1781 - Small pox hits the Mandan Villages

Mandan burial ground, by Karl Bodmer (Library of Congress)

        The small pox virus that arrived at the Mandan Villages (most likely brought by Comanche traders) in the summer of 1781 was especially virulent.  The thriving tribal culture of 15,000 people was reduced to half that number within weeks.  Devastated and frightened, the survivors elected to move upstream, to the Knife River, and join their friends the Hidtasa.  Some of the Mandans moved into Hidatsa villages through intermarriage, and others helped to build new villages in close proximity.  It was here, twenty-three years later, that Lewis and Clark met them for the first time.