Social Organization. Aboriginally, the status and prestige of individual Hidatsas depended on personal accomplishments, acquisition of wealth, and membership in male and female age-grade societies. Male status was determined primarily by hunting skills, war honors, and ownership of medicine bundles. Highest status went to older men who belonged to the upper age grades and had fulfilled the social and Ceremonial expectations of Hidatsa society. These men owned the important medicine bundles and had great political and Social influence. As a matrilineal society, women held relatively high status, particularly those who belonged to the higher age grades and were skilled potters, healers, architects, or basket makers. Acquisition of wealth and influence became easier as a result of equestrianism and the fur trade. Depopulation and acculturation resulted in a breakdown of the age-grade system and a shift in status and role determinants to employment opportunities, cash income, education, and church affiliation.
Political Organization. Prior to about 1797, the Hidatsa villages were politically independent, with each village containing a village council of chiefs made up of influential high-ranking men. These were achieved status positions. Each Village also contained an age grade called the Black Mouths, who served as camp police, administered council decisions, and policed bison hunts. After 1797, the Hidatsa villages formed an overarching tribal council composed of the most distinguished warriors of the three subgroups. This council acted as a common cause structure in areas of diplomacy and warfare. Today the Three Affiliated Tribes are governed by an elected tribal council headed by a tribal chairperson.
Social Control. Traditionally, social control was a blend of informal mechanisms, such as gossip, ostracism, and peer pressure, and the formal police functions of the Black Mouth society, which had the authority to administer severe punishments, such as whipping or destruction of property, for violating community rules. Today, social control is maintained by the tribal courts and tribal police, except in the commission of major crimes, such as murder, armed robbery, or arson, which fall under federal jurisdiction.
Conflict. The Hidatsa were by and large an internally peaceful and cohesive tribe, although mythology holds that the Hidatsa proper and Awaxawi subgroups once fought over disputed village settlement areas. In the 1870s, conflict Between Hidatsa chiefs led to a rift, resulting in the separation of a large contingent of Hidatsas, known as the Crow-Flies-High band, from the Fort Berthold group. This separation lasted for several years before ending in the late 1880s.