“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Bismarck in Burleigh County, North Dakota — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)

Potande and the Mandan Fishery

Potande and the Mandan Fishery Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Connor Olson, November 2, 2019
1. Potande and the Mandan Fishery Marker
Inscription.  Pó is the root for fish in the Mandan language-pótande is the catfish. The Missouri River system, along with its larger tributaries such as the Heart River, supported fisheries that the Mandans drew upon as part of their subsistence from pre-contact times. Surveys of regional waterways conducted prior to mainstem reservoir construction have identified as many as 28 species potentially available to the villagers. These include catfish, bullhead, sturgeon, burbot, smallmouth buffalo, sucker, drum, minnow, sauger and perch.

Anthropologist Alfred Bowers reported that his Mandan informant Crows Heart relayed valuable information on angling and fish- trapping practices that included purchase of the specific rites associated with their construction and use. These willow-mat fish-trap structures either were set in the deeper but not too swift-flowing river pools or against sharp-facing riverbanks in suitable locations. Sizeable catches of catfish often were taken in this manner. Hook-and-line angling also was practiced by villagers. The neighboring Hidatsas at Knife River reportedly employed a form of movable weir or drag in addition

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to using bi-pointed gorges (similar to fishhooks) and traps to procure fish, according to the Native informants interviewed by anthropologist Gilbert L. Wilson.

Archaeological evidence recovered to date from investigations carried out at Double Ditch and other Mandan and Hidatsa villages of that time suggest that fish resources assumed varying degrees of importance in the overall subsistence practices of these specific groups. Villages such as On-A-Slant, Scattered Village, and Chief Looking's Village located at the Missouri-Heart River confluence seem to contain more fish remains and fishing-related artifacts (e.g., bone fishhooks) than the more northerly village sites such as Double Ditch. The reasons for the apparent differences await further investigation and research.

A fish basket was placed in the fish trap. Bait attracted fish to the trap.
Fish scales have been recovered in large numbers including from suckers, cyprinids, and goldeneye along with fishooks in various stages
The construction of a fish trap consisted of four willow mats of a hundred osiers each.
The fish caught in the trap were dropped into a shallow pit dug into the sand near the shoreline.

Channel catfish are found throughout North Dakota.
Erected by State Historical Society of North

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Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Anthropology & ArchaeologyNative AmericansWaterways & Vessels.
Location. 46° 56.392′ N, 100° 54.136′ W. Marker is near Bismarck, North Dakota, in Burleigh County. Marker can be reached from Double Ditch Loop. Marker is on skids and location may vary slightly. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Bismarck ND 58503, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Glaciation and Forming the Missouri River Trench (within shouting distance of this marker); Bullboats (within shouting distance of this marker); Hunting and Gathering (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Mandan Origin Stories (about 600 feet away); Mandans and the Practice of Farming (about 800 feet away); Square Buttes (approx. 0.2 miles away); Double Ditch State Historic Site (approx. ¼ mile away); Stone Shelter (approx. ¼ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Bismarck.
Credits. This page was last revised on January 15, 2021. It was originally submitted on January 10, 2021, by Connor Olson of Kewaskum, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 102 times since then and 25 times this year. Photo   1. submitted on January 10, 2021, by Connor Olson of Kewaskum, Wisconsin. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.

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Dec. 6, 2023