Timeline of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Sahnish, 900-1868


Archaeological study carbon dates existence of one group of Mandan at the Heart River region of what is North Dakota. Another claim they originated near the Gulf of Mexico. They migrate along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers to the Heart River. Mandan occupy Missouri River Valley from mouth of Bad River in South Dakota to mouth of Knife River in North Dakota. Sahnish oral history traces ancestry to Central America and the Gulf of Mexico.



Sahnish occupy the Bad and Cheyenne River areas. Southern most Mandan move north.



Coronado encounters the Sahnish at the Big Blue River and Mill Creek Valley in Kansas.



Awatixa Hidatsa village group settles at the mouth of the Knife River near the Mandan villages above the Heart River. Archaeological findings support Hidatsa traditional villages at the mouth of the Knife River occupied for a period of residence between 1550 and 1600.



The Mandan villages are situated between the Cannonball and Knife Rivers. The third band of Hidatsa, called Hidatsa Proper, leave their villages in the Devils Lake area and settle in the Missouri River Valley.

The River Crow, called Miro-Kac, separate from the Hidatsa Proper, move west with the introduction of firearms in the Great Lakes area.



Spanish fur trader Le Seur finds Sahnish around the Fort Pierre area. Sahnish occupy 32 villages in the Missouri Trench.



Sahnish living at the Arickara (Grand) River in South Dakota.



Separation of Sahnish and Schirri bands near the Elk Horn River in Nebraska.



Mandan visited by French explorer, Pierre Gaultier De Varennes De La Vérendrye.



La Vérendrye’s son arrives at mouth of Bad River where he meets Chief Little Cherry’s band of Sahnish.



French establish a trading post at the mouth of the Cheyenne River in the Sahnish village.



The Declaration of Independence is drafted by the colonists and the War for Independence begins.



A smallpox epidemic devastates the Mandan at the Heart River village, the Hidatsa at the Knife River villages, and the Awaxawi at the Painted Woods region, and the Sahnish in the Grand River village sites.



Trade and Intercourse Acts passed. First laws to regulate trade with Indian tribes.



Jean Baptiste Trudeau, French fur trader, reports Sahnish still living north of the Arikara (Grand) River.



David Thompson, a Canadian geographer and trader, visits the Mandan villages at the Heart River and the Hidatsa villages at the Knife River.



President Thomas Jefferson commissions Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore the Louisiana Territory to open up commerce.



Lewis and Clark spend the winter at the villages of the Mandan and Hidatsa at Knife River.



Sahnish village Chief, Aciita Neesanu (Ankedoucharo) travels to Washington where he dies on April 7, 1806 and is buried at Richmond. His unreported death a year later results in distrust between the Sahnish and the whites.



Shehek Shote (Sheheke) (White Coyote), Mandan Chief of the Mih-Tutta-Hang Kush village, his wife and son, and interpreter Rene Jesseaume travel to Washington to visit President Thomas Jefferson. Sheheke is nicknamed “Big White” by Lewis and Clark.

French trader Alexander Henry visits the Mandan and Hidatsa villages and spends ten days with them.



Shehek Shote (White Coyote), Mandan Chief and family, escorted by a 14-man military escort and some traders attempt return to the Mandan villages but are met by hostile Arikara and Sioux. They return to St. Louis. They are accompanied by a 125-man escort and the American Fur Trade Company and they return to the Mandan villages.



Civilization Fund Act passed—First Indian education program is established.



Lt. Col. Leavenworth sent to punish the Sahnish. He and 700–800 Sioux attack a village—a turning point in Sahnish/white relations. Battle is called the War of 1823. General Henry Atkinson and Major Benjamin O’Fallon are appointed by President James Monroe to arrange treaties with Great Plains tribes, including the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara.



Indian Bureau is created under the War Department.



The United States Government ratifies the Atkinson and O’Fallon Treaty with the Mandan, Hidatsa, and the Arikara. The treaty is designed to secure friendship with the tribes, to control trade with the Indians, and to protect white intruders on Indian lands.



George Catlin arrives at the Mandan and Hidatsa villages at Knife River to make a record of the tribal traditions and customs. He sketches Sahnish people from boat because the Sahnish are too fierce and are feared.



Prince Maximilian of Wied Neuwied and Karl Bodmer visit the Mandan and Hidatsa villages. Bodmer paints the Mandan Chief, Four Bears, and Two Raven of the Dog Society.



