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Native languages was the source for most of the buffalo/bison terms below.
In Plains Indian languages in general, male and female buffaloes are distinguished, with each having a different designation rather than there being a single generic word covering both sexes. Thus:
Achumawi (Pit River Tribe) — Páw or kujū
There are many different Apache dialects, but the eastern Apaches generally use the word bi.shish.jik – buffalo
Assiniboine— tatąga (male) pte (female)
Blackfoot……………………..iinii, stomick (bull)
Carrizo Comecrudo (Esto’k gna) ……Wakate (wah kaha te)
Cherokee, it’s ᏯᎾᏏ (yansi). However, this is the word for bison, not for buffalo
Cheyenne……………………hotova’a (bull), hotoaao’o , méhe (female)
Chippewa – OJIBWE (said to mean “Puckered Moccasin People”)
Choctaw Vocabulary: yυnυsh – buffalo yänäsh (yah-nahsh) = buffalo
Comanche ….. tasiwóo –buffalo, nʉmʉ kuutsu –buffalo
Cree- shaganappi – thin narrow cord -product of the Buffalo was shaganappi, or as it was often called ”Northwest iron.” The word in common use is a corruption of the Cree compound pesaaganappi (”shred in a circle”) , and the common sort was simply a long strip cut concentrically from the hide of an old bull. (see below 1890)
Cree Plains – paskwâwimostos – buffalo
Source: Alberta Elders’ Cree Dictionary English-Cree|
Language: Northern Cree
Creek – Maskoki ( Muscogee- by English) -yanase –buffalo, is the same in all dialects, and was probably obtained from the North, since the term occurs in Cheroki also (ya’hsa in Eastern Cheroki)
Crow…. Bishée, tidusup (bull)
Osage… DADO^KA ]E -ttattonka (male) ttse (female)
Seneca Nation “Gakwi:yo:h Farms”- bison producer-
comes from the meaning “good food”
Shoshone Eastern …..Buffalo (bull)…..boy•z shahn or boy•z shuhn
Sioux -Lakota language, the word “tatanka” is translated as
“buffalo” or “buffalo bull.” We call them in our language
“Tatanka,” which means “He Who Owns Us.” Lakota
tatanka (bull, also elk, bear),
heyuktan (bent horns),
ptesan (white buffalo)
ptecila – small buffalo
tatanka ohitika – brave buffalo
tashina pte – buffalo robe
Tatanka-Kta – the dead buffalo
nik-nik- bovine feces, (Modern day term for B.S.?)
wasicu – large herd of buffalo – fat ?
Hoka hey – charge
Hya-a-a-a! – Thanks!
Pteh cala st pi wi – dark red calves- February
waphíya – healer
Most every part of the buffalo was used by the Native Americans.
(see What part of the bison was used?)
Plains Indians exhibited great skill and ingenuity in turning the natural materials they found around them into tools and materials to help them survive. They used stones, bones, shells, clay, hides, hair, and wood to make tools and implements. But, one of their greatest natural resources was the bison.
The bison was crucial to the life of the Plains Native Americans. For most tribes here, their lives were centered around the bison hunt.
The Native Americans of eastern Nebraska in the late 1600s and early 1700s developed a system of seasonal travel carefully planned to put them at the right place at the right time to make the best use of the right resource. Between planting in the spring and harvesting in the fall, the tribes left their permanent villages to hunt game, particularly bison.
Each bison provided the tribes with a wealth of different raw materials above and beyond the meat. A bison bull in good condition might weigh more than 2,000 pounds and provide about 800 pounds of useable meat. Cows weighed from 700 to 1,200 pounds, and provided an average of 400 pounds of meat. Horns were fashioned into spoons or scoops. The extra thick hide on the top of the head became a bowl. The heart was used as a sack to carry dried meat. The furry hide was tanned and used by the tribe as the walls of their tepees. Later, these hides became a thriving trade item for them. Even the stomach could be used as a cooking vessel. The stomach would be filled with water, meat, herbs and wild onions. Then hot rocks were placed into the mixture to bring it to a boil. A little later, the tribe had stew.
Although each tribe had slightly different techniques, hunters had two basic ways to hunt the bison. A large party of Indians would often surround a herd and then attack, trying to keep the herd milling yet prevent it from stampeding. Large numbers could be killed using this method. A less efficient and more dangerous method was to run the herd and attempt to kill as many as possible on horseback while the animals fled.
Until the introduction of the repeating rifles in the late 1860s, the use of the bow and arrow was the preferred weapon for communal hunts. If hunts were organized so that each man hunted for his own family, his kills could be identified by the markings on his arrows. Selected hunters were assigned the task of hunting for the poor or those families that did not have an active hunter. Even after French traders began to introduced muzzle-loading muskets as a trade good, the bow and arrow was still used. It was almost impossible to ride a galloping horse and reload a muzzle-loading gun.
Following successful hunts there were days of feasting and hard work. The usual butchering process involved men placing the bison on its belly and removing the hide in two sections, divided along the backbone. Then, the meat had to be cut into long thin sheets and dried in the sun. The dried meat was light, portable, and well preserved. source: http://www.nebraskastudies.org/
Bison dance by the Mandan Indians in front of the Medezin hut in Mih-Tutta-Hangkusch.
1840-1843 Germany Postcard
New Orleans, June 20, 1846
The Daily Picayune.
The Prairie Indians and the Treaty
We are at last placed in possession of the letters of our correspondent from the scene of the late treaty with the Comanches and other Prairie Indians. Our correspondent not returning directly with the Commissioners, but diverging to the seat of war on the Rio Grande, his letters have been somewhat delayed: they will not be the less interesting, however, and will serve to correct some erroneous details given by the press in regard to the terms of the treaty, while they supply a fund of information touching the Prairie Indians generally.
Both the Commissioners underwent heavy privations from exposure to cold and other annoyances during a rigorous and inclement season, and amidst conflicting elements of discord, which they found it difficult to allay; but they have the satisfaction of believing that the results of their labors will far outweigh all their personal sacrifices.
The Commissioners, we are authorized to say, believe most confidently that the treaty has been entered into in good faith on the part of the Indian, and that by a little timely attention, which will certainly be given, all the Prairie Indians may be controlled, and that peace and safety of the frontier permanently secured. According to the best information of the Commissioners were able to obtain, these Prairie or border Indians consist of 22,000 souls, of which the Comanches are the master spirits, and constitute about 13,000 souls; subdivided into six different bands with distinct organizations, all speaking the same language, but barely uniting or acting in concert. They make no corn, but live entirely upon the chase of the buffalo and the mustang, and by continuous predatory excursions upon the Northern Mexican provinces. The next in numbers and importance are the Kiaways, numbering about 3500 souls, of the same character and vocation. The next are the Essequetas and Muscalaroes, numbering about 4000 souls. They are recently from the provinces of Mexico, and are a corn-planting, improving people. The Wichetswes, Toweyash, Wacoes, Keechies Tiwoekenies, five little tribes, and although distinct tribes, speaking different languages, from long association and intermarriages, are much the same people. They average about 140 souls each tribe; they plant corn and have settled residences and villages, but are the most notorious horse-thieves in the prairies. The loonies, Annodarcoes and Caddoes, are in much the same condition. They number about 1000 souls, and plant corn, pumpkin, etc. They live upon the Brazos river, nearest to the white settlements. The Lipans and Tonkaways, numbering about 800 souls, have heretofore been allies of Texas, inhabiting the country about San Antonio, and depending upon game for subsistence. These, with a few renegade Kickapoo’s, numbering about 300 souls; Cherokees about 60; Delawares and Shawnees about 50, constitute the different tribes of Indians that were in attendance, and parties to the late treaty. With these preliminary remarks, we proceed to lay the letters of our correspondent “Buffalo Hump” before our readers: [SPECIAL CORRESPONDENCE OF THE PICAYUNE.] COUNCIL SPRINGS, BRAZOS RIVER, MAY 13, 1846.
‘Editors of the Picayune:
Gentlemen: I am an occasional sojourner at this place, though not a party to the contract or pending negotiations, and will, with your leave, give you occasionally an item of what is transpiring in this wild country.
The Council are in full blast: Present, the Commissioners and the Representatives of from ten to twelve distinct band of Indians. Some of these entire bands are present; others are represented by their chiefs and head men. They are as follows: Comanches, 12,500, Wichetawes, 150: Towyash, 150: Keechies, 140: Wacoes, 130: Tiwockonies, 160: Lonies, 250; Annodarcoes, 350; Caddoes, 300; Lepans, 120; Tonqueaways, 750; Essequeyas, 3500; Muscalaroes, 400; a few renegade Kickapoos, 300; Cherokees,60; Delawares, 30; Shawnees,20; and Biluxies, 10; constitute the number assembled here.
