Assiniboin Indian History
ŭ'pwäwa 'he cooks by roasting': 'one who cooks by the
use of stones.'-W. J.).
Siouan tribe, originally constituting a part of
the Yanktonai. Their separation from the parent stem, to judge by the
slight dialectal difference in the language, could not have greatly
preceded the appearance of the whites, but it must have taken place before
1640, as the Jesuit Relation for that year mentions the Assiniboin as
distinct. The Relation of 1658 places them in the vicinity of Lake
Alimibeg, between Lake Superior and Hudson bay. On Jeffery's map of 1762
this name is applied to Lake Nipigon, and on De l'Isle's map of 1703 to
From a tradition found in the widely scattered bodies
of the tribe and heard by the first Europeans who visited the Dakota, the
Assiniboin appear to have separated from their ancestral stem while the
latter resided somewhere in the region about the headwaters of the
Mississippi, whence they moved northward and joined the Cree. It is
probable that they first settled about Lake of the Woods, then drifted
northwestward to the region about Lake Winnipeg, where they were living as
early as 1670, and were thus located on Lahontan's neap of 1691.
Chauvignerie (1736) place them in the same region. Dobbs (Hudson Bay,
1744) located one division of the Assiniboin some distance northwest of
Lake Winnipeg and the other immediately west of an unidentified lake
placed north of Lake Winnipeg. These divisions he distinguishes as
Assiniboin of the Meadows and Assiniboin of the Woods. In 1775 Henry found
the tribe scattered along Saskatchewan and Assiniboine Rivers, from the
forest limit well up to the headwaters of the former, and this region,
between the Sioux on the south and the Siksika on the west, was the
country over which they continued to range until gathered on reservations.
Hayden (Ethnog. and Philol. Mo. Val., 1862) limits their range at that
time as follows: "The Northern Assiniboin roam over the country from the
west banks of the Saskatchewan and Assiniboin Rivers, in a west direction
to the Woody mountains, north and west amongst some of the small outliers
of the Rocky mountains east of the Missouri, and on the banks of the small
lakes frequently met with on the plains in that district. They consist of
250 or 300 lodges. The remainder of the tribe, now  reduced to 250
lodges, occupy the district defined as follows: Commencing at the mouth of
the White Earth river on the east, extending up that river to and as far
beyond its source as the Grand Coulée
and the head of La Riviére aux Souris,
thence northwest along the Côteau de
Prairie, or divide, as far as the beginning of the Cypress mountains, on
the north fork of Milk river, down that river to its junction with the
Missouri, thence down the Missouri to White Earth river, the starting
point. Until the year 1838 the tribe still numbered from 1,000 to 1,200
lodges, trading on the Missouri, when the smallpox reduced them to less
than 400 lodges. They were also surrounded by large and hostile tribes,
who continually made, war upon them, and in this way their number was
diminished, though at the present time they are slowly on the increase."
Front the time they separated from the parent stern and
joined the Cree until brought under
control of the whites, they were almost constantly at war with the
Dakota. As they have lived since
the appearance of the whites in the northwest almost wholly on the plains,
without permanent villages, moving from place to place in search of food,
their history has been one of conflict with surrounding tribes.
Physically the Assiniboin do not differ materially from
the other Sioux. The men dress their hair in various forms; it is seldom
cut, but as it grows is twisted into small locks or tails, and frequently
false hair is added to lengthen the twist. It sometimes reaches the
ground, but is generally wound in a coil on top of the head. Their dress,
tents, and customs generally are similar to those of the Plains Cree, but
they observe more decorum in camp and are more cleanly, and their
hospitality is noted by mist traders who have visited them. Polygamy is
common. While the buffalo abounded their principal occupation consisted in
making pemmican, which they bartered to the whites for liquor, tobacco,
powder, balls, knives, etc. Dogs are said to have been sacrificed to their
deities. According to Alexander Henry, if death happened in winter at a
distance from the burial ground of the familt, the body was carried along
during their journeying and placed on a scaffold, out of reach of dogs and
beasts of prey, at their stopping places. Arrived at the burial place, the
corpse was deposited in a sitting posture in a circular grave about 5 feet
deep, lined with bark or skins; it was then covered with bark over which
logs were placed, and these in turn were covered with earth.
. The only Assiniboin village mentioned in print is Pasquayah.
Porter (1829) estimated the Assiniboin population at
8,000; Drake at 10,000 before the smallpox epidemic of 1836, during which
4,000 of them perished. Gallatin (1836) placed the number at 6,000; the U.
S. Indian Report of 1843, at 7,000. In 1890 they numbered 3,008; in 1904,
The Assiniboin now (1904) living in the United States
are in Montana, 699 under Ft Belknap agency and 535 under Ft Peck agency;
total, 1,234. In Canada there were in 1902 the Mosquito and Pears Heads'
and Lean Man's bands at Battleford agency, 78; Joseph's band of 147,
Paul's of 147. and 5 orphans at Edmonton agency; Carry-the-Kettle band
under Assiniboin agency, 210; Pheasant Rump's band, originally 69, and
Ocean Man's, 68 in number, at Moose mountain; and the bands on Stony
reservation, Alberta, 661; total, 1,371.
See Powell in 7th Rep. B. A. F., 111, 1891; McGee,
Siouan Indians, 15th Rep. B. A. E. 157 1897; Dorsey, Siouan Sociology,
ibid., 213; Hayden, Ethnog. and Philol. Mo. Val., 1862.
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of American Indians, 1906
Index of Tribes or Nations