Four Bears, Mandan chief, by Karl Bodmer
In aboriginal times, the Missouri
River featured rich bottoms bottomlands that were replenished each
year by alluvial silts when the river flooded in the spring.
Unusually wet centuries between 800 and 1200 a.d. encouraged
settlement of the Great Plains by semi-sedentary tribes of
horticulturists - like the Mandan - who could now thrive in
streamside settlements in an area that was formerly hostile to all
but robust nomadic hunters. The Mandans, who occupied
villages of dome shaped 'earthlodges' for hundreds of years, grew
'gardens' that were legendary in pre-Columbian America.
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now believe the Mandans lived in the southeastern regions of the
continent, probably in close proximity to the Gulf Coast, before
they began migrating up the Missouri. At that time, their
eventual neighbors, the Hidatsa, were living in what is now
Manitoba, while the Arikara roamed the high plains with the Pawnee.
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