Ascertaining their number only by their lodges, which average from two to twelve souls, they number about the amount set opposite each tribe, from which it will appear that there are between 18 and 20,000 souls. Of this number about 2000 are a corn planting people, the balance depend entirely upon the chase, and their predatory habits of stealing, plundering, etc.
The Comanches are Indians of decided rank and influence in the prairie; they are a fine looking, athletic people, and seemed to feel their superiority. They are known upon the prairies by the general appellations by all the Indians of Pah-to-cahae , subdivided into six distinct organizations, such as
Yam-pe-rick-oes, or root diggers;
Hoo-eisk, or honey-eaters;
Coo-ebe-tack-ies, or buffalo-eaters;
Pe-na-tah-es, or timber people;
Te-nay-wish, or dog-eaters;
Noe_tha, or the people in the desert.
But two of these bands inhabit the South, or encounter the Texans.
In Council to-day, they have smoked, talked and hugged. The Presidents talk has been delivered to them, with which they are much pleased. This talk is short and to the point- being in amount: I send my two Captains, Butler and Lewis, to smoke the pipe and talk to you. Listen to their tongue, and follow their counsel. I have directed them to give you some presents. I have never seen I red children of the Prairie, but I wish and hope to do so soon. You must quit your warning and stealing with your white brothers.
The Council have adjourned to meet again to-morrow. I will write you again by the next express to Austin. I am your humble servant,
A Monograph of the Genus Bos- 1857
THE OX TRIBE,
The capture of the Bison is effective in various ways, chiefly with the rifle, and on foot. Their sense of smelling, however, is so acute, that they are extremely difficult of approach, scenting their enemy from afar, and retiring with the greatest precipitation. Care, therefore, must be taken to go against the wind, being almost blinded by the long hair hanging over their foreheads. The hunters generally aim at the shoulder, which, if effectively hit, causes them to drop at once; otherwise they are infuriated, and become dangerous antagonist, as was proved with the result of Mr. McDonnell’s adventure.
When flying before their pursuers, it would be in vain for the foremost to halt, or attempt to obstruct the progress of the main body, as the throng in the rear, still rushing onwards, the leader must advance, although destruction await the movement. The Indians take advantage of this circumstance to destroy the great quantities of this favorite game; and certainly no method could be resorted to more ineffectually destructive, nor could a more terrible devastation be produced, then that of forcing a numerous herd of these large animals to leap from the brink of a dreadful precipice upon a rocky and broken surface, a hundred feet below
When the Indians determined to destroy Bisons in this way, one of their swiftest-footed and most active young man is selected, who is disguised in a Bison skin, having the head, ears, and horns adjusted on his own head, so as to make the deception very complete; and thus accoutered, he stations himself between the Bison herd and some of the precipices, which often extend for several miles along the rivers. The Indians around the herd as nearly as possible, when, at a given signal, they show themselves, and rush forward with loud yells. The animals being alarmed, and seeing no way open but in the direction of the disguised Indian, run towards him, and he, taking to flight, dashes onto the precipice, where he suddenly secures himself in some previously ascertained crevice. The foremost of the herd arrives at the brink, there is no possibility of retreat, no chance of escape; the foremost may, for an instant, shrink with tear, but the crowd behind, who are terrified by the approaching hunters, rush forward with increasing impetuosity, and the aggregate force hurls them successfully into the Gulf, where certain death awaits them.
Sometimes there taken by the following method a great number of men divide and form a vast square; each band then set fire to the dry grass of the savanna, where the herds are feeding; seen the fire advance on all sides, they retire in great consternation to the centre of the square; the man then close and kill them without the least hazard.
Great numbers are also taken in pounds, constructed with an embankment of such an elevation as to prevent the return of the Bisons when once they are driven into it. A general slaughter then takes place with rifles or arrows.
“By the end of the second day after we left Pembinah we had not a mouthful to eat, and we were beginning to be very hungry. When we laid down in our camp(near Craneberry River) at night, and put our ears close to the ground, we could hear the tramp of the buffaloes, but when we set up we could hear nothing; and on the following morning nothing could be seen of them; though we could command a very extensive view of the Prairie. As we knew they must not be far off in the direction of the sounds we had heard, eight men, of whom I was one, were selected and dispatch to kill some, and bring the meat to a point where it was agreed the party should stop next night. The noise we could still hear next morning, by applying our ears to the ground; and it seemed about as far distant, and in the same direction as before. We started early, and wrote some hours before we can begin to see them; and we first discovered the margin of the herd, it must have been at least 10 miles distant. It was like a black line drawn along the edge of the sky, or a low sure seen across the lake. The distance of the herd from the place where we first heard them could not have been less than twenty miles. But it was now the rutting season, and the various parts of the herd were all the time kept in rapid motion by severe fights of the bulls. To the noise produced by the knocking together of the two divisions of the hoof, when they raise their feet from the ground, and their incessant tramping, was added the loud and furious roar of the bulls, engaged, as they all were, in their terrific and appalling conflicts. We were conscious that our approach to the herd would not occasion the alarm now, that it would at any other time, and we rode directly towards them. As we came near we killed the wounded bull, which scarcely made an effort to escape from us. He had wounds in his flanks, into which I could put my whole hand. As we knew that the flesh of the bulls was not now good to eat, we did not wish to kill them, though we might easily have shot any number. Dismounting we put our horses in the care of some of our number, who were willing to stay back for that purpose, and then crept into the herd to try to kill some cows. I had separated from the others, and advancing, gotten tangled among the bulls. Before I found an opportunity to shoot a cow, the bulls began to fight very near me. In their fury they were totally unconscious of my presence, and came rushing towards me with such violence, that in some alarm for my safety, I took refuge and one of those holes which are so free: where those animals abound, and which they themselves dig to wallow in. Here I found they were pressing directly upon me, and I was compelled to fire to disperse them, and which I did not succeed until I had killed four them. By this firing the cows were so frightened, that I perceived I should not be able to kill any in this quarter; so regaining my horse, I road to a distant part of the herd, where the Indians had succeeded in killing a fat cow. But from this cow as in usual in similar cases, the herd had all moved off, except one bull, who, when I came up, still kept the Indians at bay. “You are warriors,” said I, as I rode up, ‘going far from your own country, to seek an enemy, but you cannot take his wife from that old bull, who has nothing in his hands.’ So saying, I’ve pass them directly towards the bull, then standing something more than two hundred yards distant. He had no sooner saw me approach, then he came plunging towards me with such impetuosity, that, knowing the danger to my horse and myself, I turned and fled. The Indians laughed heartedly at my repulse, but they did not give over their attempts to get at the cow. By dividing the attention of the bull, and creeping up to him on different sides, they lay at length shot him down. While we were cutting up the cow, the herd were at no great distance; and an old cow, which the Indians supposed to be the mother of the one we had killed, taking the scent of the blood, came running with great violence towards us. The Indians were alarmed and fled, many of them not having their guns in their hands; but I had carefully reloaded mine, and had it ready for use. Throwing myself down close to the body of the cow, and behind it, I waited till the other came up within a few yards of the carcass, when I fired upon her, she turned, gave one or two jumps, and fell dead. We now had the meat of two fact cows, which was as much as we wanted; accordingly we repaired, without delay, to the appointed place, where we found our party, whose hunger was already somewhat allayed by a deer one of them had killed.” John Tanner
The New York Times
New York, New York
25 Oct 1867
Peace Agreed Upon with the Comanches’ and Kiowas’.
Medicine Lodge Creek, Kansas, via Fort Harker, Thursday, Oct 24.
The Commission concluded a treaty to-day with the Kiowa and Comanche tribes. These tribe are to go on a reservation in Indian Territory, on the north fork of Bed River, near Witchelow Mountain. They promise peace and are to receive annually $3,500, an agency house, clothing, provisions, etc. This is no material alteration of the treaty of 1865.
The Commissioners will be delayed six days for the arrival of the hostile Cheyenne, now making medicine sixty mile distant. The treaty with the Arapahoe and Apaches win be concluded to-morrow. The Arapahoe returned to night from pursuit of the Kaw Indians who stole their horses from here a few nights since. They recovered the horses and killed the Kaw Indians.
