Hidatsa - Orientation

Identification. The Hidatsa are an American Indian group currently located in North Dakota. The name "Hidatsa" is a term of their own derivation that means "willow people," and was used by them to refer to one of their three village Subgroups. Two other subgroups were called "Awatixa" and "Awaxawi." The merging of these latter village groups with the more numerous Hidatsa group led to the use of the latter term as the collective referent for the tribe.

Location. Aboriginally the Hidatsa occupied three villages in the Missouri River valley near the confluence of the Knife River in present-day west-central North Dakota, roughly Between 47° and 48° N and 100° and 102° W.

Demography. As of 1976, the Three Affiliated Tribes (Hidatsa, Mandan, and Arikara) of North Dakota numbered 2,750. From a precontact high of perhaps 5,000, the Hidatsa decreased to about 3,000 during the early 1800s and approximately 400 by 1876, after which the population began a slow increase to its modern level of about 1,200 in North Dakota. Hidatsa population decline was the result of infectious epidemic diseases of European origin to which the Hidatsa and other tribes had little or no immunity.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Hidatsa language belongs to the Siouan language family. It is most closely related to the Crow language, which was a divergent dialect of Hidatsa. It is more distantly related to Mandan, a separate language spoken by a tribe culturally and geographically close to the Hidatsa. The Hidatsa language is spoken today.

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