Encounters at the Heart of the World

A History of the Mandan People
Narrated by: Christine Marshall
Length: 10 hrs and 32 mins
Categories: History, Americas
4 out of 5 stars (69 ratings)

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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
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Well deserved Pulitzer Prize winner!

It's easy to see why author Elizabeth Fenn won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for History for "Encounters at the Heart f the World". First, the book is an enjoyable read (or in my case, I listened to the audiobook). She is thorough, clear, and weaves a good story. Her in-depth research comes through clearly in her narrative.
The story of the Mandan people is ultimately tragic, decimated mainly by European diseases around the first contact with explorers, traders, and migrants from the east. Prior to that, these people lead rich, interesting lives and thrived in the northern Missouri River valley. Fenn makes clear that a lot of historic detail of the Northern Plains Indians has been lost, but piecing the fragments of knowledge together and speculating about the gaps provides for a fascinating look at a unique culture and way of life. Highly recommended!

1 person found this helpful

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Good book

Very interesting and sad history of the Mandans, it explained and showed a lot of things that I suspected or did not know.

1 person found this helpful

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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.

3 people found this helpful