The Trails Drovers of Texas
A FEW THRILLING INCIDENTS IN MY EXPERIENCE
ON THE TRAIL
By L. B. Anderson of Seguin, Texas (1870’s)
The Indians at the Red Cloud agency in Dakota did not bury their dead under the ground, but would erect a scaffold some eight or ten feet high, place the body thereon and cover it with a red blanket, besides placing a bow and quiver of arrows, with a pot of food on the scaffold for the deceased Indian to use on his journey to the “happy hunting grounds.” Every animal the dead Indian owned was brought to the scaffold and killed. I have seen as many as twelve dead horses at one scaffold and several dead dogs.
Effects of the Extermination.
The buffalo supplied the Indian with food, clothing, shelter, bedding, saddles, ropes, shields, and innumerable smaller articles of use and ornament In the United States a paternal government takes the place of the buffalo in supplying all these wants of the red man, and it costs several millions of dollars annually to accomplish the task.
The following are the tribes which depended very largely—some almost wholly—upon the buffalo for the necessities, and many of the luxuries, of their savage life until the Government began to support them:
The Indians of what was once the buffalo country are not starving and freezing, for the reason that the United States Government supplies them regularly with beef and blankets in lieu of buffalo. Does anyone imagine that the Government could not have regulated the killing of buffaloes, and thus maintained the supply, for far less money than it now costs to feed and clothe those 54,758 Indians! This enumeration (from the census of 1886) leaves entirely out of consideration many thousands of Indians living in the Indian Territory and other portions of the Southwest, who drew an annual supply of meat and robes from the chase of the buffalo, notwithstanding the fact that their chief dependence was upon agriculture.
How is it with the Indians of the British Possessions to-day?
Prof. John Maconn writes as follows in his “Manitoba and the Great Northwest,” page 342:
“During the last three years [prior to 1883] the great herds have been kept south of our boundary, and, as the result of this, our Indians have been on the verge of starvation. When the hills were covered with countless thousands [of buffaloes] in 1877, the Blackfeet were dying of starvation in 1879.”
During the winter of 1886-’87, destitution and actual starvation prevailed to an alarming extent among certain tribes of Indians in the Northwest Territory who once lived bountifully on the buffalo. A terrible tale of suffering in the Athabasca and Peace River country has recently (1888) come to the minister of the interior of the Canadian government, in the form of a petition signed by the bishop of that diocese, six clergymen and missionaries, and several justices of the peace. It sets forth that “owing to the destruction of game, the Indians, both last winter and last summer, have been in a state of starvation. They are now in a complete state of destitution, and are utterly unable to provide themselves with clothing, shelter, ammunition, or food for the coming winter.” The petition declares that on account of starvation, and consequent cannibalism, a party of twenty-nine Cree Indians was reduced to three in the winter of 1886. Of the Fort Chippewyan Indians, between twenty and thirty starved to death last winter, and the death of many more was hastened by want of food and by famine diseases. Many other Indians—Crees, Beavers, and Chippewyans—at almost all points where there are missions or trading posts, would certainly have starved to death but for the help given them by the traders and missionaries at those places. It is now declared by the signers of the memorial that scores of families, having lost their heads by starvation, are now perfectly helpless, and during the coming winter must either starve to death or eat one another unless help comes. Heart-rending stories of suffering and cannibalism continue to come in from what was once the buffalo plains.
If ever thoughtless people were punished for their reckless improvidence, the Indians and half-breeds of the Northwest Territory are now paying the penalty for the wasteful slaughter of the buffalo a few short years ago. The buffalo is his own avenger, to an extent his remorseless slayers little dreamed he ever could be.
|Piegan, Blood, and Blackfeet||2,026|
|Bannack and Shoshone||2,001|
|Kiowas and Comanches||2,756|
“Next to the buffalo the elk is the animal on which the Indian depends for food. The plains Indians usually stalk them, and are very successful. Not being biased by such puerile considerations as size, appearance, or wealth of antlers, the Red hunter fires at that animal which he is most sure to hit, and, having wounded, is almost sure to bag it, as he will follow its trail for miles, if necessary, with indomitable patience, and the instinct of a hound.
The Utes, Bannocks, and other Indians living on the slopes of the mountains, sometimes make a wholesale slaughter in winter. A herd being discovered, a surround is made, and the elk are driven into a deep snowdrift, where they are butchered at leisure. It is the principal food of these Indians, there being no buffalo in the country.
I have been told that the remnant of a plains tribe (now living in the Indian territory, but the name of which I have forgotten) is very successful in killing elk from horseback. Each hunter is armed with a long pole, light but strong, the small end of which is split and forced open for about a foot, forming a ‘Y’. About six inches from the open end is fastened a knife blade, sharpened to the finest edge, and set diagonally in the Y; that is, one end is farther forward than the other.
The whole is firmly secured by thongs of raw hide.
A herd being discovered, the hunters make a surround, and dash upon the frightened beasts, which, confused by the sudden onslaught, and having no leader, crowd together. Running up behind the elk, the hunter sets the crotch of his pole against the hind leg, just above the knee ; a sharp push severs the hamstring. The other leg is served in the same way. So quick and noiseless is this work, that it is said not to be unusual for each hunter to secure two or three victims before the herd finally breaks away.” Colonel Dodge 1877
NOTES: in the days when the bison abounded in the United States a pure white specimen was on rare occasions captured by an Indian hunter, and its skin, priceless to the captor, was devoted to religious uses.
Pemmican, mentioned in every frontier yarn, is made by Indians squaws, and consists of lean pieces of Buffalo and dear cut in strips and dried in the sun; it is eaten in the form in which it is dried or reduced to a powder. One important ingredient, dried Buffalo, is no longer included in pemmican preparations. (1917)
Indians dress skins by pegging them down, leather side up, upon a smooth, hard spot of earth; the only substances used is the brains of the animal from which the pelt was taken, and juices of certain berries; this brain-dressing is simply rubbed over and worked into the leather and till it becomes nearly dry, and is then carefully scraped off with the blunt instrument, leaving the pelt perfectly clean and soft. In the era of made haste in bison extermination upon the Western plains of the United States, Indian dressed Buffalo hides, owing to greater care in skinning as well as excellence in dressing, command a higher price in the market then “white-man handled” robes.
Probably the most painful Native American ceremony was the Sun Dance of the Plains people. This involved dancers having skewers implanted in their chest muscles and being attached by rope to the sacred cottonwood tree. In return for their pain, they hoped for a plentiful supply of buffalo. The Ghost Dance was a late addition to Native American belief systems, appearing around 1890. It was believed that the ritual dance would help restore the old way of life before the arrival of the Europeans. The dance promised the return of the buffalo and communication with the spirits of the dead. Although the Ghost Dance (see below) was peaceful, army authorities outlawed its performance.
Noticed the tents in the lower center of the photograph,, the UK news states: “the area is one of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes in North American and holds preserved ruins of early indigenous people’s such as The Anasazi and Navajo.”
BUFFALO LAND -1869-73
Of one fact our journey thoroughly convinced us. Lo’s forte has no connection with the fort of the pale-faces. An unguarded hunter, or a defenseless emigrant wagon, or unarmed railroad laborer, gratifies sufficiently his most warlike ambition. The savages of the plains, in their attacks upon the whites, have been like bees, stinging whenever opportunity offers, and immediately disappearing in space. Their excuses for the murders they commit have been as various as their moods. At one time it is a broken treaty, at another the killing of their buffalo, and trespassing upon the hunting-grounds, and again it is some other grievance. It may be some gratification for them to know that it is estimated that, until within the last three years, a white man’s scalp atoned for each buffalo killed by his race.
The Waterloo Express March 6, 1879
How the Indians Hunt the Bison
Before the horse came into use Indians were obliged to chase the bison on foot, and even at that present day there are many celebrated hunters who are able to run down a bison on foot and kill it with a lance. The mode however, which is generally adopted in the chase by mounted hunters, a chase which offers the greatest results, and exhibits the wildest enthusiasm and excitement. Armed merely with tiny and flint headed arrows, the native hunter mounts his horse, and goes off in chase of the bison. When he comes up with the animals, he selects one, usually of fat and well conditioned cow, presses his horse to her, and prepares his bow and arrow. The well-trained horse needs no gilding, but keeps close to the right shoulder of the bison, and a little behind it, so that it may not run upon the horns of the animal if it should happen to stop suddenly and turn its head. This plan, moreover, just bring the rider into the proper position to deliver his arrow in the most deadly manner, i.e., directing that just behind the shoulder. When an arrow is discharged by a practiced hand, it often passes entirely through the bison-he falls mortally wounded, and, tenacious of life as the animal is, soon breathes is last. Leaving the arrow in the wound in order to mark the owner of the dead animal, the successful archer dashes on in pursuit of another animal, and does not cease until he has expanded all his store of arrows. It is the pride of the native hunter to kill a bison with every arrow, and not shoot twice at the same animal. The young hunters are fierce and anxious rivals in this sport, knowing that the results of the day’s hunt will be the talk of the whole village, and that on their success or failure will much depend the estimation in which they are held.
