Elizabeth Fenn, an associate professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado, poses for a photo while sitting at her desk in Boulder, Colo., Monday April 20, 2015.

 

(AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Elizabeth Fenn, an associate professor and chair of the University of Colorado Boulder history department, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in history on Monday for her book, "Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People."

The Pulitzer citation called her work, "an engrossing, original narrative. "

The Mandans live in what today is North Dakota. They hosted the Lewis and Clark expedition during its first winter encampment in 1804-1805.

“The book is a history of a remarkable Plains Indian tribe,” she said in a statement released by the university.  “They had to deal with a whole series of environmental challenges -- drought, infectious disease from Europe including whooping cough, smallpox and measles, and they also had to deal with Norway rats, a new species from China arriving via Europe,” she said.

Fenn joined the Boulder faculty in 2012 after earning her PhD at Yale and then teaching at Duke. She published "Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82" in 2001, said is currently at work on a biography of Sakagewa. She said that the Pulitzer shows that the Mandans are getting recognition as a crucial part of early American history.