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Title: Indian Tribes of the Upper Missouri - Edited With Notes and Biographical Sketch
Author: Denig, Edwin Thompson
Language: English
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  Forty-sixth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology to
  the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1928-1929, Government
  Printing Office, Washington, 1930, pages 375-628.


This manuscript is entitled “A Report to the Hon. Isaac I. Stevens,
Governor of Washington Territory, on the Indian Tribes of the Upper
Missouri, by Edwin Thompson Denig.” It has been edited and arranged
with an introduction, notes, a biographical sketch of the author, and a
brief bibliography of the tribes mentioned in the report.

The report consists of 451 pages of foolscap size; closely written
in a clear and fine script with 15 pages of excellent pen sketches
and one small drawing, to which illustrations the editor has added
two photographs of Edwin Thompson Denig and his Assiniboin wife,
Hai-kees-kak-wee-lãh, Deer Little Woman, and a view of Old Fort Union
taken from “The Manoe-Denigs,” a family chronicle, New York, 1924.

The manuscript is undated, but from internal evidence it seems safe to
assign it to about the year 1854.

The editor has not attempted to verify the statements of the author as
embodied in the report; he has, however, where feasible, rearranged
some portions of its contents by bringing together under a single
rubric remarks upon a common topic which appeared in various parts of
the report as replies to closely related but widely placed questions;
and he has attempted to do this without changing the phraseology or
the terminology of Mr. Denig, except in very rare instances, and then
only to clarify a statement. For example, the substitution of the
native term for the ordinary English expression, the Great Spirit,
and divining in the place of “medicine” in medicine man, practically
displacing _medicine man_, by the word _diviner_.

In his letter of transmittal “To his Excellency, Isaac I. Stevens,
Governor of Washington Territory,” Mr. Denig writes: “Being stimulated
with the desire to meet your wishes and forward the views of
government, I have in the following pages endeavored to answer the
‘Inquiries’ published by act of Congress, regarding the ‘History,
Present Condition, and Future Prospects of the Indian Tribes’ with
which I am acquainted. * * * Independent of my own personal observation
and knowledge acquired by a constant residence of 21 years among the
prairie tribes, in every situation, I have on all occasions had the
advice of intelligent Indians as to the least important of these
inquiries, so as to avoid, if possible, the introduction of error. * * *

“It is presumed the following pages exhibit a minutiæ of information,
on those subjects not to be obtained either by transient visitors or
a residence of a few years in the country, without being, as is the
case with myself, intimately acquainted with their camp regulations,
understanding their language, and in many instances entering into their
feelings and actions.

“The whole has been well digested, the different subjects pursued
in company with the Indians for an entire year, until satisfactory
answers have been obtained, and their motives of speech or action well
understood before placing the same as a guide and instruction to others.

“The answers refer to the Sioux, Arikara, Mandan, Gros Ventres, Cree,
Crow, Assiniboin, and Blackfeet Nations, who are designated as prairie,
roving, or wild tribes—further than whom our knowledge does not extend.

“I am aware of your capacity to judge the merits of the work and will
consider myself highly honored if I have had the good fortune to meet
your approbation; moreover I shall rejoice if I have contributed in any
degree toward opening a course of policy on the part of the Government
that may result in the amelioration of the sad condition of the
savages. Should the facts herein recorded ever be published or embodied
in other work it is hoped the errors of language may be corrected, but
in no instance is it desired that the meaning should miscarry.”

Elsewhere in this letter Mr. Denig writes: “Some of their customs and
opinions now presented, although very plain and common to us who are in
their daily observance, may not have been rendered in comprehensible
language to those who are strangers to these things, and the number of
queries, the diversity of subjects, etc., have necessarily curtailed
each answer to as few words as possible.”

The report was made in response to a circular of “Inquiries, Respecting
the History, Present Condition, and Future Prospects of the Indian
Tribes of the United States,” by Henry R. Schoolcraft, Office of Indian
Affairs, Washington, D. C., printed in Philadelphia, Pa., in 1851.
This circular is a reprint of the circular issued in July, 1847, in
accordance with the provisions of section 5, chapter 66, of the Laws of
the Twenty-ninth Congress, second session, and approved March 3, 1847,
which read, “_And be it further enacted_, That in aid of the means now
possessed by the Department of Indian Affairs through its existing
organization, there be, and hereby is, appropriated the sum of five
thousand dollars to enable the said department, under the direction
of the Secretary of War, to collect and digest such statistics and
material as may illustrate the history, the present condition, and
future prospects of the Indian tribes of the United States.”

The original circular recites that it was addressed to four classes
of individuals, namely, “I. Persons holding positions under the
department, who are believed to have it in their power to impart much
practical information respecting the tribes who are, respectively,
under their charge. II. Persons who have retired from similar
situations, travelers in the Indian Territory, or partners and factors
on the American frontiers. III. Men of learning or research who have
perused the best writers on the subject and who may feel willing to
communicate the results of their reading or reflections. IV. Teachers
and missionaries to the aborigines.”

The circular closes with an expression of the “anxiety which is felt to
give to the materials collected the character of entire authenticity,
and to be apprised of any erroneous views in the actual manners and
customs, character, and condition of our Indian tribes which may have
been promulgated. The Government, it is believed, owes it to itself
to originate a body of facts on this subject of an entirely authentic
character, from which the race at large may be correctly judged by
all classes of citizens, and its policy respecting the tribes under
its guardianship, and its treatment of them, properly understood and

The 348 inquiries in the circular embrace the history (and archeology),
the tribal organization, the religion, the manners and customs, the
intellectual capacity and character, the present condition, the future
prospects, and the language, of the Indian tribes of the United States.

But the report of Mr. Denig consists of brief and greatly condensed
replies to as many of the questions propounded in the circular in
question as concerned the native tribes of the upper Missouri River, to
wit, the Arikara, the Mandan, the Sioux, the Gros Ventres, the Cree,
the Crows, the Assiniboin, and the Blackfeet, tribes with whom he was
thoroughly acquainted, although the Assiniboin seem to have been the
chief subjects of his observations. It should be noted that the answers
to some of the questions, if adequately treated, would have required
nearly as much space as was devoted to the entire report.

While the facts embodied in the replies of Mr. Denig are, when
unqualified, affirmed of all the eight tribes mentioned in his letter
of transmittal, he is nevertheless careful, when needful, to restrict
many of his answers to the specific tribes to which their subject
matter particularly related. But, of course, all the tribes mentioned
belonged measurably to a single cultural area at that time.

That Mr. Denig made use of the circular issued by Mr. Schoolcraft is
clearly evident from the fact that on the left-hand margin of the
manuscript he usually wrote the number of the question to which he was
giving an answer.

In the manuscript there appear two quite distinct handwritings, and so
it is possible that this particular manuscript is a copy of an original
which was retained by the author.

Dr. F. V. Hayden made extensive use of this report in preparation of
his “Contributions to the Ethnography and Philology of the Indian
Tribes of the Missouri Valley,” Philadelphia, C. Sherman & Son, 1862.
But he did not give Mr. Denig proper credit for using verbatim numbers
of pages of the manuscript without any indication that he was copying a
manuscript work from another writer whose position and long experience
among them made him an authority on the tribes in question. This piece
of plagiarism was not concealed by the bald statement of Doctor Hayden
that he was “especially indebted to Mr. Alexander Culbertson, the
well-known agent of the American Fur Co., who has spent 30 years of his
life among the wild tribes of the Northwest and speaks several of their
languages with great ease. To Mr. Andrew Dawson, superintendent of Fort
Benton; Mr. Charles E. Galpin, of Fort Pierre; and E. T. Denig, of Fort
Union, I am under great obligations for assistance freely granted at
all times.”

Mr. Edwin Thompson Denig, the author of this manuscript report, was the
son of Dr. George Denig and was born March 10, 1812, in McConnellstown,
Huntingdon County, Pa., and died in 1862 or 1863 in Manitoba, probably
in the town of Pilot Mound, in the vicinity of which his daughters
live, or did live in 1910. His legally married wife was the daughter of
an Assiniboin chief, by whom he had two daughters, Sara, who was born
August 10, 1844, and Ida, who was born August 22, 1854, and one son,
Alexander, who was born May 17, 1852, and who was killed by lightning
in 1904.

To his early associates Mr. Denig was a myth, more or less, having
gone West as a young man and having died there. He lost caste with his
family because of his marriage with the Assiniboin woman.

Mr. Denig entered the fur trade in 1833 and became very influential
among the tribes of the upper Missouri River. He was for a time a
Government scout; then a bookkeeper for the American Fur Co. Earlier he
had gone to St. Louis and became connected with the Chouteaus and the
American Fur Co. Before he was 30 years of age he was living among the
Indians as the representative of these two companies in that vast and
almost unknown region between the headwaters of the Mississippi and the
Missouri Rivers inhabited by tribes of the Sioux.

Mr. Denig became a bookkeeper for the American Fur Co. at Fort Union,
situated near the mouth of the Yellowstone River, of the offices of
which for a time, about 1843, he was superintendent. Because of his
thorough and comprehensive knowledge of the Indians of his adopted
tribe, their language, customs, and tribal relations, he was consulted
by most of the noted Indian investigators of that period—Schoolcraft,
Hayden, and others.

Being a Government scout, Mr. Denig was able to conciliate the Indians
during the expedition of Audubon in 1843, making it possible for the
great Frenchman to collect his wonderful specimens. A very colorful
description of Fort Union was written by Mr. Denig July 30, 1843.
This description is found in Volume II, page 180, of “Audubon and His
Journals.” In it Mr. Denig writes: “Fort Union, the principal and
handsomest trading post on the Missouri River, is situated on the north
side, about 6½ miles above the mouth of the Yellowstone River; the
country around it is beautiful and well chosen for an establishment
of the kind.” Then after describing in detail the structure and
furnishings of the fort, he says: “The principal building in the
establishment, and that of the gentleman in charge, or bourgeois, is
now occupied by Mr. Culbertson, one of the partners of the company,”
and farther on, “Next to this is the office, which is devoted
exclusively to the business of the company. * * * This department is
now under my supervision [viz., E. T. Denig].”

During this period Audubon sojourned with him for some time and spoke
of him not only as an agreeable companion but also as a friend who
gave him valuable information and enthusiastic assistance. One of his
frequent companions at Fort Union was the Belgian priest, Father De
Smet. Their correspondence was continued after De Smet had returned to
Belgium. (See Life, Letters and Travels of Father De Smet, Chittenden
and Richardson, 4 vols., New York, 1905.)

Several plausible but nevertheless quite unsatisfactory etymologic
interpretations of the name, Assiniboin, have been made by a number
of writers. Among these interpretations are “Stone Roasters,” “Stone
Warriors,” “Stone Eaters,” etc. These are unfortunately historically
improbable. It appears that difficulty arises from a misconception of
the real meaning of the limited or qualified noun it contains, namely,
_boin_. This element appears in literature, dialectically varied,
as _pour_, _pouar_, _poil_, _poual_, _bwân_, _pwan_, _pwât_, etc.
Evidently, it was the name of a group of people, well known to the Cree
and the Chippewa tribes, whom they held in contempt and so applied
this noun, _boin_, _bwân_, _pwât_, etc., to them. The signification of
its root _bwâ_(n) or _pwâ_(t) is “to be powerless, incapable, weak.”
So that _Pwâtak_ or _Bwânŭg_ (animate plurals) is a term of contempt
or derision, meaning “The Weaklings, The Incapable Ones.” This name
was in large measure restricted to the nomadic group of Siouan tribes
in contradistinction from the sedentary or eastern group of Siouan
peoples who were called Nadowesiwŭg, a term appearing in literature
in many variant spellings. The name Dakota in its restricted use is
the appellation of the group of tribes to which the name _Bwânŭg_,
etc., was applied. This fact indicates that the _Assiniboin_, or
_Assinibwânŭg_, were recognized as a kind of Dakota or Nakota peoples.
Nakota is their own name for themselves. The rupture of the Dakota
tribal hegemony thrust some of these peoples northward to the rocky
regions about Lake Winnipeg and the Saskatchewan and Assiniboin
rivers. So it was these who were called Rock or Stone Dakota (i. e.,
_Bwânŭg_). It would thus appear that the rupture occurred after there
were recognized the two groups of Siouan tribes in the past, namely,
the nomadic or western, the Dakota, and the sedentary or eastern, the
_Nadowesiwŭg_ of literature.

Traditionally, the Assiniboin people are an offshoot of the Wazikute
gens of the Yanktonai (Ihañkto^nwa^nna) Dakota.

Dr. F. V. Hayden in his “Contributions to the Ethnography and Philology
of the Indian Tribes of the Missouri Valley” says that Mr. Denig was
“an intelligent trader, who resided for many years at the junction
of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers as superintendent of Fort
Union, the trading post for the Assiniboins.” Of the vocabulary of
the Assiniboin language, recorded by Mr. Denig, Doctor Hayden wrote
that it is “the most important” one theretofore collected. From the
citation from Mr. Denig’s description of Fort Union in a preceding
paragraph it appears that Doctor Hayden is in error in making Mr. Denig
superintendent of the fort rather than of the office of the American
Fur Co. at that point.

In one of his letters Reverend Father Terwecoren wrote that Mr. Denig,
of the St. Louis Fur Co., is “a man of tried probity and veracity.”

From references in Audubon, Kurtz, De Smet, Hayden, and Schoolcraft,
and as well from a perusal of this manuscript, it is evident that
Mr. Denig was an exceptional man, and for more than 20 years was a
prominent figure in the fur trade of the upper Missouri River.

In this summary report to Governor Stevens Mr. Denig has succinctly
embodied in large measure the culture, the activities, the customs,
and the beliefs of the native tribes who occupied the upper Missouri
River 75 years ago, more than 75 per cent of which has been lost beyond
recovery by contact with the white man. For more than 40 years the
native life with which Mr. Denig was in contact has been largely a
thing of the past, so that it is futile to attempt to recover it from
the remnants of the tribes who formerly traded with Mr. Denig at Fort

In addition to preparing this report to Governor Stevens Mr. Denig also
recorded a Blackfoot Algonquian vocabulary of about 70 words, a Gros
Ventres Siouan vocabulary, and an Assiniboin Siouan vocabulary of more
than 400 words, which was published by Schoolcraft in his fourth volume.

From a letter written February 27, 1923, by Dr. Rudolph Denig, of 56
East Fifty-eighth Street, New York, N. Y., the following interesting
biographical matter relating to the ancestry of Mr. Denig is taken:

The Denigs, or “Deneges,” trace their descent from one Herald Ericksen,
a chieftain, or “smaa kongen,” of the Danish island of Manoe in the
North Sea, from whose descendant Red Vilmar, about 1460, they derive an
unbroken lineage. They were seafarers, commanding their own vessels,
and engaged in trade in the North and Baltic Seas.

About 1570 Thorvald Christiansen changed the tradition of the family by
becoming a tiller of the soil, having obtained possession of a large
farm near Ribe in northern Slesvig, which to this day bears its ancient
name of Volling gaard. Christian Thomsen, 1636-1704, was the first of
the family to take up a learned profession; he studied theology, and
being ordained a minister in the Lutheran Church, he was also the first
biographer of the family, in that he left a kind of genealogy inscribed
on the flyleaves of his Bible.

His grandson, Frederick Svensen, took part as corporal in a Danish
auxiliary corps at the age of 17 in Marlborough’s operations in the
Netherlands in the war of the Spanish Succession. Following the
disbanding of his corps he took up his residence in Cologne, and after
a few years he found a permanent home, about 1720, in Biebrich-Mosbach,
opposite Mayence.

The two branches of the family at present are the descendants of Philip
George and Johan Peter, both sons of Frederick. Johan Peter emigrated
to America in 1745, leaving among his descendants Edwin Thompson Denig,
the subject of this treatise; Commodore Robert Gracie Denig, United
States Navy, his son; Major Robert Livingston Denig, United States
Marine Corps, a distinguished soldier of the World War, and Dr. Blanche
Denig, a well-known woman physician of Boston.

The descendants of Philip George include Dr. Rudolph C. Denig,
professor of clinical ophthalmology in Columbia University, New York,
N. Y.

Ethnologically, it may be of more than passing interest to know that
the name Denig was originally Denek(e), then Deneg, which was taken as
a family name by Frederick Svensen at the time he left Denmark in 1709.
Until then the family had followed the old Scandinavian custom of the
son taking his father’s first name with the suffix sen or son as his
family name.

The Denigs came to their present name in the following manner: After
the Kalmar War, 1611-1613, conditions in Denmark became critical, and
the Danes were hard pressed for all the necessaries of life, especially
foodstuffs. They were therefore forced to import grain from neighboring
countries. So it happened that Ludvig Thorvaldsen, born in 1590, was
sent by his father, Thorvald Christiansen, to Valen in Westphalia, a
district still renowned for its agriculture, to buy corn.

Ludvig went there every fall for three or four successive years.
Eventually the Westphalians nicknamed him Deneke; “Den” meaning Dane,
and the suffix “eke,” like “ike,” “ing,” and “ig,” a diminutive,
derivative, or patronymic. Naturally this surname was not used at home,
but it became useful when occasional trips took members of the family
outside of Denmark.

The use of such a nom de guerre has always been popular with
Scandinavian and kindred races like the Friesians. As the supply of
available names did not meet the demand, frequent similarity of names
made it difficult to avoid losing one’s identity.

When Frederick Svensen Deneg had settled in Biebrich-Mosbach the name
Deneg had to undergo another change. While in the north the syllable
“eg” is pronounced like “ek,” the Chatto-Franconian dialect around
Mayence pronounces it like “esh.” Automatically, for euphonic reasons
the name was dialectically changed to Denig. In former times such
capricious changes in names were frequently made. In perusing old
chronicles many names are found written in three or four different ways
within one century. An instance to the point is the Frankish name of
King Meroveg, who was also called Merovig, and his descendants were
called Meroveger, Meroviger, and Merovinger, according to dialects
spoken in the different regions of the former Frankish empire. This
parallels the change of Deneg to Denig.

Upon his arrival, September 5, 1851, at Fort Union, 3 miles above the
mouth of the Yellowstone River on the Missouri, Mr. Frederick Kurz, the
Swiss artist, of Berne, Switzerland, who had heard some ugly rumors
about Mr. Denig, wrote in his Journal (yet in manuscript): “Bellange
delivered the letter he brought to a small, hard-featured man, wearing
a straw hat, the brim of which was turned up in the back. He was my new
_bourgeois_, Mr. Denig. He impressed me as a rather prosy fellow....
He ordered supper delayed on our account that we might have a better
and more plentiful meal. A bell summoned me to the first table with
Mr. Denig and the clerks. My eyes almost ran over with tears. There
was chocolate, milk, butter, omelet, fresh meat, hot bread—what a
magnificent spread. I changed my opinion at once concerning this new
chief; a hard, niggardly person could not have reconciled himself to
such a hospitable reception in behalf of a subordinate who was a total
stranger to him” (pp. 205-206). Kurz remained with Denig three years.

Again, Kurz wrote: “In his relations with me he is most kind and
agreeable. Every evening he sits with me either in my room or in front
of the gate and relates experiences of his earlier life. As he has held
his position in this locality for 19 years already, his life has been
full of adventure with Indians—particularly since the advent of the
whisky flask. He wishes me to paint, also, a portrait of himself and
his dog, Natah (Bear), a commission I am very glad to execute” (p. 211).

Again, in speaking of the duties of Mr. Denig, Kurz wrote: “It goes
without saying that a _bourgeois_ who occupies the position of
responsible warden, chief tradesman, and person in highest authority at
a trading-post far removed, where he has fifty men under his direction,
may regard himself of more importance than a man who directs five men”
(p. 213).

Again Kurz wrote: “As a matter of course, Denig keeps the subordinate
workmen strictly under his thumb—what is more, he has to, if he is to
prevent their overreaching him. He feels, however, that one man alone
is not sufficient to enforce good order among these underlings, for
every one of them is armed and, though not courageous in general, are,
nevertheless, touchy and revengeful. So, for purposes of order and
protection he has attached to himself the clerks who stand more nearly
on the same level with him in birth and education and afford, besides,
the only support, moral as well as physical, upon which he can reckon”
(p. 216).

Again Kurz wrote: “He talks to me continually about Indian legends and
usages. As he writes the best of these stories for Pere De Smet, by
whom they are published, there is no need of my preserving more than
some bits of memoranda” (p. 238). This explains why the writings on
these matters of Father De Smet have a close family resemblance with
those of Mr. Denig.

Again Kurz wrote: “Mr. Denig has been reading to me again from his
manuscript, which is extremely interesting. He is very well educated
and he has made a thorough study of Indian life—a distinct advantage
to him in trade. He is so fond of the life in this part of the country
that he is averse to any thought of going back to his Pennsylvania home
in the United States. For the reason, as he says, that he may avoid
political carryings-on that disgust him” (p. 242).

Another entry in the Kurz Journal reads: “September the 24th. Began
a portrait of Mr. Denig—life-size, knee-length. This work is to be
finished before Mr. Culbertson’s return from Fort Laramie” (p. 254).

The following citation is from the Kurz Journal at page 577: “February
the 26th, Mr. Denig is a Swedenborgian and at the same time he is a
Freemason. He mentioned to me that it would be of great advantage on my
travels if I were a Freemason.”

It seems appropriate to insert here briefly what another intimate
friend of Mr. Denig, the Reverend Father De Smet, thought of the
knowledge and attainments of our author. Father De Smet in speaking of
the source of his information in a particular instance wrote: “I have
it from two most reliable sources—that is to say, from a man of tried
probity and veracity, Mr. Denig of the Saint Louis Fur Company....”[1]

[1] Chittenden, H. M., and Richardson, A. T. Life, letters, and travels
of Father Pierre-Jean De Smet, S. J., 1801-1873. Vol. IV, p. 1111. New
York, 1905.

On page 1215 of this same work Father De Smet in a personal letter
to Mr. Denig, dated September 30, 1852, wrote: “I do not know how to
express my gratitude for your very interesting series of narratives
concerning the aborigines of the Far West.... Nothing could be more
gratifying to me than the beautiful and graphic details which you have
given me of the religion, manners, customs, and transactions of an
unfortunate race of human beings.”

It is hoped that these excerpts from the writings of Frederick Kurz and
Father De Smet, both intimately associated with Mr. Denig, will supply
some data concerning our author not otherwise accessible.

The Swiss artist, Friedrich Kurz, who painted many pictures of the
region around Fort Union, lived with Denig for some time, and in 1851
painted his portrait.

The Indians called Mr. Denig “The Long Knife,” which simply meant that
they knew him as “an American.”

In the manuscript Mr. Denig employs the word “band” to denote “a gens
of a tribe,” the word “clans” to denote “societies” or “corporations,”
and the “orders of doctors” he calls “shamans or theurgists.” To
understand Mr. Denig these meanings must be kept in mind.




  Letter of transmittal                                     393


  History                                                   395
    Origin                                                  395
    Name and geographical position                          396
    Ancient and modern habitat                              397
    Vestiges of early tradition                             398
    Names and events in history                             399
    Present rulers and condition                            401
    Intertribal rank and relations                          403
    Magnitude and resources of territory a cause of the
      multiplication of tribes                              405

  Geography                                                 406
    Figure of the globe                                     406
    Local features of the habitat                           406
    Surface of the country                                  407
    Facilities for grazing                                  408
    Effect of firing the prairies                           408
    Waste lands                                             409
    Effects of volcanic action                              409
    Saline productions                                      409
    Coal and mineral products                               410

  Climate                                                   410

  Wild animals                                              410
    Ancient bones and traditions of the monster era         411
    Animals used as armorial marks                          412

  The horse—Era of importation                              412

  Pictographs—Charts on bark                                412

  Antiquities                                               413

  Pipes                                                     413

  Vessels and implements                                    414

  Astronomy and geology                                     414
    Earth and its motions                                   414
    The sun                                                 415
    The sky                                                 415

  Future life—Indian paradise                               418

  Arithmetic                                                418
    Numeration                                              418
    Coin                                                    420
    Keeping accounts                                        420
    Elements of figures                                     421

  Medicine                                                  422
    General practice                                        422
    Depletion by bleeding                                   426
    Stoppage of blood and healing art                       427
    Amputation                                              427
    Theory of diseases and their remedy                     428
    Parturition                                             429

  Government                                                430
    Tribal organization and government                      430
    Chiefs                                                  431
    The Sndoo-kah, “Circumcised”                            434
    Soldiers                                                436
    Councils                                                446
    Scope of civil jurisdiction                             448
    Chiefship                                               448
    Power of the war chief                                  449
    Power of the priests in councils                        450
    Matrons in councils                                     451
    General councils                                        451
    Private right to take life                              452
    Game laws, or rights of the chase                       455

  Indian trade                                              457

  Education                                                 466

  Warfare                                                   470

  Property                                                  474

  Territorial rights                                        476

  Primogeniture                                             478

  Crime                                                     479

  Prayers                                                   483
    Prayer of warrior                                       483
    Prayer to ghosts                                        484

  The moon                                                  484

  Parental affection                                        485

  Religion                                                  486

  Immortality                                               498

  Mythology: Legends, tales                                 500

  Manners and customs                                       503
    Constitution of the Assiniboin family; kinship          503

  Camp life                                                 505

  Courtship and marriage                                    510

  Music                                                     512

  Longevity                                                 513

  Hospitality                                               513

  Midwifery, childbirth, naming                             516

  Assiniboin personal names                                 518

  Children                                                  519

  Suicide                                                   522

  Personal behavior                                         523

  Scalping                                                  524

  Oaths                                                     524

  Smoking                                                   524

  Fame                                                      525

  Stoicism                                                  525

  Taciturnity                                               526

  Public speaking                                           526

  Travel                                                    526

  Senses                                                    527

  Juggling and sorcery                                      528

  Strength and endurance                                    529

  Spirituous liquors                                        529

  Hunting                                                   530
    Throwing buffalo in a park                              532
    Approaching buffalo                                     534
    Deer hunting                                            536
    Elk hunting                                             537
    Grizzly bears                                           537
    Beaver                                                  538
    Wolves and foxes                                        538
    Instruction in hunting                                  542

  Fishing                                                   544

  War                                                       544
    Costume of a warrior                                    553
    Weapons                                                 555

  Dancing and amusements                                    556
    Scalp dance                                             557
    Brave’s dance                                           558
    Fox dance                                               561
    Duck dance                                              562
    Bulls’ dance                                            562
    Soldiers’ dance                                         562
    White crane dance                                       563
    Crow dance                                              564
    Dance of the mice comrades                              564
    Whip dance                                              564
    God-seeking dance                                       564
    Women’s dance                                           564

  Games                                                     565

  Racing                                                    566

  Gambling                                                  567

  Death and its consequences                                570

  Orphans and the aged                                      576

  Lodges                                                    577

  Canoes                                                    579

  Mental and ethical advancement                            579

  Medicine; drugs                                           581

  Food                                                      581

  Garments; dresses                                         584

  Ornaments                                                 590

  Paints and dyes                                           591

  Tattooing                                                 592

  Badges of office                                          592

  Beard                                                     593

  Intellectual capacity and character                       593

  Picture writing                                           603

  Myth telling                                              607

  Fables                                                    609

  Songs; music                                              617

  Present condition and future prospects                    620

  Intermarriage with whites                                 625

  Population                                                625

  Language                                                  625

  Bibliography                                              627

  Index                                                     629




  62. Fort Union as it appeared in 1833                     394
  63. Edwin Thompson Denig and Mrs. Denig                   394
  64. Drawings by an Assiniboin Indian                      414
  65. Culinary utensils                                     414
  66. Characteristic implements of the Assiniboin           414
  67. _a_, Comb root; _b_, Cat-tail                         414
  68. The calumet and its accompaniments                    446
  69. A buffalo park or “surround”                          532
  70. An Assiniboin running a buffalo                       532
  71. Scalp dance                                           558
  72. Coo-soo´, or game of the bowl                         558
  73. The Chun-kan-dee´ game                                578
  74. A lodge frame and a completed lodge                   578
  75. The interior of a lodge and its surroundings          578
  76. An Assiniboin stabbing a Blackfoot                    578
  77. Map of region above Fort Union                        606
  78. Diagram of a battle field                             606
  79. Diagram of a battle field                             606
  80. Musical instruments                                   606


  30. Lancet                                                426
  31. Diagram of a council lodge                            437
  32. Cradle board                                          519
  33. Tool for fleshing the hide                            540
  34. Tool for scraping hides or shaving the skin           541
  35. Picture writing                                       603


To His Excellency ISAAC I. STEVENS,

  _Governor of Washington Territory_.

SIR: Being stimulated with a desire to meet your wishes and forward the
views of Government, I have in the following pages endeavored to answer
the Inquiries published by act of Congress regarding the history,
present condition, and future prospects of the Indian tribes with which
I am acquainted.

Had I been called upon to illustrate the facts herein recorded by
reference to their different individual histories and actions, a more
voluminous and perhaps interesting work might have been presented the
general reader, but in conformity to the instructions laid down in
the document referred to, have only replied to the various queries,
limiting the answers to plain statements of facts.

Independent of my own personal observation and knowledge acquired by
a constant residence of 21 years among the prairie tribes in every
situation, I have on all occasions had the advice of intelligent
Indians as to the least important of these queries, so as to avoid,
if possible, the introduction of error. Should there be new ideas
presented, and the organization, customs, or present condition of
the Indians made public in the following manuscript differ either
materially or immaterially from any other now extant I would beg leave
to say I would much rather have the same rejected than to see it
published in a mutilated form or made to coincide with any histories
of the same people from others who have not had like opportunities of
acquiring information.

Some of their customs and opinions now presented, although very plain
and common to us who are in their daily observance, may not have been
rendered in comprehensible language to those who are stranger to these
things, and the number of queries, the diversity of subjects, etc.,
have necessarily curtailed each answer to as few words as possible.
In the event, therefore, of not being understood or of apparent
discrepancies presenting, it would be but justice done the author and
patron to have the same explained, which would be cheerfully done.

It is presumed the following pages exhibit a minutiæ of information
on those subjects not to be obtained either by transient visitors or
a residence of a few years in the country, without being, as is the
case with myself, intimately acquainted with their camp regulations,
understanding their language, and in many instances entering into their
feelings and actions. The whole has been well digested, the different
subjects pursued in company with the Indians for an entire year, until
satisfactory answers have been obtained, and their motives of speech
or action well understood before placing the same as a guide and
instruction to others. The answers refer to the Sioux, Arikara, Mandan,
Gros Ventres, Cree, Crow, Assiniboin, and Blackfeet Nations, who are
designated as prairie roving or wild tribes, further than whom our
knowledge does not extend.

I am aware of your capacity to judge the merits of the work, and will
consider myself highly honored if I have had the good fortune to meet
your approbation. Moreover, I shall rejoice if I have contributed in
any degree toward opening a course of policy on the part of Government
that may result in the amelioration of the sad condition of the
savages. Should the facts herein recorded ever be published or embodied
in other works, it is hoped the errors of language may be corrected,
but in no instance is it desired that the meaning should miscarry.

Should any references be required by the department for whom this is
written I beg leave to name as my friends and personal acquaintances in
addition to your Excellency, Col. D. D. Mitchell, Kenneth Mackruger,
Esq., Rev. P. I. De Smet, Messrs. P. Chouteau, Jr., & Co., and Alex.
Culbertson, Esq., all of St. Louis, and Dr. John Evans, United States
geologist, any of whom will satisfy inquiries on this head.

Permit me, my dear friend, to remain with great respect and high
consideration, truly your most obedient servant,









[2] Consult Preface for etymologic analysis of this word and for its
objective meaning.


ORIGIN.—But little traditionary can be stated by these Indians as
authentic of their origin which would be entitled to record in history,
though many singular and fabulous tales are told concerning it. As a
portion of people, however, once inhabiting another district and being
incorporated with another nation, their history presents a connected
and credible chain of circumstances. The Assiniboin were once a part of
the great Sioux or Dacotah Nation, residing on the tributary streams of
the Mississippi; say, the head of the Des Moines, St. Peters, and other
rivers. This is evident, as their language with but little variation
is the same, and also but a few years back there lived a very old
chief, known to all of us as Le Gros François, though his Indian name
was Wah-he´ Muzza or the “Iron Arrow-point,” who recollected perfectly
the time of their separation from the Sioux, which, according to his
data, must have been about the year 1760.[3] He stated that when Lewis
and Clark came up the Missouri in 1805 his band of about 60 lodges
(called Les Gens des Roches) had after a severe war made peace with the
Sioux, who at that time resided on the Missouri, and that he saw the
expedition referred to near White Earth River, these being the first
body of whites ever seen by them, although they were accustomed to be
dealt with by the fur traders of the Mississippi. After their first
separation from the Sioux they moved northward, making a peace with the
Cree and Chippewa, took possession of an uninhabited country on or near
the Saskatchewan and Assiniboin Rivers, in which district some 250 or
300 lodges still reside. Some time after the expedition of Lewis and
Clark, or at least after the year 1777, the rest of the Assiniboin,
at that time about 1,200 lodges, migrated toward the Missouri, and as
soon as they found superior advantages regarding game and trade, made
the latter country their home. One principal incident in their history
which they have every reason to remember and by which many of the
foregoing data are ascertained is a visitation of the smallpox in 1780
(see Mackenzie’s travels), when they occupied the British territory.
Even yet there are two or three Indians living who are marked by the
disease of that period and which greatly thinned their population,
though owing to their being separated through an immense district, some
bands entirely escaped. Upon the whole it does not appear to have been
as destructive as the same disease on the Missouri in 1838, which I
will have occasion to mention in its proper place in these pages and
which reduced them from 1,200 lodges to about 400 lodges.

[3] This traditional date given by Denig is evidently much too late,
for as early as the middle of the seventeenth century they were known
to the Jesuit missionaries of Canada.

NAME AND GEOGRAPHICAL POSITION.—The name of the Assiniboin among
themselves is Da-co-tah, same as the Sioux, which means “our people.”
By the Sioux they are called Ho´-hai or “Fish-eaters,” perhaps from
the fact that they lived principally on fish while on the British
grounds, as most of those Indians do. By the Cree and Chippewa they
are called As-see-nee-poi-tuc or Stone Indians; hence the English name
of Assiniboin arises. As has been stated, at the earliest date known
they roved about the head of St. Peters, Des Moines, Lac du Diable, and
Lac qui Parle; and they were then joined with the Sioux Indians, who
inhabited and claimed all the lands between the Mississippi and the
Missouri as low down as Big Sioux River and as high up as the head of
Rivier à Jacques, thence northward toward Lac du Diable, other bands of
Sioux (Teton) residing west of the Missouri. The number of Assiniboin
when they separated must have been at least 1,500 lodges, averaging
six souls to a lodge [or about 9,000 persons]. Their migration has
been referred to and the extent of land they occupied in the British
territory on the Saskatchewan, etc., was very large, but at present
their habitat is entirely different, and it may be as well to state
it here. The northern Assiniboin, 250 or 300 lodges, rove the country
from the west banks of the Saskatchewan, Assiniboin, and Red Rivers in
a westward direction to the Woody Mountains north and west among small
spurs of the Rocky Mountains east of the Missouri, and among chains of
small lakes through this immense region. Occasionally making peace with
some of the northern bands of Blackfeet enables them to come a little
farther west and deal with those Indians, but, these “peaces” being
of short duration, they are for the most part limited to the prairies
east and north of the Blackfeet range. The rest of the Assiniboin,
say 500 to 520 lodges [who may be called the Southern Assiniboin],
occupy the following district, viz., commencing at the mouth of the
White Earth River on the east, extending up that river to its head,
thence northwest along the Couteau de Prairie, or Divide, as far as
the Cyprus Mountains on the North Fork of the Milk River, thence down
Milk River to its junction with the Missouri River, thence down the
Missouri River to the mouth of White Earth River, or the starting
point. Formerly they inhabited a portion of country on the south side
of the Missouri River along the Yellowstone River, but of late years,
having met with great losses by Blackfeet, Sioux, and Crow war parties,
they have been obliged to abandon this region and now they never go
there. As before remarked, the Assiniboin still numbered 1,000 to
1,200 lodges, trading on the Missouri until the year 1838, when the
smallpox reduced their numbers to less than 400 lodges. Also, being
surrounded by large and hostile tribes, war has had its share in their
destruction, though now they are increasing slowly.

ANCIENT AND MODERN HABITAT.—Before proceeding further it would be
well to state and bear in mind that of all the Indians now residing
on the Missouri River the Assiniboin appear to have made the least
progress toward acquiring civilized ideas or knowledge of any kind.
Superstitious, lazy, and indisposed to thought, they make no attempt
to improve themselves in any way. Neither are they anxious that others
should teach them; consequently they are far behind the other tribes
even as regards their own savage manner of life. This will receive
further explanation. They do not think the Great Spirit created them
on or for a particular portion of country, but that he made the whole
prairie for the sole use of the Indian, and the Indian to suit the
prairie, giving among other reasons the fact that the buffalo is so
well adapted to their wants as to meat and clothing, even for their
lodges and bowstrings. To the Indian is allotted legs to run, eyes to
see far, bravery, instinct, watchfulness, and other capacities not
developed in the same degree in the whites. The Indian, therefore,
occupies any section of prairie where game is plentiful and he can
protect himself from enemies. With regard to any other kind of right
than that of possession and ability to defend, besides the general
right granted by the Great Spirit, they have not the most distant idea.
The Assiniboin conquered nothing to come into possession of their
habitat, they had their difficulties with surrounding tribes and still
have, as others have, and continue as they commenced, fighting and
hunting alternately. Their first interview with Europeans (now spoken
of) was when the traders of the Mississippi pushed their traffic as far
as their camps, and from whom they obtained firearms, woolen clothing,
utensils, etc. Afterwards these supplies were had from the Hudson Bay
Co. and, latterly, from the Americans on the Missouri River. There is
every reason to believe that the introduction of ardent spirits among
them was coeval, if not antecedent, to that of any other article of
trade. Before the trade was opened with them by the whites they say
they used knives made of the hump rib of the buffalo, hatchets made of
flint stone, mallets of the same, cooking utensils of clay and wood,
bones for awls, and sinew for thread, all of which articles can yet
be found among them. They made with these rude tools their bows and
arrows, pointing the latter with stone, and, as game was abundant,
hunted them on foot or threw them into pens built for the purpose,
which method they continue to use to this day. In this way they had
no difficulty in supporting themselves, and so contend that they have
gained nothing by intimacy with the whites but diseases which kill them
off in numbers and wants which they are unable at all times to gratify.
They have never sold lands by treaty, and the only treaty (with the
exception of that at Laramie, 1851) was made by them through an Indian
agent of the United States named Wilson, at the Mandan village in 1825.
But this was merely an amicable alliance for the protection of American
traders and an inducement held out to the Indians to leave off trading
at the Hudson Bay Co.‘s posts and establish themselves on the Missouri,
without, however, any remuneration on the part of the United States.

VESTIGES OF EARLY TRADITION.—They have no creditable tradition of the
Mosaic account of the creation or deluge, neither of their ancestors
having lived in other lands nor knowledge of foreign quadrupeds nor any
idea of whites or other races occupying the country before the Indians.
It is easy to perceive in converse with them that whites have from
time to time endeavored to explain the Mosaic account of the creation
and deluge, together with other scriptural records, but instead of
comprehending the same they have mixed with their own superstitions and
childish notions in so many various and nonsensical forms that none is
worthy of record.

They have no name for America, neither do they know of its extent,
for the most part believing that the lands occupied by themselves and
the surrounding tribes compose the greatest part of the world, and
certainly contain the greatest reputed number of people. It vexes and
grieves them to be told of large tracts of land elsewhere, and they do
not or will not believe the whites to be as human as they are.

There is nothing in this subject any Assiniboin could either comprehend
or answer, except that there is a mound about 50 miles above the mouth
of the Yellowstone on the west side and near the Missouri consisting
of an immense pile of elk horns, covering an area of about an acre of
ground, and in height about 30 feet. We have frequently inquired of
these and the surrounding nations as to its origin, but it was raised
previous to the knowledge or even tradition of any tribe now living in
these parts. From the state of decay the horns are in it must be very

NAMES AND EVENTS IN HISTORY.—There is no great event in the history
of the Assiniboin that gives them cause to rejoice. True, they have
occasionally gained a battle, but at other times have lost greatly by
wars. Upon the whole they have had the worst of it; at least they,
being a smaller nation than the Blackfeet and Sioux (their enemies)
have felt the loss more severely. The principal calamity that first
overtook them, and by which they suffered greatly, was the smallpox in
1780. (See Mackenzie’s travels and other authors.) On this occasion
they lost about 300 lodges of their people, and it is to this day
mentioned by them as their greatest first misfortune. In the spring
of 1838 this disease was again communicated to them, being brought up
the Missouri by a steamboat, and although every precaution had been
used, the boat cleansed, and no appearance of disease for a long time
aboard, yet it in some way broke out among the Indians, beginning with
the Sioux tribes and ending with the Blackfeet. Being an eyewitness
to this, we can with certainty give an account of its ravages. When
the disease first appeared in Fort Union we did everything in our
power to prevent the Indians from coming to it, trading with them a
considerable distance out in the prairie and representing to them the
danger of going near the infection. All efforts of the kind, however,
proved unavailing, for they would not listen, and 250 lodges contracted
the disease at one time, who in the course of the summer and fall were
reduced to 65 men, young and old, or about 30 lodges in all. Other
bands coming from time to time caught the infection and remained at the
fort, where the dead were daily thrown into the river by cartloads. The
disease was very virulent, most of the Indians dying through delirium
and hemorrhage from the mouth and ears before any spots appeared. Some
killed themselves.

On one occasion an Indian near the fort after losing his favorite
child deliberately killed his wife, his two remaining children, his
horses and dogs, and then blew his own brains out. In all this the
Indians behaved extremely well toward the whites, although aware they
brought the disease among them, yet nothing in the way of revenge took
place, either at the time or afterwards. Being obliged to be all the
time with them, helping as much as possible to save a few, they had
plenty of opportunities should they have wished to do damage. Every
kind of treatment appeared to be of no avail, and they continued
dying until near the ensuing spring, when the disease, having spent
itself, ceased. The result was that out of 1,000 lodges and upward of
the Assiniboin then in existence but 400 lodges or less remained, and
even these but thinly peopled. Relationship by blood or adoption was
nearly annihilated, all property lost or sacrificed, and a few very
young and very old left to mourn the loss. Most of the principal
men having died, it took years to recover from the shock. Young men
had to grow up, new leaders to be developed, remnants of bands to be
gathered together, property to be had—in fact, under all these adverse
circumstances, so slow has been the increase that during the interim of
17 years but 100 lodges have accumulated. In times like this no leader
can be effective. All counsel was rejected; their chiefs and divining
men shared the fate of the others. With the Mandan the disease was even
more destructive. Before it they numbered 600 warriors and inhabited
two large villages where the Arikara are now stationed, and when the
disease ceased about 30 men remained, from which remnant have since
sprung about 25 lodges. All this time an Assiniboin chief named The
Gauche, or by the Indians “He who holds the knife,” was the principal
man in the band which bore his name, consisting of 250 lodges.

These died in greater proportion than the others and after the disease
had disappeared the old chief found himself at the head of about 60
fighting men. The Gauche was a very old man and had had the smallpox
in the north; he was also famed in their annals as a leader and
divining man. He had been very successful in his expeditions against
the Blackfeet, and by the use of poisons administered occasionally to
his people, while predicting their death, he had inspired in all the
fear of a sorcerer. His life contains a history which our limits do not
admit of describing, although well known, singular, interesting, and
authentic. On this occasion he understood that the Mandan were rendered
totally helpless by the effects of the smallpox, and conceived the
idea of taking their village and in a measure retrieving his losses by
the horses and other property of these Indians. Gathering together the
remnant of his band, about 50 men, he proceeded thither. The writer saw
him pass with the pipe of peace to lull suspicion, in order to enter
their village in a friendly way, and then at a given signal each one
with knife in hand to rush upon and destroy the unsuspecting friends.
The whole was well planned, managed, and kept secret, and it would
have succeeded but for an occurrence of which the Assiniboin was not
then aware. The Arikara, a tolerably numerous people, having left the
Missouri, had been for years residing on the Platte River, and having
previously had the smallpox did not contract the disease to any extent.
About the same time The Gauche was on his way to the Mandan, they
returned suddenly from the Platte and took possession of their village
a short distance from the Mandan. Now the Arikara numbered about 500
men, all deadly enemies to the Assiniboin, so that when the latter
presented their pipe of peace the ceremonies were interrupted by an
attack of the Arikara. The Assiniboin were routed, and about 20 of them

The old chief, as usual, escaped, though his day of power was over.
Shortly afterwards he predicted the day and hour of his own death
at the fort—days beforehand, without any appearance of disease or
approaching dissolution, and the writer with other gentlemen at the
fort saw the same fulfilled to the letter. The conclusion was that
he took poison, which he was long supposed to have received from the
whites in the north and kept a dose for the fullness of time.

This man had more renown than any other leader spoken of, although
several have done gallant actions. His success may be attributed to
great cunning and the large force he always headed, together with the
power his fetishes gave him over his fellows, who blindly followed his
instructions and fought desperately under his prophecies, though his
life shows the anomaly of a great leader being entirely destitute of
every particle of personal intrepidity. Many other events have happened
which form data in their history; indeed it is composed of reference to
certain remarkable occurrences, such as the year of the smallpox, year
of the deep snow, year of massacre of 30 lodges of Blackfeet, year of
great rise of waters, and other natural phenomena.

PRESENT RULERS AND CONDITION.—Their present ruling chief is
Man-to-was-ko, or the Crazy Bear, made chief by Colonel Mitchell,
Commissioner of the United States, at the Laramie treaty in 1851. The
choice could not have been better. The Crazy Bear has always been a
respectable and brave man, greatly elevated above all the rest in
intelligence but not ranking with some in military exploits, having
never been a great warrior, though on some small occasions he has
shown an utter contempt of death before his enemies. He is a mild,
politic man, looking after his people’s interest, and viewing with a
jealous eye anything inconsistent with them. Even when a very young
man his opinions were always honored with a hearing in council, and he
now bears his honors with great credit to himself and service to his
people, endeavoring to carry out to the letter the stipulations of the
treaty to which he is a party.

Among the principal soldiers and war captains may be mentioned
To-ka´-ke-a-na, or the “First Who Flies.” This man is a son of the old
chief, Wah-he´ Muzza, or “Iron Arrowpoint,” mentioned before. The whole
of that old man’s numerous family have been, and those living still
are, desperate men, proud and overbearing with their people, though
good to the whites. From the eldest, named “The Sight,” who visited
Washington City by General Jackson’s orders, to the one now mentioned,
five in number have been killed by their own people in personal

The one now spoken of has frequently led parties to battle and showed
such a recklessness of danger that his name stands high as a warrior;
has also killed two of his own people who were concerned in the murder
of his brothers; was at the Laramie treaty and since behaves himself
with great moderation; is one of the Crazy Bear’s principal soldiers
and supports; and should the Bear die would undoubtedly take his place
as chief of the tribe.

Wa-ke´-un-to, or the Blue Thunder, is another warrior and partisan in a
band of 200 lodges, is not over 25 years of age, but has raised himself
to distinction by going to war alone on the Sioux and bringing home
scalps and horses; he has also headed several war excursions with great
success and is generally liked by his own people.

Wo´-a-see´-chah, or Bad Animal, known to traders by the name of Le
Serpent, is a war leader and chief of Les Gens des Canots Band, the
same 200 lodges of which Blue Thunder is one of the warriors and camp
soldiers. I believe he has never killed many enemies but has murdered
in quarrels two of his own people, is considered a sensible man, very
friendly to the whites, judicious in his government of his band, and
also is a person whom it is not desirable to aggravate too much. Me-nah
(The Knife), A-wah-min-ne-o-min-ne (The Whirlwind), Ish-ta-o-ghe-nah
(Gray Eyes), He-boom-an-doo (La Poudrière), and others are soldiers and
warriors whose histories are known to us and would present the usual
features of savage life and warfare.

The Assiniboin speak but one dialect, being radically the same as the
Sioux; no other is incorporated in it, though some few can in addition
speak Cree and others of the northern bands of Blackfeet, but no more
than one interpreter is required in transacting any business with each
or all of them. A person who can speak the Sioux language well could
interpret for the Assiniboin, or vice versa.

There are many elderly persons capable of stating their traditions and
willing to impart any information they are in possession of regarding
their history; but what is heard from them in this respect is so
mingled with fable and superstition as seldom to admit of its serving
as a basis for truth or knowledge or for a correct representation
of their past condition. They do not exhibit any chain of connected
facts; and though these oral tales have been preserved entire,
transmitted in their original form through successive generations,
and may possibly have been the belief of their ancestors, yet at the
present day are regarded more as a source of amusement than a medium
of instruction or means of perpetuating their history. Too much error
has been the result of depending for knowledge on these traditions by
people who only understand them in their literal sense or have been
badly interpreted. All facts among the nations with whom we profess an
intimate acquaintance and minute knowledge farther than a century back
are involved in obscurity, mingled with fable, or embodied in their

The time when the tribe reached its present location was from 1804 to
1825, when the most of them might be considered as established on the
waters of the Missouri, the boundaries of which have been pointed out,
though in 1839, 60 lodges of Assiniboin came over from the British
northern possessions and joined those of the Missouri, since which time
they have resided together.

INTERTRIBAL RANK AND RELATIONS.—As to the question, what rank and
relationship does the tribe bear to other tribes, we are not aware of
any political scale of superiority or inferiority existing among any
of the tribes along the Missouri; neither do their traditions point
out or assign any such particular position to each other. Being well
acquainted with the manners and customs of the Sioux, the Arikara, the
Mandan, the Gros Ventres, the Crow, the Assiniboin, the Cree, and the
Blackfeet tribes we can safely say that no such distinction exists
that would receive the sanction of all parties. There is, however,
this: Each nation has vanity enough to think itself superior to its
neighbors, but all think the same, and the more ignorant they are the
more obstinately they adhere to their own opinions. All tribes are
pretty much independent of one another in their thoughts and actions,
and, indeed with the exception of the Gros Ventres, the Mandan and the
Arikara, who are stationary and live in a manner together, neighboring
tribes usually are completely in the dark regarding one another’s
government, not even knowing the names of the principal chiefs and
warriors unless told them or recognizing them when pointed out. In all
the above-mentioned tribes there is no such thing as pretensions to
original rank. Rank is the growth of the present, as often acquired as
lost. The greatest chief any of these tribes ever produced would become
a mere toy, a butt, a ridicule, in a few days after he lost his eyes or
sense of sight.

Neither has affinity of blood in this sense anything to do with rank as
to succession. If the son for want of bravery or other qualifications
can not equal or follow the steps of his father chief, he is nothing
more than an ordinary Indian. There are consequently no discordant
pretensions to original rank, though it may be a matter of dispute
which of two or three chiefs ranks at present the highest, and in this
case it would be immediately decided in council by the principal men.
In fact the rank or standing of each Indian, be he chief or warrior,
is so well known, and his character so well judged by the vox populi
that he takes his place spontaneously. A higher step than his acts
and past conduct confer, imprudently taken, would have the effect of
injuring him in their eyes as a leader. Every chief, warrior, or brave
carves his own way to fame, and if recognized as one by the general
voice becomes popular and is supported; if not, he mixes with hundreds
of others who are in the same situation, waiting an opportunity to
rise. There is no relative rank among tribes bearing the name of uncle,
grandfather, etc. The names of the different bands among themselves
or the surrounding tribes have no such signification. There are, of
course, affinities of blood and relationship among the Indians as well
as among whites. People have their fathers, uncles, grandfathers,
brothers-in-law, etc., but this personal or family relationship has
nothing to do with the clanship, nor has it any bearing on other
tribes. As to the relations above alluded to we will have occasion to
refer to them under the head of tribal organization and government.
Among eastern or southern tribes such distinctions may exist, but we
can vouch they have no name nor interest in all the tribes mentioned in
the beginning of this answer. To prevent misunderstanding, it should
be observed that when we speak of a tribe we mean the whole group who
speak that language. Different tribes are different groups. Portions of
these groups or tribes are called gentes, and portions or societies of
these gentes are designated as subgentes, and the next or most minute
subdivision of gentes would be into families.

“Peaces” are made between wild tribes by the ceremony of smoking and
exchanging presents of horses and other property; sometimes women. The
advantages and disadvantages are well calculated on both sides before
overtures for peace are made. It is a question of loss and gain and
often takes years to accomplish. The Crows, a rich nation, five years
ago, through the writer as the medium made peace with the Assiniboin
after half a century of bloody warfare. Why? The Crows being a rich
nation and the Assiniboin poor, how could the former gain? The points
the Crows gained were these: First, liberty to hunt in the Assiniboin
country unmolested and secure from the Blackfeet; second, two enemies
less to contend with and from whom they need not guard their numerous
herds of horses; third, the privilege of passing through the Assiniboin
country to the Gros Ventres village in quest of corn. Now for the
other party. The Crows having large herds of horses and the Assiniboin
but few, the former give them a good many every year to preserve the
peace. The Crows winter with the Assiniboin, run buffalo with their
own horses, and give the latter plenty of meat and skins without the
trouble of killing it. The Crows are superior warriors and the others
have enough to contend with the Blackfeet. Again, one enemy less, and
jointly the numerical force is so augmented as to make them formidable
to all surrounding tribes, while separately they would prey upon
each other. It is in this case evident the peace must last, there
being sufficient inducements on both sides to keep it, although upon
the whole any of their “peaces” are liable to sudden and violent
interruptions and are not to be depended upon.

OF TRIBES.—There can be no doubt that magnitude and resources of
territory are the principal causes of an increase of population.
All roving tribes live by hunting, and scarcity of animals produces
distress, famine, disease, and danger by forcing them to hunt in
countries occupied by their enemies, when game is not found in their
own. Such a state of things happened in this district in 1841, when
during a total disappearance of buffalo and other game some of the
Assiniboin and Cree were under the necessity of eating their own
children, of leaving others to perish, and many men and women died
from fatigue and exhaustion. Although the above position is evident,
yet we do not see how it could multiply tribes, much less dialects. A
large territory with much game might induce portions of other tribes
not having these advantages to migrate, make peace with the residing
nation, and perhaps increase in a greater ratio than they otherwise
would have done, but the language would remain the same, neither would
it produce a separate tribe, but only a portion of the tribe who

The Gros Ventres of the Prairie were once Arapaho and lived on the
Arkansas. They have for a century past resided with the Blackfeet, yet
have preserved their own language. True, by these means they learn
to speak each other’s language, but they do not commingle and make a
separate dialect of the two. The Assiniboin from the Sioux, the Cree
from the Chippewa, the Crows from the Gros Ventres are three other
cases of separation, and in each the language is so well preserved that
they understand without any difficulty the people whence they emanated.
The causes of these separations, whether feuds, family discords, or in
quest of better hunting grounds, does not now appear. Most probably
it was dissatisfaction of some sort. From all appearances we may
reasonably expect to see ere long a portion of the Sioux occupying
the large disputed territory south of the Missouri and along the
Yellowstone, as game is becoming scarce in their district since white
emigration through it and Indians are thronging there from St. Peters
and elsewhere.

The Sioux regard the Mississippi as once their home, and it is very
certain that nation came from thence, also the Cree and Assiniboin,
and perhaps others. It does not appear that the track of migration
pursued any direct course. From certain facts, similitude of language
and customs, it would seem some nations traveled from south to north
or northwest, such as the Gros Ventres of the Prairie who were once
Arapaho. The Arikara speak the same as the Pawnee and must have
migrated westward. The Blackfeet moved from north to southwest, and
the Crows, Cree, and Assiniboin west and north. It is reasonable to
believe they spread out over these immense plains from all points
and at different times as circumstances favored or forced them. The
habits of the prairie Indian differ essentially from the Indian of the
forest, and those of stationary and cultivating habits from both. It is
impossible for us now to state with any degree of certainty the time of
their first location on these plains, or to point out any one general
course of emigration pursued by them.


FIGURE OF THE GLOBE.—It can not be expected that these Indians who are
in a complete savage and unenlightened state should have any knowledge
of the configuration of the globe or of its natural divisions. They
know what a small lake or small island is and have names for the same
as they are to be met with through their country. They think the earth
to be a great plain bounded by the Rocky Mountains on one side and
the sea on the other, but have no idea of its extent nor of any other
lands except those they are acquainted with. Although told frequently,
they can not realize extent of lands in any great measure, and without
troubling themselves to think or inquire are content with believing
there are few lands better or larger than their own. It is not in
their nature to acknowledge inferiority, which would follow were they
convinced of the extent of the territory and power of the whites. Of
the sea they have a vague idea from information offered them by the
traders, and would not believe there is such a body of water had not
the same received a sort of sanction through the Cree and Chippewa,
some of whom, having seen Lake Superior, represent it as the ocean.

LOCAL FEATURES OF THE HABITAT.—The chief rivers running through the
Assiniboin country are, first, the Missouri, which is so well known as
to need no description here. The next is Milk River, on the northwest
boundary, a very long and narrow stream; heads in some of the spurs of
the Rocky Mountains east of the Missouri and lakes on the plains, runs
a southwest course, and empties into the Missouri about 100 miles above
the Yellowstone. Its bed is about 200 yards wide at the mouth, though
the waters seldom occupy more than one-third of that space, except
during the spring thaw, when, for a week or two, it fills the whole
bed; is fordable on horseback all the year except at the time above
alluded to and when swollen by continuous rains.

Rivière aux Tremble, or Quaking Aspen River, empties into the Missouri
about 50 miles below Milk River, is about half the length and breadth
of the others, and heads in the range of hills constituting the divide,
called “Les Montaignes des Bois.” It is fordable at all times except
during spring freshets and when swollen by rain. Neither of these
streams is navigable by any craft larger than a wooden canoe except at
the high stages of water above referred to, and then navigation would
be difficult and dangerous owing to floating ice and driftwood. There
are no rapids or falls in either of them.

Several creeks fall into the Missouri below the point on the east side
called Big Muddy, Little Muddy, Knife River, etc., all of which contain
but little water and are of no consequence.

White Earth River, the last, is about 100 miles in length and at the
mouth a little more than 100 yards wide, contains but little water,
always fordable, and not navigable by anything, empties into the
Missouri near the commencement of the Great Bend. None of these rivers
being navigable except the Missouri, goods are only landed at the
following points along that river, viz: Fort Pierre (Sioux), mouth of
the Teton River; Fort Clarke (Arikara) at their village; Fort Berthold
(Gros Ventres village); Fort Union (Assiniboin), mouth of Yellowstone.
Steamboats have gone up the Missouri as high as the mouth of Milk
River, but heretofore goods for Fort Benton (Blackfeet), near the mouth
of Maria River, have been transported by keel boats from Fort Union.

We know of no large navigable lakes in this district, though along the
northern boundary there are many small ones, or rather large ponds of
water, without any river running through them or visible outlet, being
fed by snows, rain, and springs, and diminished by evaporation and
saturation. Lakes of this kind are to be met with in many places on the
plains and differ in size from 100 yards to 2 or 3 miles or even more
in circumference, are not wooded, and contain tolerably good water.
Small springs are also common, most of them having a mineral taste,
though none are large enough to afford water power.

SURFACE OF THE COUNTRY.—The whole country occupied by the Assiniboin
is one great plain, hills and timber only occurring where rivers
run, in the valleys of which good land for cultivation is found, but
the general feature appears to be sterile as regards arable land,
producing, however, grasses of different kinds, some of which are
very nutritious, and particularly adapted to raising horses, cattle,
and sheep. The prairies may be said to be interminable and destitute
of the least particle of timber except along the banks of the few
streams before mentioned, and even these but thinly wooded. Water,
however, can always be found in the small lakes and rivers spoken of.
The Assiniboin do not cultivate the soil in any way, though the Gros
Ventres and Arikara raise corn and pumpkins to some extent on the
Missouri bottoms. By experiments made at or near Fort Union, we find
that oats, potatoes, corn, and all garden vegetables grow well if the
season be favorable. The soil, being light and sandy, requires frequent
rains to produce good crops, which happens about one year in three;
the others fail from drought and destruction by grasshoppers, bugs,
and other insects. The natural productions of the country are few and
such as no one but an Indian could relish. A wild turnip called by them
teep-see-na, and by the French pomme blanche, when boiled is eatable,
is found in quantity everywhere on the plains, will sustain life alone
for a great length of time either cooked or in its raw state, can be
dried and preserved for years, or pulverized and made into passable

Wild rhubarb is found and eaten either raw or cooked. It has rather a
pleasant sweetish taste. Artichokes grow in quantities near marshes.
Chokecherries, bullberries, service berries, buds of the wild rose, red
plums, and sour grapes are the principal fruits and are greatly sought
after by the Indians, preserved, dried, cooked, and eaten in various
ways, and considered by them great luxuries. Wild hops are in abundance
which possess all the properties of the cultivated hop. These are all
of any note the country produces.

FACILITIES FOR GRAZING.—These Indians raise no stock of any kind,
though judging from that raised at Fort Union it is one of the best
grazing countries in the world. The supply of grasses of spontaneous
growth is inexhaustible and very nutritious. The only difficulty is the
severe cold winter and depth of snow, though if animals were provided
for and housed during the severe cold we know that a hardier and better
stock can be raised than in the States. As yet, however, no market
being open for surplus stock and but few raised for the use of the
fort, our attention has not been much directed to that business, but
have no hesitation in advancing the opinion that horses, horned cattle,
and sheep would thrive and increase well with proper care. We are not
able to say whether water could at all times be had by digging on the
high prairie and in the absence of springs or creeks, never having
tried the experiment, though the country abounds in small lakes, cool
springs, and creeks where good localities for grazing purposes could
always be chosen. In the winter animals appear to want very little
water and generally eat snow in its place.

EFFECTS OF FIRING THE PRAIRIES.—We presume there must be some mistake
that any of the tribes residing on the plains set them on fire to
facilitate the purposes of hunting. It has the contrary effect, driving
the game out of their own country into that of their neighbors. Buffalo
may pass through a burnt country covered with snow, but can not remain,
and travel until they meet with suitable grazing. Consequently the
greatest precautions are used by both Indians and whites to prevent
their taking fire in the fall, when the grass is dry (the only time it
will burn), and the most severe penalties short of death are imposed on
any person, either white or red, who even by accident sets the prairie
on fire. A good thrashing with bows and sometimes tomahawking is in
store for the poor traveler who has been so forgetful as not to put
out his camp fires and they extend to the plains. These fires are made
mostly by returning war parties, either with the view of driving the
buffalo out of their enemy’s country or as signals to their own people
of success in their expedition, though sometimes they originate in
accident or petty malice of individuals. With regard to its injuring
the soil it has no such effects; on the contrary, the next crop of
grass is more beautiful than the other, as the undergrowth and briars
are by that means destroyed. The same, unfortunately, is not the case
with the timber. There are no forests on the plains to burn, though
where the fire passes through the bottoms of the Missouri it consumes
and kills great quantities of timber, which dries and decays and is
only replaced in time by younger saplings. Fruit bushes are also
destroyed, though they recover its effects in three or four years.

WASTE LANDS.—In this section there are no deserts or barren land
of any extent; though there are some marshes, pools, and swamps
which, however, are not so close together or extensive as to form any
formidable obstruction to roads. Even if they could not be drained or
otherwise disposed of, they could be left on either side of the way.
Neither do these appear to affect the health of any of the Indians more
than being the cause of producing hosts of mosquitoes, which are very
annoying to man and beast.

EFFECTS OF VOLCANIC ACTION.—We are not aware of any remarkable
appearances of this kind,[4] neither are there to be found extensive
sand plains or other tracts entirely destitute of herbage. The cactus
is found everywhere, but not in such quantity as to destroy herbage or
be a hindrance to animals traveling. A mile or two may occasionally
be found where herbage is comparatively scarce. Still, even in these
places there is sufficient for animals for a short time.

[4] There are portions of pumice stone and other things occasionally
picked up that have undergone volcanic action; also burning hills, but
no eruptions.

SALINE PRODUCTIONS.—We do not feel ourselves competent to state
the properties of the mineral springs so common throughout all this
country. Some of them no doubt contain Glauber salt, as they operate
as a violent cathartic; others have the taste of copper, sulphur,
etc. What the country would produce in the way of gypsum, saltpeter,
etc., we can not say, never having witnessed any geological or mineral
researches and being personally completely uninformed regarding this
branch of science.

COAL AND MINERAL PRODUCTS.—Dr. J. Evans, who lately traveled through
this country, can enlighten you on this subject. As for us, we must
plead unadulterated ignorance.


The climate is pure and dry and perhaps the healthiest in the world. In
the months of May and June, when east winds prevail, much rain falls,
but during the rest of summer and fall the season is generally dry and
moderately warm, except a short time in July and August, when intensely
hot. There are occasionally severe thunderstorms accompanied by rain or
hail; not more, however, than three or four in a summer, and these in a
few hours swell the smallest streams so as to overflow their banks, but
with the ceasing of the rain they fall as suddenly as they rise, and do
no damage, as there are neither crops nor fences to injure. Tornadoes
we have never seen here, although they do happen on the Missouri far
below this place. Severe gales are occasionally met with, lasting but a
few minutes. With regard to temperature and other natural phenomena I
refer you to the accompanying tables.


The most numerous and useful animal in this country is unquestionably
the buffalo, both as regards the sustenance of all the Indians and
gain of the traders. Any important decrease of this animal would
have the effect of leaving the Indians without traders, no returns
of smaller skins being sufficient to pay the enormous expense of
bringing supplies so far and employing such a number of people. Buffalo
are very numerous, and we do not, after 20 years’ experience, find
that they decrease in this quarter, although upward of 150,000 are
killed annually throughout the extent of our trade, without taking
into consideration those swamped, drowned, calves frozen to death,
destroyed by wolves, or in embryo, etc. It yet would appear that their
increase is still greater than their destruction, as during last winter
(1852-53) there were more found in this quarter, and indeed in the
whole extent of our trade, than had been seen for many years before.

The buffalo is the Indian’s whole dependence. It serves him for all his
purposes—meat, clothing and lodging, powder horns, bowstrings, thread
and hair to make saddles. In the winter season the hides are dressed,
made into robes and traded to whites, by which means they are able
to buy all their necessaries and even some luxuries. Robes are worth
about $3 each, and although the number sent to market is great, yet the
high price paid for them to Indians and the danger of transportation
is such that fortunes are more easily and often lost than made at the
business. Beaver were formerly numerous and valuable, therefore much
hunted by whites and Indians, but of late years the price of that fur
being greatly reduced, and the danger of hunting considerable, does
not induce either whites or Indians to hunt them. This animal has
been trapped and killed to such an extent as to threaten their entire
extinction, though for the last 10 or 12 years, since beaver trapping
by large bodies of men has been abandoned, they have greatly increased,
and are now to be found tolerably plentiful in all the small streams
and in the Missouri and Yellowstone. These Indians do not and never did
trap them much; though the Crow and the Cree still make good beaver
hunts, they do not rely much on this either as a source of profit or

Elk, deer, bighorn, and antelope are numerous and afford a means of
living and profit to the Indians although they are not hunted to any
extent except in a great scarcity of buffalo. From this circumstance
they do not diminish and are found now in much the same numbers as 20
years back.

Wolves are very plentiful and of three kinds, the large white wolf,
the large grayback wolf, and the small prairie wolf, all a good deal
hunted and many killed, though they continue to increase. They follow
the buffalo in large bands, waiting an opportunity to pounce upon one
that has been wounded or mired. They also destroy a great many small
calves in the month of May when they are brought forth. The skins of
the larger kind are worth 70 cents to $1 each; the smaller about 50
cents each.

Red and gray foxes, hares, badgers, skunks, wild cats, otters, ermines,
and muskrats are found and killed when opportunity offers. Of all these
the red fox appears to be the only one that has diminished in numbers.
We are not aware that any animals have disappeared altogether, nor of
any perceptible decrease of any except the beaver and red fox. The
Indians kill only as many buffalo as are wanted for meat and hides.
Taking only as many hides as their women can dress, they do not destroy
them wantonly to any extent; consequently the destruction is limited,
and that not being equivalent to the increase, but little diminution,
if any, is perceptible, and the trade as long as this is the case can
not have the effect of exterminating them. It is different as regards
the beaver and fox. Their skins require no labor except drying, and
being slower to increase must of course be the first to disappear
if hunted. Grizzly bears are tolerably numerous on the Missouri and
Yellowstone and are not hunted often, although killed occasionally. The
animal being ferocious is not much sought after by the Indians.

from bones found that such animals existed and were of immense size,
but their traditions never make mention of the living animal. To these
bones, etc., they assign the general name of Wan-wan-kah, which is
a creature of their own imagination, half spirit, half animal. Any
whirlwind or great tempest would be attributed to the movements of the
Wan-wan-kah, also any other natural phenomenon. Many stories are told
of its actions, but all are fabulous, although they profess to believe
in the existence of its powers, some even stating they have seen it
crossing the Missouri in the form of a large fish covering half the
breadth of that river.[5]

[5] See page 617 at the end of their oral tales.

ANIMALS USED AS ARMORIAL MARKS.—These armorial marks or symbols, such
as the eagle, owl, bear, serpent, etc., do not represent any tribal
organization but kinship occasionally. Neither do they refer to any
traditions of any early date, but are insignia adopted by themselves
as their medicine or charm. Most Indians have a charm of this kind,
either in consequence of some dream or of an idea that the figure has
some effect in carrying out his views regarding war, the chase, or the
health of his family. These are assumed for his own purposes, whether
real or imaginary, to operate on his own actions or to influence those
of other Indians. To these tangible objects, after Wakoñda, who is a
spirit, they address their prayers and invocations. Neither do these
symbols affect them regarding the killing of the same animals on all
occasions, though after he has killed it he will smoke and propitiate
[the spirit of] the dead carcass, and even offer the head small
sacrifices of tobacco and provisions.