Even in those parts of the country where the bow has been almost entirely superseded by firearms, it is equally a point of honor to kill the bison with a single shot and to claim a slain bison for every bullet. In such cases the hunter takes little pains in loading his gun. He carries his powder loose in his pocket or bag, scoops hastily a random quantity into the gun, drops upon it, without any wadding, a bullet wetted in the mouth, and the loading is complete. The muzzle of the gun is uppermost until the moment for firing when the gun is dropped, aimed and fired simultaneously without being brought to the shoulder.
Manitoba Free Press
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada Dec 20 1890
The leather, though sometimes exported, was generally reserved for home use, and contributed largely to domestic comfort. Out of it the plains Indian made his moccasins and other articles of clothing, his saddles, and above all his portable and comfortable lodge, for comfortable it was in winter, with its lining and carpeting of soft buffalo robes, and it’s bright fire, round which the legends of the tribe were handed down to the youngsters in the long winter nights. Indeed the Buffalo skin lodge was in general use 20 years ago even in the settlements, and was often preferred in summer to the house. The same style of lodge is still in use in the Northwest; but it is now made of calico instead of leather. On the plains the Buffalo dung called “Buffalo chips” by the hunters furnished, in summer, the Indian and the plains hunters fuel, and it’s sinews, which lay immediately under the back fat, along the spine from the sirloin forward, supplied tough and durable thread and glue. The last, but not the least, important product of the Buffalo was shaganappi, or as it was often called ”Northwest iron.” The word in common use is a corruption of the Cree compound pesaaganappi (”shred in a circle”) , and the common sort was simply a long strip cut concentrically from the hide of an old bull. But the twisted lines, which were used for bridal lines, tethers, etc. were taken from the romp of the animal, where the hide was uniform in thickness. These lines, like the others, were taken from the hide in continuous concentric rings, which were afterwards greased and exposed to the sun, pounded to suppleness with the mallet, or better still, chewed and then braided. They were exceedingly strong and durable. Shaganappi was in fact, until recently, an invaluable and omnipresent article in the Northwest. It was much stronger and more durable than the cordage made from domestic hide, and was largely employed in making cart and double harness for cattle. For lashing there was nothing equal to it. First wetted, and then wrapped around a broken wheel, or shaft, it contracted in drying, to a grip as firm as iron; and indeed, has been said, this is the name it often went by. Such were the principal benefits which the Buffalo conferred upon the Indians, half breeds and older settlers of the Northwest, and which covered most of their primary needs. It seems that yesterday when they were in the full enjoyment of them; and it is not surprising, therefore, that a generation “to the manner born” should look back with regret to the past and heave many a sigh at thought of its primitive happiness and abundance. So strong is this feeling that I verily believe if today such a miracle could happen as the sudden appearance of an immense herd between the two Saskatchewans the reaper would be left in the swath, and the ripened grain would cry in vain for harvesters.
In conclusion Mr. Mair urges the government to save these animals from extinction. He points out the successful nature of the crossing experiments with domestic cattle made by private parties and seen in this a means of new usefulness of this animal. He advocates the setting a part of a special national Park in the foothills of the Rockies for their breeding of the animals.
Stories of the hunts on the plains, facts as to the habits of the animal are growing fainter as the old hunters follow the bison into the darkness of the past. While there is yet time, Mr. Mair thinks, and effort should be made to collect from these sources all the information possible; and has requested the assistance of the press. The Free Press will be glad to publish anything of interest dealing with bison.
Greater London, England Dec 9 1890
The Ghost Dance(extract)
In one of the dances’ an unfortunate Indian, who had enjoyed the coveted vision, when he had recovered consciousness cried as if his heart would break. He had seen the “Messiah,” who told him to return to earth because he had not brought along his wife and child. The child had died two years before and the impossibility of obeying the command put him into the most complete despair. In a telegram from Pine Ridge it is related that in a recent dance one of the warriors was to go into a trance for four days, and then return to life as a buffalo. The tribe was then to kill the buffalo, and every Indian who did not eat a piece would turn into a dog. The buck who was to be transformed into the buffalo and thus be eaten is said to have offered himself a willing sacrifice. These untutored savages are full of superstitions and believe anything “medicine man” tells them. At the Cheyenne Agency recently one of these prophets announced that on the previous day he had been visited by several persons who had been a long time dead, and who brought him a piece of buffalo meat. The Indians love buffalo meat but have seen none of it for several years. The prophet told them he would feed them with the buffalo meat that had been brought to him. .The following night a circle was formed, and the prophet stepped into the center with a dish full of cooked meat. There was a dance, and then one after another the dancers filed up and each was given a piece of the meat. Although they were many, and the pieces few, yet there were enough to go round. The “medicine man” was a magician and up in all the tricks of sleight of hand, yet he attributed it all to the coming of the red man’s “Messiah.” The craze seems to have spread throughout the Western plains, and the “ghost dance” goes on in a hundred places, the Sioux having carried it even over the northern border into Canada./
Pittsburg Dispatch Dec 13 1891
HOW MEN REMEMBER.
Cords Tally Sticks That Recorded
Histories on Birch Bark Paintings on Skins. [written for the dispatch]
As straight as a reed it would seem more appropriate for this Indian to go about gathering scalps, instead of merely counting them, but he is entirely peaceful and carries in lieu of pencils, note books and blanks, three small cords. Whatever other questions he may ask and however much he may know about possessions and mortgages, if any, he is only going to find out now many braves, squaws and children there are in the tribe. These he records by tying knots in the proper cord; some of these cords are in the United States National Museum.
Census taking among the Comanche Indians only reached so far as to get the total number, this being represented by a bundle of short lengths of arrow reed tied around with a piece of red cotton. Indians however knew how to tally by means of sticks, and notched records are known everywhere. The Eskimo draws sometimes very graphic outlines on a piece of ivory, picturing each animal he has slain. Often, by way of diversion, he scratches on the smooth ivory hunting scenes, pictures of ships, villages, etc., in a masterly manner. Most of his village life also can be read from his ivory drill and bag handles and animal carvings, in which resemble those found in the ancient caves of France. There is a roster of a Sioux band in the National Museum. The warriors are known by different pictures of animals, birds, etc.
The Census of Red Cloud.
Red Cloud’s census record is a remarkable specimen of Indian pictorial writing in which every man is named by rudely drawn figures expressing his name. Two hundred and eighty-nine Indians are named, and apparently the system would answer for any number. There is every reason to believe that the Indian, if left alone, would have invented an alphabet as was done in Phoenicia.
There is also an interesting winter count on a buffalo robe, being a complete record of the events happening in a Sioux camp, for 70 winters, beginning with the year 1800. It is well painted on the skin, and can be read with ease by those familiar with this kind of writing. A
more or less accurate drawing means an Indian named “Left-handed-big-nose” Each winter was called by the principal event, for instance, the “White-buffalo-killed-by-the-Crows-wlnter,” “Many-sick-winter,” “Tree-fell-on-woman-who-was-cutting-wood-winter,” and many other chronicles.
The birch bark records of the Chippewa Indians collected by Dr. W. J. Hoffman are being prepared for display at the Columbian Exposition. They consist of accounts of the origin of the world, battle records, love letters, songs, etc., expressed in queer figures scratched in the bark, and are remarkable specimens of how men remember. – Walter Hough.
Somerset Pennsylvania Nov 17 1897
Much has been written of Indian uprisings and outrages, but there is a story to be told on the other side which often shows not only justice in the Indian action but the most violent outrage on the part of the white settlers in provoking it. Here is a tale told by Scout Allison, an employee of the government in the West, that throws some light on Indian affairs:
Gold was discovered in the Black Hills in 1874, an l regardless of Indian ownership, white men from all parts of the United States rushed to the hills in eager search of the precious metal. The Indians entered a strong protest and appealed to the United States authorities to expel the miners from their reservation. Many were driven out by troops, but in spite of all opposition the spring of 1876 found the new gold fields literally alive with white men and mines giving up gold at the rate of thousands of dollars per day, while every trail leading to the Black Hills across the reservation became a public highway over which supplies were hauled into the mines. One of the principal routes to the Black Hills was over the Bad River trail, through the very heart of the great Sioux reservation in South Dakota. Fort Pierre at the mouth of Bad River was the starting point and base of supplies. Thirty-five miles above Fort Pierre was situated the Cheyenne River Indian agency, on the west bank of the Missouri river, around which were clustered about 5,000 friendly Indians. Sixty-five miles below Fort Pierre the Lower Brule agency was located, also on the west bank of the Missouri, where about 2,500 friendly Sioux received their rations. Indians passing from one agency to the other frequently came in contact with miners and wagon trains on the Bad River trail, but the Indians, being inclined to peaceful methods, and hoping that the government would eventually protect them in their rights, avoided contact as much as possible, waiting their opportunity and crossing the trail where no white man was visible.
