A blond Indian? With blue eyes? Legend or fact? I heard the stories as a child living in North Dakota, a mid-northern state. Known as the Mandan Indians, they lived in earth lodges along the Missouri River. No one saw blond Indians anymore in the 1950’s that I knew of. They were a mystery of the past. I have visited their earth lodges near Mandan, ND.
According to an online article by Charles W. Moore, titled “DID 14TH CENTURY SCANDINAVIAN EXPLORERS VISIT MIDWESTERN NORTH AMERICA?”, the Pennsylvania Packet and General Advertiser, a newspaper founded in 1771, “reported that ‘a new nation of white people’ had been discovered about 2000 miles to the west of the Appalachians, ‘acquainted with the principles of the Christian religion’ and ‘extremely courteous and civilized.’”
In 1804, the Mandans were visited by Lewis and Clark, who found them hospitable enough to spend the winter with them. And there they met the Shoshoni captive Sacajawea, who guided Lewis and Clark, when she and her husband, Toussaint Charbonneau, were persuaded to join them as interpreters for the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Moore writes, “Clark later reported that the Mandans were ‘half-white.’”
The first recorded visit to the Mandans was in 1738, by Pierre Gautier de Varennes, Sieur de Verendrye from present-day Manitoba. (North Dakota now has Verendrye Electric Company.)
Reportedly, Verendrye found a “runestone,” a raised stone with Nordic inscriptions, along the Missouri river during his visit. He didn’t write about it in a report, but discussed it with Swedish scientist, Pehr Kalm. According to online Wikipedia, the stone was reportedly “sent to Quebec, where Jesuit priests concluded that it was written in “Tatarian” writing. They reportedly then sent it to the French Secretary of State, the Comte de Maurepas. There are no descriptions of the stone after that time, but it has been claimed that it was shipped with other artifacts to a church in Rouen (the Rouen Cathedral?), later to be buried under a pile of rubble when the building which housed it was destroyed during World War II. The Minnesota Historical Society has offered a $1000 reward for the stone’s rediscovery.”
Theories exist on how blond and blue-eyed Indians came to be. Because of the physical features and the reported Verendrye Runestone, conjecture is that Scandinavian expeditions are responsible. Moore theorized perhaps one expedition commissioned by the King of Norway in 1347 to find remnants of people who had years earlier (986) settled Greenland under Eric the Red, and who then abandoned the settlements when climate change made it a cold and inhospitable place, ended up with the expeditioners in Minnesota or North Dakota as they followed the rivers. Part of the expedition, which was under a man named Paul Knutson, who was never reported as having returned to Norway with remnants of the expedition party, then assimilated themselves into the Indian population.
While legends and stories of the blonde Indians vary, and some historians disbelieve their existence, there are also those who claim that facts can be found to corroborate their stories.
Moore claimed George Catlin, famous frontier artist, wrote of them. Some claim because they had religious beliefs similar to white men, it proves the contact with whites and origin of the white Indians. And I found it interesting that a chief who was named Big White was taken to Washington to meet President Thomas Jefferson by Lewis and Clark. Big White, also known as White Coyote, had a wife named Yellow Corn.
“I set myself down with the bigwhite man Chiefe [Mandan Chief Bigwhite (Sheheke)] and made a number of enquiries into the tradition of his nation…He told me his nation first came out of the ground…and saw Buffalow and every kind of animal also grapes, plumbs, c…and determined to go up and live upon earth, and great numbers…got upon earth, men womin and children.”
–William Clark, Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, August 18, 1806 http://www.rockwellmuseum.org/George-Catlins-Mandan-Indians.html.
Does this not sound like man being created from dust and landing in the Garden of Eden?
By 1837, small pox, brought up river by passengers and traders on a boat of the American Fur Company, had nearly wiped the Mandan Indians to extinction. Accounts of the number left varied from around 21 to 145.
Legend or fact, there is much more evidence to their existence than Bigfoot!
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