A Few Words Regarding the Blackfoot Indians

[Page 2:263]Piegans, Kaë́nnas, and Siksikas, as well as the Gros Ventres des Prairies, Salish, Shoshones, and Kootenais

The Blackfoot make up a numerous nation that is divided into three tribes that speak one and the same language. These three tribes are the Piegans (usually called Piegans—they themselves say Piëkans); the Blood Indians, or Indiens du Sang,M1The name Blood Indians has the following origin: before the Piegans and the latter divided into special bands, there were five or six [tipis] of the Kootenais (also [spelled] “Kutenai”), or Sarcees, encamped in the vicinity, I believe of the former. There was talk of killing all of the latter, which the Piegans voted against. But during the night a group of the Indians attacked these few huts, killed everything alive, took their scalps (chevelures), dyed their faces and hands with the blood, and in this way returned. From this a quarrel arose; the Indians separated, and the murderers had this name [Blood] imposed upon them, which they still bear to the present day. They have always displayed a more bloodthirsty and rapacious character than the Piegans. Kähnä, or Kaë́nna (‘a’ and ‘e’ separate); and the actual Blackfoot, [or] Pieds Noirs, Siksikas. The name Blackfoot, which is of one of their tribes, is applied generally to all of them by all other nations. The Dacotas call them Siha SihaSapa, as do the Assiniboines, their enemies. “Siha-Sapa” likewise means “blackfoot. ” All together they can muster five to six thousand warriors and number about eighteen to twenty thousand, if one estimates only three women, children, and old men per warrior, an estimate that is certainly too low. They live, among other places, in and at the Rocky Mountains, particularly between the three forks of the sources of the Missouri; but the Piegans now live down as far as the Marias River, or Marayon.

They carry on their trading with the English forts of the Hudson’s Bay Company; sometimes with the American Fur Company, along the upper Missouri near its falls; and with the Spaniards near Santa Fe, etc., as Spanish woolen blankets, crosses, and other objects attest, as well as the guns, rifles, compasses, and other objects taken from slain Spaniards and other whites. They are very dangerous to individual whites hunting and trapping beaver in the mountains, since they usually kill and scalp them. Therefore, the armed guards of the traders there alwayscarry always carry on a small-scale war with them. In the vicinity of the fort, [these Indians] keep the peace, and the Piegans, especially, behave well there and are friendly toward the whites. On the other hand, the Blood Indians and Blackfoot are trusted nowhere, and they are masters at stealing horses, even near the fort.

As stated, the three tribes are [grouped] under the general name of Blackfoot. They themselves know no general designation but instead [say] just Piekannä for the Piegans, Kähna or Kaë́nna (‘e’ half [= ǝ]) for the Blood Indians, and Seksekai or Siksika for the Blackfoot Indians.M2Piegan, Kaë́nna, and Siksika are singular. If one adds the word “kuann,” for example, “Piegan-kuann,” then this means “one Piegan,” etc. If one adds “quäcks,” thus, “Piegan-quäcks,” for example, then this means “nation, people, nation of the Piegans.” Thus, “Kaë́nna-quäcks” [means] “nation of the Blood Indians,” and “Siksika-quäcks” [means] the same with regard to the Blackfoot. Since they speak only one and the same language, [Page 2:264]stay together and live together, and do not differ in external appearance and customs, one has every reason to regard them as one and the same people. No traveler has yet provided accurate information about them. The reports of Lewis and Clark and other travelers—Ross Cox, Smith, McKenzie, and others—must be adduced and carefully compared. Their place of habitation, too, must be precisely stated.M3Brackenridge (Views of Louisiana, p. 77 and 79), among others, demonstrates how little they are known up to now, is correct information we still have regarding them in the various travel accounts written up to now when he states in two places that the Blackfoot are Dacotas. Just a few words from their language demonstrate the opposite.

