Social Organization. In the early historic period, the Mandan men and women had similar ways of attaining recognition. Age accompanied by success in warfare and acquisition of sacred bundles brought prestige to the men and Membership in one of the men's societies; women received acclaim for success in women's arts and sponsorship of sacred Ceremonies. The oldest women became members of the Important White Buffalo Cow Society. The shift from the hunting-gardening economy to farming and ranching resulted in a decline in the status of women.
Political Organization. The early villages were autonomous units united by the clans. Each village elected two Leaders from the council of men who owned sacred bundles. These men represented different qualities of leadership in war and ritual. They had no power to force anyone to obey their commands, but their oratorical skills could convince the council to follow them. White traders and others identified certain men as chiefs and provided them with symbols of their authority. In 1934, under the provisions of the Indian Reorganization Act, the Three Affiliated Tribes adopted a constitutional form of government with an elected council.
Social Control. Under normal circumstances, behavior was regulated by tradition, and bad luck would come to anyone who broke from tradition. When necessary, pressure was exerted by the family and clan. For ceremonial occasions, the Black Mouth men's society acted as village police. In 1885 the Major Crimes Act placed major crimes committed by Indians under the jurisdiction of federal courts, and in 1890 the Indian agent at Fort Berthold appointed three men to act as tribal court judges to deal with minor crimes. Today the Three Affiliated Tribes maintain a tribal court system for those crimes not described in the Major Crimes Act.
Conflict. Traditionally, the Mandan had a strong belief in internal harmony and intravillage disagreements usually resulted in the unhappy segment moving to another village. With the establishment of the reservation, the disagreements between conservatives and progressives intensified. Today, these divisions have virtually disappeared.