The Mandans were members of the Siouan family, which gets it's name from the Sioux. The Mandans lived in villages along the Missouri River in North Dakota. They were farmers and crops included corn, beans, squash and tobacco. They were also buffalo hunters. Every part of the buffalo was used. They provided them with food (meat), shelter (buffalo skin tipi covers), clothing (hide robes), fuel (dried buffalo dung), tools (horn spoons and bone hide scrapers), weapons (buffalo hide shields and bow strings) and equipment (rawhide envelope for storing food).
In October 1804 members of the Meriwether Lewis and William Clark exhibition encountered the Mandans. They gave a friendly reception to the explorers and were extremely interested in trading goods. They also took members of the party on a buffalo hunt. Lewis and Clark unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate a peace treaty between the Mandans and the Arikara.
Maximilian, Prince of Wiedneuwied and Karl Bodmer explored the lands of the Mandans in 1833. Bodmer, a talented artist painted the portraits of Blackfeet leaders. The Mandans were also painted by George Catlin.
The Mandan people lived in circular earth-covered lodges. The centre of the roof was supported by four stout posts. There was an opening in the middle of the roof for the exit of smoke. On average, 10 people lived in each lodge. Each village had about forty or fifty lodges.
The population of the Mandan people was reduced drastically by a smallpox epidemic in 1837. It is estimated that numbers fell from 1,600 to 150.