In external appearance the Blackfoot (I shall [treat] them [together] under this general name) do not differ significantly from the other Indians of the upper Missouri. They are strong, well-built men and have very pretty (that is, according to Indian standards), occasionally beautiful girls and young women. Some of the men are slender, some stocky and broad-shouldered, but more of them are slender and often [feet] 9 to 10 inches tall, Prussian measure. One Indian (Big Soldier) whom I measured was 5 feet 10 inches 2 lines tall, Paris measure.M4Mr. Kipp measured a Blood Indian and found him to be 6 feet 11 inches tall (English measure). Their bodies are often strong and muscular; many have slender arms and legs; their calves are frequently leaner than those of the whites; hands and feet [are] mostly small [and] somewhat blackish brown with very prominent veins, just as among the Brazilians.

Their facial features are generally those of the other North American [Indians]. The nose usually has a slight curve and often extends downward; often it is longand long and somewhat elongated, almost Jewish, [and] usually with not-very-broad nostrils, which one finds more often among the Brazilians (though not always); the majority of Blackfoot noses are aquiline. Their eyes are mostly blackish brown, often drawn down at the front corner, frequently narrow, though not always, and when they are young, drawn down more in front. Neither among these people nor among the Brazilians does the outer corner of the eye point upward. I saw a Blackfoot Indian with a light gray-bluish outside ring around the iris. The mouth is usually large and somewhat thick; the teeth, like those of all Indians, firm, strong, and snow-white. The cheekbones are almost always more or less prominent; the lower sides of the jaw are usually angular and broad, often very broad; their hair [is] long, coal-black, and rather taut; beard and other hair growth is carefully pulled out, for which purpose they now mostly make use of a twisted wire or a piece of metal bent together.

The color of their hair is well known. In the case of old people, it mostly becomes gray. But one also notices young people whose hair is only brownish black, to which, however, the reddish brown dye, which cannot easily be completely removed, may contribute. One does not see old persons with bald heads; on the other hand, [there are] very many with gray hair, and there was an entire Piegan family at Fort Mc Kenzie who all had hair strongly streaked with gray. The color of these Indians is usually a beautiful, lively, reddish brown, often actually copper red, and usually darker than that of many Brazilians. Even the little children have the vividly dark brown color; the newborn ones are somewhat paler (more on this subject farther below). Children always have fat bellies and slender limbs, often a big navel, the former as among the entire American [Indian] race. They come into the world not white but blackish or brownish yellow. Even the children of the whites who are born of Indian women are not entirely white and do not become paler until later.M5The similarity of these northern Indians with the Brazilians is generally strong, and the racial correspondence in features and color cannot be mistaken, if one discounts a few minor deviations that were perhaps affected by the climate.

[Page 2:265]The Blackfoot do not disfigure their bodies. Like all tribes along the Missouri, they do not perforate their nose and lips, with the exception of a tribe in the Rocky Mountains, which has been given the name Chopunnish: they perforate their noses. Only in their ears do they have one small hole, or several of them, in which they wear ornaments. These consist of strings of glass beads alternating with long, white shell cylinders [made from] Dentalium that they obtain from beyond the Rocky Mountains, especially through the Kootenais, who are enemies of the Blood Indians and Blackfoot but friends of the Piegans. Many do not wear anything in their ears, and [their] long, thick hair hanging down usually hides this part [of the body].M6I have never seen them tattooed; on the other hand, many have parallel incisions on their arms that are scarred over, and most of them lack one or several finger joints (more on this below).

They paint their faces vermilion. The cinnabar (vermilion) that they get by trading [with] the whites is rubbed on with fat [so that] it shines. Others paint merely the rim of their eyes and a few stripes on their faces red. Others paint the latter yellow with clay and the rims of their eyes red. Still others paint their faces red, the forehead and a stripe down over the nose or the chin [painted] bluish, like shiny metal, with a certain ore from the Rocky Mountains. Finally, still others paint their faces black, occasionally [with vermilion added to] the eyelids and [as] some stripes in the black color. Women and children paint the entire face red. Red dye is very expensive for them, for the company sells a pound of vermilion in its stores for ten dollars, or 25 Rhenish florins. Among the Piegans and related tribes the body itself is never painted, because it is mostly covered.