ERA OF THE IMPORTATION OF THE HORSE.—When the horse was first
introduced among them does not appear by any of the traditions of these
ignorant people. The name of the horse in Assiniboin is shunga (dog)
tunga (large), i. e., large dog. Among the Sioux it is named shunka
(dog) wakan (divining), i. e., divining dog, which would only prove
that the dog was anterior to the horse, inasmuch as they were obliged
to make a name for the strange animal resembling some known object with
which it could be afterwards compared.


CHARTS ON BARK.—Their drawings of maps and sections of country are
in execution miserable to us but explanatory among themselves. Most
Indians can carve on a tree, or paint, who they are, where going,
whence come, how many men, horses, and guns the party is composed of,
whether they have killed enemies, or lost friends, and, if so, how
many, etc., and all Indians passing by, either friends or foes, will
have no difficulty in reading the same, though such representations
would be quite unintelligible to whites unless instructed. (Pl.
64.) Some Indians have good ideas of proportion and can immediately
arrive at the meaning of a picture, pointing out the objects in the
background, though others can not distinguish the figure of a man from
that of a horse, and as to their executions of any drawing they are
rude in the extreme. Where the natural talent exists, however, there is
no doubt they could be instructed.


From the Sioux to the Blackfeet, inclusive, there is not in all that
country any mounds, teocalli, or appearances of former works of defense
bearing the character of forts or any other antique structure. Not a
vestige or relic of anything that would form data, or be an inducement
to believe their grounds have ever been occupied by any other than
roving tribes of wild Indians; nor in the shape of tools, ornaments, or
missiles that would lead to any such inference. We have not been more
fortunate in searching their traditions in the hope of finding some
clue relative to these things. They do not believe that any persons
ever occupied their country except their own people (Indians), and we
can not say we have ever seen or heard anything to justify any other
conclusion regarding the extent of territory mentioned.

The elk-horn mound, mentioned elsewhere, is evidently of remote date
and the work of Indians, but proves nothing sought by these researches.
It might be stated that although no antique vessels of clay are found,
yet the Arikara now, and as long as the whites have known them, have
manufactured tolerably good and well-shaped clay vessels for cooking,
wrought by hand without the aid of any machinery, and baked in the
fire. They are not glazed, are of a gray color, and will answer for
pots, pans, etc., equally as well as those made by the whites, standing
well the action of fire and being as strong as ordinary potter’s ware.
They also have the art of melting beads of different colors and casting
them in molds of clay for ear and other ornaments of various shapes,
some of which are very ingeniously done. We have seen some in shape
and size as drawn in Plate 65, the groundwork blue, the figure white,
the whole about one-eighth inch thick, and presenting a uniform glazed


No antique pipes are found, but many and various are now made by all


The Arikara and Gros Ventres, who raise corn, have other vessels as
alluded to, but not the roving tribes, except the utensils furnished by
whites. None of these things denote anything more than a people in the
rudest state of nature, whose only boiling pot was once a hollow stone,
or the paunch of a buffalo in which meat can be boiled and still is on
occasions, by filling the paunch with water and casting therein red-hot
stones until the water attains a boiling point, after which the stones
are taken out, and one added occasionally to continue the heat, or the
paunch suspended above a blaze at such a distance that the fire, though
heating, does not touch it. Their spoons are yet made of the horns of
the bighorn and buffalo, wrought into a good shape, some of which will
hold half a gallon with ease. These are dippers. Others for eating are
made smaller of horn and wood, yet large enough to suit their capacious
mouths. (Pl. 65.) In all this and in everything they do, but one idea
presents itself—that of crude, untutored children of nature, who have
never been anything else.

The only ancient stone implements we have ever seen are the hatchet,
stone war club, arrow point, buffalo shoulder-blade ax, hump-rib knife,
and elk-horn bow, the shapes of which we have endeavored to draw in
Plate 66, and all of which, except the knife, can yet occasionally be
seen among them.

There is a total absence of anything antique, any shell, metal,
wampum, or other thing formerly possessed by inhabitants supposed to
have occupied this country. Neither are there any hieroglyphics or
traditions to denote anything of the kind.


EARTH AND ITS MOTIONS.—Their knowledge on this subject is very
limited. They believe the earth to be a great plain containing perhaps
double the extent of country with which they are acquainted, and that
it is void of motion. They do not believe the stars are inhabited by
other people, but admit they may be abiding places of ghosts or spirits
of the departed. They are not fond of talking about these things,
neither do their opinions agree, each man’s story differing materially
from the other and all showing extreme ignorance and superstition.

They believe that Wakoñda created all things and this one idea appears
original and universal, further than which, however, they are at a loss.

If they can not be made to comprehend the extent of the earth and its
laws of motion, etc., there is much less likelihood that they can
have any reasonable idea of the field of space or other creations
therein further than superstitious notions according to the fancy of
the individual.


_Drawings by an Assiniboine Indian Fort Union Nov. 10. 1853._]






_a_, Comb root.

_b_, Cat-tail.]

THE SUN.—They take the sun to be a large body of fire, making its
daily journey across the plains for the purpose of giving light and
heat to all, and admit it may be the residence of Wakoñda; consequently
it is worshiped, venerated, smoked, and invocated on all solemn
occasions. We have often endeavored to explain the diurnal revolution
of the earth, representing the sun as stationary, but always failed.
They must first be brought to understand the attractions of cohesion
and gravitation, for, as a sensible Indian stated on one of these
occasions, “If at midnight we are all on the under side, what is to
hinder the Missouri from spilling out, and us from falling off the
earth? Flies, spiders, birds, etc., have small claws by which they
adhere to the ceiling and other places, though man and water have no
such support.”

THE SKY.—Those who take the trouble to explain state the sky to be a
material mass of a blue color, the composition of which they do not
pretend to say, and think it has an oval or convex form, as apparent to
the eye, resting for its basis on the extreme boundaries of the great
plain, the earth. Hence their drawing, which is almost the only form in
which they could represent it. Stars are small suns set therein, though
they think they may be large bodies appearing small by seeing through
space. Space is the intervening distance between earthly and heavenly

The Indians can not rationally account for an eclipse, supposing it
to be a cloud, hand, or some other thing shadowing the moon, caused
by Wakoñda to intimate some great pending calamity. Many are the
prophecies on these occasions of war, pestilence, or famine, and
their predictions are often verified. Predicting an eclipse does not
appear to excite their wonder as much as would be supposed. The writer
predicted the eclipse of the moon on December 25, 1852, months before,
but received no further credit than that of having knowledge enough
from books to find out it was to take place.

Their year is composed of four man-ko´-cha or seasons, viz., wai-too
(spring), min-do-ka´-too (summer), pe-ti-e-too (autumn), wah-nee-e-too
(winter). These are only seasons and do not each contain a certain
number of days, but times—a growing time, a hot time, a leaf-falling
time, and a snow time. These four seasons make a year which again
becomes man-ko´-cha or the same as a season. This is difficult to
explain. They count by the moon itself and its different phases, not
computing so many days to make a moon, nor so many moons to a year.

They give each moon its name, beginning, say, with the March
moon whenever it appears either in February or March, when it
would be wee-che´-ish-ta-aza, sore eye moon; next would follow
Ta-pa´-ghe-na-ho-to, frog moon; next pe-tai-chin-cha´-ton, buffalo
calf moon; next wee-mush-tu, hot moon; next wah-pa´-ze-ze,
yellow-leaf moon; next wah-pa-ich-pa´-ah, leaf-falling moon; next
yo-ka´-wah-how-wee, first snow moon; next we-cho-kun, middle moon;
next om-hos-ka-sun-ka-koo, lengthening days moon’s brother; and next
om-has-ka, lengthening of days moon. Their year has no beginning nor
end. They count and name the moons as they come, and these names are
also varied. Any annual remarkably known fact respecting the season can
be applied to the name of the same moon. Thus the sore-eyed moon can
be called the snow-melting moon, and the falling-leaf moon be termed
the moon when the buffaloes become fat. These moons suffer no divisions
of time except their phases, viz., new moon, increasing moon (first
quarter), round moon (full moon), eaten moon (second quarter), half
moon, dead moon (invisible). Among themselves they have no division of
time equal to a week, although they are aware that we count by weeks,
or divining days (Sundays), and will often ask how many divining days
(or Sundays) there are to a given period.

An Indian in counting any period less than a year will say 3 moons and
a full (3½ moons), 4 moons and an eaten one (4¾ moons), 6 moons
and an increasing one (6½ moons), etc. These serve all his purposes
and when wishing to be more minute and exact he must notch each day on
a stick. For a year or four seasons they say a winter. A man may say
“I am 40 winters old and one summer.” Yet sometimes the same man will
say, “I am 40 seasons old.” This is still right. He will also say that
he is 80 seasons old, or 160 seasons old. All of these are correct and
understood immediately, as in the one case you mentally take the half,
and in the other the quarter. This is often done among themselves,
but with whites they generally name the winter only to designate the
year, yet man-ko´-cha (season) is the right name for a year and would
be received as such by all the Assiniboin. The day is divided into the
following parts: hi-ak-kane (daylight), umpa (morning), wee-he-num-pa
(sunrise), wee-wa-kan-too (forenoon), wi-cho-kun (midday),
we-coo-cha-nu (afternoon), we-coh-pa-ya (sunset), hhtie-too (twilight),
eoch-puz-za (dark), and haw-ha-pip-cho-kun (midnight). Any intermediate
space of time would be indicated by pointing the finger to the place
the sun is supposed to have been at that time. They know nothing of the
division of hours and minutes, yet some of the squaws living a long
time in the fort can tell the hour and minute by the clock.

They know that the minute hand makes the revolution of the dial plate
before it strikes and know the figures from 1 to 12; also that each
figure is five minutes apart, and will say it wants so many fives to
strike 9, or it has struck 10 and is 5 fives past. This they pick up
nearly of their own accord, which proves that some are susceptible of
intelligence and education. They know nothing of the solstices nor have
any period such as a cycle or century, neither do they believe the
world will come to an end or that their priests or any others have the
power to destroy or rebuild it.

They know and name the North Star the same as we
do—wa-se-a-ure-chah-pe (north star)—and also know the Ursa Major,
sometimes calling it the “seven stars” and “the wagon.” They are aware
that it makes its revolution around the polar star, pointing toward
it, and this is the secret of their traveling by night when there is
no moon. They call no other stars by name. The Milky Way is said to be
moch-pe-achan-ka-hoo (the backbone of the sky). It is known by them to
be composed of clusters of small stars, but they suppose it to bear
the same relative position to the arch of the heavens, and to be as
necessary to its support as the backbone of any animal to its body.
Meteors are falling stars which become extinguished as they fall. They
attract but little attention as their effects are never perceived.
Aurora borealis is believed to be clouds of fire or something the same
as electricity. Being very common and brilliant it creates neither
wonder nor inquiry.

The moon is not believed to influence men or vegetables nor to have
any other properties than to give light by night.[6] They suppose it
to be made of some body wasting away during a given period. Some say
it is eaten up by a number of small animals (moles) and Wakoñda makes
a new one on the destruction of the old. They know very well that all
this is error and that the whites have a better philosophy, but will
not take the trouble or can not comprehend our views of the motions
of heavenly bodies. Having nothing else better explained to them,
they adhere to their own ideas, which are of the simplest and most
primitive kind, and do not appear to wish them superseded by others
which they can not understand. The same remark would apply to all their
astronomical and geographical opinions. They have a correct knowledge
of the cardinal points, and honor the east as the first from the fact
that the sun rises there. The pipe is first presented to the east, then
to the south, supposed to be the power of the spirits of their departed
friends, then west, then north, and lastly to the earth as the great
grandfather of all. The amount of facts or real information they can
give are mentioned and as for further explanations, as observed before,
they do not delight to talk about these matters but appear to think
them sacred or forbidden fields through which their thoughts ought not
to roam. The subject affords no scope for research unless a writer is
disposed to collect a number of fables, which would serve no purpose
unless it be to develop their ignorance and superstition.

[6] It is considered a fetish as a light at night and sacrificed to on
this account.


INDIAN PARADISE.—The Paradise of these Indians is in the south in
warm regions (not necessarily in the heavens, yet in some imaginary
country not belonging to earth), where perpetual summer, abundance of
game, handsome women, and, in short, every comfort awaits them; also
the satisfaction of seeing their friends and relatives. No quarrels,
wars, disturbances, or bodily pain are allowed to exist, but all live
in perfect harmony. Departed spirits have the power to revisit their
native lands, manifest themselves to their friends in dreams, and if
they have been neglectful in crying for or feasting them can trouble
them with whistling sounds and startling apparitions, many of which
are said to be seen and heard and are most religiously believed in by
all. Consequently, the dead are feasted (a long ceremony), smoked,
sacrificed to, and invoked, besides being cried for years after they
are gone, perhaps as long as any of the relatives are living. The
heavenly bodies they think may also be residences for spirits, but
we think this idea is derived from the whites. The other is the most
ancient and original tradition, if not the only one, and is universally
believed. This subject will meet with further notice in the course of
these pages.


NUMERATION.—All these prairie tribes count by decimals and in no other
way. The names of the digits are:


After ten the word akkai, dropping the name of the ten, serves until
twenty, thus:

    Eleven—akka´i washe.
    Twelve—akkai noompah.
    Thirteen—akkai yammene.
    Fourteen—akkai topah.
    Fifteen—akkai zaptah.
    Sixteen—akkai sha´kpah.
    Seventeen—akkai shakko´.
    Eighteen—akkai sha´kando´gha.
    Nineteen—akkai noompchewoukkah.
    Twenty—wixche´mmene noompa; i. e. for twenty, literally two tens.

From twenty to thirty the word “sum” or “more” (plus) is added,

    21—wixchemmena noompa sum washena (two tens plus one).
    22—wixchemmena noompa sum noompa (two tens plus two).
    23—wixchemmena noompa sum yammene (two tens plus three), and so on
      up to thirty, which is three tens or wixchemmene yam´mene.
    31—wixchemmene yammene sum washena (three tens plus one).
    32—wixchemmene yammene sum noompa (three tens plus two); the same as
      after twenty, and the same after each succeeding ten as far as one
      hundred, thus—
    40—wixchemmene to´pah (four tens).
    41—wixchemmene topah sum washena (four tens plus one).
    50—wixchemmene zaptah (five tens).
    51—wixchemmene zaptah sum washena.
    52—wixchemmene zaptah sum noo´mpa.
    60—wixchemmene shakpa (six tens).
    61—wixchemmene shakpa sum washena.
    62—wixchemmene shakpa sum noompa.
    70—wixchemmene shakko (seven tens).
    71—wixchemmene shakko sum washena (seven tens plus one).
    72—wixchemmene shakko sum noompa.
    73—wixchemmene shakko sum yammene.
    74—wixchemmene shakko sum topah, etc.
    80—wixchemmene shakandogha (eight tens).
    90—wixchemmene noomchewouka (nine tens).
    101—o-pah-wa-ghe sum washea.
    110—opahwaghe sum wixche´mmene.
    160—opahwaghe sum wixche´mmene shakpa.
    161—opahwaghe sum wixche´mmene shakpa sum washena.
    170—opahwaghe sum wixche´mmene shakko.
    180—opahwaghe sum wixche´mmene shakandogha.
    190—opahwaghe sum wixche´mmene noomchewouka.
    200—opahwaghe noompa.
    300—opahwaghe yammene.
    400—opahwaghe topah.
    500—opahwaghe zaptah.
    600—opahwaghe shakpah.
    700—opahwaghe shakko.
    800—opahwaghe shakandogha.
    900—opahwaghe noomchewouka.
    1,853—koketopahwaghe sum opahwaghe shakandoga sum wixche´mmene
      zaptah sum yammene.
    2,000—koketopahwaghe noompah.
    3,000—koketopahwaghe yammene.
    4,000—koketopahwaghe topah.
    10,000—koketopahwaghe wixchemmene.
    20,000—koketopahwaghe wixchemmene noompa.
    50,000—koketopahwaghe wixchemmene zaptah.
    100,000—opahwaghe koketopahwaghe.
    500,000—opahwaghe zaptah koketopahwaghe.
    600,000—opahwaghe shakpah koketopahwaghe.
    10,000,000—opahwaghe wixehemmene koketopahwaghe.

Although the computation could thus be carried on to a million yet the
Indian would not appreciate the number. We think that after 5,000, or
at the utmost 10,000, their ideas fail them; that is, they can not
realize in thought more than that amount, yet are able mechanically
to count it. This is evident, as they have no distinct name for a
million, but are obliged to call it ten hundred thousand, and were
they requested to go further would proceed eleven, twelve, thirteen
hundred thousand, etc., but not comprehending the great number as a
body. They can not multiply or subtract uneven sums without the aid of
small sticks or some other mark. Thus to add 40 to 60 would be done
by the fingers, shutting down one for each succeeding ten, naming 70,
80, 90, 100. But to add 37 to 94 would require some time; most Indians
would count 37 small sticks and beginning with 94, lay one down for
each succeeding number, naming the same until all were counted. Now
tell them to add 76 to 47 and subtract 28. In addition to the first
process, and counting the whole number of sticks, he would withdraw 28
and recount the remainder. They are easily confused when counting and
consider the knowledge of figures one of the most astonishing things
the whites do.

In counting with the hand, an Indian invariably begins with the little
finger of the left, shutting it down forcibly with the thumb of the
right; when the five fingers are thus shut he commences on the thumb of
the right, shutting it with the left fist. When wishing to telegraph
by signs a certain number less than 10 he holds up that number of
fingers, beginning with the little finger of the left hand and keeping
the others shut. Should the number be 7, then all the fingers of the
left and thumb and finger of the right would be extended, holding up
his hands, the rest of the fingers closed. Tens are counted by shutting
and opening both hands; thus, 100 would be indicated by shutting and
opening both hands 10 times in succession. The number 7 has two names,
shakkowee and enshand (the odd number). They count fast enough in
continuation from 1 to 100 but must not be interrupted.

COIN.—There is not now nor have we any reason to suppose there ever
has been among them any coin, shells, wampum, or any other thing
constituting a standard of exchange, neither are they acquainted with
American money. Were a guinea and a button presented there is no
question but the Indian would take the latter. They barter their furs
for goods which have fixed prices, and are well acquainted with these
prices, as also of the value of their robes and furs as a means of
purchasing merchandise.

KEEPING ACCOUNTS.—The Indians themselves keep no accounts. The manner
in which accounts are kept by whites with them is as follows. We are
not exactly acquainted with the minor operations in accounts kept by
the Hudson’s Bay Co. with the Cree and the Chippewa, but from authentic
information the following appears to be their system. A plue is equal
to 1 pound beaver skin or 3 shillings sterling (say 67 cents); that
is, 1 pound of the fur is worth at their forts 67 cents in merchandise
at their fixed prices. Therefore a large beaver skin (2 pounds) is 2
plues; 6 muskrats, which are worth from 10 to 12½ cents each, is
a plue; 1 wolf skin is counted a plue, being equal in value to the
standard 67 cents; an otter skin is 2 plues, a red-fox 1, and so forth.

All skins and other articles of trade acquired by Indians are reckoned
into plues by the trader and the Indians and the prices of merchandise
are computed in the same manner. On the Missouri the plan is somewhat
different, to explain which we annex the following accounts copied from
our books. It will be necessary to observe that everything is brought
to the standard of buffalo robes which have an imaginary value of $3
each in the country.


   1851  |                         |  Dr.     || 1852  |                        |  Cr.
         |                         |          ||       |                        |
  Dec.  3|To 1-3 pt. white blanket | 3 robes  ||Jan.  8|By 6 robes              | 6 robes
         |To 2 yards blue cloth    | 2 robes  ||       |By 2 dressed cow skins  | 1 robe
         |To ¾ yard scarlet cloth  | 1 robe   ||       |By 30 pounds dried meat | 1 robe
         |To 2½ pounds tobacco     | 1 robe   ||       |By 2 red fox skins      | 1 robe
         |                         |          ||       |By 2 raw cowhides       | 1 robe
   1852  |                         |          ||       |By 1 large elk skin, raw| 1 robe
         |                         |          ||Feb. 10|By 4 robes              | 4 robes
  Jan. 16|To 1 horse               |10 robes  ||       |By 12 wolf skins        | 4 robes
         |To 3 knives              | 1 robe   ||       |Balance forward         | 2 robes
         |To 1 kettle, 2 gallon    | 2 robes  ||       |                        |
         |To 100 loads ammunition  | 1 robe   ||       |                        |
         |                         |----------||       |                        |---------
         |                         |21 robes  ||       |                        |21 robes
   1853  |                         |==========||       |                        |
         |                         |          ||       |                        |
  Feb. 10|To balance on settlement | 2 robes  ||       |                        |

Pictorial or other signs are not used in accounts, either by them or
the white people.

ELEMENTS OF FIGURES.—A single stroke answers for 1 and each additional
stroke marks the additional number as far as 100. When a stroke is made
apart, the score is rubbed out and begun again. There are no written
nor marked records kept, either on graves or otherwise, of ages or
of events, scalps taken, or war expeditions.[7] Their transactions,
or coups, as they are called in this country, are pictured on their
robes, lodges, and shields, but these wearing out are seldom renewed,
particularly when the man becomes old. Also these coups are recounted
publicly by the performer on occasions appointed for the purpose, which
we shall notice hereafter, and moreover, are talked of often enough
around their firesides. Ages are numbered by particular events that
took place at the time they could first recollect, and afterwards by
certain remarkable years from time to time. Though no Indian can be
sure as to his exact age, yet he will not vary more than a year or two
as to the time. The cross (X) is not used in counting or for any other
purpose, neither does the dot or full comma signify a moon or anything

[7] It is not intended by this that they make no use of picture
writing, but that these records are not preserved. For further
explanation see picture writing, p. 603. The devices on their robes are
not renewed after they have arrived at a very advanced age, or in other
words after their influence and standing has been destroyed by age and


GENERAL PRACTICE.—They are careful of their sick relatives and
particularly so in regard to their children or men in the prime of
life. Very aged persons do not, however, meet with such kindness even
from their own children, having become useless as a help in camp.
Besides being a burden in traveling and a bore and expense, they
are anxious to get rid of them and leave them on the plains to die.
It must, by no means, be inferred from this that the Indian has no
paternal feelings or affection; from several instances of the kind that
have come under my observation I am assured it is their inability to
carry about and along with them aged people. These Indians are poor,
have but few horses and are constantly on the move, in all weather,
sometimes requiring flight; therefore everything that might encumber in
the way of baggage is thrown aside, and among other rubbish is classed
the aged of both sexes. I am also told that it is often the desire of
the aged to be left to die. To keep up appearances with his people,
the Indian will generally pay a small doctor’s bill for the relief of
his aged relatives, but nothing like the amount the same man would pay
for his wife or child. To explain their mode of practicing medicine,
surgery, etc., we must be somewhat prolix.

In every camp there are several doctors, both men and women, called by
them divining men, who have the double reputation of physicians and
sorcerers. This is generally some old wretch who is very ugly, of great
experience, and who has art enough to induce others to believe in his
knowledge, and can drum, sing, and act his part well.

The present great doctor and soothsayer is named “Bull’s Dry Bones,”
a very old man who is now with me. This man was once sick and died
while the camp was traveling. His friends packed and tied him up
in several envelopes of raw hides, blankets, etc., and, after duly
crying over him, placed the body in the fork of a tree as is their
custom. By some means, however, the man came to life and after great
difficulty worked himself out of his bonds, traveled and overtook the
camp some days after they had left him. He stated to them that during
his decease he had been in other worlds, seen much, knew everything,
past, present, and future, and from this circumstance he has ever after
been considered a great divining man and prophet. We will now state
how they proceed in case of sickness. A child falls sick. The father
or some other near relative immediately sends a gun or a horse to the
divining man to secure his services. Sometimes smaller articles are
sent, and the doctor, thinking them beneath his notice, will not pay
a visit until enough is offered, which amount varies in proportion as
the patient’s relatives are rich or poor. He then enters the lodge of
the sick person in his medical capacity. His instruments are a drum, a
chi-chi-quoin, or gourd rattle, and, perhaps, a horn cupping apparatus.
He must have (although not perceptible) some things concealed in
his mouth or about his person, as will presently appear, although
they go usually through their operations entirely naked (except the
breechcloth) and not in a hideous costume as has been represented. The
doctor is accompanied by five or six others as old and ugly as himself,
bearing drums, bells, rattles, and other noisy instruments.

All sing to the extent of their voices and make a terrible noise with
the instruments spoken of. The doctor slowly approaches the patient,
applying his mouth to his naked breast or belly, draws or appears to
draw therefrom by suction a worm, sometimes a bug, a wolf hair, or
even a small snake, making at the same time horrible gestures, grunts,
and grimaces. This object he displays to the lookers-on, stating he
has extracted the cause of the disease. This operation is repeated
several times with like results, and after he and the accompanying
band of music partake largely of a dog or other feast provided for
them they leave for the time. The whole performance, with the music,
incantations, preparations, and feast included, would occupy perhaps
from two to three hours and often the whole night, if the performers
are paid high. Frequently their diseases are colic from eating unripe
fruits and berries or overloading the stomach, which, of course, get
well in a short time and the credit is given to the doctor, each
recovery aiding to raise his reputation and enlarge his practice. But
if the case is serious and the patient gets worse, the doctor is then
paid again and another visit takes place. The forms are always somewhat
similar, but on this occasion, in addition to the full band of music
and cupping with the horn, besides the usual grimaces, noises, etc.,
the patient is made to drink decoctions of roots or powders made by
the doctors of pulverized roots, rattles of the rattlesnake, calcined
bones, etc., the properties of which he is entirely ignorant, and
probably the smallness of the dose preventing them from doing any harm.
This, with the noise of the instruments and feast, concludes the second

Sometimes the doctor performs alone and keeps up the drumming, etc.,
all night. In this way by a repetition of visits, if the case is of
long duration, the whole of the property of the relatives of the sick
person falls to the doctor and his assistants, who are also slightly
paid for the music. And this is the cause of great individual distress
and poverty, though the property given does not go out of the nation,
but only changes hands and is liable in like manner to revert to others
should the divining man fall sick. In case, after all, the patient
dies, it is then the doctor who is in danger, and runs great risk of
losing his life, by the parents or relatives of the deceased. Indeed,
being aware of this they generally abscond to other camps when death
approaches, and whatever property they leave behind is taken from them.
No later than last winter the writer paid an Indian to prevent his
killing the “Bull’s Dry Bones” (doctor) who the man said had poisoned
his two children six years ago. But the old doctor, although a humbug,
is an innocent man and would harm no one.

They have various forms of doctoring, in all of which the drum forms
a principal figure, and songs and incantations, all of which are
most religiously believed in by the Indians. Old women are as often
practitioners as old men and of as great celebrity. There is also
another reason why these Indians give away so much of their property to
the divining man. Independent of these payments securing the doctor’s
services, they are considered as sacrifices; that is, the man makes
himself poor with a view of propitiating the Great Spirit.

Also it is considered and spoken of as a great honor to give away large
articles to the divining man, such as horses, guns, etc., and goes to
prove the affection with which they regard their sick relatives. For a
long time afterwards the giver will boast of his liberality in these
respects and is also looked upon as a man with a “large heart.” We
must, at the risk of not being believed, state that on two particular
occasions, and before witnesses, we have examined the divining man’s
mouth, hands, and all his person, which was entirely naked, with the
view of discovering where these worms, snakes, etc., were hidden, and
that these examinations were made without any previous intimations
to him who, never having been subject to examinations of the kind by
Indians, was completely unprepared for the trial, yet he acquiesced
cheerfully, afterwards continued his performance, and repeated it in
our presence, drawing and spitting out large worms, clots of blood,
tufts of hair, skin, etc., too large to be easily secreted, and leaving
no visible mark on the patient’s body. The trick was well done and not
yet known to any of us.

Their knowledge of anatomy consists in being acquainted with the
larger bones and joints. They can set a broken arm or simple fracture
tolerably well, and even replace a dislocated shoulder, which they do
by pulling and outward pressure from the armpit, but this knowledge is
not confined to the divining man nor is it his business more than any
other who happens to be present. Most men of middle age have witnessed
so many accidents of the kind that they can do this.

They are, however, unacquainted with the circulation of the blood
and with any judicious treatment of internal diseases, for all of
which they resort to incantations and drumming. They do, however,
indiscriminately use the vapor bath or sweat house for various
complaints. This construction is a small lodge thrown over a basketwork
of willows stuck in the ground and bent in an oval or round form, the
skins well pinned down and every aperture well closed. The doctor after
heating some large stones red hot and putting them into the lodge
enters with the patient, both entirely naked and taking along a kettle
of water and, as usual, his drum. The lodge is then shut tight by the
people on the outside. A brisk singing and drumming is kept up in the
lodge by the doctor, who at intervals throws water on the stones and
steam is raised. A violent heat and perspiration takes place, which
they endure as long as they can; as soon as the patient is taken out he
is immersed in cold water, which in nine cases out of ten results in
his death. In this way the Crow Indians lost nearly 200 persons three
years since during a prevailing influenza. The Mandan and Gros Ventres,
however, being accustomed to cold bathing from their youth, are said
seldom to suffer any inconvenience but often receive benefit from the
vapor bath and immediate cold immersion. They have no names for fevers,
consumptions, obstructions of the liver, etc., and can not explain
further than by pointing out that part of their body which is in a
state of pain.

Indeed, in this climate, except consumption, rheumatism and quinsy,
diseases are extremely rare; and no febrile symptoms seen except in
cases of wounds and parturition when puerperal fever often occurs, and
assuming a typhoid form is generally fatal. They are also exempt from
paralysis, toothache and almost all the thousand nervous complaints to
which the whites are subject, among which might be mentioned baldness
or failure of eyesight from age. Their materia medica is consequently
in a very primitive state. They have no medicine except some roots,
some of which are known to be good for the bite of the rattlesnake,
frozen parts, and inflammatory wounds. The principal of these is the
black root, called by them the comb root (pl. 67, _a_), from the pod on
the top being composed of a stiff surface that can be used as a comb.
It is called by the French racine noir, and grows everywhere in the
prairie throughout the Indian country. It is chewed and applied in a
raw state with a bandage to the part affected. We can bear witness to
the efficacy of this root in the cure of the bite of the rattlesnake
or in alleviating the pain and reducing the tension and inflammation
of frozen parts, gunshot wounds, etc. It has a slightly pungent taste
resembling black pepper, and produces a great deal of saliva while
chewing it. Its virtues are known to all the tribes with which we are
acquainted, and it is often used with success. A decoction of the root
of cat-tail (pl. 67, _b_) is also used to reduce inflammation, and
given internally to produce perspiration, but mostly as an external
application for wounds, sprains, and pains of all kinds, as also the
inner bark of the red willow; both of which are said to be beneficial,
and are much used by the Indians and French voyageurs in all the Indian

[Illustration: FIGURE 30.—Lancet]

At the risk of a smile and perhaps something more from the enlightened
civilized medical fraternity we will now state how they absolutely can
and do cure hydrophobia, in hopes of furnishing them with a hint that
may be improved upon. We have never actually seen this operation, but
are as certain of its being done as we can be of anything not seen but
in all other respects well authenticated. Although Indians are often
bitten by mad wolves, yet they never die from the disease if operated
upon. After it is known that the patient has hydrophobia, the symptoms
of which they are well acquainted with, and has had a fit or two, he
is sewed up in a fresh rawhide of a buffalo. With two cords attached
to the head and foot of the bale the man is swung backward and forward
through a hot fire until the skin is burnt to cinders and the patient
is burned and suffocated [sic]. He is brought to the brink of the
grave by the operation; taken out in a state of profuse perspiration
and plunged into cold water; and if he survives the treatment the
disease disappears. The remedy is terrible. Now, if the poison of the
rattlesnake is expelled by perspiration by administering ammonia and
other remedies, might not the poison communicated by the rabid animal
undergo a like process by the violent treatment mentioned, or intense
heat produce the desired constitutional revolution and effect a cure.

DEPLETION BY BLEEDING.—They bleed often, both when the pulse is full
from sickness and at any time they think it beneficial.

The instrument is a sharpened arrow point or any other small piece of
pointed iron. (Fig. 30.) They wrap the whole of this with sinew except
as much as they wish to enter the vein. It is then tied into a split
stick and secured firmly with sinew and being laid on the vein is
knocked in suddenly with the thumb and middle finger. They also open
the veins of their legs and arms while crying over dead relatives,
making large transverse cuts with knives, arrow points, or flints. When
they bleed they generally let the blood flow as long as it will without
bandage. Cupping is done with a part of the upper end of a buffalo
horn, about 2½ inches long, and a vacuum is produced by suction with
the mouth which, with their powerful muscles and exertions, is, of
course, double force. It is said to be useful in drawing out the poison
of snake bites and is also used for pains and cramps in the stomach,
besides for extracting worms, bugs, snakes, etc., as mentioned in the
general practice. We believe it may have something of the effect of
dry cupping with glasses; they do not, however, scarify before cupping
except in cases of snake bites.

STOPPAGE OF BLOOD AND HEALING ART.—For stopping of blood they use
cobwebs, dried pulpy fungus, or very fine inner bark of trees. When
these are not to be had finely pulverized rotten wood is used. These
answer tolerably well when the divided artery is small. They have no
good plasters or healing salves.

Bandages are mostly tied on too tight, with the view of stopping the
bleeding and are left too long before being removed, which frequently
results in gangrene. They are not skillful nor clean in these things,
seldom washing a wound. From actual observation, which has been pretty
extensive with regard to cuts and wounds of all kinds, we are disposed
to believe that their cure does not depend upon any skill in treatment
nor care taken of them, but upon their vigorous constitutions,
extremely healthy climate, and strictly temperate mode of life, with
perhaps a disposition to heal naturally in the absence of scientific
knowledge vouchsafed to the ignorant Indian by an all-wise Creator.

AMPUTATION.—They never amputate a limb, though fingers and toes often
undergo that operation.[8] The Assiniboin run a sharp knife around
the joint of the finger and snap it off. The Crows do the same, but
on other occasions take them off by placing a sharp tomahawk on the
finger, it being laid on a block and the tomahawk being struck with
a mallet. Whenever a Crow Indian dies his near relatives, male and
female, sacrifice each a finger and sometimes two, and the loss of
these people by sickness and enemies the last few years having been
great, there is scarcely such a thing as a whole hand to be found in
the Crow Nation. The men reserve the thumb and middle finger on the
left and the thumb and two forefingers of the right hand to use the bow
and gun, but all the rest are sacrificed.

[8] In the few cases where the Indians have an arm or leg missing, they
have been shot off, or so nearly off as not to come under the head of
amputation, as but little skin or nerve were to be cut.

They mostly take them off at the first and second joints, though
occasionally lower down. These small amputations are seldom attended
with any serious effect, but from their awkward operations the bone
frequently projects and requires a long time to heal. They use splints
and bark in fractures and lacerated bones, but are not skillful in
applying them, nor attentive in removing them, and in a short time
the wound smells bad. Their wounded are carried from the field in a
blanket, robe, or skin, by four men each holding a corner, who are
relieved by others when fatigued, in which way they transport them
for days and sometimes weeks together. When very badly wounded in an
enemy’s country and supposed to be mortally wounded they are left in
some point of timber to die. A small stock of provisions and ammunition
is left with them. They sometimes recover almost by miracle. Instances
of this kind are not uncommon and serve to show the suffering an Indian
will undergo and the different means he will use to preserve life.

THEORY OF DISEASES AND THEIR REMEDY.—They understand nothing of the
properties of mineral medicines except a few simple ones given them by
whites of later years, neither are they acquainted with the theory of
diseases, being for the most part unable to describe their complaint
so that any person could prescribe. They are as ignorant of any true
knowledge of diseases or medicines as they are of astronomy or any
other science.

It is hardly conceivable how the smallpox among Indians could be
cured by any physician. All remedies fail. The disease kills a
greater part of them before any eruption appears. We have personally
tried experiments on nearly 200 cases according to Thomas’s Domestic
Medicine, varying the treatment in every possible form, but have always
failed, or in the few instances of success the disease had assumed
such a mild form that medicines were unnecessary. It generally takes
the confluent turn of the most malignant kind (when the patient does
not die before the eruption), which in 95 cases out of 100 is fatal.
It appears to be the natural curse of the red men, and here we leave
it, perfectly willing others should do more. We have from year to year
tried to introduce general vaccination with kinepock among them, and
have even paid them to vaccinate their own children, but they will not
have it done to any extent, and the few who will do it more to please
us than to benefit themselves. Moreover, should any accident happen
to the child or even should the Indian miss his hunt, or any casualty
befall him or his family, the vaccination would be blamed for it and
the good-hearted operator would find himself in a position of danger
and expense. There is also great risk in giving them medicines, for
should the patient die the whites would be blamed for poisoning him,
and should he live the Indian drummer or doctor will get both the
credit and the pay. Therefore, as their customs at present stand but
little can be done for them, however willing people are to attempt it.

PARTURITION.—Men never interpose their services in cases of

When there is danger a midwife is called, and the deobstruents
administered are castoreum and pulverized rattles of the rattlesnake,
either of which have the effect of the ergot. Shampooing is also
resorted to with the view of detaching the fetus or expelling the
envelope. Nevertheless strangulation and consequently death of both
mother and child often happens, not so much in the natural course
as when destroyed expressly in utero, as is done by the Crow women
and sometimes by the Assiniboin, though not to such an extent by the
latter. This is accomplished by violent pressure on the abdomen, by
leaning on a stick planted in the ground, and, swinging the whole
weight of their body, they run backward and forward, or by violent
blows administered by some other person called for the purpose, in all
which operations, if the time be not well calculated for expelling the
fetus, death is the consequence.

Their vapor baths have been alluded to and might prove efficacious in
some cases of chronic rheumatism, catarrh, etc., if proper care was
taken, but are very pernicious owing to their negligence afterwards, or
cold immersion during perspiration. In conclusion we would remark that
with regard to any judicious treatment of any disease whatever (that
is, any such treatment as would meet medical approbation) they are
entirely in the dark. The most of their dependence is on the drumming,
singing, and incantations which perhaps sometimes have some little
effect on the mind of youthful patients, though in these cases the
probability is they are more frightened than sick.

In a large camp the drum can be heard at all hours of the day and
night, as there is always some one who is sick, or thinks he is. What
appears singular is that the doctor, knowing his art to be deception,
should he fall sick calls for another divining man and pays for the
drumming the same as his patients have paid him. This would seem to
prove they actually have faith in their own incantations, etc. They
can not distinguish between an artery and a vein. They call both by
the same name, though they say the arteries are large veins. Arteries
are compressed, not taken up when cut, and if a large one is cut, the
consequence is either mortification from the ligature or, if loosely
tied, death by bleeding, which invariably happens when the large artery
of the thigh is separated.

Indians will receive extensive wounds, apparently mortal, and yet
recover. Some years ago an Assiniboin was surrounded by three Blackfeet
a few miles from this place. He had fired at a prairie hen, and the
moment his gun was discharged the three enemies fired on him. The three
balls took effect. One broke his thigh, another the shin bone of the
other leg, and the third entered his abdomen and came out near the
kidney and backbone. They then ran in upon and endeavored to scalp him,
running a knife around the cranium and partially withdrawing the scalp.
Finding that he struggled they stabbed him with a long lance downward
under the collar bone, the lance running along the inside and against
the right ribs about 12 inches. They also gave him several more stabs
in the body with their knives.

In the struggle the man got out the lance and plunging it at them
alternately they retired a few paces. The camp in the meantime having
heard the firing and suspecting the cause, turned out. The enemies
seeing this, decamped, and the Assiniboin carried the wounded man to
his lodge. In a few days afterwards the camp passed by the fort and
the writer saw this man in so helpless a state that, expecting him
to die, nothing was done. The weather was very hot, the wounds had a
purple color, smelt bad, and had every appearance of gangrene. The camp
moved off and the man in time recovered. The scalp was replaced and
grew on again. Here was no judicious treatment, not even ordinary care,
for in traveling that is impossible, and very unfavorable weather.
This man is yet living and is said by the Indians to bear a charmed
life, is respected as a warrior and brave, called “He who was many
times wounded,” and can be seen any time in the Band des Canots of the


Assiniboin is separated into the following distinct bands, viz.,
Wah-to´-pah-han-da´-tok, or “Those who propel boats,” by the whites
Gens du Gauche, from the circumstance of the old Gauche (chief) spoken
of before who for a half century governed this band. It now numbers
100 lodges. The second band, Wah-ze-ab-we-chas-ta, or Gens du Nord,
thus named because they came from that direction in 1839 as already
represented, though their original appellation was Gens du Lac. These
count 60 lodges. Third band, Wah-to-pan-ah, or Canoe Indians, Gens des
Canots, who may be recorded at 220 lodges that trade on the Missouri,
and 30 lodges more who deal with American and British traders near the
mouth of Pembina and Red Rivers, occasionally visiting the Missouri.
Fourth band, We-che-ap-pe-nah, or Gens des Filles, literally the
“Girls Band”; these can be put down at 60 lodges. Fifth, E-an-to-ah
or Gens des Roches, literally “Stone Indians,” comprising 50 lodges.
The original name for the whole nation given them by the Chippewa
(As-see-ni-pai-tuck) has the same[9] signification. Within the last
10 years another division has again arisen, called Hoo-tai-sha-pah or
“Lower End Red,” alias “Red Root.” These are a branch, from the Gens
des Canots and odds and ends of other bands and consist of 30 lodges.

[9] For correct meaning see footnote 1.

       Indian name     |  French name  |Lodges| Chiefs of bands   | Head chief
  Wah-to-pah-han-da-toh|Gens du Gauche | 100  |La Main que tremble|}
  Wah-ze-ab-we-chas-tah|Gens du Nord   |  60  |Le Robe de vent    |}
  Wah-to-pan-ah        |Gens des Canot | 220  |Le Serpent         |} L’ours Fou or
  We-che-ap-pe-nah     |Gens des Filles|  60  |Les Yeux Gris      |}  Crazy Bear.
  E-an-to-ah           |Gens des Roches|  50  |Premier qui volle  |}
  Hoo-tai-sha-pah      |Le Bas Rouge   |  30  |Le Garçon bleu     |}
                       |               |------|                   |
                       |               | 520  |                   |
  Average, four and one half persons per lodge. Total, 2,340 souls.

These 520 lodges form the nation, with the exception of those residing
in the north, whom they never visit. The bands named are distinct and
usually encamped in different sections of country, though they mingle
for a short time when circumstances require it, such as scarcity of
buffalo in some part of their lands or on an approach of a numerous
enemy. When these causes for combination cease they separate and occupy
their customary grounds severally, within three or four days’ travel of
each other. The chief of the whole nation is Crazy Bear, made so by the
commissioner of the United States at the Laramie treaty in 1851, not
having as yet, however, that popular rule which will follow in due time
if the treaty stipulations on both sides are complied with.

CHIEFS.—In each and all the bands mentioned there are several men
bearing the character, rank, and name of chiefs. But he only is
considered as chief of the band who heads and leads it. Yet this power
does not give him a right to tyrannize over any of the other chiefs,
or dictate to them any course they would not willingly follow; neither
does it detract from their dignity and standing to acknowledge him
as the head. Some one must be the nominal leader, and as this place
involves some trouble and action and is not repaid with any extra
honors or gifts it is not in general much envied. Moreover, this leader
is mostly, if not always, supported by numerous connections who second
his views and hence his authority. In fact, these bands are nothing
more than large families, the chiefs resembling the old patriarchs,
being intermarried and connected in such a way as to preclude the
probability of clashing of interests or separation. These are the
elements of the bands. The chief is little more than the nominal father
of all and addresses them as his children in a body.

Now, although some of these children may be as brave as he, and have
accomplished greater feats in war and the chase, yet they do not feel
disposed to dispute his acknowledged authority, neither would such
insubordinate conduct be submitted to by the mass of the people,
without some great mismanagement on the part of the chief, rendering
such a course necessary and inevitable.

The process of arriving at the chieftaincy—an instance of which was
exemplified in the formation of the Red Root Band and of which we
were an eyewitness—has always been the same and is as follows: Some
ambitious brave young man with extensive relations separate from
another band with 8 or 10 lodges of his connections and rove and hunt
in a portion of the country by themselves, acknowledging this man as
their head on account of his known bravery and successful management
of large war expeditions. From time to time additions are made to this
band from other bands of persons with their families who from different
causes of dissatisfaction choose to leave their leaders and submit to
the government of the new chief. This chief, wishing to rise, does all
in his power to benefit his small band by protecting them, choosing
good hunting grounds, giving to them all horses and other property
taken by him from his enemies, and, if necessary, fearlessly risking
his life to strike or kill one of his own people to preserve order or
their sense of justice. In the course of some years around this nucleus
is assembled a body which assumes the form and name of a band and the
leader, rising in power and support, increases in respect, and the
standing and name of chief rewards his perseverance. It will be thus
seen that the title and position of chief is neither hereditary nor
elective, but being assumed by the right and upon the principles above
explained, is voluntarily granted him by his followers.

And this is the correct representation of the origin of Assiniboin
chieftainship and different bands being the same in all the roving
tribes of which we attempt to treat in these pages. This high officer
does not, however, at all times wear his honors securely. It is a
known impossibility for any man in high station to please everybody,
and although surrounded by numerous and strong friends yet he must
have some enemies, and it does happen, though rarely, that he is
assassinated. But this is more the consequence of some personal quarrel
than ambitious designs, for although by assassination the chief is
destroyed yet it does not follow that the assassin would take his
place. Generally the reverse is the case and he is obliged to fly or
the relatives of the deceased chief would kill him. In the event of the
decease of a leader or chief, most likely some one of his relatives
would succeed him, but whether brother, cousin, or uncle would not
matter. The successor must absolutely possess the requisite governing
powers, viz., known and acknowledged bravery and wisdom, moderation,
and justice. If the relative be thus constituted, he would become the
chief, not because he is a relative, or that he is the only brave man
in camp—there are many such—but simply by being such and having a
stronger family connection than any other he would consequently be
acknowledged by the greater part of the band. Should there be two
candidates for the chieftainship equally capable and related, the
question would be decided the first day the camp moved.

Each would follow the leader he liked best, and the smaller portion
would soon revert to the larger, or if they were equally divided
and both parties intractable, a new band would be formed subject to
increase under their new leader or to dissolve and mix up with other
bands. Viewing things in this light, it is easily comprehended how some
personal defect, such as loss of sight or constitutional debility,
would depose a chief, but that these unfortunate circumstances should
render him a laughingstock and butt for others who before feared and
respected him is a trait in their character not to be admired. We
have said enough to give a general idea of the origin, progress, and
tenure of chieftainship. It is only elective so far as general consent
has accorded his right to rule, and is only hereditary, or appears
so, because the relatives of the chief are mostly the most numerous,
and from their ranks arises a successor. Though we have witnessed the
chieftainship pass into other hands when the claims of two powerful
families were equal and the abilities or popularity of one of the
candidates defective in some principal part.

Women are never acknowledged as chiefs, or have anything to say in
councils. We know of but one anomalous instance of the kind on the
whole upper Missouri which, being very remarkable, merits notice. She
is a Blackfoot by birth, but having been taken prisoner when young by
the Crows, was raised by and has since resided with that nation, being
identified with them.

We have known this woman for 10 years, and during that time have seen
her head large war parties of men against the Blackfeet, bringing away
great numbers of horses, and killing several of the enemy with her own
hand. She is likewise a good huntress, both on foot with the gun and on
horseback with the bow and arrow, ranks as a warrior and brave and is
entitled to a seat in councils of the Crow Nation. She ranked as fifth
from the Crow chief in a council held by the writer with the Crows
and the Cree at Fort Union on the occasion of making a peace between
these two nations. She keeps up all the style of a man and chief, has
her guns, bows, lances, war horses, and even two or three young women
as wives, but in reality servants. In appearance she is tolerably
good-looking, has been handsome, is now about 40 years of age, and
still goes to war. Her name is “Woman Chief,” and although dressed as
a woman the devices on her robe represent some of her brave acts. She
is fearless in everything, has often attacked and killed full-grown
grizzly bears alone, and on one occasion rode after a war party of
Blackfeet, killed and scalped one alone (within sight of our fort
on the Yellowstone), and returned unharmed amid a shower of bullets
and arrows. This extraordinary woman is well known to all whites and
Indians. She resided at Fort Union last winter, and appears in private
disposition to be modest and sensible; but she is an only instance in
all the roving tribes of the Missouri. Her success induced an imitation
a few years since by an Assiniboin woman, but she was killed by the
enemy on her first war excursion, since which no rivals have sprung up.

Having disposed of the chieftainship for the time and separated the
nation into bands, we will now proceed to describe other divisions
which we shall call clans. These are clubs or societies formed by the
young men of different bands or of the same band. There are not many
among the Assiniboin, they being a small nation, but are numerous
among the Sioux and the Blackfeet, bearing the names of Foxes, Foolish
Dogs, Strong Hearts, Bulls, Pheasants, etc. Among the Assiniboin are
first the braves, Na-pa´-shee-nee, Ceux qui sauvent, who are a picked
body of young men, said to be bound by the most solemn promises and
oath never to run from an enemy or leave one of their clan in danger.
They are chosen from all the bands on account of some previous brave
act, and are only known as a body at feasts of their own and on war
expeditions. They wear no badges but dance completely naked in public
and have different songs, different from those of other dances. The
Bulls, Tah-tun-gah, are another of the same kind of clans in the band,
Gens des Canots. Their badge is a bull’s head and horns painted on
their drums, shields, and robes, also in the Bull Dance they imitate
the motions of that animal, his bellowing, and shoot at each other’s
feet with powder. When dancing they wear the head and horns of a bull,
skinned to the neck, the bones taken out, and the skin dried. Into this
the head of the man is thrust, giving him the appearance of half man
and half animal.

THE SNDOO-KAH, “CIRCUMCISED.”—This is a large clan of the band, Gens
des Canots, consisting of at least 100 persons, young and old. They
have not actually had circumcision performed, but these are called so,
and belong to that class who are naturally minus the prepuce. These
assemble once or twice a year and their ceremonies are kept somewhat
secret. They are, however, obliged to display the part alluded to,
to prevent imposition. When wishing to be known in that capacity on
private occasions they paint the tip of their nose red. The end of a
feather painted red or the pod of the plant sketched as the comb root
stuck in their hair is equally significant.

The Fox and Wolf clans are small and only appear to differ in the
manner of their dances and songs. There does not seem to be much
importance attached to these clans, neither do they appear to be of
much use, and most likely are got up for the purpose of display,
dancing, and other ceremonies, but as soon as these are over mix up
with the bands they belong to, and are very little talked of. There are
no minor subdivisions except into families. These remarks answer nearly
all search for origins of bands in badges and names of bands. Now, as
far as the roving tribes are concerned, this is error. The names of the
Assiniboin bands we have mentioned and those of the Sioux now follow,
some of which consist of two, three, and four hundred lodges, and none
of them have the least reference to Bear, Wolf, Eagle, Fox, or Father,
Grandfather, Uncle, etc., or anything of the kind.

The names of the different bands of the Missouri and the Platte Sioux
are Lower Yanctons, Sechong-hoo (Burnt Thighs), Oglala, Sawone,[10]
Minneconzshu, Etasepecho (Sans Arcs), Honcpapa, Seah-sappah (Blackfeet
Band), Wohainoompa (Two Kettle Band), Mide-wahconto, Esantees,
Teezaptah, Zahbaxah (Tête Coupées), Waze-cootai (Tireur dans les Pines).

[10] This term is the same as Saone or Sanona.

As before remarked, not one of these names bears the most distant
resemblance to any living animal, bird, and so forth, neither have any
of them any general badge representing these things as symbolical of
their band.[11] The clans before referred to are of no importance in
their government and with the Sioux and with the Assiniboin are only
recognized as separate bodies during their dances and other ceremonies.

[11] Here Denig seems to refer to what is commonly called clan totems.

Is each band entitled to one or more chiefs? There is, as observed
before, but one nominal chief to each band, and it is he who leads
it. Yet this position does not destroy nor militate against the will
of several others in the same band whose voices are as much entitled
to a hearing and sometimes more so than his. No man’s rule over them
is absolute; their government is pure democracy. Their consent to be
governed or led by any man is voluntarily given and likewise withdrawn
at the discretion of the person. But their existence as a people
depends on forming themselves into bodies capable of defense. These
bodies must have leaders and these leaders must be brave, respected,
followed, and supported. In case of a treaty either with whites or
with Indians of other nations, the leading chief’s voice would have no
additional weight because he is in that position. He would be allowed
to state his opinions with others of the same standing as men in the
same band, but nothing more. As a good deal that is to follow will
depend upon receiving a correct idea of these chiefs or leaders we do
not like to leave any portion of these matters obscure or unanswered.
There are no bands more honorable than others; some are more powerful,
more rascally, or more tractable, but no aristocratic or honorable
distinctions exist.

SOLDIERS.—Having mentioned and explained the divisions of bands
and clans with the chiefs thereof, the next important body in their
government is the ah-kitch-e-tah,[12] or soldiers or guard. These
soldiers are picked from the band on account of their proved bravery
and disposition to see things well conducted. They are men of family
from 25 to 45 years old, steady, resolute, and respectable, and in them
is vested the whole active power of governing the camp or rather of
carrying out the decrees and decisions of councils. In a camp of 200
lodges they would number 50 to 60 men, and in a camp of 60 lodges 10 to
15 men. The soldiers’ lodge is pitched in the center of the camp and
occupied by some of them all the time, although the whole body are only
called when the chief wishes a public meeting or when their hunting
regulations are to be decided upon. This is their statehouse; all
business relative to the camp and other nations is transacted there,
and all strangers or visitors, white or red, are lodged therein.

[12] In form and sense this term _ah-kitch-e-tah_ is identical with
the Chippewa _kitchitwa_, “sacred, holy, honorable,” and with the Cree
_okitchitaw_, “a brave, a soldier, un soldat.”

Neither women, children, nor even young men are allowed to enter in
business hours and seldom are seen there at any time. All tongues of
animals killed in hunting belong to this lodge if they wish them, and
the choicest parts of meat are furnished them by the young hunters all
the time. A tax is also laid on the camp for the tobacco smoked here,
which is no small quantity, and the women are each obliged to furnish
some wood and water daily.

What are the general powers of chiefs in council? To explain this, it
will be necessary to describe a council as witnessed by me a few years
since. The camp when I was a visitor consisted of about 110 lodges and
in the neighborhood, say, 10 or 15 miles off were two other camps,
respectively 50 and 60 lodges, all being of the band Gens des Canots.
The council was held in the soldiers’ lodge, where, being a stranger, I
had a right to be, though having nothing to say regarding the question.
This question was, Will we make peace with the Crow Nation? A few days
previous the leading chief had received an intimation through me that
overtures for a peace were made to them by the Crow Nation, and that
the Crow tobacco sent for that purpose was in my possession at any
time the council assembled; also that a deputation of Crow Indians was
at the Fort, who had commissioned me to bear the tobacco with their
request and to await a reply prior to their visiting the camp in person.

To decide this runners were sent immediately to the two camps mentioned
with a message from the chief requesting the attendance of all chiefs,
counsellors, soldiers, and warriors who felt an interest in the affair
in question, who in due time arrived and took up their residence in
the different lodges around about until the hour for business arrived.
When it was ascertained that all or a sufficient number had come the
haranguer or public crier of the camp made the circle of the village,
speaking at the extent of his voice the object of the meeting and
inviting all soldiers, chiefs, and braves or warriors to attend and
hear what their chief would bring before them for their consideration.
This was repeated over and over again in different parts of the camp,
and shortly afterwards they began to assemble in the soldiers’ lodge.
Three skin lodges had been formed into one, making an area 24 feet in
diameter, which could with ease accommodate 60 to 80 persons. On this
occasion about 46 people presented themselves and when the whole had
entered the interior exhibited the form shown in Figure 31.

[Illustration: FIGURE 31.—Diagram of a council lodge, representing
the interior of a council lodge in which Mr. Denig met the Assiniboin
leaders to discuss peace overtures made by the Crow Indians to the
Assiniboin at the instigation of Mr. Denig. At a point directly
opposite the doorway Mr. Denig is seated with the proffered tobacco of
the Crow Indians lying in front of him, denoted by 3 parallel marks; at
Mr. Denig’s right sits the leading Assiniboin chief; to his right sit 6
other chiefs and councillors; next are seated 18 so-called “soldiers,”
i. e., official guards of the camp; the next 15 figures are 15 principal
young warriors. The small square figure with a central dot is a small
fire; and the small circlet beside the fire is a flagstaff running up
through the lodge top, flying a United States flag. The calumet pipe
lies in front of the leading chief.]

It was nearly sunset when they had assembled and no feast had been
prepared in this lodge, though after the council was over they were
feasted elsewhere. We have here the represented authority of 220
lodges, for the chiefs are largely connected, having from 10 to 20
or more lodges of their immediate relatives each. The soldiers are
the most respectable heads of families in camp, and the warriors are
the sons and relations of these and others of the camp. If this body
decides on carrying a point who are to object? Those about are also
related to those present and these being the principal leave only
young rabble, very old men, women, and children not represented, all
of whom combined could do nothing against the decision of this body.
We will now proceed with the ceremony. For nearly a half hour the pipe
was passed around in silence, it being filled with their own tobacco
and handed from mouth to mouth, making its circuit on the right-hand,
after which it was laid down by the leading chief and he opened the
meeting by thus stating its object, the words of whom and others were
taken down by us at the time and preserved. It will be necessary to
state here that the Crow Indians had massacred about 30 lodges of this
same band two years previous on the banks of the Yellowstone, yet had
succeeded in making a peace with some of the upper bands of Assiniboin
who had not suffered by them.

The leading chief spoke thus from where he sat:

“My children, I am a mild man. For upward of 20 years I have herded you
together like a band of horses. If it had not been for me, you would
long ago have been scattered like wolves over the prairies. Good men
and wise men are scarce; and, being so, they should be listened to,
loved, and obeyed. My tongue has been worn thin and my teeth loosened
in giving you advice and instruction. I am aware I speak to men as
wise as myself, many braver, but none older or of more experience. I
have called you together to state that our enemies (the Crows) have
sent tobacco, through the medium of the whites at the big fort, to me
and my children, to see if they could smoke it with pleasure, or if it
tasted badly. For my part I am willing to smoke. We are but a handful
of men surrounded by large and powerful nations, all our enemies. Let
us therefore by making a peace reduce this number of foes and increase
our number of friends. I am aware that many here have lost relatives
by these people, so have we by the Gros Ventres, and yet we have peace
with them. If it be to our interest to make peace all old enmities must
be laid aside and forgotten. I am getting old, and have not many more
winters to see, and am tired seeing my children gradually decrease by
incessant war. We are poor in horses—from the herds the Crows own we
will replenish. They will pay high and give many horses for peace.
The Crows are good warriors, and the whites say good people and will
keep their word. Whatever is decided upon let it be manly. We are men;
others can speak. I listen—I have said.”

This speech was received by a slight response by some of Hoo-o-o-o
and by the majority in silence. After a few minutes’ interval he
was replied to by another chief, the third or fourth from where he
sat. This was a savage, warlike, one-eyed Indian, and his speech was
characteristic. He said: “He differed from all the old chief had said
regarding their enemies. Individually as a man and as their leader he
liked his father, the chief, but he must be growing old and childish to
advise them to take to smoke the tobacco of their enemies, the Crows.
Tell the whites to take it back to them. It stinks, and if smoked
would taste of the blood of our nearest relations. He thought (he
said) his old father (the chief) should make a journey to the banks of
the Yellowstone, and speak to the grinning skulls of 30 lodges of his
children, and hear their answer. Would they laugh? Would they dance?
Would they beg for Crow tobacco or cry for Crow horses? If horses were
wanted in camp, let the young men go to war and steal and take them
as he had done—as he intended to do as long as a Crow Indian had a
horse. What if in the attempt they left their bones to bleach on the
prairie? It would be but dying like men! For his part it always pleased
him to see a young man’s skull; the teeth were sound and beautiful,
appearing to smile and say, ‘I have died when I should and not waited
at home until my teeth were worn to the gums by eating dried meat.’ The
young men (he said) will make war—must have war—and, as far as his
influence went, should have war. I have spoken.”

This speech was received with a loud and prolonged grunt of approbation
by more than two-thirds of the assembly.

Other speeches followed on both sides of the question, some long, some
short, until the council became somewhat heated and turbulent; not,
however, interrupting one another, but mixing a good deal of private
invective and satire with the question in their speeches. At a point
of violent debate and personal abuse, two soldiers advanced to the
middle of the lodge and laid two swords crosswise on the ground, which
signal immediately restored order and quiet. The debate was carried on
with spirit for about two hours but it was easily to be perceived long
before it terminated, by their responses and gestures, that the war
faction greatly predominated. The chief, after asking if all had spoken
and receiving an affirmative answer, remarked they could go and eat the
feast that had been prepared for them. The warriors gave a loud yell
and when out commenced singing their war song. We asked the old chief
what was the decision. He said, “It is plain enough; listen to that war
cry.” He then desired me to send the Crow tobacco back without delay
and tell them to leave the fort immediately and go home. A few days
after a large war party started to the Crow village. The morning after
the council’s decision was made known by the haranguer or public crier,
at the break of day, walking through the village and crying it out at
the top of his voice. From the foregoing it will be seen that the chief
only expressed his opinion as the others, yet the large majority or
rather the feeling evinced for war by the leaders of the war parties,
warriors, heads of families, soldiers, and all who could make war, left
none to contend with.

Had the same general exhibition for peace prevailed, the same powers
could make it, or rather force would be unnecessary when a unanimity of
such a body prevailed. Had the parties or feeling been equally manifest
the question would have been laid aside for another time, perhaps
years, and each went to war or remained at home as he pleased.

Most councils have this feature and termination, that is, if the
measure is not at once visibly popular, it is abandoned. This precludes
the necessity of vote and none is taken. Besides, except for camp
regulations, hunting, etc., they are not obliged to decide. Time is
not valuable to them. There is no constituent power in the rest of the
band, whose voices are not asked, nor required, to force a decision,
nor actual power to operate against any measures, that may be decided
upon by their parents, and soldiers of the camp. Wherever force is
necessary, however, to carry out these decisions, as in hunting
regulations, the soldiers are pledged to act in a body to effect it,
even at the risk of their lives. But should the decision be for a peace
and afterwards a war party be raised to go against the nation with
which peace has been made, the soldiers would not use force to prevent
it. They have too much good sense to strike or kill any of their own
people to benefit their enemies, and in this case the peace party being
the most numerous, and consequently the richer, would pay the partisan,
or leader of the party, to remain at home and a collection of horses,
guns, and other property made among them for that purpose, which being
handed the partisan and by him divided among his warriors, stops the

This is done often among them, particularly at this time when “peaces”
have become tolerably general through the Laramie treaty. There are
cases, however, where force is necessary, and the soldiers are brought
to act, which we will shortly mention. To present any idea of their
government so that it can be understood, we must first proceed to
describe the component parts of a large camp, after which it will be
easy to perceive their principles of government. The regulations kept
up in the following description is only in large camps: Smaller ones,
from 10 to 20 lodges, hunt, every man when he pleases, and, as there
are but few persons to feed, they can always have meat in this way; but
where the camp is composed of from 50 to 100 or 200 lodges this is not
the case, as will presently appear.


    1. The leading chief.
    2. The other chiefs.
    3. Chief of the soldiers.
    4. Cook of the soldiers’ lodge.
    5. The soldiers.
    6. The elderly men.
    7. The haranguer.
    8. The master of the Park.
    9. Warriors and hunters.
    10. Partisans.[13]
    11. Doctors and conjurors.
    12. Very old men.
    13. Young women.
    14. Old women.
    15. Middle-aged women.
    16. Boys and girls.
    17. Very small children.

[13] Denig employs the word partisan in the sense of “a leader of a war

The ordinary occupations of these several divisions of the camp will
now be taken up in order.

1. The leading Chief, Hoon-gah, being the head, is expected to devote
his time to studying the welfare of his people. It is for him to
determine where the camp shall be placed and when it should move; if
war parties are advisable, and with whom, how many, and at what time;
where soldiers’ camps and the soldiers’ lodge should be established;
when traders are wanted in camp, or when they shall go to the fort
to trade; to call councils on these and all other affairs of general

2. The other Chiefs, Hoo-gap-pe. These are sometimes counselled
privately in their lodges by their leader and their advice followed if
correct and according to his views. They sit in council when called,
and rank equally with the leader as men, warriors, counsellors,
etc., except they do not publicly attempt to lead or act without his
knowledge and consent.

3. Chief of the soldiers, Ah-kitche-tah Hoon-gah. This is the head man
in the soldiers’ lodge; sees to their property therein, whether there
is wood, water, tobacco, and meat enough; opens councils; sometimes
sends invitations for the others to assemble when the Chief requests,
and on small occasions of his own accord; makes feasts; lights the pipe
in large assemblies, and is the nominal head of this active body; is a
highly respected and useful officer in camp. He has much influence with
the young warriors and is selected from among the bravest of them.

4. Cook of the soldiers’ lodge. First, Wo-ha-nah; second, Wah-yu-tena.
This functionary is also a soldier and a highly respectable officer,
ranking next to the Chief of the soldiers.

Eating being one of the Indian’s most important occupations, the care
of the meat, choice of the parts, and separation of the whole depending
upon him, the station becomes at once of consequence and requires a
determined man. On feasting, which in that lodge is going on every
night, if not every day, he dishes out the meat into wooden bowls
and gives to each the parts he chooses. Of a dog, the head, paws,
and grease—bouillon—are the most honorable parts. There is great
etiquette shown in this respect, and it is too long a story to record
when there is so much yet to be written.

5. The soldiers, Ah-kitche-tah. These are the bravest and most orderly
men of from 25 to 35 years of age. They have been and are still
warriors and leaders of parties to war, are chosen expressly to carry
out the decrees of the council, even at the risk of their lives, to
punish people for raising the buffalo, setting the prairie on fire,
govern the camp, protect whites and strangers of other nations in
camp, entertain and feast the same, arrange preliminaries of peace,
trade, and generally to aid their chief in carrying out his views and
decisions of council.

6. Elderly men, We-chap-pe. These may be called the body of the camp,
being men of family, about 40 years old, have been warriors and
soldiers when younger, but have abandoned these occupations, devote
their time to hunting, are still good hunters, try to amass horses and
other property by making robes, endeavor to get their daughters married
well, send their sons to hunt or to war.

They are respectable, quiet, peaceable men, among their own people,
content to follow their leader and obey the council, rank as
councillors when they wish, are always invited though but few attend
except on interesting occasions.

7. The Public Crier. First name, Ponkewichakeah; second, Hoon-kee-yah.
This is some elderly or middle-aged man who has a strong voice and a
talent for haranguing. He answers the purpose of the daily newspaper
of the whites. A little before daybreak he walks around and through
the camp different times every morning, calling upon the young men to
get up and look after their horses and arms, to go on the hills and
look for buffaloes, watch if there be any signs of enemies about—to
the women to get up to bring wood and water, cook, dress hides, etc.
If any news has been received in camp the day before or any councils
held, he now states the results. Whenever the camp is to be moved or
hunts made, or enemies seen, or councils to be held, this man publishes
it in this way. He is in fact their publisher and a useful man, doing
more to preserve order and induce unanimity of action than any other,
is entitled to eat and smoke in any lodge he happens to enter without
invitation, receives many small presents, and is a general favorite for
the trouble he gives himself.

8. Master of the Park, Wo-wee-nah. A park or pen to catch buffalo is
not at all times made, though almost every winter there is one or two
among the Assiniboin. We will have occasion to refer to this original
method of hunting in another place; at present it suffices to say
that the person who superintends that employment is some old conjuror
or medicine man who is said to make the buffalo appear and to bring
them toward the pen. He makes sacrifices to the Wind, the Sun, and
to Wakoñda, etc., of tobacco, scarlet cloth, and other things; he is
a necromancer and is supposed to be possessed of supernatural powers
and knowledge; he has from four to six runners under his command whose
business it is to discover the buffalo within 20 or 30 miles around,
and to report to him.

9. Young men, Ko-ash-kah-pe. These are a numerous body, some warriors,
some hunters, some neither. Those who have killed or struck enemies or
stolen many horses from their foes are entitled to sit in the council
and are always invited, principally to hear and give their assent or
dissent in responses, gestures, etc. They, no doubt, would be allowed
to speak but they never do, because those who are older speak, and they
are generally the fathers and relations of these young men. In this
modesty of deportment they are much to be admired. They always conform
to the decisions of the soldiers and the chiefs. The partisans or
leaders of war parties are chosen sometimes from these young men, when
by their acts they have proved a capacity to lead, though mostly it is
one of the soldiers who raises and leads the war expedition.

The Partisan is in command during the entire expedition, directs their
movements, possesses the power of a military captain among the whites,
and receives the honors or bears the disgrace of success or failure,
his authority in that capacity ceasing on his return to camp from the

10. Doctors, alias conjurors, alias priests, alias soothsayers, alias
prophets, Wah-con-we-chasta. These have been alluded to under the head
of “General Practice” in their medical capacity. They are not numerous,
form no distinct body, and unite the above talents in the same person.
They do many tricks well, also foretell events, interpret dreams, utter
incantations, medicine speeches and prayers, and cry for the dead, etc.
They are believed sincerely by all to possess supernatural powers. The
males of this class are sometimes in councils but they have little
influence there. Councils are matters of fact and do not admit of their
noise and flummery, without which they are ciphers. They are tolerated
because somewhat feared, are paid for their services, and by no means
rank as very respectable and efficient councillors, warriors, or men.