About the middle of April, 1876, seven lodges of Minnikanyeju Sioux, who hail been visiting at the Lower Brule agency, were on their way home to the Cheyenne River reservation, when one of their number, a young warrior, was taken violently ill and died while they were encamped on the bank of the Bad river.
Following the usual Indian custom in such cases, the body of the dead warrior was washed and painted as if for a festival, dressed in his finest savage attire and then wrapped in a new woolen blanket, his old mother having first brought his bow and arrows and placed them tenderly by his side. Then the blanket and dressed deer skins were carefully wrapped around the body and fastened with leather thongs. Lastly, the finest and biggest buffalo robe in camp is wrapped with the fur inside around the dead warrior and securely fastened with a long stout lariat. Four forked posts were then set upright in the ground on a little mound a few rods north of the Black Hills trail, on which a scaffold was erected about eight feet from the ground. On this scaffold the body was placed secure from burrowing animals and after the usual funeral rites the grief-stricken friends went sorrowing to their homes at the Cheyenne agency. The mourning red men had been gone perhaps not more than six hours when a party of gold hunters, fourteen in number, with a span of mules and a wagon to haul their supplies, came to the place where the dead warrior was laid to rest The whites saw the Indian grave; the first one they had ever seen. and the last and only one they ever saw. They turned the mules out of the beaten track and drove to the little mound and halted by the side of the scaffold. They walked round and round the strange object, looking up and examining it from every side. At length one of them said: “Say, boys, that looks like a good robe around that redskin; somebody bring an axe from the wagon and we’ll see how they fix up a dead injen, anyway.” The axe is brought, and in a moment the posts are cut through and the scaffold, with its gruesome tenant, falls to the ground. The lariat is loosened, and two men (?) seize the end of the robe and unwind it from the body. It is, indeed, a good robe. They shake it in the wind and then throw it into their wagon. “We’ll have use for that robe,” they say.
The removal of the robe brought to view the dressed deerskins’. “Just what we want,” they said, “to make whiplashes,” and the deerskins followed the buffalo robe into the wagon. And then the blanket, which was a brand new one. It wouldn’t do to leave that. So into the wagon it went to keep company with the rest of the funeral furniture.
Next their attention is given to the almost naked body of the dead warrior. One of them seizes the bow and arrows. “I’ll keep them for my little boy,” said be. Another takes the bear claw necklace. He will take that home for his wife. And thus the body is entirely denuded. The moccasins are taken by one, the silver armlets by another, the garters, with little bells attached to them, are taken by another, and, spurning the naked body with their feet, they go on their way rejoicing at their rich find. It portends good luck when they reach the Hills.
About noon the following day the little band of Indians reached their homes, where they imparted the sad news of the death of the young brave to his friends and relatives. Among the latter was a brother, who, after learning the exact locality of the grave, mounted his horse, saying that he would go and look upon the silent form of his brother and weep for him. Before sunset he was drawing near the little mound, but saw no scaffold standing there and wondered if he had mistaken his directions. No, there is something there, and he rides closer to see what it is. One brief glance at the ruins and he knows the whole story. The posts with the marks of the axe, and the poles which formed the scaffold are there. The tracks of the wagon and the mules show plainly in the soft earth, and all around are the footprints of white men. But where is the dead warrior? Scattered about are fragments of the skeleton stripped of the flesh, and down yonder by the river is a score of coyotes, snarling and fighting over something which looks very much like a portion of the dead Indian’s body. The wolves and coyotes had finished the work which the white vandals had begun.
No tear started from the eye of the dead warrior’s brother as he sat there on his pony and contemplated the scene, but giving utterance to that savage growl which no white men can imitate or describe, he turned his horse’s head toward his home and flew away with the speed of a frightened deer.
It was midnight when he reached his camp, but before daylight, mounted on a fresh horse and followed by fifty stalwart braves, he was on the trail of the fourteen men who committed the outrage. They never used that buffalo robe, nor did they make whip ashes of the deerskins. The bow and arrows never reached the little boy. Every one of the fourteen was killed, providing a big feast for the wolves. But the newspapers just rang with the news of another Indian outrage. They never knew the primary cause. Boston Herald.
The Pittsburg Press
Pittsburg, Pennsylvania June 26, 1905
OLD INDIAN PIPES
Some of Them of Very Curious Stuff
it needs scarcely be told that in the pipes of long ago each feather appended to the stem represented an enemy slain. If one doubted the record of the war eagle feathers the warrior then showed the scalps of the enemy, which were kept as a sort of a sacred proof of his word. Such pipes were used only on occasions of peace and war. Speaking roughly the best pipes of Eastern tribes were in molded clay, the best of the Western tribes in Slate Pipestone taken from the famous quarry West of the Mississippi. Before the great Buffalo and antelope hunts, when herds of game were driven into a pound, or an enclosed area of snares, it was customary for the Indians to whiff that incense of propitiation to the spirits of the animals about to be slain, explaining that only the desire for food compelled the Indians to kill, and that the hunt was that will of the Master of Life or ‘Master of the Roaring Winds, “ who would compensate the animals in the next world. The pipes used for the ceremony usually show the figure of a man in conference with the figure of an animal. Others show the figures of Indians with locked hands. This typifies of bowel of friendship to be terminated only by death. It was usually between men; but sometimes between a man and a woman, in which case the Platonic bound not only precluded but forbade the very possibility of marriage. After that who shall say that the stolid Indian has no vein of sentiment in his nature?
One of the most curious pipes I have seen I bought from a Cree on a reservation East of the refugee Sioux. It is in the shape of a war hatchet, of a metal which I do not know, though I suspect it is galena mixed with clay, the edge been sharp enough, but the back of the acts being a bowl and the handle a pipe stem. The odd lines in Indian carbines and Walden work are not without meaning. Fighting Mistah could read a legend where we saw nothing but bizarre markings. There were the circular lines, hollow down, meaning clouds; the cross, meaning the coming of the priest; the tree, a type of peace with its branches overshadowing the nations; the wavy line, signifying water; the arrow, war. The ordinary Indian can read a tribal song or Chronicle from obscure drawings on the face of a rock, or crazy colored work on a scraped Buffalo skin.- Agnes C. Laut, in June Outing.
The Houston Post Houston, Texas 21 Jan 1917
“At the time of its discovery by Columbus this continent had only one domesticated animal the dog. In most instances, the ancestors of the Indian dogs appear to have been the native coyotes or gray wolves, but the descriptions of some dogs found by the early explorers indicate very different and unknown ancestry. Unfortunately these strange dogs became extinct at an early period, and thus left unsolvable the riddle of their origin.”/
Intertribal Buffalo Council
ITBC is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) tribal organization that has a membership of 57 tribes with a collective herd of over 15,000 bison. Membership of ITBC remains open. ITBC is committed to reestablishing buffalo herds on Indian lands in a manner that promotes cultural enhancement, spiritual revitalization, ecological restoration, and economic development. ITBC is governed by a Board of Directors, which is comprised of one tribal representative from each member tribe. The role of the ITBC, as established by its membership, is to act as a facilitator in coordinating education and training programs, developing marketing strategies, coordinating the transfer of surplus buffalo from national parks to tribal lands, and providing technical assistance to its membership in developing sound management plans that will help each tribal herd become a successful and self-sufficient operation.
Public • 5 Collaborators • 9,618 views
Created on Aug 12, 2011 • By Biagio • Updated Jul 12, 2012/The Intertribal Bison Council was formed in 1990 to assist tribes in returning buffalo to Indian country and now has a collective herd of more than 15,000 bison divided among 57 tribes in the western United States up to Alaska and over to the Great Lakes area of Michigan. The ITBC realizes, however, with only so much time and so little resources, they must limit their focus to what happens on reservations. They want to utilize and restore the bison not only for health and cultural measures, but for economic reasons as well. “At one time they were our entire economy anyway,” said Mike Fox, a Gros Ventre and ITBC member. He oversees the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation’s 400 head of bison in northern Montana. “There’s also a spiritual connection with bison that you don’t have with cattle. This is something we may never be able to explain to non-Indians.”
