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Buffalo Dance of the Mandan Indians circa 1806
The painting is entirely from the imagination having first researched accounts of their Mandan Buffalo Dance, their customs and descriptions of their dome shaped lodges. It is done in the three primary colors--red, yellow and blue. Strong colors to underscore the vitality of the dancers and the vigor of the culture. The Mandan Indians claimed their Buffalo Dance was always successful in bringing the buffalo to their hunting grounds. Their formula for certain success was simple. Amid much drumming, rattles, and whistles the dance continued night and day. As dancers became exhausted, waiting dancers leaped into their place and the dance beat never stopped until the lookout sighted the buffalo.
The Mandans and the buffalo shared a common destiny. Both would barely survive the 19th century. The tribe was seriously reduced in numbers in 1750 by a smallpox epidemic. Then 31 years after Lewis and Clark's last visit in 1806 smallpox struck again leaving only 100-150 survivors out of 1600. Today there may be 350 native Americans who can claim Mandan linage.