11. Very old men, We-chah-chape. These are few. Indians are not
long-lived. These are countenanced in private feasts and ordinary
conversation, principally on account of their talent in reciting fables
and creating mirth for the rest. They also sing for the doctors and
cry for the dead when paid, are poor, not respected, and manage to rub
through the rest of their days the best way they can. They never sit in
council when very old, are neglected, and serve for a butt and ridicule
for the young. They stay at home, make pipes, smoke, and eat constantly
and are ready at all times to offer their services when something is to
be gained.

12. Young women, We-kosh-kap-pi, do little work before they are married
and have their first child, after which time they commence a laborious
life. Before this they go for wood and water, garnish with beads and
porcupine quills, and other light work. They gather berries, assist in
dances, paint, and show themselves.

13. Middle-aged Women, Wé-yah-pe. These are the wives of the soldiers
or middle-aged men, and their time is employed in dressing skins,
cooking, drying meat, taking care of their children, making cloth for
their family. They are always busy, but can not be said to lead a too
laborious or miserable life.

14. Very Old Women, We-noh-chah (Sioux), Wa-kun-kun-ah (Assiniboin).
On these fall all drudging and scullionry, some of their occupations
being too disgusting to relate. They also pound meat and berries, make
pemmican, carry burdens, and are used pretty much as one of their dogs.
They are thrown into the fort or left on the prairie to die by their
own relatives.

15. Boys and Girls, Och-she-pe wechin chap-pe. The boys hunt rabbits,
set traps for foxes, play, but they seldom quarrel; they are great
pests and nuisances, both in camp and in the fort; they are spoiled by
their parents—forward, officious, tormenting, and impudent. The girls
are modest, timid, and exceedingly well behaved.

Very Small Children, Yaque-ske-pe-nah, are carried about on the backs
of their mothers, or packed on dogs; they stand severe cold well, do
not cry much, and are suckled for two or three years. The children
are as well taken care of as they can be in the roving mode of life
of their parents, but being subject to exposure in all weather and
accidents. About two out of five are raised.

The ahkitchetah regulate the hunt. The buffalo are not hunted by a
large camp as each individual chooses, but surrounded by the whole
camp at one time, which we will describe in that part of the report
which refers to hunting and to game laws. The dogs for these hunts are
determined by the chief and soldiers in the soldiers’ lodge, and the
people are individually forbidden to hunt or in any manner to raise the
buffalo before that time. The reason is that by going in a body and
hemming in or surrounding them, some hundreds of the animals are slain
in a short time, whereas by one man’s individual hunting the whole
herd would be frightened and run away and the camp thereby be always
in a starving condition, instead of having abundance of meat as is the
case when the laws respecting the surround are enforced. Should any
person or persons violate these laws, after the decree of the soldiers’
lodge has been published, they (the soldiers) meet him on his return
home, take his meat, kill his dogs, or horses, cut his hides up, cut
his lodge to pieces, break his gun and bow, etc. If the individual
resists or attempts to revenge any of these things he is shot down on
the spot by the soldiers, or struck down by a tomahawk and pounded
to death. Occasionally they are also thrashed with bows, in addition
to the breaking of the gun, etc. The writer has seen two killed and
many severely thrashed for these misdemeanors. The consequences of
destroying the hunts are serious to the whole camp, hence the violent
penalty and examples are made occasionally which serve to increase the
respect and fear of the soldiers as a body, and enables that business
to proceed with order.

In all this the soldiers are supported by the whole camp, and it is in
them as a body that decisions are invested with a binding force, if
force be necessary. We may state that the power is tacitly committed to
the chief as a common and general function of the office, to be held
as long as he governs with general satisfaction, subject, however,
to the advice and consent of the soldiers and other bodies in camp,
as has been explained. They are at all times open to popular opinion
and are only the exponents of it, and although distinguished deeds
were the cause or some of the causes of their exaltation to this high
office, and that they have since been and generally are discontinued,
when the chief becomes of middle age, yet so long as the capacity and
ability of the incumbent exists and coincides with the popular will,
he is retained in office. Old age, debility, or other natural defect,
and incapacity to act, advise, and command, induces the necessity of
change in his position, and though not formally deposed, he voluntarily
retires and resigns in favor of some growing and popular soldier and
warrior. The disapproval of the mass of the body of soldiers, warriors,
etc., as represented in the council of war, would also be an effectual
barrier to the existence of his power or functions in every respect
and at any and all times. It should be remembered that all the remarks
in these pages, although written primarily for the tribe called the
Assiniboin, apply equally well to all the roving tribes of the Missouri
River from and including the Sioux to the Blackfeet, our limits not
admitting separate descriptions for each tribe. Where there is any
important difference, however, we will not fail to mention it.

Is the democratic element strongly implanted? Very. The whole is a pure
democracy, as has by this been developed. There are also consultations
in private lodges previous to meeting in councils, but these do not
appear to influence the opinions of any, further than thereby getting a
thorough acquaintance of the subject, and preparing their minds for a
speech, and not much idea can be formed in this way of the popularity
of the question until it meets public discussion in the council.
Neither are these private councils held with that view but are merely
conversations regarding the importance of the subject and something
to talk about, which is always desirable in an Indian camp. They are
obstinate in adhering to a formed opinion and not easily moved by
oratory or extraneous remarks, are shrewd and pursue the subject with
intensity and perseverance until decided or abandoned. They are liable
also to be carried away by the excitement of debate and lose sight
of the subject in personal abuse and recrimination until called to
order by some more cool. There is no vote taken, though the prevailing
feeling is manifest and those who do not exhibit any of this feeling
are quietly asked their opinion, which they as quietly give. All this
has met with sufficient explanation. The leading chief does nothing
in advance of public opinion. His business is rather to think of
their welfare and interests, bringing those subjects under discussion
which appear to him of sufficient importance and which he sees merit
consideration by the excitement they occasion in private lodges, or
if smaller matters they are left to the decision of the soldiers. In
councils held in the soldiers’ lodge for hunting the chief does not
always appear. When the camp is placed for the winter he assists in
forming the body of soldiers and in giving general instructions which
they carry out. Afterwards he seldom goes for these purposes. The
business of these soldiers will meet with further notice in these pages
and it is worth while considering their powers, as they are the active
force of all large camps.

COUNCILS.—Councils are opened in a very sedate and orderly form. The
pipe is the principal of all ceremonies, and its motions vary with
the occasions. Councils between two nations for a peace, deputations
of both being present, are very solemn and take a long time. It is
likely these ceremonies are very ancient, being nearly the same among
all the roving tribes. The real calumet used on this occasion with its
accompaniments presents the form as sketched and explained in Plate
68. This instrument is always kept packed up in many envelopes of
cloth, skin, etc., the whole making a roll as thick as a man’s thigh,
sometimes as large as a piece of common stovepipe, 5 or 6 feet long,
is laid in the middle of the soldiers’ lodge on a piece of scarlet
cloth in that way before the deputation has arrived, or immediately
on its arrival, is not opened, however, until a full council has
been assembled. The chief (who owns the pipe) then commences the
ceremony of unrolling it, and at the taking off of each envelope says
a few words equivalent to “Peace we wish,” “Look over us, Wakoñda,”
“This to the Sun,” “This to the Earth,” etc., giving, as it were,
some distinction or value to each envelope. After a long time and the
untying of many knots, the pipe and stem appear, with a tobacco sack, a
bunch of sweet-smelling grass, a probe for the pipe, and a small sack
containing a charm or amulet. The pipe is on this occasion filled from
the tobacco (or mixture) sack by the chief of the soldiers, though not
lit, and in this way handed to his own chief. He (the chief) now stands
up, the different deputations of nations sitting opposite each other
on either side of the lodge. He first presents the pipe to the East,
singing a gentle and harmonious song for about a minute, then presents
it South, West, North, to the Sky and lastly to the Earth, repeating
the song at each presentation.



_A_, The pipestem of ash wood, garnished about half its length with
porcupine quills of various colors; _B_, a large red-stone pipe; _C_,
_C_, _C_, three tails of the war eagle, feathers connected with sinew
and beads or shells between. The stem or stalk of the feathers is
garnished with colored porcupine quills; _D_, _D_, two festoons of
beads or shells with a small strip of otter skin on which the beads are
tied; _E_, the head of a mallard duck (male) without the under bill.
Sometimes this is the head of a red-headed woodpecker.]

In conclusion he turns it slowly three times round, and lays it down,
all responding hoo-o-oo as the pipe is placed on the ground. The chief
now sits down in his place, and the Chief of the soldiers rises. He
lights the pipe with a piece of the sweet-smelling grass—if the
strangers are of the Crow nation a piece of dried buffalo dung is used
to light it—stands up and presents it precisely to the same points as
the chief had done without singing, giving three puffs or whiffs of
the pipe to every presentation, finishing in the same way the chief
had done, and, receiving a loud prolonged universal hoo-o-oo or grunt
of approbation, he then resumes his seat. The chief now rises the
second time and having had the pipe relighted, holding the stem in
his hand advances and presents it, or rather places it in the mouth
of the head man of the strange deputation, allowing him to take a few
whiffs, passes to the next and the next, they sitting and he moving
round from one to another until all the strangers have been smoked,
then he hands the pipe to the chief of the soldiers and sits down. This
officer now presents the pipe in the same way to his own chief and
going round the other side smokes all his people, and hands the pipe to
another soldier, who goes the whole round again, and this is repeated
over in silence for at least two hours, when the pipe is laid down
by the chief, and speeches or signs begin by which they arrange the
preliminaries of a peace. After all is settled the pipe undergoes the
ceremony of rolling up, which is fully as long, though not in silence,
conversation becoming general and ordinary pipes being introduced. The
termination on this occasion is a grand feast in the soldiers’ lodge to
the strangers, and invitations to 50 or more other feasts in camp, to
all of which they must go, and when all is finished the strangers are
accommodated with temporary wives during their short residence.

There is generally order observed in the breaking up of councils, the
chief saying “We are done,” when all retire. Occasionally, however, it
breaks up turbulently, and they separate in passion, but the subject
is reconciled and settled in order the next time. Different councils
have different ceremonies. Some open and some close with feasts of
dog meat. The pipe is never omitted, though the real calumet is never
opened except in dealings with strangers. In all other councils
soldiers’ pipes are used. The duties of the public crier we have
already mentioned. Questions are well debated, and generally decided on
the spot or abandoned as already explained on the principle of large
majorities, or rather general approbation, though absolute unanimity
is not required. The few who oppose say nothing against the affairs
when once decided, and although they do not relinquish their opinions,
yet can not or will not go contrary to the wishes of the many. But the
voice of the leading chief is in no instance taken as the expression of
the will of even a single band, much less a whole tribe.

SCOPE OF CIVIL JURISDICTION.—A decision by the body of the council
is carried into effect by the soldiers, by force if necessary, as in
the case of hunting by the surround, removing neighboring lodges of
their own people who are so placed as to bar the passage of the buffalo
toward the camp. Lodges thus situated are invariably forced to come
and join the camp or to remove so far as to be no obstruction to the
passage and advance of the buffalo, and to move them against their will
is often a serious and always a dangerous undertaking. They do it,
however; that is, the soldiers turn out in a body, kill their dogs, and
keep doing damage until they leave. The power of taking life is not
invested in any body of Indians, neither has the council any right to
take cognizance of or legislate on the subject. If a soldier is killed
in doing his duty the body of soldiers would immediately fall upon the
murderer or on any of his relatives, should he have absconded. Crimes
of this kind are privately redressed and revenged by the relatives
of the deceased, and as the murderer always flies, it is often years
before they can get an opportunity to kill him, yet vengeance only
slumbers. All these things will be fully explained under the head of
“Crime.” It might, however, be as well to state here that there is no
public body among them whose duty it is to punish crime of any kind,
nor any authority equivalent to or resembling a court of justice.
Consequently, there are no public or stated executions, neither is
there any person who exercises the functions of public executioner. All
this will be fully explained, as also the restoration of property, in
the place where rights of property are considered.

CHIEFSHIP.—How are rank and succession in office regulated? The
circumstances of the decease of the leading chief and the succession
has already been referred to. If not yet sufficiently explicit, we
may in addition state that it would be a subject of earnest debate
in council, not so much with the view of choosing the successor, as
this individual had long before been tacitly acknowledged, being the
next most popular leader of the right kind, and of the most numerous
connections, but to install that person into office, intimating their
desire that he should lead and govern the camp. This might be called
election, although no vote is taken, yet if a general feeling in his
favor prevails he becomes their leader; if not, those who dissent have
the privilege of leaving that band and joining another, or if numerous
enough for the general purposes of hunting and defense can form a band
of their own and choose a leader from among themselves. In all this we
hope to have been sufficiently explicit as not to present any idea of a
distinct line of hereditary succession.

A chief would be deposed from his office by being guilty of any conduct
that would bring upon him general disgust and dissatisfaction. Though
crimes in the abstract could not have this tendency, yet if he murdered
a man without cause whose relations were numerous, a skirmish between
the two families and immediate separation would be the consequence.
If the murdered man was friendless nothing would be done and the rest
would fear him the more. The offenses that would most likely lead to
his overthrow would be remarkable meanness, parsimony, or incest. A
chief must give away all to preserve his popularity and is always the
poorest in the band, yet he takes good care to distribute his gifts
among his own relatives or the rich, upon whom he can draw at any time
should he be in need.

We take the custom of wearing medals to be a modern one, at least they
say so, introduced by the whites. The ancient mark of distinction
was, and still is, the feathers of the eagle’s tail, wrought into
headdresses of various forms, which to this day is the badge denoting
the chief and great warrior, and are not allowed the ordinary class to
wear. Tattooing also is a mark of dignity.

We have already named the principal chiefs of bands, though there are
others, but by no means a numerous body. But few Indians go through
war enough to arrive at that position, more especially as the same
individual must be possessed of other natural talents and wisdom. The
number is not limited but is from 3 to 6 or 8 in bands respectively of
50, 100, and 200 lodges. It makes no difference in their government
whether they be few or many; if many, so much the better, as they are
wise, brave, and responsible men.

POWER OF THE WAR CHIEF.—No chiefs are war chiefs in contradistinction
to their being civil chiefs. If it is desirable to go to war and so
decided, any chief, soldier, or brave warrior has a right to raise
and lead a war party, provided he can get followers. He then comes
under the head of partisan or captain of the expedition, his powers in
this capacity only lasting during the excursion and terminating on his
return to camp and resuming his civil place and duties. The powers of
war and civil chief are united in the same, also those of warrior and
hunter, soldier and hunter, soldier and partisan, chief and partisan.
The leading chief could also and often does guide the whole band to
war; in fact in the event of any general turnout, he must be the head.
Any man, however, in whom the young men have confidence to follow,
may raise and lead a war party, if war is going on and the time suits
the chiefs and soldiers in council assembled. But as the chiefs and
soldiers are the most experienced in this occupation, and are better
acquainted with their enemies’ country, they are generally chosen
as leaders in these expeditions. Yet from among the warrior class,
occasionally a young partisan arises who is neither chief nor soldier,
but whose character for bravery, caution, and all the necessary
talents is established. There is no specified age when a young man may
rightfully express his opinion. This depends on his success in war,
his general good behavior, activity in hunting, etc. When he becomes
remarkable for these things he is noticed by the soldiers, invited to
feasts, to councils, where being of sufficient consequence his opinion
is asked and is given. We have known men not over 22 to 24 years of age
being called upon to speak in council, and others to arrive at extreme
old age without ever opening their lips there. An Indian soon sees
and feels his standing with the others, and acts accordingly; to do
otherwise, or force his presence and opinions prematurely, would only
incur ridicule, contempt, and disgrace.

POWER OF THE PRIESTS IN COUNCIL.—The power of priests is conjoined
with that of doctors, sorcerers, and prophets, to which is occasionally
added that of councillors, as they are sometimes shrewd old men and
somewhat feared on account of their supposed supernatural powers; but
they do not influence councils in any great degree, seldom attending at
all. Whatever influence they have on public questions must be exercised
in council, and not as a separate body. They do not constitute a body
and only rank as councillors when their former exploits have been of
a nature to entitle them to that position, and their age is not too
far advanced. Being generally very old, their opinions in council are
not much regarded. Their forte is at the bed of the sick or in other
operations where something is to be gained. In making war or peace they
would have little to say, in a cession of lands still less, and in
conducting war parties nothing at all. The old Gauché mentioned before,
although a divining man, was a warrior, not old at that time, and
feared because he had the power over their lives by the use of poisons
which he made no scruple to administer; besides he was no doctor nor
sorcerer on other occasions, and was one of the greatest chiefs the
Assiniboin ever had. He was uniformly successful in his young and
middle time of life, although he failed in age and died as recorded.
This extraordinary man does not present a correct sample of a priest or
sorcerer as now considered, and is an anomalous case.

MATRONS IN COUNCIL.—Neither matrons nor any other women whatever sit
in council with the men of any of the Missouri tribes, nor have they
privately any influence over men in their public affairs, and take but
little interest in them. Their domestic duties occupy most of their
time and their social position is inferior to that of men in every
respect. We have heard of only one instance where a woman was admitted
in council, during a period of 21 years’ constant residence with all
these tribes.

GENERAL COUNCILS.—The roving tribes call no general councils with
other nations. Even those with whom they have for a long time been at
peace they look upon suspiciously and seldom act together in a large
body. We have known, however, a combination of Cree, Chippewa, and
Assiniboin, consisting of 1,100 men, who, having met in council, went
to war upon the Blackfeet. The council was formed by the Cree and
Chippewa sending tobacco to the Assiniboin during the winter, to meet
them at a certain place the ensuing spring, where, after deliberating
the matter at home, they went and formed the above-named expedition. It
is the misfortune of all large bodies of Indians formed of different
nations to meet with failure. They can not act in a body. Jealousies
arise between the soldiers of the different nations, often quarrels,
and always separations and defeat of the object. The evil appears to
be the want of a commander in chief whom all are content to follow and
obey; also their ignorance and unwillingness to submit to discipline,
restraint, or subordination. Opinions clash, rank is interfered with,
rebellion, dissatisfaction, and consequent separation follows; or
should any considerable body keep on, their march is conducted in such
a disorderly manner that their enemies have time and notice to enable
them to hide or prepare for them. These tribes are not yet far enough
advanced in civil organization to enable them to unite for any great
purpose, excepting their mutual and general interest require it. The
only way they could and do accomplish anything of importance at war by
combination is by each nation, being headed and commanded by their own
leaders and going to war upon the general enemy at different times and
entirely independent of each other. This increases the number of war
expeditions and annoys the enemy from different quarters, but does not
give them the advantage of bringing large armies into the field.

PRIVATE RIGHT TO TAKE LIFE.—Every Indian believes he has a right to
his own life and consequently to defend it. There being no persons
or body whose duty it is to punish crime, trespass, or insult, each
individual is taught when a boy, and by experience when a man, to
rely entirely on himself for redress or protecting his person,
family, and property. Every one is thus constituted his own judge,
jury, and executioner. Whether the person wronged is right in his
means of redress does not matter. He thinks he is right and risks the
consequences of retaliation. Every Indian being armed induces the
necessity of each using arms; therefore when an Indian strikes, stabs,
shoots, or attempts to do these things it is always with an intent to
kill, knowing if he misses his aim or only wounds, the other revenges
either on the spot or after, as occasion requires or opportunity
offers. Therefore he can not act otherwise. This being the state of
things, quarrels are not so common as might be supposed. When it is
universally known that a blow or a trespass would entail death as its
consequence they are avoided, or if unavoidable each endeavors to
gain an advantage over the other by acting treacherously or waiting a
favorable time when he least expects it to kill or strike him, stating
for his reason that if he had not killed him the other only waited the
same opportunity against himself. A fair chance to kill or strike does
not always present itself. The relations may be too numerous on one
side, and the object of contention (be it a horse or a woman) is given
up for the time by the weaker party, apparently willingly, yet he only
waits until their situations are reversed to seek redress. When a man
has killed another, if the relatives of the deceased are more numerous
than his own, he flies to a distant part of the country, joins another
band and seeks protection there, where he is not sought by the next of
kin at the time, but will be killed whenever they meet. In the meantime
the relatives of the offender pay much to stop the quarrel.

If the killed and the killer are both of the same band and equally
strong in relationship perhaps nothing would be done at the time as the
rest of camp would endeavor to stop a skirmish, and a good many guns,
horses, and other property would be raised and presented the relatives
of the deceased to stop further bloodshed. This generally concludes an
amnesty or respite for the time, but the revenge must be accomplished
at some time by the next of kin, otherwise it would be a great disgrace
to him or them. An opportunity to kill the offender with comparative
safety is then sought, perhaps for years, or as long as any of that
generation lives. Time and absence may have the effect of giving the
murderer a chance to die in some other way or of diminishing the force
of the revenge so that he does not find himself in a position to act
with any degree of safety when an occasion offers. Yet, if of standing
in camp, and a brother, father, or brother-in-law to the deceased,
he is bound to revenge at some time, though they make no scruple to
receive presents of horses, etc., to refrain in the meantime. Thus the
death of a man is never paid for by that generation, though by that
means the revenge may be delayed for some years, which is all they can
do except surrendering up their relative to the incensed party, which
would not for a moment be thought of. We have known three or four
horses to be given on the instant by the friends of the offender to
those of the deceased and the same to be repeated yearly for two to six
years and more, yet still revenge was consummated. On one occasion I
asked the man why he killed the other after so long a time and taking
property as payment from his relatives and friends. He answered that
the pay was well enough as long as the culprit kept out of his sight;
that remuneration only destroyed the disposition to seek him out and
kill him, although it did not affect the right to revenge if he was
fool enough, to thrust himself in his way.

When he saw him his blood boiled, his heart rose up, and he could
not help it. Besides (he observed) he was obliged to kill him, as
the other, being afraid of him, would do the same to him to save his
own life. Thus the killing of one induces the necessity of killing
another, and there is no end to the affair. The other party are
obliged to retaliate and so on through several generations. In this
way a good many of the family of the chief, Wah-he´ Muzza, have been
killed, and the smallpox settled the affair by taking off the offenders
on the other side. It will be inferred from this that vengeance is
not appeased by payment, absence, or the lapse of time, and in the
instances where retaliation has not followed after payment we believe
they may be ascribed to a decrease in the relationship of the deceased
or other domestic changes or reverses which render vengeance out
of their power, or too dangerous to accomplish, in which case the
relatives get over it by saying they have been paid or forgotten it,
yet at the same time would revenge, could they act with safety, or
even a chance of comparative safety. Sometimes, however, large offers
of recompense are rejected by the father or brothers of the deceased,
and the tender is then made to relatives not so closely connected, who
generally accept. Herein the cunning of the Indian is manifest. This is
a point gained. A negotiation is opened in the family of the deceased
and a difference of feeling established with regard to the offender,
slight to be sure, but it is there, and is worked by these distant
relatives to his advantage and their own, and opens a way through which
presents and overtures of compromise may be offered the brothers, etc.
But there is no dependence to be placed on anything a wild Indian does.

Neither do they depend on one another. They are suspicious in
everything, and more particularly so when life is at stake. In
these compromises no one is deceived—either he who takes or he who
receives—the minds of both are perfectly known to each other, the
object of the one party being to gain time, and of the other to lull
suspicion and make the offender and his relatives poor by accepting
their property.

We think we have presented their customs in this respect in their true
light, viz., that although the compromise be effected and vengeance for
the time suspended, yet the feeling is not changed or the right to
punish relinquished; but time may make such a change on either part as
to render revenge impracticable. There is no recognized principle or
means of escape for the murderer unless it be to flee and join another
nation with whom they are at peace, marry and remain there.

It will now be necessary to state that the Crow Indians are better
regulated in this respect than any of the prairie tribes. Private
murders are nearly unknown among them. Our knowledge of this nation
from certain sources extends through a period of 40 years and in all
that time but one Indian was killed by his own people. The offender
absconded and remained with the Snake Nation for 12 years, when he
returned, but was obliged again to leave, and since has not been heard
of. Stealing women or otherwise seducing others’ wives is revenged
by the party offended taking every horse and all private property
the offender owns, and in this he meets with no contention. It is
considered a point of honor to let everything be taken but keep the
woman. Now this nation has from 40 to 80 and sometimes 100 horses to
a lodge, and a large haul is made by the husband of the woman, in
company with his relatives. If the transgressor has no property that
of his nearest relatives is taken, and is suffered to be taken away
unmolested. After the excitement is somewhat over, these horses are
bought back by the relatives of the offender, each giving two, three,
or more as the case happens, which they hand over to him, who in the
course of time gets the most of his property returned.

All smaller quarrels or misdemeanors are paid in the same way, though
not so high, but they never strike or kill each other, yet are addicted
to using personal abuse and invective freely. Our gentleman in charge
of that nation states that he has seen the two principal bands of Crow
Indians, over 200 lodges, abusing and throwing stones at each other all
day, the Yellowstone River being between them. No damage could happen,
as the missiles could not be thrown a fourth of the distance, yet not a
shot was fired, although balls would reach, and this force was headed
by the two principal chiefs of that nation. In all the regulations
of these Indians (the Crows) we can discern great natural goodness of
heart, and absence of any useless barbarity and bloodshed except with
regard to their enemies, the males of whom they kill and cut to pieces,
but never kill women and children, whereas the Assiniboin, Sioux, and
Blackfeet kill everything. Very few feuds from polygamy result in
death, but should it so happen the other would be punished. If the
favorite wife had been killed, the least the other wife expected would
be a tomahawking, or an arrow shot into her, perfectly regardless as to
whether death would be the consequence or not. Women among Indians are
bought, paid for, and are the property of the purchaser the same as his
horses. Their lives are of course more valuable than those of animals,
and every Indian regrets the loss of his woman. Yet when he has bought
them he expects them to do their duty, not quarrel nor render his lodge
disagreeable, or if so they must expect to be severely punished.

Their lives are not, however, considered as valuable as men, nor are
they ever so much mourned for. When not bought, or unmarried, the
killing of a woman never happens and would be a great disgrace to any
man, though after marriage they are subject to the penalty of death
from different causes in which the man thinks he is justified.

Private debts are never settled by the chief, nor private disputes by
council. Advice may be given and taken, frequently is, though the usual
mode of settling trivial quarrels is by payment, and an invitation to a
feast. Everything except loss of life or personal chastisement can be
paid for among these Indians.

GAME LAWS, OR RIGHTS OF THE CHASE.—The roving tribes subsist by
hunting buffalo, and these animals being constantly on the move, they
are obliged to move after them. Therefore no particular section of
country is appointed to each as a hunting district.[14] There are,
however, certain regulations with regard to the hunting of these
animals which may as well be recorded here. A lodge or a few lodges
have no right to establish and hunt within 6, 8, or 10 miles from a
large camp, as by this the buffalo would be continually kept out of
the range of the latter, and a few people be the cause of distress and
starvation to the many. Therefore these obstructions are removed by the
soldiers. When hunting by surround has been agreed upon, individual
hunting is stopped for the same reason, and has met with explanation.
This is also the duty of the soldiers. Hunting deer, elk, beaver, etc.,
being of little consequence to these Indians, each one exercises his
pleasure in regard to these occupations. No right to any section of
country is claimed by any person to the exclusion of others. Should an
Indian wound a deer and not follow, and another pursue and kill it, the
former would have no right to either skin or meat, having relinquished
that right by abandoning the wounded animal. But should he be following
and arrive where the other has killed it, the hide and half the meat
would be his share. As a general rule he who draws the first blood of
the animal is entitled to the hide. This is often difficult to settle
when large buffalo surrounds are made on horseback with the bow and
arrow. Several hundreds of animals are slain in the course of an hour
or so, and some have the arrows of different Indians in them. Each
Indian, by his own mark, knows his arrow, but the matter of dispute is
whose arrow struck first? Therefore who is entitled to the hide?

[14] The statement here militates against any claim of private
ownership of hunting grounds among these tribes.

All that prevents this from being often the cause of serious quarrels
is that in large hunts a sufficient number or more is generally killed
than they can or do skin, and in smaller hunts the same confusion does
not occur. A wounded animal is also mostly pursued until killed, and
others usually pass by those that are stopped or have arrows sticking
into them. With regard to the meat all Indians are liberal. In a large
camp at least one-third of the men have no horses that they can catch.
There are also a good many old, infirm widows, etc., all of whom
must be fed. Every one who can, men and women, turn out and follow
the horsemen to the hunt; and, even while the hunt is going on at a
distance, commence cutting up the first buffalo they come to. The hide
is taken off, and laid aside with the arrow found in it. The tongue and
four of the choicest pieces are laid on the hide. This is the portion
of him who killed it; and the rest, which is the greater part of the
animal, is divided among those who skin it. This operation is going on
with numbers of buffalo at the same time, and by this division of labor
the hunters and all are ready to pack home their hides and meat nearly
as soon as the hunt is finished. In this way the hunters get as many
hides and as much meat as they can pack, and those who have not killed,
as much meat as they want. Whatever hides are remaining are given away
to those who have no horses to hunt with, and other poor people, and
all are satisfied and provided for. The soldiers’ lodge and others in
camp who have remained to guard the property in the absence of the
greater body of people are each supplied with meat by those who have
been at the hunt. Feasting is then commenced, and kept up day and night
until meat has become scarce, when another hunt follows. This method of
hunting is continued until they have hides and meat enough.


There is no doubt that the Indian trade has promoted the general cause
of civilization. Even within our recollection, tribes of Indians, from
being bloodthirsty robbers, have changed to orderly and civil people.
A foundation has been laid, and the road paved toward the civilization
of the prairie tribes, but nothing more. Stationary Indians have been
still further advanced. The few ideas of justice that are beginning
to be developed and the very first dawn of the light of knowledge
perceptible are in consequence of their traffic and communication with
the white trader. The introduction of firearms, articles of clothing,
utensils, and other articles manufactured by the whites must tend
to enlarge their ideas, set them to thinking, to show them their
uncultivated state, and to implant a desire to improve. Nevertheless
their progress is slow, more so with the Assiniboin than with any other
nations. They adhere with tenacity to old customs and superstitions,
which is vexatious and discouraging; but the Sioux, Mandan, Gros
Ventres, Cree, and Chippewa are undoubtedly much improved. The firm of
Pierre Chouteau, Jr., & Co., formerly the American Fur Co., has for
many years conducted the trade with all the Indians of the Missouri and
its tributaries, from Council Bluffs to the headwaters of the Missouri
and Yellowstone Rivers. The supplies for the trade are brought up each
spring and summer from St. Louis by steamboat and distributed at the
different forts along the Missouri River as far as Fort Union, mouth
of the Yellowstone; from which point they are transported with keel
boats to Fort Benton, near the mouth of Maria River, in the Blackfoot
country. From these forts or depots the merchandise is carried into the
interior in different ways, to wherever the Indians request trading
houses to be established.

The traders generally bear the character of trustworthy men and the
nature of the barter for robes and other skins is such that the Indian
receives what he considers an equivalent for his labor or he would
not hunt. There is no way in the nature of the business by which an
Indian can be made to hunt, nor any means of getting his skins without
paying a fair price. Should the merchandise be placed too high to be
easily purchased by them they would and can dispense with nearly all
the articles of trade. On the contrary should the price be too low
the business could not be continued; the prospects of gain not being
equivalent to the risk of the adventure or capital employed it would be
abandoned. Consequently a medium is and must be established whereby are
secured the advantage and comfort of the Indian and a tolerably fair
prospect of gain for the trader. The trade, when carried on without
competition, is in many respects a highly respectable and important
occupation. Therefore the Hudson’s Bay Co. have received the title
of honorable from the way in which they conduct it; but it is only
because they are alone that they are able to conduct it in this orderly
manner.[15] The Indian trade does not admit of competition. The effects
of strong rival companies have been more injurious and demoralizing
to the Indians than any other circumstance that has come within our
knowledge, not even excepting the sale of ardent spirits among them.
This we could easily prove, but as no monopoly can be allowed by the
nature of our government it is useless. When the American Fur Co. were
alone in the country a trader’s word or promise to the Indians was
sacred, the Indians loved and respected their traders, and still do
some of the old stock, but since corruption has been carried on we look
in vain for that reliance on and good feeling toward traders which was
once the pride of both Indian and white.

[15] Perhaps this title has been bought, but at all events they deserve

The manner in which the trade is conducted in its operations is this:

A party of Indians, many or few, leave their camp for the trading post,
packing on dogs and horses all their buffalo robes and other skins.
When within a mile or two of the houses, they stop and send a few
persons to the trader with an account of how many persons their party
is composed of, how many skins, etc., they have, and all general news.
These are furnished with tobacco and sent back with an invitation for
the party to come to the house or fort. If a leading chief is then with
a large party, the American flag is raised in the fort and cannon fired
when he arrives. On arrival they are received at the fort gate by the
interpreter, who conducts them to a large reception room. The dogs,
horses, etc., are unpacked and each Indian takes charge of his own
skins in the same room. They are then smoked (with the pipe), feasted
on coffee, bread, corn, etc., after which the principal men and chiefs
are called into the public office, when they are counciled with by
the gentleman in charge. Speeches on both sides are made, and if the
Indians have any complaints to make they now state them. The general
situation of the camp and trade is adverted to, prospects mentioned,
and prices of goods stated, with all other matters relating to their
affairs. When this is finished the store is opened and the trade
commenced. Several Indians can trade at the same time with different
traders, handing their robes and skins over the counter, and receiving
immediate payment in such articles as they wish. When all are done, a
small present of ammunition and tobacco is given them and in a day or
two they leave for their camp.

The place of outfit being in St. Louis, all returns of buffalo robes
and other furs are taken there also every spring and summer in
Mackinaw boats made at each fort for the purpose, and manned by the
voyageurs who came up on the steamboat the year previous. The risks are
numerous, both in bringing up the supplies in steamers and in taking
down the returns in Mackinaws. In the spring of 1819 this company lost
two steamboats in bringing up the supplies, one burned with the cargo
at St. Louis and the other snagged and sunk. Also the Mackinaws down
are often snagged and sunk, swamped, or the robes wetted by rain and
leakage. The loss of an ordinary boatload of robes would be $10,000,
and every year losses more or less are incurred in some way. From
experience we know that the chance of loss is equal to that of gain in
a given period of 10 years, yet should everything prove fortunate for a
length of time money would be made.

All men of family who turn their attention to hunting and collecting
skins and robes are shrewd and sensible enough in the trading of
them, sometimes too much so for some of the traders. Knowing the
value of merchandise and of what kind they stand in need, they make
their calculations of purchases before they leave their homes and any
additional article they can beg or otherwise get is so much additional
gain. They do not purchase useless articles. Goods of all kinds having
stated prices enables them to deal to a fraction, nevertheless they
will quibble and beat down the price if possible, even in the least
thing, and are generally successful in getting something out of the
trader in this way.

As for their debts, they will not pay. An Indian does not contract
a debt actually with the intention of deceiving; but before he has
the means to pay, new wants arise, his family wants clothing, he,
ammunition, etc.; in short, he is always in need, consequently never in
a situation to pay. Therefore they use every argument to get clear of
the debt, many of which are very ingenious, and if none will answer,
say they will not pay and that the trader has no business to trust
them. This being the case, but few credits are made. Whenever their
wants are too great, or means too small to enable them to hunt, the
articles are given them, though not credited. In the few instances
where credits are made the Indians keep no accounts whatever of them,
their object being to forget them as soon as possible; until they
have their memory refreshed of the disagreeable fact by a reference
of the clerk to his blotter. Our books are full of unpaid debts of
20 years’ standing, which would make a handsome fortune if the value
could be realized. There is no worse pay in the world, and a credit is
considered lost as soon as given, or if afterwards the trader receives
half pay he considers himself very fortunate. This being the case, no
runners are employed to collect, as in the Mississippi trade. As they
(the Indians) are not honest, neither are they sober, nor moral, but
have discretion for their own advantage.

The tariff of exchanges is made with the double view of securing the
profit of the trader and encouraging the Indians to hunt. Were a gun,
an ax, or a kettle, for instance, rated at too high a price, then
one of these articles would be made to serve the purposes of several
lodges by turns, or should ammunition be sold too dear only as many
animals would be killed as would be sufficient to feed their families,
and no more skins traded than sufficient to meet their most pressing
necessities. Such proceedings would lead to the abandonment of the
trade as not profitable. The expenses of this business are enormous,
the risk great, the capital invested half a million dollars, and more
than 300 people employed; and yet a good northwest gun is sold for
six robes or $18, the cost of which is $9.67. As a general rule, all
goods are sold at an average profit of 200 per cent on original cost.
The cost of buffalo robes in merchandise is about $1.35 in cash and we
estimate the expenses in men, forts, animals, and other disbursements
at $1.20 more each robe, which would bring them to $2.55. Now the best
sale made of a large quantity is $3 each. Therefore, a loss of one or
two boats loaded with robes must show a loss on the outfit.

Traders are very much subject to calls on their charity, both by
persons who really are in want and almost everyone else. All the
roving tribes are great beggars, even if they do not actually stand in
need. But viewing the question only in the light of an act of charity
they are numerous indeed. Unskillful in the treatment of diseases,
the different demands for medicines and attendance are great, which
at all times it is not safe nor expedient to comply with. The forts
are the depositions of all the old, lame, sick, poor, and feeble; in
fact, every one who can not follow the camp, or is of no use there,
is thrown on the hands of the traders, and his house has often more
the appearance of a hospital than a trading establishment. For all
this there is no pay, not even thanks nor kind words, but frequently
reproach and revenge if they are told to move off after recovery. It
would appear that the feeling of gratitude is unknown to the Indian. We
believe this to be the case among these.

It does not appear from our actual observation of 21 years, and
pretty correct information of as many more of still an earlier date,
that the principal animals have suffered diminution in the district
of which we treat, viz., from the Sioux country to the Blackfoot,
inclusive. How numerous they were in former years we do not know,
but understand from old Indians that more buffalo have been seen in
late years than were noticed 50 or 60 years since. It may be that the
range of these animals is becoming more limited from the pressure
of emigration westward. Yet this range is very extensive, reaching
from the Platte to the Saskatchewan and from Red River to the Rocky
Mountains, through all which immense district buffalo are found in
great numbers. Out of this question appears to us to arise another,
viz., Is not the decrease of the Indians from diseases communicated
to them through white immigration and commerce, thereby reducing the
number of hunters, equivalent to increasing the number of buffalo? And
does not the remnant of the Indians at this time require fewer animals
to feed, clothe, and provide all their necessaries, than the multitudes
before commerce was established with them? We think this view merits

If the buffaloes diminish, so do the Indians, and the diminution is not
felt. The manner in which they hunted before firearms were introduced
(by driving the buffaloes into pens) was infinitely more destructive
than at present. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, were necessarily killed
when a camp of a few Indians was stationed and when a small number
would have sufficed. That commerce stimulates them to hunt is true,
and a great many buffaloes are annually destroyed expressly for the
hides. Yet even this destruction is limited. An Indian’s family can
only dress a certain number of hides during the hunting season. The
hides in their raw state are of no value, and not traded, and can not
be packed and carried when they move, which they are obliged to do in
the spring; therefore no more are killed than the Indians can handle.
Besides, there are but four or five months when the hair or fur of any
animal is seasonable or merchantable and the rest of the year only
enough are killed for meat, clothing, and lodges for their families.
As far as we can be allowed to express an opinion, would say that the
Indians by diseases brought about by commerce, and of late years by
white immigration, will diminish and perhaps be destroyed as formidable
bodies long before their game. The loss of Indians from smallpox,
cholera, measles, scarlet fever, venereal fluxes, etc., within our
own recollection can not be estimated at less than 15,000 to 20,000,
without taking into consideration the consequent loss of propagation.

Were the destruction less we think it would have the effect of
increasing these animals so that many must die for want of proper
grazing or be forced to seek other lands for food. This would reinstate
us in our first position, that it is more probable the small number
of Indians now in existence will disappear before their game, or at
least will be so reduced as not to retard their increase. Immigration
in settling the country would banish the buffalo from that part of it
where these movements were going on, and force them to the alternative
of scattering through the settlements and thus be destroyed; or, being
confined and limited in their grazing, they would die for want of
sufficient nourishment. They are a shy animal and will not remain where
they are much troubled. Indian hunting has not this effect. The Indians
do not occupy the proportionate space of a town of 100 houses to a
county, and in some places not more to a State of the United States.
Moreover, they herd with order, and in the winter, not being able to
remain on the plains where there is no fuel, and very deep snow, are
obliged to place their camps on the banks of streams and hunt merely
the outskirts of these immense herds.

The increases of buffaloes must be very great. Each cow has a calf
yearly and the fourth year these also have calves. Now, supposing a
band of 4,000 cows to increase for eight years without accident. The
computation would be as follows:

                                             Say increase   One-half
                                             one-half cows    bulls
                                               4×4=16÷2=8       8
                                                       ===     ===
  One-half increase-----------------------------------  8
  Old stock-------------------------------------------  4
  Old stock------------------------------------------------ 12
  One-half bulls-------------------------------------------  8
  Total in 8 years----------------------------------------- 68,000

Now supposing the whole number of buffalo cows in existence to be
3,000,000, which is certainly not an overestimate, then—

                                                One-half One-half
                                                  cows     bulls
                                           3×4=12÷2=6        6
                                                   ===      ===
  One-half increase in 4 years--------------------  6
  Old stock---------------------------------------  3
  Stock------------------------------------------------  9
  Bulls------------------------------------------------  6
  Total in 8 years------------------------------------- 51,000,000

Making every calculation for their reduction in the many ways they are
killed, or die by accident, and the consequent loss by propagation, yet
being so numerous their ratio of increase is too great to diminish the
whole number much by any of these means.

The conclusion is that, in our opinion, both Indians and buffaloes,
with all other game, would disappear in consequence of white
immigration and occupation, though the Indians, being the smaller
number, would be the first to vanish. Also that commerce, by
stimulating the exertions of the hunters, can not increase their labor
beyond what they now perform, and that, being limited, is too small
to hasten the destruction or even diminution of any game as plentiful
as the buffalo. The same argument does not apply to beaver, foxes, or
even elk and deer. Should all the Indians be obliged to live on elk
and deer only, and have no resources but the furs of the beaver and
fox to get their supplies, a diminution of these animals would soon
be perceived and destruction follow, because their increase is not so
great, neither were they ever so numerous. They are smaller, and as
more would be required they would therefore soon disappear before the
united hunts of all the Indians. But as they are not as yet driven to
hunt them they do not diminish, except the beaver, which has been, in
this district, destroyed by large bodies of white trappers. Red foxes
are not, we think, so numerous as formerly, though it may be they are
not so much hunted. The trading posts or houses do not have the effect
of diminishing or frightening away the buffalo any more than the Indian

Their locations are few and hundreds of miles apart, and their
operations confined to within a few miles of their houses. Even while
we are writing thousands of buffalo can be seen by looking out of the
fort gates, which are quietly grazing on the opposite bluffs of the
Missouri, and yet this post (Fort Union) has been established 27 years.
The only good hunting grounds for elk and deer are on the Yellowstone
from 4 to 30 miles from the fort, beyond which though there are but few
Indians they are not nearly so numerous. Beaver and foxes are caught
every few days within one-half mile to 6 miles of the fort, not in
numbers, certainly, neither are they very plentiful anywhere in this
district. A trading post in a new country may have but few buffalo the
first and second years and innumerable herds the third, or vice versa.
There is no rule for this. The buffalo migrate and return. The other
animals are scattered over an immense region of country, are difficult
to kill, must be hunted separately, which is dangerous on account of
enemies, consequently not followed, therefore they are not diminished.
Thus no person can say to a certainty which are the first to disappear.

Perhaps the entire destruction of game would lead to the Indians
devoting their time to agricultural pursuits. It would force them to
do that or starve, but judging from their present indisposition to
work, and tribal organization, great distress would follow the sudden
disappearance of their game and starvation thin their ranks before they
would apply themselves to hard labor. The Indians who raise corn, etc.
(Mandan, Gros Ventres, and Arikara), do not do so from any scarcity
of game or apprehensions on that score, but have done so beyond the
recollection of any trader, or even of themselves. It appears to be
a desire to possess something else to eat besides meat, and a custom
handed down to them by their forefathers. Their corn is entirely
different from any raised in the States, and is the real original maize
discovered with the continent, the seed still kept in its original
purity. The labor attendant on planting and raising these crops is
performed by the women, while the men hunt like the surrounding
tribes, work of this description as their present ideas exist being
a disgrace to the males. Several of the other wild tribes have for
years entertained a desire to cultivate, not because they apprehend any
failure of game, but having become fond of corn, potatoes, etc., wish
to have them, but can not exert themselves enough for the purpose.

Commerce not as yet having reached the tribes of whom we write except
in the form of trade for their furs and skins, the question as to
its ultimate effects, as a cause of civilization, can not by us be
determined, but the effects produced by traffic have had a decided
tendency toward their improvement and advancement by stimulating
their exertions and increasing their knowledge. It must be obvious to
every one who is acquainted with the character and history of Indians
that they have an antipathy to work, that as long as they can support
themselves by hunting they will do so; for through these means they
are enabled to avail themselves of the labor and arts of Europeans
in procuring articles necessary for their subsistence, in exchange
for their furs and skins. This method being more consonant with their
fixed habits, is less toilsome though more dangerous than civilized
occupations. Having clothing, utensils, arms, ammunition and all kinds
of provisions furnished them by the traders certainly increases their
desire to obtain these things, stimulates them to greater exertions in
hunting, but does not lead to a sufficient energy of mind to endeavor
to produce these things by a slower though more certain employment. In
the event of a sudden disappearance of game they would be driven to
extreme want and thousands would perhaps perish before they would of
their own accord apply themselves to agricultural pursuits.

If no human exertions be made by those in power to instruct them in
the superior advantages of such labors over their present precarious
life, they must by a sudden pressure of emigration, and a consequent
annihilation of game, become the drudges of the whites, destroyed and
degraded by their great banes, whiskey and smallpox. It is impossible
to conceal the rapid strides made by emigration or its immoral tendency
on the Indians, and it would be very unreasonable to conclude that its
destroying effects would so revolutionize the habits of an uneducated
Indian as to meet the emergency. The change from savage to civilized
life and occupations must be gradual, accompanied by instruction,
education, and practical experiment illustrative of its utility.

The introduction of woolen goods has been of some advantage to the
Indians. It has added to their comfort, cleanliness, and pride, and
has had other good effects; but these alone can not be said to have
much increased their means of subsistence, though other things have.
As long as an Indian is a hunter, his dress must answer that purpose.
There is no fabric of European manufacture clothed in which he could
crawl after game over the plains covered with cactus in summer or that
would protect his body from freezing in winter. Blankets can not supply
the place of buffalo robes, cloth the place of skin, boots that of
moccasins, in these high latitudes and terrible snowstorms.

These things are bought for summer and fall wear in their homes or
when traveling, are preferred because they are not damaged by wet,
are gay, soft, and handsome, will make tolerably good undercoats
in winter, will serve for traveling horseback in summer and fall.
But the real hunter of the plains must have his buffalo robe coats,
moccasins, mittens, and cap, skin leggings, his extra buffalo robe on
his back and his snowshoes on his feet, or the cold and wind would
prove more destructive to his person than he to the game. The articles
introduced by commerce that have increased their means of subsistence
are firearms, horses, knives, kettles, awls, fire, steel, and metallic
instruments for dressing hides. Besides, the conversation and
instruction received from the traders has increased their knowledge,
elevated their desires, and stimulated their industry. These are some
of the effects of commerce, and this subject will meet with further
discussion through these pages.

We are not aware of any great moral evils consequent on the trade with
Indians in this section. The variations from truth and deceptions
practiced by rival companies are, however, the greatest. The
introduction of ardent spirits has been demoralizing and debasing, but
has in no great degree tended to the depopulation of the tribes of
whom we write. From a long period of actual observation and experience
we can safely say that the whole number of deaths arising from the
consequences of intoxicating drink does not amount to 100 during the
past 20 years, from and including the Sioux to the Blackfeet. That it
is morally wrong no one will doubt, but this has been much exaggerated,
and can not be reckoned among the causes of their depopulation. If that
cause is sought for it is very plain in the history of the smallpox,
which even while we write is sweeping off the Crow and Snake Indians,
upward of 1,200 of whom have died from that disease contracted on the
Platte emigrant trail last summer. The destruction of Indians from
cholera, measles, and smallpox since that road has been opened has been
incredible and there is no probability of its decreasing. These are the
causes of their depopulation and will be of their entire extinction.
The introduction of firearms has been beneficial to the trade, and in
some respects to the Indians. Deer, elk, and smaller game can be killed
when buffalo are not found, and in default of horses to run them the
Indians can support themselves with the gun.

The gun is a useful though not an indispensable implement. The loss of
an Indian horse is easier replaced than that of his gun, as he could at
any time steal the former from his enemies, and to get the latter would
require means to purchase, which have been destroyed by its loss. Also
the accident might happen when skins were of no value or unseasonable.
Another advantage in having a gun is that the means of making a fire
are thereby possessed, which on the plains is a matter of great
consequence, and a gun often saves the lives of several travelers. In
short, an Indian with a gun has double the chances of support that one
without has. Should his horse be stolen he can use his gun, and if
that is broken he can use his horse. By firearms a great many smaller
animals are killed, and skins traded which would not otherwise be the
case, though in hunting in bodies or large camps the gun is not much
used, except when there are but few horses that they can catch. The
possession of firearms has unquestionably promoted war. Many arrows
may be shot, perhaps all the Indian has, without doing any damage
unless at very close quarters, whereas at a distance or in the night
guns are effective. It also facilitates waylaying and killing their
enemies, a manner of which they are remarkably fond, and could not
well be accomplished with arrows, lances, etc., without nearly equal
danger to both parties. Guns and ammunition are considered the soul of
warfare, more so than of the chase, and a few Indians thus armed are
more efficient than a crowd with bows, lances, and war clubs. So much
is this the case that the want of a sufficient number of guns often
delays, and sometimes entirely stops, a war party.

There is only one way we know of by which the trade could be placed
on a better basis, and that being inconsistent with the principles of
our Government, is scarcely worth considering. It is that it should be
a monopoly. A charter granted to a body of efficient people who could
give bond to a large amount for their lawful prosecution of the trade,
and their operations subject to the revision and examination of a
competent board of directors.


There are no serious or valid objections on the part of any Indians
with whom we are acquainted to the introduction of schools,
agriculture, the mechanical arts, or Christianity. We have examined
the subject in all its bearings for upward of 20 years; counseled with
Indians about it; and it appears to us very singular that as yet the
Department or some charitable persons have done nothing in this respect
for the Indians. It is the only way they can be really benefited,
saved, recompensed for territory bought, or rendered useful. It is the
only way by which they could eventually be brought to have some certain
source or means of subsistence. They have often pressed upon us their
desire that we should use our exertions to get some mission or school
opened among them to instruct their children in agriculture and the
mechanical arts. With this view we have for years corresponded with the
Rev. G. I. De Smet of the St. Louis University (Jesuit), who intended
and perhaps still intend to commence operations of the kind among them.
Not being of the Catholic persuasion, it is not on that account that
the Jesuits were thought by us the most competent for such a purpose,
but that they have more zeal, knowledge, perseverance, and tact to
manage Indians than any others we know of. Their religion is peculiarly
adapted to that purpose.

The imposing rites and ceremonies of the Catholic Church would at
once attract their attention and excite their interest; afterwards
they could be made to comprehend. However, it is not with the grown
Indians the commencement must be made. The first step to be taken is
to stop, as much as possible, their internal wars, and this is rapidly
being accomplished by the treaty made at Laramie in 1851, which has
had the effect of making a general peace between all nations except
the Blackfeet. This peace may suffer interruptions occasionally, by a
few being killed, or horses stolen, but these things will be settled
among themselves, and the peace continue, especially if the Indian
agents are particular in enforcing the treaty stipulations. With the
Blackfeet a peace must be made in some way and that at Laramie having
proved successful, why not in the same way? They are very numerous and
hostile, and nothing but a large appropriation judiciously distributed
in merchandise could gain the point. Afterwards it might be kept up
for a series of years by smaller annuities, and when the general end
is gained these could be discontinued. The only way to work upon the
wild Indian is through his cupidity and necessities; force is not to be
thought of.

This point being gained, establishments should be formed among each
tribe, at the same time receiving a number of their children and giving
them a common English education and as soon as practicable bringing up
these children in agricultural and pastoral pursuits.

Habits of industry should be inculcated as they grow up, and the field
of their operations enlarged when they are grown, by portioning out
lands and providing a market for their surplus stock and produce.
Some of the useful mechanical arts could also be introduced, but only
those that are useful in their present condition and growing state. A
century or two may elapse before watchmakers, glass blowers, or even
tailors and shoemakers would be necessary, though a few gunsmiths,
blacksmiths, carpenters, and weavers would find immediate employment.
The principles of the Christian religion would of course at the same
time be taught, but the principal feature of these establishments,
as soon as the boys and girls were able to work, should be industry,
principally in agricultural and pastoral pursuits. The great errors
into which missionaries have fallen are that they make the observance
of religious duties the sole object and neglect the others.[16]
Also their zeal in this induces them to interfere with the present
government, domestic arrangements, and superstitions of the grown
Indians, thereby incurring their enmity, disgust, or revenge. The
present grown-up generation should be left entirely alone, not
interfered with, no attempt made to convert them, or even induce them
to work. It is useless, inexpedient, and subverts the general ends.
The first thing a missionary does is to abuse the Indian for having a
plurality of wives.

[16] Here Denig mildly protests against the unreasonable emphasis
placed on the observance of religious rites by the missionaries to the
exclusion of other duties.

Would the good missionary be so charitable as to clothe, feed, and
shelter the supernumerary woman; should all the Indians follow his
advice and have but one wife? Will the Indian consent to separate his
children from their mothers, or to turn both adrift to please the
whim of any man? This advice is uncharitable, unjust, and can only be
excused on the plea of ignorance of their customs and feeling. The
next difference that arises is that the priests take away all their
charms, medicines, and idols, and present them their cross instead.
Now as far as any of these old Indian reprobates can conceive the
idea of the cross, it is nothing more than a different kind of idol
in exchange for theirs. What in the name of common sense could induce
old priests, in every other respect sane and well informed, to think
that by administering baptism and giving an Indian the symbol of the
cross they have thus converted them, we can not imagine. If the Indians
believe anything thereby, it is that the image or medal possesses
some intrinsic supernatural power to prevent them from personal harm
or give them success in war, known to be efficacious by the whites,
and is to them in fact nothing more than a different kind of medicine
bird or medicine ball. Can they (the priests) suppose that an Indian,
only a grade above the level of the brute in intelligence, could
without education form a correct idea of the ordinance of Baptism,
the Incarnation, the Trinity, the Crucifixion and Atonement and other
abstruse points in which even whites, with all their education, can not

These grown Indians are too ignorant and obstinate to think, too lazy
to work, too proud to be instructed, and their formed habits too savage
and firmly rooted to give way before the meek truths of the gospel.
All such attempts must prove abortive; it is anticipating by an age
what should be their present course among the children. We would say
let all the grown generation die as they have lived, though before that
event took place many of them would have the satisfaction of seeing
their children in comparatively happy and improved conditions. This is
the only right beginning. Bring them up in the proper way, impressing
moral truths and industrious habits when young and fostering the same
in maturity. The Government can do this, should do it, and would be
extending a charity to a part of the human race but few sympathize
with, and opening a way for the remnant of aborigines to become a
useful and intelligent people. We repeat it, there are no objections
to this among the Indians. Proffers of the kind would be readily
acceded to by any tribe, even the Blackfeet, and all sensible traders
would assist. It would not benefit them, might perhaps hurt their
business some, and would in the end lead to its discontinuance. But
this is of minor consideration. We are confident that establishments
on the principles we have suggested would succeed and answer great
ends. But they must begin with the children as their foundation, not
merely for the observances of religious duties, without combining
active agricultural and pastoral pursuits, with a judicious choice of
mechanical arts.

It does not follow that the Indians should abandon their hunting
altogether to accomplish these ends. Those who wished to hunt could
still do so, as they now do at Red River, and when hunting failed,
as it eventually must when white emigration settles the country, the
Indians would find themselves in a position to live fully if not more
comfortably than before. Some of the money of the United States could
not be applied to a better purpose. One-half of the amount Congress
expends on the repairs of some old bridge would be sufficient to rear
and educate several hundred children. Indeed, after the boys and
girls had attained the age of 12 to 15 years they could more than
support themselves by their labor. Abstruse studies or extensive
mental acquirements should not be striven for except with the view of
providing teachers or physicians of their own nation, but generally
the rudiments of English education, such as is taught the peasantry
of England, would answer better. Too much education would produce an
unwillingness if not an inability to work.

Physicians of their own people would tend more to banish their
superstitions and encourage these institutions than all the preaching
in the world. Correct medical knowledge would be apparent in its
effects, and be the greatest acquirement in the eyes of the Indian.

With its introduction would disappear the host of jugglers, conjurers,
medicine men, and humbugs that now impoverish and kill most of their
patients. A distinct idea of crime and the necessity of law would
follow. The democratic principles of government already implanted would
assume an effective form and civilization and Christianity would be the
result. To accomplish this present payments of annuities should not be
curtailed, as it would hazard the ill feelings of the grown Indians
who, seeing no immediate benefit arising, would become dissatisfied
with the appropriation of their funds. Separate appropriations or funds
could be raised for the purpose.


The usual cause of war among the prairie tribes is the stealing of
horses. Indians must have horses, can not well live without them, and
will risk everything to obtain them. Moreover, horses are looked upon
in a measure as public property; that is, those nations who have few
think they have a right to take them from those who have many. Whether
it is a right or not they do it, and in these expeditions frequently
men are killed on both sides. This produces an obligation on the part
of the relatives of the deceased to revenge their deaths, and war
continues with various successes on both sides. The occupation of war
is also the most honorable an Indian can follow. The young men are not
noticed, neither can they aspire to the hand of a respectable young
woman, without having distinguished themselves in war excursions. They
are taught this when young, and as things now stand, it is difficult to
change. Nevertheless it can be done. Not immediately, but in the course
of a few years. There is always an opening to the heart of the Indian
through his love of gain. Most chiefs, soldiers, and heads of families
are open to bribes. The object of war in the first place is gain, and
the dangers attending it make it honorable.

This object (gain) must be superseded by an equivalent and the idea of
honor transferred to other sources. Take, for instance, the Blackfeet,
who are the most numerous and bloodthirsty nation on the upper
Missouri. Assemble them in treaty and make a distribution of $25,000
or $30,000 in merchandise among them and the deputations of other
nations with whom a peace is to be concluded. How would this operate?
The soldiers of the camp who would be appointed to distribute this
merchandise are the most powerful party, have generally the raising and
leading of war parties, and would take a liberal share of the presents
for themselves. The chiefs and heads of families would also receive a
large amount and the rest be divided among the young men, warriors,
women, etc. The peace would be made, all would be satisfied for the
present; but unless these payments were continued for a number of
years, or until the benefits of peace were realized and acknowledged,
nothing would be gained. An Indian does not reflect upon what he has
received but what is yet in store for him. The prospects of an annual
repetition of these presents would induce them to keep the treaty
stipulations. Why and how? The soldiers, chiefs, and heads of families,
whose voices only could make war, are held in check by the prospects
of gain, and should any parties be raised would be paid to stop, or if
they continued and stole horses, or killed a few of the nation with
whom peace had been made, the affair would be paid for and hushed up on
both sides, on account of the coming presents.

The reason why persons killed in time of peace between two nations
can be paid for, and privately not, is that in the former case the
voices of all, except the immediate relations of the slain, are against
revenge, inasmuch as it would affect their interests with regard to the
presents granted by the treaty. This operation going on in both nations
at the same time leaves the relatives too few to effect a revenge, and
the dishonor is evaded by the compulsion. In the course of a few years
all old causes for revenge would be forgotten. By visiting each other
and exchanging property, horses (the usual cause of war) would become
more equally divided, by being bought by those who wish them, instead
of stolen. Acquaintance with each other’s language, intermarriages, and
other ties would follow, and the advantage of receiving a large supply
of merchandise without the labor of hunting skins for it, together
with the honor and increase of power of the soldiers, by having the
distribution of this merchandise, must effectually throw the popular
voice against war. The voices of the women, though not consulted,
would be felt. They are vain, fond of dress, and would, of course, be
in favor of the treaty which enables them to gratify this passion in
a greater degree by furnishing them with clothing gratis. Therefore
war would be discontinued by them, and the hand of a peaceable man
preferred to one whose conduct militated against their own interests
and those of their parents. For we apprehend that the favor warriors
find in the eyes of the women and their parents is the result of their
success, not the glory in their bravery.

It is the horses stolen from their enemies that gives them wealth to
purchase any woman they please, and the father-in-law is anxious to
have a son-in-law who can at any time replace his loss in horses.
Indians are poor; that is, they are always in need of articles they
can not purchase, and getting a supply gratis is of great advantage to
them. The power of these annuities is great, and could be wielded with
sufficient force to bring different bands to war upon their own people,
and compel them to preserve the treaty stipulations.

We do not think that the display of military force on treaty grounds
is either necessary or politic. If to inspire a feeling of fear be the
object, it would require the presence of three or four thousand men
to effect it with the Blackfeet, and even then, there would be great
danger of collision with the troops who would endeavor to enforce
military regulations when they can not be understood and are not
required. Neither would Indians be induced to assemble when such a
body of armed men are brought without their consent, or if they did,
it would be with hostile feelings, and they could give no assistance
to the commissioners. A lesser force, or one inadequate to present the
idea of coercion, would incur their contempt, as they would necessarily
conclude that the Government had sent all the men they could raise, and
the few present would be imposed upon.

Indians do not like to be forced into measures, the utility of
which has yet to be made apparent. Besides, the spirit of treaty is
compromise, not force, as would be implied by these proceedings.
It must be a voluntary act on the part of the Indians, for and in
consideration of a certain sum, to obtain the stipulations. Again it
is entirely on the present state of the Indian and their government to
carry out this treaty we depend after the military force be withdrawn.
Their organization as pointed out in these pages shows them capable
of preserving order among themselves on these occasions, and a few
good, patient commissioners and sensible traders and interpreters
would secure what is necessary when force or appearance of it would
fail. If anything more was added it might be a few military officers
in full uniform and a good band of music. After satisfaction the
treaty would operate in detail as has been mentioned, and the next
best thing would be to take deputations of the principal men of each
nation to Washington, where they could council with their Great Father
(the President), and at this time the power and disposition of the
Government could be exhibited without giving offense, which in their
return among their people would be made public and the proper feeling
instilled. But Indians should never be treated with at the seat of
Government for many reasons.

The principal is that no deputation of prairie tribes could be taken
as the general voice, and even then would not think themselves treated
with on fair grounds—would agree to any and everything and afterwards
say they were forced to do it. Large bodies of whites in the interior
and on treaty grounds would necessarily be very expensive, and are
inexpedient, as pointed out, though the support of a great many Indians
would be very little. They bring their supplies along, hunt their
way back, and but a few groceries would be sufficient to feed them
during the short stay the business required. Another thing not to be
overlooked is that the assembling of different nations in a body at a
certain point is a great affair to them. It forms an epoch, a date, an
event, to be talked of for years. Each nation on these occasions feel
themselves bound to be polite, liberal, and attentive to strangers.
Hostilities for the time are laid aside or forgotten, and the whole
active force of the nations on whose ground the treaty is held is put
in motion to keep order. If the question of buying their lands is not
introduced, all goes on well, but on this subject they are jealous and
suspicious to a great degree.

In no instance should the principal of an Indian fund be placed in the
hands of any member of these prairie tribes to be distributed by him to
his people. They can not appreciate the use and expenditure of money;
neither could they with safety be placed in charge of any large amount
of goods for distribution.

If handed to the chief, they would be given by him to a few of his
immediate relations and friends, and the rest of the camp would get
nothing. The present way of distributing annuities is the best, if
not the only one that could give general satisfaction, and is thus
conducted. The whole amount of merchandise is separated into as many
portions as there are bands in the nation, according to the number of
lodges in each band. One of the bands is then visited by the Indian
agent, who, with the advice and consent of the chief of the nation,
chooses therefrom four to six soldiers and dresses them. The whole
band, men, women, and children, are formed into a semicircle with
these soldiers in front, and that portion of the annuities intended
for the band is laid in front of the soldiers, who separate it equally
among all, retaining, however, a reasonable share for themselves. This
appears to give general satisfaction. We can suggest no change in
the existing laws that might benefit the Indians, unless it be that
Indian agents should be people who have a correct knowledge of Indian
character. If it be really the object of the Government to benefit this
race of people their agents should be chosen from experienced traders
or others who have and still reside with them and are well acquainted
with their manners and customs.

How can a stranger who perhaps never saw an Indian, merely by
counseling with a few during his short annual visit, know their wants,
study their welfare, or make satisfactory reports to headquarters?
Besides, so much being dependent on these agents, their term of office
should not be limited to a change in the administration, as at present.
It is unlike other offices and requires many years’ close application
and constant residence among Indians to be of any real benefit to
learn in what manner they can be better regulated or to carry out any
series of measures the Government may wish to introduce. The pay of
these agents is also inadequate, and there are too few to be of much
service. The Sioux Nation alone is numerous and widely extended enough
to admit of an agency; the Mandan, Gros Ventres, and Arikara another;
the Assiniboin and Crows a third, and the Blackfeet a fourth. As it at
present stands, one man is appointed for all this, and the consequence
is some of them are neglected, if not the greater number. It can not
be otherwise. The nations are situated hundreds of miles apart and
each scattered over an immense district. Even one nation can not be
collected, consulted with, annuities distributed, and all business
settled in a less time than six months and often more. Should the
present officer do nothing but travel he could not make the round of
the whole in a year.


The personal property of these tribes consists chiefly of horses. A
man’s wealth is estimated by the number of these animals he owns.
Besides which they have their lodges, guns, clothing, and cooking
utensils. Possession of an article of small value is a right seldom
disputed, if the article has been honestly obtained, as their laws of
retaliation are too severe to admit of constant quarrels. But horses
being their principal aim, possessing them is nothing without force
to defend. To explain this fully it will be necessary to give a few
examples of the different kinds of rights and their tenure. Rights to
property are of the following description: Articles found, articles
made by themselves, stolen from enemies, given them, and bought. Two
Indians traveling together, one discovers a lost horse and points it
out to the other, who pursues and succeeds in catching it. Now the one
who made the discovery claims a portion of the horse on the ground
that had he not seen it or not shown it to the other most likely it
would not be in his possession. The other, therefore, to extinguish
this claim, would be obliged to pay some article equivalent to half
the value of the horse, which in case he refused to do would end in
the horse being killed on the spot, and the dispute terminated. The
same rule would apply to finding a gun, but smaller articles would not
attract attention enough to produce a quarrel. An article is considered
lost when the owner has abandoned the search.

All clothing, skins, arms, etc., made by themselves are the sole
property of those who made them, and this is the only general right
among them that admits of no dispute. To take away such things by force
would be reckoned a mean action; would be discountenanced individually
by all; and the perpetrator would fall into general disgrace, among
both men and women. When horses are stolen from enemies the case is
different. Suppose seven Indians conjointly steal 45 horses in the
night from their enemies. They would drive them off in a body until
beyond reach of pursuit and then each would lay claim, catch, and keep
as many as he could manage and defend. No equal division or anything
like it would take place. Men of desperate character would take the
greater part and leave milder or less strongly supported Indians with
one or two and some would get none. To do this sometimes two to four
will combine against the others and take the largest share, but one or
two men seldom carry this so far as to incur the resentment of the rest
of the party. It generally depends upon the number of relatives each
has with him, or his force in camp, before either of which those not
so strongly supported must give way. Quarrels often occur about these
divisions, and horses in dispute are killed or stolen in the night by
those who have few from those who have many before their return home.

An Indian never gives away anything without some expectation of a
return or some other interested motive. If one observes another in
possession of a fine horse he would like to have he will take the
occasion of some feast or dance and publicly present him with a gun or
something of value, flattering his bravery, praising his liberality,
and throwing out general hints as to his object, though not directly
mentioning it. He will let the matter rest thus for some days, and if
the other does not present him with the horse will demand his gift
returned, which is done.

One will sometimes give a horse to another for some purpose or
equivalent and allow him to keep it; but should the receiver give the
horse to a third person the original owner will often claim him and
take him back, giving for his reason that he did not bestow him on that
person, and although he had presented him to the first, he should have
kept him and not given him away to another. Smaller gifts are regarded
in the light of loans and generally paid for in some way. They may be
considered as exchanges of necessities which they take this way to

One would think that an article bought by them or of them should be
the property of the purchaser, but this is not always the case. If an
Indian buys a horse from another and it is stolen the first night or
two afterwards, or lamed the first race, part, and sometimes the whole,
of the payment must be returned to pacify the loser.

If a gun is bought and it bursts or is broken shortly afterwards,
in like manner a refund of a portion of the purchase money would
be required. And worse still if the gun in the act of bursting had
crippled the man’s hands, which is often the case, the accident would
also be paid for by him who sold the gun. These things are so well
known and anticipated among them that the vendor immediately after
the accident or loss invites the loser to a feast and by the payment
of something settles the matter. This has the effect of their having
but few bargains or dealings with each other, so much so that a horse
bought and paid for by us from them can not be resold to one of their
own people if they know it, because the original owner will take it if
he sees it in the hands of one of his own people and that person is in
a situation to be thus imposed upon. Most of their horses having had
several owners, they are always a precarious gift or purchase. Property
obtained by gambling is also held by a very slight tenure, so much so
that the loser has many chances in his favor and these operations are
much fairer among them than among whites.

Robberies of each other on any large scale are seldom attempted.

They would attract the notice and induce the interference of the camp
soldiers and relations of the robbed, and bloodshed would be the
consequence. Infractions of smaller rights are left to individual
settlement and are paid for. What prevents impositions in smaller
matters is the disgrace and disgust that would fall upon any man guilty
of petty infringements of personal rights.