Guest Editorial – 1999
by Carla Rae Brings Plenty, Intertribal Bison Cooperative Restoring the Bison, Restoring the Spirit
They gathered in the Sacred Black Hills of South Dakota on a cold February day in 1991. With only four days’ notice, nineteen tribes from all four directions braved the harsh Dakota winter to attend. Lakota representatives from most of the reservations in South Dakota were there, as were the Crow, Shoshone-Bannock, Gros Ventre / Assinoboine and Blackfoot Nations of Montana. Various Pueblo representatives from New Mexico pulled in, and the Winnebago, traditionally called Ho Chunk, from both Nebraska and Wisconsin came. Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and some as far west as the Round Valley of California, arrived, as well. Some of these tribes have historically been enemies, but now they unite for a common mission: “To restore bison to Indian Nations in a manner that is compatible with their spiritual and cultural beliefs and practices.” And this is the mission of the Intertribal Bison Cooperative, an organization comprised of 42 American Indian tribes with a collective herd of over 8,000 bison. ITBC is a non-profit 501(c)(3) tribal organization and is committed to reestablishing bison herds on Indian lands in a manner that promotes cultural enhancement, spiritual revitalization, ecological restoration, and economic development. ITBC is governed by a Board of Directors, comprised of one tribal representative from each member tribe. The role of the ITBC, as established by its membership, is to act as a facilitator in coordinating education and training programs, develop marketing strategies, coordinate the transfer of surplus American buffalo–also known as bison–from national parks to tribal lands, and provide technical assistance to its membership. The ITBC works collaboratively with members to develop sound management plans that enable tribal herds to become successful and self-sufficient operations. The bison has always held great meaning for American Indian people. To Indian people, bison represent their spirit, reminding them of how they once lived free and in harmony with nature.
Millions of wild buffalo once roamed North America, grazing the plains and prairies and populating the mountains.
For more than 10,000 years, the indigenous people of this continent hunted buffalo. Historical documents dating to just after
Columbus’s landfall describe the animal’s importance to the people dwelling west of the Mississippi. Recent scholarship reiterates the buffalo’s dominance in the religion, philosophy, and economy of Native Americans. Woven into the fabric of Native American life for millennia, bison were, and remain, the central figure of their culture. But at the dawn of the 19th Century, a host of changes conspired to redefine the role of the buffalo in relation to mankind, nearly causing the animal’s complete extermination. Along the way these developments corrupted the natural scheme upon which Native American traditions so depend.
Fur traders began to trickle onto the Plains early in the 1800s, soon after Lewis and Clark reported the availability of furs and hides along North Dakota’s Missouri River. Around 1830, Blackfoot country on the upper Missouri opened to white trappers, and slaughter of bison for commercial purposes escalated. The first railroad to invade buffalo territory, the Kansas Pacific, claimed vast tracts of valuable grazing land. Demand and subsequent consumption of buffalo increased exponentially as trains delivered meat to eastern butchers and hides to far-flung tanners. Before long, entrepreneurial resourcefulness among white trappers and hunters gave way to indulgent excess. Recognizing the inextricable link between Native Americans and buffalo, the U.S. Army encouraged the animals’ total destruction, as a military tactic, to starve Native Americans into surrender. Once the bison disappeared, the Army reasoned, tribes would have to abandon their traditional ways or die. The extermination of the buffalo is likely the first example in history of an attempt–and a successful one, at that–to eliminate a species for the purpose of achieving a political objective. By 1880 it was clear that bison were doomed. Men with guns tracked down buffalo even in areas that should have offered natural and political refuge. Poachers infiltrated Yellowstone Park in droves despite regulations prohibiting hunting on park grounds. Lax punishment for the offense, combined with the enticing profitability of a successful hunt, conspired against the majestic animals. When an 1894 inventory in Yellowstone reported only twenty live remaining buffalo, Congress rushed to pass the National Park Protective Act, which imposed stiff fines or imprisonment for buffalo poaching. The U.S. Army now enforced the law in Yellowstone.As the Yellowstone herd struggled for survival, unprotected buffalo outside of Yellowstone National Park were destroyed. In Lost Park, Colorado, poachers exterminated four buffalo in 1897, likely the last unprotected free-ranging herd in the country. Without the bison, the independent life of the Indian people could no longer be maintained. The Indian spirit, along with that of the bison, suffered an enormous loss. The destruction of buffalo herds and the associated devastation to the tribes disrupted the self-sufficient lifestyle of Indian people more than all other federal policies to date. To reestablish healthy bison populations on tribal lands is to reestablish hope for Indian people. Members of the Intertribal Bison Cooperative understand that reintroduction of the bison to tribal lands will help heal the spirit of both the Indian people and the bison. Carla Rae Brings Plenty, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, is the Intertribal Bison Cooperative’s Cultural Education Coordinator. She has been with ITBC since 1993, and is currently coordinating the development of a comprehensive elementary and secondary education curriculum concerning all aspects of the North American buffalo.
/The Buffalo (great read)
Chapter: The Southern Plains: Apache and Comanche,
by David Dary published 1995 of the University of Oklahoma,
(great read and Many thanks to the university for their loan)
In 1541 a small body of Spanish soldiers with a large following of Mexican Indians, all under the command of Francisco Coronado, set out from the Pueblo villages along the Rio Grande to explore the plains country to the East. After the Spanish had crossed the Pecos River they soon found themselves in buffalo country, and from then on, during three months of travel over more than thousand miles, there was not a single day that they did not see a herd.
As they moved eastward along the Canadian River and near the Texas border, they crossed a curious trail. Many small poles had been dragged over the ground, leaving furrows in the dust. The Spanish followed the trail and soon came to a camp of buffalo hunting Indians with their skin tipis set up for the night, the first such structures the Spanish had ever seen. The furrows had been made by the butts of the tipi poles as they were dragged along by dogs.
The Indians were friendly and showed no fear or surprise at the appearance of a body of mounted men in armor: they had heard reports of the Spanish from the Pueblo Indians along the Pecos. The Spanish were the more surprised. They had never seen Indians like these, and Coronado’s scribe, Pedro de Castaneda, recorded this strange ways of these people:
These Indians subsist entirely on cattle, for they neither plant nor harvest maize. With the skins they build their houses; with the skins they clothe and shoe themselves: from the skins they make ropes and also obtain wool. From the sinews they make thread, with which they sew their clothing and likewise their tents. From the bones they shape awls, and the dung they use for firewood, since there is no other fuel in all that land. The bladders serve as jugs and drinking vessels. They sustain themselves on the flesh of the animals, eating it slightly roasted…. and sometimes uncooked. Taking it in their teeth, they pull with one hand; with the other they hold a large flint knife and cut off mouthfuls, swallowing it half chewed, like birds. They eat raw fat without warming it, and drink the blood just as it comes from the cattle…. They have no other food.
They are gentle people, not cruel, faithful in their friendship, and skilled in the use of signs. They dry their meat in the sun, cutting it into thin slices, and when it is dry they cook it in a pot, which they always manage to have with them. When they put a handful in the pot, the mash soon fills it, since it swells to great size.
When the Indians kill a cow, they clean a large intestine, fill it with blood, and hang it around their necks, to drink when they are thirsty. Cutting open the belly of an animal, they squeeze out the chewed grass and drink the juice, saying it contains the substance of the stomach.
They cut open the cow at the back and pull off the hide at the joints, using up flint the size of a finger, tied to a small stick, doing this as handily as if they used a fine knife. They sharpen the flints on their own teeth, and it is remarkable to see how quickly they do it.
They tan the hides well, dressing skins to take to the Pueblos to sell since they go to spend the winter there. For their tents they fasten the poles at the top and spread them apart at the base, and cover them with tanned and greased hides.
They love their dogs like beast of burden and make light pack saddles for them like ours, cinching them with leather straps. The dogs go about with sores on their backs like pack animals. When the Indians go hunting they load them with provisions, and when they move – for they have no permanent residence anywhere for they follow the cattle to obtain food – the dogs transport their houses for them. In addition to what they carry on their backs, they transport the poles for the tents, dragging them fastened to their saddles. The load may be from thirty to fifty pounds depending on the dog.
