medicine Bear Winter Count says that this was an especially cold winter. The image depicted for this year’s entry is a circle that appears to be hastily filled in. This might also represent the solar eclipse the summer of 1868.

1868 (46): Itázipčho akézaptaŋ t’Á (Without-Bows fifteen died). Fifteen members of the Itázipčho (Sans Arc) died. The conflict appears to be with the Kȟaŋǧí (Crow Nation).

1869 (47): Kȟaŋğí wičháša wikčémna yámni wičháktepi (Crow men ten three men-killed-they). They fought and killed thirty Crow men. Only four are depicted.

1870 (48): Wašíču waŋ Nasú ikčéka kté (Takes-The-Fat a Brain common killed). Brain, a Lakȟóta, killed a white man. This entry appears to correspond to the Blue Thunder Winter Count entry for 1871-1872.

1871 (49): Witkówiŋ nuŋpá ktépi (Crazy-women two killed-they). They killed two prostitutes.

1872 (50): Wakhéya Šáya t’Á (Lodge Red-Painted died). Red Painted Lodge died.

1873 (51): Šuŋkawakȟaŋ otá áwičakdipi (Horses many captured-returned-with). They returned with many captured horses. The variant depicts many horse tracks, while the Medicine Bear depicts only captured horses.

1874 (52): Wičháša zaptáŋ ahí ktépi (Men five came-here killed-they). They killed five of them.

1875 (53): Tȟóka nuŋwaŋki napá (enemy swim-home escape). The enemy escaped by swimming home. The arch below the enemy figures represent each one’s escape.

1876 (54): Heȟáka t’Á (Elk died). Elk died. A man named Elk died. The image represents a name glyph in this case, as opposed to them actually hunting an elk.

1877 (55): Waníyetu snížE (Winter withering). A withering year. Whether this year represents the weather or is in reference to the fallout of Okíčhize Pȟežísla Wakpá (the Battle of the Greasy Grass; the Battle of the Little Bighorn), it was a long wearying year. They were tired. This year marks the first of the remaining entries to include a palisade before the figure. This represents the “prison” era, or the beginning of the reservation era.

1878 (56): Tȟašúŋke Máza ktépi (Horse Iron killed-they). They killed Iron Horse.

1879 (57): Wapȟáha Sápa šuŋkawakȟaŋ óta áwičakdi (Warbonnet Black horse many captured-returned-with). Black Warbonnet led a successful horse raid.

1880 (58): Phizí thí (Gall lodge). Gall lodge. Soldiers fired into Gall’s camp on the Tongue River. Gall and his followers, Crow King, Black Moon, Low Dog, and Fools Heart, and their extended families (a total of 230 people) were brought to Standing Rock Agency in the summer of 1881.

1881 (59): Wakíŋyaŋ Nuŋpá ktépi (Thunder-Being Two killed-they). They killed Two Thunder. Two Thunderbirds are depicted.

1882 (60): Kȟaŋğí wičháša hípi (Crow men three came-they). The Crow man came to them. One Crow man is depicted “followed” by a white man.

1883 (61): 1883 (61): Matȟó Wakȟáŋ t’Á (Bear With-Energy died). Holy Bear died. The Medicine Bear and Blue Thunder Winter Counts both say that Medicine Bear died this year.

1884 (62): Makȟá k’apí (Earth dug-they). They dug earth. This could reference the construction of a sod house, construction (maintenance possibly) of an earth lodge, or preparations for funerals.

1885 (63): Waȟúŋ Nap’íŋ t’Á (Burning Necklace died). Burning Necklace died.

1886 (64): Wakȟáŋpahomni ktépi (With-Energy-Turns killed-they). They killed Turns Holy.