Twenty-four Sahnish arrive at the Mandan village. The rest of the band is still in the Black Hills and some are camped on the Knife River. A band of Sahnish is living with the Mandan and the Hidatsa.



The American Fur Company steamboat, St. Peters, docks at Fort Clark. On board was a man afflicted with smallpox. He is taken ashore. Within weeks and the following months, hundreds of Mandan, Hidatsa, and Sahnish, at their various villages, die of the disease.



When the smallpox kills most of their numbers, the remaining Mandan move to the Missouri bottomlands to their winter villages. In their absence, the Sahnish move into their village. The surviving Mandan are joined by the Hidatsa. Maxidivia, Waheenee, Hidatsa oral historian, is born at Knife River.



Father DeSmet visits the villages of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Sahnish on his way back to St. Louis from a visit with the Flatheads and Nez Perce.



The first trading post in the area is built by James Kipp, and is called Fort James. The name is later changed to Fort Berthold, named after the last prominent fur trading family of St. Louis. Mandan and Hidatsa build Like-A-Fishhook Village led by Hidatsa Chief Four Bears.



Indian Bureau is transferred from the War Department to the Department of Interior.



A delegation travels to Fort Laramie to make a treaty with the tribes on the Great Plains. The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara are accompanied by Father DeSmet, a friend and counselor. The meeting lasts for 18 days. This Fort Laramie Treaty defines the Three Tribes territory consisting of 12,618,301 acres.



Cholera epidemic strikes upper Missouri tribes.



The American Civil War begins. The United States government is preoccupied with the war and ignores its treaty agreements with tribes. March 2, Dakota Territory is created by President James Buchanan. This act opens the way for U.S. Government to build forts in Indian Territory.



The Hidatsa Chief, Four Bears, is killed near Like-A-Fishhook Village by a Sioux raiding party. A few bands of the Sahnish join the Mandan and Hidatsa at Like-A-Fishhook Village, the rest remain across the river because the sacred bundles were to remain on the west side at the Star Village.

Fort Atkinson is absorbed by Fort Berthold, which is then affiliated with the American Fur Company. The Sioux burn abandoned Fort Berthold and the greater villages. The new Fort Berthold, however, is defended.



Washington Matthews, assistant surgeon of the United States Army, is stationed at Fort Stevenson near Fishhook Village and writes Mandan and Hidatsa history and customs.



The American Civil War ends.



July 27, the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara sign the Agreement at Fort Berthold, Dakota Territory.



Bloody Knife, the son of a Sahnish mother and a Sioux father, is employed at Fort Berthold as a mail carrier, and as a scout for General Sully and General Custer.



Mahlon Wilkinson becomes the first government Indian agent to be in Fort Berthold. Colonel DeTrobriand enlists ten Sahnish men, including Bloody Knife, as scouts for the United States Army. Various bands of Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Crow, Assinaboine, Grose Ventre, Mandan, and Arickara sign the second Fort Laramie Treaty. Present states of Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota are designated as Indian Territory within the treaty.



Timeline of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Sahnish, 1870-1949


Southern most portion of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara territory is taken by Presidential Executive Order. Fort Berthold Reservation is established, small tract of land on east side of Missouri is added to territorial claim to ensure Like-A-Fishhook Village is located on the reservation. Total acreage lost 7,833,043. After internal conflict, Chief Crow Flies High, Bobtail Bull, and their followers leave Like-A-Fishhook Village and move northwest to an area near Fort Buford. Agent H.L. Clifford opens a day school at Fort Berthold. A total of 22 girls and 16 boys attend. In the spring, when the services of the students are needed at home, attendance declines. Agent Tappen closes the school.



Durfee and Peck, fur traders, sell old Fort Berthold to the government for $8,000, and it becomes the Agency headquarters.



There are now 40 Sahnish Scouts in the U.S. Army. Frederick Gerard, trader, is the interpreter.



Sperry becomes U.S. government agent at Fort Berthold and opens a government day school which operates continuously to 1876. The Northern Pacific Railroad is completed to Bismarck. It opens the way to bring in homesteaders. Yellowstone Expedition in which Ree Scouts accompany Generals Stanley and Custer.



The old government agency buildings burn down and along with them all the records of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara. Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Edward Smith, urges the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara to leave Fort Berthold and move to the Indian Territory in Oklahoma. A delegation makes the trip and returns choosing to remain where they had lived for centuries. Sahnish scouts are in the Black Hills with Custer when gold is discovered. Discovery brings a tide of gold miners into Sioux territory, violating the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaties.