With regard to the Indian of the British dominions applying to an agent
of the United States for the payment of a private debt contracted by a
north Briton, a resident of Hudson Bay, the probable operation of his
mind was as follows: “All whites are very particular in endeavoring to
collect their debts from Indians, and the richer are less generous.
White traders are interlopers. The country, game, and all else in
the territory belong to the Indians. The whites have no claims upon
our generosity; are entitled to nothing without paying for it. Now a
white man owes me, and from him I can get nothing. Indian agents are
sent expressly to see justice done the Indians, are responsible and
sensible, besides being rich and powerful. He will perhaps allow me my
claim, or interpose his authority with the Hudson Bay people to make
them pay. It is at least worthy of a trial, for if I gain nothing I
lose nothing.”

Most Indians of the British possessions in America, at least the Cree
and Chippewa, are a great deal farther advanced in knowledge of every
kind than those of whom we write. They have tolerably correct ideas
of right and wrong and are famed for the shrewdness they exhibit in
all kinds of dealings, to their own advantage. It is not even likely
that if this Indian claim was not settled by the agent spoken to, he
therefore abandoned it, but it is more probable that he dunned every
one of the Hudson Bay traders for years until he got some remuneration.
We have known an Indian at Fort Union to claim payment for carrying out
three bundles belonging to one of our people when the fort was on fire.
This demand was made 12 years after the circumstance happened. They
never forget a claim on whites, but never recollect one upon themselves.


How right to territory originally accrued can perhaps be learned by
the way in which it is here discussed. None of these prairie tribes
claim a special right to any circumscribed or limited territory. Their
arguments are these, and have been before mentioned. All the prairie
or territory in the West (known to them) and now occupied by all the
Indians was created by Wakoñda for their sole use and habitation. To
maintain this they state the entire fitness of the Indian for the life
of a hunter; his good legs, eyes, and other qualifications which they
do not allow to any other persons. The suitableness of the prairie for
the support of great numbers of buffalo, and the wooded streams for
smaller game, together with the adaptness of the game to their wants in
meat, clothing, lodges, etc. All this is to prove their general right
to the whole of the hunting grounds, where buffalo are to be found and
Indians stationed. Now each nation finds themselves in possession of
a portion of these lands, necessary for their preservation. They are
therefore determined to keep them from aggression by every means in
their power. Should the game fail, they have a right to hunt it in any
of their enemies’ country, in which they are able to protect themselves.

It is not land or territory they seek in this but the means of
subsistence, which every Indian deems himself entitled to, even should
he be compelled to destroy his enemies or risk his own life to obtain
it. Moreover, they are well aware that the surrounding nations would
do the same and sweep them off entirely if they could with impunity,
and each claims the same right. Possession is nothing without power to
retain, and force to repel, and to defend with success they must limit
themselves to a certain extent of territory, for by separating their
force too widely they would be cut off in detail. By these different
necessary locations the country has been parceled out, each holding
what they can with safety occupy, and making any encroachments they
are able. They claim the land as theirs because that portion affords
the means of subsistence with more security than by moving elsewhere
they could procure. To sell their lands, they say, would be the same
as to sell their means of living, for by moving elsewhere large bodies
of enemies would require to be displaced, which could not be effected
without great loss and perhaps failure. Indians who cultivate, such
as the Mandan, Gros Ventres, and Arikara, only claim as their own
the small patches that they till, and their right even to these
(individually) only exists as long as they are occupied by the crops of
the cultivator.

Should he fence it in and work it every year no one would dispute his
right to do so, but if the land be left idle some other would plant
upon it. It is in fact merely loaned from the general district for
the purpose of him who wishes to cultivate. There being no scarcity
of land, however, no difficulties occur on this point. From this view
it would appear that their right to territory is nothing more than
defending that portion on which they are located as necessary for
their support. Invasion of a neighboring tribe’s country would only be
the consequence of famine or scarcity of game in their own and would
be looked upon by them in the light of extending their hunting after
the buffalo (which is the property of all Indians) into another part
of the great plains intended by Wakoñda for their support, being aware
at the same time that they risk their lives by so doing. The foregoing
are the outlines of the arguments they use. It is because they are
at war that their lands appear to be distinct portions assigned to
each nation, although between each there are several hundred miles of
neutral ground, the nature of their forces not admitting of closer
approximation. Were all at peace it would present the feature of one
great estate on which each would rove and hunt when and where he
pleased, and what is now neutral would become hunting grounds. But as
long as hunting was their sole occupation no claims would be set up by
any man to a certain portion of land.

They must become stationary, acquire property, real estate, before land
becomes of any value in their estimation, further than the space it
affords to game of all kinds to live and increase for their benefit.


There is no general or fixed law of primogeniture. The eldest son is,
however, mostly a favorite, and although the custom is not universal
we have known instances of legacies left. If the parent be a chief
he will, if time permits, present his eldest son with his medal when
he anticipates death, if his son is of sufficient age to wear it.
They are anxious to be succeeded in their office by some of their
children, and the eldest would soonest be of sufficient age to take
upon himself the responsibility. But unfortunately for the wishes of
the parent the office or station of chief does not depend upon the
law of primogeniture, or any other, but upon the will of the greater
part to be ruled by him who is thus designated, and the capacities
and standing of the applicant. The chief whose speech is recorded on
page 598 presented his medal to his eldest son when on his death bed
in the presence of 20 or 30 persons of his band, intimating his desire
that his son should take his place and “follow in the footsteps of his
father.” The son not being the popular choice, another was appointed
and the medal was left in our possession, where it yet remains, though
his son was of age at his father’s (la-Chef-qui-parle) death six years
ago, and is living yet, and has progressed no further than becoming a
camp soldier.

Most of these Indians die violent deaths, either by war, accidents of
the chase, or rapid diseases, and thus have no opportunity to dispose
of their property, yet even when they have time do not often do it,
owing to the difficulty of having these requests fulfilled after their
demise. The dying request of a chief or warrior, if he makes any, is
that his favorite horse, or sometimes two or three horses, shall be
killed at his grave. Other horses, his gun, etc., are sometimes given
to his relatives as bequests, and this gift contains an intimation to
go to war after his death. The death of a warrior entails revenge,
from, whatever cause his death arises—sickness or accident. The
horses, therefore, there bequeathed are put in mourning by having their
mane, tail, and ears cut off and their body smeared over with white
clay. These, with the guns and other weapons bequeathed, are taken on
the first war expedition by the persons who received them. We have been
appointed executor of the will of an Indian who died at Fort Union
some years since from a wound through the bowels. A short time before
his death (about three hours) he called us to his bedside and made
a distribution of some horses and other property to be kept for his
children’s use, and desired his best running horse to be shot on the
spot where he was to be buried, while he was yet living, which with the
other requests were attended to.

There can be no doubt that if they were certain their dying requests
would be fulfilled the custom of bequeathing their property when the
circumstances of their death admitted it would be more general; but
they know that the customs are such that after death all property must
pass into the hands of strangers, as will be stated under the head of
Death and Its Consequences. Even when dying bequests are made they are
not always carried out. The horses and other property thus given to
their families are given to others who cut their legs and bodies and
cry a great deal at the interment, or rather on the occasion of their
placing the body in a tree, as they usually do. When the great chief
of the Crows, Long Hair, died no less than four hands were held out
by four different Crow Indians, each offering to cut off two fingers
to obtain the chief’s war horse that he ordered to be killed upon his
grave, but their offers were rejected and the horse was killed.


Crime of any and all kinds among them is considered an offense to the
individual and as such liable to punishment by the person offended.
But no idea of a moral offense toward the Great Spirit is exhibited
or consequent future punishment feared. All our endeavors to extract
from them even an acknowledgment of the greatest crimes being morally
wrong have been unavailing. They can not see that any act of theirs
should meet with punishment after death because they think they have
just cause for these acts, and also they do not believe in future
punishments at all. To illustrate the first position, we will present
their arguments on the greatest of crimes, murder. An Indian never
commits what in his mind would be equal to murder in our estimation.
There is no inducement in any case for them to murder a man for his
horses, wife, or any other property they possess, for this step,
instead of securing these advantages, would operate in quite an
opposite direction, making it necessary for the murderer to relinquish
his own property and that of his nearest relatives to pay the damage;
also forfeiting his own life and becoming an outcast. And this is the
reason why their disputes so seldom terminate in bloodshed, as the
prospect of loss is far greater than that of gain. When they do kill
among themselves it is in consequence of some quarrel about property,
or about something, and this they are then in a manner obliged to do,
to save their own life. It then becomes self-defense or a necessary
action induced by the principle of fear and their constant habit of
carrying and raising arms. In no instance does an Indian take life,
except that of his enemies, without provocation.

A horse, a woman, a gun, or any other article may be the cause of
a quarrel, and threats and menaces pass which place each under the
necessity of destroying the other to save himself. They say they can
not do otherwise, and often regret the necessity. To kill an enemy,
instead of being reckoned an act ungrateful to Wakoñda, is thought by
them to be highly pleasing, therefore his aid to accomplish this and
even private revenge is sought in prayers, fasts, sacrifices, etc. All
mankind have, they think, an equal right to live, and an equal right
to preserve that right, and it is the sense of this self-preservation
that compels them to remove any danger in their way, such as wild
beasts, enemies, or any of their own people whom they are aware are
only waiting an opportunity against themselves; and it is also this
right to life and fear of being assassinated that compels them to take
every advantage to accomplish the destruction of the danger pending. We
have questioned several Indians on this subject who have killed their
own people and all have led to the same subject, viz., the necessity
imposed upon them by quarrels to kill or be killed. To act otherwise
when all peaceful means have failed would be considered as the height
of foolishness and cowardice. An Indian does not take life from mere
thirst for blood, nor, as has been stated, to acquire property, as in
either case no advantage would be gained. When they waylay and murder
whites they believe they are doing right; that whites have no business
in their country, and are therefore looked upon in the light of enemies.

They do not kill the white traders among each nation, or in the few
instances they have done so it was from some motive of revenge, right
in their estimation and in conformity to their law of retaliation. When
the Blackfeet kill the whites at the Crow Fort it is from no enmity
to the whites as a people, for they could if they wished kill plenty
in their own country; it is that they do not wish the Crows, their
enemies, to have traders who supply them with the means of killing
them, by trading guns, ammunition, etc. The same reasoning on their
own side is the cause of their friendship toward their own traders.
Revenge, the great principle of destroying life, is strongly contended
for by the Indians as necessary to their existence, both individually
and as a body. The fear of the consequences of dispute prevents it,
or generally is settled amicably by payment. There being no competent
judiciary to try and punish crime renders it necessary for each one to
retaliate, or they would be liable to constant imposition. That revenge
among them supplies the want of courts of justice, prisons, and public
executions. If the revenge is disproportionate to the offense, it can
not be helped; their habits, customs, and organization all have that
tendency. In all this they see no offense to Wakoñda nor any idea of
moral wrong, even if they did believe in future punishment, which they
do not, yet they know it is an offense to the individual and all his
relatives, incurring their retaliation, which is the only punishment
they expect.

Inasmuch as the warrior believes that by prayers, fasts, personal
inflictions of pain and sacrifices they can secure the aid of Wakoñda
to effect the death of their enemies or for the gratification of
private revenge, by the same train of reasoning it must be manifest
that the soul of a warrior must occupy a high degree of happiness
in Indian paradise for accomplishing these acts through his

The death of a man who killed another would suffice if it were possible
to stop there, but we have said enough on this subject to show they
have no power to stop. The taking of the second life produces an
obligation on the part of the kindred of the deceased to revenge, and
retaliation is continued. The original cause of quarrel is lost in the
greater necessity of defending life on either side. Therefore in their
yet deplorable state of ignorance the crime of murder as an act of the
same nature in our ideas can have no existence among them, neither can
anything be morally wrong in which the aid of Wakoñda is invoked and
if successful obtained. Robbery or theft is also an individual offense
though not by them considered as such to Wakoñda. An Indian gives for
his reason for stealing an article that his necessities required it and
he could not get it any other way. He will not steal an article he does
not want or can not use and run useless risk of detection, but a horse,
gun, knife, of other things will sometimes be taken and the act excused
on the plea of his necessities.

The risk attending the extraction of large articles or the disgrace
incurred by pilfering is, they grant, all the punishment necessary, and
these seldom are attended with any serious consequences. All must live
some way and the right to property not being well defined—besides each
being accustomed to frequent reverses—stealing is looked upon more
as a means of subsistence necessitated by the state of their peculiar
wants, and does not present the idea of theft to them as an immoral
act or one tending to aggravate Wakoñda. Robberies to the extent of
depriving another of his means of living are seldom if ever attempted,
though retaliation would of course be severe in proportion, and in the
progress of this retaliation the property thus acquired, be it horses
or women, would be destroyed, besides the risk attending the robber

Fornication and adultery are not considered offenses to Wakoñda. If the
consent of the woman has been obtained, punishment is seldom inflicted
on the man unless caught in the act. The woman, however, is punished
in various ways, sometimes, though not usually, by death. The property
of the offender is taken or destroyed for his trespass on the property
of the offended. The chastity of any woman not the property of another
man may be violated without any moral sense of wrong presenting itself,
though the seducer would be liable to be made to pay or in default of
doing so his horses would be killed by the relatives of the woman.
Moreover, they look upon women as intended for this purpose, and only
take into consideration the different claims upon them as an article of

Rapes on virgins are nearly unknown. Were such a crime accomplished
the law would be death to the perpetrator, not because it is morally
wrong, but because it depreciates the price of the woman and lessens
her chance of marriage. It is also considered as an insult to her
relatives, intimating a contempt of their feelings and power of

The evils arising from falsehood or lying are with them of small
importance. Any lies an Indian could invent would not be productive of
any great evil, and owing to their associations the falsehood would
soon appear. This being the case it is not regarded as a great offense
even to the individual, much less Wakoñda. They all lie occasionally,
and the custom is so common as scarcely to attract any further notice
than their ridicule. Therefore there is no punishment attending on it
further than the person famed for lying would be neglected and despised
by the others. To call an Indian a liar would be insult certainly, but
not in the same degree as the same epithet among whites. It would not
be aggravation enough alone to merit a blow or any revenge. There is
no such thing as profane swearing among any of these prairie tribes,
nor is there a word in their language equivalent to even the smallest
profane oaths in such general use among whites. The name of Wakoñda is
never mentioned without manifestations of awe and reverence. In this
respect at least they are far superior to their Christian brethren. In
conclusion of this answer we come again to the starting point.

What in their estimation is crime, is wrong, is an offense to Wakoñda?
Crime and wrong can be nothing more than offenses to persons subject
to their law of retaliation, the punishment being greater or less
according to the object which entails it. Although they do not believe
in future punishments, yet they think that Wakoñda can be offended and
does punish in this life; not for crimes, as they have no existence,
but for neglect of proper fasts, sacrifices, and personal privations
and inflictions necessary to propitiate his anger. They believe that
they are under obligations to worship Wakoñda, not from the fact of
their creation or even as to the author of all good, but through fear
of his power. In almost every emergency an Indian can be placed, the
cause of which is not visible or the result doubtful, that is, where
his own powers fail, he applies to Wakoñda. These applications are made
by presenting to the Sun, Thunder, and other supernatural agencies
offerings of considerable value, by fasting, by lacerating their
bodies, prayers, and incantations, with the view of avoiding sickness
in their families, personal harm of every description, attacks of
enemies, to obtain success in war, to collect the buffalo near their
camp, to avoid the attacks of bears, strokes of lightning, or even
the appearance of ghosts. Where success has not followed these rites
and ceremonies they believe it is caused by the offerings not being
of sufficient value, or not of long duration, or their having been
too seldom performed. Therefore the neglect or incompetency of these
sacrifices constitutes the crime and the punishment is visible in the
misfortune that occurs. This part of the subject will meet with further
consideration under the head of religion.


PRAYER OF A WARRIOR.[17]—“O Wakoñda, you see me a poor man; have pity
upon me. I go to war to revenge the death of my brother; have pity upon
me. I smoke this tobacco taken from my medicine sack, where it has been
enveloped with the remains of my dead brother.[18] I smoke it to my
Tutelary, to you; aid me in revenge. On my path preserve me from mad
wolves. Let no enemies surprise me. I have sacrificed, I have smoked,
my heart is low, have pity upon me. Give me the bows and arrows of
my enemies. Give me their guns. Give me their horses. Give me their
bodies. Let me have my face blackened on my return. Let good weather
come that I can see. Good dreams give that I can judge where they are.
I have suffered. I wish to live. I wish to be revenged. I am poor. I
want horses. I will sacrifice. I will smoke. I will remember; have pity
upon me.”

[17] Almost every sentence is repeated over three or four times in a
low running tone, with the pipe presented to the Charm, Amulet, or Sun.

[18] Meaning with a lock of his hair.

PRAYER TO GHOSTS.—“Spirits of our dead relatives, I make this feast
for you to call you all around me. I smoke this tobacco which has been
inclosed with your hair; be near us and hear. My friends are around me,
and you are called to the feast. Call on all the spirits of our dead
friends to aid in giving us what we ask. Make the buffalo come near
and the clouds and wind fair to approach them, that we may always have
meat in camp to feed us and you. Help us in every way; let our children
live. Let us live. Call on all these spirits and ask them to assist you
in helping us.

“If we hunt, be with us. If we go to war, be with us. Enable us to
revenge some of your deaths upon our enemies. They have killed you;
they have brought our hearts low. Bring their hearts low also. Let us
blacken our faces. Keep us from harm, rest quiet, we will not cease to
cry for and remember you. You are remembered in this feast, eat some of
it [here small bits are scattered around]. This to you, my father. This
for you, my grandfather, my uncle, my brother, the relations of all
present eat, rest in quiet, do not let disease trouble us. We eat for
you, we cry for you, we cut ourselves for you.”

In conclusion, if the spirit addressed be recently dead they will all
cry, and some of the immediate relatives cut their legs and arms, but
if it is a feast to the memory of those long since dead some of the
concluding words are left out. There is a good deal of repetition and
often a long prayer is said, but the above is in amount what they ask.
For the previous ceremony before the prayer is said, see the article
where feasts to the dead are described.


They say the moon is a hot body and derives its light from its own
nature, not as a reflection of the sun’s rays; that it is eaten up
monthly or during a given period by a great number of moles, which they
call we-as-poo-gah (moon nibblers). These moles are numerous all over
the prairies, have pointed noses, no teeth, and burrow in the ground.
They (the Indians) believe that in eating up the moon their noses are
burned off, their teeth worn out, and for their damage have been cast
down from above, where they are doomed to burrow in the earth and get
nothing to eat. The same operation is going on all the time by other
moles, who in their turn will be thrown down. They think Wakoñda causes
a new moon to grow when the old one has been destroyed. The moon is
not supposed to be an abiding place for beings, but is worshipped and
sacrificed to on account of its affording light by which to travel at
night. They take the dark part of the face of the moon to be a large
light Man holding kettle in each hand. Stars are other bodies of fire
far off, which they admit may be the residences of spirits or beings,
though no great stress is laid on the idea. They are not regarded as
parts of a system. Except the Polar Star and the Ursa Major, but few of
the planets, if any, are known.


The Indians show great veneration for their parents and affection among
brothers and sisters; more, perhaps, to their parents than the others;
but this only continues as long as they are vigorous enough to hunt,
travel, and follow the camp. When old age and helplessness come on they
are neglected. In proportion as age advances, veneration diminishes,
and when parents become a burden they are left in some encampment with
a small supply of provisions, which being exhausted, they perish. Age
is under no circumstances the object of veneration; the fate of very
old brothers and sisters is the same. They excuse themselves from
this unnatural act by saying they are unable to transport them and
that they are of no more use; also that it is the request of the old
persons. This may be true, and it is likely that the life they lead
in camp or in traveling, exposed to all weather and hardship, renders
death desirable. There are very few very old Indians. They are not a
long-lived people, and this is the reason these acts are not of more
frequent occurrence. We do not know that the striking of a parent would
be deemed a crime; at least no punishment would follow from others, but
it is not customary and would be considered disgraceful. Eight years
since this period we were present when an Indian shot his father dead
for striking his mother, but this is the only instance of the kind we
ever saw or heard of, and the person is despised by all, besides being
since that afflicted by an incurable disease resembling scrofula.
Indian priests, doctors, or conjurors are not more venerated on account
of their supposed supernatural powers, but are somewhat feared, and
sometimes persecuted or killed for supposed inflictions of diseases by
sorcery. This fear is general but secret, and these men are neither
venerated nor associated with as much as ordinary persons. If their
services be required they are paid, and afterwards let alone, at least
not trifled with nor loved. We can not by close inquiry find that any
of these Indians ever killed by stoning a person, though enemies are
tortured in almost every other way, if taken alive.


All these Indians believe in a Great Power, the First Cause of
Creation, though they do not attempt to embody this idea, and call it
by name Wah-con-tun´-ga or Great Medicine.[19] The word “medicine”
in this case has no reference to the use of drugs, but the sense of
it is all that is incomprehensible, supernatural, all-powerful, etc.
Everything that can not be explained, accounted for by ordinary means,
or all that is above the comprehension and power of man (Indians)
is called Wah-con or medicine. Thus their own priests or jugglers
are named Wah-con. A steamboat, clock, machine, or even toys, of
the movements of which or the principle of motion they could not
account for, would likewise be termed Wah-con. Now, Wa-coñda refers
to something greater than is within the power of man to accomplish,
and its effects are manifested in the elements, natural phenomena,
sickness, death, great distress, or loss from enemies, famine,
lightning, and any other thing to them unaccountable by any visible
means. They think Wakoñda pervades all air, earth, and sky; that it is
in fact omnipresent and omnipotent, though subject to be changed and
enlisted on their part in any undertaking if the proper ceremonies,
sacrifices, and fasts are resorted to. They consider its power to be
made applicable to either good or evil according to their observance
of these ceremonies. They admit the existence of its good in years
of great abundance of game, seasons of general health, triumphs over
enemies, etc.; and its evil or danger is felt in every loss, infectious
disease, or distress, the cause of which they are ignorant. These are
the attributes of Wakoñda, and his residence is supposed by some to be
in the sun, but his power everywhere.

[19] Denig here defines the sense In which he uses the term “medicine”
as applied to the objects and things to which the native Indians
apply their words, _wakoñ_ and _wakoñda_, meaning, “spiritual, sacred,
consecrated, wonderful, incomprehensible, divine; a spirit, a diviner,

They do not acknowledge any separate existing evil spirit or influence,
though they have a name for this in their language, but the idea
has been implanted by whites in later years, and can not by them be
realized. All unaccountable evil is a dispensation of the anger of
Wakoñda, which it is in their power to avoid by the proper fasts,
sacrifices, etc., and which they all do.

Now this Supernatural Unknown Cause or Mystery created all things
in the beginning. After the earth a few men and women of different
colors were made, from whom descended all people. Different races
were created for different pursuits. They say that to the whites was
allotted education, knowledge of the mechanical arts, of machinery,
etc., and therefore the whites in many things are Wah-con. They were
also made rich and clothed, or have the means of getting clothing, and
everything they want without hardship or exposure. The Indians, they
say, were made naked and with such qualifications as to suit a hunter,
knowledge enough to make his arms and use them at war or in the chase,
a constitution to stand severe cold, long fasting, excessive fatigue,
and watchfulness, and this was their portion. The position and pursuits
of people were not defined by any laws, oral or otherwise delivered,
but each with the powers granted him was enabled to live. The hunter
soon found out that he could make traps and weapons, and felt his
superiority over the animal creation.

They believe all animals are made for the use of man and more
especially for the Indians, their meat being for food and their skin
for clothing, “for” say they, “if not for that use for what other
purpose?” Indians must have meat, and they eat all animals and birds,
even to the crow and rattlesnake.[20] The prairie (the earth) was made
for grazing the buffalo, and rivers to produce fuel, etc. The whites
from their superior knowledge soon found out their destiny—to make
everything, subdue everything, and make even the Indians work for
their benefit. People were left in this state and each pursued their
different occupations.

[20] The Assiniboin never eat the rattlesnake, but it is known that
some of the St. Peter’s Sioux and Cree do.

We can not trace in any of their conversations or religion any
appearance of a moral code nor any offenses they can be guilty of
toward Wakoñda except the omission of worship. If they had an idea
of the kind they would undoubtedly do penance and offer sacrifices
for these acts, but this is not the case. There is no repentance for
past deeds; all ceremonies and worship is to avoid present or future
evil. What we term crime can not be an offense to Wakoñda, as its
aid is invoked to commit the greatest of them. Their idea of Wakoñda
or Great Unknown Power is, we believe, nothing more than the fear of
evil befalling them, the averting of which is beyond the power of man.
Therefore they make sacrifices, fasts, prayers, etc., to this Unknown
Power which they know from actual phenomena has an existence, and think
His aid can thus be secured.

But they can go no further. They have no idea of a Being whose
attributes are mercy, forgiveness, benevolence, truth, justice,
etc., nor will they have until these words have a signification and
appreciation among themselves. This view is the correct and general
one among all the prairie tribes, though it is often clothed in
superstitious narrative of fable not necessary to be inserted here.
War and peace would not be recognized as His special acts, as they
know these things depend upon themselves, but success or defeat
would be, as that is beyond their power or knowledge when they start
to war. Consequently, a successful warrior or leader is always said
to be Wah-con or divine—that is, one who has by some means secured
the aid of Wakoñda. Natural phenomena unattended by either good or
evil results would pass by unnoticed, but destructive tornadoes,
deaths by lightning, by diseases such as apoplexy or unaccountable
accidents would be regarded as His special acts. Eclipses, thunder,
and lightning are warnings, and to these sacrifices are made with the
view of averting the danger intimated, yet unknown. From this dread of
unaccountable evil arises their repugnance to talk on the subject. To
do so would lay open their secrets of apprehensions, of sacrifices, and
might, they think, by levity produce the evil they wish to avoid or a
counterpoise of sacrifice on the part of some one else render theirs

For the further explanation of this subject it will be proper to state
some of thier sacrifices and ceremonies so that a minute survey of
the operations of their minds can be realized. The greatest public
or national ceremony of the Assiniboin is the Sacred Lodge. The
time for this is appointed by some divining man of known repute and
invitations are sent to the different camps to attend. Lodges are
placed in the form of a long tent by posts planted a few yards apart
and others transversely, over which are stretched many lodge skins to
form one building about 100 yards long and 5 or 6 yards wide. To these
transverse poles are tied all offerings to Wakoñda, though principally
to the Sun and Thunder. These offerings consist of skins of value,
different kinds of cloth, beads, kettles, and any new articles the
donator can afford and is willing to sacrifice, in proportionate value
as their wishes to effect some object or to avoid some danger they
apprehend exists. A mast about 40 feet high is raised in front of the
building and the raising of this requires the presence of all the men
and women, who all the time sing a kind of hymn or tune, though no
words are used in it. This, mast is painted and decked out very gaily.
All are dressed in their very best raiment and the whole presents a
lively and interesting appearance. The divining man who called the
meeting on the first day goes through many prayers and ceremonies with
the pipe, the tenor of which are invocations for general health and
success both in war and the chase, and for the avoiding of any and all
unknown evil or accidents.

The second day is devoted to dancing and feasting on the very best they
can produce, and this is the only dance among them except the scalp
dance where men and women dance together. On the third day is exhibited
feats of sleight of hand and tricks, some of which are very well done
and serve to increase their belief in the supernatural powers of the
divining men who perform them. On the fourth day these sacrifices are
taken down, destroyed in such manner as to be of no use to anyone who
finds them, and hung on different trees or bushes in the neighborhood.
The divining man who called the meeting receives presents from a good
many who attend, of horses and other property, and it generally proves
a good speculation on his part. This is done but once a year and is
their only form of national worship.

The common way in which sacrifices are made by individuals is thus:
The Indian takes some article of value alone into the hills or woods,
lights the pipe, and invokes the aid of Wakoñda in whatever he desires
to succeed, promising a repetition on a certain time.[21] This article
is then damaged or destroyed and left there. After this he returns to
his lodge, kills a dog, makes a feast, and invites his neighbors, by
whom the flesh is eaten and small portions thrown on the ground as a
respect to Wakoñda. It does not appear, however, that the killing and
eating of the animal is considered as part of the sacrifice further
than to add to the importance of the ceremony.

[21] This fetish or amulet is also exposed and smoked to as a medium
for his prayer to the Great Medicine.

A feast of corn, flour, or berries is as often used on these occasions
as animal flesh. The article sacrificed must be something of value,
must have caused the Indian some trouble or expense to procure;
otherwise it is of no avail. On one occasion an Indian bought at this
place the following three articles at the price of six buffalo robes,
viz., two kettle covers, a ball that had been shot out of a gun, and
a chew of tobacco that had been thrown away. Now, although he could
have procured any of these articles for nothing in his own camp, yet
according to his promise to Wakoñda he was obliged to pay a high price
and to travel a long distance to procure them.

Every warrior or man of family among them makes these sacrifices
whenever he feels disposed, or their promises to Wakoñda become due,
and if they do not fulfill these promises or neglect these ceremonies
they are punished, or at least any accident, loss, or failure would
be attributed to this cause, that could not be accounted for by any
other. Another mode resorted to of propitiating the anger of Wakoñda or
securing his aid is fasting and cutting their bodies. This is not much
practiced by the Assiniboin except for success in war.

Several principal warriors will lie out in the cold, rain, or snow
for three or four days and nights, without eating, drinking, smoking,
or speaking, making internal prayers to Wakoñda to aid them in
accomplishing their objects and the dreams that present themselves
under these circumstances are received as favorable or unfavorable
omens according to the nature of the visions presented. This is done
by those who are desirous of leading a war party or becoming capable
to lead by some great exploit, and the leader chosen is he whose dream
appears to present the greatest appearance of success. These fasts are
sometimes accompanied by cutting the breast with a knife horizontally
or the arms transversely above the elbow, making incisions about 3 or
4 inches long and half an inch deep, which are not bound up. Among
the Mandan and Gros Ventres these ceremonies are still more severe.
Incisions are made on each side of the shoulder blade on the back and
a stout stick is thrust through. A cord is then attached to the stick
and they are drawn up off their feet to a post planted for the purpose.
By an impetus given with their feet they throw themselves out from the
post and swing themselves around violently until the cord winds and
unwinds successively, for one or two days, when the hold breaks and
they fall to the ground.

If not already too much weakened, new incisions are made and cords
10 or 12 feet long are tied therein. To the ends of these cords are
attached three or four buffalo bulls’ heads and horns, each weighing
from 15 to 20 pounds, and they drag this weight over the ground, the
horns plowing it up until the holds break, or fainting from exhaustion
they are carried away by their relatives. Nothing is eaten or drunk
during all this time.[22]

[22] We perceive by the printed inquiry that this is not credited, yet
it is so common among these people as scarcely to attract the attention
of the traders.

These and other ceremonies are what they think appeases the anger,
averts the evil, or secures the aid of Wakoñda or Great Mystery. They
are not made with the view of any atonement whatever for bad deeds,
neither with the object of purifying their minds for communion with
him or it, but as a payment. The idea is that he who undergoes so much
voluntary punishment or pain, or destroys so much property to him
valuable, entitles him to the protection of that unknown power and that
it can and will favor those who thus remember and worship him.

They have no idea of national and individual atonement, nor that any
person was to or has come on earth to answer for them. To make this
idea reasonable to them they would first have to be taught that they
are guilty of crime and a correct knowledge of the attributes of the
Great Mystery, together with a moral sense of justice. To do this the
entire regeneration of the grown Indian must be brought about, which it
would be little less than a miracle to accomplish.

They would, to please any missionary, give a tacit consent to his
creed, whatever it was. Knowing him to be an educated and superior
man, not striving after personal gain, they would be induced to give
it a trial, but would continue their own ceremonies at the same time
in secret, and any failure of their expectations would be blamed on
the missionary. They might actually appear to him converted by outward
show, but their minds would undergo no change, unless it was to become
more confused and skeptical. This is the reason why all attempts at
reformation should be made with their children. Abstract truth will
not admit of general application, without taking into consideration
the existing state of things. The necessity of law must be felt before
it would avail; their ignorance made manifest before truth could be
introduced; a moral sense of justice and of their depravity implanted
before moral rectitude can be expected.

Horses sacrificed on an Indian’s grave are an offering to the Great
Mystery to conduct the soul of the departed immediately to the south,
where the Indian Paradise is said to be situated, and also includes a
desire that the Great Mystery should supply the place of the deceased
parent, as a father and protector. Dogs and other animals that are
killed in sacrifice, are eaten by those invited, and only appear to be
part of the ceremony, not of the sacrifice. The entrails of the animal
thus killed are neither eaten nor burned, but thrown away as on any
other occasion.

In eating these feasts small bits are thrown on the ground with these
words: “This to Wakoñda to keep us from, harm,” “This to the Sun,”
“This to the Thunder,” or to some of their dead relatives, and these
ejaculations are uttered in a very low voice, not always audible. They
offer no human sacrifices to Wakoñda, neither do their traditions
mention their forefathers to have done so. Though enemies are tortured
to death in many ways, yet it is only to satisfy their revenge and
thirst for savage glory. Within the last year several of these acts
have been committed a short distance from this place, which to convey
an idea of we may mention here. Five Blackfeet were caught stealing
horses from the Crow village in the spring of 1853, then at the mouth
of the Yellowstone River, and the enemies were pursued a mile or so,
when they took refuge in a cluster of bushes. The Crows surrounded them
and by constant firing killed all except one, who was shot through
the leg. This man they took out alive, scalped, and cut his hands
off, gathered their boys around who fired into his body with powder,
striking him in the face with his own scalp, and knocking on his head
with stones and tomahawks until he died. Afterwards the five bodies
were carried to camp, the heads, hands, feet, and privates cut off,
paraded on poles, and thrown around the camp, some of which found
their way to the fort, and were presented by the Crows to the Cree
Indians then here.

A few weeks before the period at which we write some Blackfeet stole
horses from the Cree camp, were pursued and 11 out of the 12 of which
the party consisted were killed. The remaining one was taken alive,
scalped, his right hand cut off, and thus started back to his own
nation to tell the news. Now as this man was leaving the Cree camp he
met a Cree[23] boy whom he managed to kill with his remaining hand, was
pursued and taken the second time, and was tortured to death by slow

[23] Evidently should be Blackfeet.

The trunks are generally burned, but all the members and the head are
carried about the camp, if near, and insulted by the old women and
boys in every possible manner. The Sioux, Assiniboin, and Cree will on
occasions tear out the heart of an enemy, place it on a stick and roast
it before the fire, dance around, sing, and each bite off and swallow
a small piece. There are no religious associations attending these
acts, and they are not made with the view of appeasing the anger or of
sacrifices to the Great Mystery; neither do their words and actions on
these occasions imply any such idea; all is insult to the dead enemy,
and savage glory and revenge to themselves.

The moral character of their priests or doctors does not differ in any
respect from that of ordinary Indians, which have by this time been
seen to possess no such qualities as sobriety, truth, etc. Whether they
actually believe in their own powers we can not say, but rather think
they do. Perhaps some strokes of fortune or remarkable coincidences
have produced this belief, or they may think that the pains and
exertions they use may induce the Wakoñda to aid them. We have already
noticed this class of priests in their medical capacity, and will now
state their other qualifications. They wear no badge of office, are
either of the male or female sex, are not hereditary, nor is their
number limited. As many as are believed to be Wa-con, or Divine, and
are willing to run the risk attending the profession, do so. They are
all called by the same general name of Wa-con, independent of their
individual or real name. They affect to cure diseases, reveal future
events, direct where lost articles are to be found, interpret dreams,
etc. The ceremony attending any of these things (except sickness) is
conducted by the medicine man, first being paid for his services.
Afterwards he enters a small lodge built for the purpose, like the
vapor bath and drums, rattles and sings alone the greater part of the
night, returning his answer to those concerned in the morning. These
answers partake of the nature of those of the ancient oracles, are
ambiguous, with the view of evading decided failure. They do not claim
the power of witchcraft, as this is a dangerous profession, but this
power is ascribed to them by the other Indians.

The majority of these people believe, or say they believe, that some of
these old conjurors can “shoot them with bad spells” (as they express
it) at the distance of 100 miles off, and it is on the assumption that
they are the cause of some of their deaths, that the lives of these
professors are sometimes forfeited. We believe their confidence in the
powers of these priests and medicine men is pretty general, though
some of them (the priests) are more divine or Wa-con than others. When
an Indian is sick they endeavor to cure him, as has been stated, and
if unsuccessful and death ensues they usually keep out of sight until
the first bursts of grief are over. Others of the same profession who
have not been called to administer to the patient attend the funeral,
their object being to secure whatever property they can by loud crying,
cutting their hair and bodies, and other display of profound grief.
Nothing resembling a prayer is said over the dead at the burial nor
anything spoken. Indeed, on account of their loud lamentations it
would be impossible to hear it if it were. Some weeks afterwards,
however, other ceremonies take place regarding the dead which will be
described in another place. The body is placed in the fork of a tree,
on a scaffold, or occasionally interred on the top of a high hill. No
device, inscription, or hieroglyphics are made at or near the place of
interment by any of these nations.

As far as we have proceeded with their religion, belief is the general
one, though it may be clothed in different language by different
Indians, sometimes superstitious and fabulous, but our object has been
to arrive at the philosophy of their religion by rejecting fables,
etc., which do not bear upon the inquiry.

From this point all other religion diverges into different minor
beliefs and superstitions according to the fancy of each individual.
Many believe in certain evil spells and troubles brought on them by
lesser spirits or ghosts and even of the spirits of monsters which
have no existence nor ever had except in their dreams and morbid
imagination. It appears that these ghosts are the cause of all petty
malice, vexations, or bad luck, not being of sufficient consequence to
attract the attention or induce the influence of Wakoñda. To relate
the different kinds of belief in these powers as each would explain
it would require the labor of years, and it is somewhat difficult to
generalize, owing to the prevailing differences. Under some of the
answers that will follow regarding charms, amulets, ghosts, etc., will
be detailed enough in conjunction with what has already been stated to
form a tolerably connected idea of this feature of their faith.

Sorcery or witchcraft has already been noticed, but we may in addition
state that the witchcraft imputed to some of their doctors is their
power to do evil at a great distance from the object, to produce death
or disease, though they do not believe these persons can transform
themselves into other shapes; think they can exercise the same power to
do good if they choose, and do exercise it in curing the sick. It is in
consequence of this belief that the doctor or divining man is punished
in case of failure and death, as they think it is his unwillingness,
not his inability, to cure which produces the result. They do not burn
them, but the writer has seen several shot at different times by the
relatives of the deceased, on the supposition they caused their death.
This custom is in as great force now as it ever was.

The divining man has a chance to become rich in horses and other
property in a short time, as his fees depend on himself; but these
advantages are more than counterbalanced by the risk attending the
profession. The doctor, priest, conjuror, wizard, prophet, and divining
man are all united in the same person; that is, to a divining man
(Wa-con), or divining woman (Wa-can), these powers, or some of them,
are ascribed, and they are believed to possess them in proportion as
their success has been developed. Some are simply doctors of medicine,
others in addition are conjurors and do tricks. Some go further,
interpret dreams, reveal the future, find lost articles, etc. The whole
united forms the entire divining man. The persons who profess and
perform some of these things are tolerably numerous; but the effective
diviner of established reputation, large practice, and possessing the
whole of the foregoing powers are very few, perhaps not more than six
or eight in the whole Assiniboin Nation. As has been observed, they
form no distinct body and have but little influence in council unless
they can add that of warrior to their many distinguished titles and

The whole of these Indians most sincerely believe in the theory of
ghosts, that departed spirits have the power to make themselves visible
and heard, that they can assume any shape they wish, of animals or men,
and many will affirm that they have actually seen these apparitions
and heard their whistlings and moanings. They are much afraid of these
appearances, and under no consideration will go alone near a burial
place after dark. They believe these apparitions have the power of
striking the beholder with some disease, and many complaints are
attributed to this cause. They therefore make feasts and prayers to
them to remain quiet. Smaller evils and misfortunes are caused by their
power, and a great many stories are nightly recounted in their lodges
of the different shapes in which they appear.

Dreams are revelations of Great Mystery and have considerable influence
over them, either in war expeditions or the chase. A bad dream on the
part of the leader of a war party would be sufficient cause for their
return, even if they were within a short distance of their enemies. It
would also prevent an Indian from his customary hunting and have other
effects of the like nature for a short time. Good dreams are therefore
always desired and courted, particularly on the eve of war excursions.
Faith in amulets and charms is general among the whole of these tribes.
The material of these charms is of every possible variety, as also the
different degrees of influence they exercise over different minds. The
idea though thoroughly realized by ourselves is difficult to explain,
but may be thus stated: Although the Great Spirit is all powerful, yet
His will is uncertain; He is invisible and only manifests His power in
extraordinary circumstances. The want of a tangible medium is felt,
therefore, through which they can offer their prayers to all ghosts,
lesser influences of evil, which overrule their ordinary occupations.
Each Indian selects some object for this purpose and calls it his
medicine, which is invested with a sacred character by the care with
which it is guarded and the prayers, invocations, etc., made through it
as a medium.

This charm or fetish is chosen in consequence of some dream or incident
or idea presented on some important occasion, and consists of the skin
of a weasel, otter, or beaver; heads and bodies of different kinds of
birds, stuffed; images of wood, stone, and beads wrought upon skin;
drawings of bulls, bears, wolves, owls, serpents, monsters, who have
never existed; even a bullet worn round the neck; in fact anything
resembling animate, inanimate, or imaginative creation, is selected
according to the superstitious fancy of the individual. This charm,
whatever it is, is inclosed in several envelopes of skin, and placed
in a rawhide sack which is painted and fringed in various ways. This
sack is never opened in the presence of anyone unless the Indian falls
sick, when he has it taken out and placed at his head. Ordinarily this
object is taken out in secret, and prayers and invocations made through
it as a medium to the spirits he wishes to propitiate. They are aware
that the object has no intrinsic power, but its virtue lies in their
faith of their ceremonies, as exhibited through this charm as a visible
medium to the supernatural. It is in fact the same operation of mind
(though differently exhibited) as is displayed in the charms believed
in by most of the lower order of whites. Although many ignorant white
persons have faith in the charms, spells, etc., of quack doctors and
old women, yet this does not destroy their belief in the Supreme Being,
neither does it that of the Indian. As long as he has success in his
different ordinary undertakings and is not troubled with the evils he
fears, he will continue to say his medicine is good, but should he be
disappointed and the case reversed, he will throw the charm away and
substitute some other.

Thus the writing, paintings, and pictures done by whites are considered
great charms by some Indians, particularly the Crows, and are eagerly
sought after as such. In the same light is regarded the medal of the
crucifixion given them, by Catholic priests.

What is the actual character of their worship when closely analyzed?

It is hoped that the preceding remarks have rendered this character
plain. All their prayers, sacrifices, feasts and personal inflictions
tend only to advance their temporal welfare and interest.

Several tunes are sung on some of these occasions when presenting the
pipe to the Sun, etc., that are of a sacred character, partaking of the
nature of thanksgiving for any signal success in war or otherwise. A
few words are used, but the chant is solemnly performed without their
usual gesticulations or levity.

The custom of holding as sacred the cult of the tobacco plant is
general. No ceremony of importance takes place among them in which
the pipe is not used. There are, however, several solemn occasions
in which the manufactured tobacco will not answer, when they use
that grown by themselves. These customs occur among the Mandan, Gros
Ventres, Arikara, and Crows, the only nations who cultivate the tobacco
plant. Sacrifices of small quantities of tobacco are also made on many
occasions, and always a small piece is found wrapped with the medicine
pipe or inclosed in the medicine sack.

Why it is considered sacred they can not explain, and the idea appears
one of the most ancient and original among them.

These tribes do not worship fire in any form. The Sun is thought to
be a body of fire and is worshipped next to the Great Mystery by all
of them, not, however, because it is fire (though being luminous no
doubt originated the idea) but because it is believed by most of them
to be the residence, and by some the eye, of the Great Mystery. It
is worshipped as the greatest visible symbol of the Great Mystery.
No other ceremonies are in existence among them by which we would
judge that fire is regarded with more reverence than water. On some
occasions councils are opened with fire struck from flint, such as
peace-making between two nations, ceremonies in the medicine lodge, and
feasts to the dead, but in all ordinary councils among themselves this
distinction is not made. In the cases where it is obtained from the
flint it seems to be merely an adherence to ancient custom. No extra
benefits are expected on that account, neither when questioned do they
attach much importance to the fact. Fire would be nothing without the
tobacco. In all these ceremonies with which we are well acquainted, we
can safely say that the tobacco is the sacred material (not the fire).
The rest depends on their invocations, etc., to the Great Mystery or
his symbols to render the whole of an effective character in their
estimation. We can not by inquiry find that there has ever been among
them or their ancestors an idea of a holy or eternal fire.

Omens have great influence on them on all occasions and are of every
possible variety. Storms, severe thunder, croaking of ravens, and
unusual sounds in the night, or even the fall of their medicine sack
or medicine pipe, would be sufficient to turn back a war party if any
of these omens were considered by their leaders as unfortunate in
their predictions, which they generally do. Councils would not proceed
during severe thunder, an eclipse, or any unusual phenomena, though
smaller omens would not be regarded. The flight of birds is seldom if
ever considered ominous unless their passage be accompanied with some
unusual appearances. Howlings of wolves and foxes in a peculiar manner,
whistling and meanings of ghosts, and bad or bloody dreams would
prevent the individual from war or the chase for a short time.

From all that has been written concerning their religion we would
rather others would decide whether the Indians are in reality
idolaters. That they render a species of worship to idols of almost
every description is true, yet this worship only refers through these
toys or charms to the great source of all power, or to supernatural
interference. They do not believe in the virtue of the material
of which they are made, nor do they ascribe to them an immaterial
spirit, but the mind by viewing them has a resting point, a something
to address in form, not for great protection and aid, but for daily
favors, and averting of smaller evils.

Uneducated as they are, obliged mentally to grasp at protection from
supernatural evil, in every way, from the great luminary the sun, as
the most powerful, to the smallest atom that may possibly be of some
aid, they, through these images or objects, endeavor to excite the
interest of the Great Mystery, an Unknown Power, to whose approach no
one certain way presents itself. If this be idolatry, be it so.

What else could be expected? That the Indians should be in advance of
Christians, who have their charms, their chance, their fortune, and
other ideas fully as repugnant to the belief in an all-wise disposer
of events, as the customs of the Indians present? The very fact of
the general practice of this species of idolatry appears to us to be
the greatest evidence of their being true worshipers. It is in fact
acknowledging a supernatural agency in everything; a belief in a ruling
providence over this life in every situation. If their minds pursue
wrong directions, and their prayers are for temporal, not spiritual
welfare, it is not their fault. Why should they desire what they do
not want? If no moral sense of right and wrong is found among them, no
sins acknowledged, nor future punishments feared, it must follow that
temporal welfare and personal advantage are all that remains worth
praying or fasting for. If they pray and sacrifice to the sun and
thunder it is nothing more than acknowledging the existence and power
of God in these, His works.

If they depend on fetishes and amulets to aid them in ordinary life
it is what many Christians do in a different way, yet these are not
accused of idolatry. If the right ideas were instilled into the mind of
the Indian he would be no more the savage, but the Christian, and would
worship the same being in a different sense and form than he now does
in any way his distorted imagination thinks may prove effective. Great
evil or great good is evaded or invoked from the Great Spirit through
great apparent mediums, as the Sun and Thunder.

Smaller evils and smaller benefits are averted or sought through the
medium of charms which though not intrinsically of any virtue, yet
benefits are the consequences attending on their prayers through
them, their character being rendered sacred by constant care, and the
importance of their position as mediums of worship. The identity of
the Great Spirit as a being appears to be lost in their worship of the
portions of creation capable of inspiring them with fear. His existence
as a cause is admitted, but we do not observe He is often addressed
except through some visible medium, which is as it were a separation of
his power among these objects or animals.

The medicine sack contains the fetish or charm referred to, which with
a lock of some dead relative’s hair and a small piece of tobacco is
inclosed in several envelopes of skins of different kinds, on which
pictures of imaginary or real animals are rudely drawn.

This sack is made of raw buffalo hide (dried), the hair scraped off and
painted and fringed in various ways. It is well tied up, not pried into
by anyone, and mostly suspended to a pole outside the lodge in camp or
carried on the back of some woman when traveling. When the owner dies
it is buried with him. This is the arcanum of the medicine sack, and it
possesses none of the features of an ark, either inside or out.


That the soul lives after death is the general assent, and that this
is a final state, but by pursuing the inquiry we do not arrive at any
certain idea of their occupation there, as they will always say they
do not know. This much, however, some acknowledged, that when they
die their soul is taken to the south to a warm country, though this
place does not appear to be either on the earth or in the heavens.
Here is a state of pleasure and happiness, free from all disease,
trouble, want, war, or accident. Some are more comfortably situated
than others, particularly those who have been great warriors and those
who have been attentive to their sacrifices and other ceremonies. No
punishment for offenses is apprehended, though rewards are granted. If
still questioned they will describe a counterpart or nearly so of the
Mohammedan paradise, or a shadowy image of this life, abstracting the
evil. There is no resurrection of the body, though they are presumed to
have other bodies furnished them in the future state, that present the
same features as in this life, yet are not subject to its vicissitudes.

Animals of all kinds are found there, though it does not appear that
they are the souls of those which lived in this world. Reasoning
powers and immortality are not ascribed to the brute creation.
Everything referring to a future state is not made the subject of their
conversations, and each man’s opinions differ. Some deny any such a
state and think death final to soul and body. Others that the soul
never leaves the neighborhood of its burial place. All information
regarding their belief in futurity is with difficulty extracted, and
not much importance is placed on the fact of their being immortal
beings; at their death also the greatest anxiety appears to be about
their family and relations left behind. They admit its uncertainty, and
fear nothing on the score of future punishment. Upon the whole there
is nothing in their belief of a future state which affects much their
general conduct through life and as little on the approach of death.
From this fact we may conclude very reasonably that the foregoing
system of their religion is the correct one, as they do not feel guilty
of moral offenses toward the Great Spirit entailing future punishment,
but expect to be rewarded for their devotedness in their manner of
worship. These Indians will also smoke, invoke, and give small pieces
of tobacco to the head of a bear after they have killed it. But this
does not imply they are to meet the animal in a future state. It is a
kind of thanksgiving, through the bear’s head, to the powers that have
enabled them to accomplish the feat of killing it without accident.

The killing of a grizzly bear by a single man is no trifling matter
and deservedly ranks next to killing an enemy. A coup is counted for
that action in their ceremonies where they publicly recount their brave
exploits. Moreover, every year persons are torn to pieces by these
animals when wounded or surprised in thickets where the person can not
escape. Therefore all ceremonies to the dead animal would have the
nature of invocations for aid and protection from the supernatural
powers whose business it is to interfere, and indeed such their words
imply on these occasions. It may have been some such ceremony the
Indian on the shores of Lake Superior made which was mistaken for
begging the animal’s pardon.


This subject would not present any useful information and only tire
the reader with endless fable without arriving at any important
conclusions. We could fill volumes with their stories of giants,
demons, transformations of men into animals and other shapes, but do
not think any fact thus elicited would avail any useful purpose. There
are a great many traditions that would seem to prove that the doctrine
of metempsychosis has formerly been the general belief, but they do not
appear to put much confidence in their reality at the present day, and
these stories are told more for amusement every evening than anything
else. Neither does it please absolutely to contradict or deny that
such things have been. In this way beaver are said to have been once
white men from the sagacity they show in building their lodges, evading
traps, etc. Thunder is said to be the flapping of the wings of the
large medicine bird. Piles of rocks are supposed to have been heaped up
by large white giants. The rainbow is called the sun’s wheel; though
they are aware that the colors are formed by the sun shining through
rain. All these and hundreds of others have legends of their formation
which are very long and one or two generally occupy an evening to
relate. Most of them, however, contain a kind of moral or double
meaning and are occasionally interesting and imaginative, sometimes

To present an example we will record one recited by the “Thunder
Stomach,” an Assiniboin warrior at the time we write and interpreted by
myself, preserving as nearly as possible all the words and actually all
the ideas of the Indian.


In the beginning a few Indians were made far in the northern regions.
No sun nor moon had yet been formed, and all was utter darkness except
the light of the snow. A lodge of Indians was situated on the bleak
plains inhabited by eight persons who were seven brothers and one
sister. The brothers all went out hunting and left the woman at home
working at raiment. In their absence a stranger came outside the lodge
and called to the woman to come out, using flattering words with a
sweet mouth, but she moved not, nor looked upon his face. When her
brothers returned she related the circumstance, and the eldest said,
“You did right, my sister—had you listened to this man’s sweet words
and looked upon his face, you would have been obliged to follow him
wherever he went, without the power to stop or turn back.” She said
nothing but continued her labors and they again left to hunt.

Being anxious to ascertain the truth concerning the stranger and
expecting his visit, she put on four complete suits of raiment and four
pairs of moccasins, one on top of the other; also tied on a pair of
snowshoes. He came and used the same flattering words, when she stepped
outside and looked upon his face. He immediately departed at a swift
pace and she was obliged to follow in his tracks. Onward they traveled
far over the plains in a northerly direction and over immense piles
of snow. A long time passed without diminishing their speed, until at
length they came to a lodge full of men (beings). Her conductor entered
and disappeared, she followed and not seeing him took her seat near
the door. “Move to the next,” said the man at her side, “I am not he
whom you seek,” and she moved where he directed. “Farther on,” said
her neighbor, and she again changed her place. “Next,” said the other,
and she moved in this way from one to the other, until by making the
circuit of the lodge she at last found herself at the entrance without
seeing the one whom she had followed hither. She was about to leave the
lodge when the eldest Indian, apparently the master, said, “Remain,
I will tell you a story.” She stopped. “There was once a woman,” he
continued, “who ran off with a young man, and came to a lodge full of
strangers to seek her lover. She had on four entire dresses, and not
finding the man, would have left, but one of her dresses fell off.”[24]

[24] This remark recalls the story of the Babylonian Ishtar, who
was represented as losing one by one her seven garments and then as
receiving them back again one by one.

On saying this, an entire dress and pair of moccasins disappeared. He
repeated the words four times and at the end of each repetition a dress
was missing, which left her naked. They then took her up and cast her
out into the cold snow to freeze to death.

The brothers on their return from hunting missed their sister and
suspecting the cause of her departure followed the tracks and arrived
outside the lodge where they found their sister nearly frozen to death.
After wrapping her in a robe, and she had somewhat recovered, the
eldest brother said, “Go back into the lodge and tell them a story in
return.” She entered and said, “I come to tell a tale. There was once
a woman coaxed off and forced to follow a strange man. She came to a
lodge of strangers, who instead of protecting her, robbed her of all
her clothing and threw her out in the snow to die. Such men have no
hearts.” On concluding, the hearts of all the Indians inside flew out
of their mouths and stuck to the lodge poles outside, where they were
cut to pieces by the brothers. She left with her brothers for their
home, but got separated from them in a snow storm and wandered every
way, she know not whither. In the end, after a long time she came to a
large house of iron with flames of fire coming out of the chimney. She
feared to enter. “Come in,” said the master of the house. “If I enter,
how shall I be treated? What relation shall I bear to you?” “I will be
your brother,” he said. “No,” was the answer. “I will be your father.”
“No,” was again the answer. “Your uncle,” “your friend,” still “no”
was her answer. “I will be your husband.” This time she replied “Yes,”
the large iron doors flew open and she entered, they closing violently
behind her.

The inhabitant was a large, ugly man, and the interior of the building
was strewn with human carcasses half devoured in their raw state.
He was the first cannibal! The woman would have fled but could not,
and was compelled to become his wife according to her promise. He
treated her badly and although not forcing her to eat human flesh
was continually devouring it himself. They lived as man and wife
for a length of time, during which she had a male child by him. The
brothers had never given up the search for their lost sister, and in
the course of their travels for that purpose came to the house of the
cannibal during his absence. The woman let them in and recognized them.
The child was beginning to speak a few words, and among the first
he pronounced were: “Mother, what fine, fat men; kill one of them
that I may eat some good meat.” The brothers stared—the child was a
cannibal! “You little fool,” said the mother, “would you eat your own
uncle?” The brothers held a council with their sister as to the way the
cannibal being could be killed and she undertook his destruction. It
appears this being had the power of coming into his house any way he
chose, through the floor, through the walls, or any other manner, and
the only vulnerable part of him was a cavity in the top of his head,
not protected by the bone of the skull. She heated a stone red hot,
and when the cannibal as usual was coming up through the floor, head
foremost, she threw the stone into the hole in his head and burned up
his brains, causing instant death.

She then fled to a place of rendezvous appointed by her brothers,
taking her child along. They returned to their home with their sister,
and when they arrived held a council and condemned the child to death,
to prevent the propagation of the race of cannibals. It was killed by
the mother, and on killing it she was changed into a body of fire,
caught up into the heavens and placed as the first star in the north,
which was the polar star. The seven brothers were also changed into
stars and form the constellation known as the Great Bear and are
appointed to walk around and keep guard over their sister forever.

After the narrator had concluded I inquired if it had any other meaning
than a story told to excite interest. He said it had, and that it
showed the woman was revenged on all her persecutors, and for her
resolution and good in cutting off the first cannibal and her own
son, thereby destroying the species, was rewarded by being placed as
a star; likewise her brothers who had protected her through life were
stars also and guard her from harm. That if she had not acted thus a
great part of the Indians would be cannibals. This he said was the
commencement of stars, and their traditions named many other instances
of like manner in which stars were created.


for each degree of relationship and the collateral branches. These
affinities are traced as far back as the great-grandfather, and the
line of descent is distinguished by their referring to the names of
the grandfather, father, or parents through some of their descendants
living. The names for collateral relatives are the same by the father’s
as by the mother’s side. All stepchildren become the children of all
the wives the Indian has. The terms aunt and uncle are the same on
both sides. The elder brother is called Ma-chin´-ah and the rest of
the brothers Mis-soon-kah; the youngest is named the last. The eldest
sister is called Me-tun´k-ah and the rest of the sisters Me-choon-ah.
Their names are the same on either part. The name of a dead person is
seldom mentioned, or if so, in a very low voice. Usually they name
some living relative, and add his or her dead father. Where confusion
exists as to a distant collateral relative they are all classed under
the general head of cousins, though they are generally correct. They
always address one of their nation as kindred if there is reason to
believe the least possible degree of relationship is acknowledged,
and never use their proper names if they are of kin. The name of the
mother-in-law or father-in-law is never pronounced by the son-in-law.
She never speaks to him nor he to her, neither do they ever look at the
face nor go into the same lodge.

Should the father-in-law happen to go into a lodge where his son-in-law
is seated, the latter would cover his face with his robe and not
speak while the former remained. Usually they stop the one entering
by crying out, “He of whom you are ashamed is here,” when the other
goes away and postpones his visit. All communications on business to
these people by their son-in-law is transacted through his wife or
strangers. To speak to or name the father or mother of an Indian’s wife
would excite the ridicule and laughter of the whole camp. They refer
to them in speaking by mentioning my father- or mother-in-law, as the
case may be, or sometimes say “my wife’s father,” or “her mother.” A
woman does not mention the individual name of her husband nor he hers,
but always say “my husband” or “my wife.” Most of the bands being made
up of relatives, the terms denoting kindred are in constant use in

The hunter state with all these prairie tribes is precarious and
uncertain. They are often weeks and months without enough meat and
not infrequently reduced to absolute famine. Whenever the buffalo are
plenty they have no difficulty in procuring more meat than they can use
and then do dry some, but they are very improvident and their small
supplies are soon exhausted.

Indians who have numbers of horses, like the Crows and Sioux, follow
the buffalo at all seasons, with their camp, but those who have but
few horses, like the Assiniboin, can not follow them through the deep
snow. When they are far from their lodges the men go over the snow on
snowshoes and pack the hides to camp on dogs. From observation and
experience they know that the buffalo approach the timber when the snow
is deep on the plains to eat twigs and wild rosebuds. They therefore
place their camps along some stream in the commencement of the winter
and await their approach. None of these nations except the Cree are
good elk and deer hunters, consequently their whole dependence is on
the buffalo, which, as we have stated, is precarious. Their raiment
made of skins is durable, one suit being sufficient for a year, and
game is always found in sufficient number to furnish them with garments
before they actually need them. There is no distress on this score.
Their habits and pursuits, as will be seen through these pages, do not
admit of their wearing any other material than that made of skins;
except in warm weather and for show on occasions, none other is worn.

Inasmuch as women are of great advantage to the Indians by their labor,
a plurality of wives is required by a good hunter. The domestic peace
of a family does not suffer much on that account. There are, to be
sure, quarrels among the women occasionally, but these generally end
in personal abuse and recrimination, or are quelled by the master, if

Upon the whole the domestic arrangement is benefited by having the
labor divided, which would be too much for one woman. The Indians,
mostly, treat their wives well, but these women require a hard ruler
and sometimes they are obliged to strike severely. Jealousies among the
women of the same lodge are nothing and do not affect the actions of
the man further than to stop the disturbance. But jealousy on the part
of the man toward some one of his women supposed to be unfaithful are
accompanied by terrible punishments, not infrequently by death. Among
the Blackfeet the noses of the women are cut off for this offense;
others stab, strike, or kill as it happens. Women are not interfered
with by the men in their management of household affairs. Such
interference would excite too much ridicule for their pride.

Are the labors of husband and wife equally divided? The occupations of
the man are as follows: Setting aside that of war which he occasionally
follows after having a family, though not often, he is obliged to keep
the family in meat and skins, and this occupies about one-third of
his time. He makes his own bows and arrows, snowshoes, powder horns,
and all implements of war and the chase, not purchased. He furnishes
horses, either by war, bargains, or other means; collects, waters,
and guards his horses; makes traps for wolves and foxes and kills and
skins them; attends councils, feasts, and ceremonies; protects his
family from insult and injury, and risks his life for them in hunting
in different ways; all of which should be taken into consideration as
forming a portion of his time and labor.

Sometimes his women will accompany him to the hunt and aid in skinning
and butchering the animal, but this is only when the buffalo are near
the camp. She never participates in his labors on other occasions. The
usual occupations of the women are, to prepare the skins and dress
them, which is a tedious and laborious operation; to cut up the meat
in thin slices and dry it; to make all the clothing for the family,
make lodges, cook, take care of their children and dogs, bring wood
and water, pack and unpack animals, erect the tents, strike them,
arrange the interior, carry burdens in traveling, render grease, pound
meat, work at garnishing with beads and porcupine quills, make dogs
travailles, saddle and unsaddle the master’s horse, etc. In nations
where canoes are used, the men make the frame and the women sew and
stitch over it the bark or skin. Men make the paddles, pans, bowls,
cradles, and pipes. This is among the Cree and Chippewa. With those who
plant, the labor of hoeing, planting, gathering, drying, and shelling
the corn is all done by the women and children; but with these less
hunting is done.

Owing to the length of time required to scrape, stretch, dry, dress,
and smoke even one skin it will be seen that the labor of the woman is
much greater than that of the man, and she must have help or she could
not attend to the domestic affairs of a large family.

A surplus of dressed skins is also necessary to buy the supplies they
can not and do not make and to replace stolen or crippled horses. Thus
an Indian with but one wife can not amass property, as the whole of
her time would be employed in the absolute requisite domestic labors
without being able to collect any skins for trade.

The first woman an Indian marries and the last are generally his
favorites, the first because he has become accustomed to her ways,
has children by her, and who manages the lodge in all its domestic
arrangements, and the last because she is youngest and often
handsomest. The actual labor performed by either of these is not near
as great as by the other women. Indeed, all the others are looked upon
in the light of laborers. To support several women, of course, requires
greater exertions on the part of the man in hunting, but this is more
than compensated for by their labor in dressing skins, which enable
him to purchase horses, guns, and other means to hunt with greater
facility. When buffalo are plenty, anyone can kill. The raw hide of the
animal has no value. It is the labor of putting it in the form of a
robe or skin fit for sale or use that makes its worth. Women therefore
are the greatest wealth an Indian possesses next to his horses. Often
they are of primary consideration, as after war by their labor is the
only way he could acquire horses, the only standard of their wealth.

There is never any difficulty regarding raiment. Skins are durable
and during the summer (when they make it) every Indian will kill
enough animals for that purpose. He must do so or die, as but a small
portion of the skins of the animals requisite for food will furnish the
clothing. As it stands in the winter season, the women are never idle,
the men also have pretty constant employment, but from spring till fall
they both have a comparatively easy life. Domestic discords are not
very common in their lodges.

They do, however, happen, and jealousy on the part of the master is
the principal cause. All Indians have great forbearance with their
families. When not excited or disappointed in some other way they will
put up with almost everything their women say or do, and endeavor to
laugh it off. The women study their humor, choose their time for this,
and never press it so far as to enrage their husbands. If an Indian
has returned from an unsuccessful hunt, lost his horses, or any other
circumstance has taken place, to sour his temper, all his family
immediately perceive it, and the greatest attentions are paid to him or
his wants as long as this humor lasts. Some men will on these occasions
tease and find fault with everything in the lodges, but they are not
contradicted nor quarreled with. It is now their time to forbear, and
well they know that punishment of no trifling kind hangs on a slender

Discords of a nature to bring on contention and blows are uncommon
except those arising from the jealousy of the man toward some one of
his women. Even a look or a word in secret to a strange man is often
sufficient to produce a blow or a stab. Upon the whole, however, they
live in tolerable harmony, much more so than would be supposed to
exist among savages. The loss of youth and youthful attractions is
not a cause of neglect, particularly if the woman has children by her
husband. An Indian seldom exhibits any ill feeling toward his first
wife, but on the contrary depends upon her to employ and manage the
others. In this and all the domestic labors she is the principal and
is addressed as such and possesses more influence over the man at
middle age than ever or than any of the others. No doubt the youngest
is a more attractive but not so useful an inmate, and gain is the
principal object of the master. Wives are even more valuable in extreme
age than parents, though but few live a great length of time. Their
labors are too severe. Men of family are not very amorous; they study
their interest. Children give the wife great additional power over
the husband, so much so that even if afterwards they prove unfaithful
or very obstinate they are punished but retained, whereas without
offspring they would be cast off for the same offenses. The first wife,
though not necessarily, nor always, the eldest, retains the preference,
as has been stated; she is the domestic councillor.

The jealousies arising among the women are only occasional bickerings
in the absence of the master, who if he perceives anything of the
kind going on or anything else to mar his peace soon settles it by
the argument of the tomahawk. Men of family are dignified, use great
forbearance toward those under their charge, and consider it as
disgraceful to be engaged in quarrels and squabbles with women, seldom
interfere or abuse them, never strike their children, but evince a
determination to see their home rendered pleasant and agreeable. Young
women are vain, fond of dress, yet this is no source of discord. Fine
dress is not sought eagerly by women of middle age. More frequently
they take a pride in dressing the youngest wife, or their children, if
any, even at their own expense, which greatly pleases the master and
induces him to flatter them otherwise for this mark of respect.

There is order enough preserved in every Indian lodge to suit their
mode of life and with a delicacy toward guests that would merit
imitation elsewhere. If a child cries during conversation it is taken
out. Boys and young men keep their mouths shut when the masters speak.
They do not contradict, abuse, or interrupt. All have their places for
sitting and sleeping, at the head of which, if men, are placed their
arms and accouterments; if women, their sewing, garnishing, etc. These
places are arranged by the eldest wife or by the grandmother as soon
as the lodge is erected by spreading skins on the ground, and are
uniformly the same in the same family. They can be and are changed
whenever the necessities of the men require it, though the individual’s
local privileges are not thereby disturbed.

Places are reserved for strangers or visitors, and baggage, water,
cooking utensils, and provisions have each their space allotted. This
is not perceived immediately by casual observers, but would be realized
by a short residence. To present a more lucid idea of these locations
in the interior, we submit the drawings (pls. 74 and 75), with the
additional remark that the skin door is locked on the inside on going
to bed by the mistress of the lodge to prevent the entrance of dogs
and other intruders. The fastening is made by a paddle of wood twisted
in a cord attached to each end of the transverse stick that forms
the support of the skin door; the ends of the paddle are then thrust
through the poles of the lodge and secured by loops of cord for the
purpose. The whole is so constructed that any person acquainted with it
would have some trouble to shut or open the door, even in the daytime.
The form as represented in general, though, of course, differs when the
family circle is great or small, but the same correct appointments of
places are visible in all, be the inhabitants few or many. Sometimes
different families, yet some way related, in default of lodging are
compelled to occupy the same lodge; in this case, although they may be
somewhat crowded, yet there is always a delicacy of arrangement made to
prevent the promiscuous location of the different sexes.


In an Indian camp after one has become acquainted the very opposite
of taciturnity presents itself. The evenings are devoted to jests
and amusing stories, and the days to gambling. When not able to
raise amusement among themselves they will invite some old man to
relate fables and stories of the olden time. The soldiers’ lodge
when not in session is the very theater of amusement and gaming by
the chiefs and soldiers, all sorts of jokes are passed, and obscene
stories told. Scarcely a woman in camp escapes their ribaldry, and
they, consequently, never go near there. Yet, when business is to be
attended to the reverse is the case, and one would not think it was
then occupied by the same set of people. Ordinarily during the day in
private families there is an evenness of temper, and great cordiality
exhibited, with much affection shown to their children. These traits
and amusements are not more observable when situated in remote parts
of the plains alone, than in a large camp, perhaps not so much so for
want of sufficient sources of amusement. The Indian of the plains or
real savage is not the stoic ordinarily represented. Dancing, feasting,
gaming, singing, stories, jests, and merriment occupy their leisure
hours, and then all is fun and humor; but when in pursuit of game,
sitting in council, traveling, trading, or war they are cautious,
serious, quiet, and suspicious.