1887 (65): Maȟpíya Hétoŋ mníwani kté (Cloud Horn Turning kill). Turning Horn Cloud was killed. The image resembles the Medicine Bear Winter Count entry for this year. The Blue Thunder Winter Count text for this year, however, seems to be a better correlation: Matȟó Núŋpa huŋká waŋžítku t’Á, Čhečá Yámni ečíyapi (Bear Two ceremoniously-adopted one-his died, Thighs Three name-they). Two Bear’s ceremonially adopted brother, whom they called Three Thighs, died. Neither text from Blue Thunder nor Medicine Bear seem to fully match the entry on this variant. One of the figure’s cheek is colored red, as a woman would have colored her cheeks. Red painted circles on a woman’s cheeks were considered beautiful accents.

1888 (66): Išúŋmanuŋ t’Á (Fails-To-Steal died). Does Not Steal died.

1889 (67): Šuŋkawakȟaŋ waŋ kiíyaŋkdi t’Á (Horse a race-horse died). A race horse died.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Cannonball, The Historical Review Process

DAPL machinery waits on the north bluff of the Cannonball River. 
Íŋyaŋwakaǧapi Wakpá
By Dr. Tom Isern
Fargo, ND - It’s all quiet on the Cannonball. For the moment. This is a good time to reflect on how we got to the point where an out-of-state energy transport company, here operating under the (rather ironic) name Dakota Access, manipulated our sworn officers of the law into confrontation with the native citizens of North Dakota.

Bear with me on this, because it requires some attention span. And there is required reading, too. Begin with a document on this page:

Here’s why I think you should look at this obscure manual of practice. Issued by the Historic Preservation Department of the State Historical Society of North Dakota, it details the requirements for “Cultural Resource Inventory Projects.” Yeah, I know, I think they meant to say “Inventory,” but that’s not the point. The manual codifies the expectations of cultural resource contractors--usually archaeologists--submitting work for review. This includes the studies required parcel to environmental assessments for construction projects, such as the Dakota Access pipeline.

All such work, like any reputable science, begins with a literature review. Now, archaeologists like to do field work. They aren’t so keen about book work. So, the authors of the guidelines spelled out clearly what they expected every research entity to accomplish with the literature review. You can read for yourself in the manual, but I will summarize here the three essential points.

1.    Review the site files and other materials already of record in the historic preservation department.

2.    Make use of the published, textual sources for history and archaeology in the study area.

3.    Interview persons with personal knowledge of the area.

But, really, isn’t archaeology about fieldwork? Why bother with this review-of-literature stuff?

Because, North Dakota is a huge place. Even a defined study area is too large to cover foot-by-foot with pedestrian survey. You need that boots-on-the-ground work, but if you’re just walking around out there, or even working the ground in systematic fashion, you’re going to miss a lot of stuff.

Think of it like this. If I start walking across a 5000-acre pasture looking for sharptail grouse, on my own, I may or may not be lucky enough to stumble across one. But if I start across guided by my trusty retriever, and follow where she leads me, I will find birds just about every time. You have to hunt where the birds are.

Historical sources tell you where to concentrate your survey efforts, so that you actually find stuff. Maybe that’s the problem here. If you want to find stuff, you consult the sources. If you don’t want to find stuff, don’t look at the sources.

Wait a minute, why would a researcher not want to find stuff? I’m a researcher, and I love to find stuff! The answer is, these cultural resource contractors work for the people, like Dakota Access, who want to build things, in ways that do violence to heritage resources, if you’re not careful. When cultural resource surveyors find things, that’s nothing but trouble for the people who pay them.

At this point, if you’re unfamiliar with the system of cultural resource management, you’re wondering how this makes sense. The point is, it does not. We set up a process ostensibly intended to safeguard our heritage resources. To do this, we require that before a party goes ahead with a big project, it has to submit a cultural resource survey and establish that the project will not do unreasonable amounts of damage to historic and archeological resources. Such a study is supposed to identify and locate the resources to be safeguarded. The study is conducted, however, by a contractor hired by the party desiring to do the project, such as the Dakota Access pipeline. Dakota Access pays the bills. Moreover, the companies who do such cultural resource work specialize in it and depend, for their existence and profit, on repeat business. The incentive, therefore, is not to find stuff, to go through the motions, but to bring in a report that satisfies the company which pays the bill.

