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Transportation of Plains Indians

Before the introduction of the horse, the Plains Indians traveled on foot. The tribes living along the Mississippi made some use of canoes, according to early accounts, while those of the Missouri and inland, used only crude tub-like affairs for ferry purpose. When first discovered, the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara had villages on the Missouri, in what is now North Dakota, but they have never been credited with canoes. For crossing the river, they used the bull-boat, a tub-shaped affair made by stretching buffalo skins over a wooden frame; but journeys up and down the bank were made on foot. Many of the Eastern Dakota used small canoes in gathering wild rice in the small lakes of Minnesota, though the Teton-Dakota have not been credited with the practice. It seems probable that the ease of travel in the open plains and the fact that the buffalo were often to be found inland, made the use of canoes impractical, whereas along the great lakes the broad expanse of water offered every advantage to their use. Since almost every Plains tribe used some form of the bull-boat for ferrying, and many of them came in contact with canoe-using Indians, the failure of those living along the Missouri to develop the canoe can scarcely be attributed to ignorance. When on the march, baggage was carried on the human back and also by dogs, the only aboriginal domestic animals. Most tribes used a peculiar A-shaped contrivance, known as a dog travois, upon which packs were placed. All the northern tribes are credited with the dog travois. Many of the Village tribes also used...

Games of the Plains Tribes

Amusements and gambling are represented in collections by many curious devices. Adults rarely played for amusement, leaving such pastime to children; they themselves played for stakes. Most American games are more widely distributed than many other cultural traits; but a few seem almost entirely peculiar to the Plains. A game in which a forked anchor-like stick is thrown at a rolling ring was known to the Dakota, Omaha, and Pawnee. So far, it has not been reported from other tribes. Hoop Game Another game of limited distribution is the large hoop with a double pole, the two players endeavoring to place the poles so that when the hoop falls, it will make a count according to which of the four marks in the circumference are nearest a pole. This has been reported for the Arapaho, Dakota, and Omaha. Among the Dakota, this game seems to have been associated with magical ceremonies for ” calling the buffalo 7 and also played a part in the ghost dance movement. The Arapaho have also a sacred hoop game associated with the sun dance. Other forms of this game in which a single pole is used have been reported from almost every tribe in the Plains. It occurs also outside this area. Yet, in the Plains it takes special forms in different localities. Thus the Blackfoot and their neighbors used a very small spoked ring with an arrow for the pole, the Mandan used a small plain ring but with a very long pole, while the Comanche used a large life-preserver like hoop with a sectioned club for a pole. Netted Hoop Game...

Social Distinction Amongst Plains Indians

Social Distinction. There being no such thing as individual ownership of land, property consisted of horses, food, utensils, etc. These were possessed in varying degrees by the individual members of a tribe, but in no case was the amount of such property given much weight in the determination of social position. Anyone in need of food, horses, or anything whatsoever, was certain to receive some material assistance from those who had an abundance. Beginning at the top, we have Bear-chief (a) on foot surprised by Assiniboin Indians but he escaped; (b) Double-runner cut loose four horses; (c) Double-runner captures a Gros Ventre boy; (d) Double-runner and a companion encounter and kill two Gros Ventre, he taking a lance from one; (e) even while a boy Double-runner picked up a war-bonnet dropped by a fleeing Gros Ventre which in the system counts as a deed; (f) as a man he has two adventures with Crow Indians, taking a gun from one; (g) he, as leader, met five Flathead in a pit and killed them; (h) a Cree took shelter in some cherry brush in a hole, but Big-nose went in for him; (i) not completely shown, but representing a Cree Indian killed while running off Piegan horses; (j) Double-runner, carrying a medicine-pipe, took a bow from a Gros Ventre and then killed him ; (k) Double-runner took a shield and a horse from a Crow tipi, a dog barked and he was hotly pursued; (m) he killed two Gros Ventre and took two guns; (n) he captured a Gros Ventre woman and a boy; (o) he took four mules. Among...

Tipi and Earth Lodges of the Plains Tribes

One of the most characteristic features of Plains Indian culture was the tipi. All the tribes of the area, almost without exception, used it for a part of the year at least. Primarily, the tipi was a conical tent covered with dressed buffalo skins. A carefully mounted and equipped tipi from the Black-foot Indians stands in the center of the Plains exhibit. Everywhere the tipi was made, cared for, and set up by the women. First, a conical framework of long slender poles was erected and the cover raised into place. Then the edges of the cover were staked down and the poles supporting the “ears” put in place. The “ears” are wings, or flies, to keep the wind out of the smoke hole at the top; they were moved about by the outside poles. The fire was built near the center and the beds spread upon the ground around the sides. The head of the family usually sat near the rear, or facing the door. While in essential features the tipis of all Plains tribes were the same, there were nevertheless some important differences. Thus, when setting up a tipi, the Blackfoot, Crow, Sarsi, Hidatsa, Omaha, and Comanche first tie four poles as a support to the others; while the Teton-Dakota, Assiniboin, Cheyenne, Gros Ventre, Arapaho, Kiowa, Plains-Cree, Mandan, and Pawnee use three, or a tripod foundation. For the remaining tribes, we lack data, but it seems safe to assume that they follow one or the other of these methods. The three-pole foundation gives the projecting tops of the poles a spiral appearance while the four-pole beginning tends...