The number of meals they have in each 24 hours depends altogether on
the supply of meat on hand. If plenty, each lodge cooks regularly three
times per day—at daybreak, midday, and dark. But in addition to this
pieces are kept roasting by the fire by the women and children nearly
all the time.

Feasting is also common. In all those ways in times of plenty most of
the men eat six, eight, ten, and as high as twenty times during a day
and night. In times of comparative scarcity but two meals are had,
morning and night. When meat is very nearly exhausted one meal must
suffice, and for the rest the women and children are sent to dig roots
or gather berries as the season and place afford. Feasts would then be
desirable, but there is no one to make them, all being in want. Some
who have nothing at all to eat in their lodge will send their children
to watch when cooking is going on in another lodge, who report to their
parents, and the man happens to drop in at the right time. No Indian
eats before guests without offering them a share, even if it is the
last portion, they possess.

When no meat can be found they eat up their reserve of dried berries,
pomme blanche and other roots, then boil the scrapings of rawhide with
the buds of the wild rose, collect old bones on the prairie, pound
them and extract the grease by boiling. A still greater want produces
the necessity of killing their dogs and horses for food, but this
is the last resort and approach of actual famine, for by this they
are destroying their means of traveling and hunting. One thing is
remarkable, be they ever so much in want of food, the grown persons
never murmur nor complain, though the children sometimes cry.

Their appetites are capricious. It would seem that they are always
hungry. The quantity of meat an Indian can eat is incredible, and after
eating at six or eight feasts in succession his appetite appears fully
as good for the tenth or even the twentieth as at the first. Their
power in this respect as actually witnessed by us on many occasions
would not be credited if related. It is useless to endeavor to impress
upon the minds of persons not accustomed to this even an approach to
the truth. It can not be realized. A lean, lank Indian will eat from
3 to 10 hours nearly all the time and grow gradually larger from his
breast downward until in the end he presents somewhat the appearance
of the letter “S,” and all this without any apparent inconvenience.
At other times they are from eight to fifteen days without eating
anything, and often one or two months with barely enough to support
life. After being deprived of food for a great length of time, and
arriving suddenly on an abundance of game, they will feast again as
observed and no evil effects follow.

They make no address nor grace to Wakoñda or any other supernatural
power at ordinary meals, or common feasts. This is done on stated
occasions which will be mentioned hereafter.


The way courtships are conducted is that the suitor in the first place
always endeavors to induce the girl to run away with him. He has two
objects in this. First, it shows her great regard for him and flatters
his vanity that she leaves her parents and departs to another band,
with and under his protection. Next, having the girl in his possession
obviates the possibility of a refusal, and also he can afterwards pay
his own price for her instead of that demanded by her relatives. To
accomplish this they paint, dress, and adorn themselves extravagantly,
and are always on the watch to catch the woman outside or away from the
view of her parents. He dogs her steps so closely that opportunities
must present themselves when he can recite to her his tale of love.
Of course this consists of the usual promises and flatteries used by
all men for like purposes which often prove successful. Should he
obtain her consent to depart with him they will agree upon a place of
rendezvous and signal, which he repeats to her in the night with his
flute from outside the lodge at the appointed time to meet him, and
they leave, traveling night and day until they arrive at another camp.
Here they stay with some distant relative or friend three or four weeks
and return as man and wife, when he looks around for some means to
satisfy the parents. Or it sometimes happens that having become tired
of her in the meantime he throws her on their hands and proceeds to
seduce another. The young Indians are great profligates and boast of
their success in this way.

If, however, by all their efforts they can not succeed in this they
then marry. When this is decided upon no courtship is necessary. The
suitor sends a horse by the hands of some respectable old man who ties
the animal to the door of the lodge where her parents reside and,
entering, presents a pan of cooked meat to the girl who is desired as
a wife. Consent is asked and obtained or refused through the medium of
this man. The nearest of kin are always asked (the girl’s father and
mother); if she have neither then the eldest brother, or uncle, etc.
If the parents refuse, both the victuals and horse are sent back and
negotiation ends. But if the suitor be determined to have her he will
try again, sending two or three horses, guns, kettles, and all he can
raise, until objection on that score is overruled and she becomes his
property by going to his lodge at dark and remaining there. When the
right price is paid the offer is seldom rejected, though refusals are
given on other grounds, such as old family feuds, or inability on the
part of the applicant as a hunter or warrior. There is no tradition of
the institution of marriage. It is a bargain and looked upon in this
light by both parties, not merely a contract of sale, but one of amity,
friendship, and mutual support of all related and concerned. Courtships
and presents are only resorted to when the possession of the girl is
aimed at without the consent of the parents. Otherwise the consent of
the girl is not necessary, she being obliged to obey the wishes of her

Neither the priests nor doctors nor any one else is consulted on these
occasions, except the nearest relatives, and the negotiator is some
man of standing or relation of the applicant. There is no parade or
ceremony on the occasion nor are any gifts made by the mother-in-law
to her daughter. On the contrary the son-in-law is regarded as their
property. All he has and does is for years to the advantage of his
wife’s parents. The most of the meat and skins killed by him are
carried to her parents by her until she has a child and her husband
commences working for himself. The foregoing is the marriage of a young
man with a young woman. The son-in-law, as has been stated, never
enters the lodge of his wife’s parents. Even in a casual passing when
they meet elsewhere he is obliged to hide his face by drawing his robe
over it, being as they say “abashed by them” or abashed to name or
speak to them.

The men usually marry between the ages of 20 and 25 years and the women
are given away from the age of 12 years upward. We are acquainted with
but two instances of men of middle age among them who have never been
married. The young of both sexes are extravagantly addicted to dress,
particularly the beaus, who dress, paint, feather, and adorn themselves
in every way imaginable, especially about the head, and are the most
consummately vain fops in existence.

Widowers and widows remarry, the former in about one year after the
loss of their wife and the latter from one to two and three years
after the death of their husbands, in proportion as they are grieved
for their loss. After a woman has had children her chances for a young
husband are few, but middle-aged men do not consider this any objection
if she in other respects is able to work and has a reputation for
industry. The most advantageous time for a man to purchase a wife is
on his return from a successful war excursion with the horses of his
enemies in his possession. The manner in which his means to purchase
have been procured gives him additional favor both with the girl as
a brave man and with the girl’s parents as one who can at any time
repair their losses in horses if it be necessary. After marriage the
brothers-in-law on both sides become friendly, associate, make feasts,
and exchange gifts, aiding each other on all occasions. No quarrels
take place among them, nor indeed among any near relations. The whole
forms a posse, a body, a support in times of trial, need and danger.

The right of divorce lies altogether with the husband. If a man has
children by his wife he seldom puts her away even for adultery, the
greatest offense. He will punish, but retain her on that account.
Should they separate, all the larger children—that is, those who
required no nurse and were able to take care of themselves—would
remain with the man and the smaller ones depart with the woman. When
the women have no children they are turned off without any scruple for
much less offenses, or from jealousy by young husbands. Elder Indians
require the labor of their women; therefore seldom willingly discharge
them. Should he choose to do so, however, no one has a right to object,
nor is any other consent asked; they are his property and he can do as
he pleases with them. Occasionally they part from them a year or so and
take them back afterwards. No property is given to the woman in the
event of a separation.


Their music on the flute referred to herein merits some notice. The
instrument is made of wood, about the length and size of an octave
flute, and the mouth on the principle of a whistle. There are four
finger holes above and one underneath for the thumb. No tune or
anything approaching it can be produced from this instrument, yet they
can sound different calls in a shrill tone. It is played in several of
their dances as an accompaniment to singing, not, however, producing
any sound accordant with the voice. The principal purpose for which it
is made and used is love making. By the various notes the following
intelligence can be conveyed by the man outside to the woman inside
the lodge, without any of the inmates except her knowing for whom they
are intended, as the whistle can be distinctly heard at the distance
of 100 yards or more: “I am here waiting for you,” “I am watched,”
“Remain,” “I will come again,” “Meet me to-morrow,” and several other
communications of a like nature. The meanings of these different sounds
are agreed upon and understood by the parties beforehand. As the
instrument admits of considerable variation in its tone and note all
their calls are different, and no other person would understand them
rightly. They might suspect some assignation to be going forward, but
would not know with or between whom. Songs and this whistle are used in
their serenades and dances.


The changes, exposures, and deprivations attending on the life of the
roving tribes are without doubt great causes of the slow increase of
Indian population. We think from actual observation that not more than
two out of five children live until youth is passed. Even a few days
after their birth, and sometimes but a few hours after, they are packed
on the backs of their mothers in all weather, exposed to cold, snow,
and wet. They must be iron to stand this. Should they be so fortunate
as to reach the age of 4 to 6 years they follow the camp on foot
through spring thaws, exposed to rain and cold, for weeks together, and
a great many thus die from cold, pleurisy, and rheumatism. No question
but the uncertainty of their food also contributes to their mortality,
not that they often absolutely starve to death, but are rendered weak
and unable to stand the hardship the life requires. In maturity war
takes off another portion of the remainder, and diseases contracted by
the exposures of their youth, together with their continued exertions
as required by their precarious life, places it beyond probability of
many arriving at extreme age. It is evident that the hard labor the
women perform after marriage ruins their constitutions. A woman is old
on the plains at the age of 35 years, and seldom healthy. They have
from 2 to 5 children, more are occasionally seen, but 7 or 8 is a rare
occurrence. There are but few very old women. The usual diseases by
which they are carried off are pains in the head, heart, and side,
consumption, hemorrhages from the nose and other ducts, puerperal
fever, peritoneal inflammations, deliveries, and rheumatism.

Some of these complaints are certainly produced by their continued
stooping when in the act of scraping skins, others from exposure, and
all aggravated by their injudicious medical treatment.

A woman ceases to bear at 40 years, often earlier. Children have been
produced by women at the age of 15, though this is uncommon; from 18
to 35 is the usual period. Twins are often seen; that is as frequently
as this happens among the same number of white women. It is remarkable
that women who bear twins are liable to a repetition of twin bearing,
and two or three pairs follow. Two instances have happened under our
observation where women had three children at a delivery. Barrenness is
met with, but is by no means common.


Entertaining visitors forms one of the Indian’s chief employments. Some
of these meetings partake of the nature of dinner and supper parties.
They are then called feasts. But as these will meet with consideration
elsewhere we will allude in this place only to the custom of private
entertainment, generally ascribed to hospitality. Independent of
feasts, visiting and invitations to visit, as stated, occupy a great
part of their time. Most of their private business, bargains, settling
disputes, hearing news, asking advice, required loans, and indeed all
their transactions with individuals are carried on when visiting, or
invitations are sent with that view. They also invite to preserve good
feeling and friendly relationship, but usually there is some point to
be gained, or advantage to result from these pains. After cooking and
preparing ready whatever is to be offered and having the lodge swept
and put in order, a boy is sent to the lodge or lodges of their guests,
or he hunts them up through the camp, saying to each “You are invited”
or “called,” directs him to the lodge of his parents, and proceeds to
pick up the others. Being acquainted with the situation of all the
lodges, they are at no loss to find the way, or if they are, inquire
of any one in the neighborhood. If strangers are invited, or whites,
the boy precedes as guide and they follow. When the guests arrive they
enter one after the other, saying on entering, “I have come.” They are
shown to a seat in the back part of the lodge, nearly opposite the
entrance, where clean skins have been spread on the ground for their

If several are expected, the first who come talk and smoke with the
master until all have arrived or been heard from. The pipe being laid
aside, the woman of the lodge dishes out the meal in wooden bowls,
handing one to each. When all are served the master says “Eat ye.”
They fall to, but neither he nor any of his family partake of it while
their visitors remain. The guests, however, are expected to do justice
to the repast, and the more heartily they partake the better pleased
the host appears. When the meal is over and the dishes laid aside the
pipe is again introduced, and during the conversation of an hour or so
that follows the object of the invitation is disclosed, and whatever
business it is most likely settled or whatever favor desired granted.
Such a thing as disinterested hospitality may possibly be met with, at
least we have been present on some of these occasions where the object
of the call was not visible, but it is entirely incompatible with a
correct view of the Indian character to infer thereby that he had no
object. On stated feasts, a feather, the lower end painted red, is sent
as an invitation card, but on all ordinary occasions the message is by
some one of the inmates of the lodge.

Casual visits without invitations are also common, sometimes only
with the view of getting a meal, but mostly to accomplish some end or
acquire some information. Guests, whether invited or not, are always
awarded precedence. Any insult or imposition on a guest, once in an
Indian lodge and under his protection, would be resented with greater
severity than the same toward themselves.

We can not perceive in all this seeming friendliness toward guests any
feeling of pure hospitality. An Indian never willingly, or without
a motive, makes an enemy. The uncertainty of their lives and of
everything they possess is such that mutual reliance on each other
is required. It is more than probable that these attentions have for
their object the forming of a name for liberality and securing the
good will of as many neighbors as possible with the view of obtaining
their assistance in times of need, or which is more evident, for
present favors in small matters which are nearly always made known at
the close of the visit. In the instances where the real object does
not appear we are obliged to conclude that it lies deeper, requires a
course of entertainments to accomplish, but nevertheless exists. When
whites are invited and are merely travelers through their country,
nothing at the time can perhaps be gained, but the rule holds good,
for the Indians will always claim the same attentions when they are in
turn the visitors, besides additional demands as a compensation for
their hospitality. A casual observer would believe them to be the most
hospitable people in the world, but a more minute acquaintance shows
an undercurrent of pure selfishness in all they do. The sharing of the
meat with each other in times of scarcity is no mark of liberality, or
done from any other principle than the foregoing remarks present. It is
a loan, or obligation, laid upon the person, to be repaid when their
situations become reversed, or whenever the claimant thinks proper to
remind him of it, which sooner or later he is sure to do in some way.

Indians of different nations are not only feasted by all the principal
men in camp but loaded with presents to carry home. A short time after
the donators pay a visit to the homes of their guests and receive as
much or more in return.

Protecting a guest from insult and injury is done partly through the
fear of the ridicule that would follow were he suffered to be badly
treated in his lodge; it is a contempt of their power to support,
and resented as such. Very often also it lays the stranger under
obligations which are expected to be paid for, and usually are. Were
we not limited in our remarks we could cite hundreds of instances that
would prove true hospitality to have no existence among the savages of
the plains. Everything they do and all their study is for the interest
of self, visible or invisible to others, according to the nature of
their views. We are not aware, however, that this course of hospitality
is pursued with the view of covering stratagems, evil intentions, or
to lull suspicion for the purpose of committing bad acts; it appears
only to operate as a furtherance to all their ordinary wishes and bring
about a favorable opportunity to make requests and transact other


Nearly all the old women and most of those of middle age exercise
the office of midwives. When a woman perceives the pains of labor
approaching, the lodge is cleared of all the men and children except
the small ones, and the mother of the woman with some other experienced
female acquaintances are invited. The doctor is also notified to have
his medicine in readiness in case of it being wanted. The woman is
placed on her knees and sticks set up in this form [symbol] placed
before her. She presses the abdomen on the cross stick, rubbing gently
along it. The pains of labor are said to be very severe. If danger
is apprehended, the doctor is sent for and administers a draft of
pulverized rattles of the rattlesnake or decoction of roots. If the
doctor be a man, he then retires; but if a female she remains. Cases
of solitary confinement happen occasionally from lonely situations. No
nurse is provided; the mother takes care of her children from their
birth. The rite of circumcision is not performed, but they evince a
great desire that their children should be naturally thus formed and
attach an unaccountable importance to that incident.

On the birth of a child a horse is given with other property to those
in attendance. After three weeks or a month has elapsed the ceremony
of giving it a name takes place. There is no regular period of time
for this, and sometimes five or six months pass before it is done. The
probability is in this case that it is the want of means to pay for the
ceremonial, as in these instances they give for a reason, “the parents
are too poor.”

Usually, however, it is done about the time first mentioned and this
ceremony is the same whether the child be male or female. Some medicine
man generally makes the name, and sends word to the parents that on
a certain day he will bestow it on the child. When the time has come
a dog is killed and cooked or some other good dish is provided, and
invitations are sent to some 20 or 30 of their friends and relatives
to attend. When they are assembled the priest makes known to them
the object of the meeting in a suitable speech to the supernatural
powers, but principally to the tutelaries of departed grandfathers and
grandmothers, invoking them to take the child under their protection,
concluding with the name of the child distinctly spoken in a loud voice
so that all can hear it. The feast is then divided, small portions
thrown away for the dead and the rest eaten. A horse in the meantime
is tied outside as a present to the medicine man for his services. He
leads the horse around the camp, singing in a loud voice the child’s
name and those of its parents. If the child be a male this name is
borne until he kills or strikes his first enemy on their own (the
enemy’s) land. On his return after accomplishing this, he blackens
his face and that of his relatives as a token of his triumph. Some
one of the medicine men who are always on the lookout for advantage
blackens himself and gives a new name to the warrior by crying it out
loudly through the camp, stating the change of name has been given in
consequence of his great bravery in killing his enemies.

A horse is again given the priest and the second name is attached. This
name lasts until by repeated successes at war he becomes entitled to
the name of his father, if the parent be dead; if living, that of his
grandfather is bestowed, during a ceremony of the same kind as has been
related. But this name is never given without sufficient merit on the
part of the warrior. It is the highest honor that could be bestowed,
is never afterwards changed, and he ranks immediately as a councillor
and brave. The foregoing will account for both the plurality of names
among them and the manner in which the original family name and line of
descent is preserved.

The names of females are not often changed, though some have two, one
affixed at the first ceremony and the other originating in some marked
feature, or personal appearance unusual among them, such as fair hair,
gray eyes, etc., and sometimes from any deformity, as lameness, loss of
an eye, teeth, etc. Generally, however, they have but one. The names
given to children are not taken from the incidents of dreams or deemed
sacred, but are the manufacture of the priest according to his fancy.
He endeavors to make one to please the parents in order to secure
the gift of the horse. This name is told them secretly by him and if
acceptable is adopted; if not, they suggest another in its place to him.

The children and boys call each other familiarly by these names as in
civilized life, and when grown continue to do so, unless of kin, when
the degree of relationship is mentioned instead of the name.

Herewith is a list of names, male and female. Of the warriors several
have two, but only one, the leader of the party here at the time, had
three. Their names were taken down for insertion in this place. Those
of the women I had of a warrior present, and those of the chiefs and
soldiers I have known for years, some of whom having two or three


Partisan, “The Back of Thunder,” Ya-pa-ta Wak-keum


  Interpreted name.                       Indian name.

  The Black Horn                          Hai-sap Sap-pah.
  He Who Comes Laden                      Kee-hee-nah.
  The War Club of Thunder                 Ya-chunk-pe Wah-ke-un.
  Boiling                                 Pe-gah.
  The Backbone of Wolf                    Shunk-chan-ca-hoo.
  The Four War Eagles                     Wah-min-de To-pah.
  The Winner                              O-he-an-ah.
  The Standing Bear                       Wah-bo-san-dah.
  The Crow                                Conghai.
  The Little Rocky Mountains              Ean-hhai-nah.
  The White Crow                          Conghai-ska.
  He Who Sounds the Ground                Muk-kah-na-boo-boo.
  The Bear’s Child                        Wah-ghan-seecha Och-she.
  The Iron Boy                            Muzza Och-she.
  The Sound of Thunder                    Hhom-bo-oah Wah-ke-un.
  The Grey Bull                           Ya-tunga-hho-tah.
  He Who Deceives Calves                  Chin-chah-nah Ke-ni-ah.
  The Dry Sinews                          Kun-sha-chah.
  The Calf with Handsome Hair             Chin-chah-nah He-wash-tai.
  The Bull’s Face                         Etai-tah Tun-gah.
  The Wolverine                           Me-nazh-zhah.
  The Two-horned Antelope                 Yah-to-kah-hhai noom-pah.
  The Large Owl                           He-hun Tungah.
  The Large War Eagle                     Wam-min-de Tun-gah.
  The Child of Two Bears                  Wah-ghan-see-cha noompa och-she.
  Le Pene Rouge                           Chai-shah.


  He Who Wishes to Bring Them             Ekando He chin-ah.
  The Red Bull                            Tah-tungah Du-tah.
  The Bad Bull                            Tah-tungah Shee-chah.
  The Red Snow                            Wah Du-tah.
  The Blue Thunder                        Wah-ke Un-to.
  The Emptying Horn                       O-canah-hhai.
  The Standing Water                      Minne Naz-zhe.
  The Rose Bud Eater                      We-ze-zeet-ka Utah.
  The Boy of Smoke                        Sho-to-zshu Och-she.
  The Spotted Horn                        Hai-kan-dai Kan-dai-ghah.
  Shot in the Face                        Etai-o-ke Nun-ei-a.
  Bear’s Face                             Etai Wah-ghan.


  The White Head                          Pah ska-nah.
  The Grey Eyes                           Esh-tai-o Ghe-nah.
  The Pouderie                            Hee-boom An-doo.
  The Tourbillon                          Ah-wah minne o minne.

  Interpreted name.                       Indian name.

  The Little Thunder                      Wah-kee-e-nah.
  The Knife                               Menah.
  Hair Tied Up in Front                   Pai-pach Kich-tah.
  He Who Wounds Dogs                      Shunga Ou-nah.
  The Claws                               Shak-kai-nah.
  The Great Traveler                      Ca-wai-ghai Man-ne.
  He Who is Above the Others              Wa-caun-too.
  The Marksman                            Coo-tai-nah.


  The Spotted Woman                       Kan-dai-ghah We-yah.
  The One Leg                             Hoo wash e nah.
  The Big Horn Woman                      Hai-kees-kah We-yah.
  The Glittering Lodge                    Te Owah Ho-wat-tah.
  The Four Thunders                       Wah-ke-un Topa.
  The Four Women                          Topa Weyah.
  The Season Maker                        Man-ka-cha Ca-ghah.
  The Lodge on Fire Woman                 Te-ien da weyah.
  She Who Makes the Clouds                Moh pe ah caghah.
  The Door Scratcher                      Te opah ù-cai-ghah.
  The Wing Bone                           Hoo pah hoo.
  The Crow’s Cawing                       Coughai a-hho-ton.
  The Head Made White                     Pah-kah shah-nah.
  The Curled Hair                         Pah-hah e-u-me-ne.
  The Hawk Woman                          Chai-tun We-yah.
  The Red Chief                           Hoon yuh shah.
  The Mane of the Flying Eagle            Ap-pai Wam-min-de E-i-ah.
  The Yellow Bear                         Wah-ghan She-chah-ze.
  The Iron Body                           Chu-we Muz-zah.
  The Fair-skinned Woman                  We-yah Skah.


[Illustration: FIG 32.—Cradle Board]

Cradles are not much used by the tribes of whom we write. A few are
seen among them which they procure from the Cree and Chippewa. The back
is a flat board with a bow bent across the front where the head of the
child is placed. (Fig. 32.) A rim runs along the inside the size of the
child, cloths are attached inside this rim to the boards or back, and
the whole ornamented in various ways. The child is then bundled up,
inclosed in the rim, and the cloth covers strapped over it. This is
carried on their back, and at any time should the cradle fall the child
is protected by the bow across from touching the ground. These Indians
make a kind of sack with eyed holes in front of scarlet or blue cloth
ornamented with beads, and the child being well wrapped, all except the
head, it is placed in the sack and strapped up. There is no doubt but
this is the cause of their feet being straight, although they are not
intoed, as one would judge by their manner of walking. We can offer no
objection to this mode of caring for children. Their natural growth is
not affected thereby. At least it is the only method they could adopt
to answer in extremes of cold, heat, and rain, with infants on their
backs; besides their lodging affords little room for the conveniences
used by civilized persons for rearing children.

They are as careful of their offspring as their manner of life will
allow. Children are never weaned under 2 or 3 years old, giving for
their reason that it retards their growth, but most likely having
nothing but meat that a child can eat, they are obliged to do so. They
call their mother enaw (mother) and their father at-tai (father). They
address their children ma-chunk-she (my daughter) and ma-chink-she (my
son). No abbreviations are used. They call them also by their given or
proper names when there are several. There are no terms of endearment
further than humming songs and meaningless words, such as white nurses
use to very small children.

The domestic government is exercised by both father and mother. As long
as the child is small the mother has the sole charge of it, but when it
begins to speak the father aids in forming its manners. If a girl, he
makes toy tools for scraping skins and the mother directs her how to
use them. She also shows her how to make small moccasins, etc. Their
first attempts in this way are preserved as memorials of their infancy.
When a little larger, the scale of operations is increased and sewing,
cooking, dressing small skins, and garnishing with beads and quills are
taught, together with everything suitable for a woman’s employment. If
the child be a boy the father will make it a toy bow and arrow, wooden
gun, etc.

When a little larger he will give him still stronger bows and bring
unfledged birds into the lodge for his son to kill. Larger still and
he runs about with a suitable bow after birds and rabbits, killing and
skinning them. Another stage brings him to learn the use of the gun, to
ride, approach game, skin it, etc., all of which is taught him by his
parent. The rest he acquires from the time and facility their manner of
life affords for practicing these pursuits, and at the age of 17 or 18
makes his first excursion in quest of his enemies’ horses.

The father never strikes nor corrects his children from their birth
to their grave, though the mother will sometimes give them a slap,
yet it must be done in his absence or she would meet with immediate
punishment. Notwithstanding this they are not nearly as vicious as
white children, cry but little, quarrel less, and seldom if ever fight.

The boys are somewhat annoying when about 12 years old, but seldom do
any serious mischief. The behavior of the girls is shy and modest.

The traditions related to the young in their lodges are usually
extravagant fables and exploits of former warriors, exaggerated, of
course, to make them interesting. Many local data and memoirs of events
are thus preserved but so mingled with superstition by the different
narrators as not to present any reliable truth. Most of the old men
and many of middle age tell these stories in the lodges when they are
invited for the purpose.

The grandmothers are also well versed in this and night after night the
children learn a great deal, as soon as they are able to understand.
The lives and actions of former warriors and other events of real life
form a portion of the instruction thus conveyed.

These Indians living remote from civilization have no opportunity
to steal white children, and we have never heard of one among them
possessed by these means.

There are several half-breed children in all these nations, who, being
raised with the Indians, are the same in all respects.

Cases of infanticide are very common among the Sioux, Crows, and
Assiniboin, perhaps most so among the Crow women. It is not far from
the correct number if we state that one-eighth of the children are
destroyed in utero or after birth by the Crow women. The same also
often is done by the Assiniboin, particularly if the father of the
child has abandoned the woman before its birth. A quarrel with the
husband or even unwillingness to be at the trouble of raising them
are the causes for these actions. We think and have strong reason to
believe that in some instances, they are destroyed at the instigation
of their husbands, although they will not acknowledge this to be the

At all events no punishment is inflicted on the woman for the crime
but frequently the means and time they use to produce abortions are
the cause of the death of the mother. To produce its death in the womb
they use violent pressure and blows upon the abdomen. Frequently they
retire to the woods, bring forth the child alone, strangle it and throw
it into the water, snow, or bushes. The whole of these measures are
publicly talked of among them, and no great degree of repugnance is
attached either to the act or to the woman, but the circumstance is
laughed at as something ludicrous.

Male children are always desired by the husband. When small we see
no difference made in their treatment or any preference shown, but
when grown or nearly so the young man always takes precedence and is
considered of far greater value than the girl. The feeling increases in
his favor as he becomes of use at war or in the chase. Daughters, when
matured, are married and sold, and here the greater interest in them
ends; but sons are a source of profit and support for a good portion of
their lives.


Widows do not burn themselves on the funeral pile on the decease of
their husbands, but frequently hang themselves for that loss, revenge,
or for the loss of their children. Three suicides of this kind have
been committed within the last few months in this neighborhood among
the Assiniboin, one for revenge, the other two for the loss of their
children. The first was the favorite wife of a camp soldier, who
being scolded and accused of crime by the eldest wife, after telling
her purpose, left the lodge, in the absence of her husband, and
disappeared. Although search was made, yet a week elapsed before she
was discovered hanging to the limb of a tree. She had climbed the tree,
tied the cord to the limb, and descending, hooked on the noose standing
on the ground, suspending her body by drawing up her legs. She hung so
low that her knees nearly touched the ground and she could have risen
to her feet at any time during the operation.

Another woman had her son (a young man) killed by the Blackfeet, and
immediately afterwards another of her children died from disease.
Several persons were appointed to watch the mother, suspecting her
intentions; but they all fell asleep and she hung herself at the door
of the lodge, between two dog travailles set on end. She was a tall
woman and could only produce strangulation by swinging herself off the
ground from her feet. She did it, however, and the body was brought to
the fort for interment.

The third was a still more unfortunate case. The child of this woman
had been sick some time and was expected to die. On the night in
question it fell into a swoon and was to all appearance dead. No person
being present the mother in the derangement of the moment went out and
hung herself. The child recovered, but the mother was dead.

Every year in this way the women hang themselves, sometimes for the
loss of their husbands, but more frequently on account of the death of
their children, or for revenge. Suicides are also common among the men.
They generally use the gun to produce death.

The Mandan and Gros Ventres, as has been stated, suspend themselves on
sticks or skewers passed through incisions made in the back, and the
motive for so doing has already been adverted to.

Spots are worn on the forehead and the under lip by some of either sex.
Those on the women are for ornament. The bodies of some of the men
are covered with tattooing to denote the warrior and brave. It is an
operation requiring high payment, and is a mark also of the liberality
and riches of the person who undergoes it, but no religious sects or
opinions are thereby intimated. No rivers are deemed sacred or coveted
in death by any of them.


These tribes are not degraded in the scale of being in their ordinary
intercourse, connection or apparent actions. They frequently exhibit
a delicacy in all these, but some of them, particularly the Crows,
are addicted to customs, revolting to humanity, too much so for
a lengthened description, among which may be mentioned sodomy,
bestiality, etc. They all on occasions eat small portions of human
flesh, not as a relish but to evince a savage fierceness toward the
dead enemy. The Arikara are said to have devoured several entire bodies
of their enemies in late years. We have witnessed a few cases of
cannibalism among the Assiniboin, but they happened in time of actual
famine, one of which, we will describe. About eight or ten years since
a great famine prevailed among the Cree and Assiniboin. They separated
and scattered everywhere over the plains in quest of game. It happened
early in the spring when the ground was yet covered with snow and no
roots could be found. A Cree Indian with his wife and three children
were stationed near the head of Milk River alone and had been without
food for a great length of time. The father took the occasion of his
wife being out to kill and cook one of his children, a portion of
which he forced her to eat on her return. When this was eaten, after
an interval of some days he killed a second and this was likewise
devoured. Still no indication of game presented itself. He desired her
to go out that he might kill the remaining child, which she absolutely
refused to do, offering herself in its stead.

It happened that some Assiniboin in traveling came upon his lodge,
and seeing them coming he had barely time to smear himself and his
wife over with white clay, the symbol of mourning, before they
entered. To account for the disappearance of his children he appeared
very much grieved and said they had died from want. The strangers,
however, suspected all was not right, and when he had stepped out they
inquired of the woman, who told them the truth. The visitors left
after directing him to their camp, where some game had lately been
found, and he proceeded thither with his lodge. When in the vicinity
of the camp, he killed and scalped his wife, throwing her body in the
bushes, proceeded to camp, displayed the scalp, stating he had killed
a Blackfoot; that they had attacked him and killed his wife. The camp
turned out to search for enemies and discovered the body of the woman
and no trace of Blackfeet. The Indian in the meantime suspecting he
would be discovered absconded, leaving the small child and baggage in
camp. Being of another nation with whom they were at peace, he was not
pursued and yet lives, but is despised by all.

At the period of the catamenia they sleep alone and are deemed taboo
for ten days. The word in their language expressing that flux literally
interpreted would mean “she who lives in a lodge alone,” and their
traditions state that it was formerly the custom to pitch a tent
outside for the woman to remain in during this period. After childbirth
a woman is deemed taboo for 45 days.


During a battle or whenever an enemy is slain they use no ceremony in
taking the scalp except despatch. They are in great haste to get off
or out of danger, and have no time for useless delay. A knife is run
round the cranium, the foot placed on the dead man’s neck and a sudden
jerk takes it off. The cultivation of the scalplock among the Sioux is
a very ancient custom but we know of no mode of tracing its antiquity.
The rest of these tribes wear their hair in any form that suits their


The Indians have several kinds of oaths. They will say “Wakoñda hears
me,” or they will swear by the skin of a rattlesnake, or the claws of
a bear, wishing the snake to bite or the bear to tear them if they
fail to fulfill their oath. They generally keep their oaths. The name
Wakoñda in this is uttered in an audible voice with great solemnity and
presenting the pipe to the Sun.

When Indians meet on the plains they halt within a few paces of each
other, and if recognized as kin will name the relationship existing in
a smiling tone. If strangers, one will inquire, “Where did you come
from?” “Where going?” etc., during which they sit down and proceed
to light the pipe. While smoking they will exchange news of their
different places, make inquiries respecting their friends, about game,
and anything of general interest, and when the pipe is finished they
separate. No shaking of hands or touching of persons takes place, but
if meeting with whites they will extend the hand to be shaken.


This is so ancient a custom that even their traditions do not mention a
time when their forefathers or ancestors did not smoke. There are tales
among them whence came the tobacco seed and plant, particularly among
the Mandan, Crows and Arikara, and perhaps among the Assiniboin, though
we are not prepared at this time to relate them.


The principal avenue of fame is the pursuit of war. Other things tend
to aid the individual and to render him respectable, as expertness in
hunting, powers of prophecy, necromancy, and a name for wisdom, that
is, the knowledge of governing, advising, making wise speeches, etc.,
but all these rather follow than precede the elevation of the man.
Success in war is the first step; the others increase the importance of
this. Acquiring a good many horses and women, by any means whatever,
brings an individual into notice and makes him of importance, as
thereby he can distribute many favors that a poorer yet braver man can
not. Wealth in this finds him friends as it does on other occasions
everywhere. But when rank is boasted, or chieftainship aimed at,
bravery and success in war with capacity to lead are the principal
requisites, without which all the other qualifications would be of no
avail. We are acquainted with no Indian who has arisen to distinction
without success in war being the principal cause of his advancement.


The stoicism exhibited by all these nations appears to be partly a
natural disposition and partly a bias of their minds produced by
peculiar mode of life. This display of feeling is only seen when the
circumstance requires it. It is considered a mark of manliness to treat
important subjects, transactions, and conversations with deliberation
and decorum. Lighter matters are discoursed upon with appropriate
levity. Their constant wants, shifts, and precarious positions induce a
thoughtful manner. The knowledge of each other’s duplicity and the many
ways used to circumvent and deceive to gain each his own ends produces
caution. The uncertainty of their lives, liability to be revenged upon,
and treacherous conduct generates suspicion. Being subject to severe
reverses, extremes of want and danger, etc., a recklessness of life
follows. Besides being the victims of superstitious dread, a morbidness
of mind is acquired. But even all these would not without some natural
peculiar disposition of mind account for their want of excitement and
taciturnity and cover a hidden deep and dark design. Even when most
expected, no trace of passion would be perceived by a stranger, but
among themselves, or those who are well acquainted with their ways,
their eye, countenance, smile, and every movement are as true an index
to the workings of their mind as are observable among civilized persons
in the most violent bursts of passion.


Silence is not considered a mark of wisdom. A very silent man is not
generally liked and somewhat feared, more so than a talkative one.
Their wisdom consists in making apparent their good sense in speeches,
advice, and in all their actions. Taciturnity may in some degree
arise from their want of sufficient topics of conversation, as when
obscene subjects are introduced this faculty is laid aside. All their
ceremonies partake of the nature of solemnities, but when these are
over and subjects or actions of a lighter nature employ their time
they are as jovial and noisy as can be. In general, however, in common
conversation Indians are not loquacious. Each sentence appears to
be studied and no useless or superfluous words are introduced. They
seldom speak twice or argue the point, even in debate in council. Each
one states his opinion freely without interruption, and obstinately
adheres to it. They never speak earnestly on a subject they do not
thoroughly understand. They have a singular faculty of determination in
everything they say or do. Even when surprised in extremes of danger
their decision to act is made on the instant as if by instinct. No
nervousness nor hesitation is evinced. When escape from death becomes
impossible they are stolid, stubborn, and die like men.


Their public speaking is only remarkable for applying their whole mind
and soul to the business in hand. They state their opinions in a few
words to the purpose, using only such metaphor as has a visible bearing
on its elucidation. A great deal of the effects of their oratory is
due to posture, gesture, and accent. The importance of the subject to
them and their undivided attention bestowed upon it at the time is the
cause of their forcible remarks. Some of these speeches are excellent
in their way, but only so as they illustrate in a condensed form the
opinions they wish to express. They are in fact the real children of
nature. The prevailing circumstance governs the mind for the time and
produces corresponding words and actions. The young and rising no doubt
imitate the elders in some of the forms of set speeches but no pains
are taken to learn them.


When they travel at night and have no moon to afford light they take
their direction by the north star with which they are all acquainted,
but when stars also are invisible they observe at dark the point from
which the wind blows, and shape their course accordingly. By these
means they will be able to pursue a right direction until they come to
some hill or river with which they are acquainted, and regulate their
travel from that point until the sun makes its appearance, and then
they are at no loss. Traveling on the plains is much more difficult
than in forests. In the terrible snowstorms that sweep over these
prairies, darkening the atmosphere and rendering the sun, moon, and
stars invisible, or indeed any object a short distance ahead, they are
as much at fault to proceed as any other person, and at these times lie
down, let the snow drift over and cover them, and remain thus until the
storm passes, which is frequently two or three days and nights.

There are many ways of determining within a few hours of the time when
an encampment has been deserted and the number of persons composing the
party. The camp fires will show how many persons have slept there, the
dung of the horses or dogs denotes the time, if the fires have become
cool. The tracks of the men and animals and the remains of the meal
are also means of judging. If scraps of meat or bone seen around are
untouched by wolves or ravens they must conclude that the party has
recently left.

In the summer the bending of the grass under their feet, tracks in
crossing a stream or any marshy place, and in winter, tracks in the
snow, will show to a tolerable certainty how many persons and what time
they have passed. A slight rain would determine whether the tracks were
before or since it fell. Snow would prove the same; the dew of the
morning in summer or fall would reveal the time to within 24 hours.
The grass nibbled by the horses by its appearance would denote whether
the party had passed within a few days and the hardness of the dung of
the animals brings the time to a still greater degree of certainty.
A correct judgment is not, however, formed by any one of the above
criterions, but by a comparison of the whole, and by following the
trail, and observing also the carcasses of the animals killed by the
party, their number, state of decay, etc. These with other smaller
indications, particularly if an arrow or moccasin be lost or thrown
away, will determine the number and nation that have passed and the
time. The passage of war parties is distinguished from hunting parties
of their own people by the absence of boys’ tracks or traces of dog
travailles in the former, and by the precautions they take in their


There is an extreme acuteness in their sense of sight—that is, to
see at a glance, over a wide extent of country, sometimes dotted by
bushes, ravines, or hills, and distinguish the living objects when at
rest from others. There is a great difference in the faculty of seeing
far and what is called “picking up an object”—that is, distinguishing
it from the inanimate bodies intervening. The Indians possess this
power in so remarkable a degree as to appear a kind of instinct. At a
distance of 12 or 15 miles they will distinguish animals from timber,
even supposing they are not in motion. If moving they will discern
between horses and buffalo, elk and horses, antelope and men, a bear
and a bull, or a wolf and a deer, etc. But the greatest mystery is how
they make out anything living to be there at such a distance, on the
instant, when they themselves are in motion and the animal at rest.
This they do when it is surrounded by a hundred other objects as like
to living creatures as it is. Once pointed out, the movements are
watched and its character thus determined. Their powers in this respect
are truly astonishing and must be acquired. They also judge very
correctly of the relative distances of objects, either by the eye or to
each other. Smoke can be seen rising on the plains at a distance of 60
miles, and they will tell from that or any lesser distance within a few
miles of the place where it rises. Their ideas of location are fully as

An Indian will shoot 20 or 30 arrows in different directions, and to
a distance of 100 yards or more among the tall grass, or in the snow,
where no trace of them remains, yet he will pick up the whole without
any difficulty; whereas a white man would have some trouble to find any
one of the arrows. If they lose a whip, knife, or anything in traveling
they can by returning generally find it, though no road marks their
steps. Even the boys do all these things admirably. Finding lost horses
or a camp from a given direction are also everyday occurrences, even if
they have never been in the neighborhood of the place, yet they will
find their way.


These people are prone to be deceived in every way. Tricks by jugglers,
stories, natural phenomena, or anything, to them unaccountable or
uncommon is looked upon with fear. All are so, the priests as well
as the others. The former have the address to turn to account their
supposed knowledge of these causes—not that they are really any wiser
than the others, but impress them with the belief that they are, which
is enough for their purposes. The minds of most Indians are disturbed
by many useless alarms, such as dreams, omens, and predictions of the
priests. Writing or calculations in figures made by whites are among
the wonders to which great superstition is attached, and they can be
made to believe almost any story, however absurd, if read in appearance
from a book. Paintings also, even the nondescript monsters drawn by
themselves, inspire them with fear when looked upon. All this has met
with sufficient explanation elsewhere.


Their powers in lifting weights, handling an ox or rowing a boat can
not compare to Europeans, yet they equal them in carrying burdens
and surpass them in running. It would seem that they have but little
strength in their arms, but considerable in the back and limbs. This
may be owing to the manner in which they have exercised in their youth.
An ordinary Indian can not lift more than 125 to 150 pounds at most,
though there are a few very strong men who might be able to raise
double that weight, yet most of them will carry a large deer on their
backs, traveling at a swift pace for miles without stopping, and this
is equal to 170 to 185 pounds weight. The manner in which they put it
on their back is by tying the legs together, lying down with their back
on the deer, slipping the legs across the forehead, and rising up with
the load. The Assiniboin have frequently in this neighborhood and once
in our company tired down in a day or two running on foot the best
horses we could produce.[25] In running they never “lose their breath”
as it is called, do not pant or respire very quickly.

[25] W J McGee noted similar racing ability among the Seri Indians. See
Seventeenth Ann. Rept. Bur. Amer. Ethn.

They can not understand why “whites lose their wind in running” and
have no name for the idea in their language. They say their legs
sometimes fail them in several days running, but their wind never. They
are not fast, but constant runners, keeping always at the same pace
over hills or on a level, in a kind of short trot about 12 or 15 miles
without stopping. They will then rest a few minutes, smoke a pipe, and
make as much more at the same rate, and so on, for three or four days
and nights in succession if necessary, their speed on these occasions
being about 5½ miles an hour. In an emergency, sending an Indian
express to the fort to carry a letter for myself, he went 95 miles and
returned, being 190 miles, in two nights and one day.

They can not walk as well as strong white men, and never do walk when
in haste to get forward. The muscles of their arms do not appear to
be formed for very hard work, but it may be that the nature of their
labors does not develop them. Upon the whole the European would stand
much more hard work in every way, but the Indian would be his superior
in active exercise, abstemiousness, and loss of sleep. The greatest
burden we have known an Indian to carry any distance, say 3 or 4 miles,
was two entire antelope, about 225 pounds.


No spirituous liquors have been distributed among these nations for
many years past, but should it be given them in quantity it would be
productive of great poverty and distress. They all drink whenever they
can get it—men, women, and children—except the Crow Indians, who will
not taste it. The usual consequence of drinking spirits is poverty,
as they will sell or give away everything they possess and prostitute
their women and children to obtain liquor when once intoxicated. These
Indians have never had a constant supply of spirits—that is, enough
to produce diseases or nervous debility. Their frolics were made at
intervals of months apart and never lasted more than 24 hours at a
time. They are not quarrelsome in their families when inebriated,
generally sing or cry for their dead relations; but among those who are
not of kin quarrels often occur which occasionally result in the death
of one of them. It is morally wrong and productive of great evil, in
our opinion, to sell or give ardent spirits to any Indian.


Buffalo are the principal dependence of all the prairie tribes, both
for food and clothing, and are hunted at all seasons; in the summer
when the hair is light and short for clothing, lodges, etc., and in
the winter, when it is long and heavy, for robes. There are three ways
of hunting this animal: by surrounding, by approaching, and by the
parks, each of which we will describe. It may as well be stated that
the buffalo migrate, or take different ranges, and travel all in the
same direction in a given season. Thus in the spring they mostly move
north and northwest, in the fall east and south, in the winter east,
returning west and north toward spring. They keep together in herds
of from 100 or 200 to 5,000 or 6,000, and sometimes the whole country
for five or six days travel is covered with one moving mass of these
animals. News of the buffalo approaching an Indian camp is received
several days before the animals appear, as they only move forward when
the grazing is not sufficient. Where a large camp is stationed they
usually hunt by “surround,” which is as follows:

The soldiers hold a council with the chief in the soldiers’ lodge
and prohibit any individual hunting ahead of the buffalo, also send
runners daily on discovery, to observe what progress they are making
toward the camp, their numbers, etc., and when they report them to be
near enough a meeting is held in the soldiers’ lodge, the time for the
hunt appointed, and notice given to the camp by the haranguing of the
public crier. At daybreak all the horses are caught and saddled, and
each of the horsemen is provided with a bow and a quiver of arrows. A
number who have no horses arm themselves with guns, and at a signal
from one of the soldiers the party moves off in single file or line.
Those who have the fastest horses go in front, after them the other
horsemen. Then the foot hunters, and lastly the women with their dogs
and travailles. The soldiers ride along each side the line (which is
sometimes a mile and more in length) and observe whether the line of
march is preserved, and that no one leaves singly. Were a dog to run
out of the line it would be shot with an arrow immediately.

Their march is conducted in silence, with the wind in their faces,
consequently blowing the scent away from the buffalo while they are
coming near them. The animal is not quick sighted but very keen
scented, and a man can, in passing across the wind blowing toward them,
raise a herd at the distance of 2 or 3 miles, without their seeing him.

The party proceeds in this order, taking every advantage of concealment
the country affords in hills, coulees, bushes, long grass, etc.,
endeavoring to get around them. As soon, however, as they are close and
see a movement among the buffalo intimating flight, they push their
horses at full speed, and riding entirely round commence shooting the
buffalo, which run in the direction of the footmen, these in their
turn shoot, and the animals are driven back toward the horses. In this
way they are kept running nearly in a circle until very tired, and the
greater part are killed. Those on horseback shoot arrows into all they
can at the distance of from 2 to 6 paces, and the footmen load and fire
as often as the animals come near them.

A “surround” party of 80 to 100 persons will in this way kill from 100
to 500 buffalo in the course of an hour. As soon as possible the women
get to work skinning and cutting up the animals. The tongue, hide, and
four best pieces are the property of the one who killed it, and the
rest belongs to those who skin it. When the men have stopped killing
and turned their horses loose to graze they commence with their women,
and the work being divided among so many is soon gotten through with.
If any disputes occur as to the right to the hides or meat, they are
settled on the spot by the soldiers; but these disputes do not often
occur, as they generally all have as many hides and as much meat as
they can pack home. The meat is cut in long, thick slices, merely
detaching it from the bones, and leaving the carcass on the plains.
It is packed home on their horses and dogs. Before leaving, however,
they all make a hearty meal of raw liver, raw kidneys, raw stomach, and
cow’s nose, with other parts in the same state, and the blood being
thus smeared over all their faces presents a savage appearance.

On arrival in camp if the soldiers wish the tongues, each one throws
his down at the soldiers’ lodge in passing, or sends it to them. Each
also furnishes a piece of meat for that lodge, and all the old and
feeble are supplied by their relatives who have been to the hunt. The
chief has no interference in all these matters. He sometimes hunts and
works the same as the others, but generally sends some of his sons or
other relations with his horses for meat. They never use the gun on
horseback or the bow on foot after game. The former they can not load
while running and the latter is not calculated to shoot with certainty
any distance over 10 paces.

THROWING BUFFALO IN A PARK.—This is the most ancient mode of hunting,
and probably the only successful one prior to the introduction of
firearms and horses, as their bows and arrows are insufficient for
killing buffalo on foot. We know of no nation now except the Assiniboin
and Cree who practice it, because all the rest are well supplied with
horses that can catch the buffalo, therefore they are not compelled to
resort to these means to entrap them.

Every year thousands of them are caught in this section by the
Assiniboin, and at the time we are writing there are three parks in
operation a short distance from this, all doing a good business. When
a camp of 30 to 60 lodges find themselves deficient in guns and horses
they move to a suitable place to build a park (pl. 69), and there wait
the approach of buffalo toward it. Most streams have high bluffs on
each side and a valley between. They therefore pitch their camp in the
valley opposite and near a gap of perpendicular descent through the
hills; a high level plain being beyond the bluffs. They cut timber and
plant strong posts in the ground nearly in a circular form and fill up
the openings between with large logs, rocks, bushes, and everything
that will in any way add to its strength, inclosing an area of nearly
an acre of ground. This enclosure is run up the sides of the hill to
the gap or entrance _C_, though neither it nor the camp is visible from
the place beyond. The whole is planned and managed by the master of the
park, some divining man of known repute, who is believed to have the
power of making the buffalo come into it by his enchantments.

On the plains beyond, and commencing where the wood mark leaves off,
are thrown up piles of earth, about 3 feet high and large enough
to conceal a man lying behind them, which are about 18 paces apart
and extend in angles to the distance of a quarter to half a mile in
proportion as there are people to man them. When these arrangements
are completed, four fast running young men are selected by the manager
whose duty it is to scour the country every day or two, making a
circuit of about 20 miles in discovery of buffalo, and report to
headquarters. The master in the meantime commences his magic arts as
follows: A flagstaff or pole is planted in the center of the park,
to the top of which is attached a yard or two of scarlet cloth, some
tobacco, and a cow’s horn. This is a sacrifice to the Wind. At
the foot of the same are placed two or three buffalo Heads which are
painted red, decked out in feathers, and new kettles with scarlet cloth
and other things placed before them. These are given to the Buffalo




_An Assiniboine running a Buffalo._

_Drawn by an Assiniboine warrior and hunter, Fort Union, Jan. 16,

Another Head painted and decked very gaudily is placed in the lodge of
the master, who smokes and invokes it, at times singing the Bull Song,
which he accompanies with a rattle nearly all night, and prophesies
as to their appearance of success in the morning. A man is now chosen
who is to lead the buffalo within the lines, and there are but few
among them who can do it. When the discoverers have reported buffalo
to be within 8 or 10 miles of the camp, and the wind is favorable, the
master, after great ceremonies to the Heads, and making them other
sacrifices, gives notice that a throw must be made, sending all the
camp to take their stations behind the piles of earth, lying down; he
remains in camp, keeping up a singing, rattling, and smoking—with
invocations all the time. The person who brings the buffalo mounts a
horse and meets them a great distance from camp. When within about 150
yards of the herd he covers his body with his robe, lies along the
horse’s back, and imitates the bleating of a buffalo calf.

The whole mass immediately moves toward him. He retreats toward the
pen, always keeping to the windward of them, and about the same
distance ahead, renewing the noise of the calf whenever they appear to
stop. They generally follow him as fast as his horse can gallop, and
in this way alone he conducts them within the lines of the angle. Of
course as soon as they are a short distance in, the scent of one of
the angles reaches them but it is now too late, they have closed in
behind. The animals now take fright and rush from one line to another,
but seeing people on both sides (who rise as the buffalo attempt to
get through) they keep straight forward. The leader on horseback now
makes his escape to one side, and the whole herd plunges madly down the
precipice, one on top of the other, breaking their legs and necks in
the fall. Into the pen they tumble, those in front having no power to
stop. They are forced on by the pressure from behind and frightened by
the yelling and firing of the savages. When all have passed into the
pen the work of slaughter commences, with guns and bows firing as long
as any appearance of life remains. From 300 to 600 are thus thrown in
at one time by a small camp, and two or three days are required to skin
and cut them up.

Men, women, and children now commence skinning. Each secures as many
hides as he can skin. The master of the park claims a portion for his
share, indeed all are said to belong to him, but he does not take more
than the rest. All the tongues, however, are his, and he also receives
other payment for his services in presents, besides the standing of a
divining man. Plate 70 will perhaps exhibit the hunt more clearly if we
have not been sufficiently plain in the description.

When there is a deficiency of people to man the angles they are made by
placing the lodges of the camp in that form, but this can only be done
when they have a dozen or two of fast horses to extend the angle of the
lodges and force the buffalo within the lines. This is also done, but
it does not succeed as well as the way described. Great is the joy and
feasting in camp after a large throw.

APPROACHING BUFFALO.—This is done on foot with the gun by a single
man. It is indispensable he should have on a skin dress in summer and a
white blanket coat over it in winter, or a buffalo robe coat with all
the hair turned inside.

Any dark-colored dress is easily seen by them at a considerable
distance, but white or light-colored clothing does not attract their
notice. The hunter has his gun covered with skin to prevent the dirt
or snow from entering the barrel while in the act of crawling. His
accoutrements are also firmly attached to his person by a belt. He
proceeds toward the buffalo, keeping the wind as nearly in his face as
possible, sometimes being obliged to make a circuit of miles to get the
wind in the right direction. When near the animals he observes from the
top of some hill how they are stationed, which way they travel, and the
nature of the ground as regards coulees, gullies, bushes, grass, and
any objects that may hide his person from their view and shapes his
course according to the means of concealment presented. If he finds the
country too level to get them within range of the gun he then commences
crawling on his belly toward them, pushing his gun ahead as he goes.

This is a very laborious and slow mode of progressing and often takes
one or two hours to come within shooting distance, as the hunter only
moves while the animals are eating, stopping the moment their attention
is directed toward him. In the snow it is a very cold business,
and in the summer difficult on account of the cactus, but they are
obliged to do it frequently in both seasons on these level plains.
Great precaution is needed to approach buffalo or antelope on a level
plain. The hunter covers his head with sage bushes, and sticks the
same or grass in his belt; at other times a wolf skin covers his head
and back—he lying flat, no form of the man can be perceived—and the
animals being accustomed to these objects do not affright so easily.
When by any of these means he has arrived within shooting distance he
fires without rising, elevating his piece by support of the elbows.
After firing he remains motionless a few minutes during which the
buffalo, after recoiling a few paces, and seeing nothing on the move,
commence grazing. He now turns over on his back and reloads his gun
(lying in this position) by putting the butt against his foot—and when
ready will turn over on his belly and fire again, and so on, sometimes
killing six or eight without changing his place, or with very little

As soon as he rises the herd runs off and he commences skinning. Some
hunters mimic the bleating of a calf and thus decoy the buffalo to
them, but this is a rare talent, and only practiced by a few good
performers; in hilly places or where there are gullies and bushes to
hide the hunter, neither buffalo nor antelope are difficult to kill,
but on the barren and level plain it requires great exertion, time and

Another method by which great numbers of both buffalo and antelope
are slain is, when the snow has drifted in the gullies, forming banks
10 to 15 feet deep. The animals are pursued on foot, with raquettes
and snowshoes. The hunter goes over the snow, but the animals become
embedded and are killed with ease. In the summer if several animals
are killed, the meat is placed in a pile covered with the hides, and
a portion of the hunter’s clothing left on it, the scent of which
prevents the wolves from coming to it. Occasionally the bladder of the
animal is inflated, small pebbles put in, which being tied to a stick
and stirred by the wind, will keep off the wolves and foxes.

But in the winter the usual way is to bury the meat in the snow,
which effectually prevents the wolves from eating it, as they have no
power of smell through a foot of snow. Meat can be left in this way
in perfect security for a month or more, but they usually return with
their dogs and take it away the next day. If the hunter goes out on
horseback he leaves his horse near the buffalo, and after having killed
in the manner stated, packs him home with the meat and hide, but in the
deep snow horses can not travel, the dogs do not sink much in the snow
and the men and women go over it on snowshoes.

Antelope are hunted in the same way as the preceding, also sometimes
decoyed by tying some portion of clothing to a pole, the man lying
down and raising and lowering the pole at intervals, or by kicking up
his heels, one after the other. They have great curiosity to see the
strange object, and after making many circles will come near enough
to get a shot, though as soon, as they make out the man they are off.
A wolf skin is decidedly the best disguise when hunting any of the
animals on foot.

It may as well be recorded here that all young hunters sacrifice the
first game they kill by cutting it up and giving it to the crows,
magpies and wolves, saying to each, “I give you this that I may always
be able to kill and feed the wolves, that I may be successful in war.”

The bull’s head is often painted and bound round with scarlet cloth,
with painted feathers or sticks stuck in, and an address made to it
announcing that it is done by the hunter to prevent the animal from
goring him. Likewise the Assiniboin, when they undertake to swim the
Missouri, will tie to a stick some dried buffalo guts, grease, and
bladder, and stick the same in the water, say to it, “This is to enable
me to cross without accident, let no wind blow, nor pain take me in
crossing.” They are not expert swimmers like the Crow Indians, and
the fear of the undertaking causes the sacrifice. In all these things
they are very particular and superstitious, asserting that if these
ceremonies are neglected some accident will certainly happen to the
person who despises these powers.

DEER HUNTING.—A good deer hunter must use the rifle. Shotguns do not
shoot with certainty. This is the reason why all these Indians are poor
deer hunters. They use the northwest shotgun altogether except a few
of the Sioux, who hunt antelope and bighorn with the rifle. The art of
deer hunting may be thus divided: Finding the deer, approaching it,
shooting it, cutting it up, and carrying it home. They are hunted in
the timber by a man alone and on foot. He must be well acquainted with
the habits of the animal, where it is to be found at different hours
in the day, what it feeds upon at different seasons, to know by the
tracks if it is traveling, grazing, running, retiring to rest, or going
to water; he must be quick sighted, a good walker, and go cautiously
through the bush when near the game. The morning and evening are the
best times to hunt them, as they are then on the edge or borders of the
woods where grass is found, or in open places in the bottoms; returning
into the thick bushes for a few hours in the middle of the day. The
hunter travels fast until he comes near the place where he judges a
deer is to be found, then proceeds very slowly and silently, looking
in every direction, always keeping the wind in his favor until the
animal is seen. He then approaches it stepping from tree to tree, bush
to bush, crawling and creeping, hiding himself entirely from its view,
by every means, and making no noise. When he thinks he is within range
he rises and fires quickly and the deer falls. It is then skinned and
cut up, the meat packed in the hide, and it tied in a bundle by the
skin of the legs, in such a way as to form a collar, which is drawn
over his forehead, by lying or sitting down, and slipping it over, then
rising up with the weight between his shoulders he starts homeward. If
more than one is wanted he hangs the first on a tree thus cut up, and
proceeds in quest of others, sometimes killing three or four in a day,
which he returns for with his horse or dogs the next day.

Whistles made of wood like the mouthpiece of a clarinet are used to
call both deer and elk in hunting seasons, and are then a useful decoy.
They do not catch them in traps or pits.

ELK HUNTING.—This is done on foot, with the gun, but by parties of
men. Elk go in droves of from 100 to 300 each and are found in the
large timbered bottoms of the Missouri and Yellowstone. There is some
ceremony required in hunting this animal. In the first place some
divining woman who is said to be an “elk dreamer” states she has had
a favorable dream for hunting them. The woman is then stripped to the
waist and also barelegged, the body and face painted a bright yellow,
and a wreath of bushes with leaves on projecting two or three feet
on each side is placed on her head in imitation of the horns of the
elk. Thus decorated she starts at the head of a party of 15 to 25 men.
When in the vicinity of the place, where, according to her dream, the
elk are to be found, she stops and commences her incantation song,
while the others continue in quest of the game. As soon as the herd is
discovered the party separate, and outflanking them on either side,
commence firing and running toward them, loading and firing while
running, in quick succession, when the elk become confused, scatter and
turn in different directions, presenting at times a mark for each of
the hunters.

Every shot bewilders them the more, and instead of running in any one
direction they keep turning every way until a great many are killed.

They are then skinned, cut up, and the meat and hides packed home on
horses brought for the purpose, which having been left behind in charge
of some women and boys, are brought up during the fixing. The skins are
used for clothing and the meat, though eaten, is not relished much by
most of the Indians.

Elk are also approached singly and at those times the same precautions
are used as stated under the head of deer hunting, though they are not
so shy and timid an animal as deer.

GRIZZLY BEARS.—This animal is not hunted but often found when not
desired, and mostly passed by unmolested by a single Indian when
on foot, though on occasions they do kill them in this way, which
exploit ranks in bravery next to killing an enemy, but the thickets
and mauvaise terre which they inhabit makes the pursuit too dangerous
for ordinary hunters. They are more frequently killed in their dens in

The grizzly bear in the beginning of cold weather and snow seeks
some hole in the side of a hill in some solitary place, and carries
in a quantity of grass and brush to make his nest, lies all winter
apparently asleep and eats nothing, though they are said to derive
some nourishment by sucking their paws. The nest or wash is always
within a few feet of the entrance and they can easily be seen from
the outside. Generally a den contains two to four bears, or one large
male and two yearling cubs, or one large female and two yearlings.
Sometimes, however, they are found singly. When a den is discovered six
or eight Indians go to attack it, approaching the hole so close as to
see the foremost bear, when three of them fire, the others reserving
their shots. They all run off some distance and if the animal, or any
others pursue them, the rest fire. If the first one has been killed
and there are others the smoke of the guns drives them out, when they
receive a volley from the hunters. If they see nothing after waiting
a sufficient time for the smoke to escape from the hole they again
approach as before and see if the animal be dead. If so, they make a
smoke within the entrance with the view of driving out any other that
may be within. Should nothing appear they conclude there is but one,
enter, and drag him out.

Frequently two or three bears are killed in the same hole at the same
time, and at others some of the hunters get dreadfully mangled. Bears
are also run on horseback, when found on the plains, and shot with
arrows. This is the least dangerous manner of killing them. No pits or
traps are used, though we have known forked sticks to be placed before
the hole so that when they came out they were caught by the hind part
and detained a short time. When a bear is killed he is skinned, all
except the head, which is covered with scarlet cloth, the hair smeared
over with vermilion, handsome feathers stuck around it, and new kettles
and tobacco laid before it. It is presented with the pipe to smoke and
a long ceremony of invocation takes place, purporting that they give
him this property and pay this attention to have pity upon their wives
and children and not tear them when they are hunting after fruit and
berries. They say if this is not done the bear will certainly sooner or
later devour some of them or their children.

BEAVER.—None of these Indians trap the beaver to any extent except the
Crow and Cree Indians. The steel trap is used by them, set under the
water, and a stick dipped in the musk or oilstone of the beaver, placed
behind the trap, though above the surface. The animal, smelling the
bait, will come to see what it is, and in swimming around is caught by
the foot. Oils of cinnamon, cloves, and rhodium are also used for bait
by white trappers.

WOLVES AND FOXES.—Wolves and foxes are caught in deadfall traps made
by planting sticks in the ground with a crosspiece supporting a heavy
roof of stone laid on sticks. The whole is propped up with a stick,
and the wolf going in to eat the meat displaces the prop and the whole
weight falls upon him and breaks his back. The Cree catch them in a
pit or hole dug for the purpose—covering it with a revolving trap
door with a bait of meat on each end above and beneath. The animal in
endeavoring to reach the bait is turned in by the revolving of the
door under its weight, which brings the other bait on top. A second
revolution turns up the first bait and turns down the second wolf.

In this way they will catch as many as the pit will hold, especially as
when a few are turned in they commence fighting; and the noise attracts
others. Wolves are also sacrificed to and small presents given them,
with the view of avoiding their being bitten by them when mad, or as
the Gods of War.

The chase does not vary much at any season, except that in the summer,
no skins being seasonable but deer in the red, only enough animals are
killed to suffice for food, clothing, lodges, etc. From the middle of
September to the middle of March the hair and fur of all animals become
merchantable. They are then hunted for the hide, though all prime furs
are taken off in the middle of the winter. Pelts are judged by the
thickness of their skin and fur. In the warm months all animals shed
their hair. A little observation enables a person to determine to a
certainty in what month the animal has been killed.

Hunting parties not decided on by council in the soldiers’ lodge are
formed by any respectable hunter sending invitations to those he wishes
should accompany him.

The spoils of smaller game belong to him who killed it but they share
the meat with all who are there, and but little difficulty occurs on
this point. When but few animals are killed it is always known who
killed them, and when many are slaughtered all have enough. Disputes
arise occasionally, however, but it is not a matter of sufficient
importance to proceed to extreme measures, and one of the party usually
relinquishes his claim.

The morning and evening are the best hours for approaching small game,
as at those times they are found feeding, but buffalo can be easier
approached in the middle of the day when they lie down for an hour or
two, and if not asleep their range of vision is much diminished by
that position and intervening grass. Light and shade are not of much
consequence in approaching game. The object of the hunter is to keep
out of sight entirely until the moment of firing, and when that is not
possible to make use of some skin, branches, grass, etc., to deceive
the animal, move very slowly, and keep the wind in his favor.

The manner in which animals are decoyed has been pointed out, but is
not always successful, and only resorted to by those who are adepts
in the art of mimicry, as in the rutting season. This is the reason
why he who leads the buffalo into the parks is supposed by the mass to
be possessed with some supernatural power which forces the buffalo to
follow him, when in fact it is nothing more than a correct imitation of
the bleating of a calf or a noise as though a calf was being devoured
by a wolf and crying for help. The buffalo never get near enough to the
man to make him out, as he is covered with his robe, the hair turned
outward, and he always keeps the wind in his favor. It is, however, a
rare talent.

[Illustration: FIGURE 33.—Tool for fleshing the hide]

The hide of the buffalo, to make a robe, is taken off in two halves,
by slitting the animal down the middle of the back and the middle of
the belly. The first process it undergoes afterwards is taking off the
portions of meat and membrane adhering to it, so that it will present
the smooth clear skin. This is done with a tool made from the shin bone
of an elk. (Fig. 33.) The lower end is cut to an edge and small teeth
made therein. The skin is hung up at one corner to a pole and the meat
is dug off by hoeing down with the instrument, which is held firmly at
the upper end. A woman will finish this operation on two whole skins
or four halves in one day. Next the skin is stretched to dry. Holes
are cut through it near the edge. In summer it is pinned to the ground
by wooden pegs, or in winter when the ground is frozen, stretched on a
frame of four poles tied together, and a small fire built to dry it.
When dry the next thing to be done is to scrape it, that is, to hoe
off about one-third of the thickness of the hide. This is done with
an iron tool about 3½ inches long, 1½ inches wide, and ⅛-inch
thick. Formerly a flint stone was used for this purpose, but the iron
tool answering better, is now substituted. This piece of iron being
sharpened at one edge is tied on a handle made of elk’s horn (fig. 34),
cut off at one of the forks, so as to afford a projection to fasten it,
being held in both hands. The hide is laid on the ground, the woman
stands upon it, and, stooping, digs off the hide in shavings, until of
the proper thickness.

This occupies about half a day to each whole hide and is a very
fatiguing employment. Grease is then melted, sprinkled sparingly over
the skin, and it is suspended over a small fire for a few hours
that the grease may penetrate; then taken down and smeared over with
the brains or livers of some animals boiled in water, being soaked
thoroughly and left all night in this state. In the morning it is again
stretched on the frame, the liver scraped off, clean water thrown on
and scraped off until the hide becomes white. A fire is then made near
and the skin slowly heated and rubbed with pumice stone or porous bone
until it is about half dry, then taken out of the frame and drawn
backward and forward round a strong cord of sinew which is tied at each
end to the lodge pole. Every few minutes the skin is held a short time
to the fire, then rubbed, and this operation continued until it becomes
perfectly dry and soft. This is also hard work. A good hand will rub
two whole skins or four halves in a day. The skin is now dressed. The
holes made for stretching it around the edges are cut off and it is
sewed up along the back with an awl and sinew, which takes about half
an hour to each two halves of the buffalo.

[Illustration: FIGURE 34.—Tool for scraping hides or shaving the skin]

The robe is now fit for sale and is packed away. Deer and elk skins
undergo the same operations, and in addition the hair is scraped off
with the same tool that the hide is shaved with, though they are
skinned whole and not in halves like the buffalo hides. It will thus
be seen that at least three days are required to prepare one buffalo
robe for market, but by their division of time in attending to several
skins in different stages of advancement the labor would be about equal
to two days for each buffalo skin. Twenty-five to thirty-five robes is
considered an excellent winter’s work for one woman. The average is
about 18 to 20 each. Wolf, bear, fox, rabbit, beaver, hare, ermine,
lynx, otter, rat, mink, etc., are not dressed for market, and all these
are skinned, stretched and dried by the men and boys. A wolf or fox
skin is now and then dressed for the use of a woman or hunter to wear
round his head, and undergoes the preceding operations, though the skin
being small and light not much labor is required. Robes and skins are
packed up in small bundles, the hair side out, each bundle weighing 30
or 35 pounds, and when a sufficient number are collected for supplies,
one of these bundles is tied on each dog travaille and they go to the
trading house to dispose of them.

INSTRUCTION IN HUNTING.—As stated in a former place, boys commence
with archery as soon as they can run about after birds and rabbits,
enlarging the size of the bow to suit their strength, until they attain
the age of 16 years, when the full-sized bow is used. About this time
they are taught by their father or other relations the use of firearms
and the different modes of approaching game. At this age they may be
considered fit to engage in the active labors of the chase on foot,
but seldom run buffalo on horseback so early. About 18, however, they
can hunt in every way, though before this age they can and do assist
in supporting their parents. Even when much younger they follow to
the hunt and aid in skinning and packing home meat. They are perhaps
of more service in this way when young than at a riper age, when the
pursuit of war and the possession of women occupy the greater part of
their time. Women are never known to practice any part of the hunter’s
art when left alone. They generally find some relative to remain with
them when deserted by their husbands, and their labor always secures
them a home.

When they desert the camp on account of some quarrel they travel alone
for days, subsisting on roots, berries, or fruit, if the season affords
them, shaping their course toward the fort or some other band of their
own people.