These seminomadic buffalo hunters were members of the Apache tribe, which at that time consisted of a great many small bands occupying a wide strip of the Great Plains from the Platte River in the north to the Texas Panhandle, and from the foothills of the Rockies east ward about 200 miles into Nebraska and Kansas. The southern bands were usually seminomadic, and they did not change their way of life appreciably in the next ninety years. Here is a report by Fray Alonso de Benavides on the same bands about 1628.
By these cattle, then, all of these Vaquero Apaches sustain themselves, for which they go craftily to their watering places, and hide themselves in the trails, painted with red earth, and stained with the blood of that same earth; and stretched in the deep trails which the cattle have made, when they pass they employ the arrows they carry. And as these are dull cattle, though very savage and swift, when they feel themselves wounded they let themselves fall after a few paces. And afterward the Indians skin them and carry off the hides, the tongues, and tenderloins and sinews to sew with, and to make strings for their bows. The hides they tan in two ways; some leave the hair on them and they remained like plush velvet, and serve as a bed and as a cloak. Others they tan without the hair, and thin them down, of which they make their tents and other things after their usage. And with these hides they trade through all the land and gain their living…. These Indians then go forth through the neighboring provinces to trade and traffic with these hides. At which point I cannot refrain from telling one thing, somewhat credible, however ridiculous. And it is that when these Indians go to trade and traffic, the entire rancherias go, with their wives and children, who lived in tents made of these skins of buffalo, very thin and tanned; and the tents they carry loaded on pack trains of dogs, harnessed up with their little pack saddles; and the dogs are medium sized. And they are accustomed to take 500 dogs in one pack train, one in front of the other, and the people carry their merchandise loaded, which they barter for cotton cloth and for other things which they lack.
The Apaches were the southern prong of the large Athapascan migration. The other Athapascan groups had remained in Alaska and northern Canada and might have pushed the Apaches south, or the Apaches may have moved on their own accord. They reached the plains country about A.D. 1300 and many small, scattered bands of roving hunters, whose survival depended on securing game almost daily. The bands were usually about twenty people or less, as it would be difficult to kill enough game each day to feed a larger number except in a very good hunting country.
Such small bands could have passed through the northern tribes by keeping in the wide open spaces between the scattered villages. There is no tradition of either the Apache or the northern tribes of any important fighting along their line of travel.
On open plains the Apache found game animals new to them, particularly the buffalo , and had to adjust their hunting practices to deal with these huge beast. When they reach the Platte River and began to occupy the land, they could live in larger units, with buffalo supplying the food. Many of them settled in little villages in sheltered spots along streams, where they built warm earth covered lodges, grew small gardens patches of corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers, and made crude pottery. They copied these new skills from people just to the east, who had come across the Mississippi from the Ohio River a short time before.
Some of the Apache bands that continued south into the Texas Panhandle did not settle down, but roamed the high plains following the buffalo herds. They were the people described by the early Spanish travelers.
When Pueblo Indians in the Rio Grande Valley ran away from their Spanish masters, they went to the Apache villages for refuge, sometimes going as far as the Arkansas River to be safe from pursuit. There they found more settled Apaches and taught them improved methods of raising crops, building houses, and making pottery. Both Spanish records of the time and the presence of many distinctively Pueblo pottery pieces show that an appreciable number of Pueblos did join the Apaches and had a strong influence on their cultural development.
The Pueblos also brought along a few horses and taught the Apaches how to use them. The rapid culture and economic progress of the Apaches during the latter half of the 17th century was cut short and the very existence of the tribe threatened by large-scale attacks to powerful hostile tribes, one to the west, the other to the east. The Comanches began to move down from the Colorado foothills, while the Osage came across the plains from the Missouri woodlands. Each tribe seem determined to wipe out the Apaches and take over their land.
The Osages were greatly feared, for they had just begun to secure guns from the French traders, while the Apaches, well to the west, had no chance to buy guns of their own. The Comanches came in large war parties, their raids made more effective once they had secured horses. As the Apaches began to weaken under these two attacks, the Pawnees descended on them from the north. The remnants of the tribe had no hope of escaping destruction except in flight to the south. They fled deep into Texas. The land they vacated was overrun quickly by the victors, with the Comanches claiming about two thirds of it. The Comanches were part of a large Uto-Aztecan migration that had come from Asia over a period of several hundred years. They passed through Alaska into Canada and south just to the east of the Rockies. The vanguard of this migration, the Aztecs, reached the Mexican plateau by 1300, while the stragglers, the Shoshoni, spread out from central Alberta southward across Montana, where they split into two prongs, one going across the mountains into southern Idaho, the others staying east of the Rockies and occupying eastern Wyoming. The latter group split again, part of them remaining in Wyoming to become the Wind River Shoshoni, the remainder proceeding southeastward into eastern Colorado and becoming the Comanches, who held the foothills of the Rockies from the northern Colorado line to the Arkansas River.
The Comanches were of average height compared to the Indian population as a whole, but they were much shorter than their neighboring tribes, the Crow, Arapahoe, Cheyenne, Osage, and Kiowa, all of whom were slimmer and had longer legs. The Comanches had powerful bodies mounted on stubby legs, which were a handicap to them on the open plains when they were chased by their long legged neighbors. They had a hard time holding their own on the plains until they secured horses. Then they found that short legs can be more of an asset than a liability to a rider.
The Comanches begin their eastward movement into the plains by attacking the small permanent Apache villages along the streams and southwestern Nebraska and western Kansas. The Apaches were at a great disadvantage in this fighting, for the enemy always knew where to find them and could mount a surprise attack with superior forces against any one Apache village. The hit-and-run raider has always had this obvious advantage against of farming people. The Comanche attacks were more deadly than the usual Indian fights, for they were determined to wipe out each village, killing off all the men, taking captive the women and children, and burning the lodges. Even if the initial attack failed, some of the defenders would be killed and the village could be further weakened by successive raids until it was helpless. And while several Comanche bands could unite for a few days to mount a large-scale attack against a single Apache village, the Apaches could not prepare an adequate defense, for they could not organize and maintain a permanent army to hunt out the raiders and keep them out of the country. This fundamental vulnerability of small permanent settlements against fierce nomads has been demonstrated many times in many different countries.
Modern excavations at the sites of the destroyed Apache villages show that most of them were burned and plundered in the 17th century, just when the villagers were making good progress in farming and pottery making. This is also the period when both the Apaches in the Comanches began using horses.
The Comanches probably had secured some horses before the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and had greatly increase their herds in the next decade from the confiscated Spanish herds. In 1705 Spanish reports from Santa Fe mentioned the Comanches as mounted raiders, and in 1706 they were reported to be stealing horses from the Apaches who lived in north eastern New Mexico, south of Raton Pass.
Once the stubby-legged Comanches had climbed on their horses and learn to ride, they were soon rated with the finest horsemen of the world, the Don Cossacks. Visitors to the Indian camps were struck by the great contrast between a Comanche on foot and the same man on horseback.
George Catlin, on his visit to the tribe in the 1830s, described the Comanches: and their movements they are heavy and ungraceful; and on their feet one of the most unattractive and slovenly-looking races of the Indians I have ever seen…. I am ready without hesitation to pronounce the Comanches as the most extraordinary horseman that I’ve ever seen and I doubt very much whether any people in the world can surpass them. The Comanche on his feet is out of his element and comparatively almost awkward, but the moment they mount their horses, they seem at once metaphorphosed, and surprise the spectator with the ease and grace of their movements.
After the Comanches secured horses to ride, they did almost no walking. A prominent man would order his wife or daughter to fetch his force so he could ride over to a friends tipi a hundred yards away. From the lack of exercise, Comanche men became fat and lazy, a condition seldom found among hunting tribes.
This constant use of the horse by the Comanche in his great dependence on the animal indicate the profound changes this new servant made in his daily life, but these were changes of degree rather than of kind. The Comanche now live better, with ample reserves of food and clothing. He had more leisure time and greater security from his enemies. From being a skulker in the foothills, he became a dashing mounted warrior of the plains.
After 1700 the mounted Comanches no longer feared their long legged enemies of the plains unless they had guns. The tribe moved boldly out from their little foothill retreats, conquering and displacing the Apaches to the east. They strove constantly to enlarge their hunting grounds, partly from arrogance, partly to provide more room for their increased population. Their families were larger, and they were adding hundreds of captive women and children from enemy tribes.
And their expansion attempts, the Comanches had to fight a number of long wars against their neighbors, the Apache, Ute, Pawnee, Osage, Tonkawa, and even the Navaho far to the west across the Rockies. Later they added two new tribes to the list – the Cheyenne and Arapahoe, who moved in from the north. The Comanches seem to enjoy fighting, and never ceased their attack’s until the last of the tribe was penned in on a small reservation by the U.S. Army in 1875.