The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara meet in council with their hereditary enemies, the Sioux, at Fort Abraham Lincoln to sign a treaty of peace.



Thirty-four Sahnish enlist to serve as scouts for a 7th Cavalry military expedition to Greasy Grass, Montana. C.L. Hall of the Congregational Church arrives at Like-A-Fishhook Village and opens mission school. Son of the Star (Arikara Chief), Crows Breast (Hidatsa Chief), and Red Cow (Mandan Chief), sign a document to give land for the congregational mission. Battle of the Little Bighorn takes place between the Sioux warriors and Custer’s Seventh Cavalry.



Captain Richard H. Pratt takes 12 Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara children and a 26-year-old mother of the youngest child from the Fort Berthold Reservation to Hampton Institute in Virginia.



Son of the Star (Sahnish Chief) and Poor Wolf (Awaxawi Chief), go to Hampton Institute in Virginia. After this visit, the chiefs allow more Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara children to attend. A majority of the reservation, a total of 1,193,788 acres, is ceded by Executive Order without consultation or consent of the tribes.



Oscar H. Will, a horticulturist, establishes a seed company in Bismarck and obtains squash, corn, beans, and sunflower seeds from the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara at Like-A-Fishhook Village, who planted and perfected the seeds.



The Indian agent breaks land 20 miles upstream from Like-A-Fishhook Village and has the earthlodges and cabins burned to persuade the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara to relocate and take up farming.



Like-A-Fishhook Village is abandoned. Eight communities—Beaver Creek, Charging Eagle, Elbowoods, Independence, Lucky Mound, Nishu, Red Butte, and Shell Creek are gradually settled along the Missouri River. The government issues an order prohibiting the practice of tribal ceremonies, such as the Okipa (Mandan ceremony) and Naxpike (Hidatsa ceremony). Act of Congress passed May 15, 1886, ratified in 1891, provides for the allotment of the tribal land base. The U.S. Government obtains agreement of the tribes to relinquish lands. Under this allotment act, nearly two-thirds of reservation is ceded leaving 965,620 acres. The tribes receive $80,000 annually for 10 years “for their civilization and education.” Congress passes Dawes Allotment Act, providing for allotment of Indian lands in severalty.



Rations (dry goods and food) are withheld by the agent from families who do not send their children to school. White ranchers trespass on tribal lands that lie west of the Missouri River and illegally graze six to ten thousand cattle on the reservation. The government meets with stockmen and they agree to pay in beef cattle or fifty cents an acre.



North Dakota becomes a state.

Last Mandan Okipa ceremony held.

Wolf Chief, Hidatsa, and Son of the Star, Sahnish Chief, request the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C. to grant Fort Berthold a school. A boarding school and a day school are authorized.



Fort Berthold government agency building burns down. New agency is located at Elbowoods, 20 miles upstream.



May 20—The United States Congress ratifies the Agreement of 1886. Passage of the Allotment Act of 1891 allows tribal members to become citizens “with the same rights and immunities as all American citizens.” Tribal members pay taxes, vote, and thousands of acres of land are lost to taxes. The Department of Interior distributes cattle of each Indian family to maintain a living.



The government prohibits sale of liquor to Indians.



Crow Flies High band is returned to the Shell Creek area of the Fort Berthold Reservation. Fort Berthold Reservation is officially surveyed and 949 allotments are made to individual tribal members.



Two day schools are opened. One is located at Independence and the other at Elbowoods.



The government opens a day school at Shell Creek. Charles Hoffman, a young, educated Sahnish, is hired as a teacher.



The deserted military reservation of Fort Stevenson, approximately seventeen miles from Fort Berthold, is sold by the War Department. Charles L. Hall establishes a school at Fort Stevenson and operates the school for ten years.



Harry Eaton (Hidatsa), Allan Horn (Hidatsa), and Eli Perkins (Sahnish) enlist in the Army and serve in the Spanish American War.



Fort Berthold citizens register to vote and cast more than 100 votes at a county commissioner election in Elbowoods and Armstrong.



U.S. Indian Scout Post #1 Scout Cemetery is established ten miles east of Nishu.



Sacred Waterbuster Bundle of the Hidatsa is sold to the Heye Museum in New York.



Winters v. United States—Supreme Court case that creates the Reserved Water Rights Doctrine which forms the basis of case law establishing the Doctrine of Reserved Rights to water.