The bow and arrow is used altogether by all these tribes when hunting
buffalo on horseback and the Northwest shotgun is the only arm employed
in killing any and all game on foot. A few Sioux, perhaps a dozen in
the whole nation, use rifles in hunting antelope, bighorn, and other
small game. A warrior has if possible both gun and bow. Ammunition is
sold at the rate of 3 pounds of powder and 1 pound of balls for one
buffalo robe, which is enough for a month’s hunting by any Indian.
Traps, metallic instruments, arms, or anything they want, also persons
to repair their guns, kettles, and axes and to make tools to dress
robes, etc., can be furnished them at any tune; but they will not pay
for these things. We have kept in constant employment, mostly for their
benefit, a blacksmith, a gunsmith, and a tinsmith at all the forts for
20 years past and are heartily tired of the business, as no profit
arises from their labor.

It is not designed hereby to produce an impression that these labors
have been performed by us from charitable motives, but thereby to put
the Indians in a position to hunt and collect skins for the trade.
Every Indian without a horse or gun, or only with his bow and arrows
is an idler; his time is a loss to us. We therefore lend him a gun
and furnish him, with ammunition free of charge. He commences hunting
and realizes to us from $60 to $80 in skins that would otherwise have
remained upon the backs of the animals. True he never returns or pays
for the gun, but he has it, or some other has, and it is in our active
service. As long as the buffalo are as numerous as they now are these
tribes will have no difficulty in maintaining themselves by the chase.
Traders are too observant of their own interests to let them suffer
for the means of hunting, but should the buffalo fail the very reverse
would be the case. In that event the trade not being of sufficient
profit would be discontinued, and the Indians thrown upon their own
resources, which are extremely deficient.

They are no deer hunters, and besides only a small portion of their
country along the rivers is stocked with deer and elk and the greatest
famine and distress imaginable would follow, as they are entirely
unacquainted with agricultural pursuits.

There appears to be an anxiety exhibited on this point in many of the
queries, viz., whether the chase is sufficient for the support of the
Indians, and whether they would not be benefited by the introduction of
agriculture. It does not admit of a doubt; neither are any arguments
required to prove this. Having witnessed their eating their own
children during a temporary absence of buffalo in 1845-46 is enough to
satisfy any person on this head. Any railroad or emigration of whites
through their country would ruin it at once as a buffalo country, and
the misery above alluded to would as surely follow as night succeeds

We think, however, that attention on the part of white friends is
not enough directed to pastoral pursuits instead of agricultural and
mechanical. It appears to us that the former occupation would suit
the Indian better to commence with. He would thereby gradually emerge
from his savage state into another which would lead to agriculture in
the end. The tilling necessary for the support of his stock would be
increased in proportion as he saw the advantages arising therefrom.
It would be expecting too much of the Indian to suppose that he would
suddenly change his indolent life for one of hard and constant labor,
but it seems reasonable that the raising of horses, cattle, hogs, and
sheep, for which their country is admirably adapted, would be to them
both interesting and profitable employment, particularly as they could
unite these operations with the chase when game came near. This state
would be but the chrysalis in the present generation, to merge into
agriculture, mechanical arts, and civilization in the next.

Another argument in favor of this is that they are accustomed to animal
food entirely, therefore grain of any kind could not replace this;
but domestic animals, fowls, eggs, etc., would—and in the meantime
a relish would be formed for breadstuff and vegetables, the want of
which is not now felt. The course to be pursued (that is if any be in
contemplation) by persons in high stations appears to us to be very
plain, and must be apparent to any one who makes himself acquainted
with their real character as set forth in these pages.


These tribes take no fish in quantity by any means whatever.


The raising of a war party is always a subject of discussion in the
soldiers’ lodge, not to choose the persons, but whether the time is
suitable; if men, arms, and ammunition can be spared from camp, or if
they are required for defense; if it is advisable to keep up the war;
how they are situated with regard to their enemies as to locality,
numbers, and general prospects of success as presented at the time. It
being determined in favor of hostilities, the partisan soldier or chief
who intends leading the expedition proceeds to fast, sacrifice, and
dream in the manner before pointed out in these pages, and having had
favorable visions makes a feast of dog in his own lodge, and invites
thereto the persons he wishes to accompany him, opening to them the
object and plan of the expedition, after the feast has been concluded.
Should he not be able to obtain a sufficient number of recruits in
this way he sends runners with tobacco to other camps conveying an
invitation to join within a given time.

War is made either to steal horses from their enemies or to take
their scalps. For the first object but few people are required, as
concealment and avoiding battle is aimed at, and parties for this
purpose are comprised of from 10 to 30 men, whereas a party starting
expressly for battle often contains two, three, or four hundred
warriors. We will endeavor to follow up the first description of
parties, supposing stealing horses to be the object, which is the most
common kind of war excursions. The partisan or captain, as has been
stated, after dreaming, sacrificing, etc., to Wakoñda, the Sun, and
Thunder, makes his last offering, consisting of some scarlet cloth and
tobacco, to the Wolves, which are considered the war fetishes, and
viewed in the light of the special Gods of War. The day for starting
being appointed, all his followers are assembled the night before,
when the business is again considered, and they consent to follow him
as the leader during the time they are out, obey his instructions,
without, however, acknowledging any right in him to punish in case of
disobedience, also reserving to themselves the privilege of leaving him
at any time and under any circumstances they think proper.

It is a voluntary action and those who will not obey or are
dissatisfied leave and return home at any stage of the march, but do
not separate and remain to thwart the intentions of the others. No harm
being done by their desertion, no punishment follows. At all events he
is obliged to be contented with these precarious terms of enlistment.
The night previous to their departure they assemble (say 20 men) in
the soldiers’ lodge, where a dance called the Crow dance is performed
by them, and the next morning they all start together, singing the Wolf
Song as they leave, their faces usually being painted with vermilion at
all times and particularly at this time. All go on foot; no order or
file of march is taken up; neither is it necessary. Each one has six or
eight pairs of good strong-soled moccasins on his back. Some are armed
with bows and arrows, some with guns, and some with lances and war
clubs. Battle not being sought, a profusion of arms is not desired and
might prove cumbersome. Every man furnishes his own ammunition and war

Though guns are sometimes borrowed and ammunition begged of their
friends and relatives, yet there is no tax laid on the camp for
supplies nor any public arrangement whatever for providing arms, etc.
No provisions are taken; they hunt it on their way. The partisan takes
his fetish Wolf Skin, which is an entire skin of that animal dressed
with the head, ears, legs, etc., complete, so that by lying down or
standing on his hands and knees and covering himself with the skin,
drawing it over his head, he might easily be passed as a wolf by any
person within a short distance. His other charm or fetish is also
secured about his person. A good many, and sometimes the whole party,
have wolf skins of the above description on their backs.

During their march through their own country but little precaution is
used. They stray along at random and toward evening look around for
some game for supper, kill whatever presents itself, take enough for
the night and the next day and encamp.

They proceed in this way, if no signs of enemies appear, until
entirely out of their usual hunting grounds, the leader in the
meantime consulting his dreams, smoking to his fetish wolf skin. A
bad dream, or any unpropitious omen, such as the howling of a single
wolf in a peculiar manner, breaking his pipe, letting fall his fetish,
very severe thunder and lightning, would suffice to turn back the
expedition. When large parties start we find two or three returning
almost every day from the time of leaving until the attack, caused
by dissensions, omens, or other dissatisfaction, but no disgrace or
remarkable comments are attached to this fact, though the excuses some
of them give look very much like fear.

Having arrived at their enemy’s country, the greatest possible
precaution and vigilance are now exercised.

According to the orders of their leader they proceed slowly, scatter
in different directions for miles around, lie about on the tops of the
hills covered with their wolf skins, or headdresses made of bunches of
wild sage, examining the country in every direction for hours before
they move. If nothing is seen they signal to each other the result by
imitating the howling of wolves, the barking of foxes, or the hooting
of owls, as the signals agreed upon require. Assembling in some hollow,
they compare notes, receive new directions, and proceeding a few
miles, separate again and reconnoiter as before. They now shoot very
seldom, and only when meat is absolutely wanted, and the wind blows
in a direction to carry the report away from their enemies, or toward
that part of the country already explored. By observing the movements
of crows and wolves, in which direction they travel, where they stop
and light, they will find out the carcass of some animal killed by the
hunters of the camp. The state of its decay, tracks, and other signs
around will determine the probable direction of their enemies, and they
steer for that point.

When advanced thus far—that is, to know they are in the vicinity of
a camp—the real science of their manner of warfare exhibits itself.
Night marches commence, and separating as before about daylight they
occupy the hills, lying motionless all day, watching in every direction
some signs of their enemies. They are placed so as to be within call
of each other, and the signals for different discoveries being agreed
upon by imitating the howling of wolves, etc., as has been stated, they
can communicate with each other all the time without rising to their
feet. They never expose their persons to view on a hill. If necessary
to assemble they crawl down and meet in some ravine well covered with
thick bushes. They now never shoot, make no fire, eat nothing, keep
very quiet, and travel in the night. Of course, by these measures they
must soon perceive some one belonging to the camp, and by observing his
direction will find where it is.

Having discovered the camp, the last rendezvous takes place prior to
the attempt upon the horses, and here several things are determined—a
place is agreed upon where they will all assemble after the attack, a
direction for the return chosen in case of separation, smoking, and
invoking the different fetishes are performed, and general directions
given by their leader as to the manner of approaching the camp.

There can be no plan of operations laid down, as they are as yet
unaware of the position of the camp, how their horses are kept,
what surrounding objects afford concealment, etc. In the night they
approach the camp in a body under cover of the hills and bushes, and
when near enough to see the horses, and judge of the opportunities
of getting to them unobserved they again separate, and each pursues
his own way of proceeding from different points, as the nature of the
ground affords. The best horses of the Crows and Blackfeet are usually
picketed near the lodge of their several owners and the rest grazing
near. Sometimes pens are made around the lodges, the horses driven in
at dark, and cottonwood bark thrown in for them to eat. The risk of
extracting horses from the interior of a camp is very great, as young
men are moving about from lodge to lodge all night in their various
prosecutions of schemes on women; but the horses must be had, and the
venture must be made.

Near daylight, when all the people of the camp are supposed to be
asleep, but when yet dark (and the darkest kind of nights are chosen)
each warrior creeps slowly and silently toward that portion of horses
apparently the best situated to be taken off unperceived. Should he in
this way be so fortunate as to reach them without discovery he cuts the
cords with which they are tied and works them gradually into the shade
or darkness, then mounting one, drives the whole to the appointed place
of rendezvous. But owing to the many obstacles in the way of each, the
probability of some one being observed is great, and in that case the
whole camp is alarmed on the instant, each rushing toward his horses.
Shots are fired and the warriors seek safety in flight, with or without
horses as it happens. If there be snow to show their tracks the enemy
pursues them the next day, but if no trail can be found to follow they
abandon it. In either case the warriors shape their course individually
toward the appointed place of meeting, and if all are not assembled,
leave some token for those not arrived to know they have passed, and
continue their flight.

The horses are put to full speed day and night for several days in
succession until entirely out of reach of pursuit, and now begins a
series of quarrels as to the right of possession of the animals. Some
who have been disappointed and drove none off take from those who
have. The leader takes several, combinations of two or three to rob
another are entered into, horses are killed in the quarrel, or stolen
from each other, and unless a great haul has been made very little
satisfaction appears. These differences are mostly gotten through with
before reaching home and they make known their approach by setting the
prairie on fire. When arrived in the outskirts they shoot and sing, but
do not black themselves for stealing horses, unless they have brought a
scalp also, which occasionally happens. If any of their party have been
killed they arrive uttering loud lamentations.

The whole camp turns out to meet them. The old women cry over their
sons, rubbing the hand down their face, a great deal of flattery is
used by some of the elderly men, shouting the name of some one of the
warriors in a loud voice, stating his bravery, greatness of heart,
etc., until overwhelmed by glory, he presents him with one of the
horses. Great is the joy and tumult, and it frequently happens before
the warrior has arrived at his own lodge, that all his horses are given
away, and he retains nothing but the glory of the action. In this
event, however, his name is sung around the camp by the persons who
have received these gifts, accompanied with the song of thanks, and
loud and prolonged praises of his bravery and strength of heart.

War parties for battle are a long time in contemplation, frequently
occupying a whole winter in preparing for the campaign, and in
counseling regarding it. Usually large parties are led by some chief of
a band, and invitations are sent by him to different chiefs of other
bands of the same nation and to those of another nation with whom they
are at peace.

In the beginning of the summer they all assemble with their lodges at
the place appointed, and a great deal of debate, feasting, and private
consultation takes place, with sacrifices by the chiefs and soldiers,
and also by many of the warriors to the several supernatural powers
before referred to. It appears to be the misfortune of these large
expeditions to fail in executing anything like what is anticipated at
the start. Here also, the cause of their failure appears to be due to
their insubordination. There is no one man to lead, no one source of
authority in carrying out any plan decided upon. The nominal leader as
chief is only chief of his band, and even among these there are others
who are his equals in war. There are several chiefs of bands, and also
many other chiefs; every one’s advice, although asked, can not be
taken, which produces dissatisfaction. The soldiers of one band will
not be commanded by those of another, rank on every side is interfered
with, old grudges renewed by meeting with old delinquents, in short
though all looks pretty fair on starting, yet difficulties and disputes
from various causes take place every day after, which results in their
leaving and returning home in detached parties.

When, however, the ranks have by these means become purged of the most
turbulent and unruly characters the others proceed in the following
order: Chiefs, warriors of note and soldiers, dressed in deerskin
shirts and leggings trimmed with ermine, horse, or scalp hair. A war
eagle feather cap is on his head, a shield of bull’s hide covers his
arm, a bow and quiver of arrows is carried on his back, a short gun
stuck in his belt with pouch and horn across his shoulders and scalping
knife in its sheath, the powder horn and ball pouch are carried on the
middle of the back, the connecting strap reaching across his breast
and the upper parts of both arms. These are the mounted men, and the
most distinguished for their former deeds. The footmen consist of young
warriors and new recruits without any peculiar insignia, but well armed
if possible. The soldiers are men holding that rank in whichever camp
they reside, and their duty is to ride on the outside of the main body
to keep any person from straying away and prevent any useless noise or
manner of travel.

The scouts are appointed by the leader and changed daily; their duty
being to separate and keep 5 or 6 miles ahead of the main body. These
scouts or discoverers are footmen and use the same precautions as
before stated. The main body moves slowly forward after reconnoitering
has commenced, without any order, and only passing whatever ground has
been rendered secure by the reconnoiterers. During the time before
arriving in their enemies’ country, or at least before any signs of
enemies have been perceived, they run buffalo with horses, kill enough
meat for present use and dry and pound more to be used when hunting
is not advisable. When signs of the camp are perceived, sentinels are
posted every night, who lie down around the camp within 200 or 300
yards of the main body, and 50 or 60 steps from each other. All the
horses belonging to the expedition are picketed within this circle and
near the place where their several owners sleep. These sentinels are
changed every night.

When by means of scouts and other observations they have discovered
the camp it is approached in the night and the several advantageous
positions which the ground affords around it are occupied by different
detachments of the party, who are to attack from various quarters as
nearly as possible at the same time. About daybreak a rush is made by
the mounted men, shouting the war whoop and firing into the lodges as
they pass through. The attention of the horsemen is directed toward
driving off every horse found in camp. These, although picketed, take
fright at the noise, snap their cords and are driven away. This rush
only passes through the camp, and the enemy being raised and armed
turn out and pursue and a battle now takes place near the camp. Indian
fighting is individual fighting, each one for himself, without any
military order, line, or file. Orders are given by any of the chiefs
or soldiers in a loud voice when some advantage presents itself. Both
parties endeavor to cover their bodies by any objects which are in the
way. A thicket is much desired, small trees, stones, bunches of grass,
or hollows made by the rain are all occupied, and those who cannot find
any shelter jump from side to side, never standing still a moment to
avoid any certain aim for their enemy’s fire.

The whole is accompanied with a terrible yelling on both sides. When
one falls on either side the war whoop is sent forth by the party who
killed and a simultaneous rush is made by the enemy to obtain the scalp
and the friends of the fallen man to rescue the body. In these mêlées
of small parties take place the terrible savage struggles for which
they are remarkable. It is hand-to-hand fighting by a few on each side
over the body of the fallen man.[26] Knives, lances, and war clubs are
the arms then used and frequently several fall on each side before
one party recoils. These scenes are going on over several parts of
the field at the same time. The war whoop is sounded from either side
whenever any success is visible, and when any disproportionate loss
takes place the flight of that party is the consequence. This is the
great aim of either party, as a massacre of the scattered fugitives
then takes place. It should be remembered that when the contending
parties are nearly equal very little damage is done.

[26] Such fierce struggles over fallen heroes recall similar combats
engaged in by the stalwart figures in Homer’s Iliad.

The firing is at such a distance that only a random shot takes
effect, and after abusing each other and firing hundreds of shots all
day, perhaps only three or four are killed. There must be a great
superiority of numbers and position on one side where there is any
great destruction. The greatest loss of life happens when some 200 to
400 warriors surprise a camp of 20 or 30 lodges, or when the war party
is too large to effect concealment for stealing horses, and too small
for defense. In this case when pursued by the whole camp they are
brought to a stand. If on the prairie they take up a position on the
top of some hill covered with stones with which they make a barricade
or seek a gully or cluster of bushes. Here they fight as long as one of
them is living, but being surrounded by a superior force are all killed
in the end. Three years since 52 Assiniboin who were discovered in an
attempt to steal horses from the Blackfeet were pursued and brought to
bay in a sink hole, or gully, where they were surrounded by about 800
men of the latter nation and fired upon until all were killed.

Their enemies, however, lost 34 men before they succeeded. A retreat
is ordered in words to that effect and the movement being perceived
is followed by all, which generally ends in downright flight. A very
common exhibition of individual bravery is, when the parties are
equally divided, and slow skirmishing going forward, each party having
good positions, a single warrior rides forth near the place where the
other party is stationed, and riding slowly within reach of their
fire along their front, sings his war song and calls out his name,
presenting a mark for the whole of his enemies to fire at. Either he
or his horse is generally killed, or if he escapes he is considered a
brave man ever afterwards. In either case he is followed by one of the
opposite side in the same manner, and in this way often three or four
are killed. They eat no root supposed to have the power of deadening
pain or inspiring courage.

The divining men are consulted as to the nature of their dreams before
they set out, and on the march, but not in regard to their operations
in battle.

Battles are planned as soon as they can determine the position of the
enemy, which plans are changed according to circumstances afterwards,
but the fighting is done at random, each loading and firing when he
chooses, and using any measures of concealment of his person.

No general orders are conveyed or aids employed, although whenever a
cluster of men occupy a position some soldier or chief being there
gives orders to the others, individually or collectively, as the danger
is apparent. The chiefs and soldiers retreating would be a signal for
all to run. The leader gives advice occasionally as to dislodging the
enemy, etc., but all his orders partake of the nature of requests.
They rally often during a retreat if the party be large, and keep up a
running fight for 10 or 15 miles.

A favorite device to decoy enemies is to send but few to make an attack
on their camp and drive off the horses. The camp, following, are led to
where the main body lies in ambush.

The war whoop is the signal of advance and also of encouragement
during the fight. It is also a cry of joy when any of the enemy fall,
and at all times a defiance, but never used in retreat or under any
humiliating circumstances. They speak to and abuse each other during
the fight, adding their former deeds to exasperate the enemy and induce
some one of them to step forth that he may be killed.

They never quit a masked wood and take the level plain unless their
party is greatly superior in numbers and no danger of pursuit is
apprehended; but if they are few they remain in the wood until burnt
out, which is done by setting fire to the grass on the prairie, which
in a wind will communicate with the undergrowth of the woods. If this
can not be done by the surrounding party the besieged party defend
their position until night and then make their escape under cover of
the darkness.

The Gros Ventres and Crows are the only nations who take women and
children prisoners and spare their lives, though they kill all males
able to bear arms.

All the wounded left on the field are tortured to death in every
possible way, mostly by mutilation, are seldom burned, perhaps for
the reason that death would be too soon produced by that manner of
proceeding. The Assiniboin burn children prisoners.

The Crow Indians a few years since, after killing all the men and large
boys of 50 lodges of the Blackfeet, took prisoners upward of 200 women
and children. One of our gentlemen now in charge of that nation was
with the Crow camp when the battle took place, and for two or three
months afterwards, during which time he sought occasions to liberate
about 50 women and send them home to their people. Most of these
prisoners, it appears, are treated well, particularly the children, who
are adopted into families who have lost their own. When a child is thus
adopted it is painted and dressed very gaily, a horse given to it to
ride, and to all appearances treated as affectionately as their own.

A grown woman, however, is not adopted. They are retained to work, or
if young and handsome are kept as one of the wives of their owners,
though not abused or made to bear any unusual hardships. It is singular
that when these women prisoners have remained a few years with the Crow
Indians they will not return to their own people, even if liberty be
given them. Indeed, after the first few months they are not watched
and have it in their power to leave at any time, and many do during
the first year of their captivity, but after having learned to speak
the language, mostly remain, which proves that nation to be much more
lenient toward their women than the Blackfeet and others. The children
prisoners become identified with them and never desire to leave when

Every male fit to bear arms is put to death by the tribes. The
Assiniboin, Blackfeet, Sioux, Cree, and Arikara also kill women and
children and sing and dance as much for their scalps as for those of
men. The horrid manner in which they put the small children to death
exceeds description. Some are stuck through with wooden skewers, like a
rabbit, while alive, and roasted before the fire.

There is but little subordination in all large war parties of Indians.
There appear to be jealousies on every side between soldiers and chiefs
or between the warriors and soldiers. No penalties being attached to
disobedience, it has no limit, and they are often in as much danger
from each other as from their enemies. Once in a century a chief arises
who can lead large parties to war, but it is only when his success
and capacity as a warrior is accompanied by his art as a prophet and
he has gained entire ascendancy over all his people. Small parties
succeed better—say from 80 to 100 men. These an ordinary chief can
command tolerably well, because they are for the most part chosen from
his own band and composed of his own relations. This kind of party
always proves most successful, as the leader only attacks when success
is certain from the numbers on each side. All Indians carry off their
wounded if possible, and the dead also if not scalped, interring the
latter in some secure place not likely to be discovered by their

As stated, no grown male prisoners are retained alive by any of these
tribes, and only two preserve the lives of the women and children.
These, of course, are obliged to work, though not exactly in the
character of slaves. All the women work and these pursue the same
labors, though no doubt a greater share falls upon them than upon
others. No description of labor, such as carrying burdens, drying
hides, cooking, or procuring fuel, etc., is considered disgraceful or
menial. They all do it, even the wives of the chiefs, and the prisoners
would be compelled to employ their time to the advantage of their
owners; or if young and handsome would be kept as wives, yet still be
made to work as the rest. They are not beaten nor brutally treated,
but forfeit their lives by an attempt to run away. Female chastity is
always violated on prisoners[27] if they are even tolerably young and
good looking, and often in such a degree as exceeds the possibility
of description or belief, but we are not aware that any superstitious
opinions are connected with the act.

[27] It appears that the violation of the chastity of female prisoners
was unusual among other tribes who were highly organized socially. It
was repugnant to the Iroquois.

COSTUME OF A WARRIOR.—The ordinary costume of a mounted warrior of
known bravery has already been described. The headdress, however,
differs in form according to the fancy and standing of the individual.
The tail feathers of the war eagle are the only mark of rank. These are
attached to scarlet cloth or otter skin in many ways, sometimes merely
encircling the head, at others extending in a ridge along the back,
reaching below the horse’s belly when mounted. The shirt and leggings
are made of clean white dressed deerskin, antelope, or bighorn skin,
with black stripes painted around the arms and legs and fringed with
the hair of the scalps taken by him, occasionally also with ermine
skins, or horsehair. The horse’s head and tail are adorned with the
same kind of feathers, as also his lance and shield. The latter is a
piece of dried raw bull’s hide, very thick, round, and about 18 inches
in diameter. The feathers are sewed or tied on around near the edge,
and two or three in the center. Frequently this is painted with the
figure of some animal, either real or imaginary, and is impervious to
arrows, though a ball will perforate within the distance of 100 yards
if it be held steadily.

The manner in which it is slung on the left arm and being bowed in the
middle the ball is apt to glance off to one side and often in this way
his life is saved. Arrows will stick in but not go through, and he can
with it cover most of the vital parts, at the same time using his arms
with ease. A good many of the renowned warriors wear necklaces made of
the claws of the grizzly bear, worked or tied on a strip of otter skin,
and chiefs wear their medals if they have any. These fine dresses are
not worn on the march, but packed on their horses in bundles, and put
on when the attack is about to be made.

The faces of most of them on starting or in battle are painted with
vermilion, the entire face being a bright red, though no orders are
given to this effect. Indians generally paint on all public occasions,
but no other parts of the body are painted at this time.

The costume of those on foot does not differ from that of a hunter,
except he has both gun and bow, if possible, sometimes adding a shield,
and a bundle of moccasins on his back, which, with a blanket, or skin
capot, leggings of the same and breech flap, completes the dress.

No great display of dress can be made on foot and is not often seen
except among the Blackfeet, when it is the same or nearly the same as
the mounted warriors. The hair of the young warriors is dressed out and
adorned in many ways, sometimes enclosing small portions in front with
beads, shell, or wampum, which hangs down on each side of the face. The
Crows have small portions combed up in front and the whole of the rest
tied in a queue behind, which is spread out and stiffened with patches
of gum, spotted with white clay, and looks like turkey feathers. The
elder warriors generally tie up their hair in a knot in front, which
projects out from the forehead like a thick short horn. During the
march not much attention is paid either to painting or ornaments, but
on the eve of battle, if possible, it is done. Nothing uniform appears,
however, in their costume, ornaments, or hair dressing, each one
suiting his fancy in these particulars, except the acknowledged marks
of warriors are not worn by untried and inexperienced recruits.

The back dress, if not a continuance of the headdress, is mostly a wolf
skin thrown over his robe, the tail trailing on the ground and the
snout on his shoulder. Crow-skin headdresses are also worn by young
warriors, and owl feathers are worn by new beginners. No portion of
their war dress is constructed so as to emit jingling sounds, though
such are worn on other occasions. Every Indian has either a blanket,
buffalo robe, or dressed skin of some kind covering the whole person,
and these are painted with their battle scenes or garnished with beads
and porcupine quills in many ways. His robe is his bed by night and his
cloak in the day, under which in the winter is worn a blanket capot,
made with a hood to cover the head. In the large summer war parties,
portions of lodges of two to four skins each are taken along with
which they make cabins to protect themselves from the rain, but in
the winter no shelter is made. When parties are too small to admit of
proceeding without fear of night attacks from their enemies while in
their country, they make small forts every night of dry timber along
some stream, or of rocks when timber is not to be had.

WEAPONS.—Firearms are certainly much valued by warriors. Indeed, they
are the principal arms, but bows and arrows are used fully as much by
mounted men. The difficulty appears to be the loading of the gun on
horseback. If possible they carry both on their war expeditions, also
some are armed with lances, war clubs, and battle axes. The last three
instruments are used only in mêlées at close quarters. Indians are
often so situated in battle that neither gun nor bow can be used, and
in these emergencies the tools last mentioned stand them in great need.
Guns are therefore only additional weapons, aiding and facilitating
their mutual destruction, but have by no means been substituted
altogether for the bow and arrow. The metal arrow point is superior to
the flint one formerly used, and more easily procured. The arrows for
battle are barbed and tied on loosely, so that an attempt to withdraw
the arrow invariably leaves the iron in the wound, which makes many
of their wounds dangerous that would not be so if the metal could be

The stone war club is the most efficient weapon in battle of any we
know of. A drawing of one is shown in Plate 65. The weight of the stone
is about 5 pounds. The handle is made of elastic sinew and can not
be broken. Any attempt to ward off the blow must be attended with a
broken arm, and if the stroke is not fended the strongest man must fall
beneath it. Tomahawk and battle axes are not thrown at their enemies,
as generally represented, but are secured to the wrist by a strong
cord, and only used at close quarters; as also the lance and knife.
The scalping knife is of English manufacture, a logwood or Brazil wood
handle, and soft steel blade about 8 inches long and 1½ inches wide,
sharp on one edge, and with the point turned like a butcher knife.
These are the kinds of knives mostly used by all Indians for hunting
and all purposes, though Willson’s butcher, Cartouche, eye dagues, and
other knives can be had. Most Indians at all times carry knives of some
kind and scalps are taken off with whatever knife they happen to be in
possession of at the time.

In loading the gun in battle it is first primed from the horn, then a
charge of powder put in, and a few balls being held in the mouth of
each man, one is dropped in wet on top of the powder, without any wad
between or on top. In this way they load and fire very quickly, four or
five times in a minute, but not with a very certain aim.

When scalps are taken without loss on their side the whole party on
their way back paint their faces a jet black with a mixture of grease
and charcoal. This is the symbol of joy, and on arrival in camp the
scalp song is raised. The whole population turns out to meet them.
Whichever person the warrior touches also blacks himself and commences
singing. If the party has had any one killed, the relatives of the
deceased smear their faces and clothes with white clay, the symbol of
mourning, wear old, ragged skins on their backs, go barefooted, cut
their hair, arms and legs, and cry in loud howlings.

In this event the camp presents a scene of mingled rejoicings and
lamentations, which are kept up for many days and nights in succession.
If the loss on the part of the warriors is greater than the gain—that
is, if they have lost two or three men and taken but one scalp—no
faces are blackened, no dancing is done, and the scalp song is sung
throughout the camp, at the end of which all set up a howling cry.

It often happens that the party have all, except a few, been killed,
and should the partisan in that case have escaped he does not return
immediately to his own camp but remains in another for some time, until
the grief for the dead has in a manner passed, for should he come home
with the report of a general massacre of his party he would run great
risk of being put to death by the relatives of the persons who fell
while under his charge.


Dancing must be considered as a characteristic mode of expressing
popular opinion on most, if not on all, occasions and is generally done
with the view of swaying the multitude, and conforming their actions to
certain measures. It is also one of their principal means of publishing
and handing down to posterity the remembrance of their gallant actions,
of inspiring the young with a desire for distinction, and of awarding
the praise due all brave warriors. Dances are usually performed by
the different kins, such as the Wolf-pups, Braves, Bulls, Foxes,
Mice, Comrades, Ducks, and Crows. All these are societies, formed by
different young men, some of which we have had occasion to mention in
a former answer, and all have for their object combination in love or
war. There is also the Soldier’s Dance in which none but these officers
act, and several dances in which all promiscuously take part, or in
which the distinction of the different clubs named is not recognized.
Of this nature are the scalp dance, dance in the diviners’ lodge, and
others got up for begging purposes.

Most Indians after having passed the degree of soldier and emerged into
that of chief or councillor seldom perform in any dances, though they
encourage it by their presence. There are but two dances in which the
women join the men, which are that in the diviners’ lodge and on the
occasion of taking a scalp. There is also another in which women alone
perform, aided by a few young men, say, five or six. The principles of
all these are imbibed by the youths, from their being always publicly
exhibited, and from their natural talent of imitation, but they do not
join in the circle until at the age of maturity, except a few girls
in the scalp dance. Each one of these performances has some motive
independent of amusement, as will perhaps appear from the different
descriptions of them which follow, and are to them often matters of
deep interest and importance.

SCALP DANCE (WAH-KITTAI WACHE).—When a scalp is taken it is during the
return stretched on a small hoop, and left in this manner; the hoop is
attached to the end of a rod about 5 feet long. These are handed by
the warriors on arrival to those in camp who have recently had some of
their relatives killed by enemies and is an intimation that revenge for
the dead having been taken, their mourning must be laid aside, their
faces blackened, and they to rejoice with the others in the dance,
which is always done. Moreover, this mark of politeness on the part of
the warrior to those in mourning is always remunerated by a suitable
present—a gun, a blanket, or some other piece of property. Often a
horse is bestowed in the excitement of the moment. The dance is then
called by an old man going round the camp singing the song and beating
a drum, calling on all who feel disposed to join in celebrating their
triumph by a dance, and each one makes the necessary preparations. (Pl.

Both men and women paint their faces entirely black, except the tip end
of the nose, which is not touched, dress in the gaudiest and best style
they can afford, and at a signal by the yelling and drumming of the
music assemble in the area or public square with which most villages
are furnished, being an open space in the center of the camp, near
the soldiers’ lodge. In this dance the men carry no arms of any kind.
Some of them have in their hands a rattle with which they keep time,
but most of the women hold in their right hand some weapon, such as a
tomahawk, bow, pakamāgan, lance, or stick. The scalps also are held by
the females. Being attached to the rod, they are shaken up and down
to the taps of the drums. When ready they form nearly a circle. Old
men with drums come first, next all the rest of the male dancers, and
afterwards the women, the whole ring standing so close as to press a
little against each other, and the scalp rods, and other things held in
the hand, are extended out a little in front.

The scalp song is now struck up by the music, and joined in by the
whole circle, the women singing only in the second part of the tune.
In this song the name of the warrior who has killed the enemy is
introduced, with a few words alluding to the circumstances, though
without any violation of the tune or time. The part of the tune at
which the women commence is when the names or words are sung. The
rest consists in a loud chant by all the ring. After swinging to and
fro a moment they all move round in a circle by short side steps,
lifting their feet together and keeping the exact time with the drums,
and after describing one or two circles by these movements the song
concludes with a general shout from the men, the scalp is forcibly
shaken, and some warrior stepping forth from the ring recounts in a
loud voice either his share in the present glory or some of his former
brave deeds. This is received with a loud shout of approbation, the
drums beat up, the song commences and another round or two is performed.

Then some other makes a speech of a like nature, either in praise
of himself or of those who brought the scalps, and in this way it
continues for several hours. Occasionally some old woman will take
the scalp in her teeth and shake it like a dog, or throw it on the
ground and trample on and abuse it as though it were a living enemy,
concluding with a short speech in praise of the warriors, and the dance
proceeds as before, the music going round with the dancers.

During the night, or rather all night, nothing but the same dancing and
song is heard. They make small fires outside the lodges and a dozen or
so of young men and women, with a drum or two, sing and dance around
each fire, with or without the scalp, and without public speaking.
Sometimes 20 or 30 of such dances are going on in different parts of
the camp at the same time, all night and nearly all day, for weeks
in succession, until they grow tired of it, or some new excitement
supersedes. Their faces are blackened all this time and the color left
to wear off but never washed off.

The opportunity is not lost by the young men during these night dances
to make love, in all the various ways that passion is susceptible,
and many runaway matches are concluded at these times, when the young
warriors having the advantage of the battle glory are most likely to
be successful. Portions of the scalp are also sent by runners to the
different camps, with the news of the battle. The tenor of the song
includes the names of the warriors who struck the enemy, and if any of
their names have been changed on this occasion it is also mentioned, so
that the new name by the time the dancing is concluded in the different
camps is thoroughly known by all the nation. This dance is not attended
with any violent gesticulation or eccentric motions, as has been
represented, but is an orderly affair, and seriously performed. Unless
a scalp has been brought no singing or dancing can take place. Even if
many enemies were seen to fall, yet the enemy must be struck, which is
the coup, and the hair produced, which is the proof.

BRAVE’S DANCE (NAPPAISHENE).—This is performed by the group or club of
Indians bearing this title, who are tolerably numerous and composed
of men from 20 to 30 years of age, whose organization has already been
alluded to in these pages. No one is admitted in the ring but those who
belong. The women, say 8 or 10, stand behind as many drummers and join
in the chant but take no part in the dance. All sing, both dancers and
musicians. The men form in a ring completely naked.[28] Their bodies
are painted in various ways. Yellow and red stripes from head to foot
is a favorite manner of painting, red face and yellow body, or red face
and body striped with white. Sometimes the face is dotted with white,
yellow, or red spots, and to their moccasins are attached skunks’ or
foxes’ tails. Guns, spears, bows, and other implements of war are held
in their hands and some have rattles with which they keep time to the
taps on the drums.

[28] The prepuce of the penis is drawn forward and tied with a
sinew, to the end of which floats a war eagle feather. Others not
sufficiently advanced as to merit that mark of distinction, tie the
same with some grass.


_Scalp Dance._

_Drawn by an Assiniboine warrior Fort Union._

_Nov. 10. 1853._]


One large crow’s claw, red on one side and black on the other, being
the only one that will occasionally stand on end, in which case 25 for
it is counted besides its value of 5 when on its side.

Four small crow’s claws, painted the same as the large one, which count
5 each if the red side turns up; if the black side, it counts nothing.

Five plum stones burned black on one side and scraped white on the
other; the black sides turned up are valued at 4 each; the white,

Five small round pieces of blue china, one-half inch in diameter, which
count 3 each for the blue side; the white side, nothing.

Five vest buttons, the eyes filed off; the eye side turned up counts 2
each; the smooth side, nothing.

Five heads of brass tacks, the concave side turning up counts 1 each;
the convex side, nothing.


  The big claw on end, 30, and 3 red claws, 15    45
  Two burnt sides up, nothing                      0
  Three blue sides up, 3 each                      9
  One eye side up, nothing                         0
  Four concaves up, 1 each                         4


  Two red, none on end, nothing by claw            0
  Three burnt sides up, 4 each                    12
  Five blue sides up, 3 each                      15
  Three eye sides up, 2 each                       6
  Two concaves, nothing by tacks                   0


  The big claw on end, 30, all the rest red, 20   50
  Five burnt sides, 4 each                        20
  Five blue sides, 3 each                         15
  Five eye sides up, 2 each                       10
  Five concave tacks, 1 each                       5

NOTA BENE.—This is the best throw that can be made and takes all the
stakes when the game does not exceed 100.


The step is done by jumping off both feet and striking them forcibly
on the ground, one a moment sooner than the other, always keeping the
exact time. No words are used in the song, and when the round is about
half finished it suddenly ceases, though the drumming and dancing is
continued, accompanied by a low simultaneous grunt by all at each step.
They commence the dance in the form of a ring but do not go round.
Dancing for the space of a minute in the same position, they bend their
bodies forward and press all to the center of the circle, turning and
looking in every direction without any order, and when all are huddled
very close, and that part of the song arrives where the chorus is
discontinued, all except the tune on the drums, they keep it up for the
space of about a minute afterwards, when a sudden and general yell by
all finishes that round, and the form of the ring is resumed.

This is the principal occasion taken by those concerned to recount
their former deeds of valor or coups. The whole camp being spectators,
and the bravest of them present, also many in whose company the acts
now about to be published had been performed, makes it indispensable
that the boasts of the warriors should be confined to the limits of
truth. After one round has been danced a warrior (one of the dancers)
steps forth in the middle of the ring and speaks in a loud voice to
this effect, using his gun or lance in gesticulation: “One or two years
since, he, in company with 15 others, went upon the Blackfeet and
succeeded in bringing away 40 of their enemies’ horses” [here the drum
is tapped once]. “On another occasion in a battle with the Crow Indians
six years since he struck an enemy the first” [here follows two taps on
the drum]. “At another time he struck two enemies the second, took a
gun and a tomahawk from the dead enemies” [four taps on the drum].

“Also that in battle he took an enemy’s horse” [one tap]. “That he
fired fifteen shots” [one tap]. “Four years since, being near the
Blackfeet camp with six others in quest of horses, they were discovered
and pursued but succeeded in making their escape” [one tap on the
drum]. “Alone and on foot he, three years since [naming the place]
killed and brought to camp a full-grown grizzly bear” [one tap on the
drum]. “Behold where one of the balls of the Blackfeet broke my arm”
[one tap]. “Here an arrow pierced my thigh” [another sound of the
drum], etc., until he has run through the catalogue of his meritorious
acts, when he is honored with a general shout of approbation, the
music strikes up, the song commences, and another round or two being
performed, another warrior recounts his coups in the same manner. In
this way they continue until all who wish have had an opportunity of
renewing the remembrance of their past deeds, and reestablishing their
importance as braves in the eyes of their countrymen. It takes some
hours to prepare for and perform this dance and it is only done twice
or thrice a year. Although the performers are naked, yet there is no
idea of indecency[29] attached to this fact. They are in a manner
obliged to appear in this state so that they may publicly expose and
point out any wound they may have received in battle.

[29] This viewing of the nude human figure without a feeling of a sense
of indecency is confirmed by the Swiss artist, Frederick Kurz, in his
Journal, already cited in the preface.

Wounds behind are fully as honorable as those before. Running away
where success is impossible is more commended than death or defeat by
remaining. The number of shots a man has fired during the fight, if
over 10, counts a coup, inasmuch as it shows he has stood his ground
long enough to fire that many.

Killing an enemy counts nothing unless his person is touched or struck.
The first who strikes the dead foe counts the best coup, although each
succeeding one counts as far as the fourth.

Scalping does not count more than striking. Taking an enemy’s gun or
horse or bow by any means counts a coup, likewise killing a grizzly
bear alone and on foot. Scalps are very little valued by him who takes
them. They are mostly cut up in small pieces and sent to the different
camps. The hair seen on the warrior’s leggings is sometimes really the
hair of the enemies slain by him, and at others his own, or horsehair.
In either case it is the symbol of having killed.

If he has struck even one enemy he is entitled to wear hair on his
shirt and leggings, but it is not absolutely necessary that it should
be the same hair as that which he took from his enemy’s head. Any human
hair or black horsehair will answer the purpose fully as well if he has
a right to wear it.

FOX DANCE (TO-KAH-NAH WAH-CHE).—This is done by those who belong to
the band called Foxes, who are pretty numerous among several nations.
It is got up with the view of publishing their feats as in the
preceding one, and also to display themselves as a body. Their costume
consists of a deer or antelope skin, shirt, and leggings painted a
bright yellow, and their faces painted with yellow stripes, besides
other forms. A dressed fox skin being slit in the middle, the head of
the man is thrust through, the skin spread out on his shoulders, the
head of which lies on his breast, and the tail hangs down his back, the
whole skin being fringed round with colored garnishing of porcupine
quills, bells, and polished buttons placed in the eyeholes of the
animal in the skin.

A headdress of foxes’ teeth, bored and strung, is stretched across the
middle of the head from ear to ear, a lock of their hair is tied in
front, which projects out several inches, and the rest, combed straight
down behind, to which at about the middle is attached four war eagle
feathers. Their lances are wrapped with fox skins cut in strips, and
the tails of that animal sewed on the handle every 12 inches or so.
Some also carry their bows and quivers of arrows at their side during
the performance.

After having been warned of the meeting, and preparing in the above
manner, they assemble at the sound of several drums and whistles at
the spot appointed, being generally near the center of the camp. Here
they form in line during the drumming and singing, which is kept up by
five or six men and women who are invited for the purpose (this music)
taking their stand to one side, the women as usual behind the drums,
who sing, but take no part in the dance.

When ready they all start off at a swift pace and describe the movement
of the coiling of a snake, and when wound up in this form, all commence
jumping up and down, striking one foot immediately after the other on
the ground, keeping exact time, and all singing with the music for the
space of about a minute, when a general flourish on the drums and a
shout or yell from the dancers concludes that round, and their places
in line are resumed.

Some one of them now steps forward and counts his coups in the same
manner as pointed out in the Brave Dance, which is succeeded by another
movement in dancing, which is again followed by another speaking, and
so on until all who wished have spoken, the drum denoting by taps the
value and number of coups thus counted by each.

The whole concludes by a feast given by one or more of the most
distinguished members of this club, during which their professions of
amity and assistance are renewed, and presents often exchanged; the
musicians also partake of the repast.

This club is composed of men from 20 to 25 or 28 years of age.

DUCK DANCE (PAKHAN´TAH WAH-CHE).—This is done by the band who bear
that name and are not so numerous as the others. The same principles
govern their proceedings, being to seek this occasion to publish and
perpetuate the memory of their past deeds on the battle fields. The
dancers are all naked except the breechcloth, which hangs down before
and behind one or two yards. Their bodies are painted in various ways,
principally striped, according to the fancy of the individuals. No arms
are carried in the dance, but they hold in their hand a flat striped
painted stick about 2 feet long, with which they keep the time. Women
are excluded from the ring but form a portion of the music. All sing,
both dancers and drummers. The evolutions are: Commencing in a ring,
they mingle together for a few minutes and conclude with a general
shout, after which coups are counted by those who wish, or who are
able, as in the preceding. The time, step, and figure of every dance
differ, but we can not describe them so as to be understood.

BULLS’ DANCE (TAH-TUN-GAH WAH-CHE).—The kin called Bulls is perhaps
the most numerous among them, and a good many middle-aged men and
chiefs are found in this dance who do not figure in the others.
Their headdress is the skin of a buffalo bull taken off as low as
the shoulders of that animal, and dressed with the head, horns, hair
and snout complete. Around the holes where the eyes were and in the
nostrils and mouth are sewed pieces of scarlet cloth. The skin is then
sewed up along the back of the neck. The head of the man is thrust in
this, and the rest of his body being naked except the breechcloth and
moccasins, is painted with black and red stripes. They carry guns and
powder horns in the dance, moving without any order, jumping about,
snorting, and shaking their horns at each other, and firing among their
feet with powder. The song is the Bull Song. They usually are attended
by six or eight drummers and singers, all males, who are not dressed in
any remarkable manner.

No speeches are made by the Bulls during the dance, but they seek the
occasion of other dances, such as the Braves or Soldiers to which most
of them belong, to perpetuate the remembrance of their chivalrous
deeds. This kin give a good many feasts to each other and are said to
be remarkably faithful in the observance of their promises of mutual
aid and protection.

SOLDIERS’ DANCE (AHKITCHETAH WAH-CHE).—This body of men having already
been fully described in these pages it will, of course, be understood
that their dance must include the most important personages in camp.
They seldom perform, and only with a view of exhibiting their force
as a body; and in the presence of strangers or visitors to count their
coups or when a war party is in contemplation, with the intent of
stimulating the ardor of the young to follow them to battle. They must
have some object to dance for, as they are not men to expend much time
merely for the sake of amusement and display; besides their characters
and acts are so well known as to need no repetition.

Their costume is as nearly as possible that of warriors equipped for
battle. From the nose up their faces are painted a bright red, and from
thence down to the neck a jet black. The dancers form the ring on foot
but are attended by a guard of mounted soldiers, dressed in very gay
battle array, who ride round outside the ring all the time, striking,
and keeping at a respectful distance either man or beast that is found
in the way. A select band of drummers and female singers is chosen and
placed apart, who having struck up the song, the dance is led off by a
soldier alone, who moves out by short steps toward the center of the
circle, is soon joined by all the rest, jumping and keeping the time,
which round concludes with a loud yell and discharge of firearms, and
the one who led off the dance counts his coups on his enemies in the
manner before related. This is also accompanied by taps on the drum
denoting the number and value of the coups and the speech, honored with
a general shout of approbation.

The warrior resumes his place, another leads off, and the same behavior
is repeated until all get through, the whole ending with a feast of
dog meat given by the chief of the soldiers in the Soldiers’ Lodge, to
which the strangers, if any in the camp, are invited. This is the most
imposing and warlike dance they have, and is well calculated to inspire
the young with a desire for glory. Their dresses and appointments are
very gay and complete according to their rank, their gesticulation and
oratory fierce and bold.

WHITE CRANE DANCE (PAI-HUN-GHE-NAH WAH-CHE).—There is no band of this
name, but the dance is got up by some divining man, most probably for
some begging purposes. He is the principal figure, being painted yellow
and wearing a dressed elk-skin robe on which a large two-headed crane
is painted. The costume of the others is whatever their fancy dictates,
and, of course, they put on the gayest attire they can afford. The
dancers are young men of any and all kins who choose to take part,
except women, who join the chorus. The evolutions are different from
any of the rest, as also the song, but can not be described so as to
be understood. The only one who speaks during the performance is the
divining man, and the tenor of his speeches differs according to his
object in introducing the dance.

CROW DANCE (CONG-GHAI WAH-CHE).—This dance is performed by the kin
called Crows. Neck and head dresses of crow skins taken off the bird
entire with wings and head on are worn by all, and crow feathers adorn
their lances, shields, and other war implements. For the rest, it
proceeds much in the same way as the others. These are mostly young

NOOMP-PE).—This is done by a band of young men bearing the above name.
The dance is kept up all night and during it some of them take by
stealth the provision bales from the rest of the camp who are asleep,
on which they feast all night.

The dance is performed in a large lodge, or rather several lodges
thrown into one for the purpose. The bales or other property thus
obtained are kept until daylight, when the haranguer of the camp
publishes that those who have lost anything will go and redeem it, and
the several owners of the provision sacks present a piece of tobacco to
the dancers, who deliver them their property. By visiting many lodges
in the night a good deal of provisions, robes, etc., are secured, which
often take the best part of the next day to distribute. The dress of
this club, though gay, is not remarkable in any way except they hold
in their hands the skins of stuffed mice or have the same attached to
different parts of their attire. To describe the whole of their dances
in detail with the different costumes would occupy too much space and
perhaps not be required. We think enough has been written to present a
general idea of these performances and their use with the Indians.

WHIP DANCE (ETCHAP-SIN-TAI WAH-CHE).—This dance is performed by as
many warriors as choose to assemble with whips ornamented with eagle
feathers and horse-skin wristbands tied to the whips. In this the
number of horses they have stolen from their enemies at various times
is boasted of.

DIVINING DANCE (TEE-CHAGH-HAH).—The divining dance is a complicated
religious ceremony occupying a whole day and that part of it
appropriated to dancing is done by men and women promiscuously, headed
by some of the divining men without any distinction of kin or speeches
regarding their coups. Their bodies are also scarified and pieces cut
out of their shoulders.

WOMEN’S DANCE (ISH-KUN WAH-CHE).—This is a dance in which women alone
perform. They are painted in many ways and very gaily dressed. The
men drum and sing for them and the dancers are ranged in two parallel
lines opposite, dancing forward until they meet, and then resuming
their places. Besides the foregoing, there are several other dances,
all of which have for their object swaying popular feeling in some way.
Very little is done by Indians in any form merely for amusement, and
their dances in this respect partake of the nature of the rest of their


Most of these tribes, particularly the Sioux, are fond of ball playing
in parties. The principal game at ball is called _Tah-cap-see-chah_,
being the same denominated shinny or bandy by the whites. It is
generally got up when two different bands are camped together and a
principal person in each having made a bet of a blanket or gun, they
choose from their bands an equal number of young men, who are always
the most active they can select, the number varying from 15 to 40 on
each side. Sometimes the play is headed by the chief of each band
betting, though they take no part in the game, which is usually played
by men 20 to 30 years of age. Each of the players stakes something
against an equivalent on the part of one on the opposite side and every
bet is tied together separately, which consists of shirts, arrows,
shells, feathers, blankets and almost every article of trade or their
own manufacture, and as fast as the bets are taken and tied together
they are laid on a pile about the center of the playground, being given
in charge of three or four elderly men who are chosen as judges of
the sport. After this has been concluded two posts are set up about
three-quarters of a mile apart and the game consists in knocking the
ball with sticks toward these posts, they being the limit for either
party in different directions.

They strip naked except the breechcloth and moccasins and paint their
bodies in every possible variety of manner. Each is furnished with a
stick about 3½ feet long, turned up at the lower end, and they range
themselves in two lines, commencing at the middle of the ground and
extending some distance on either side. The ball is cast in the air in
the center of the course, struck by some one as soon as it falls, and
the game begins, each party endeavoring to knock the ball to the post
designated as their limit. The game is played three times and whichever
party succeeds in winning two courses out of the three is judged
conqueror. When the players are well chosen it is often an interesting
game, and some splendid specimens of foot racing can be seen, but when
one of them either intentionally or by accident hurts another by a
stroke with the play stick a general shindy takes place, and the sticks
are employed over each other’s heads, which is followed by a rush for
the stakes, and a scramble. We have seen them when this was the case
arm themselves and exchange some shots, when, a few being wounded, the
camps would separate and move away in different directions. Supposing,
however, the game proceeds in its proper spirit and humor, each bet
being tied separately, the parcels are handed out to the successful
party by the judges. This game is not often played by large parties of
men, or if so it is very warmly contested and very apt to break up in a

We have seen it also played by both men and women joined, a few men
aiding two parties of women. This was among the Sioux, but with the
other tribes it is generally played by men only.

Another mode of playing the game is by catching the ball in a network
over a small hoop a little larger than the ball attached to the end of
a stick. They catch it in this net as it flies through the air, and
throw it from one to the other toward either goal. The man who catches
can run with the ball toward the limit until he is overtaken by one on
the other side, when he throws it as far as he can on its way, which is
continued by the others. The women play hand and foot ball, also slide
long sticks on the snow, or billiards with flat stones on the ice. We
know of no other game at ball worth mentioning being played among them.

Foot racing is often practiced by the Mandan and Crows. The former
nation before they were so much reduced by smallpox had a regular race
course 3 miles in length, in which any and all, who chose, could try
their speed, which they did by running three times around this space,
betting very high on either side.

They still practice the amusement, but not so much as formerly.


Foot races among the Crow Indians are usually contested by two persons
at a time, a bet being taken by those concerned, and many more by the
friends and spectators on either side, consisting of blankets, buffalo
robes, or some other article of clothing. They mostly run about 300
yards and in starting endeavor to take every advantage of each other,
a dozen starts being often made before the race begins. These Indians
also run horse races, betting one horse against the other. The same
trickery and worse is displayed in their horse races as in their foot
races, and often the loser will not pay. The Sioux also have foot
races in which any one may join, provided he bets, which, if they have
anything to stake, they are sure to do. The name of being a fast and
long runner is highly prized among them all; indeed, after being a
warrior and hunter that of being a good runner is next to be desired,
but the principal aim in all these amusements appears to be the winning
of each other’s property. They, of course, occupy and enable them to
pass agreeably some of the long summer days, but we never see these
things introduced without the bets or prospects of gain, and from this
fact, together with the earnestness exhibited in betting, and in the
contest, we conclude it to be no more than another mode of gambling, to
which they are all so much addicted.


Most of their leisure time either by night or by day among all these
nations is devoted to gambling in various ways, and such is their
infatuation that it is the cause of much distress and poverty in
families. For this reason the name of being a desperate gambler forms a
great obstacle in the way of a young man getting a wife. Many quarrels
arise among them from this source, and we are well acquainted with an
Indian who a few years since killed another, because after winning all
he had he refused to put up his wife to be played for. Every day and
night in the Soldiers’ Lodge not occupied by business matters presents
gambling in various ways all the time; also in many private lodges the
song of hand gambling and the rattle of the bowl dice can be heard.
Women are as much addicted to the practice as men, though their games
are different, and, not being in possession of much property, their
losses, although considerable to them, are not so distressing. The
principal game played by men is that of the Bowl or Cos-soo´, which is
a bowl made of wood with a flat bottom, a foot or less in diameter,
the rim turned up about 2 inches, and highly polished inside and out.
A drawing and description of the arithmetical principles of this game
is now attached in this place. (Pl. 72.) The manner of counting therein
mentioned is the manner in which we learned it from the Indians, but
the value of each of the articles composing the dice can be and is
changed sometimes in default of some of them being lost and again by
agreement among the players in order to lengthen or shorten the game or
facilitate the counting. However, the best and most experienced hands
play it as it is represented. It can be played between two or four,
that is, either one on each side or two against two. The game has no
limit, unless it is so agreed in the commencement, but this is seldom
done, it being usually understood that the players continue until one
party is completely ruined.

The bowl is held by the tips of the four fingers inside the rim and
the thumb underneath. The dice being put in, they are thrown up a few
inches by striking the bottom of the bowl on the ground, so that each
counter makes several revolutions. It is altogether a game of chance
and no advantage can be taken by anyone in making the throws. The
counters or dice never leave the bowl but are counted as the value
turns up. One person having shaken it and the amount of his throw
having been ascertained a requisite number of small sticks are placed
before him, each stick counting 1. In this way the game is kept, but
each keeps his adversary’s game, not his own; that is, he hands him a
number of sticks equal to the amount of his throw, which are laid so
that all can see them. Each throws in turn unless the big claw stands
on end, in which case the person is entitled to a successive throw. By
much practice they are able to count the number turned up at a glance
and the principles of the game being stated on the drawing, we will now
describe how it is carried on. It has been observed in these pages in
reference to their gambling that it is much fairer in its nature than
the same as carried on by the whites and this is worthy of attention,
inasmuch as it shows how the loser is propitiated so that the game may
not result in quarrel or bloodshed, as is often the case.

The game is mostly played by the soldiers and warriors, and each must
feel equal to the other in courage and resolution. It is often kept up
for two or three days and nights without any intermission, except to
eat, until one of the parties is ruined.

_Example._—A plays against B; each puts up a knife, and they throw
alternately until 100 is counted by the dice; say A wins. B now puts up
his shirt against the two knives, which is about equal in value; say
A wins again. B then stakes his powder horn and some arrows against
the whole of A’s winnings. Should B now win, the game commences again
at the beginning, as A would only have lost a knife; but supposing A
wins. B now puts up his bow and quiver of arrows against all A has
won—the stakes are never withdrawn but let lie in front of them. Say
A again wins. B then stakes his blanket and leggings, which are about
equal in value to all A has won, or if not, it is equalized by adding
or subtracting some article. Supposing A again to be winner, he would
then be in possession of 2 knives, 1 shirt, 1 blanket, 1 powder horn, 1
bow and quiver of arrows, and 1 pair leggings, the whole of which the
Indians would value at 8 robes. B now stakes his gun against all the
above of A’s winnings. Now if A again wins he only retains the gun, and
the whole of the rest of the property won by A returns to B, but he is
obliged to stake it all against his gun in possession of A, and play
again. If A wins the second time he retains the whole and B now puts up
his horse against all of A’s winnings, including the gun.

A wins, he retains only the horse, and the gun and everything else
reverts again to B, he being obliged to stake them again against the
horse in A’s possession. If A wins this time, he keeps the whole; but
if B wins, he only gets back the horse and gun, and all the rest of the
property goes to A. Supposing B again loses and continues losing until
all his personal property has passed into the hands of A, then B, as a
last resort, stakes his wife and lodge against all his property in the
hands of A. If A wins he only keeps the woman; the horse, gun, and all
other property returns again to B with the understanding, however, that
he stakes it all to get back his wife. Now if B loses he is ruined; but
if A loses he gives up only the woman and the horse, continuing the
play with the rest of the articles against the horse until one or the
other is broke.

At this stage of the game the excitement is very great, the
spectators crowd around and intense fierceness prevails, few words
are exchanged, and no remarks made by those looking on. If the loser
be completely ruined and a desperate man, it is more than likely he
will by quarrel endeavor to repossess himself of some of his property,
but they are generally well matched in this respect, though bloody
struggles are often the consequence. We have known Indians to lose
everything—horses, dogs, cooking utensils, lodge, wife, even to
his wearing apparel, and be obliged to beg an old skin from some
one to cover himself, and seek a shelter in the lodge of one of his
relations. It is, however, considered a mark of manliness to suffer
no discomposure to be perceptible on account of the loss, but in most
cases we imagine this is a restraint forced upon the loser by the
character of his adversary.

Suicide is never committed on these occasions. His vengeance seeks
some other outlet, in war expeditions, or some way to acquire property
that he may again play and retrieve his losses. There are some who
invariably lose and are poor all their lives. A man may with honor stop
playing with the loss of his gun; he has also a second opportunity
to retire on losing his horse, and when this is so understood at the
commencement they do, but when a regular set-to takes place between two
soldiers, it generally ends as above described.

Ordinary gambling for small articles, such as beads, vermilion, rings,
knives, arrows, kettles, etc., is carried on by playing the game of
hand, which consists in shuffling a pebble from one hand to the other
and guessing in which hand the pebble lies. They all sit in a ring on
the ground, each with whatever stake they choose to put up before them.
Both men and women join in the game and a song is kept up all the time
by the whole with motions of the hands of him who holds the pebble.
After singing about five minutes a guess is made by one of the parties
as to which hand the pebble is in, and both hands are opened. If the
guess has been correct, the one holding the pebble is obliged to pay
all the rest an equivalent to the stake before them; but if the hand
not containing the pebble be picked upon, all the ring forfeit their
stakes to him. Either one man can thus play against the whole or he has
it in his power to pass the pebble to the next, he betting like the

This is a very common game, and a great deal of property by it daily
changes hands, though seldom such large articles as guns, horses, or

The usual game which women play alone, that is, without the men, is
called _chun-kan-dee´_, and is performed with four sticks marked on
one side and blank on the other, as described in Plate 73. The women
all sit in a circle around the edge of some akin spread upon the
ground, each with her stake before her. One then gathers up the sticks
and throws them down forcibly on the end, which makes them rebound
and whirl around. When they fall, the number of the throw is counted
as herein stated. Each throws in turn against all others, and if the
whole of the marked sides, or all the fair sides of the sticks are
turned up, she is entitled to a successive throw. The game is 40, and
they count by small sticks as in the preceding. In fine weather many of
these gambling circles can be seen outside their lodges spending the
whole day at it instead of attending to their household affairs. Some
men prohibit their wives from gambling, but these take the advantage
of their husband’s absence to play. Most of the women will gamble off
everything they possess, even to the dresses of their children, and the
passion appears to be as deeply rooted in them as in the men. They are
frequently thrashed by their husbands for their losses and occasionally
have quarrels among themselves as to the results of the game.

Another game is played by the boys and young men which consists of
planting an arrow in the snow or ground and each throwing other arrows
at it until struck, and he who strikes the planted arrow is winner of
all the arrows then on the ground.


When a warrior dies the body is straightened and dressed in full war
dress, as for battle, the face being painted red. It is then wrapped
up in a blanket, which is again enveloped in scarlet cloth, or his
flag, if he has one; then his bow, quiver, sword, gun, powder horn,
battle ax, war club, tomahawk, knife, and his medicine or charm are
laid alongside and the whole baled with the body in his buffalo robe,
being the one on which his coups on his enemies are painted. The last
covering is the raw hide of a buffalo, hair inside, which incloses
all, and is strapped up tightly by strong cords passed through holes
cut around the edge of the skin, the whole presenting the form of a
large oblong bale. All this is done by some old men, often some of the
divining men, though not those who attended him while sick; and the
persons who pay this attention to the corpse know they will be well
paid by the relatives of the deceased, as it is the greatest honor
one Indian can confer on another and is a claim on the patronage of
the relatives during their life. Before enshrouding the body some one
of the persons who officiate cuts off a lock of the dead man’s hair,
which he retains a year. At the end of that time the nearest relatives
of the deceased buy the hair from him at a very high price in horses,
blankets, etc. This is another long ceremony and should be described,
but our limits do not admit of it.

When the body is thus dressed and prepared for interment it is the wish
of the relatives to get it out of sight as soon as possible, or in a
few hours after dissolution, but it often happens that there is no
suitable place in the vicinity for burial and they are obliged to carry
it along for several days. Most of these tribes prefer scaffolding the
corpse on trees, which is the most ancient method of disposing of them,
arising from the want of tools to excavate, particularly in the winter
season, when the ground is frozen to the depth of 5 feet as solid as
a rock, and for the reason that they wish the dead to be placed where
they can at all times feast and speak to them. Of late years, however,
they prefer their being interred by the whites at the different
trading forts if possible, but as this can only happen to a few the
others either scaffold them or inter them, when the weather admits,
on the tops of hills, covered with large stones, which, being rolled
on the grave after it is filled prevent the ravages of the wolves and
foxes. In either case the clothing, arms, medal, or other trinkets
not bequeathed are deposited with the body, and as the sanctum of the
dead is never disturbed nor these articles renewed, they must present
a sure criterion whereby to judge of their state of arts and arms at
the time of the interment as far as it is possible to be determined by
the nature of the materials thus deposited. Supposing they are near the
timber, and the man has died in the night, the funeral takes place next
day, or if he has died during the day it is disposed of the following

At the moment life becomes extinct the relatives set up a loud howl,
cut their hair and legs, and the neighbors crowd into the lodge, each
endeavoring to excel the other in the violence of their lamentations,
which are kept up without intermission from that time until the funeral
is over, by all, and during this interval the whole of the property of
the deceased, except his war horse and arms as mentioned, is given away
by the relatives to those who lament. All his horses, skins, clothing,
provisions, and a good part of that of his relatives (brothers, father,
etc.) must pass into the hands of strangers; even the blankets off
their backs, arms, and cooking utensils are seized and carried away by
those who aid in mourning. If he has made a will, which occasionally
happens, it is sometimes carried into effect, but usually the nearest
relatives sit around the body howling, with their heads down, and pay
no attention to the general pillage which then takes place, or if they
do, it is only to tell each of the mourners which of their horses or
other property to take away, giving the horses to those who have aided
in laying out the dead man. Their custom is to make themselves as poor
as they can be made on these occasions, either in property or with
regard to their persons.

The body being placed on a horse travaille crosswise, it is conveyed
to the spot for scaffolding by leading the horse, the whole following
without any order and uttering loud howlings, both men and women.
Several men now ascend the tree and draw up the corpse with strong
cords attached to it, placing the feet as near toward the south as the
fork of the tree will admit, and elevating the head part of the bale so
that it may face in that direction, after which it is secured by the
cords being tied round the limbs of the tree many times, to prevent the
wind from blowing it down.

When this is finished they recommence cutting their legs and howling,
calling on the deceased by the tie of relationship which bound them,
thus: “My brother” or “my son,” adding, “remain in peace where you are;
let your spirit go to the south and not be troubled; we will feast
you; do not visit us in spirit; you are happy; and we are miserable.”
These words are not distinguishable on account of the noise, and most
probably muttered; as, having witnessed many of these funerals in every
way, we have never heard any other words than lamentations; but they
say they do pronounce them either mentally or very low, and that if it
is neglected some more of their relatives will die; consequently we are
bound to believe they utter these and other words in an audible voice.
At this stage of affairs his war horse is led under the tree and shot,
in addition to which, among the Crow Indians, a finger or two of each
of the near relatives are chopped off and the blood smeared over their
faces, left to dry there, and remain until it wears off. The deceased’s
shield, lance, or other implement, too long or unwieldy to be enveloped
with the body, are now tied at his head on the tree, and the mourners
retire. Some of the near relatives, however, often remain all day and
night, naked and barefoot, exposed to cold, snow, or rain, for several
days and nights without eating until they are completely exhausted,
and for a year or more afterwards wear nothing but an old torn skin,
which, with their bodies and faces, is smeared over with white clay,
and present a miserable appearance.

This is the most general custom among all the tribes of which we write
of disposing of their dead, and nine-tenths of them are scaffolded
in this way. Yet occasionally some, either by request or desire of
surviving relatives, or in the event of their dying where no timber
can be found, are interred on the top of a hill. In either case the
mourning and ceremonies are the same. When interred, the hole or grave
is excavated to the depth of about 5 feet, and made large enough to
contain the implements before referred to, which are all buried with
the body, the grave filled up and large rocks rolled upon it. In
either way no inscription or device is made to mark the spot, nor any
hieroglyphics carved on trees denoting the age, name of the person,
or anything else. No consolation is offered to Indians at the time of
the funeral, nor for several days afterwards. Those who wish to console
must aid to mourn, but say nothing. In a few days, however, many
elderly men invite the relations to feast and console them by the usual
arguments the nature of the case dictates. The reason why the feet are
placed southward and the face turned in that direction is that the
Indian paradise is supposed to be in that quarter, and the soul is thus
given to the South Wind to be carried off to that point. Very brave and
formerly renowned warriors sometimes requested not to be interred in
any way, in which case they are placed inside their lodge propped up,
in a sitting posture, dressed and painted, the door of the lodge is
closed tight, and the outside around the lodge inclosed by a hedge of
thick branches and dirt to prevent the wolves from entering, and the
whole is thus left on the plains.

In the course of time the lodge rots away, the wolves enter, and the
bones are scattered about or carried away by them. This is the manner
in which the Chief Wah-he´-muzza, or The Iron Arrow Point, ordered his
obsequies to be performed, giving for his reason that he wished to
remain above ground in order to see and hear his children all the time
and to have the spot rendered remarkable by his being there.

The death of ordinary Indians is attended with like results, though
if not warriors of note they are merely enveloped in their ordinary
clothing and blankets or skins with their implements, but no horse is
killed over their grave. When women die their favorite dogs are killed
and all their tools for scraping and dressing hides, with their pillow
and porcupine quills, are enveloped with them. If she be the wife of
a chief or man of importance she is also wrapped in scarlet cloth,
formerly in painted skins. There is as much mourning and distress
observed on the death of their children, perhaps more, than when grown.
On these occasions often some one of the parents destroy themselves,
and all other Indians are very attentive to them for several days until
the most violent grief is over. Should anyone offend the parent during
this time his death would most certainly follow, as the man, being in
profound sorrow, seeks something on which to wreak his revenge, and he
soon after goes to war, to kill or be killed, either of which being
immaterial to him in that state.

The reason the implements are deposited in the grave is that they are
supposed to be necessary to his being in the world of spirits. It is a
very ancient custom, perhaps coeval with their existence.

We know of no tumulus or barrow erected either in former or later times
through this country containing many bodies or possessing the character
of a charnel house, but are in the knowledge of the graves of many
chiefs either on scaffolds or on hills.

Bodies are never interred in a sitting posture, though that manner is
sometimes observed when deposited in the lodge above ground and the
posture preserved by stakes driven in around the body with forks on the
end supporting the different members and equilibrium.

There are no herbs or spices placed with the corpse, neither is it
submitted to any process analogous to embalming. It is enveloped, as
before mentioned, in skins to which those who can afford it add scarlet
cloth and blankets.

Scaffolding of corpses is the general manner of disposing of them with
all the prairie tribes, and the way they are prepared has been alluded
to. They would prefer having them boxed instead of baled, but have no
tools to prepare timber, and even if they had can not at all times
procure it, which together with their lack of means to excavate in
these frozen regions were no doubt the original causes of this mode of
burial. When bodies are brought to the trading houses for interment or
scaffolding they are always boxed by the whites, the coffin being made
large enough to contain the implements and ornaments enveloped with the
corpse. This in former times was a great honor done the Indians and
highly recompensed, but of later years is a great bore and expense.

