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Fort Clark and Its Indian NeighborsFort Clark and Its Indian Neighbors

A Trading Post on the Upper Missouri

W. Raymond Wood, William J. Hunt and Randy H. Williams

Narrated by T. J. Allen

Available from Audible

Book published by University of Oklahoma Press

A history of the fur trade at this historic site, including the latest archaeological findings.

A thriving fur trade post between 1830 and 1860, Fort Clark, in what is today western North Dakota, also served as a way station for artists, scientists, missionaries, soldiers, and other western chroniclers traveling along the Upper Missouri River. The written and visual legacies of these visitors—among them the German prince-explorer Maximilian of Wied, Swiss artist Karl Bodmer, and American painter-author George Catlin—have long been the primary sources of information on the cultures of the Mandan and Hidatsa Indians, the peoples who met the first fur traders in the area. This book, by a team of anthropologists, is the first thorough account of the fur trade at Fort Clark to integrate new archaeological evidence with the historical record.

The Mandans built a village in about 1822 near the site of what would become Fort Clark; after the 1837 smallpox epidemic that decimated them, the village was occupied by Arikaras until they abandoned it in 1862. Because it has never been plowed, the site of Fort Clark and the adjacent Mandan/Arikara village are rich in archaeological information. The authors describe the environmental and cultural setting of the fort (named after William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition), including the social profile of the fur traders who lived there. They also chronicle the histories of the Mandans and the Arikaras before and during the occupation of the post and the village.

The authors conclude by assessing the results—published here for the first time—of the archaeological program that investigated the fort and adjacent Indian villages at Fort Clark State Historic Site. By vividly depicting the conflict and cooperation in and around the fort, this book reveals the various cultures’ interdependence.

W. Raymond Wood is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Missouri, Columbia. He is coauthor of The Prehistory of Missouri and Early Fur Trade on the Northern Plains: Canadian Traders among the Mandan and Hidatsa Indians, 17381818.

William J. Hunt is an archaeologist with the National Park Service.

Randy H. Williams holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Missouri at Columbia.


““Far-reaching in scope, Fort Clark and Its Indian Neighbors documents this pivotal fort on the Missouri during the most prolific years of the fur trade—an era when the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara, as well as other indigenous nations of the Northern Plains, shared the wealth of their land with the world. Generously illustrated, the book offers a real sense of the hardships and rigors of frontier life, not only for the fur traders but also for the Native peoples who thrived in an unforgiving environment. For archaeologists and historians alike, it is a chronicle whose time has come; all will find surprising details in this historical record.”

—Calvin Grinnell Historian, Tribal Historic Preservation Office, Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation

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