June 11—The Homestead Act is passed and Congress opens 21 townships (13 full townships and 8 partial townships) north and east of the Missouri River which opens up 320,000 acres of prime grasslands in the northeast quadrant of the reservation for homesteading. As a token of Indian self-government, a business committee of ten members including four Hidatsa, three Mandan, and three Arikara is formed. They are appointed to serve as advisory body to the Indian Bureau superintendent. This council is referred to as “The Ten.” of 21 townships (13 full townships and 8 partial townships)



World War I—30 Mandan, Hidatsa, and Sahnish enlist and serve. Some are not citizens.

Arikara narratives of the Battle of the Little Bighorn are published by O.G. Libby of the State Historical Society of North Dakota.



All American Indians are unilaterally granted United States citizenship.



Seven of the original twelve Sahnish Bundles are still in existence.



Melvin Gilmore writes a series of articles on the Arikara in a publication called Indian Notes, published in New York.



Twenty thousand dollars is appropriated by Congress for a hospital on the Fort Berthold Reservation. The hospital is built in 1930 at Elbowoods. The Meriam Report is submitted to the Secretary of the Interior, called “The Problem of Indian Administration,” and decries the appalling conditions of Indian people.



Alfred Bowers begins his study of the Mandan and Hidatsa. Martha Beckwith, a folklorist, publishes three volumes of Myths and Legends of the Mandan and Hidatsa.



The Court of Claims orders the federal government to compensate the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara for 11 million acres for the 1870 and 1880 land cessions. Five million acres is awarded. The Bureau of Indian Affairs offsets three million acres for services rendered. The remaining two million acres is distributed as per capita payments.



The U.S. Department of Interior and the Army Corps of Engineers conduct the first feasibility study of a dam on the Missouri River (Garrison Dam). The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara strongly object.



John Collier is appointed Commissioner of Indian Affairs.



The Johnson O’Malley Act is passed. The administration of Indian programs is assigned to numerous federal agencies. Congress passes the Indian Reorganization Act to reverse the trend of splitting and the sale of Indian land holdings and provides for a system of tribal self-governance. The Four Bears Bridge is built over the Missouri River near Elbowoods connecting Red Butte, Charging Eagle, and Halliday.



An Indian Health Services Division in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of Interior, is established. The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara accept the Indian Reorganization Act and adopt a constitution, by-laws, and business charter. A 10-member tribal council is elected.



The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara adopt a corporate charter.



Foolish Bear, Drags Wolf, and interpreter Arthur Mandan go to the Heye Museum, New York City, to bring back the Hidatsa Waterbuster Bundle to the Fort Berthold Reservation.



The United States enters World War II. Mandan, Hidatsa, and Sahnish women (10) and men (214) serve. Six men are killed in action.



Colonel Lewis A. Pick and W. Glenn Sloan draw up separate proposals for a dam on the Missouri River. Tribal Council passes resolution strongly opposing any dam below the reservation.



The National Congress of American Indians, an advocacy organization for national Indian issues, is formed in Denver, Colorado. The Flood Control Act of 1944 is passed by Congress. Known as the Pick-Sloan Project, the act is named after the two engineers, Lewis A. Pick and W. Glenn Sloan.



Indian Claims Act passed establishing the Indian Claims Commission. The Act provided a forum for Indian tribes to settle land claims against the U.S. government.



Garrison Dam construction. This time is a period of great upheaval for tribal members as they are relocated to the uplands, and movement from a subsistence to a cash economy.



Public Law 296 appropriates $5,105,625 as partial payment of lands taken as a result of dam.



Hoover Commission on Reorganization is authorized and recommends the termination of federal control over Indians and their lands. Public Law 437 provides an additional $7.5 million allocation for “land readjustment” and to compensate for U. S. breach of treaties as a result of the construction of the Garrison Dam. Land area taken includes 154,911.61 acres within reservation boundaries. Funds are distributed on per capita basis in 1956. The Three Tribes members vote to accept the law.



Timeline of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Sahnish, 1950 - Present


United States is involved in the Korean Conflict. One hundred thirty four tribal members serve, three of whom are women. Two tribal members are killed in action and two become prisoners of war for three years.



The Bureau of Indian Affairs establishes a national relocation program for all tribes and Indian families move to such cities as St. Louis, Chicago, Cleveland, and Los Angeles.



