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Unit 1: Set 3: Ancient Villages - Huff Intro

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The pre-historic Indian village known as Huff is located about 18 miles south of Mandan along Highway 1806. Like many other pre-historic Mandan villages it is located near a good source of water. Huff Village sits on the bank of the Missouri River, 43 feet above the water which provided protection, fish, water for village use, and the restorative spring floods to enrich the soil.

Huff was a large and well-organized village of perhaps one thousand people living in more than 100 rectangular earth lodges. It was built around 1450, more than 150 years before English settlers established settlements along the east coast of North America.

The village was a dense collection of houses, built around, but not facing, a ceremonial plaza. Here women tended gardens of corn, beans, and squash. They produced surplus crops which they dried for use in winter and for trade. When the gardens did not need attention, villagers periodically traveled west to hunt bison and process the meat for winter. They also hunted other mammals and birds, though bison was the main source of meat protein. Villagers also consumed fish.

A protective five-foot deep ditch and a palisade wall of posts set close together surrounded three sides of the village. The ditch was more than 2000 feet long with 10 bastions (outward projecting loops) placed at the village corners and at intervals of 180 to 240 feet along the palisade wall. The fourth side, on the east, was protected by the river bank. The palisade indicates that the people of Huff expected conflict with nomadic peoples or perhaps other village peoples and committed an enormous amount of labor to this protective device.

Though the village was prepared for defense, the people of Huff welcomed trade with nomads. Trade gave them access to things not available in their area including shells from the Pacific Ocean, stones that could be made into tools, and perhaps new varieties of corn and other crops.

The women of Huff were skilled in the making of clay pots. Hearths for firing the pots have been found in some of the houses, and historic records indicate that women learned pottery techniques from their mothers.

The village was occupied for only a short time, perhaps twenty years or so. It is likely that the Mandan villagers left this site when the resources necessary for building more houses (primarily hardwood trees) and to fortify the palisade were exhausted.

Resource: SHSND Division of Archeology and Historic Preservation

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