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be made, to avoid a fierce and dangerous tribe called Snake Indians (Gens du Serpent)." On hearing this story, La Vérendrye sent his eldest son, Pierre, to pursue the discovery with two men, ordering him to hire guides among the Mandans and make his way to the Western Sea. But no guides were to be found, and in the next summer the young man returned from his bootless errand.” Undaunted by this failure, Pierre set out again in the next spring, 1742, with his younger brother, the Chevalier de la Vérendrye. Accompanied only by two Canadians, they left Fort La Reine on the twentyninth of April, and following, no doubt, the route of the Assiniboin and Mouse River, reached the chief village of the Mandans in about three weeks. Here they found themselves the welcome guests of this singularly interesting tribe, ruined by the smallpox nearly half a century ago, but preserved to memory by the skilful pencil of the artist Charles Bodmer, and the brush of the painter George Catlin, both of whom saw them at a time when they were little changed in habits and manners since the visit of the brothers La Vérendrye.”
* Journal du Sieur de la Vérendrye, 1740, in Archives de la Marine.
* Memoire du Sieur de la Vérendrye, joint a sa lettre du 31 Octobre, 1744.
* Prince Maximilian spent the winter of 1832–33 near the Mandan villages. His artist, with the instinct of genius, seized the characteristics of the wild life before him, and rendered them with admirable vigor and truth. Catlin spent a considerable time among the Mandans soon after the visit of Prince Maximilian, and had unusual opportunities of studying them. He was an indiffer
• Thus, though the report of the two brothers is too concise and brief, we know what they saw when they entered the central area, or public square, of the village. Around stood the Mandan lodges, looking like round flattened hillocks of earth, forty or fifty feet wide. On examination they proved to be framed of strong posts and poles, covered with a thick matting of intertwined willow-branches, over which was laid a bed of well-compacted clay or earth two or three feet thick. This heavy roof was supported by strong interior posts. The open place which the dwellings enclosed served for games, dances, and the ghastly religious or magical ceremonies practised by the tribe. Among the other structures was the sacred “medicine lodge,” distinguished by three or four tall poles planted before it, each surmounted by an effigy looking much like a scarecrow, and meant as an offering to the spirits.
If the two travellers had been less sparing of words, they would doubtless have told us that as they entered the village square the flattened earthen domes that surrounded it were thronged with squaws and children, — for this was always the case on occasions of public interest, — and that they were forced to undergo a merciless series of feasts in the lodges of the chiefs. Here, seated by the sunken hearth in the middle, under the large hole in the roof that served both for window and chimney, they could study at their ease the domestic economy of their entertainers. Each lodge held a gens, or family connection, whose beds of raw buffalo hide, stretched on poles, were ranged around the circumference of the building, while by each stood a post on which hung shields, lances, bows, quivers, medicine-bags, and masks formed of the skin of a buffalo's head, with the horns attached, to be used in the magic buffalo dance.
ent painter, a shallow observer, and a garrulous and windy writer; yet his enthusiastic industry is beyond praise, and his pictures are invaluable as faithful reflections of aspects of Indian life which are gone forever.
Beauharnois calls the Mandans Blancs Barbus, and says that they have been hitherto unknown. Beauharnois au Ministre, 14 Août, 1739. The name Mantannes, or Mandans, is that given them by the Assiniboing.
1 The Minnetarees and other tribes of the Missouri built their lodges in a similar way.
Every day had its sports to relieve the monotony of savage existence, the game of the stick and the rolling ring, the archery practice of boys, horse-racing on the neighboring prairie, and incessant games of chance; while every evening, in contrast to these gayeties, the long, dismal wail of women rose from the adjacent cemetery, where the dead of the village, sewn fast in buffalo hides, lay on scaffolds above the reach of wolves.
The Mandans did not know the way to the Pacific, but they told the brothers that they expected a speedy visit from a tribe or band called Horse Indians, who could guide them thither. It is impossible to identify this people with any certainty. The two travellers
1 The Cheyennes have a tradition that they were the first tribe of this region to have horses. This may perhaps justify a conjec