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1837 Smallpox Epidemic

No disease which has been introduced among the tribes, has exercised so fatal an influence upon them as the smallpox. Their physicians have no remedy for it. Old and young regard it as if it were the plague, and, on its appearance among them, blindly submit to its ravages. This disease has appeared among them periodically, at irregular intervals of time. It has been one of the prominent causes of their depopulation. Ardent spirits, it is true, in its various forms, has, in the long run, carried a greater number of the tribes to their graves; but its effects have been comparatively slow, and its victims, though many, have fallen in the ordinary manner, and generally presented scenes less revolting and striking to the eye. This malady swept through the Missouri Valley in 1837. It first appeared on a steamboat, (the St. Peters) in the case of a mulatto man, a hand on board, at the Black-Snake Hills, a trading post, 60 miles above Fort Leavenworth, and about 500 miles above St. Louis. It was then supposed to be measles, but, by the time the boat reached the Council Bluffs, it was ascertained to be small-pox, and had of course been communicated to many in whom the disease was still latent. Every precaution appears to have been taken, by sending runners to the Indians, two days ahead of the boat; but, in spite of these efforts, the disease spread. It broke out among the Mandans about the 15th of July. This tribe, which consisted of 1600 persons, living in two villages, was reduced to 31 souls. It next attacked...

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...

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...

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....

Government and Societies of the Plains Tribes

The political organization of plains tribes was rather loose and in general quite democratic. Each band, gens, or clan informally recognized an indefinite number of men as head men, one or more of whom were formally vested with representative powers in the tribal council. Among the Dakota, there was a kind of society of older men, self-electing, who legislated on all important matters. They appointed four of their number to exercise the executive functions. The Omaha had a somewhat similar system. The Cheyenne had four chiefs of equal rank and a popularly elected council of forty members. Among the Blackfoot we seem to have a much less systematic arrangement, the leading men of each band forming a general council which in turn recognized one individual as chief. Of the western tribes the Northern Shoshoni, at least, had even a less formal system. Though there were in the Plains some groups spoken of as confederacies by pioneers; viz., the Blackfoot, Sarsi, and Gros Ventre; the seven Dakota tribes; the Pawnee group; the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Comanche, none of these seem to have been more than alliances. At least, there was nothing like the celebrated League of the Iroquois in the Woodland area. Soldier Bands or Societies We have previously mentioned the camp police. The Dakota governing society, for example, appointed eight or more men as soldiers or marshals to enforce their regulations at all times. There were also a number of men s societies or fraternities of a military and ceremonial character upon one or more of which the tribal government might also call for such service. As these...

Crow Indian Tribe Photo Descriptions

The Crow, or, as they call themselves, Absaroka, meaning something or anything that flies, when first known occupied the Lower Yellowstone and the valleys of the Big Horn and Tongue Rivers, but roamed over much of the surrounding country, carrying their incursions even to the plains of Snake River and to the valley of the Green. Were originally one with the Minataree or Gros Ventre, but separated from them, and were afterward driven from their territory by the Ogalalla and Cheyenne, settling finally about the head of the Yellowstone, dispossessing ‘in their turn the Blackfeet and Flatheads. Are divided into three bands, with a dialect peculiar to each, viz: the Kikatsa or Crow proper, the Ahnahaway, and the Allakaweah, numbering in all, as estimated in 1820, 3,250 souls. Obtaining horses at an early day, they became great marauders. Irving writes of them in “Astoria:” “They are in fact notorious marauders and horse-stealers, crossing and re-crossing the mountains (the Big Horn), robbing on one side and conveying their spoils to the other. Hence, we are told, is derived their name, given them on account of their unsettled and predatory habits, winging their flight, like the crow, from one side of the mountains to the other, and making free booty of everything that lies in their way. In 1851, joined in a treaty with the United States giving a right of way for roads to be built through their country. In 1868 a treaty was made, and an attempt made to place all the Crow on one reservation, but without success until 1875. They have been much exposed to incursions from...

Crow Indian Bands, Gens and Clans

Many tribes have sub-tribes, bands, gens, clans and phratry.  Often very little information is known or they no longer exist.  We have included them here to provide more information about the Crow Tribe. Lewis1 said the Crow were divided into four bands, called by themselves: Ahaharopirnop Ehartsar Noota Pareescar Culbertson2 divides the tribe into: Crow People Minesetperi, or Sapsuckers. These two divisions he subdivides into 12 bands, giving as the names only the English equivalents. Morgan3 gives the following bands: Achepabecha Ahachik Ashinadea Ashbochiah Ashkanena Booadasha Esachkabuk Esekepkabuk Hokarutcha Ohotdusha Oosabotsee Petchaleruhpaka Shiptetza The following is an alphabetical listing of divisions, bands, gens, gentes, clans and sub-tribes found within the Handbook of North American Indians. Achepabecha ( prairie dog ). A Crow band. Ashbochia. A band or division of the Crows. Ashinadea (lost lodges). A band or division of the Crows. Ashkanena (Blackfoot lodges). A band of the Crows. Biktasatetuse (very bad lodges: a Crow name) . A subtribe or band of the Crows or of some neighboring tribe; apparently the same as Ashiapkawi. Booadasha (fish-catchers). A band of the Crows. Crow People. A division of the Crows, distinguished from the Minesetperi.4 Ehartsar. A band of the Crows, one of the four into which Lewis divided the tribe. Esekepkabuk. A band of the Crow tribe adopted from the Sihasapa. Hokarutcha (‘skunk’). A band or society of the Crows. Iewatse (I-e-wat-se′, mouth men). The Crow name for some unidentified tribe.5 ] FootnotesStat. View, 1807. ↩Smithson. Rep. 1850, 144, 1801. ↩Anc. Soc., 159, 1877. ↩Culbertson in Smithson. Rep. 1850, 144, 1851. ↩Hayden, Ethnog. and Philol. Mo. Val., 402,...
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