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Lewis and Clark
SHOWING RECORD: 3 of 7   Hidatsa Indians
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image: Hidatsa Indians
Painting by Karl Bodmer/Historical Picture Archive/Corbis
Hidatsa Indians

First Noted by Expedition
While wintering at Fort Mandan, November 1804 to April 1805

Of the three Hidatsa villages located at the confluence of the upper Missouri and the Knife Rivers in modern-day North Dakota, the Hidatsa-proper occupied the largest, northernmost one at Menetarra. Two other tribes, the Amahami and the Minitari, were also known as Hidatsa.

Lewis and Clark referred to these Hidatsa as the Grand Village of the Minnetaree. During the winter of 1804-05 there were about 130 lodges, with an estimated 450 warriors.

Unlike the Mandan, the Hidatsa regularly sent war parties as far west as the Rockies, where they battled the Shoshone and Blackfeet. During the winter of 1804-05, these Hidatsa were led by Le Borgne, or One Eye.

Like the other Hidatsa tribes in the area, the Amahami and the Minitari, the Hidatsa proper were farmers. They served an important role in the local economy, providing corn, beans, and squash needed by their nomadic neighbors.

Mistakenly this group of Hidatsa were called the Gros Ventres by French-Canadian trappers. The actual Gros Ventres were the Atsina, an Algonquian-speaking Plains tribe in north-central Montana. The Hidatsa name for themselves means "willow."

Lewis and Clark valued the information that the Hidatsa, with their westward raids and trade network, had about the people and places to be found in the Rockies. Whenever one of the Hidatsa visited Fort Mandan, he was afforded special attention. From them, Lewis and Clark learned about the Crow, Flathead, Shoshone, and Nez Perce Indians they would later encounter.

Population counts around 1833 estimated there were about 2,100 Hidatsa in the three villages along the Missouri. A smallpox epidemic in 1837 wiped out many of the Hidatsa in the three villages, and the remaining Indians relocated to one village farther to the north. In 1845 a combined settlement of Hidatsa and Mandan moved up the Missouri River and founded Like-a-Fishhook Village.

Today the Hidatsa share the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota with the Mandan and the Arikara.
image: Hidatsa Indians
Photograph by Werner Forman/Corbis

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Amahami Indians
Arikara Indians
Hidatsa Indians
Mandan Indians
Minitari Indians
Fort Mandan
Mandan Lodge