You can read the environmental assessment for the Dakota Access project here:

I also have seen sections of the cultural resource study that is part of the EA. The cultural resource study is not included in the online posting. It is withheld because if people knew where to find archeological sites, they might loot them for artifacts. Such caution is standard practice, allowed by state statute--although it appears in this case to be redundant, because at least in the section dealing with Morton County, the researchers, surprise, didn’t find anything.

And why didn’t they find anything? Because, far as I can see, there is no evidence the cultural resource contractors even pretended to meet the minimum requirements for documentary research. And because of that failure, they missed known sites of profound significance and importance--some of them, in fact, visible in Google Earth, for Pete’s sake.

It is time for concerned parties to examine the primary text on this matter, the cultural resource study on file in the historic preservation department of the state historical society, and to determine to what degree, if any, it meets requirements for such surveys. I have seen enough to know it is deficient. The only question is, how deficient. Now would be an excellent time for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to organize a qualified investigative team and dispatch it to the heritage center to determine the extent of deficiency. The findings would be important to legal proceedings currently in progress. It appears that all regulatory approvals of the Dakota Access project have been based on faulty intelligence.

There is a final issue I must address, although it pains me. I am a historian, and a sustaining member of the State Historical Society of North Dakota. The cultural resource study for the Dakota Access project came to the historic preservation department of the SHSND for review; the department accepted it, despite its failure to meet requirements; and thus it certified to the North Dakota Public Service Commission and other agencies that the Dakota Access project would do no harm to heritage resources. The statement of the SHSND, in its letter of 26 April 2016, was unequivocal: “No Historic Properties Affected.” That statement was based on demonstrably deficient studies.

How can this happen? There are three possible explanations.

1.    Time constraints - the SHSND simply lacked the staff to exercise due diligence.

2.    Lack of competence - the SHSND dropped the ball.

3.    Conflict of interest - the SHSND averted it gaze.

That third possibility, conflict of interest, is most disturbing. Energy firms are seven-figure donors to the SHSND. In fact, when the legislature only partially funded the new North Dakota Heritage Center, the SHSND made it known that it looked to energy companies as its main reliance for funding. And so it was done.

Let me make this plain: I am not accusing anyone, or any agency, of wrongdoing or bias. I am saying that so long as this conflict of interest exists, the public will view the pronouncements of the SHSND with suspicion.

It is long past time for the SHSND to deal with this problem. It is possible, through a transparent process of recusal by conflicted parties and involvement of unbiased reviewers, to solve it. As a member of the SHSND, I say, let this reform commence immediately.

Dr. Isern heads up the Center For Heritage Renewal at North Dakota State University. Check it out. 

At The Heart Of The World, A Review

The cover features a beautiful scene by American western artist William Jacob Hays, Sr., straight from 1863, and a Karl Bodmer painting of the Mandan Mandeh Pahchu in 1840. 
At The Heart Of The World, A Review
Survey History Reveals Native Homesteads
A Book Review By Dakota Wind
Bismarck, ND – In March 2014, Dr. Elizabeth Fenn’s seminal work on the history and culture of the Mandan Indians Encounters At The Heart Of The World: A History Of The Mandan People was published. The following year her work won the Pulitzer Prize for History.

Fenn is a historian. Naturally, she meticulously researched the primary resource documents like journals and maps. She isn’t an archaeologist or a geologist, and she’d be the first to tell you, but she immersed herself in the surveys, visited many of the sites first-hand, and then constructed a narrative of her experience of North Dakota making her research a little more personalized with exposition of the modern landscape, and produced an amazing piece of history that is easy to read and follow.

In light of the current energy interests in the Cannonball River vicinity, here follows a ten paragraph excerpt of Encounters At The Heart Of The World which details some history, geology, and cultural occupation:

A map on page seventeen, one of several appearing in Fenn's book. 