Their hair hangs straight down, unadorned, often in disorderly fashion over their eyes and all around. Young people, who are more concerned with elegance, part it regularly and comb it flat. On each side beside the temples, a small white seashell is often fastened to a strand of hair. Others wear a braid of hair wrapped with iron or brass wire on the left side beside their forehead, often also on both sides. Figure 13.1. Beaded hair ornament (bow).Finally, a very few have the ornament observed among the Mandans and Hidatsas (Minitaris, Gros Ventres): two white bones or shell plates joined in the middle with yellow wire and blue glass beads and fastened on both sides over their foreheads. On the back of outstanding warriors’ heads hangs a tuft of owl feathers or feathers from [other] birds of prey, [or] occasionally weasel skins (Mustela erminea), decorated with little bells, red strips of cloth, and the like.M7Several wore such red narrow strips of cloth, to which round yellow brass clasps [buttons?] were fastened, on their heads. Also on top of their heads, [they wear] black feathers cut short and blunt, as on the horn ornament of the Assiniboines, though [this is] rare. Others tie their hair in back in a long braid, though [this is done] infrequently. Many, especially the medicine men, wear it in the style of the Mandans and Hidatsas, distributed all around as many thick braids. [They] usually wrap these thick, long strands of hair together with a leather strap in front over their foreheads in a long, thick knot jutting out in front (see Mr. Bodmer’ s drawings). Some have two or three screwdrivers [coils?] of wire beside their foreheads; others, a smooth, flat tuft of hair hanging down in the middle of their foreheads, down to the eyes or the tip of the nose and bluntly cut. Several tie a narrow piece of hide or a leather strap around their heads and stick a feather into it. Many have a big grizzly bear claw fastened to their hair. Figure 13.2. Necklace of aromatic roots.
Some wear a necklace of certain aromatic roots, which they obtain in trade from the Kootenais and which smell like Foenum graecum. They are also added to beaver scent. These roots are cut into short cylinders; the Crees and Ojibwes pay a high price for them. Other Blackfoot have a four-cornered woven necklace of an aromatic variety of grass (Anthoxanthum ?).Figure 13.3. Necklace of woven or braided sweetgrass. Others already [have] glass beads, for which they have to pay three or four dollars a pound, and which the women, especially, prize highly. Undoubtedly the finest necklace is that made of bear claws, which is seen only rarely among the Piegans but more frequently among the Crees and Assiniboines and most frequently among the Crows, Mandans, and Hidatsas, because they are the most elegant. Some Piegans wear a green stone [fastened] around their necks, or teeth of buffalo, horses, elk, and the like; [they] also [wear] large, flat, elongated or oval plates of mother-of-pearl cut from mussel shells.

On their hands they wear many brass rings, often on all five fingers, with four or five on each one [but] occasionally only one or two on the entire hand. They get them by the dozen from traders. They usually let the nails on their hands grow long, always at least the thumbnail, [which] often [looks] like a claw.

The Blackfoot costume is prepared from tanned leather. The leather shirt is made with sleeves on which many long fringes or straps hang down along the outer seam; often, too, long braids of human and other hair [are] neatly stitched at their roots [to those seams] with [decorative] porcupine quills. Above, on the neck, they usually wear a flap hanging down in back and in front, often backed with red cloth, decorated with fringes or with yellow and multicolored stripes of porcupine porcu - pine quills or sky-blue glass beads. Several have made all these pendant [fringes] of thin strands of white ermine fur; I saw [this] on several chiefs, but this is only seldom found and is very valuable. One can, however, easily imagine how many of these small animals are required for a costume.M8The hanging adornments on such a leather shirt are as crumpled [as] and bear a very close resemblance [to] some decorations of the Hungarians: for example, on their tobacco pouches. When these leather shirts are new, they usually have a white-yellowish color. Later they [are] often painted reddish brown; often they are smoky and dirty if they [have been] worn a long time. Some are seen with one or two round porcupine [- embroidered] rosettes on the chest, but this is rare and does not appear to be genuine Blackfoot fashion.

