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Researched by Patrick Springer, Published January 09 2005

Party like it's 1805

One of North Dakota's most rousing New Year's celebrations, involving whiskey and cannon fire, happened 200 years ago in a Mandan earth lodge village on the Missouri River.

At Fort Mandan, near current-day Washburn, N.D., the Lewis and Clark Expedition greeted Jan. 1, 1805, with two celebratory cannon rounds fired by the swivel gun of their keelboat.

According to Capt. William Clark's journal, 16 members of the expedition went to a nearby Mandan village to celebrate with dancing and "musick."

"I found them much pleased at the Dancing of our men, I ordered my black Servent to Dance which amused the Croud verry much," Clark wrote, referring to York's performance.

In his journal, Sgt. John Ordway wrote that the men celebrated not only with a dance, but with a parade up to the Mandan village of Sheheke, or White Coyote:

"Carried with us a fiddle & Tambereen & a Sounden horn. As we arrived at the entrence of the vil. We fired one round then the music played. Loaded again. Then marched to the center of the vil, fired again. Then commenced dancing."

Capt. Meriwether Lewis gave each man a second glass of "good old whiskey" later in the day, with another round courtesy of Clark, according to Sgt. Patrick Glass's journal.

Their Mandan hosts brought "victules," or food, of various kinds, including corn and gifts of buffalo robes. Some of the men returned to Fort Mandan, but others stayed all night.

The journal entries of Jan. 2 make no mention of hangovers, but Ordway reported more "folicking," this time at another Mandan village, with Indian corn presented in exchange for blacksmith repairs.

Source: "A Vast and Open Plain: The writings of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in North Dakota, 1804-1806."