U.S. House Concurrent Resolution 108 is passed and is the first of several acts calling for the termination of federal trust status over Indian land. The U.S. Indian Scout Cemetery is moved west of White Shield.



New communities of Lucky Mound, Twin Buttes, White Shield, and Mandaree are established. Tribal government and Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters are moved to New Town.



Act passed transferring Indian Health Service from Bureau of Indian Affairs to the Public Health Service.



Tribes become eligible for loans from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Program and the Farmers Home Administration.



Economic Opportunity Act provides a means for tribes to participate in and control their own programs for economic development. Tribal Museum is built by tribal, state, and federal funds and private donations. The American Indian Policy Review Commission is established. It is the first national study conducted on all programs for Indians by Indian people.



Vietnam War—18 women and 258 Mandan, Hidatsa, and Sahnish men serve. Four are killed in action.



The Four Bears Complex is built. Facilities include the construction of a motor lodge and resort area. Northrop Corporation, an electronics plant, begins operations in New Town.



Community Action Programs (CAP) start under the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO).



Congress passes the Indian Education Act of 1972. Funded as a part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the law creates an Office of Indian Education, as well as a National Advisory Council on Indian Education. The act, designed to improve the quality of education for Indian students, provides funds to public schools.

City of New Town vs. United States, 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court decides the Homestead Act of June 1, 1910 did not alter the boundaries of the reservation, but merely opened up some reservation lands for homesteading. The court finds that the cities of New Town and Parshall are legally within the boundaries of the reservation.



Fort Berthold Community College is established.



Fort Berthold Community College is chartered.



Congress passes the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, expanding tribal control over reservation programs and authorizing federal funds to build needed public school facilities on or near Indian reservations.



TERO (Tribal Employment Rights Office) opened at Fort Berthold.



Tribal administration building completed and occupied in August. KMHA Tribal Radio Station is incorporated.



Three Tribes establishes Air Pollution Monitoring Program, one of the first tribal programs of its kind on an Indian reservation.



Three Affiliated Tribes amends tribal constitution extending jurisdiction over all lands, including lands held in fee simple and over all persons, including non-Indians, within the exterior boundaries of the Fort Berthold Reservation.



Garrison Unit Joint Tribal Advisory Committee (JTAC) is created by the Department of the Interior to examine and make recommendations on the effects of the Garrison Dam on the Fort Berthold and Standing Rock Indian Reservations.

Final report submitted in 1986. Cabazon Case. Tribes win the right to hold gaming on Indian reservations.



Mandan Hidatsa and Arickara Times newspaper is established.



National Indian Gaming Commission, a federal regulatory commission within the U.S. Department of Interior, is established.



Mandaree Electronics, a for-profit corporation is changed to Mandaree Enterprises, and develops jobs through private and government contracts. Casey Family Program establishes and builds a program office on the Fort Berthold Reservation and constructs a day care center for the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara tribes. Construction begins on the Municipal Rural and Industrial Water Project and a Dialysis Center.



Persian Gulf War begins. Six tribal members serve.



Affiliated Tribes signs a gaming compact with the State of North Dakota. The Fort Berthold Community College constructs a new facility designed to serve as the main administration building.

Based upon recommendations of the Garrison Unit Joint Tribal Advisory Committee (JTAC), $149.2 million is awarded to the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara tribes by the U.S. Congress.



Four Bears Casino is built within the renovated Four Bears Motor Lodge.



The graves at the Old Scouts Cemetery near White Shield are reburied from North to South to East and West. The United States Army Corps of Engineers, disregarding Sahnish burial traditions during the construction of the Garrison Dam, faced the graves in the wrong direction.



Fort Berthold Community College expands with new classrooms, science labs, and additional parking space.



Four Bears Casino and Lodge expands to include an Events Center.



Four Bears Casino and Lodge constructs additional rooms onto the Lodge. A marina is planned for the Four Bears Recreation Complex. Thirty million is appropriated by Congress for the construction of a new bridge to replace the existing Four Bears Bridge.



A new, $55 million Four Bears Bridge is constructed west of New Town, North Dakota. The bridge is decorated with medallions reflecting the heritage of the Three Affiliated Tribes—the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara—who inhabit the Fort Berthold Reservation. The bridge is named for two chiefs, one Mandan and one Hidatsa—both named Four Bears. The Four Bears Bridge was officially opened to the public on September 2, 2005, and the official opening ceremony and dedication were held on October 3, 2005.

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