This method of securing them can, however, only be embraced when
death takes place near the houses, and consequently happens to few.
The Mandan and Gros Ventres, being stationed at the fort with those
nations, have their dead boxed by the whites and placed on a scaffold
made of posts planted near their villages. The Arikara prefer interring
them in the ground, and all the rest of the tribes place their dead,
secured in the manner described before, in the forks of trees, which
in a year or two, as soon as the cords rot off and the envelopes fall
to pieces, are blown down, and the bones are found scattered beneath.
Carnivorous birds, such as eagles, ravens, and magpies, often pick at
the envelope until they get at the body, but if it is well strapped in
rawhide it is generally secure from either birds or beasts as long as
it remains in the tree.

It is the custom of the Assiniboin to put up a funeral flag over the
graves of their dead, particularly children, which at this time is
composed of some such fabric as red flannel or calico tied to a pole,
but which was formerly made of feathers and light skins. This is a very
ancient custom, arising, we are told, from the necessity of having some
such object thus raised which, fluttering in the wind, frightens away
the beasts and birds of prey.

The custom of collecting and reinterring the bones is very general at
the present day among all these tribes; indeed, it is seldom neglected
if when they visit the scaffold they find the body to have blown down
and the bones exposed.

The bones are picked by any one of the party, not related, in the
presence of some of the relatives of the deceased, and this time buried
in the ground, with demonstrations of grief and some scarifying, though
they do not go into mourning dresses further than some white clay about
the face, and no property is confiscated by others, as in the case
of the first funeral, but those who aid are paid with some smaller
articles. On these occasions a feast is made for the dead which, being
eaten, and the spirit propitiated by prayer and invocation, the whole
concludes, those concerned resuming their usual dress and occupations.

There is no such thing as charnel houses or receptacles for the dead
in all the district of the upper Missouri, neither are there any
appearances of such things having been, each individual being buried
or scaffolded separately at the most convenient place and as soon as
possible after decease.

Incineration of bones is not practiced by any of them, neither do their
traditions mention this custom to have ever existed among them; they
have a horror of the idea.

Their symbols of mourning have been referred to, which are cutting
short their hair, scarifying their legs, cutting off their fingers
(Crow Indians), wearing an old tattered robe or skin on their back, the
rest of the body being naked except the breech flap of the men, or body
dress of the women, bare legged, bare footed, the face, hair, body, and
robe smeared with white clay, often intermixed with their blood.

When the lock of hair of the deceased has been redeemed by the relative
by high pay to him who took it, which is done in a year or two after
demise, this relic is inclosed in a small sack and carried on the back
of some of the female relatives. A piece of tobacco is wrapped with
it, which is used on several occasions, as before mentioned. There are
periodical visits to the grave, twice or thrice a year for the first
year, and afterwards for several years whenever they happen to be in
the vicinity, and on these occasions takes place the feast to the dead,
so often referred to in these pages, which is one of their principal
ceremonies. A repast is made of corn or pounded meat mixed with grease
and sugar, sometimes a dog is cooked by some medicine man, and a crowd
of people being assembled round the grave after lamenting the dead by
howling, smoke, and pray to the spirit, leave a portion of the feast
for it, and the rest is eaten by those who attend the ceremony. One of
their prayers at these times is recorded in a former page, together
with the reason of these observances. Fires are kindled near the grave
or under the scaffold, but do not appear to be of further use than to
light the pipe by while smoking to the dead, and are suffered to expire
at their leisure.

No gravestones or posts are planted to mark the place, or any
inscriptions or devices painted or carved by any of these tribes,
denoting the age of the deceased or any other thing.

As has been frequently stated, there are no large mounds perceived on
the upper Missouri, the work of Indians, as have been discovered in
some of the western States, but were it an object or custom to bury the
dead in that manner we believe there is energy and power sufficient
among any of these tribes to accomplish a work of the kind, even with
the rude tools they have, in a loose soil, free of rock, and in the
summer season. These mounds have most probably been national or public
depositories for the dead of Indians in stationary huts; and as great
superstition is attached to all funeral rites, it is not improbable
they were excavated in a length of time by the united efforts of the
nation. Being a work in which both women and children could join, and
which could be executed with the most primitive tools, they no doubt
worked at it in favorable seasons, stimulated to exertion by the
directions and commands of the divining men. These marks of antiquity
only prove the nation to have been numerous, stationary, and unanimous
in the undertaking. The materials disinterred from these receptacles
must show beyond doubt the state of arts and advancement of the tribe
at the time the interment was made, supposing the articles thus
exhibited to be of their own manufacture and not traded from Europeans.
Bones reburied are not accompanied with a new deposit of instruments.

Those articles first enveloped with the body, if found, are reinterred
with it, which, having been the property of the deceased, are valuable,
but to none other. It is only when the corpses fall from scaffolds or
the bones of the dead by some means have become exposed that a second
burial takes place; otherwise no Indians disturb the repose of the dead.


The care of orphan children and the aged devolves upon the nearest
relatives of their deceased parents, but neither the chiefs nor any
other persons not of kin pay them the least attention, unless they
are adopted into their families. The aged and infirm are supported by
their sons and other relatives until they become helpless and a burden,
and are then left in some encampment to perish. There are no very old
people without some relatives. The fact of their being old presumes
that some of their lineal descendants are living, and it is with
these they reside; but should there be no kin whatever acknowledged
they would only the sooner die, as neither chiefs, hunters, nor any
others would take the least interest in them, much less furnish them
with provisions or be troubled by packing them along in traveling.
Should an aged person of this description die in camp the body would be
wrapped in the skins composing its bed and stuck on a tree by some of
the men, without the least symptom of mourning. The life of the aged
of both sexes, even with their own children, is one of drudgery and
misery, and when entirely helpless they are in a manner obliged to get
rid of them in some way, as their manner of traveling and conveniences
of lodging are not adapted to the infirm.

A very near and correct view of their means and disposition warrants
the opinion that it is more through extreme necessity than hardness
of heart that they resort to the inhuman alternative above mentioned.
Age without power is never venerated even by sedentary Indians, though
these can and do treat the infirm better than the roving tribes,
because, being better prepared with commodious lodges and not obliged
to travel, the burden of useless and aged persons is not so much felt.
They are therefore tolerated for their talents in story telling and
other qualifications, exciting more their laughter than their abuse
or neglect. But it is always a hard fate. The others will say they
have had their day, their youth, and their prime, have enjoyed much
and should now die and remove the burden of their care. They all know
and expect this to be their own fate if life be prolonged, and hence
we find the influence of chiefs, once renowned, declining with age or
debility. Their gallant acts and services are forgotten or laughed at,
later incidents of the same nature replacing theirs in the memory of
their friends; they are neglected, ridiculed, imposed upon, and, being
helpless, submit.

It does happen with some divining men that the older and uglier they
become the more they are feared for their supernatural powers, and
these, as long as they can sing and drum, are well off, because they
can always command property for their services and pay their way for
any attention or assistance, besides their supposed supernatural powers
prevent any practical jokes or petty torments from being inflicted as
on ordinary aged persons.

There are but few old people of either sex. Their lives are too
laborious, precarious, and exposed to secure an advanced age.[30]

[30] There is some tautology in treating the foregoing subject of death
and its incidents, but it could not be helped without omitting some
portions of the subject.


The lodges of the Sioux, Crows, Assiniboin, Cree, and Blackfeet are
made of buffalo skins, hair shaved off and dressed, then sewed together
in such a manner that when placed upright on poles it presents the form
of an inverted funnel. The skins are dressed, cut out, and the lodge
made up altogether by the women. When cut and sewed and laid on the
ground it is in shape nearly three-quarters of a circle, with the two
wings of skins at the small end to serve as vanes, which are changed
by moving the outside poles with the wind, to prevent the lodge from
smoking. The tent is stretched on poles from 12 to 20 feet in length
according to the size of it, each family making one to suit the number
of persons to be accommodated or their means of transporting it;
therefore their sizes vary from 6 to 23 skins each, the one being the
smallest, and the other the largest size in general use, the common
or medium size being 12 skins, which will lodge a family of eight
persons with their baggage, and also have space to entertain two or
three guests. The area of a lodge of 12 skins when well pitched is a
circumference of 31 feet, and the space each grown inmate requires
for bed and seat would be about 3 feet in width. People seldom stand
upright in a lodge. They enter in a stooping posture, and moving
forward in this way to the seat opposite, sit there until they leave.
(Pls. 74, 75.)

When sleeping the feet of every one is turned toward the center of the
lodge, where the fire is made, the smoke escaping at the opening in
the top. The material will last with some repairs about three years,
not longer. They usually make new lodges every third summer and cut
up their old ones for leggings and moccasins. Their lodges are always
carried along when they travel with the camp, being packed on a horse
in summer, or on a travaille in winter, in default of horses, and when
the snow is deep they keep out wind and rain and answer all their
purposes, but are cold, smoky, and confined. Families of from 2 to
10 persons, large and small, occupy tents of different dimensions,
say, one of 6 skins for the former and one of 16 skins for the latter
number. Lodges of 36 skins are sometimes found among the Sioux, owned
by chiefs or soldiers. These when carried are taken apart in the middle
in two halves and each half packed on a separate horse. When erected,
the halves are again joined by wooden transverse pins, the poles are
dragged on the ground, being tied together in equal-sized bundles, and
slung to each side of the horses. A tent of this size will accommodate
50 to 80 people on an occasion of feast or council, as they can sit in
rows three or four deep; about 30 persons, however, could sleep therein
with ease, independent of the space required for baggage, provisions,
and utensils. The females, young and old, aid in making them, and the
eldest of them erects, removes, and arranges the locations of the
interior in the manner described in a former answer.

They are never vacated and left standing, but are needed wherever they
go to protect themselves and property from the weather. The skins are
put up when sewed together in proper form without being smoked, as
the smoke from the fire in the inside soon penetrates them and
renders them impervious to rain. The men have nothing to do with the
construction, erection, removal, or internal arrangement of the lodges.


Four sticks 12 inches long, flat and rounded at the ends, about 1 inch
broad and one-eighth inch thick, are used. Two of them have figures of
snakes burned on one side, and two the figure of a bear’s foot burned
on. All the sticks are white on the sides opposite the burned sides.


  Two painted or marked sides and two white count     2
  All the white sides turned up count                10
  Three burned sides up and one white count nothing   0
  Four burned sides up count                         10

NOTA BENE.—Three white sides up and one burned side up counts nothing.



_Lodge Poles set up._

_Lodge Erected_





_An Assiniboine stabbing a Blackfoot._

_Drawn by an Assiniboine Warrior._

_Fort Union Jan. 16. 1854._]

The Mandan, Gros Ventres, and Arikara live in dirt cabins made by
planting four posts in the ground, with joists on the top. From this
square descend rafters to the ground in angular and circular shape, the
interstices being filled with smaller sticks and willows; then grass
is laid on, which is covered with mud, over which is thrown earth, and
the whole beaten solid. An opening is left in the top for the smoke and
a door in the side, which is extended into a covered passage of a few
steps and will admit a man upright. These are large and roomy huts,
will accommodate 30 or 40 persons each, but are generally occupied by
one family, who frequently have their beds and bedsteads, corn cellar,
provision room, and often a horse or two under the same roof. They are
said to be damp and unhealthy.

The figures and representations of animals, etc., painted on their skin
lodges are those of monsters seen by them in their dreams; also the
hand is dipped in red paint mixed with grease and its impression made
in many places over the tent. This denotes the master of the lodge to
have struck an enemy. The same impression is also made on their naked
bodies in some of their dances and has the same signification.


Skin canoes are the only watercraft used by these tribes, and these
are only to be found among the Mandan, Gros Ventres, and Arikara. They
are made of the skins of one or two buffaloes with the hair on, not
dressed, and stretched over a basketwork of willows. The women make,
carry, and propel them with paddles, one person only paddling in front.
A canoe of one buffalo skin will contain four persons and cross the
Missouri, but they must sit very quiet or they will upset. The women
carry these canoes on their backs along the bank to the place where
they wish to cross, and on their return bring them to the village and
turn them upside down to dry. A canoe of this kind is made in two or
three hours and will last a year. Bark canoes are used by the Chippewa,
but we are not well enough acquainted with their construction to
describe them. When no skin can be found to make a boat war parties
will cross any river on a raft.


There is no doubt but most of these nations are disposed to advance
from the barbaric type, though as yet they have made but little
progress. Indeed, when we consider their mode of life, wants, and
situation with regard to each other we can not imagine how they
can well be anything more than what they are. Harassed by internal
wars, pinched by necessities that compel them to constant exertion,
discouraged by the ravages of diseases, and overwhelmed by innumerable
superstitious fears, their condition is not one calculated to prepare
either mind or body for the arts and habits of civilization. The whole
tenor of an Indian’s life, and the sum and substance of all his labors
is to live, to support his family, and rear his children, and he must
bring them up in such a way that they in their turn can do the same.
For this all is risked, and to this end the whole of their occupations,
even their amusements, tend. They would be most willing to embrace any
mode of life by which this main object could be realized with less risk
and toil than the one they now pursue, but they must first be convinced
of the certainty of success in the strange pursuit to which their
formed habits must give way before they would apply themselves.

Their present manner is certainly precarious, but they would not
abandon it unless some better way to live was made manifest, not by
tales and speeches but by actual experiment. Indians (men) will not
work. Even the slight attempt at agricultural labor by the few nations
on the upper Missouri who raise corn and other vegetables devolves
solely upon the women to perform them, and the men hunt as the other
tribes. Meat must be had, and as yet no relish has been formed by
any of them, except the Sioux, for the flesh of domestic animals.
Notwithstanding all this, we see in many things a desire to change
for the better, exhibiting itself in a general feature of improvement
when compared with that of 20 years since. Within that time and within
our acquaintance with these people the Sioux, Assiniboin, and other
nations were much more savage than they now are. At the period to which
we allude it was almost impossible for even the traders, much less
strangers, to travel through their country without being robbed and
often killed. Horses were stolen from whites on all occasions; every
person outside the fort was liable to be abused, imposed upon, flogged,
or pillaged, and even their dealings with each other were no better.
Murders upon slight provocation, robberies, and misdemeanors of all
kinds were common among them. Even whole bands armed against each other
and skirmishes took place whenever they met.

All these things now, if not obsolete, are very rare. Whites move
about among most of the nations with security of life and property,
and the Indians are better clothed, provided for, armed and contented
than formerly. For these happy results so far we are indebted to the
unmitigated exertions and good counsel of a few white traders of the
old stock, some good Indian agents, the entire abolishment of the
liquor trade, and lately the humane endeavors on the part of the
Government by the treaty at Laramie in 1851.


Most of them are beginning to see the superiority of drugs and
treatment of the sick as exhibited to them by whites and are becoming
aware that their drummings and superstitions are of no avail, but it is
only a perception of truth, not as yet leading to any change in their
superstitions, because no person instructs them in aught better. As it
stands at present and to come to the point of this matter, we would
say a disposition to emerge from barbarism is apparent among most of
these tribes, though as yet no great advancement has been made. The
small improvements alluded to only show the desire to exist, but their
present organization, knowledge, and relative positions to each other
as nations do not admit of further improvement, which must necessarily
unfit them for their ordinary pursuits and successful contention with


Their provisions, cooking utensils, manner of cooking, serving the
meal and eating assimilates yearly more to that of the whites. Their
conversation, desires, and willingness to listen to counsel for their
benefit all convince of a disposition to advance toward civilization
and exchange their present mode of life for one more certain in its
resources, provided they could follow these employments secure from the
depredations of neighboring tribes yet their enemies; but here is the
difficulty, they are obliged to be always in readiness for war, also to
make excursions on their foes to replace their stolen horses or revenge
the death of their relatives.

They usually eat three times a day, morning, noon, and night, if meat
is plenty, but the number of meals depends altogether on the supply of
food, as has already been stated. Clay pots and other earthen vessels
are still in use among the Mandan, Gros Ventres, and Arikara, being of
their own manufacture, though they also have metallic cooking utensils.

The flesh of buffalo and other animals is cut in broad, thin slices and
hung up inside the lodges on transverse poles over the fire, but high
up in the lodge and in the way of the smoke, which soon penetrates it,
and in a few days the meat is dried and fit to pack away. In the summer
it is dried by spreading it in the sun, being cut up as above, which
soon cures it. They employ no salt in curing any meat.

The parts of the buffalo eaten in a raw state are the liver, kidneys,
gristle of the snout, eyes, brains, marrow, manyplies, or the omasum,
testicles, feet of small calves in embryo, and glands of the calf
envelope. Meat when cooked is either boiled or roasted, principally
the former, and always rare in either way, not overdone. They have no
salt for seasoning, but are fond of a little in the bouillon. In former
times meat was boiled in the rawhide, in holes in the ground smeared
with mud, and heated stones dropped in, or in pots made of clay and
soft stone, but metallic cooking utensils, consisting of kettles of
every size and description, have entirely replaced these. Tin cups and
pans, with some frying pans, wooden bowls, and horn spoons, are yet

The tongues of buffalo sent to market are salted by the traders, who
secure them from the Indians during the winter in the hunting season,
and when frozen, salting them before the spring thaw comes on. None of
these tribes preserves meat in any other way than above mentioned, some
of which when dried is pounded and mixed with berries and marrowfat.
It is then called pemmican, or in Cree pim-e-tai´-gan. Dried meat will
keep but one year if free of wet, as afterwards the fat turns rancid
and the lean tasteless.

The tail of the beaver is first turned in the blaze of a fire, the
outside skin scraped off, then incisions are made each side lengthwise
along the bone, and it is held in boiling water for a few minutes to
extract the blood. It is then hung up in the lodge or in the sun and
left to dry.

All inquiries regarding fish are inapplicable to these Indians, as they
take none in quantity. The few catfish that are hooked by the Gros
Ventres and Arikara are boiled in water, no salt added, and a horrid
mess of bones and fish mixed together is produced, which no one but an
Indian could eat. They eat but do not relish them.

All the hunter tribes rely greatly on the spontaneous roots and fruits
found in the country and collect, dry, and pack them away, to be
used in times of scarcity of animal food. We have known hundreds of
Indians to subsist for one or two months on the buds of the wild rose
boiled with the scrapings of rawhides. At all times the different
kinds of roots and berries are a great resource, are used in their
principal feasts and medicine ceremonies, are of great assistance when
game is not to be found, are easily packed, and contain considerable
nourishment. The following is a catalogue of those found among all the
nations of which we treat, though there are several others whose names
in English are unknown to us, and some of these now named peculiar to
the most northern latitudes.


            English Name           |     Assiniboin name     |          Method of preparation
  Prairie turnip (pomme blanche)   | Teep-se-nah             | Dried and pounded.
  Service berries                  | We-pah-zoo-kah          | Dried.
  Bull berries (grains des boeufs) | Taque-sha-shah          |   Do.
  Chokecherries                    | Cham-pah                | Pounded with seeds and dried.
  Red plums                        | Caun-tah                | Stones extracted and dried.
  Wild grapes                      | Chint-kah               | Not preserved; eaten ripe.
  Currants                         | Wecha-ge-nus-kah        |   Do.
  Gooseberries                     | Chap-tah-ha-zah         |   Do.
  Wild rhubarb                     | Chan-hn-no-ha           | Tops eaten raw or boiled.
  Fungus growing on trees          | Chaun-no-ghai           | Not dried; found in winter.
  Artichokes                       | Pung-ghai               | Eaten raw or boiled; not preserved.
  Berries of the red willow        | Chau-sha-sha            | Eaten raw only in great need.
  Antelope turnips                 | Ta-to-ka-na Teep-se-nah | Boiled and dried.
  Wild garlic                      | Ta-poo-zint-kah         | Raw; not preserved.
  A berry called                   | Me-nun                  | Not dried; eaten ripe.
  Acorns[31]                       | Ou-tah-pe               | Roasted and dried.
  Strawberries                     | Wa-zshu-sta-cha         | Not dried.
  Inner bark of cottonwood         | Wah-chin-cha-ha         | Resorted to in time of actual famine.
  Berries of the smoking weed      | She-o-tak-kah           | Not preserved; eaten ripe.
  A root resembling artichoke      | Ske-ske-chah            | Dried, pounded, and boiled.
  Buds of the wild rose            | We-ze-zeet-kah          | Found everywhere all winter on the stalk.
  Red haw berries                  | Tas-paun                | Not dried; eaten in fall and winter.

[31] Found only along White Earth River.


  Buffalo (wo-ta-cha)               |
    { bull                          | Ta-tun-gah.
    { cow                           | Petai.
  Antelope                          | Tah-to-ka-nah.
  Elk                               | Opoñ.
  Deer                              | Tah-chah.
  Bear                              | Wah-ghuñ-kseecha.
  Wolf                              | Shuñkto-ka-chah.[32]
  Foxes { red                       | Shunga shanah.
        { gray                      | To-kah-nah.
  Porcupine                         | Pah-hee.
  Badger                            | Kho-kah.
  Skunk                             | Man-gah.
  Rabbit                            | Mushtinchanah.
  Hare                              | Mushtincha ska.
  Ermine                            | E-toonka sun.
  Otter                             | Petun.
  Mink                              | E-koo-sa.
  Beaver                            | Chap-pah.
  Muskrat                           | Sink-pai.
  Glutton                           | Me-nag-gzshe.
  Lynx                              | Ega-mo´.
  Mouse                             | Pees-pees-anah.
  Ground squirrel                   | Tah-she-ho-tah.
  Water turtle                      | Kai-ah.
  Terrapin                          | Pat-kah-shah.
  Horns of elk in the velvet.       | Tah-hai.
  Horse                             | Shungatun-gah.
  Mule                              | Sho-shonah.
  Dog                               | Shunka.
  Snake (not eaten except by Cree). |

[32] Literally, the other kind of dog.


  Crow                              | Ah-ah-nah.
  Raven                             | Con-ghai.
  Magpie                            | Eh-hat-ta-ta-na.
  Owl                               | He-hun.
  Duck                              | Pah-hon-tah.
  Goose                             | Man-ghah.
  Crane                             | Pai-hun.
  Pelican                           | Mid-dai-ghah.
  Small bird of any sort.           | Sit-kap-pe-nah.
  Eagles are not eaten.             |


  Glands of the neck.
  Bull’s pizzle.
  Horns, hoofs, and hair.
    Every other part, inside and out, is eaten, even to the hide.

Sugar is made from the sap of the maple. Wild rice is gathered by the
Cree and Chippewa on Red River and the adjacent lakes, but not by
the upper Missouri tribes. In times of great scarcity old bones are
collected by the nations of whom we write, pounded, and the grease
extracted by boiling, and eaten together with any of the foregoing
roots or berries that can be found. But these sad times always happen
when the snow is deep, the ground frozen, and they can not be found.
Then those who have not laid up a stock of some of these roots the
previous summer are driven to the necessity of killing and eating their
horses and dogs, which being exhausted and nothing more to be found
they are compelled to eat human flesh.[33]

[33] We have only witnessed one season in 21 years where they were
driven to this necessity.


In the materials of their clothing, as far as the cold climate will
admit, articles of European manufacture have been substituted for
their skins, but there being no fabric as yet introduced equal to or
even approaching the durability and warmth of the buffalo skin, all
hunters and travelers in the winter season must be clothed with the
latter to preserve life or prevent mutilation by frost. Still in the
summer season these are laid aside, being full of vermin and saturated
with grease and dirt, and the Indian steps proudly around in his
calico shirt, blanket, and cloth pantaloons. Their hair also, formerly
tangled and matted, has been unraveled by the use of different kinds
of combs, and the livestock, which found “a living and a home there,”
has, by these instruments, been torn from their comfortable abode, thus
rendering useless their original method of disposing of these vermin,
viz., extracting them with their fingers and masticating them in turn
for revenge.

Most of the clothing used by these tribes is made of skins of their
own procuring and dressing, the process of which has already met with
attention. They have different dresses for different seasons, also
various costumes for war, dancing, and other public occasions, some of
which have been described. In the summer seasons, when comparatively
idle, the clothing traded from the whites is preferred on account
of its superior texture and color, but in their usual occupations,
in winter, at war, in the chase, or any public ceremonies among
themselves, very few articles of dress thus obtained are seen, if we
except some blankets, undercoats, scarlet cloth, and ornaments. Their
own dresses of skins fancifully arranged, adorned with feathers, beads,
shells, and porcupine quills, are much more highly prized by them than
any article of dress of European manufacture introduced by the traders.

We will now detail a few of the most common or everyday dresses among
them, in different seasons, male and female, estimating the cost of
each in buffalo robes at $3 each, their value in this country.


NO. 1

  A buffalo robe, thin hair, or a dressed cowskin
    robe on the back                                1   robe
  Dressed deer or antelope skin leggings            1   robe
  Cloth breech flap and moccasins                     ½ robe
                                                    2½ robes at $3=$7.50

NO. 2

  A scarlet blanket                                     4 robes
  Beads worked in same                                 10 robes
  Deerskin shirt and leggings fringed and garnished
    with beads and porcupine quills                     5 robes
  Breech flap of scarlet cloth and moccasin             1 robe
  Necklace of bear’s claws                              5 robes
  Moccasins and handkerchief for the head               1 robe
                                                       26 robes at $3=$78.00

NO. 3

  White blanket                                         3 robes
  Calico shirt                                          1 robe
  Neckerchief and cloth breech flap                     1 robe
  Cottonade pantaloons                                  1 robe
  Muskrat cap                                           1 robe
  Moccasins                                             0 robe
                                                        7 robes at $3=$21.00

NO. 4

  White blanket                                     3   robes
  Blanket capot                                     3   robes
  Skin leggings, plain antelope skin                1   robe
  Breechcloth and moccasins                           ½ robe
                                                    7½ robes at $3=$22.50

NO. 5

  Scarlet or Hudson Bay blanket                     4   robes
  Beads worked on same                             10   robes
  Scarlet laced chief’s coat                        6   robes
  Black fur hat and three cock feathers             2   robes
  Silver hatband and plate                          2   robes
  1 pair silver arm bands                           2   robes
  Scarlet cloth leggings and hawk bells             1   robe
  Black silk handkerchief and cloth breech flap     1   robe
  Silver gorget, ear wheels and hair pipe           2   robes
  Moccasins garnished with beads                      ½ robe
                                                   30½ robes at $3=$91.50


Hunter’s winter dress of the Plains

NO. 7

  Buffalo robe coat, hair inside                    1   robe
  Buffalo robe over it                              1   robe
  Skin cap and mittens, hair inside                   ½ robe
  Blanket breech flap, robe, moccasins, belt knife,
    and fire apparatus                                ½ robe
  Dressed cowskin leggings                        }
  1 pair snowshoes                                }   ½ robe
                                                    3½ robes at $3=$10.50

NO. 2

  White blanket coat with hood                          3 robes
  White blanket over it                                 3 robes
  Flannel or calico shirt                               1 robe
  Blanket leggings                                      1 robe
  Soled rope moccasins                                }
  Blanket breech flap                                 } 1 robe
  Skin mittens, hair inside                           }
                                                        9 robes at $3=$27.00

No. 2 is the dress of a wood hunter, ordinary warrior in winter, if we
take away the blanket and substitute a buffalo robe; or it is worn in
traveling, and is occasionally used by hunters in the Crow and Sioux
Nations, but the Cree and Assiniboin mostly wear No. 1 winter on the
plains. Other ordinary dresses are only variations of the foregoing,
adding some articles and withdrawing others, but none of them are used
when in full dress, on public occasions, among themselves, except
sometimes No. 5. All their fancy dresses for dances, war, and feasts
have their peculiar marks and distinction in rank; also the robes
worn by chiefs, soldiers, or warriors in stated assemblies have their
battle scenes painted on them in rude drawings, though intelligible to
them. When merely designed to be ornamental the drawing consists of a
representation of the sun, made by a large brilliant circle painted in
the middle. Sometimes a calumet is pictured, and other devices, such as
guns, bows, lances, horses, etc.

The dresses of the divining men are not distinguished from those of
ordinary Indians by any marks, unless they are able and wish to renew
the remembrance of their former coups on their enemies by wearing a
robe on which they are drawn, but being generally old they seldom make
any display in dress, though wearing a cap or piece of bearskin round
the head is common with them. The rest of their clothing in summer
would answer to No. 1 and in winter to No. 2, abstracting the blanket


NO. 1

  Dressed cowskin cotillion                         1   robe
  Leggings of same                                    ½ robe
  Dressed cow or elk-skin robe                      1   robe
  Moccasins                                         0   robe
                                                    2½ robes at $3=$7.50

NO. 2

  Colored blanket                                       4 robes
  Blue or scarlet cloth dress                           3 robes
  Garnishing of beads on same                           5 robes
  Scarlet cloth leggings ornamented with beads          2 robes
  White deerskin moccasins worked with beads            1 robe
  Heavy bead earrings and necklaces                     4 robes
  Brass-wire wristbands and rings                       1 robe
                                                       20 robes at $3=$60.00


  Fine white dressed elk-skin robe                      1 robe
  Fine white bighorn skin cotillion adorned with 300
    elk teeth                                          25 robes
  Neck collar of large brass wire                       1 robe
  Fine antelope skin leggings worked with porcupine
    quills                                              3 robes
  Brass wire wristbands and rings                       1 robe
  California shell ear ornaments                        3 robes
  Very heavy bead necklaces                             3 robes
  Moccasins covered with beads                          2 robes
                                                       39 robes at $3=$117.00


  Fine white dressed elk skin robe, painted             1 robe
  Fine white dressed antelope skin cotillion heavily
    ornamented with beads or shells on breast and arm  30 robes
  Leggings of same ornamented with beads                3 robes
  Bead or wire necklace                                 2 robes
  Garnished moccasins and brass breast plate            1 robe
  Ear bones                                             3 robes
                                                       40 robes at $3=$120.00


  White blanket                                         3 robes
  Blue cloth cotillion or green cloth                   2 robes
  Scarlet cloth leggings                                1 robe
                                                        6 robes at $3=$18.00


  Buffalo robe                                          1 robe
  Dressed cowskin cotillion                             1 robe
  Dressed cowskin leggings and shoes                    1 robe
                                                        3 robes at $3=$9.00


  Buffalo robe much garnished with porcupine quills     4 robes
  Big Horn cotillion trimmed with scarlet and
    ornamented with porcupine quills                    3 robes
  Leggings of elk skin, fringed and worked with quills  2 robes
  Wrist, ear, and neck ornaments, say                   3 robes
                                                       12 robes at $3=$36.00

There are many other dresses worn, differing in cost according to the
ornaments or labor bestowed on them, and the foregoing are varied
with their fancy and means; some therefore would cost high and others
merely a trifle. Those of mounted warriors, for dances, soldiers, etc.,
are still more valuable owing to the war eagle feathers and other
decorations. It is difficult to determine the cost and durability of
each costume. The cost has been stated, but every Indian can dress
only according to his means, which, if sufficient, will adorn his
clothing with ornaments to a great extent; but if limited, he must be
contented with such materials for covering as are yielded by the skins
of the animals that furnish him with food; consequently every shade
and variety of dress is visible among them. Some portions of these
dresses are only worn on occasions, while others are retained all the
time, and wear out the sooner. As an ordinary rule, Indians, both male
and female, renew their clothing of European manufacture every spring,
though the portions discarded are cut up for leggings, breech flaps,
hunting caps, gun wadding, etc.

It may be said to last six months if worn while hunting, or a year if
only used at times, in traveling and while idle, as is comparatively
the case in the summer season. A complete suit of skin will last the
whole year round, its actual cost being only the labor of dressing, and
as time in the summer is of no value to them it may be said to cost in
reality nothing if not ornamented. Blankets and cloth are not damaged
by wet but do not resist the cold. Skins are impervious to cold and
wind but are destroyed by being wet, hence the necessity and advantage
of wearing the one in summer and the other in winter, independent of
the filthy nature of skins when long worn, and of the capability of
woolens to be cleansed by washing. The dress of a mounted warrior (pl.
76), as in battle or in the dance, would be as follows, the cost being
estimated as before:


  Buffalo robe painted with battle scenes and garnished with porcupine
    quills; best; 6 robes                                              $18.00
  Skin shirt and leggings garnished with human hair and porcupine
    quills, valued at 1 horse or 10 robes                               30.00
  War-eagle feather cap, largest kind; price, 2 horses, 10 robes each   60.00
  Necklace of bear’s claws wrought on otter skin, 6 robes               18.00
  Feathers of the war eagle on shield, lance, and horse, 10 robes       30.00
  Garnished moccasins, 1 robe                                            3.00
  Shell ear ornaments, 4 robes                                          12.00
        Total                                                          171.00

Another fancy dress would cost as follows:

  Scarlet blanket, 4 robes, at $3                                      $12.00
  Beads on same, 10 robes                                               30.00
  Skin shirt and leggings garnished with porcupine quills and trimmed
    with ermine, 20 robes                                               60.00
  Bear’s-claw necklace, 6 robes                                         18.00
  Soldier’s cap of magpie feathers, tipped with red and fringed with
    ermine, 10 robes                                                    30.00
  Brass-wire arm bands, 3 robes                                          9.00
  Eagle feathers on lance and shield, 6 robes                           18.00
  Shell ear ornaments and moccasins, 4 robes                            12.00
        Total                                                          189.00

Both of the above dresses are principally of their own manufacture;
yet if a trader wishes to purchase them he has great difficulty in
doing so, even by paying the above prices in merchandise, of which
they always stand in need; indeed, they seldom can be induced to part
with them on any terms unless forced to sell to supply some reverse by
loss of property which has happened to their families. The reason is
that they are scarce, difficult to replace, and also it is the wish of
the warriors to wear them during their lives on all public occasions
and to be clothed with them when they die. Two tails of the war eagle
of 12 feathers each would be worth two horses if wrought into a cap,
or something more than a horse without. Usually the value of the tail
feathers of this bird among any of the tribes of whom we write is $2
each in merchandise in this country, or 15 feathers for a horse.

Ten ermine skins will also bring a horse among the Crow Indians, and
100 elk teeth are worth as much, there being but two teeth in each elk
which are suitable, and the tail feathers of the war eagle are the only
ones used. The elk are not killed in great numbers by any one hunter,
so that much time and bargaining are required for an individual to
collect 300, the number usually wrought on a Crow woman’s dress. The
eagles are scarce and difficult to catch; hence the value of these two

The men in their homes in their own country at night divest themselves
of their moccasins, leggings, and blanket capot (if any), retaining
only the breech flap, and covering themselves with their robe or
blanket; but when traveling, at war, in the chase, or encamped on the
borders of their enemy’s country no portions of clothing are taken
off at night; even their arms and accouterments are retained while
sleeping. In the summer season the women lay aside their leggings
and moccasins when going to bed, reserving only the petticoats, or
cotillion, as it is called in this country, and covering themselves
with the robe, but in the winter, or in traveling, no part of their
clothing is taken off. Young unmarried and as yet untouched women take
the precaution at night to wind around their dress a strong cord,
strapping the same tightly to their body and legs.

This is done by some of their female relatives, the cord being well
tied and wrapped around many times to prevent the consequences of any
mistakes on the part of young men as to the location of their bed,
which might happen if they entered during the night, or if they were
guests. It is considered a great credit to a young woman never to have
slept unbound as above previous to marriage. Saddles, billets of wood,
and parts of clothing taken off serve as pillows for the men. Provision
bales, wooden bowls, and baggage sacks answer the same purpose for
the women. Rawhides, saddle blankets, apishimos,[34] skins in hair,
with grass and twigs beneath form the bed, which is seldom longer than
two-thirds the sleeper, and about 3 feet wide.

[34] This appears to be a word adopted from the Cree or Chippewa
language. It means anything to lie on, as a bed.


All Indians are excessively fond of display in ornaments. Indeed, as
may have been gathered from the preceding, the value of their dresses
depends entirely upon the nature and extent of these decorations. Small
round beads of all colors are used in adorning every portion of their
dress, as also agate for their ears, hair, neck, and wrists, but these
are by no means as valuable as several kinds of shells or as their
ornamenting with colored porcupine quills. A shell, called by the
traders Ioquois,[35] is sought after by them more eagerly than anything
else of the kind. They are procured on the coast of the Pacific and
find their way to our tribes across the mountains through the different
nations by traffic with each other until the Crows and Blackfeet get
them from some bands of the Snake and Flathead Indians with whom they
are at peace.

[35] Ioquois appears to be a loan word.

These shells are about 2 inches long, pure white, about the size of a
raven’s feather at the larger end, curved, tapering, and hollow, so
as to admit of being strung or worn in the ears of the women, worked
on the breast and arms of their cotillions, also adorn the frontlets
of young men, and are worth in this country $3 for every 10 shells.
Frequently three or four hundred are seen on some of the young Crow or
Blackfoot women’s dresses. The large blue or pearl California shell
was once very valuable and still is partially so. It is shaped like
an oyster shell and handsomely tinted with blue, green, and golden
colors in the inside. One of these used to be worth $20, but of late
years, owing to the quantity being introduced by the traders, the price
has depreciated to about half that amount. These shells they cut in
triangular pieces and wear them as ear pendants. Silver is worn in
the shape of arm and wrist bands. Hat bands, gorgets, brooches, ear
wheels, finger rings, and ear bobs are mostly in use among the Sioux,
the upper nations preferring shells. Other ornaments consist of elk
teeth, colored porcupine quills, and feathers of the white plover dyed.
Feathers of ravens, owls, hawks, and eagles, furs cut in strips and
wrought in various parts of their dress, besides a great variety of
trinkets and paints furnished by the traders, among which are brass
rings, brass and iron wire, beads, brass hair and breast plates, brass
and silver gorgets, wampum moons, hair pipe, St. Lawrence shells,
spotted sea shells, hawk bells, horse and sleigh bells, cock and
ostrich feathers, thimbles, gold and silver lace, etc.


The principal paints sold them are Chinese vermilion, chrome yellow and
verdigris. Out of all these an Indian can please himself, and either
buy such as are mentioned, or use the shells, feathers, furs, etc.,
their own country and labor produces.

The native dyestuffs for coloring porcupine quills and feathers are
as follows: For yellow, they boil the article to be colored with the
moss found growing near the root of the pine or balsam fir tree. For
red, they in the same way use the stalk of a root called we-sha-sha,
the English name of which is unknown to us. They have also some
earths and ochers, which by boiling impart a dull red, violet, and
blue color, but we are unacquainted with the process and their names
in any other language except the Indian. Their native dyes, however,
with the exception of the yellow, are superseded by those introduced
by the traders, with all but the Crow Indians, who living near and in
the Rocky Mountains find several coloring herbs and mineral substances
unknown to the other tribes, which produce much better colors than
these mentioned. At the present day they all mostly use the clippings
of different colored blankets and cloth, which by boiling with the
substance to be dyed, communicates the tint of the cloth to it in some
degree. Thus rose, green, pale blue, and violet colors are obtained.
For black they boil the inner papers in which Chinese vermilion is


Tattooing is much practiced by all these tribes, and a great variety of
figures are thus painted, sometimes in spots on the forehead, stripes
on the cheeks and chin, rings on the arms and wrists; often the whole
of the breast as low down as the navel, with both arms, is covered with
drawings in tattoo. It is a mark of rank in the men, distinguishing
the warrior when elaborately executed, and as the operation is one
requiring the pay of one or two horses, it proves the person’s parents
to have been sufficiently rich to afford that mark of distinction
imprinted on their children, whether male or female. It is usually done
on females at the age of 12 to 14 years, is only exhibited on them in
the form of a round spot in the middle of the forehead, stripes from
the corners and middle of the mouth down to the chin, occasionally
transversely over the cheek, and rings around the wrist and upper
parts of the arms. On them it is merely designed as ornament. Men are
tattooed entire after having struck their first enemy, but smaller
marks of this kind are also only ornamental. The material employed
and the modus operandi are as follows: Red willow and cedar wood are
burned to charcoal, pulverized, and mixed with a little water. This is
the blue coloring matter. From four to six porcupine quills or needles
are tied together with sinew. These are enveloped in split feathers;
wrapping with sinew, until a stiff pencil about the size of a goose
quill is had, with the quills or needles projecting at the end. One
of the priests or divining men is then presented with a horse and
requested to operate. At the same time a feast of dried berries is
prepared, and a considerable number of elderly men invited to drum and
sing. When all are assembled the feast is eaten with much solemnity and
invocations to the supernatural powers.

The person to be tattooed is then placed on his back, being stripped
naked, and the operator being informed of the extent of the design
to be represented, proceeds to mark an outline with the ink, which,
if correct, is punctured with the instrument above alluded to, so as
to draw blood, filling up the punctures with the coloring matter as
he goes along, by dipping the needles therein and applying them. The
drumming and singing is kept up all the time of the operation which,
with occasional stops to smoke or eat, occupies from two to two and
a half days, when the whole of the breast and both arms are to be
tattooed; and the price for the operation is generally a horse for each
day’s work.


There are no badges of office that we are aware of. These marks belong
to kinships and appear only in their dress in the different dances,
apart from which nothing is seen denoting official station. Rank is
known by the devices drawn on their robes; that is, to a warrior who
has struck an enemy and stolen horses is accorded the privilege of
wearing a robe adorned with a representation of these acts; he is also
entitled to make the impression of a hand dipped in red paint on his
lodge or person, to wear hair on his shirt and leggings, and two war
eagle’s feathers on his head. After making many coups he arrives at
the degree of camp soldier[36] and is known on public occasions by the
addition to the above of the war-eagle cap or bear’s claw necklace,
which, together with the advantage of publishing his feats in the
dances and other ceremonies, establishes his standing among his people.

[36] This is the term explained in footnote 12, p. 436.

A still further progress, so as to rank with chiefs or councillors,
is not attended with any additional display or mark of distinction;
indeed, in that event their coups are seldom boasted of, that being
rendered unnecessary from the fact of the whole nation’s being aware
of the cause of his advancement, and although chiefs and councillors
generally have appropriate dresses, as already described, they
never wear them unless on the most important occasions, such as a
battle, council with other nations, great religious assemblies, or
an approaching dissolution. It is their greatest desire when arrived
at the head of the ladder of fame to receive a flag or medal from
some whites in power, which are worn or displayed on all ordinary
convocations and councils. In like manner a sword would be the mark of
a soldier in camp, but we see no other badges of office except what
have already been referred to as existing in kins, which are laid aside
as soon as the ceremonies which caused this display are concluded.


As has before been observed, these tribes have naturally little or no
beard. What few hairs and down make their appearance on the face and
other parts of the body are extracted by small wire tweezers of their
own make. They have no method of killing or dyeing the hair; they
cultivate it, and consider to cut it a great sacrifice. It is only
clipped short or torn out by handfuls in excessive grief, but is never
shaved, and until modern times but seldom combed.


Laying aside the advantages of education, of knowledge acquired by
conversation with superior men, and the increase of ideas gained in
travel by the European, and drawing a comparison between the ignorant
white and the savage, we feel bound to award preference to the latter.
In all their conversation, manners, government of families, general
deportment, bargaining, and ordinary occupations they exhibit a
manliness, shrewdness, earnestness, and ability far superior to the
mass of illiterate Europeans. Even their superstitions and religion
present a connected, grand chain of thought, having for its conclusion
the existence of a Supreme Power, much more satisfactory and sublime in
the aggregate than the mixture of bigotry, infidelity, enthusiasm, and
profanity observed in the actions and language of the lower class of
Christians. An excellent opportunity offers in this country to draw a
comparison between the Indians and the engagees of the Fur Company, and
what can never fail to strike the mind of the observer is the superior
manliness and energy of the Indian in thought, word, and action, as
evinced in their patience, contempt of death and danger, reverses of
fortune, in their affection for their children, government of their
families, their freedom from petty vexations, and useless bursts of
impotent passion.

The Indian reverences his unknown God in his way. Though the principle
be fear and the object Creation, it leads to reliance and resignation
when his own resources fail, whereas the whites spoken of vent their
displeasure for most trifling grievances and accidents in eternal
curses on the Great Disposer, the Virgin Mary, and all other holy
persons and objects they deem worthy of their execration. These
Indians are capable of pursuing a logical train of reasoning to a just
conclusion. If the subject be one with which by experience they have
become acquainted, they can argue it point by point with any person.
Even the Assiniboin, who are the most ignorant of all these tribes,
can pursue a satisfactory mode of conversation. Clear sightedness is
more observable in matters touching their own personal or national
welfare, the utility and expedience of war or peace, camp regulations,
or the advantage of trade. Not many years since the Cree and Assiniboin
combined against the Hudson Bay Co. at Red River for the purpose of
forcing that powerful house into more reasonable prices for goods and a
less distressful policy of trade or to abandon the country.

The case was as follows: It was then and still is in a measure the
custom of that company to make credits to those Indians in the fall
for nearly the entire amount of their winter hunts, taking advantage
of their necessities in putting exorbitant prices on the supplies thus
advanced, so that when an Indian came to pay he found himself with
nothing left to clothe his family or meet his wants; in fact, as poor
as before, and consequently obliged to contract other debts on the
ensuing year, being in this way kept always poor, more especially so if
by some accident his hunt should fail.

Even those who were not indebted bought supplies at such enormous
rates as with difficulty to support themselves. In order, therefore,
to reform these proceedings they assembled in council at various
places, sent runners to all the camps in the two nations, and decided
to convene at the Hudson Bay Co.‘s fort and make known to them their
determination, which was to hunt no more at such prices, or if they
did hunt, to seek some other market for their furs on the Mississippi
or Missouri. The company being aware of their proceedings and knowing
the inexpedience of being forced into measures, besides dreading the
effect such a large body of discontented Indians might have on the
settlers and property, sent their half-breed runners to the different
camps on the advance toward the fort with orders to turn them back with
stories that the smallpox had appeared in the settlement. The fear of
this terrible infection disbanded the expedition, the Indians traveling
in haste the contrary direction, which gave the company time to alter
in detail their manner of dealing with them, apparently of their own
accord. Things of this kind prove the Indians to be capable of looking
into their own interests, also of acting in a body when they are
concerned, in cases where rank is not interfered with nor subordination
required, while gain is the object and public opinion unanimous.

On subjects in which their actual experience and observation are at
fault, even if supported with good arguments, they are suspicious
and incredulous. They listen, doubt, but say little. On all such
topics their minds receive a bias from their superstitions and lack
of appreciation of motive. They can not conceive of any efforts made
through motives of charity, benevolence, or pity, nor realize any other
disinterested action, even if it be for their benefit, because all
they do is in expectation of reward, and being destitute of the above
principles of actions are disposed to attribute interested views to
everyone else. In reviewing such subjects with them, and supporting the
moral principle by argument, they are silenced, though not convinced;
they do not grasp it, but will not contradict, for the thing may
be so. Hence their thoughtfulness and apparent apathy, also their
uninterrupted deliberations in councils and conversation, all arising
from a desire to hear the subject in all its bearings, either with the
view of forming an opinion or of the propriety of expressing it.

Regarding their temperament, it is peculiar and general. We see none
of those great differences in disposition observed among the European

There appears to be a uniformity of individual feeling and action
among them. Being all the same on like occasions, it would seem a
national and natural feature, calling forth corresponding feelings and
actions with circumstances as they arise, exhibited in overwhelming
demonstrations of grief or joy, in seriousness in business, ceremonies,
and worship, excessive gayety in their amusements and lighter
conversation, with earnestness in matters of personal interest.
They have strong powers of memory and forecast, are of a reflective
habit, their physical propensities predominating over the moral, in
their general conduct grave, can be and are very gay on occasions,
but upon the whole are rather of a cold than a fervid temperament.
We are unable to say whether their reasoning powers are brought out
or strengthened by education, never having witnessed its application
to any of these tribes, but see no reason why they should not be as
capable of improvement in these respects as any other race of people.
Their ideas are by no means groveling, nor is their form of government
to be derided. Neither can we conscientiously assign to them a lower
place in the scale of creation; perhaps not so low as any other race of
uneducated sentient beings.

We are not well enough acquainted with the capacity and history of the
oriental stock to say whether these assimilate in any great degree;
most likely the inference can be drawn from what has been written in
these pages.

We may state that as yet no person has appeared among them noted for
his natural or acquired powers as a real physician, though many have
risen to eminence in this department from their supposed supernatural
powers in curing the sick. Neither does their history produce any
person who has evinced ability as a linguist,[37] moralist, or in the
cultivation of any of the exact or moral sciences.

[37] Denig seems to refer here to grammatic analyses rather than to the
mere learning of languages.

They use no studied maxims of expression in conversation, nor are there
observed any compositions partaking of the nature of laments, unless
the speeches made to departed spirits and the universal monotonous
mourning chant[38] would be construed in that light. Their ordinary
talk is pretty much the same as that of other men, though perhaps the
Indians use fewer words in conversation, selecting only those which
have a direct reference to the subject. They do not evince a quickness
in repartee, even in their jokes, and all conversation, except the
obscene, is carried on more deliberately and concisely than among
other races. The effect of their oratory is a great deal enhanced by
the position, bearing, and gesticulation of the speaker, yet it is not
without its merits; simplicity, clearness, and strength of language are
its distinguishing traits. We have heard and understood some hundreds
of speeches on every subject of interest among the Sioux, Assiniboin,
and Cree Nations, and must confess we can not discern the figures and
tropes attributed to their oratory by fiction writers. Metaphor is
sometimes used, but not often. Their eloquence lies in the few words,
bold assertions, and pointed questions with which they clothe their
ideas, added to fierce expression of countenance and earnestness of

[38] The song for the dead contains a few words suitable to the

Everything they say in a speech has a tendency to gain their object if
they have any, and Indians seldom speak otherwise. No set forms are
followed, their thoughts finding utterance as they arise, or rather
according to their feelings, and consequently make an impression on
their auditors. The principal aims of the Indian speeches we have
heard were to gain something or to impress the mass with the spirit of
emulation, a desire for war or peace, and for the better regulation of
their national affairs. One or two addresses of this kind have already
been inserted and now follow two more, both heard and interpreted by
myself and copied from our records. We fear in reading them, a woeful
disappointment on the part of novel writers and romantic authors of
Indian tales, but such as they are they exhibit true samples of Indian
eloquence at the present day, however much it may differ from that in
the time of the celebrated Logan and others. In interpreting these
speeches, the exact and entire ideas of the Indians are preserved,
though the words chosen to express them are not always the same. We
have had occasion to remark on this head before that no Indian language
admits of being translated word for word; to do so, the purport desired
by the Indian would fail, injustice be done to his ideas as realized by
him, and a futility of words presented so devoid of order as to make no
impression on the person for whom they are intended.

Nevertheless it is not to be inferred that the ideas have been improved
upon. They are entire, and only so because clothed in the only kind of
words sufficient to convey the real extent of their signification.

The occasion which produced the following speech by the Crazy Bear
was this: In the summer of 1837 the Assiniboin, with other nations,
were invited to attend the treaty at Laramie. It was with great
difficulty any of them could be persuaded to go, as the road along
the Yellowstone was beset with Blackfeet war parties; but this man
with three others went in company with A. Culbertson, Esq., who was
authorized to conduct them. The Crazy Bear was, while at the treaty,
made chief of the Assiniboin Nation by Col. D. D. Mitchell, the United
States commissioner, and on his return to his people repeated to the
nation the stipulations of the treaty, together with the “talk” held at
the rendezvous, but, as usual with Indians, was not believed. It also
happened that in the ensuing spring, by some delay, the merchandise
intended for the Indians and promised them at the treaty did not
arrive in the West in time to be forwarded, so that summer passed and
the Missouri froze over without any appearance of presents forthcoming.
The Indians became dissatisfied, thought they had been trifled with,
abused Crazy Bear and me for deceiving them, raised war parties, and
bid fair to break the treaty and become more troublesome to whites than

Amidst all this clamor and disturbance the chief stood firm and, being
supported in office by the fort, all hostile demonstrations were for
the time averted. At this juncture, in January, 1853, Mr. Culbertson
arrived from St. Louis with orders from the superintendent to supply
the amount due the Indians as per treaty from the merchandise of the
fur company in this country. The nation therefore being called together
and placed in order in the interior of the fort, the goods as per
invoice laid in front of them, the Crazy Bear rose and said:

“My children and friends: The clouds that have hitherto obscured the
sky are brushed away and a fine day appears before you. The time has
arrived when all the turbulent and discontented must be convinced that
the whites have but one tongue; that our great father, the President,
is rich and powerful. But a few days since most of you were violent
in your reproaches against myself and the whites. If you have any
more abuse left, heap it on now, disburden your hearts at once of all
complaint, make the pile of your abuse as large as the pile of goods
before you. The whites have kept their word and your heads should hang
in shame.

“When you were invited to the treaty you were afraid to go, some to
leave their wives, others their children, others to cross the warpath
of the Blackfeet. I went. I appeared among nations in your name and am
the cause of the present smiling pile of goods being laid before you.

“When I returned from the treaty after an absence of three moons and
repeated to you the words of our Great Father, what was my reception?
How was I listened to? When, by some accident the goods promised did
not arrive, how did you act? What now do you think of yourselves?

“I hold in my hands the words of our Great Father. They are scored
on my heart, were poured into my ears, did not run out, and now is
the most fitting time to repeat what I have so often told you without
being believed. Your Great Father does not want your lands; he seeks
your welfare. You are a few poor miserable beings; he is rich, his
people are numerous as the leaves of the cottonwood. He desires to
stop the bloody wars heretofore existing between Indian tribes, to
make all one people, to enable all to hunt and visit together in peace
and friendship. He wishes you to refrain from all depredations on
whites, respect your chief as a chief, and listen to his words. For
this he sends you these presents which will be repeated every year for
15 years, unless by your misconduct you incur his displeasure. I have
heard the words; they are true. I have seen his soldiers and know he
has the power to punish those who have no ears.

“A great deal of what you do and say is foolishness, the work and talk
of children, not of men. Last fall in despite, you raised war parties,
made threats against myself and the whites, gave me trouble. You now
see the rashness of your proceedings. Who gives you these goods?

“Do you pay for them? Have you traded them? Do you intend to recompense
your Great Father in any way? If so, listen to his words. It has been
said I have sold you to the whites—bartered for your lands. I now tell
you it is no such thing. There are no stipulations made for your lands
in these papers. They were not even mentioned in the treaty. They are
too cold for any persons except Indians, or any animals other than
those with heavy hair.

“The Blackfeet are yet your enemies, but are to be spoken to by our
Great Father; therefore let us refrain from war upon them to advance
the views of our Great Father. Since the treaty I have had a son and a
son-in-law killed by these people, and all my horses stolen twice. I
can count seven times damage they have done me and my nation, but still
I am disposed to remain quiet so that our Great Father may be pleased.
All of you do the same. The day is coming when the Blackfeet will have
ears given them.

“There are many poor people in this assembly that will be greatly
benefited by this distribution of goods. Indians are born poor; they
are always poor. Whatever they get for nothing is a great help and they
should be thankful.

“I now appoint you six men, soldiers, for the equal distribution of
these goods. Let all have a fair share. Your duty as soldiers does not
end here. In the camp when you hear of war parties being assembled,
stop them.

“If any one breaks the treaty stipulations with regard to the whites or
other nations I desire you to punish them. If you are not able to do
so you are no soldiers, and such disturbers shall be taken down by the
whites in irons.

“The President of the United States has thought fit to appoint me your
chief. Here is my medal; there are my papers. This makes some of you
jealous. You should have thought of it before and plucked up courage
enough to be seen at the treaty, that he could have chosen a better man
than I, if there be one. As it is, as long as I can stand and my voice
holds good I shall never agree to what is wrong nor be deterred from
doing what is right.[39] I have spoken.”

[39] Literally “my road shall be in a straight line with my talk and
not frightened to one side.”

It is the custom of most of the upper Missouri tribes when at the fort
for trading purposes for the principal men to make what are called
presents; that is, a portion of the buffalo robes are brought into
the office and with much ceremony laid at the feet of the gentleman
in charge of the fort, which action is followed by a speech. To a
spectator only viewing the act as a gift, and only understanding the
literal meaning of their speeches on the occasion, they would appear
to be the most liberal people in the world, as often 100 to 150
buffalo robes are laid down and carried out to the store without any
merchandise being produced in payment at the time, besides each Indian
distinctly states many times in his speech that it is absolutely for
nothing he makes the present.

But unfortunately for this generous appearance it has quite the
contrary signification. The trader during the course of this harangue
receives hints enough as to the compensation for the present and the
Indian fully expects both the honor done to the trader and the skins
given to be paid for; in fact, requiring in return nearly double the
amount in value had the skins been handed, as is usual by the mass of
the Indians, to the clerk of the store without any ceremony. It is at
these times that the principal men make the speeches, such as the one
which follows, which, though not distinguished for beauty of allegory
or force of argument, may serve to show their shrewdness and cunning,
also their reliance on flattery to gain their ends. It was necessary
to premise this much so that the speech could be understood in all its


“My friend, my Father, look at me. You see standing before you one of
the poorest of his nation, but one who has a good heart and open hand.
Our Great Grandfather, the Earth, is the parent of us all—Indians
and whites. When Wakoñda created man he made two sorts; one clothed,
comfortable, rich, plenty to eat, and endowed with wisdom; these were
the white men. The other he produced naked, in a cold climate, poor,
ignorant, obliged to hunt for their meat, to labor, to starve, to
suffer, to die; these were the red men.

“Who receives the profits of their labor? The whites. Who protects them
from their enemies? Themselves. When your Great Grandfather across
the sea sent you to reside with Indians, what did he say? Did he pour
no good words into your ears? Did he not tell you, you will behold a
poor, naked, starved nation, have pity on them? I believe he did, he
was a chief, a man of sense, a rich man, and no doubt said, ‘Give away
a portion of your good things to the Indian, let him feel something
soft on his back. He is not an animal, his body is not covered with
hair like the buffalo, but he is a man like yourself and requires
clothing to protect himself from the cold. Are you not aware Indians
freeze to death?’[40]

[40] Four Indians had at this time been frozen to death near his camp
in a snowstorm.

“When this big fort was built, when the first whites opened the road
tip the Missouri, they found us with bone knives, stone axes, clay
pots, stone arrow points, bone awls, and nothing but the bow and arrow
to kill game; they had pity on us, and exchanged for our skins iron
arms and utensils.[41] In this they did well; they bettered the Indian;
they made themselves rich. They had sense. They also gave us good
words, and I have recollected them; they have been handed down to us
when children, and all good Indians remember. I was told if you meet a
white man give him your hand, take him to your lodge, give him to eat,
let him have lodging, show him the road. I have done so.

[41] When the trade of the Missouri was opened the Assiniboin were the
poorest of all nations, and have remained so to this day.

“If you meet him while on the warpath, do not steal his horse or rob
him of his property. If others steal his horses, bring them back;
if any of the fort property is damaged, pay for it. I have done so.
I was told to hunt, make robes, trade the skins for blankets, arms,
and ammunition. All this I have continued to do from my youth to the
present time. My part has been fulfilled. Yet you see me before you
still a poor man. I stand nearly alone in the village, like an aged
tree whose tops are dead. The bones of my friends and relatives are
piled around the fort or scattered over the plains. All the good,
all the wise, all the handsome, all the brave were rubbed out by the
smallpox. Young men are growing, but they are not like those of the old

“The road to the fort gates has been swept free of grass by the feet of
my people in coming to trade. Each year we have loaded your boats with
the skins of our animals, and I now bring a few more. The 10 robes laid
before you are a present, for which I desire nothing. I wish to make
your heart glad and to have my name remembered on the large books.[42]
I know very well you are a chief and will have pity on me. Let me feel
something soft over my shoulders.[43] Bestow some glittering mark on
my back,[44] cover my bare head[45] and let something gay[46] appear
there, that my young men may know that I am respected at the fort.

[42] It is customary to keep a list of men who behave well and make
large trades.

[43] A blanket is wanted.

[44] Hint for a chief’s coat.

[45] Hat desired.

[46] Feathers desired.

“My leggings[47] are worn out and the cold enters, and my breech flap
no more covers what is beneath. My body[44] and neck[48] are laid
bare in hunting skins in this cold weather. I lack some mark[49] of
my standing with the fort to make my young men listen to my words to
be good to the whites and hunt. If you wish many robes, recollect the
young men are hunters and can not kill buffalo without ammunition.[50]
The women have hard work dressing skins; their arms are sore; some
beads and vermilion[51] would give them strength; and the tobacco[52]
you will no doubt furnish me will be smoked by all my people in talking
over matters for the good of the fort and in the councils for hunting.
I know you are a chief and good father to your red children and will
never refuse them what they ask. Remember our hardships, dangers, and
exposures in hunting for you. Open your heart and lengthen your measure
and reduce,[53] if ever so little, on the prices of trade. Indians
suffer for everything; even the tobacco chewed and spit out by the
whites is picked up and smoked by them. Your store is large; let your
heart be so also. Let me be able to sing your praise;[54] your name is
in the clouds; your father was a chief; you will be greater than he.
Listen to the words of your poor friend. I have spoken.”

[47] Leggings wanted.

[48] Shirt and neck handkerchief desired.

[49] Medal or gorget.

[50] Hint for general present of ammunition to the party.

[51] Some to each woman.

[52] An intimation that tobacco is not only wanted but plenty of it.

[53] This is an invariable request, and would be so no difference how
long the prices were.

[54] Whoever makes a liberal present to Indians has his name sung
around the camp or fort in a song of thanks.

The Sioux make better speeches and use more figures than the
Assiniboin, but none of the many we have heard among both and other
nations are as replete with metaphor as is represented by fiction
writers. Either the Indians treated of by them were of a superior order
or the speeches have been liberally interpreted. The foregoing presents
their style as it now exists among all the upper Missouri tribes,
though subjects of more importance, such as war, peace, or religious
rites, are accompanied by a proportionate earnestness of oratory and
boldness of gesture. They do not pride themselves on making fine or
flowery speeches, but bold, pointed, and sensible ones, and, if begging
be the object, will descend to the grossest flattering of their
auditor, and vainness of their own merits.


Picture writing can not be said to be much practiced by any of these
tribes, though it is to some extent by all, principally by the Crow
and Sioux Indians. The former of these nations are incessant in the
war expeditions against the Blackfeet, and in the absence of the
warriors the camp from which they departed moves in quest of game,
but pursue a direction made known to the warriors before they leave.
It often happens that the trail made by the camp is effaced by rain
or covered with snow before their return, also that they (the camp)
are obliged to diverge from the route agreed upon, and in these cases
leave intelligence in pictorial devices in some of their encampments as
guides to the returning absentees, who, if they find them, can not fail
to reach their friends by following the instructions pointed out by
these means. (Fig. 35.) Another occasion where it is useful is where a
war party, after having made an attack, whether successful or not, have
reason to believe more of their own people are out for like purposes,
wish to convey to them the intelligence that their enemies are on the
alert, and prevent if possible their falling into their hands, as would
happen if they attempted to steal the horses before the late excitement
caused by their own appearance had subsided. The information, together
with the success or failure of their own expedition and any other
matters they wish their friends to know, are pictured in some place
likely to be found by those for whom it is intended.

[Illustration: FIGURE 35.—Picture writing. Key: “We are a camp of 13
lodges (1); encamped on a creek above the forks (2); started hunting
with eight horsemen (3); and two women on foot (4); slept two nights
out (5); found buffalo beyond the second creek from the camp (6);
killed some, and made travails (7); and slept but one night on our
return home (8)]

There is, however, this danger in these records, that if they are
stumbled upon by their enemies in their war excursions they are as
certain a guide to them as to their own people, and this is one of
the reasons why it is so seldom done. But the Crow Indians, who rove
through the spurs of the Rocky Mountains, frequently making long
and rapid marches, are compelled to leave such marks behind, or some
of their warriors would ramble about for months searching for their
homes, which would be extremely inconvenient should they be driving
before them a herd of their enemies’ horses. The information conveyed
by this system of writing is complete as far as it is intended, which
is only to represent leading and general facts, and is not nor could
it be applied to minute details. All warriors read and understand the
devices of their enemies and most of them practice it when necessary,
but the direction to war pursued by the Cree and Assiniboin in the
summer, being over plains, there are no places noted as their usual
encampments, and timber is seldom found; they therefore practice
this manner of writing less than the others, owing to the probable
uncertainty of their being found by their friends. In the winter,
however, it is occasionally done by them when their way lies along some
river, and their encampments are found by the small forts in which they
have slept every night being left standing.

The same species of intelligence is sometimes left in hunting grounds
with the view of announcing to any of their own nation who are supposed
to pass the same way that the game, as denoted by the carcasses round,
has been killed by friends, not war parties of enemies, intimating to
them the direction and situation of their camp, that meat may be had
there, that a juncture of forces is desirable, etc. The number and kind
of game taken are not painted as the heads of the animals around would
show that, but it, too, could be explained if wished.

These devices are generally drawn on some dry tree without the bark,
the characters being cut in the wood and filled up with vermilion mixed
with grease to prevent it being washed off by rain. Pieces of bark and
portions of skins are used, and in default of either soft stone will
answer. Powder dissolved in water is used to mark on the skin, the
impression being made with a pointed stick, inked and pressed forcibly
on the skin.

The meaning of every mark is fixed and exact, understood by the mass
of warriors of all tribes, not confined to or practiced by the priests
unless their situation in traveling be the same as the warriors or
hunters and they desire in like manner to convey some information to
the nation. The foregoing purposes in different forms are the only ones
to which we have had the opportunity of witnessing the application of
these devices. Perhaps they are the only cases as yet necessary for
their present operations, but there would be no difficulty in their
picturing the passage of whites or other nations through their country
should it be required, and the same be intelligible to them.

Another form, and the one in which this manner of writing appears to
be of more importance among them, is the devices drawn on the robes,
exhibiting their standing as warriors whenever they appear. The
height of distinction in an Indian, and his greatest ambition, is to
impress upon his own people or strangers the idea of his being brave,
of his having done acts that entitle him to appear among men, of his
superiority in this respect over others in the crowd; therefore the
actions which lead to these impressions are pictured on his robe; his
biography is carried on his back so that “he who runs may read.” It
insures him respect through life, an honorable shroud at his death, and
is believed to merit reward in futurity. A further use these devices
are made to serve is the representation of monsters said to be seen by
them in dreams, and supposed to have the effect when painted on their
lodges of averting strokes of lightning, disease, etc.

In like manner buffalo heads are pictured to bring those animals in the
direction of the camp, besides a great variety of smaller devices are
seen on their shields, drums, medicine sacks, and envelopes of their
amulets, to all of which appropriate and general meanings are attached
corresponding with their superstitious belief or to insure success in
domestic affairs. In conversation with most elderly Indians regarding
locations, travels, or to explain battles and other events, resort is
had by them to drawing maps on the ground, on bark with charcoal, or
on paper if they can get it, to illustrate more clearly the affair in
question. In this way the chief of the Crow Nation three years since
made and left with us a map (pl. 77) of his intended travels during
the entire fall and winter succeeding, embracing a circumference of
1,500 miles, with the different encampments to be made by that nation
in that time, and so correct was the drawing that we had no difficulty
in finding their camp the following winter in deep snow, one month’s
travel from this place. It is regretted that those Indians are not now
in this neighborhood, as in that case some specimens of their charts
and devices could be inserted, but in default of better we present in
this place some Assiniboin drawings, with their explanations, which
will serve to give a general idea how they are managed, and other
pictorial devices are attached in several parts of this work.

These are the only forms the pictorial art of the Indians takes. It
is more largely applied to the designs represented on their robes and
mythological subjects when appearing on their lodges, fetish envelopes,
etc., as has been stated. Songs can not be recorded in this or any
other form. The value it may be to a people who are without letters is
mostly apparent in the instances where it denotes the rank and standing
of individuals when painted on their robes. The information intended
only for their friends when cut on trees is liable to be interpreted to
their disadvantage by enemies, which would consequently be a bar to its
general practice. None of their drawings are executed with neatness,
but occasionally have some pretensions to proportion. It appears to
be the meaning only that is desired, for paintings done by whites
correctly are not more appreciated as work of art, perhaps not so
much, as their own rude representations, but are looked upon with more
superstitious dread.

The explanation of the drawing (pl. 78) would be as follows: “We were
a party of 20 men (1) and stole 39 horses (2) from the Blackfeet” (see
the 39 horse tracks so marked going away from the camp). “The camp
turned out, killed one of us” (see the picture of a hand pointing
toward their enemy’s camp (3) and a scalped man drawn) “and recaptured
from us 14 horses (4)” (see the 14 tracks going back to camp, each
track always standing for a horse). “We forted and fought with them”
(see (1) representing a brush fort and the men therein; the guns
pointing toward the fort (5) are those of their enemies and the others
signify the firing kept up by themselves).

“In the battle three of us were wounded and six horses killed” (see
6 representing a wounded man, and six horses stationary, seven; that
is, going neither way, proving them to be unable to travel). “We got
off with 19 horses” (8) (this being the tracks of horses leaving the
fort); “the first night we encamped on the plains near a spring” (9)
(the dotted line shows the path, and 9 is intended to represent a small
fort or sleeping place, with another dotted line to the left where
the spring (10) is marked). “In the encampment we left a wounded man
(6); we made two more encampments after that, when we now leave this
painting and intend pursuing our course home to the right. A band of
buffalo (11) was seen on the opposite side of the river on a creek
while the battle was going on, which are all we have yet seen.” (These
marks mean buffalo tracks.)

The end of the dotted line is as far as they have then gone, and other
marks show the road they intend to pursue, but if they expect to get
home without sleeping the dotted line is made as far as the lodges.

