David Thompson spent several weeks at the Knife village in the winter of 1787. His journals give us a rich and detailed description of native life in the villages prior to the arrival of the Americans, in 1804. Painting of the Mandan Winter Camp by Karl Bodmer
David Thompson, cartographer,
astronomer, and explorer, arrives for a month-long visit at the
Mandan Villages after a trek across the northern plains that nearly
left him, his men, and their Assiniboines guides, frozen in
blizzards that howled across the plains and dropped the temperature
to - 45 f.
Thompson's maps of the upper Missouri
- and the rivers and routes to the Rocky Mountains - would be
publshed several years later in London. When Thomas Jefferson
learned of these maps he purchased copies for the Corps of
Discovery, his own band of explorers that would set out from St.
Louis to explore the American West in 1804, nearly 17 years after
Thompson drew his first maps of the Upper Missouri.
By 1804, Thompson was far ahead of
Lewis and Clark. He had already begun mapping the northern
Rocky Mountains and would eventually follow the Columbia River out
of the Canadian Rockies into what is now the state of