The Cannonball River starts in Theodore Roosevelt country – at the edge of the North Dakota badlands where, in the 1880s, the Harvard-trained politician found solace and manhood after personal tragedy sent him reeling. From here, the stream flows east across 150 miles of treeless plains and enters the Missouri not far above the South Dakota border. The confluence is today obscured by the waters of Lake Oahe, but there was a time when that confluence intrigued nearly every Missouri River traveler. Scattered along the shoreline and protruding from the banks were hundreds of stone balls, some as big as two feet in diameter.

These stone balls are the product of the ancient Fox Hills and Cannonball sandstone formations, deposited by inland seas that inundated the landscape for nearly half a billion years. Seventy million years ago, continental uplift caused the waters to recede and the sea floor to emerge, visible today as undulating plain. By slicing through this surface to expose the layers of sediment below, the Cannonball River revealed the land’s ancient, hard-to-fathom aquatic history. The Fox Hills and Cannonball strata are rich in minerals, especially calcium carbonate – a vestige of marine animals such as crabs, which often appear fossilized in these formations. When groundwater flows through the sandstone, the calcium crystallizes with other minerals and forms concretions – literally concrete – of a spherical shape.

William Clark, who examined the mouth of the Cannonball as he and Meriwether Lewis headed up the Missouri River on October 18, 1804, noted that the balls were “of excellent grit for Grindstons.” His men selected one “to answer for an anker.” The German prince Maximilian of Weid viewed the distinctive globes from the deck of a steamboat in June 1833, The Cannonball River “got its name,” he explained, from the “round, yellow sandstone balls” along its shoreline and that of the Missouri nearby. They were “perfectly regularly formed, of various sizes: some with a diameter of several feet, but most of them smaller.” Today, they are little more than a curiosity. Local residents use them as lawn ornaments.

A map from page nineteen detailing continental trade to the Mandan Indian villages. Note: map says "Pre-contact Trade." 

For ancestral Mandans, the migration farther north and the construction of new towns may have mitigated the threat of violence. Though they fortified some of their new settlements, they built others in the open, unfortified pattern of old, with fourteen to forty-five lodges spread over as many as seventeen acres. One such town sat on the south bank of the Cannonball River where it joins the Missouri, in what is now the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

The South Cannonball villagers tapped a wide array of food resources. In the short-grass prairies to their west, herds of bison beckoned hunters. In the mixed- and tall-grass lands across the Missouri to the east, antelope, deer, and small game did the same. The riverbanks brimmed with seasonal chokecherries, buffalo berries, serviceberries, raspberries, plums, and grapes, while river-bottom gardens produced a bounty of maize, beans, squash, and sunflowers. The Missouri itself offered catfish, bass, mussels, turtles, waterfowl, and drowned “float” bison, this last considered particularly delectable.

Much of the South Cannonball village site has succumbed to the steel plows of more recent farmers tilling the soil here, but the layout of the ancient village is clear. The settlers dispersed their town over fifteen acres, with ample space between individual homes. The houses themselves, about forty in number, were nearly rectangular log-and-earth structures, narrower at the rear and wider at the front.

There were no fortifications. It appears that the occupants of the South Cannonball hamlet counted on peaceful relations with neighboring villagers and with the hunter-gatherers who may have visited from time to time. But fortified towns nearby suggest that security was tenuous. South Cannonball may have been on the last villages to follow the scattered settlement pattern of earlier days. By the mid-1400s, the same neighborhood was home to some of the most massively defended sites ever seen on the Upper Missouri River.

Fenn’s narrative reconstructs a historic Mandan presence in the vicinity of the Cannonball River. Where Dr. W. Ray Wood focused more on the physicality of the north bank of the Cannonball, Fenn brings a living history lens to the south bank of the same.

Fenn cares about the people she has written about, actually making friends on each trip she takes to the Northern Great Plains. She knows that no matter how carefully she constructed her narrative, that there would be some among the Mandan who don’t embrace her interpretation, and she accepts that even as she acknowledges them. She cares about the history. She cares about the people. Her work reflects that and it is no wonder her work received such acclaim.

You can get your copy of Fenn’s Encounters At The Heart Of The World: A History Of The Mandan People at the North Dakota Heritage Center and Museum’s store. The book isn't listed on the website, but its on the floor.