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Opinion
Jodi Rave: Churchill fabricated history of my people


"My mother was a Spotted Bear, a Mandan-Hidatsa from the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. I'm a daughter of the Maetsi-Dogah, or Knife Clan. My great-great-grandfather, Spotted Bear - the son of Raven Chief - descended from the Mandan villages typically built along the tributaries of the upper Missouri River. My great-great-grandmother, Stella Tail, was Hidatsa.

Most people know my tribes through the explorers Lewis and Clark, who wintered with my people in 1804 and 1805. The Mandan and Hidatsa villages along the Knife River in present-day North Dakota were the center of a vast trade network on the Northern Plains.

By the time Lewis and Clark arrived in 1804, we had already been in contact with white traders. A smallpox outbreak hit our tribes in 1782, more than 20 years before we ever saw men from the Corps of Discovery.

A smallpox epidemic in 1837 nearly wiped out my Mandan ancestors, reducing their numbers from about 2,000 people to fewer than 150.

Our oral histories speak of a time of incomprehensible despair.

This story needs no embellishment. But Churchill decided to make up his own details.

Among his fantasies: The U.S. Army intentionally spread smallpox among the Mandan by distributing infected blankets from an infirmary in St. Louis - goods hauled up the Missouri on the St. Peter's steamboat.

He then pawned his lies to other scholars."

Get the Story:
Colorado professor fabricates Native history (The Missoulian 6/18)

Relevant Links:
Jodi Rave Lee - http://www.missoulian.com/jodirave

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