Edwin James Benson ((1931-10-23)October 23, 1931 – (2016-12-09)December 9, 2016; Ma-doke-wa-des-she, modern Mandan orthography: Wéroke Wáatashe, Iron Bison[1]) was a Native American educator and the last native speaker of the Mandan language. He was born in Elbowoods, North Dakota, on the Fort Berthold Reservation in McLean County, North Dakota. When the Garrison Dam was built, Benson and his family were relocated to Twin Buttes, North Dakota. He taught Mandan at Twin Buttes Elementary School, and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of North Dakota in 2009.[2][3] He was involved in efforts to teach the basics of Mandan to youth.[1] When he died on December 9, 2016, the Mandan language became extinct.[4]

Edwin Benson
Born(1931-10-23)October 23, 1931
DiedDecember 9, 2016(2016-12-09) (aged 85)
Known forBeing the last native speaker of Mandan

The documentary To Save a Language (2020) showed the efforts of a linguist who tried to learn and save the Mandan language.


  1. ^ a b "Edwin Benson, Language Teacher". Video and transcript of Benson teaching Mandan. (in English and Mandan). Archived from the original on 2012-02-24. Retrieved 2009-06-11.
  2. ^ Edwin Benson-obituary
  3. ^ Jodi Rave (2009-05-11). "The last speaker: UND to honor Mandan, last to speak Nu'eta as 1st language". The Missoulian. Missoula, MT. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
  4. ^ "Edwin Benson, last-known fluent speaker of Mandan, passes away at 85". Retrieved 2016-11-10.