In 2015, professor and author Elizabeth Fenn, PhD, won the Pulitzer Prize in History for her book Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People, which tells the story of Mandan Indian history from 1100–1845. Her analysis of the history of the tribe is informed by important new discoveries in archaeology, anthropology, geology, climatology, epidemiology, and nutritional science.
Widely known for hosting the members of the Lewis and Clark expedition over the winter of 1804–1805, the Mandan Indians of what is now North Dakota suffered grave consequences from such impacts as imported diseases following contact with Euro-Americans, and the arrival of horses and steamboats. Notes Fenn, though, “The Mandans proved resilient and adaptable in the face of challenges that included epidemics of smallpox and whooping cough, and invasions of Norway rats.”
On Wednesday, June 14 at 1 p.m., Fenn visits the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, where she presents a free, illustrated slide-lecture based on her book. The talk takes place in the Center’s Coe Auditorium. A book signing follows at the Center’s Museum Store, which has copies of the book for sale.
Fenn chairs the History Department at the University of Colorado Boulder, where she is also the Walter and Lucienne Driskill Professor of Western American History. Within her field of study—the early American West—she focuses on epidemic disease, Native American history, and environmental history. She received her PhD from Yale University.
In addition to Encounters at the Heart of the World, Fenn is also the author of Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775–82, which was published in 2001. In 1983, she co-authored, with Peter H. Wood, Natives and Newcomers: The Way We Lived in North Carolina before 1770, a popular history of early North Carolina. She is currently working on an expansive biography of Sacagawea within the context of the wider history of the northern plains and Rockies.
For the Center’s full calendar of events, complete with lectures, tours, summer programs, family activities, and more, visit centerofthewest.org/calendar.
Since 1917, the award-winning Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, has devoted itself to sharing the story of the authentic American West. The Center is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. For additional information, visit centerofthewest.org or the Center’s Facebook page. #100YearsMore