As with the other Indian tribes, their leggins or pants are trimmed with fringes of leather or of human hair along the outer seam. The shoes of elk or buffalo leather are beautifully embroidered with porcupine quills, the difference being that each shoe has a different primary color for its ornamentation: if one is yellow, the other is white. This is not done farther downstream along the Missouri, for there the colors and design of both shoes are the same.

A major part of the costume is the buffalo robe, usually painted, but less artistically than among some other nations. Usually these robes have parallel black lines painted on the tanned side, with a few alternating figures, often with arrowheads or other simple arabesques. Figure 13.4. Three arrows, drawn in<br />
the style of buffalo robes painted with war exploits.Others, as the depiction shows, are painted black, yellowish red, and green, with hieroglyphs of a certain kind that represent their deeds in war, capture of prisoners, weapons, horses, horse stealing, scalps taken, wounds, and flowing blood. Figure 13.5. “Indian Record of a Battle between the Pawnees and Konzas.”Such robes often have a transverse band, beautifully embroidered with porcupine quills and decorated with round rosettes, which divides the robes into two equal sections. Often the tanned surface of the hide is also dyed reddish brown, and black figures are painted on it. [Page 2:267]The aforementioned hides painted with hieroglyphs are found among all Missouri Indians, and Major Long has already provided a depiction of one of these in the account of his journey. Occasionally they deviate a little in the manner of drawing and use of dyes according to custom and locality. The most beautiful paintings seem to be found among the Crows, Mandans, and Hidatsas. Such robes are sometimes expensive; in the company’s stores, they can be had at a price of six to ten dollars.

All these Missouri Indians usually carry in their hands a fan of eagle wings, swan wings, [or] tail feathers of a bird of prey or owl, adorned on the handle with leather or colorful cloth. The company now ships tail feathers of wild turkeys upstream, some of which are bought by them. Usually each Blackfoot also carries a whip in his hand, as well as his weapons—a shotgun, bow, quiver with arrows—on his back, [and finally] his shot bag and a sturdy knife, which will be further discussed below.

The main part of the costume is the buffalo blanket, or robe, with hair, which they wear facing outward in summer, inward during winter. They wrap themselves in it in the ancient Roman manner, with the right shoulder and arm free; in winter and summer they go about clothed in the same manner, almost without any difference. One should say that in winter they were far too scantily clad, in the heat too warmly, but custom and their acquired hardiness have gotten them to disregard all this. In the summer, or even during winter, they frequently or usually go about with [a] bare upper body underneath the buffalo hide.

The costume of women consists, as among all these Missouri Indians, of a long garment of tanned leather that reaches nearly down to their feet. It is tied around the waist with a strap or broad leather belt [and] is often decorated with many rows of elk teeth, shiny buttons, and the like. The garment overlaps somewhat widely on the chest and has short, wide sleeves ornamented with many fringes, which often hang down (almost like the Polish national costume) but do not reach much below the elbow; the lower arm is mostly bare. The lower hem is equally fringed and variously cut and scalloped. They decorate their festive clothing with porcupine quills (dyed) on thin leather strings [fringes] on the upper seam and upper arm or also with wide, variously formed strips of sky-blue and white glass beads (rassade). Women are especially fond of [the latter]. Red and other kinds of colored glass beads they do not like at all. Their taste in the accentuation of colors is very good; therefore, they like to wear red in their black hair and prefer white or sky-blue and yellow on their brown skin. The women sew all these articles of clothing very skillfully. The men make only weapons and smoking equipment. The children of the female sex are dressed in the manner of the women, their jackets [sic] often trimmed along the hems with canine teeth of the elk.M9They often pay a high price for elk canines. For one hundred of them, the Mandans and Hidatsas pay a good horse worth fifty, sixty, or more dollars.

