Yes, it won the 2015 Pulitzer for history and it paints a valuable anthropological picture of the Mandans, but it was much too long and included too much detail in the chronological telling Using a thematic approach would have made the book much readable. This is one of those books where you understand why it won a prize.Odds are you ve heard of the Mandan people, even if you are not aware of them Lewis and Clark met them it s where Sacajawea and her husband joined the group.Wein s book is a, as she calls it, a mosaic It is not a linear history, but of a cultural history It s fascinating and the parts about the Native Americans and disease are particularly hard to read The book is not only about the interactions between various Native American groups but also about first encounters If you have read the works of Mann, check this out. Winner Of The Pulitzer Prize For History Encounters At The Heart Of The World Concerns The Mandan Indians, Iconic Plains People Whose Teeming, Busy Towns On The Upper Missouri River Were For Centuries At The Center Of The North American Universe We Know Of Them Mostly Because Lewis And Clark Spent The Winter Of With Them, But Why Don T We Know Who Were They Really In This Extraordinary Book, Elizabeth A Fenn Retrieves Their History By Piecing Together Important New Discoveries In Archaeology, Anthropology, Geology, Climatology, Epidemiology, And Nutritional Science Her Boldly Original Interpretation Of These Diverse Research Findings Offers Us A New Perspective On Early American History, A New Interpretation Of The American Past By , Than Twelve Thousand Mandans Were Established On The Northern Plains, And Their Commercial Prowess, Agricultural Skills, And Reputation For Hospitality Became Famous Recent Archaeological Discoveries Show How These Native American People Thrived, And Then How They Collapsed The Damage Wrought By Imported Diseases Like Smallpox And The Havoc Caused By The Arrival Of Horses And Steamboats Were Tragic For The Mandans, Yet, As Fenn Makes Clear, Their Sense Of Themselves As A People With Distinctive Traditions Endured A Riveting Account Of Mandan History, Landscapes, And People, Fenn S Narrative Is Enriched And Enlivened Not Only By Science And Research But By Her Own Encounters At The Heart Of The World Encounters in the Heart of the New World covers the known history of the Mandan tribe from first European contact until the mid 19th century The Mandan lived in villages comprised of impressive earth lodges in present day North Dakota along tributaries of the upper Missouri They are believed to be distantly related to the Sioux tribes or at least the roots of their language suggest so Tragically the Mandan people were decimated by 1837 from a population of several thousand to only 100 people due to drought and an outbreak of smallpox Their population had been dwindling but the tragic events of 1837 were the coup de grace Since so few Mandan survived most of the known history is from journals of fur trappers, many explorers such as David Thompson and Lewis and Clark and George Catlin the Indian ethnographer The Mandan were traders Although they had their share of conflicts with the Arikara there were no battles with the U.S military The region was not even settled by Europeans until many decades after the Mandan population and their tragic decline I would consider this book to be good scholarship but a dry read Very few personal stories are told since the emphasis is on the Mandan tribe and to a lesser extent the Arikara and Hidatsa The author made very little effort to describe the natural landscape or the flora and fauna of the region other than to relay instances of the very cold winters and the notable droughts that occurred This lack of description is a pet peeve of mine with some history books When describing a people I want to understand their surrounding environment and how they interacted with it and at a minimum be able to visualize it I visited the Knife River National Historic Site in 2017 I found the exhibits on the Mandan and Hidatsa at the visitors center and the ranger talks to be informative than this book With that said, this book did methodically cover the chronology of the Mandan in this 200 years of recorded history and does contribute to the cannon of Native American history. History is clearly written by the victors, and this lesson was clear even before this book was written for how many of us had heard of the Mandans this great native tribe that was the engine of agriculture and commerce at the centre of North America We know of the Sioux, Apache, Blackfoot and Crow largely through many Westerns movies but because the Mandan were largely farmers and traders, and their lives was not sexy , they never make it to the big screen and hence into our imaginations.That said, Elizabeth Fenn brillantly weaves the remaining threads of Mandan history to tell a story of the great culture that played a Central role in North America s history I was impressed with their society and the way they bought and sold everything from physical goods to know how and intellectual property They were big time capitalists Fenn s work is clearly worth of the awards it is now receiving Finally and as a portent to all of us, the Mandans were great, but ultimately overcome by Guns, germs and steel to quote the title of Jared Diamond s great book Neigbouring tribes with horses and Western weapons put pressure on their lifestyle, germs Smallpox, Wooping cough, Cholera and pests rats ultimately wiped out 90% of their people, and ultimately the steel of the West caused their anihilation This book is a tragic story and an important lesson for us all Our civilization is strong, but unless we can adapt to a changing world include climate challenges and clashes of civilizations, we too will be in trouble. Packed full of information, to the point that it is probably of little interest to the general reader Still, a valuable window into the lives of the western Indians Perhaps this could be read in conjunction with the much engaging Empire of the Summer Moon, about the very different but partially contemporaneous Comanches. I live in South Dakota and my uncle grew up in Bismarck ND and did amateur archaeology there at Mandan sites I never really new what the story of the Mandans was, who they were, how they came to help Lewis and Clark, and how they pretty much disappeared from history within a few decades This book takes a mountain, well, a large hill, of scattered historical documents and sources and has turned it into clear narrative which tells what happened Along the way we meet successful and clever Mandans, Europeans a long way from home either for trade which always made sense to the Mandans or just to see and document in words and pictures a fascinating and rapidly changing world How things changed, what caused that change, from shifting trade patterns to measles, whooping cough and smallpox to Norway rats Advantages of raiding nomadic tribes like the Lakota, who, for example, didn t have to worry about rats because they had no food stores, are shown without a political or moral agenda For the most part, this is not a story of good versus evil, noble savage versus corrupting whites, but it explains in a convincing way why things changed so quickly after centuries of relative stability I learned a lot, and highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know about this time. Having lived in rural Kansas, I like reading books about the plains Indians This book was about the Mandans who lived in South Dakota, and their rituals were very similar to other tribes of the midwest Fenn gives a good description of the history of the Mandans, and their tragic demise with the encroachment of the white race. An impressive feat of research and writing that makes the most of a scattered and diverse set of sources to produce a fascinating history of the Mandan people through the early 1800s Renowned throughout the Missouri River watershed as traders and farmers, host to Lewis and Clark, and willing to extend cordial relations to all comers as long as they kept the peace, the Mandan were powerful players in the complex social framework of the region Fenn emphasizes how they saw themselves as at the center of their world, not on a remote frontier as perceived by the French British, and Americans She works hard to bring out the Mandan perspective as they tried to come to terms with the changing world around them. This is an excellent book and Fenn s research is amazing The writing or perhaps jus the subject matter can be uneven at times, and the ending seems a bit rushed but with the smallpox epidemic I can see why Worthy of its Pulitzer Prize
Is a well-known author, some of his books are a fascination for readers like in the Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People book, this is one of the most wanted Elizabeth A. Fenn author readers around the world.
- 480 pages
- Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People
- Elizabeth A. Fenn
- 10 October 2019 Elizabeth A. Fenn