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Publisher's Summary

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 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 1500, more than 12,000 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.

©2014 Elizabeth A. Fenn (P)2015 Macmillan Audio

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

north west america

the true Americans. got me thinking about how diseased and false promises created in itself a genocide to the natives in this region. but it also makes me want to visit something almost lost to the current map.

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A worthy Pulitzer winner!

Fenn's book kicks off a real understanding of the history of the Northern Plains and even adds helpful illumination to all of early American history.

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Just okay

Lots of buzz on this book prior to reading it. It turns out to be, in my view, a day in the life chronology of the Mandan tribe. Of course, that's not a bad thing but it doesn't make for a truly scintillating read.

1 of 4 people found this review helpful