The lodges, or rather [tipis], of the Blackfoot have the form and arrangement of the Dacota and Assiniboine [tipis] and of all the nomadic hunting peoples of the Missouri and the flat prairies of interior North America. Also, the manner in which they load dogs and horses with travois is the same. The [tipis] last only a year and are made of tanned buffalo hide; initially they are nice and white, [but] later [they become] brownish and, on top, blackish from smoke [and] finally parchmentlike and transparent. Hence [it is] very light [on the inside]. Decorated ones—that is, those painted and marked with figures of animals, men, and the like—are seen only rarely; usually [only] a few chiefs have [tipis] of this kind. The [tipis] are always surrounded by a pack of big wolflike dogs, of which they have very many, fifteen to twenty and more, but [the Blackfoot] do not eat [their dogs], as the Dacotas do, but use [them] only as pack animals and for hauling.M10Mr. Mitchell was once only one time at a feast of a Piegan who had been with the Dacotas and wanted to delight him in a foreign manner. Five or six young dogs had been stuck into a pot and boiled with their skin and hair. The host took them, tore off their noses, and gave them first to the guests. As among the Dacotas, these dogs come in all colors. I heard them howling but never barking. At times this howling is frightful: fifty to sixty all unite at the same time to intone at a high and low pitch and loudly in every key, so that one cannot sleep at night. The concert starts suddenly and is quickly ended. They frequently starve to death. Some have handsome markings, ash-gray with small black spots; others are reddish brown, black, white, spotted; some are exactly like the wolf in its original state, etc.

[Page 2:268]Around the [tipis] the travois are placed upright [and] form small, conelike frames like the [tipis], except that they are not covered with leather. On [these frames] they suspend their shields (parflèches parflèches), travel bags, hides, meat horses’ gear, and the like [and] also the thinly sliced meat of slain animals, high up on strings so that the hungry dogs cannot reach it. On a special pole or above the door of the house, the medicine bag, or magical apparatus, is often hung up or fastened. Household utensils consist of buffalo robes and, in some cases, woolen blankets for sleeping; various kinds of painted parchment bags, some crescent shaped [and] trimmed with leather fringes; wooden bowls, spoons of bighorn, similar horn drinking vessels, pots, and occasionally metal containers, which they now buy from the Fur Company; and other minor small items. Figure 13.6. Blackfoot “parchment” (hide) storage containers and serving utensil. Woodcut illustrations of the two fringed bags and a more elaborate horn dipper were included in the Reise (1:568).In the middle of the [tipi], the small fire, over which the pot boils, burns inside a circle of piled-up stones.

Among the household implements, one must also include the gear for the riding horses. The horse usually has only a long rope, twisted of buffalo hair, bound firmly around its lower jaw. This rope is kept long so that, when stopping in the evening, one can fasten the grazing horse to it, for these Indians often do not even trust each other, even among themselves, when it comes to stealing horses. From time to time the horse is tied to a different area so that it can find enough forage.Figure 13.7. Blackfoot saddle. With a high pommel<br />
and cantle, this appears to be a woman’s saddle frame. Like the Hungarian cavalry saddle, the saddle consists of two broad, flat boards, placed at an angle against one another, which rest along the sides of the horse’s back; in back and in front, the saddle has a tall pommel from which leather fringes often hang down. It is covered with a hide, [and] another one goes under the saddle—and at night these serve as the Indian’s bed. For luxury and pomp, the Blackfoot have nice caparisons, and they love nothing so much for them as a panther’s hide, which they must get by barter from the region of the Rocky Mountains, or mountains generally, or which they are able to acquire for themselves. Since such animals are already rather rare, they often pay a high price for the hide: a good horse, or even several; and these are seldom sold for less than fifty dollars. The panther hide is placed crosswise and backed [lined] underneath with red cloth, which, [together] with the legs (they always remain) and the long, dangling tail, form a broad fringe all around (see the illustration of the Piegan on horseback).

