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Cheyenne Indian Customs

Under their old system, before the division of the tribe, the Cheyenne had a council of 44 elective chiefs, of whom 4 constituted a higher body, with power to elect one of their own number as head chief of the tribe. In all councils that concerned the relations of the Cheyenne with other tribes, one member of the council was appointed to argue as the proxy or “devil’s advocate” for the alien people. This council of 44 is still symbolized by a bundle of 44 invitation sticks, kept with the sacred medicine-arrows, and formerly sent around when occasion arose to convene the assembly. This set of 4 medicine-arrows, each of different color, constitutes the tribal palladium which they claim to have had from the beginning of the world, and is exposed with appropriate rites once a year if previously “pledged,” and on those rare occasions when a Cheyenne has been killed by one of his own tribe, the purpose of the ceremony being to wipe away from the murderer the stain of a brother’s blood. The rite did not die with the final separation of the two sections of the tribe in 1851, as has been stated, but the bundle is still religiously reserved by the Southern Cheyenne, by whom the public ceremony was performed as late as 1904. Besides the public tribal ceremony there is also a rite spoken of as “fixing” the arrows, at shorter intervals, which concerns the arrow priests alone. The public ceremony is always attended by delegates from the northern body. No woman, white man, or even mixed blood of the tribe has ever been allowed...

Blackfeet Customs

Indians are usually represented as being a silent, sullen race, seldom speaking, and never laughing nor joking. However true this may be in regard to some tribes, it certainly was not the case with most of those who lived upon the Great Plains. These people were generally talkative, merry, and light-hearted; they delighted in fun, and were a race of jokers. It is true that, in the presence of strangers, they were grave, silent, and reserved, but this is nothing more than the shyness and embarrassment felt by a child in the presence of strangers. As the Indian becomes acquainted, this reserve wears off; he is at his ease again and appears in his true colors, a light-hearted child. Certainly the Blackfeet never were a taciturn and gloomy people. Before the disappearance of the buffalo, they were happy and cheerful. Why should they not have been? Food and clothing were to be had for the killing and tanning. All fur animals were abundant, and thus the people were rich. Meat, really the only food they cared for, was plenty and cost nothing. Their robes and furs were exchanged with the traders for bright-colored blankets and finery. So they wanted nothing. It is but nine years since the buffalo disappeared from the land. Only nine years have passed since these people gave up that wild, free life which was natural to them, and ah, how dear! Let us go back in memory to those happy days and see how they passed the time. The sun is just rising. Thin columns of smoke are creeping from the smoke holes of the...

Hunting Customs of the Omahas

In the life of the American Indian so much has ever depended upon the skill of the hunter that in the hazards of the chase he has sought supernatural aid to supplement his own inadequate powers; thus, in every tribe, we find rites connected with hunting carefully observed, and frequently forming an important part of the tribal ceremonies. Mention has been made, in my previous papers, of the Indian’s custom of retiring into the forest or to the mountain to fast, that there might come to him in a vision some manifestation of the powers of nature. Whatever appears in this vision,-beast or bird, or symbolic form,- the man makes diligent search for its natural counterpart, and secures it as an amulet; or, in some tribes, he makes a model in wood or stone, which he carries always with him, to bring the game near while he recruits his strength in sleep or needed rest. Songs also which come in dreams are believed to be able to beguile by their mysterious power the deer and the elk, and to entice the beaver to enter the trap; but notwithstanding this dependence upon the supernatural for aid, the Indian hunter does not neglect expedients of a very practical sort. He resorts to strategy: he covers himself with the skin of a deer, and, fastening the branching antlers upon his head, creeps among the unsuspecting herd, and sends his keen arrow with fatal precision; he entices the eagle to its prey, beneath which he lies concealed; he brings the elk within his reach by imitating the cries of its young; he spreads...

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