Blonde Haired, Blue Eyed Mandan Indians Were Remnants of the Ohio Mound Builders
Blonde hair, blued eyed Mandan woman painted by George Catlin
THE MYSTERY OF THE MANDANS
© 1998 Charles W. Moore
In 1832, lawyer, frontiersman and pictorial historian George Catlin lived for several months among the Mandan Indians, near the site of present- day Bismarck, North Dakota. The Mandans were distinctly different from all other native American tribes Catlin had encountered, not least for the fact that one-fifth or one-sixth of them were "nearly white" with light blue eyes. Catlin deemed the Mandans to be "advanced farther in the arts of manufacture," than any other Indian nation, and their lodges were equipped with "more comforts and luxuries of life."
Some Mandan women, especially, possessed almost Nordic features -- characteristics clearly shown in Catlin's surviving portraits of Sha-ko-ka ("Mint") and Mi-neek-e-sunk-te-ka ("Mink"). Apart from their Indian clothing, these women might have been mistaken for Europeans. Catlin described Mandan women as having "a mildness and sweetness of expression, and excessive modesty of demeanor," rendering them "exceedingly pleasing and beautiful." He found Mandans in general to be "a very interesting and pleasing people in their personal appearance and manners, differing in many respects, both in looks and customs, from all the other tribes I have seen."
As he got to know them better, Catlin became more and more intrigued by the Mandans' "peculiarities." They claimed to be descended from a white man who came in a big canoe, which their oral tradition said had come to rest on a high mountain after a great flood that destroyed everything on earth. A symbolical representation of this canoe occupied a religious shrine in their public square. This was the more remarkable inasmuch as the plains- dwelling Mandans had little use for canoes, and their own watercraft were primitive, round "bullboats" of wicker covered with hides, used only for crossing rivers. The legend also related how a dove, sent out in search of dry land, returned with a willow twig in its beak. Similarities to the Biblical account of Noah's flood seemed too close to be coincidental.