For the men the pipe is a major article among household utensils. The ones they make themselves are not as beautiful as the red ones of the Dacotas, which the Blackfoot acquire by exchange and prize highly. Genuine Blackfoot pipes are made from a green or blackish nephrite, which is found in the Rocky Mountains.[Page 2:269] Its shape is [as] shown [here], with a simple, smooth stem 2 to 2 1/2 feet long, of yellowish wood. The bowl is often pear shaped or formed like an urn.Figure 13.8. Blackfoot pipe bowls. In addition, for tamping and cleaning they have a piece of wood pointed on the bottom, which is often neatly wrapped and decorated with glass beads. The Assiniboines wore [these rods], decorated with multicolored porcupine quills and colorful feather quills, in their hair. Among all the North American [Indians], the most beautiful pipes are those called calumets by the French, or the medicine pipes, which are richly ornamented with feathers [and] woodpecker beaks (particularly the top part of the woodpecker head with its red feathers), and underneath with a fan of feathers from birds of prey or eagle feathers; at the bottom of [all this,] long strands of horsehair—dyed red, yellow, or green—hang down. These pipes are used among all North American peoples for important occasions, especially at peace treaties, hence the name peace pipe. When smoking, the Blackfoot frequently lay a piece of buffalo dung on the ground, to prop the bowl on it, or a roundish, compressed cake made from the fibers of a certain aquatic plantthat plant that is found in the lakes.Figure 13.9. Pipe supports. In handling the large, to some extent hallowed, medicine pipe, there are various kinds of ceremonies (about which [see] more below). The tobacco that the Blackfoot smoke comes from a plant with vines on the ground, which in this region grows on some hills and in the Rocky Mountains and is called sakkakomi by the French and kócksinn by the Blackfoot.

If one visits a Piegan in his [tipi], one sits down silently, without ceremony, beside him, and soon he will reach for his pipe, light it, puff on it, and then pass it around to the left. Often he blows some smoke toward the sun and the earth. In Indian fashion one takes only a few puffs and passes the pipe to his neighbor. The smoke is drawn deep into the lungs and then expelled. The last smoker in the row does not let the pipe circulate back again but instead hands it over to the person sitting opposite in the other row, and then it goes around to the left again. Before smoking, however, a wooden bowl with food—meat, pemmican, beaver tail, and pomme blanche, or meat with berries, cooked as poires [— —] or cherries (Prunus padus)—is usually placed before the guest. He hands back the bowl as soon as he does not wish to eat any more, and others receive the bowl. If there were several visitors in our group, each of us also occasionally received a container with food, and the Indians ate only after we had finished.

[Page 2:270]As with most Missouri Indians, the Blackfoot get their nourishment from the yield of their hunting. They pursue the buffalo, hunting them on horseback, whereby many of these animals are killed at once: sometimes forty, fifty, and more. They shoot with guns or with bows and arrows, often immediately eat the kidneys and liver raw, [and] cut the meat into narrow strips and dry it to preserve it and take it with them. They tan the hides of the cows (those of the bulls are too thick) very well according to the well-known Indian method, and they sell [the hides] to the whites or use them for clothing [as well as] for their [tipis], blankets, bags, and straps. They do not hunt bighorn and antelope very much, mostly only occasionally; they use the hides of the former, however, especially for their summer apparel. During the winter they make the so-called big parks, into which the buffalo herds are driven, with gradually narrowing constraints made of stone or wood and furnished with terrifying objects on both sides, where the hunters lie hidden and shoot all or a large part of them. They use nearly all the parts of these animals: hide, meat, entrails, and sinews, with which the women and girls sew and work. They eat many other kinds of animals, except bears. The edible black bear does not inhabit this region. The Blood Indians hunt wolves to sell their hides. In general, they stalk and shoot the animals as we do, and [although] the Blackfoot are [often] said to be less skillful with guns than the whites, their rifle and musket [flint] locks are often poor. With bow and arrow, [however,] they are masters and very dangerous (see further below).

