Monday, September 17, 2012

The Mandans and General George Custer's Last Command

The round shape was the site of a Mandan earth lodge. Photo by Debi Lander.
The Mandan people had lived happily in the Upper Missouri River Basin for more than 300 years before the white man arrived to trade.

Model of the On-A-Slant Village.Photo by Debi Lander.
Their towns were made up of as many as 1,000 inhabitants and their culture was one of peace and closeness to all things surrounding them, each of which was imbued with a spirit.

They welcomed the newcomers, helped them and were wiped out by the diseases they brought, especially the small pox epidemic of 1837.

In the Council House. Photo by Judy Wells.
One of those towns, On-a-Slant Indian Village, as been partly recreated just south of Mandan-Bismarck at what is now Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park.

In an earth lodge. Photo by Judy Wells.
Our tour was given by a Native American which gave it more credibility as he described the life in the earth lodges and council house.

Don't miss the Visitors Center with its excellent displays and details on Mandan life and the interaction between newcomers and natives.

Guides treat you as visitors in 1875. Photo by Debi Lqnder.
Also at the park is the fort Gen. George Armstrong Custer commanded and from which he and men of the 7th cavalry rode out and took on unsuccessfully the forces of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse at the Little Bighorn.

Gen. and Mrs. Custer's house. Photo by Debi Lander.
The house he and his wife, "Libby," lived in until then has been recreated and Corporal Jacobson gave us a lively living history tour of it, from the actual drapes Mrs.  Custer installed...
Mrs. Custer's drapes. Photo by Judy Wells.

Thimble-sized bathtub. Photo by Judy Wells.
... the bathtub she described as "like bathing in a thimble" ...

The living room, dining room and the General's "rumble doors" that separated them. Photo by Debi Lander.
... Mrs. Custers' grand box piano and her musical skills...

The General's office. Photo by Judy Wells.
.... and the general's favorite book, "Life of Daniel Webster".

After the General's last stand, the army responded with typically heartless efficiency: Mrs. Custer had 40 days to vacate after learning of her husband's death.

Something blue, the bride's tennis shoes! Photo by Judy Wells.
Happily, we encountered an exuberant bride who had been wed and was celebrating on the fort's grounds.  We wished her much better luck than Libby Custer.

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