Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Live Together in Peace on Missouri
The Missouri River Valley, 1820
In the early 1800s the Arikara moved up river to live near the Mandan and Hidatsa who had lived together in peace for many years. Although the Arikara speak Caddoan and the Mandan and Hidatsa speak a Siouan dialect, the three tribes live together in peace.
They live in earthlodges which are spacious and permanently built. Although each tribe goes on an annual plains buffalo hunt, the three tribes are primarily farmers. They mainly grow corn, squash, pumpkin, beans, and tobacco. The women do the gardening, and the men do the hunting. Often they trade their produce for such things as tools and cloth. They also fashion wonderful pottery.
Kinship is all important. A person is born into a family and into a clan or band (an extended family group). Kinship means that no one is alone, that everyone is cared for. Social and educational matters revolve around the clan. Anyone called “mother,” “sister,” or “brother” is treated with great respect. “Cousins” are close. Grandparents and elders are given special respect as providers of love, knowledge and wisdom.
Religion is central to everyone’s life. Whether called the Master of Life, the Chief Above, the Great Mystery, or the Great Spirit, a Creator controls the universe. Most religious ceremonies are associated with successful farming and hunting and individual spiritual strength. The Arikara medicine lodge ceremony, which comes in the fall, lasts fifteen to twenty days. People feast and do sacred dances. The Okipa ceremony of the Mandan dramatized the creation of the world and the gift of animals, especially the buffalo. The Hidatsas Naxpike ceremony is similar to the Okipa.
These major ceremonies renew the people’s sacred beliefs, put the universe in balance, and insure the protection of the spirits for their people.
By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton
Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council.