Plains Indians Use of Rawhide

The Use of Rawhide. In the use of rawhide for binding and hafting (handle or strap), the Plains tribes seem almost unique. When making mauls and stone-headed clubs a piece of green or wet hide is firmly sewed on and as this dries its natural shrinkage sets the parts firmly. This is nicely illustrated in saddles. Thus, rawhide here takes the place of nails, twine, cement, etc., in other cultures. The Partleche A number of characteristic bags were made of rawhide, the most conspicuous being the parfleche. Its simplicity of construction is inspiring and its usefulness scarcely to be over-estimated. The approximate form for a parfleche is shown in Fig. 23, and its completed form in Fig. 24. The side outlines as in Fig. 23 are irregular and show great variations, none of which can be taken as certainly characteristic. To fill the parfleche, it is opened out as in Fig. 23, and the contents arranged in the middle. The large flap is then brought over and held by lacing a , a”. The ends are then turned over and laced, b , b”. The closed parfleche may then be secured by both or either of the looped thongs at c , c”. Primarily, parfleche were used for holding dried meat, dried berries, tallow, etc., though utensils and other be longings found their way into them when convenient. In recent years, they seem to have more of a decorative than a practical value; or rather, according to our impression, they are cherished as mementos of buffalo days, the great good old time of Indian memory, always appropriate and acceptable...

Religion and Ceremonies of the Plains Tribes

The sacred beliefs of these Indians are largely formulated and expressed in sayings and narratives having some resemblance to the legends of European peoples. There are available large collections of these tales and myths from the Blackfoot, Crow, Nez Perce, Assiniboin, Gros Ventre, Arapaho, Arikara, Pawnee, Omaha, Northern Shoshoni, and less complete series from the Dakota, Cheyenne, and Ute. In these will be found much curious and interesting information. Each tribe in this area has its own individual beliefs and sacred myths, yet many have much in common, the distribution of the various incidents therein forming one of the important problems in anthropology. Mythology of the Plains Indians A deluge myth is almost universal in the Plains and very widely distributed in the wooded areas as well. Almost everywhere it takes the form of having the submerged earth restored by a more or less human being who sends down a diving bird or animal to obtain a little mud or sand. Of other tales found both within and without the Plains area we may mention, the “Twin-heroes,” the Woman who married a star and bore a Hero,” and the “Woman who married a Dog.” Working out the distribution of such myths is one of the fascinating tasks of the folklorist and will some time give us a clearer insight into the prehistoric cultural contacts of the several tribes. A typical study of this kind by Dr. R. H. Lowie will be found in the Journal of American Folk-Lore, September, 1908, where, for example, the star-born hero is traced through the Crow, Pawnee, Dakota, Arapaho, Kiowa, Gros Ventre, and Blackfoot....

Plains Indian Culture

Museum collections cannot illustrate this important phase of culture; but since no comprehensive view of the subject can be had without its consideration, we must give it some space. It is customary to treat of all habits or customs having to do with the family organization, the community, and what we call the state, under the head of social organization. So, in order that the reader may form some general idea of social conditions in this area, we shall review some of the discussed points. Unfortunately, the data for many tribes are meager so that a complete review cannot be made. The Blackfoot, Sarsi, Crow, Northern Shoshoni, Nez Perce, Assiniboin, Teton-Dakota, Omaha, Hidatsa, Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Kiowa have been carefully investigated, but of the remaining tribes, we know very little. As previously stated, it is customary to accept the political units of the Indian as tribes or independent nations. Thus, while the Crow recognize several subdivisions, they feel that they are one people and support a council or governing body for the whole. The Blackfoot, on the other hand, are composed of three distinct political divisions, the Piegan, Blood, and Blackfoot, with no superior government, yet they feel that they are one people with common interests and since they have a common speech and precisely similar cultures, it is customary to ignore the political units and designate them by the larger term. The Hidatsa, one of the Village group, have essentially the same language as the Crow, but have many different traits of culture and while conscious of a relationship, do not recognize any political sympathies. Again, in the...

Language of the Plains Tribes

As Stated at the outset, it is customary to classify peoples according to their languages. The main groups are what are called stock languages, or families. Under such heads are placed all languages that seem to have had a common origin regardless of whether they are mutually intelligible or not. Thus English and German are distinct forms of speech, yet they are considered as belonging to the same stock, or family. In North America, there are more than fifty such families, of which seven have representatives in the Plains. Only one, however, the Kiowa, is entirely confined to the area, though the Siouan and Caddoan are chiefly found within its bounds. The others (Algonkian, Shoshonean, Athapascan, and Shahaptian) have much larger representation elsewhere, which naturally leads us to infer that they must have migrated into the Plains. Though this is quite probable, it cannot be proven from the data at hand, except possibly for the Algonkian speaking Plains-Ojibway and Cheyenne, of whose recent movement out into the Plains, we have historic evidence. These tribes are of special interest to students, since in a comparatively short period of time, they put away most of their native culture and took on that of their neighbors in the Plains. Indians Or The Plains, According To Language Siouan Language Assiniboin Mandan Crow Missouri Dakota Omaha Hidatsa Osage Iowa Oto Kansa Ponca Algonquian Language Arapaho Gros Ventre Blackfoot Plains-Cree Cheyenne Plains-Ojibway Caddoan Language Arikara Pawnee Wichita Kiowan Language Kiowa Shoshonean Language Bannock  Northern Shoshoni Comanche Ute Wind River Shoshoni Athapascan Language Kiowa Apache Sarsi Shahaptian Language Nez Percé The Athapascan speaking Kiowa, Apache and...
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