The Comanches were cruel and relentless towards their enemies, even by Indian standards, and were mean to one another in petty ways. Although they gloried in war in value more honors above all else, their older men, even the great fighters of former years, were insulted and abused by the young people, with the tactic approval of the whole camp.
The Comanche hated restraint of any kind. He refused to tolerate the camp police customary in other Plains tribes. The only exception was in the communal buffalo hunts, when one man was chosen as leader, for the duration of that hunt only, with the authority to line up the men near the herd and give the signal to charge at the moment he chose. Aside from this one bowing to temporary authority, the tribe relied entirely on social disapproval to restrain its members social lapses.
These fierce, cruel, headstrong men made up a great, fighting force that in many ways was reminiscent of the Mongol horde of Ghengis Khan. They were at their best when fighting on horseback on terrain that permitted them to dash about at full speed, but when they had to dismount to attack the Apaches in the mountains of New Mexico, the Comanches were sometimes badly beaten.
When the LaSalle established his short-lived colony on the Texas coast in 1684, the Spanish authorities in Mexico became alarmed. They responded in time by putting in a colony of their own at San Antonio in 1715. Soon the Spanish in a new colony were having trouble with the Apaches who were moving south under the pressure of Comanche attacks. At the same time Jicarilla Apaches, who were being forced westward into New Mexico, petitioned the Spanish at Santa Fe to help them against the Comanches. The Spanish decided they could help, for some of the Jicarillas were baptized Christians.
In 1717 while some of the Comanches were still living part of each year in little farming villages on the upper Arkansas, the Spanish governor amassed a large force of men, disguise them as Indians, and staged a surprise attack on these villages, capturing about 700 men, women, and children. The captives were first taken to Spain, then sent as slaves to Cuba, where they soon died. This was the only real success the Spanish soldiers had against the Comanches in a century of trouble, and it led to a peace agreement between the two sides.
The Apaches in Texas also decided to make peace with the Spanish and to ask them for help. The Spanish agreed to take the Apaches in and settle them at a new mission to be built expressly for them at San Saba, about 100 miles north of the Spanish settlements. The Apaches were a little slow in becoming Christians, and the mission soon was under heavy attack by the Comanches who had followed the Apaches south. In 1758 the Comanches killed all the mission workers. When the Spanish retaliated by sending an army against them the next summer, the Comanches defeated the soldiers at the Red River and forced them to retreat.
Emboldened by their success, the Comanches visited the San Antonio colony each year to pick up some horses and other plunder. Sometimes they even paraded up and down streets of the little settlements. Spanish defense against the Indian raids was ineffective, and the Comanche problem still had not been solved when the Spanish finally surrendered the colony in 1821.
During this period beginning in 1717, the Comanches carried on a war with their kinsman, the Utes, who lived in the mountains on the northwestern Comanche border. This constant hostility led the Utes to bestow the name Comanche on the aggressors, translating it as “the people who fight us all the time.” While the Comanches were never able to mount an effective attack against the Utes in the mountains, they were able to prevent the tribe from moving out into the buffalo country in becoming nomadic hunters. There Utes managed to hunt some buffalo each year, but they were always in danger of an attack, so they killed their meat as quickly as possible dashed back to safety in the mountains.
The Apache tribes that had retreated to New Mexico under the pressure of the Comanche hostility had become fierce mountain people after half a century of hardship. They rated the farms along the Rio Grande each year, and were considered a serious problem by the authorities. In 1786 a new viceroy decided the Spanish should make a new treaty with the Comanches and enlist their help against the Apaches.
The Comanches were pleased, they wanted to trade with the New Mexico people, especially for guns and ammunition. As part of the treaty the Spanish built them a village on the Arkansas River, but the Comanches never settled there. They did remain on rather friendly terms with the New Mexicans, and turn their attacks against Texas.
By the use of horses, the Comanches, in the course of a century, changed from a week aggregation of small, scattered bands on the subsistence level in the Colorado foothills to a powerful nomadic people living off the buffalo herds in the plains. This was a voluntary movement on their part, and they never expressed any regret at leading their old home. By 1800 they claimed the domain that reached from the Arkansas River on the north to Central Texas on the south, and from the Rockies eastward about 300 miles. Other tribes composed of small hunting bands existing at subsistence level followed much the same pattern as the Comanches. Among these were the Crow, Wind River Shoshone, Arapahoe, Assiniboine, and Blackfeet. They to became true nomads, pausing in their travels only to take shelter during the winter months.
George Catlin, visiting a crow village on the Yellowstone River in the 1830s, observed the difficulties of spending the winter in even though large, improved tipis:
These lodges are taken down in a few minutes by the squaws… and easily transported over the plains… to procure and dress their skins… and also for the purpose of killing and drying meat; making pemmican in preserving the morrow–fat for their winter quarters; which are generally taken up in some heavy-timbered bottom, deeply embedded within the surrounding bluffs, which break the wins and make their long winter months tolerable. They sometimes erect their skin lodges within the timber and dwell within them during the winter months; but most frequently cut logs and make rude cabins, in which they can live much warmer and better protected from the assaults of their enemies.
Working or “dressing” an animal hide was a strenuous job. A woman spent several days preparing the bison hide for use, and the process changed little over the years. First the wet hide was stretched taut and pegged to the ground. The woman then took all the flesh off the hide with a straight, toothed tool known as a flesher. Then, they shaved it to a uniform thickness with an “L” shaped antler or wood scraper. Hides with the hair still on them were used as blankets or coats. If the hair was to be removed, the hide was laced of cooked brains that softened the hide. Finally the hide was pulled, twisted, rubbed, and wrung tight in a vertical frame and the hair shaved off with the scraper. The woman then applied a pate out until it was absolutely dry. At this point the robe was snow white and very soft. For most of their history, bison were killed by the tribes for their needs. But as trade with Europeans became more important, they began killing bison and took only their hides and tongues to exchange for trade goods. By the 1840s, the number of hides prepared for trade was far greater than those used by the Indians themselves. One estimate is that Native Americans were eating only four out of every 100 bison they killed. In 1839, the American Fur Company bought 45,000 buffalo robes and 67,000 the next year, representing a staggering amount of labor by Indian hide workers./
Dressing bison hides
Sioux Encamped on the Upper Missouri,
Dressing Buffalo Meat and Robes [Detail] (1832) by George Catlin,
oil on fabric: canvas mounted on aluminum
11 1/4 x 14 1/2 in. (28.6 x 36.6 cm.)
Source – Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.377
Buffalo Chase, Bulls Making Battle with Men and Horses (1832-1833) by George Catlin,
oil on fabric: canvas mounted on aluminum 24 x 29 in. (60.9 x 73.7 cm.).
Source – Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr., 1985.66.413
Early_Localization_Native_Americans_USA.pdf (more zoomable version)
The Lithic peoples or Paleo-Indians are the earliest known settlers of the Americas. The period’s name derives from the appearance of “lithic flaked” stone tools. Evidence suggests big-animal hunters crossed the Bering Strait from Asia (Eurasia) into North America over a land and ice bridge (Beringia), that existed between 45,000 BCE–12,000 BCE (47,000 – 14,000 years ago). Small isolated groups of hunter-gatherers migrated alongside herds of large herbivores far into Alaska. From 16,500 BCE – 13,500 BCE (18,500 – 15,500 years ago), ice-free corridors developed along the Pacific coast and valleys of North America.
This allowed animals, followed by humans, to migrate south into the interior. The people went on foot or used primitive boats along the coastline. The precise dates and routes of the peopling of the New World are subject to ongoing debate. Source
First Americans Endured 20,000-Year Layover – Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News”. Retrieved 2009-11-18. “Archaeological evidence, in fact, recognizes that people started to leave Beringia for the New World around 40,000 years ago, but rapid expansion into North America did not occur until about 15,000 years ago, when the ice had literally broken.” page 2
H. Trawick Ward; R. P. Stephen Davis (1999). Time before history: the archaeology of North Carolina. UNC Press Books. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-8078-4780-0. Retrieved 29 November 2011From our vertical files in the historical department: source Natives “Rawhide Buttes – The Sioux for these buttes is ‘Tahalo Paha’. ‘Tahalo’ means rawhide, and ‘Paha’ is the Sioux word for ‘buttes’ or ‘hills’. The Indians had at one time killed a great number of buffalo, skinned them, and left a great pile of rawhides at the foot of one of the buttes, and when they returned the rawhides were gone, evidently stolen by white trappers.”/