Explanation of Plate 79.—“We are a party of 10 men (1), have stolen
21 horses (2) from the Blackfeet and taken a scalp (3), but lost
one of our own party. The first night we forted on a creek (4), the
second night we slept on the prairie in a small fort at the foot of
some timbered hills (5), the third night we slept at a lake (6), the
fourth at a spring (7) where we are now. We intend to make three more
encampments to get to our lodges, which are on the head of the next
river (8). These figures (9) represent the lodges of their enemies,
and the horses’ tracks going from the lodges, indicating them to
have been stolen, each single mark (10) counting a horse. The guns,
bows, and lances show the party to be 10 (1). The hand pointing the
direction in which they are traveling and toward a scalp (11) intimates
that they have killed an enemy. The hand pointing the other way with
the scalp (12) explains they have lost one of their party. The dotted
line is their path home along a river and only extends as far as they
have traveled to the place where the painting was left. The number of
days they expect yet to travel to reach home are indicated by these
characters (8, 10), the one a brush fort, signifies the number of
encampments, and the horse track with it means it is the road they
intend to travel.”














As has been several times mentioned in these pages, one of the
principal ways of passing time at night in an Indian camp is the
recital of fables for their amusement. Most old men and women can
recount these stories, but there are some particularly famed for their
talents in this respect, and these are compensated for their trouble
by feasting, smoking, and small presents. At night, when all work is
over, a kettle is put on containing some choice meat, tobacco mixed
with weed prepared, the lodge put in order, the family collected, and
the story-teller invited, who often prolongs his narrations the greater
part of the night. Some of the tales are of a frightful kind, and to
their impression on young minds is no doubt mainly to be attributed
the fear of ghost monsters and other imaginary supernatural powers
exhibited by most Indians when grown.

We have taken some pains to call together a few of the most famed and
sensible story-tellers and listened with much patience to a great many
of their allegories, but find nothing in any of them bearing on their
ideas of a future state.[55] The circumstances and actors portrayed
do not reveal the actual notions of the tribe on their religion as it
now exists but are founded on their ancient mythology and handed down
complete in their details through successive generations, and their
real significance, if they ever had any further than amusement, is now
lost or absorbed in their manner of worship as referred to in these

[55] This inference on the part of Denig indicates that he was not
cognizant of the facts, poetically expressed, conveyed by native
Indian myths, and so he reached the false conclusion that all myths
are no more nor less than simple fictions, when, in fact, except in
their verbal dress, they are true. He failed to interpret rightly the
metaphorical diction.

Nevertheless, we can discern in them a probability of their being the
real belief of their ancestors in their primitive ignorance, before
their superstitions and religions had assumed a systematic form and
tangible shape. This much may be inferred by the tacit acknowledgment
of their truth apparent in the auditors and the unwillingness evinced
by all to hear them ridiculed or contradicted. We think the truth of
the matter is these tales were believed and formed a portion if not the
greater part of the religion of their ancestors, are reverenced for
their antiquity and originality, together with a lingering uncertainty
as to their having actually transpired in times long passed. This may
be deduced from the evident veneration with which some of them are
regarded, and from the fact that there are no new fables made at the
present day, nor any one who possesses or professes the character of
a myth maker. These stories are not added to or diminished, for if in
the telling the least circumstance be omitted the narrator is reminded
of the error and corrects it. In none of them is the creation of
animals or other objects, animate or inanimate, reasonably attempted,
though such things are alluded to in many absurd forms and grotesque
imaginings according with the general tenor of the tale. These, though
often trifling in their details, present a connected chain of events
and often contain a kind of moral, that is, a double meaning as
observed in the one relating to the formation of the Ursa Major and
Polar Star, before inserted.

None of these serve to demonstrate to the young the power and ubiquity
of Wakoñda.[56] This awful principle is too much feared to be lightly
introduced in common conversation or connected with amusing tales,
though inferior demons and minor supernatural powers with a great
variety of figures of the imagination, such as monsters, ghosts,
giants, beasts with reasoning powers, transformation, and works of
necromancy, are represented.

[56] This statement is highly questionable, since these Indians show a
deep reverence for Wakoñda, the highest God of their pantheon, as may
be learned from various passages in Denig’s own report.

There does not appear to be much useful instruction conveyed by any of
these oral tales, but they are resorted to as a source of amusement.
Stories related by us to them from books, such as the fables of Æsop or
those from the “Arabian Nights,” are listened to with great attention
and sought after as eagerly as their own fiction. Moreover, they can,
when these fables are plainly narrated, not only comprehend the literal
meaning but appreciate the moral when it is pointed, not in its moral
sense but as a necessary conclusion arising from the circumstances
related. The only objection to recording many of these tales is their
interminable length, one frequently occupying two or three hours in
its recital. So remarkably long are they that the auditors are apt to
become sleepy, and the narrator, if not responded to occasionally to
convince him of their attention, breaks off and abruptly takes his
leave. We now subjoin some of these stories that may serve to show
the scope of imagination involved and that others may form their own
opinions regarding their interest and utility.



A long time ago there lived a great chief of a powerful nation, but
he was a fearful and desperate man. He had killed six of his wives at
different times in fits of passion, and at the time of our story had
separated from his people, being jealous of his wife, and placed his
lodge alone on the bank of a small stream. His family consisted of
his wife, a boy say 12 years old, and a girl about 10 years, both his
children by the woman now with him. The man went out hunting, and the
game being far off did not return for several days. In the meantime
the woman continued her domestic duties at home. Being in the timber
in quest of wood, she struck her ax on a hollow tree and a great
many snakes came forth, one of which[57] was large and handsome, had
a fascinating eye and horns upon his head, spoke sweet words to the
woman, and in the end succeeded in seducing her. Her husband returned
and inquired of her “What had become of the paint on her face, which
he put there before starting?” She made some hesitating answer and he
suspected all was not right and determined to watch. In the course of
a few days he gave out that he was again going hunting and might be
absent some time, as he had not yet seen game. He as usual painted
his wife’s face and departed. In place of going to hunt he hid in the
bushes to watch his wife, who made her visits to the snake’s nest,
striking on the tree and calling on the horned snake in terms of
endearment to come forth. The snake came out, and the husband witnessed
the infidelity of his wife.

[57] The Fire Dragon or Mateor—Son of the gods.

He remained a day or two near the place, and each day observed his
wife to repair to the snake’s den for like purposes. He then returned
home. She was absent, but returned in a short time. “My wife,” said he,
“I have killed a deer some distance off; go and get the meat.” After
having received instructions as to where the meat was to be found, the
woman departed with her dogs to bring it. In the meantime her husband
went into the bushes, struck with his battle ax on the snake’s house,
saying, “My husband, come forth,” imitating the voice of his wife. The
reptile sallied out with all his family and the Indian destroyed them
all with his battle ax. Gathering up the snakes, he carried them home
and cooked them by boiling them to a jelly. His wife returned without
finding any meat (as indeed there was none), and found her husband
sitting down sharpening a huge flint ax. He invited her to sit down,
and observing that she must be hungry after such a long travel, poured
into a bowl the mess of snakes, which he handed to his wife, who,
thinking it was some other kind of meat, ate the whole. After she had
feasted, the man said, “You have eaten your beloved husband, the snake,
and now you shall follow him.” He rose up and cut her head off at one
stroke of his sharp ax. A storm arose, the wind blew, the thunder
rolled, and the man disappeared in a whirlwind of dust and was caught
up in the air. The children, much frightened at all this, ran out of
the lodge over the prairie, never ceasing their speed until they were
at some distance.

On stopping to rest themselves they looked back and beheld the Head of
their mother rolling after them, calling on them to stop.[58]

[58] The Whirlwind that took up her husband.

This frightened them more and they continued their flight. The Head
rolling after them was now very near and the children were very tired.
The boy threw his knife behind him and immediately the prairie was
bristling with knives, through which the Head on endeavoring to pass
was cut in a dreadful manner, and stopped in its course. The children
continued their way. A fox came to where the Head lay, and the Head
said, “My friend, I am in want of a husband, will you marry me?” “You
are too ugly,” replied the fox and disappeared into his hole. The Head
followed the fox, who being afraid of it, when he arrived at the end
of the burrow commenced digging farther in great haste, the Head still
following and calling on the fox to stop. But the animal dug very
fast, and finding he could not escape from the Head in this way came
out to the surface of the earth near where the children were. The Head
also came out and, perceiving them, rolled after them, coaxing them to
stop, but they ran forward until they arrived at the top of a hill.
The little girl said, “My brother, I am tired, throw something else
behind you, the Head is close upon us.” He threw his awl and up rose
innumerable awls on the prairie which, pointing toward the Head, formed
a barrier which it could not pass. The children continued their flight.
A badger appeared alongside of the Head. The Head said to it, “My fine
fellow, I wish to marry you. Will you be my husband?” “Your face is too
ugly and bloody for me,” said the badger, and disappeared in his hole.

The Head followed the badger, who like the fox continued digging
underneath the ground, making a road underneath the awls in the
direction the children were going, so that the Head came out again to
where they were seated resting themselves. On seeing it they again
ran forward, the Head after them calling on them to stop, but they
were afraid. Again did the little girl get tired and ask her brother
to save them by throwing something behind him. He threw his tinder or
spunk, and immediately the prairie took fire, spreading out behind
them, burning the Head to a cinder, leaving nothing but the bones.
The children traveled on. A wolf this time came near the Head and, as
with the fox and badger, was desired by the Head to become her husband.
“You are nothing but a frightful ghost,” exclaimed the wolf, and ran
into his hole. The Head followed, the wolf dug, and in the end the Head
again came out near the children. They ran forward and arrived at the
bank of a large river. Two cranes were standing on the bank. The boy
requested the cranes to carry them over. One of the cranes asked the
boy, “How does my breath smell?” “Very sweet,” said he, “as though you
had eaten service berries.” “Good,” replied the crane, “now both of you
get on my back.” They being seated, the bird flew across and landed
them in safety on the opposite shore. In the interim the Head came to
where the other crane was standing and commanded it to bear it over
immediately, as it was in a great hurry to overtake the children. The
bird proposed the same question. “How does my breath smell?” “It smells
of stinking fish,” replied the Head. “Good,” said the crane, “now get
on my back.”

The Head having placed itself, the bird flew, and when about the middle
of the stream shook the Head off its back in the water, which on
falling cried out, “Now, I go to dwell among the fishes!”

The children perceiving they were freed from their tormentor continued
their route more at leisure, and after traveling some days they arrived
at a large camp very hungry and very tired. It was the camp of their
father, and he was there as its chief. When he saw his children he
abused them for having a bad mother, would not let any person give
them food nor take them into their lodge. He brought cords, bound the
children’s hands, and taking them outside the camp raised them into
a tree, tied them both together and to the top limb of a large tree.
He then ordered the whole camp to move off and thus left his children
to perish. After all had gone he again looked that his children were
secure and examined the camp to see that no one remained behind, but
perceived nothing but a little old dog lying on an extinguished fire,
with his head in a large shell for a pillow, apparently sick. “Why do
you remain behind the camp?” inquired the man. “Because I am sick and
can not travel,” answered the dog. The man was enraged, told the dog to
begone, kicked it, but he only howled and would not raise his feet. The
chief after beating the old dog so that he thought him dead left and
followed his people. As soon as he departed and was out of sight the
dog rose and sought the tree where the children were, commenced gnawing
at the root of it, and in four days and nights it fell to the ground.

He then gnawed off their cords, which occupied two nights more, and
the children found themselves free but so very weak they could not
travel. The little old dog rambled through the ground where the camp
had been placed, discovered a piece of rotten wood afire, and brought
it to where the children were. He gathered other branches and made them
a comfortable fire, at which they warmed themselves. The little boy
covered his eyes with his hands and hung his head, his sister cried,
they were very hungry and very miserable. “Look, my brother, what a
fine herd of elk is near!” the girl exclaimed as about 50 of those
animals came walking toward them. The boy looked at them, wishing
they were dead so that they might have meat, and as soon as he looked
upon them they all fell dead. They went to them, and, having no knife
wherewith to skin them, the boy wished them skinned, and in a moment
they were so. He now began to see the power granted him, which was
to look upon and wish for anything he desired. By the same means he
produced the elk skins dressed and made into a large lodge, far larger
than any of his people, which was erected, and the meat of the elk
piled around the lodge on scaffolds outside. In the interior was an
apartment for the little old dog. They were now happy.

Day after day large herds of buffalo came near the lodge, and on
looking at them the boy killed them, skinned them, and placed the meat
on scaffolds, cut up and dried.

When he thought he had enough he made a feast to the magpies and
desired one of them to take along some fat meat and fly in the
direction of the camp to endeavor, if possible, to overtake them. The
bird left and after flying some days arrived at the camp. They were
all starving, having had no meat for a long time. Some of the men
were playing ball in the middle of the camp. The magpie advanced and
dropped a large depouille among them and all scrambled to get a share.
They inquired of the bird where he got the meat, and received the
information, together with the news, that a great deal of meat was on
scaffolds, enough to feed the whole camp. The father of the children
was the chief; he called a council and determined on going back to the
large supply of food, but knew it belonged to his children from the
description given of them by the magpie. In due time the camp arrived
at the boy’s lodge and placed their tents. The boy sat in his lodge,
his head down, and his eyes covered with his hands. All the camp with
his father at their head came around begging him for meat. But the boy
answered not a word, neither did he look up. The rest had no power to
take the meat, not even to approach the scaffolds. The second day after
their arrival his sister said, “Do, my brother, come out and look what
a fine camp of our people are here.” He went, looked, and all fell dead
in their lodges, or wherever they happened to be. At this the little
old dog began to cry and besought the boy to revive his (the dog’s)
relations, who fell with the others. “Show me them,” said the boy.
“They shall live.”

He went with the dog through the camp, who pointed out his sisters
and brothers, all lying dead. The boy revived them by looking upon
them.[59] After a short time the little girl said, “My brother, it is
a great pity so many fine men and women should die. Look upon them and
let them live again.” The boy did as desired and the whole camp was
again called to life and motion.

[59] In Chippewa and cognate Algonquian dialects the Life God,
Nanabozho (i. e., Inabi‘ōzio‘), was created, mythic tradition explains,
by a look of the Great Father Spirit in the heavens, gazing down
through the Sun as His shield. Such is the literal meaning of this
illuminating designation.

He then made a feast, called all of them together, distributed the
meat, and told them of the conduct of their father toward them. The boy
was made chief of the camp, the little old dog was transformed into a
man and became the first soldier, and the father was degraded to be a
scullion and bearer of burdens for the whole.


An old woman lived in a lodge alone except her children, and raised
corn in a garden. One of her little boys was shooting birds with arrows
in the garden, when on a sudden appeared a sack full of rice, which,
dancing up and down before the boy, sung out, “My nephew, shoot me and
eat me, my nephew, shoot me and eat me.” (This part is sung by the
narrator.) The boy shot an arrow into the sack and all the rice spilled
on the ground. Here the story ends with a general laugh.


The whole surface of the earth was at a time covered with water; in
fact, no land existed but at the bottom of this great ocean. Seven
persons were on a raft, viz., five men and two women. These were the
first Gros Ventres, besides whom the only living objects visible were
a Frog, a Muskrat, a Crow, and a Spider. The men, wishing for land and
being informed in a dream how to act, told the Muskrat to dive to the
bottom of the water and try to bring up a portion of earth. The being
plunged, remained a long time under, but appeared without any. He was
ordered to try again, and dived still farther, remaining under a much
longer time, but reappeared with nothing. Again and again he plunged
and at last disappeared for such a length of time that all thought he
was drowned, but he rose to the surface, stretching out his claws to
those on the raft, saying, “I have brought it,” and immediately expired
from exhaustion. They drew in the being and scraped from between his
claws a small portion of earth which they made into a flat cake, set
it on the water, and behold it spread rapidly in every direction.
They then called the Crow, gave it directions to fly as far as the
earth extended. The bird departed but did not return, from which they
concluded it to be so extensive that the Crow could not come back.

Being in possession of land, and seeing all was damp and cold and
barren, they wished for spring to make something grow, and inquired
of the frog how many moons remained until spring would come. The Frog
said, “Seven,” but the Spider contradicted it, called him a liar, on
which a quarrel ensued, and the Spider beat the Frog to death with a
stick. The latter, on dying, stretched out his legs toward the men,
indicating seven by the claws thereon. The eldest of the party and head
of the whole, whom they called their father, not being certain whether
the Frog told the truth, started two of the others (brothers), both
very brave and venturesome, with orders to travel in quest of spring.
They set out eastward and in six months arrived at warm weather, where
they found spring bundled up and placed on a scaffold, the packages
consisting of flowers, seeds, turnips, roots, etc. Two large Cranes
were standing beneath the scaffold, which the brothers loaded with
the “spring season” and ordered them to fly back to their people. The
birds started, and in another month arrived with their cargo safe, thus
verifying the predictions of the Frog, which so enraged the men against
the Spider that they put him to death, and he is to this day despised
and crushed by all, while the frogs every spring sing forth the praises
of their truthful ancestor.

The travelers, having accomplished their mission, bent their course
westward to explore the new country, and after a long time came to the
Rocky Mountains.

In one of the valleys between the mountains they perceived a motion
in the earth at a certain spot as though it was boiling or as though
some animal was endeavoring to get out. One of the brothers proposed
shooting an arrow into it, but the other objected and requested him
to let it alone. The former was, however, a very obstinate, reckless
man who never would listen to good advice, and shot an arrow into the
spot. A whirlwind gushed out, and rose up in the air in a round black
column, bearing the two men up along with it. Higher and higher they
rose until so far above the earth that they could not see it. The
wind now carried them eastward for several days, when at length they
descended to earth on the other side of the sea. Here they rambled
about some time and found an old woman working in a cornfield from
whom they begged something to eat. She gave them a mess of corn and
potatoes. After having eaten they inquired of her if she could inform
them how they could get back to their family. She said she could, but
they must implicitly follow her directions or some harm would befall
them. After they had made the required promises she took them to the
seashore, made a sacrifice of some corn to the water and invoked the
appearance of the Wau-wau-kah. Immediately afar off appeared an object
moving over the surface of the water, spouting it out high in the air,
and, approaching with great rapidity, soon arrived at the place where
the travelers stood. The being thus conjured up had the head of a man,
though of monstrous size, and out of which projected two horns as large
as the largest trees.

The body was that of a beast covered with long black hair, the tail
was like that of a very large fish and covered with scales, and it was
endowed with a spirit. To this monster the woman gave directions and
made two seats in its horns like large birds’ nests, one in either
antler, in each of which she placed a man, in one a sack of corn and
in the other a sack of potatoes. Spreading out her hands and invoking
the sun, the monster at her desire departed with its cargo and in a
great many days arrived at the opposite shore in safety. The old woman
had instructed the travelers that immediately on landing they should
sacrifice to the waters, by throwing in a little corn. One of them
did so, but the obstinate brother would not. Being reproached by the
monster for not following the advice of the woman he shot an arrow
into it and was immediately swallowed up by the beast. The remaining
brother was in great distress at this, and, recollecting the conduct of
the old woman, made a sacrifice of some corn. Stretching out his hands
he invoked the Sun to his aid. Immediately a dark round spot appeared
in the west which came forward with terrible velocity and a whistling
sound, increasing in size and speed as it approached. This was a
thunder stone, which, with an awful report and bright flash, struck the
monster on the back, separated it in two, and the man was liberated. A
terrible storm arose, the sea rolled, and the monster disappeared.

They now bent their course westward and after many days came to a
lodge inhabited by an old man and his family, from whom they begged
something to eat. He showed them immense herds of buffalo, apparently
tame, and all black except two, which were milk white. He told them to
kill whichever they wished, but not to destroy more than they wanted
for food or clothing. The good brother killed a fat cow, which, being
more than they wanted, he took the rest of the meat to the old man’s
lodge. The other remained behind and shot arrows into a great many
buffalo uselessly, for which the old man reproached him. After having
feasted they were about departing when the old man showed them a great
number of ducks and geese. “These,” said he, “with the buffalo, are our
life; treat them well.” On the old man’s leaving the Indian who had no
ears commenced killing the birds with a club and made great havoc. The
old man returned and said, “You have done wrong, you are a bad man,
evil will befall you, the Wau-wau-kah shall bar your road home to your
people. But your brother is a good man, has ears, and for his sake
some of my buffalo will follow him home to his people, and the white
cowskin shall be his fetish to remember me by.” They separated; the
travelers pursued their journey and encamped on the prairie at the foot
of what they supposed was a mountain, but which was the Wau-wau-kah
lying across their road. In the morning they advanced to go around
it, but, turn whichever way they would, the monster turned with them
and obstructed their way, so that the whole day was spent in useless
efforts to get forward.

The good brother proposed sacrificing some corn to appease it, but the
other became very angry and would not listen to any peaceful measures.
He collected immense piles of buffalo dung all around the monster and
set it on fire, by which the Wau-wau-kah was roasted alive. The smell
of the roast being savory he cut out a slice and ate it, offering
some to his brother, who, however, would not taste thereof. In the
morning they continued their way, the buffalo following at a distance.
At rising the ensuing morning the one who had eaten the flesh of the
monster said, “Look, my brother, what handsome fine black hair is
growing from my body.” The other looked and beheld the hair of the
beast. On the next morning he said, “Look at my head, my brother,
horns are coming out upon it,” and so it was. On the third morning he
said, “Look at my legs, my brother, fish scales are growing there.”
Each and every morning when they arose the Indian was assuming more
and more the shape and appearance of the Wau-wau-kah. In the course
of a few days his body was completely covered with hair, his head was
furnished with horns of a monstrous size, and his legs were growing
together in the form of a fish. They traveled on, the body and entire
shape of the Indian rapidly increasing in size and appearance to that
of the monster whose flesh he had eaten. They now proceeded slowly,
owing to the difficulty the one experienced in walking by the change
he was undergoing, and this impediment increasing in proportion as his
extremities gradually assumed the form of a fish.

In the course of time they arrived at the mouth of the Yellowstone
and encamped for the last time together. The change was now nearly
completed, and when they arose in the morning behold a complete
Wau-wau-kah was presented, who said to the other, “Depart, I am no
more your brother; I am no more a man; I am either your friend or
your enemy, according to the way you treat me. Leave. You will find
your people several days’ travel down on the banks of the Missouri.
Take them the corn. Yonder stand the buffalo you have brought; they
will follow you home. You will become a powerful nation. Each and
every year they must sacrifice some corn to me by throwing it into the
Missouri, or the wind shall blow, the rain fall, the water rise and
destroy your crops. As for me, I shall be separated here; my head will
go up into the clouds and govern the wind, my tail fall into the water
and become a monstrous fish to disturb it. My body will rove through
the Rocky Mountains; my bones may be found, but my spirit will never
die. Depart, you have ears and a good heart.”

At the close of this speech the winds blew, the thunder rolled, the
lightning flashed, and a terrible storm arose, amidst which the monster
disappeared. The other returned to his people, told them the story of
his travels, and to this day corn is sacrificed to the Missouri by the
Gros Ventres to appease the spirit of the Wau-wau-kah.


[60] For the recording and interpretation of Siouan music see Miss
Frances Densmore, Bull. 61, Bur. Amer. Ethn.

The construction of the Indian flute and music produced by it have
already been described, although we are not able to state in what
manner, if any, it resembles the Arcadian pipe.

Most ceremonies, dances, public demonstrations of joy or grief, and
other matters of general interest are accompanied by songs, which have
appropriate names, but these chants are for the most part only tunes
or modulations of voices in concert, with the introduction of a few
words in some of them. They are in fact a continued chorus consisting
chiefly in repeating the meaningless syllables “Hai-yah, hai-yah,
hai-ai-ai-yah-ah-ah, hai-yah, he-e-e-ah, hai-yah,” etc., fast or slow
as required by the nature of the song. Where words are introduced they
are composed of five or six syllables or three or four words, bearing
some relation to the event which is honored with the song, but are of
no consequence, so that all question regarding their rhyme or poetical
compositions may be passed over in silence. The tune is generally begun
by one person pitching it, who after singing a few notes, is joined
by the whole choir, or sometimes, as in the scalp song, the women add
their voices in the second part of the tune, where the name of the
warrior who killed the enemy is mentioned. The modulations are bold and
wild, by no means discordant or disagreeable, and they are remarkable
for keeping very exact time either with the voice, drums, or feet, and
where words are added they are so few, and the syllables so separated
to accord as scarcely to be understood or distinguished from the rest
of the chant.

The songs are measured, accents occur at fixed and regular intervals,
being mostly the same in beats as the Scotch reel time. The effect
intended is produced by action, energy of voice and motion, costume,
and the wild intonations of the time, not from words repeated. These
songs are suitable to the occasion, and the whole when well got up has
a decidedly unique appearance, singularly correspondent in all its
component parts. These chants are very difficult for us to learn and
scarcely less so to describe, but are preferred by them to any music,
vocal or instrumental, of white performers yet presented to them. The
length of a tune is about equal to eight bars of our common time, and
the syllables to each beat vary from four to eight, but in some of
the medical songs the intonation is so rapid as scarcely to admit of
being counted. Songs for dancing, medicine (that is, the practice of
healing), and on other assemblies are generally accompanied with drums,
bells, rattles, flutes, and whistles, of all of which the drum is the
principal instrument, for though on some occasions all of them and
several of each kind are used, yet there are none in which the drum is
not used, but several where the rest are dispensed with.

Independent of public songs, singing is a very common amusement for
the young men at nights, principally to attract the attention of the
females, and often intended as signals for secret assignations.

Subjoined is a list of most of their songs, in reading over which it
will be observed that there are none denominated “Hunting songs,” that
employment not being celebrated in song in any way, either for success
or failure, unless the incantative song by the Master of the Park to
bring the buffalo toward it would be construed in that light. The uses
of the others can be traced in their names, taken in connection with
what has already been written concerning their ceremonies. The words
“do-wan” attached to all means “a song.”


         Indian name       |    Interpretation     |     Occasion, etc.
  Wah-kit-tai´ do-wan      |Scalp song             |More than ten different
                           |                       |  kinds.
  Chan-du´-pah do-wan      |Incantation Pipe song  |Two or three varieties.
  Tah-tun´-gah do-wan      |Bull song              |In the Bull dance; also
                           |                       |  used in the park.
  Te-chagh´-ah do-wan      |Incantation Lodge song |Religious.
  Cong-ghai´ do-wan        |Crow song              |In Crow dance and before
                           |                       |  starting to war.
  Pai-hun-ghe-nah do-wan   |White Crane song       |Incantation—in the song
                           |                       |  of that name.
  Nap-pai´-she-ne do-wan   |Song of the Braves     |In the dance of “Ceux qui
                           |                       |  sauve pas.”
  Ah-kitchetah do-wan      |Soldiers’ song         |Used at the soldiers’
                           |                       |  dance.
  To-kah-nah do-wan        |Foxes’ song            |In the dance of that band.
  Ah-do-wah                |Diviner’s song for     |About 20 different kinds.
                           |  the sick             |
  At-to-do-wah             |Tattooing song         |Sung while performing
                           |                       |  that operation.
  Opah-ghai do-wan         |Gathering of the kins  |Called also the thunder
                           |                       |  song (incantation).
  Och-pi-e-cha-ghah do-wan |Buffalo Park song      |Incantation.
  Shunga-tunga do-wan      |Horse song             |In the whip dance.
  Shunk to-ka-chah do-wan  |Wolf song              |Sung on starting to war.
  To-shan do-wan           |Drinking songs         |More than ten varieties.
  We do-wan                |Sun song               |Religious.
  We-chah-nauge do-wan     |Song to the dead       |Lament.
  Hoonk-o´-hon do-wan      |Song of thanks         |Several.
  Wah-ghunh´-ksecha        |                       |
    do-wan                 |Bear song              |Medicine.
  We-coo-ah                |Love song              |About 10 varieties.
  Nap-pai-e-choo do-wan    |Hand gambling song     |
  Hampah-ah-he-yah         |Moccasin gambling song |
  We-hhnoh´-hhnoh          |Incantation song and   |
                           |  feast                |
  Tsh-kun do-wan           |Women’s dance song     |Where women only perform.
  Opon do-wan              |Elk song               |Medicine for elk,
                           |                       |  religious.

Their drums are of two kinds. The most common is made like a tambourine
without its bells, the skin forming the head being stretched over the
hoop while wet and kept there by sinews being passed through it and the
hoop a few inches apart. (Pl. 80, fig. 1.) The inside portions of the
skin have cords made of sinew extending across from several places,
meeting in the middle and forming a handle to hold it up by (2). It is
held up in one hand and beaten with a stick by the other, no more beats
being made than are necessary to correspond with the accents of the
notes, thus preserving the time.

The other kind of drum is made of a piece of hollow dry tree about
2½ feet long, scraped to a shell and smooth inside and out,
resembling in shape a staff churn (3). The head or skin is stretched on
the smaller end with a hoop, which is retained in its place by sinews
passed through. The other is left open. When beaten but one stick is
used, the drum being set on end. Both are often painted with different
devices. The rattles, wag-ga-mó (Sioux) or Chi-chi-quoin (Cree), were
originally and in a measure still are gourds dried with the seeds in,
or after being dried the seeds, etc., are taken out and pebbles put
in (4). Others are made of the rawhide of elk stretched over a slight
frame of woodwork while wet and dried in that shape, pebbles being put
therein at holes left in the top or in the handle (5 and 6). No. 7 is
the rattle used by the “braves” in their dance. It is made of rawhide
like the rest, but in the form of an open ring.

No. 8 is the rattle made out of deer and antelope hoofs scraped
thin and light, reduced in size, and a number of each attached to
small strings, so closely that they clash together when shaken. The
flute (9) is made of wood, and the whistle (10) is the wing bone of
a swan. These have before been described. From what has preceded it
will be understood that there are no verses in their songs evincing
their patriotism, or other chants representing their triumphs; that
all is chorus and tune. Their laments for the dead are of the same
description, adding a few words and calling upon the departed by
stating the degree of relationship, the few mournful words to deplore
their loss, and the rest of the chant is in meaningless ejaculations.

Their music is never recorded nor have they such things as music boards
or bark songs. In their bacchanalian songs they often repeat catches
of whatever comes into their minds at the time, adapting the words
to the song, but these words or any particular expressions do not
properly belong to the songs, which in their original are of the same
description as the others.

Many lullabies are sung to children by their mothers, but as usual
but few words introduced, consisting mostly of humming of different
tunes to put them to sleep, adding sometimes, “Sleep, sleep, my pretty
child,” or “Red fox come here; you will get a marrow bone to eat”—this
when they are 2 or 3 years old.

There is nothing in their painting or sculpture worthy of notice.
All are rude drawings and carvings scarcely intelligible without


The nations we write of are as yet in their savage state. But few
steps have been taken by them in the path of knowledge. Their original
manners and customs, if not entire, are but slightly changed, their
superstitions the same as their ancestors, and their minds deplorably
void of moral truth or useful science. Their idol worship remains
undisturbed by religious teachers, and the humane efforts in this
respect, extended to China and the South Seas, are withheld from the
coppered brethren residing next door.

There are some points not to be overlooked, inasmuch as they have a
general bearing upon the whole race, involving a subject of great
interest to which the foregoing details form but the prelude. The
principal of those to which we allude is this: “How far has knowledge,
art, and commerce, and the progress of civilization, affected the
improvement of the Indians, and changed or modified their original
manners, customs, and opinions?”

As art and knowledge are yet in their infancy among them and as has
been stated but little improvement in their moral condition is visible,
yet great and important changes have been brought about by the commerce
of trade, without which any plan for their future advancement would be
retarded a century, and by correct appreciation of which views can be
formed regarding contemplated measures for their prosperity.

In the foregoing pages, which present their savage life in detail,
nothing speculative has been ventured upon, no conjectures hazarded,
by us or by anyone well acquainted with the wild tribes, nor will any
new opinions be perceived. The whole is merely a collection of facts,
thrown together in the form of answers to certain questions without
further comment than necessary for their illustration and clothed in
the simplest garb of verbiage to facilitate their comprehension.

When we entered the fur trade in the spring of 1833, now 21 years
since, all the Indians herein treated of, from the Sioux to the
Blackfeet, inclusive, were much more ignorant in everything, degrading
in their habits, slovenly in appearance, and barbarous in their actions
than they now are. Life was then held by a slight tenure, crime was
frequent, atrocious disorder and family feuds were general, and their
occupations confined to slaughtering their enemies, murdering each
other, and providing for their families only in extremes of necessity.

The traders of the Columbia Fur Co. and after them those of the
American Fur Co. were men of ability, honesty, and truth. In the course
of their dealings, intermarriages, and conversations with the Indians,
the minds of the latter were enlarged, a different train of thought
and action engendered, new desires created which gave a stimulus to
industry, which raised the Indian from the level of the brute to the
standing of an intellectual being.

The enmities formerly existing between different bands of the same
nations, arising from the petty jealousies of chiefs or private family
animosities, were soldered up by the traders. To be sure their object
in this was personal gain, but that is immaterial, the beneficial
results arising from their traffic, etc., were consolidation of force
and interest of the Indians, unity of purpose and action, entailing
order in their government, a great diminution of family feuds and
private quarrels, and an application of their time to the comfort
and welfare of their families instead of its being spent in bloody
contention or domestic idleness or discord.

The introduction of firearms, metallic cooking utensils, and other
tools gave them a greater reliance on their own powers, increased
their hunting operations, and with them their domestic comfort, by
these means withdrawing their attention from their barbarous practices
and opening a new field for their exertions. With the substituting of
European instruments and clothing arose a different kind of pride than
that of olden time. The distinguishing features of the original savage
were fierceness, obstinate will, and bloody determination, leading to
barbarous and disgusting practices. Their women were worse than slaves,
the extent of their labor was more than they could bear. With the stone
ax, the bone awl, the clay pot, the rib knife, and all their primitive
tools, even their most pressing wants were met with great difficulty.
The process of procuring fuel alone was one of much toil, and occupied
most of the time of one female to a lodge. On account of their
inadequate instruments for dressing hides their clothing was wretched,
often insufficient to protect from cold or to cover with decency.

Commerce has changed all this by facilitating their means, and the
character of their women has risen from a state of intolerable slavery
to one of ordinary labor scarcely more servile than that of European
female operatives. Their persons are cleanly dressed, combed, and
adorned, a desire to appear genteel is manifested, a neatness in their
lodges and domestic arrangements perceptible, proving the transfer of
their time and ideas to these ends from those of original filth and
savage recklessness.

In former times the trade was carried on in their different camps by
paying a number of desperate men (Indians) to restrain the populace
from robbing the trader. This force was effective and necessary at the
time, because the wants of the Indians were so numerous and pressing,
their cupidity so great, that it was impossible for the trader publicly
to display his goods or deal with them on anything like fair terms.
And the Indians thus employed considered it an honorable station;
it flattered their pride to rely for protection on their bravery,
and no robberies could be committed nor the traders insulted without
killing these men at the door of the lodge, which was never attempted.
This gave rise to a body of men called soldiers, and the power first
invested in them by the traders formed a nucleus around which collected
a superior and coercive force, which, in the course of time, was
applied to their own civil organization, producing order in their
government, unity of action, and rendering effective the decisions by

The original natural authority was centered in the chiefs of small
bands, supported only by their family connections, who could not or
would not enforce decrees for general welfare nor interfere in any
public differences not touching their private interests. Power being
thus confined and circumscribed, separations into small camps took
place and minor subdivisions into heads of families, resembling in
this elementary form of government that of the ancient patriarchs who
as their interests jarred or covetousness increased made war upon each
other and were insufficient for any general purpose. But when the body
of soldiers was established and their efforts united to support the
chief and council, they soon collected in large bands, from two to four
or six hundred lodges each, entered into effective measures of defense
from the surrounding tribes, regulated their hunts to advantage, and by
this consolidation of interest extinguished the principal sources of
private discord. This was a great step in advancement produced by the
traders and their commerce, for through the chief and council as the
organ of public opinion and soldiers as its support the nation could be
spoken to, their interest consulted, their feelings known, and the mass
made to advance toward a further point of improvement.

Property by means of commerce having been acquired, rates of exchanges
established, and hunting operations enlarged and facilitated, other
things besides scalps became valuable in the eyes of the Indians.
Each having something to lose, perceived the necessity of respecting
the rights of others, giving rise to a spirit of compromise in
difficulties, so that arms were less resorted to in settling disputes,
payment in most cases superseding that ancient and barbarous custom;
also they evinced a disposition to aid each other in times of need,
which minor obligations bound still closer their hitherto feeble bonds
of society.

These were some of the effects of the introduction of commerce. A still
further improvement is visible in their expansion of ideas arising
from association with white traders, exhibited in their amelioration
of manners, desire for knowledge, doubts of their own superstitions,
increase of their vocabulary and modes for expressing thought,
reason supplying the place of passion, and the general usefulness
of the whole, resulting in their minds having been made capable of
comprehending religious or scientific instruction and their time and
talents to be applied to either their moral or spiritual welfare.

This is the point to which these wild tribes are supposed by us to have
arrived, but no further. Their future condition depends more upon their
white allies than themselves. Traders have instilled education enough
to serve their purposes and let them alone. It would be inexpedient for
them to do more.

It is also apparent, if their present attainments be not improved
upon by those in power, that they must recede, and in case of a
discontinuance of trade or a worse influx of whites, their now to them
useful organization must dissolve. In this event they must become
more miserable than at first, because the desires and necessities
induced by their partial elevation can not be satisfied from their
original resources, these having been lost and abandoned during their
advancement, consequently their present support withdrawn, their
hunting ruined, distress, famine, and dissolution as nations must
certainly follow.

If they are left in their present condition until the tide of
emigration has reached their as yet undisturbed hunting grounds, and
the green plains, now covered with multitudes of buffalo, shall be
strewn with innumerable grog shops, occupied by nests of gamblers,
and hordes of outlaws, bringing with their personal vices a host of
infectious diseases, where will the poor Indian be then? Bitter would
and should be the reflections of our great national reformers that they
had not in time stretched out a saving arm to the aborigines.

It may be said, point out a way, state some feasible plan. Heretofore
our policy has been lame, and our efforts retarded by our being
but partially informed as to their capacity of improvement, or the
practicability of bettering their condition.

To all this we would answer the course to be pursued is plain and can
be easily gathered from these pages, which, like other productions
of the kind, most probably will be thrown aside as soon as read
or disbelieved because the facts recorded do not coincide with
preconceived notions of Indian character.

We do not feel ourselves called upon by the inquiry to present a plan
of operations, neither do we feel capable of instructing superior men.
A plain statement of facts is sought and herein presented, though more
could have been done had it been requested. Extensive establishments
having for their object the civilization of the Indians have already
been commenced with several nations within the boundaries of the
United States and have met with success. Let others be tried, adapting
the means to the situation and necessities of the roving tribes. A
sudden revolution of feeling, an entire change in their habits and
occupations, can not immediately be expected, would not be natural,
neither would it be durable, but a gradual change brought about
in their present employments, by combining them with pastoral and
agricultural pursuits, a judicious introduction of mechanical arts,
their superstitions carefully undermined and replaced by moral truth,
their temporal welfare consulted, and a certain chance of subsistence
presented; these things being accomplished, the eyes of the present
grown generation would close in the rising prosperity of their children.

We perceive in the closing remarks of the inquiry these words: “In all
questions where the interests of the tribes clash with those of the
persons whom you may consult, there is much caution required.”

Now, our personal interests and those of every trader are at
direct variance with any innovations in the present employments or
organization of the Indians. Any improvement in their condition
mentally or the introduction of other pursuits such as arts and
agriculture, even the inculcation of the Christian religion, would
immediately militate against the trade and unfit the Indians for
being only hunters or being regarded only as a source of profit. We
are perfectly aware that the policy advised in these pages, if acted
upon, would effectually ruin the trade and with it our own personal
interest and influence in that capacity. All these things have been
well considered and had they any effect would only have led to our
remaining silent on the subject; but, having written, we prefer
placing things in their proper light, aiming at great general good, and
thus without further comment the whole is left in the hands of those
for whom it is intended.


The prairie tribes have not been much affected by intermarriages
with Europeans except the Cree. Most of the Red River settlement
of half-breeds are of Cree and Chippewa extraction, who though not
generally having the advantage of education, are, however, a bold,
hardy, and fearless people, invariably good-looking, active, and brave.
They unite hunting with agricultural operations but prefer the former,
the indisposition to work showing itself equally in the descendant as
in the original stock. Their parents and the Cree Nation generally
have been, if not benefited, much instructed by these people, and are
superior in intellectual acquirements to any of the other tribes. The
history of this settlement is no doubt well known to all, so that we
need not describe it here.

As far as these other tribes are concerned the only intermixture has
been of the fur traders and engagees of the fur company. Of these, all
that can afford it take their children to the States to be educated,
who usually make intelligent and respectable men. If it were not for
the popular prejudice existing, or if it were possible, we would advise
amalgamation of the races as the most efficient means for saving the
remnants of the Indian tribes.


Regarding the comparative population of these tribes with the years
1833 to 1854, the decrease is very great. Smallpox, cholera, measles,
and influenza, together with other diseases and wars, incidental to the
climate and their pursuits, have reduced the Sioux about one-third, the
Mandan three-fourths, the Arikara one-fifth, the Assiniboin one-half,
the Cree one-eighth, the Crows one-half, and the Blackfeet one-third
less than they were at the former period. They—that is, from the Sioux
up—are now slowly on the increase.


To answer the queries on this head would require a volume of itself,
but the Assiniboin being the same or nearly the same as the Sioux,
and as the Sioux has already been translated into the English
letters, books published in it, and the same taught in schools on the
Mississippi, it is presumed that any and all answers to these queries
can be obtained by procuring the books printed in the Sioux language
and by examining their manner of instruction. We have seen the New
Testament in that language, also several letters, and believe it to
be well adapted to the purpose of Christianity or general usefulness.
Should, however, it be the desire of the department that extensive
vocabularies be made out and explanations of their language given,
or should any other information regarding these tribes be sought, we
will at any time satisfy it on these topics, provided the efforts now
made for their instruction regarding the prairie tribes meet with the
success it is presumed to deserve.


The following bibliographical list of works is submitted to enable the
student to verify and extend the work of Mr. Denig.

Septentrionale. Tomes I-IV. Paris, 1722. (Same, Paris, 1753.)

CATLIN, GEORGE. Illustrations of the manners, customs, and condition of
the North American Indians. Vols. I-II. London, 1848.

    [To be used only with caution.]

CHITTENDEN, N. M., and RICHARDSON, A. T. Life, letters, and travels of
Father Pierre-Jean De Smet, S. J., 1801-1873. Vols. I-IV. New York,

COUES, ELLIOTT, ed. New light on the early history of the greater
Northwest. The manuscript journals of Alexander Henry and of David
Thompson, 1799-1814. Vols. I-III. New York, 1897.

DE SMET, FATHER PIERRE-JEAN. _See_ Chittenden, H. M., and Richardson,
A. T.

DORSEY, GEORGE A., and KROEBER, A. L. Traditions of the Arapaho. (Field
Col. Mus. Pub. 81, Anthrop. ser. vol. V, Chicago, 1903.)

DORSEY, J. OWEN. A study of Siouan cults. (Eleventh Ann. Rept. Bur.
Ethn., pp. 351-544, Washington, 1894.)

—— Siouan sociology. (Fifteenth Ann. Rept. Bur. Ethn., pp. 205-244,
Washington, 1897.)

DOBBS, ARTHUR. An account of the countries adjoining to Hudson’s Bay in
the north-west part of America. London, 1744.

FLETCHER, ALICE C. The Elk mystery or festival. Ogallala Sioux.
(Rept. Peabody Mus. Amer. Archaeol, and Ethn., vol. III, pp. 276-288,
Cambridge, 1881.)

—— Hae-thu-ska Society of the Omaha tribe. (Journ. Amer. Folk-Lore,
vol. V, pp. 135-144, Boston and New York, 1892.)

FRANKLIN, JOHN. Narrative of a journey to the shores of the Polar Sea.
Philadelphia, 1824.

30, pts. 1 and 2, Washington, 1907-1910.

    [The tribal and other articles in this work are arranged in
    alphabetical order.]

HAYDEN, F. V. On the ethnography and philology of the Indian tribes of
the Missouri Valley. (Trans. Amer. Philos. Soc., n. s. vol. XII, pt. 2,
Philadelphia, 1862.)

    [Largely based on information supplied him by Edwin T. Denig.]

HENRY, ALEXANDER. Travels and adventures in Canada, and in the Indian
Territories, between the years 1760 and 1776. New York, 1809.

—— _See also_ Coues, Elliott, ed.

HIND, HENRY YUEL. Narrative of the Canadian Red River Exploring
Expedition of 1857, and of the Assiniboine and Saskatchewan Exploring
Expedition of 1858. Vols. I-II. London, 1860.

JESUIT RELATIONS. Relations des Jesuites contenant ce qui s’est passe
de plus remarquable dans les missions des pères de la Compagnie de
Jesus dans la Nouvelle-France. Embrassant les années 1611-1672. Tomes.
I-III. Quebec, 1858.

—— Jesuit Relations and allied documents. Travels and explorations of
the Jesuit missionaries in New France, 1610-1791. Reuben Gold Thwaites,
editor. Vols. I-LXXIII. Cleveland, 1896-1901.

KELSEY, HENRY. A journal of a voyage and journey undertaken by Henry
Kelsey ... in anno 1691. With an Introduction by Arthur G. Doughty
and Chester Martin. _In_ The Kelsey Papers, published by the Public
Archives of Canada, ..., Ottawa, 1929.

    [He mentions “ye Stone Indians” and also has an “Account of
    these Indians beliefs and superstitions,” which seems to be the
    first sketch of the life and customs of the Plains Indians.]

KROEBER, ALFRED L. Ethnology of the Gros Ventre. (Anthrop. Papers Amer.
Mus. Nat. Hist., vol. I, pt. 4, New York, 1908.)

—— The Arapaho. (Bull. Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist, vol. XVIII, New York,

    _See also_ Dorsey, Geo. A., and Kroeber.

LEWIS, MERIWETHER, and CLARK, WM. Original journals of the Lewis and
Clark Expedition, 1804-1806. Reuben Gold Thwaites, editor. Vols.
I-VIII, New York, 1904-1905.

LA POTHERIE. _See_ Bacqueville de la Potherie.

LONG, JOHN. Voyages and travels of an Indian interpreter and trader,
describing the manners and customs of the North American Indians.
London, 1791.

LOWIE, ROBERT H. The Assiniboine. (Anthrop. Papers Amer. Mus. Nat.
Hist., vol. IV, pt. 1, New York, 1909.)

MARGRY, PIERRE. Decouvertes et etablissements des Francais dans l’ouest
et dans le sud de l’Amerique Septentrionale (1614-1754). Memoires et
documents originaux. Pts. I-VI. Paris, 1875-1886.

MAXIMILIAN, ALEX. P., PRINZ ZU WIED. Reise in das innere Nord-America
in den Jahren 1832 bis 1834. B. I-II. Coblenz, 1839-1841.

MOONEY, JAMES. Mescal plant and ceremony. (Therapeutic Gazette, 3d
ser., vol. XII, Detroit, 1896.)

—— Calendar history of the Kiowa Indians. (Seventeenth Ann. Rept.
Bur. Amer. Ethn., pt. 1, Washington, 1898.)

—— The Ghost-dance religion and the Sioux outbreak of 1890.
(Fourteenth Ann. Rept. Bur. Ethn., pt. 2, Washington, 1896.)

PERROT, NICOLAS. Memoire sur les Moeurs, Coustumes et Relligion des
Sauvages de l’Amerique Septentrionale, publie pour la premiere fois par
le R. P. J. Tailhan. Leipzig et Paris, 1864.

RADISSON, PETER ESPRIT. Voyages of Peter Esprit Radisson ... with
historical illustrations and an introduction by Gideon D. Scull. Publ.
Prince Society. Boston, 1885.

SCHOOLCRAFT, HENRY R. Historical and statistical information,
respecting the history, condition, and prospects of the Indian tribes
of the United States. Pts. I-VI. Philadelphia, 1851-1857.

    [In his fourth volume he publishes Denig’s Assiniboin

SCULL, GIDEON D. _See_ Radisson, Peter Esprit.

THWAITES, REUBEN GOLD, ed. Early western travels 1748-1846. Vols.
I-XXXII. Cleveland, 1904-1907.

WISSLER, CLARK. The Blackfoot Indians. (Annual Archaeol. Rept. for
1905. App. Rept. Min. Ed. Ont., pp. 162-178, Toronto, 1906.)


    KURZ, FREDERICK. Journal. Copy of translation in the archives
    of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution.
    1,076 typewritten pages with 125 drawings.



ABORTION, means used to produce                            521

ACCOUNTS, method of keeping                            420-421

ADOPTION OF CAPTIVES                                       552

ADULTERY, punishment of                                    482
 _See also_ INFIDELITY

ADVANCEMENT OF TRIBES                                  579-580

AGED PEOPLE, treatment of                422, 443-444, 576-577

 among the Missouri Indians                            463-464
 claim to land based on                                    477
 need of                                                   543
 of the Plains tribes                                      407

AMERICAN FUR COMPANY, traders of                           621

AMPUTATION, practice of                                427-428

ANIMAL LIFE, of the upper Missouri                     410-412

ANIMAL SYMBOLS, use of                                     412

 belief concerning:                                        487
 custom regarding killing of                               412
 list of, used for food                                    583

ANNUITIES, distribution of                                 473

ANTELOPE, hunting of                                       535

ANTIQUITIES, absence of                               413, 414

 migration of                                              405
 pottery of                                                413

ARROW AND BOW, used in buffalo hunting                     542

ARROWS, game played with                                   570

 advancement of                                        579-580
 attitude of, toward debts                                 476
 character of                                              459
 characteristics of                                    397,468
 discussion of method of dealing with                  470-474
 etymologic interpretations of the name                    381
 intellectual capacity of                              593-602
 intertribal relations of                              403-404
 names of                                                  396
 origin of                                                 395
 progress of                                           620-623
 strength of, compared with white man's                    529
 territory occupied by                                 396-397
 traditional origin of                                     382

ATONEMENT, no conception of                                490

AUDUBON, assisted by Denig                                 381

BAD ANIMAL, Assiniboin war leader                          402

BALL GAME, described,                                  565-566

BAND, composition of                                       431

 use of                                                    590

 claws of, worn as necklace                                553
 dead, invocations to                                  499-500
 killing of                                            537-538

 extraction of                                             593

BEAVER, trapping of                                   411, 538

 concerning animals,                                       487
 concerning astronomy,                                 414-418
 concerning crime,                                     479-483
 concerning future life,                                   418
 concerning Great Spirit,                                  397
 concerning territorial rights,                        476-478
 concerning the earth,                                     406

BETTING, on races,                                         566

 list of, eaten by Indians,                                583

BLACK ROOT, medicinal use of                           425-426

BLACKFEET, migration of                                405-406

BLEEDING, practice of                                      426

BLUE THUNDER, Assiniboin warrior,                          402

BODY PAINTING, for the dance                          559, 562

 of prehistoric animals                                411-412
 of the dead, reinterred                               574-575

BOW AND ABROW, use of                                 542, 555

BOWL GAME, description of                              567-569

BOYS, ASSINOBOIN, characteristics of                       444

BRAVERY, exhibition of                                     550

BRAVES' DANCE, described                               558-560

 as food                                               581-582
 discussion of destruction of                          460-462
 hunting of                                            530-536
 importance of                                         410-411
 parts of, eaten raw                                       581
 _See also_ GAME; HUNTING

BULLS' DANCE, described                                    532

BULL'S DRY BONES, doctor and soothsayer                    422

BURIAL CUSTOMS                                         570-576

BURIAL MOUNDS, absence of                                  573

 in lodge                                                  573
 in sitting position                                  573, 574
 on hilltop                                                572
 orientation in                                       572, 573
 scaffold or tree                           493, 571, 572, 574
 _See also_ GRAVES

CALUMET, ceremonial use of                             446-447

 Indian life in                                        508-510
 organization of                                       440-446

CANNIBALISM, in time of famine                        523, 534

CANOE INDIANS, an Assiniboin band                          430

 use of                                                    579

CAPACITY, INTELLECTUAL, of the Indian                  593-602

CAPTIVES, treatment of                           551, 552, 553

CATAMENIAL CUSTOMS                                         524

CHARACTER, of the Indian                               693-602

 animal symbols used as                                    412
 belief in                                                 495

 attitude toward violation of                              482
 of captives, violation of                                 553

 authority of                                              622
 duties of                                        431-432, 441

 settlement of                                    432-433, 435
 succession in                                             449

CHILD BEARING, age of                                      513

CHILDBIRTH, customs connected with                429, 516-517

 behavior of                                               520
 care of                                                   444
 correction of                                             620
 customs concerning                                        519
 grief over loss of                                        573
 male, most desirable                                      521
 mortality among                                           513
 orphan, care of                                           576
 torture of, as captives                              551, 552

CLAN TOTEMS, absence of                                    435

CLANS, of the Upper Missouri Indians,                  434-435

  of the Upper Missouri                                    410

  decorated with hair                                      560
  made of skins                                       504, 506
  of men                                               585-586
  of the Assiniboin                           464-465, 584-590
  of women                                             587-588
  renewal of                                               588
  worn while sleeping                                      590
  _See also_ COSTUMES

COLUMBIA FUR COMPANY, traders of                           621

COMMERCE, effect of, on Indian,              464, 485, 621-623
  _See also_ TRADE; TRADERS


COOKING, methods of                                        582

  of warriors                                     548, 552-554
  worn at Bulls' dance                                     562
  worn at Fox dance                                        561
  worn at Soldiers' dance                                  563

COUNCIL, description of                       436-440, 446-448

COUNCIL LODGE, diagram of                                  437

COUNCILS, discussion of                                    451

COUNTING, system of                                    418-420

COUP, counting of                                          560

COURTSHIP, customs of                                  510-511

CRADLE BOARDS, use of                                  519-520

  account of                                               401
  made head chief                                          431
  speech of                                            597-599

CREATOR, conception of                                     486

CREDIT, among the Indians,                                 459

  beliefs concerning                                   479-483
  Indian conception of                                     483
  punishment of                                  448, 452, 455
  _See also_ RETALIATION

CROW DANCE, described,                                     584

  amputation practiced by                                  427
  crime among                                              454
  dress of                                            587, 588
  treatment by, of captives                           551, 552

  description of                                       556-565

 love making at                                            558
 purpose served by                      556, 557, 563, 564-565

DEATHS, causes of                                          478

DEBTS, payment of                                          459

 _See also_ ORNAMENTS.

DEER hunting of                                            536

 ancestry of                                           383-384
 brief account of life of                              380-381
 character of                                              382
 Indian name of                                            386
 tribes described by                                       379

 acknowledgment by, to Denig                               386
 object of correspondence with                             467

 rarity of                                                 425

DIVINING DANCE, briefly described                          564

 application of the term                                   494
 dress of      586

DIVORCE, right of                                          512


 activities of                                             443
 character of                                              492
 fear of                                                   485
 office of                                             492-493
 payment to                                           423, 424

 ceremonial eating of                                 489, 491
 feast on, at soldiers' dance                              563

 beliefs concerning                                    494-495
 symbols adopted after                                     412


DRUMS, described                                           619

DUCK DANCE, described                                      562

DYESTUFFS, native                                          591

 badge of distinction                                      449
 value of                                                  589

EARTH, beliefs concerning the                              414

EARTH LODGES, construction of                              579

ECLIPSE, beliefs concerning                                415

EDUCATION, discussion of need of                       466-470

ELK, hunting of                                            537

ELK HORNS, mound of                                        398

ELK TEETH, value of                                        589

ERMINE SKINS, value of                                     589

EXCHANGE, no medium of                                     420

EYESIGHT, acuteness of                                 527-528

FABLES, of the Assiniboin                              609-617

  for burial                                               570
  for the dance                                       557, 563
  for war                                                  554

FAMILY LIFE, of the Assiniboin                         503-508

  in time of scarcity                                      509
  object of                                            489-490

FATHER-IN-LAW TABOO                                    503-504

FEASTING, in time of plenty                                509

  a mark of rank                                           553
  value of                                                 589

  belief in                                                495
  _See also_ CHARMS

FEUDS, the result of murder                                453

  importance of                                            466
  valued highly                                            555
  _See also_ GUNS

FIRST-WHO-FLIES, account of                            401-402

FISHING, among Upper Missouri Indians                 544, 582

FLUTE, use of                                              512

  animal, of the Upper Missouri Indian                 581-582
  of the Plains tribes                                 407-408
  quantities of, consumed                                  509

FOOT RACES, popularity of                                  566

FORT BENTON, a trading point                               407

FORT BERTHOLD, a trading point                             407

FORT CLARKE, a trading point                               407

FORT PIERRE, a trading point                               407

  a trading point                                          407
  described by Denig                                       381

FOX DANCE, described                                       561
  trapping of                                          538-539


FUTURE LIFE, belief in                                     418

  among women                                          569-570
  games used for                                       567-570
  infatuation for                                          567
  losses in                                                569
  _See also_ BETTING

  abundance of                                             460
  discussion of diminution of                          460-530
  division of, after hunt               456, 531, 533-534, 539
  laws regarding                                       455-456
  of the upper Missouri                                410-411

GAMES, of the Indians                                  565-566

GENS DES CANOTS, an Assiniboin band                        430

GENS DES FILLES, an Assiniboin band                        430

GENS DES ROCHES, an Assiniboin band                        430

GENS DU GAUCHE, an Assiniboin band                         430

GENS DU LAC, an Assiniboin band                            430

GENS DU NORD, an Assiniboin band                           430

GHOSTS, beliefs concerning                            493, 494

  compensation expected for                                600
  for treatment of the sick                                424
  return of                                                475

GIRLS, ASSINIBOIN, characteristics of                      444

GOVERNMENT, Assiniboin                            435, 445-446

 not marked                                           572, 576

GRAZING, on the plains                                     408

GREETINGS, of the Indians                                  524

 ceremonial scarification of                               490
 self-torture of                                           522
 women and children spared by                              551

 migration of                                              405
 once Arapaho                                              405

GUNS, manner of using                                      555

HABITAT, of the Assiniboin                             406-410

 symbolism of, when decorating clothing                    560

HAIRDRESSING                                               554

HANDGAME, description of                                   569

 Denig manuscript used by                                  380
 Denig's vocabulary mentioned by                           382

HEAD CHIEF, duties of                                      441

HORSE RACES, trickery in                                   566

 a cause of warfare                                        470
 disposal of, at owner's death                             479
 introduction of                                           412
 sacrifice of                                              491
 stolen by war party                                       547
 value of                                                  471
 wealth estimated by                                       474

 affairs settled through                                   514
 discussion of                                         513-515
 self-interest in                                          515

 custom of                                                 594
 ruse practiced                                            595

 dress of                                                  586
 precarious life of                                        504

 instruction in                                            542
 laws connected with                                       455
 season for                                                539

HUNTING CUSTOMS                          444-445, 504, 530-543

HYDROPHOBIA, remedy for                                    426

IDOLS, use of                                              497

IMMORTALITY, belief In                            418, 498-499

IMPLEMENTS, of the upper Missouri tribes              398, 414

INDIAN AGENTS, discussion of office of                 473-474


INDIAN SCHOOLS, urgent need of                         466-470


INFANTICIDE, a common custom                               521

INFIDELITY, punishment for                             504-505

INHERITANCE, among the Assiniboin                      478-479

INTERMARRIAGE, with whites                                 625

IRON ARROW POINT, CHIEF, mention of                        573

JUGGLERY, fear inspired by                                 528

KINSHIP, terms of                                          503

KURZ, FREDERICK, Denig discussed by                    384-386

  attitude toward                                          553
  division of                                         463, 505

LAND, rights to                                        476-478

LANGUAGE, of the Assiniboin                           402, 625

  preservation of                                          405

  effect of                                                467
  reference to                                             431

LE BAS ROUGE, a branch of the Canoe Indians                431

LE CHEF DU TONNEBBE, speech of                         600-602

LE GROS FRANÇOIS, Assiniboin chief                         395

LEGEND, Assiniboin                                     500-503

   mention of                                              395

LIQUOR, bad effects of                                     530

  burial in                                                573
  construction of                                      577-578
  manner of using                                          578
  orderly life in                                      507-508
  soldiers'                                                436

LONG HAIR, Crow chief, mention of                          479

LONGEVITY, of the Indians                                  513

LYING, a common custom                                     482

  ceremonial scarification of                              490
  epidemic among                                           400
  self-torture of                                          522

MARRIAGE CUSTOMS                   504, 506, 507, 510-512, 522

MASTER OF THE PARK, duties of                              443

 curing of                                                 581
 division of, after hunt                                   531

 practice of                                           422-426
 use of the word                                           486


MEDICINE SACK, described                                   498

MEDICINES, of the whites, Indian use of                    581

MICE COMRADES' DANCE, described                            564

MIDWIFE, office of                                         516

 of the Assiniboin                                     395-396
 of tribes                                             405-406

MINERAL SPRINGS, occurrence of                             409

MISSIONARIES, discussion of teachings of                   468

 beliefs concerning                               417, 484-485
 time reckoned by                                          416

MORTALITY, among children                                  513


MOTHER-IN-LAW TABOO                                    503-504

MOUND, of elk horns                                        398

 absence of                                                576

MOURNING CUSTOMS                            556, 571, 572, 575

 Indian beliefs concerning                                 480
 punishment for                                        452-454

 described                                             617-618
 on the flute                                              512

MUTILATION, as a sign of mourning                          572

MYTHOLOGY, of the Upper Missouri Indians               500-503

MYTHS, relating of                                     607-608

 change of                                             516-517
 of camp soldiers, list of                                 518
 of chiefs, list of                                    518-519
 of warriors, list of                                      518
 of women, list of                                         619

NAMING OF CHILDREN                                     516-517

NUDITY, attitude toward                                    560

OATHS, use of                                              524

OLD PEOPLE, treatment of                 422, 443-444, 576-577

OMENS, belief in                                           497

ORATORY, of the Indians                           526, 596-602
 _See also_ SPEECHES

ORIENTATION, in burial                                572, 573

ORNAMENTS, use of                                      590-591

PAINTING, on clothing                                 421, 586

PAINTS AND DYES, use of                                    591

PARENTS, attitude toward                                   485

PARK, buffalo caught in                                532-533

PEACE TREATIES, between tribes                             404

PICTOGRAPHS, reading of                                412-413

 explanation of                                   603, 606-607
 use of                                           421, 603-605

PIPES, use of                                              413

 affected by smallpox                                      465
 causes of reduction in                                    625
 effect on, of intoxicating drinks                         465
 increase of                                               405
 of the Assiniboin                                     396-397

PORCUPINE QUILLS, use of                              590, 591

 of the Arikara                                            413

PRAIRIE FIRES, effect of                               408-409

 object of                                                 412
 of a warrior                                          483-484
 to ghosts                                                 484


 character of                                              492
 name for                                                  486
 office of                                             492-493
 power of, in council                                  450-451

PRIMOGENITURE, among Assiniboin                        478-479


PROFANITY, lack of, among Indians                          482

 loss of, as result of crime                               480
 of the deceased, disposal of                              571
 placed with the dead                                      571

PROPERTY RIGHTS, discussion of                         474-476

PROVISION STEALERS' DANCE, described                       564

PUBLIC CRIER, duties of                                    442

 for violations of law                                     445
 of crime    479-483
 _See also_ RETALIATION.

QUILLS, PORCUPINE, use of                             590, 591

RACES, betting on                                          566

RANK, insignia of                                      592-593

RAPE, punishment for                                       482

RATTLE, made of hoofs                                      619

RATTLESNAKE, cure for bite of                          425-426

RED ROOT INDIANS, a branch of the Canoe Indians        430-431

RELATIONS, GOVERNMENTAL, with Indians, discussion of   470-474

 discussion of attempted change in                     468-469
 of the Upper Missouri Indians           481-483, 486-493, 594
 _See also_ CRIME

RETALIATION, among the Assiniboin                      452-455

RETREAT, in warfare, attitude toward                       560

REVENGE, justification of                                  481

RICE, WILD, use of                                         584

ROBBERY, among the Indians                                 476
 _See also_ THEFT.

RUNNING, speed in                                          529

 ceremony of                                           488-489
 construction of                                           488

 amputation of fingers as                              427-428
 made by hunters                                           535
 to the river                                              536
 to Wakoñda                                                489

 description of                                            572
 disintegration of                                         574
 reasons for,                                              571

SCALP DANCE, description of                            557-558

SCALP SONG, singing of                       555, 556, 557-558

SCALPING, practice of                                      524

SCALPING KNIFE, described,                                 555

SCALPS, rejoicing over,                                555-556

SCARIFICATION, practice of                            490, 564

SCHOOLCRAFT, HENRY R., circular by,                        378

 Indian, need of                                       466-470

SCOUTS, of war party, duties of                            549

SEASONS, recognition of                                    415

SELF-TORTURE, to propitiate Wakoñda,                       490

 highly valued,                                        590-591

 rawhide, described,                                       553

 treatment of                                          423-424

 _See also_ SMALL POX

SIGHT, acuteness in sense of                           527-528

SILVER, use of                                             591

SIOUX BANDS, list of                                       435

Sioux INDIANS, dress of                                    587

SKIN DRESSING, described                               540-541

 judging of                                                539
 used for clothing                                         584

SKY, beliefs concerning                                    415

 difficulty of curing                                      428
 epidemics of                                    396, 399, 400

SMOKING, custom of                                         524

SNOW, hunting in                                           535

 duties of                                            442, 448
 organization of                                           436

SOLDIERS' DANCE, described                                 562

 accompanying ceremonies                                   496
 list of                                               618-619
 lullabies                                                 620
 use of                                                    617

SON-IN-LAW, status of                                      511

SORCERY, fear inspired by                                  528

SPEAKING, in public                                        526

 _See also_ POINTS.

 at scalp dance                                            558
 made by Assiniboin chief                              438-439
 of Crazy Bear                                         597-599
 of Le Chef du Tonnerre                                600-602

STARS, knowledge concerning                                417


STOICISM OF THE INDIAN                                     525

STONE INDIANS, an Assiniboin band                          430


STRENGTH, Indians—
 Assiniboin                                                529

SUGAR, method of obtaining                                 584

SUICIDE, among Indians                                     522

 beliefs concerning                                        415
 worship of                                                496

SWEAT HOUSE, use of                                        425
 _See also_ VAPOR BATHS

SYMBOLS, ANIMAL, use of                                    412

TABOOS, concerning women                                   524

TACITURNITY OF THE INDIAN                                  526

 a mark of dignity                                         449
 custom of                                            522, 592

TERRITORY, rights to                                   476-478

THE GAUCHE, Assiniboin chief, account of                   400

 among the Indians                                476, 481-482
 punishment for                                            482

TIME, reckoning of                                     415-416

TOBACCO, ceremonial use of                            447, 496

TOMAHAWK, manner of using                                  555

TORTURE OF ENEMIES                                491-492, 551
 _See also_ SELF-TORTURE.

 of the upper Missouri                                 457-466
 profits of                                                460
 with the Assiniboin                                   397-398

 demands upon                                              460
 general character of                                 457, 621
 risks taken by                                            459

TRADING, method of                                    458, 459

TRADING POINTS, on the Missouri                            407

 Assiniboin                                            402-403
 relating of                                               521

 guidance in                                           526-527
 traces left by                                            527

TREATIES, with the Assiniboin                              398

TREBITSCH, R.                                              573

TRIBAL ORGANIZATION, Assiniboin                        430-431

 divisions of                                              404
 list of, described by Denig                               378
 migrations of                                         405-406
 separation of                                             405

TWINS, occurrence of                                       513

VACCINATION, among the Assiniboin                          428

VAPOR BATHS, effect of                                     429
 _See also_ SWEAT HOUSE

VEGETAL FOOD, of Upper Missouri Indians,                   583

VERMIN, method of disposing of                             584

VESSELS, CLAY, for cooking,                                581

 precautions to insure,                                    590
 violation of, of captives,                                553

VOCABULARIES, recorded by Denig,                       382-383

WAH-HE' MUZZA, Assiniboin chief,                           395

 the Creator,                                              414
 the supernatural power,                          486, 487-488

 a means of advancement,                                   525
 made to steal horses,                                     544
 made to take scalps,                             544, 548-551
 object of                                                 544

WAR CHIEFS, power of                                   449-450

WAR CLUB, stone, use of                                    555

WAR EXPLOITS, recounting of                            559-560

WAR LEADER, responsibility of                              443

 attack by, described,                                 549-550
 organization of                                       544-545
 return of                                             547-548
 tactics of                                            545-547

WAR WHOOP, use of                                          551

 attitude toward retreat in                                560
 causes of, 470
 causes of failure in                                      548
 customs of                                            544-554
 means of preventing,                                  470-471
 precautions taken in                                      549

WARRIOR, burial of                                     570-571

 Assiniboin, list of                                   401-402
 dress of                                    553-554, 586, 589
 insignia of, 593
 tattooing of                                              592

WEAPONS, described,                                        555

WHIP DANCE, briefly described,                             564

WHISTLES, use of, in hunting,                              537

WHITE CRANE DANCE, described,                              563

WIDOWERS, remarriage of                                    511

 remarriage of                                             511
 suicide among,                                            522

WILD RICE, use of                                          584

WITCHCRAFT, belief in                                  493-494

WOLVES, trapping of                                    538-539

"WOMAN CHIEF," account of                              433-434

 burial of                                                 573
 clothing of                                               587
 customs regarding,                                        524
 list of names of                                          519
 marriageable age of                                       611
 status of                                       433, 451, 455
 treatment of, as captives,                      551, 552, 553
 work of                                              444, 505

WOMEN'S DANCE, briefly described,                          564

WOMEN'S GAME, description of                           569-570

WOOLEN GOODS, introduction of                          464-465

WOUNDS, recovery from,                                 429-430

[Transcriber's Note:

Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation are as in the original.]

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we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.