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Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  102 ratings  ·  27 reviews
Winner of the 2015 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 1804-1805 with them, but why don't we know more? Who were
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published March 11th 2014 by Hill and Wang
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(showing 1-30 of 1,090)
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Julia Hendon
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 ce ...more
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 more engaging Empire of the Summer Moon, about the very different but partially contemporaneous Comanches.
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 more readable.
Maggie Reed
Believe it or not, this is another book that is overfilled with footnotes. Still, it was fantastic research on the Mandans,Hidatsas, Arikaras, Yankton Sioux, and a little bit on the Crees, Blackfeet, Crow and a few others. I learned a great deal about the northern end of the Louisiana Purchase, its history before French "ownership", and the eventual acquisition by the US. You just have to read it. It's not hard to read, and I'd be writing another book just based on my description. :) Elizabeth d ...more
Tim Brown
A usually engaging history of the Mandan people, who were significant in the Lewis & Clark expedition, but otherwise forgotten. A full picture appears of the triumphs and travails of the Mandans, from their status as the center of Indian trade in the upper plains, to their ongoing battles with the Lakota Sioux, to their initial friendliness to whites, and their virtual destruction (upwards of 90% died) due to small pox. I could have used fewer travelogues about the author's personal visits t ...more
Claudia Mundell
This was an excellent book full of research and a mountain of information. I could not soak it all up in one reading. I had some mistaken ideas of the Mandan people and this book set me straight somewhat but also gave rise to more questions. They were hospitable people who greeted Lewis and Clark...they suffered tragically from the small pox. Read this to not just learn of the Mandans but for an overview of how people live, move, change relationships with other groups, alter the earth by their e ...more
A fascinating and unvarnished look at the Mandans and related tribes in North and South Dakota. Fenn has done meticulous research for this book, and although sometimes the information content is a bit dense, it is still quite an enjoyable read. It is also a sad book, as the Mandans are one of the tribes that were nearly decimated from a combination of new diseases, small pox being the most prominent, but also including whooping cough, measles and cholera. By the middle of the 19th century they w ...more
Indians. Lumped together in a single word are so many different types of peoples that are just beginning to be teased out, separated, and explored. Fenn does a wonderful job bringing the latest explorations of the culture, artifacts, and the land to life while she talks about the Mandan people from the Dakotas, and their neighbors, and the forces that changed and altered their society. Beautifully referenced and footnoted. Wonderful book and I look forward to more just like it.
I gave this book three stars because I did learn some things about the Mandan, but overall I found the book too Eurocentric and a weak attempt at truly understanding the Mandan. It was a book about the Mandan culture through a European lens of diseases and epidemics and needed more of a Native American view. There was too much focus on the author’s background of writing about smallpox epidemics in America and it carried over far too much in this book. Overall the book lacked continuity and neede ...more
excellent book delving into the history of the Mandan tribe from pre-history to modern times. The book covered many interesting details about Mandan culture and gave me a new perspective on the horticultural river tribes and their place in the history of the northern plains.
Teresa Hildebrandt
This book was so alive. I so want to go to he "heart of the world" now to pay my respects to the great people of The Mandan & Hidatsa tribes. Well written, bravo!
Excellent read in History! Highly recommend this book, it is very accessible to the person interested in history, even from a non-academic background.
In my e-book Oyster version, the story itself ends at the 60% mark. There are 195 digital pages of end notes. Remarkable. A superb work of true scholarship. Little wonder Dr. Fenn earned a Pulitzer this year (2015).
Chock full of information and stories. I found all the photos maps and drawings fascinating. A long read as it covered so much Indian history.
I checked this out from my local library. Since I live in the Southeast, I really don't hear too much about the Mandan culture. This book covers pre-colonial through modern times and contains an extensive bibliography if you want to further your reading and research in this area.
Maryclaire Zampogna
This is a very informative book for the history lovers, on the lives of the Mandan Indians of North Dakota. The author describes the life styles, their homes and their food and the importance of each, to the future people coming west. Lewis and Clark and other explores from Canada spent time with the Indians learning their ways and customs. The author explores how whooping cough,
small pox and sexually transmitted diseases spread through to the Mandan and others in the Plains along with blankets
Well written and documented account. History buffs will enjoy while others may become distracted by footnotes and related material references provided. Definitely understand why author won Pulitzer.
Thomas Isern
I'll review this work in my weekly feature, Plains Folk. Quite an impressive synthesis of Mandan history, and an interesting work in terms of structure and voice.
Denise Burke
If a book inspires me to know more, if it keeps raising questions, I would read it again and again.
When a book starts with the end it's hard to go any further... I may come back to this one but just couldn't continue at this point. It got great reviews...
Mills College Library
305.89752 F334 2014
This is a very interesting and detailed history of the Mandan People. Fenn tells a compelling story and gives it an interesting and personal touch. Great reading for the history academic or history buff. It certainly did earn its Pulitzer award.
Very well written and cleverly organized.
Well written. Extremely interesting.
Anne Marie
Finished reading Encounters At The Heart Of The World- A History of The Mandan People by Elizabeth A. Fenn.

This book was a wonderful read, filled with interesting information about some of the Native Peoples of the Americas.

This book was a contest win from the Goodreads First Reads Program.
Vivid prose meets nuanced interpretation in Elizabeth Fenn's thoughtful study of the Mandan. Not least of her achievements is her re-telling of the Mandan's pre-colonial past.
Really good for the history, but I didn't find the writing style consistently compelling.
Thomas Brennan
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“Pierre de la Vérendrye and his companions had encountered a people blessed with material abundance. “Corn, meat, fat, dressed robes, and bearskins” were all among their riches. “They are well supplied with these things,” the Frenchman wrote. But his abbreviated journal barely mentions the villagers’ equally rich ceremonial life.1” 0 likes
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