The animal kingdom provides them with many articles of food, such as the flesh, tail, and costly pelt of the beaver; but the plant kingdom, too, is rich in roots and also provides several edible fruits for those regions. The major role is played by the so-called pomme blanche (wild turnip), Psoralea esculenta, which the women and children dig out of the ground with a sharpened piece of wood like a trowel, string together, and also often sell to the whites. They boil and roast them with meat and also eat them raw. The beaver tail is cut into small cubes and is better freshly cooked than dried. Another root is bitter. They cook it in meat broth; then it is nutritious and, if one is accustomed to the taste, not unpleasant either. Another turniplike root the French call racine à tabac. It is buried in the ground with heated stones and, when it is well cooked, is as black as tobacco. It tastes sweet like parsnips (panay ?). Their fruits include especially the poire (Mespilus [— —]) and cherries (Prunus padus virginiana). The former is tasty and readily digestible, sweetish sour; the latter, more tart, with a big pit and somewhat indigestible. These fruits are eaten with meat and are dried in large quantities for the winter. They also eat the sour red berries of the buffalo berry (Elaeagnus argentea), which do not become edible until after the frost. They fish with hooks, mostly wooden, on a line. Figure 13.10. Blackfoot fishing hook.The hook is a short fork of hard wood, very pointed, which, however, is not effective. The traders now sell them iron fishing hooks.

The Indians esteem whiskey more highly than anything else; for this, one can have everything they prize most highly. They are never sold pure whiskey but only diluted, with three parts of water to one part of whiskey. Even their women and girls are almost all to be had for this drink of the gods. When intoxicated the Blackfoot are seldom bad but mostly cheerful, jovial, tender. Singing and dancing are the usual effects of this beverage, which is so deleterious for them. The chiefs receive gifts of whiskey and to this end always keep their little kegs ready. In this regard they are also very big, troublesome beggars, a fault that one ascribes especially to this nation.

The women, who in the case of the Blackfoot are generally well treated, must do all the heavy work.[Page 2:271] They put up the [tipis]; cut sod and lay it around the lower edge of the [tipi]; cook; cut, split, and fetch the dry firewood; tan the hides, something that they carry out swiftly and skillfully and whereby their long nails serve them well; [ and] take care of clothing—in short, they are much occupied. They dye feather and porcupine quills with vivid colors, several of which they derive from materials of the whites. They use a yellow moss ([— —]) for yellow dying; it grows on the conifers in the mountains. They get their red dye, which is very vivid, from another plant. Their colors are vivid and beautiful. Like all these Indians, they embroider attractive patterns in beautiful colors with porcupine and feather quills on the tops of their shoes. I own some of these in great variety, including a pair from the Dacotas on which the footprint, or sole print (track), of the grizzly bear is represented very accurately. 18 As already mentioned, they also decorate buffalo robes, shirts, and [the] leggins of their men, as well as their own. They make leather supple with animal brains, but then it does not keep very long. They tan the hides more or less thin and light according to need. In the case of hides intended for robes, the hair remains; from others, they remove it and use such hides for [tipis], clothing, straps, belts, shot bags, etc.Figure 13.11. Hide scraper. For this work they have very suitable instruments, especially an animal bone or piece of wood [with] sharp teeth [set] at an angle; with [this] they cut or scrape off all the fleshy parts from the hide. They often equip them now with iron points and teeth. Their shoes are made of deerskin. They prick out holes in them with an awl and then [push] the sinew through with [or to secure] the porcupine quill.

A man often has six to eight wives, with whom he is very generous as far as the whites are concerned. They even offer very young little girls. On the other hand, however, they punish the infidelity of their women swiftly and severely; they frequently cut off their noses; and one saw many such horribly disfigured faces among the Piegans. They then cast them out, and such a woman usually becomes a prostitute. No one will take her for a wife any more, and [these women] support themselves by working or looking after children in various [tipis]. There have often been instances when the man shot such a woman to death immediately. Often he also takes revenge on her lover—takes his horses and [other] things of value—which [the lover] must allow to happen. All of them surrender their women for whiskey.

Many whites—indeed, most of them at the trading posts in Indian country—have Indian wives whom they purchase; they often pay one hundred, two hundred, or even three hundred dollars for them and offer one, two, three, or more horses, fine costumes, glass beads, knives, powder, lead, rifles, and the like for them. As is the custom, these women are abandoned here on the Missouri as soon as one is transferred (often after only a short period) to another place. Most employees have women of this kind, often with children, at several trading posts simultaneously.

There are no marriage ceremonies among the Blackfoot; one pays for the woman and takes her home. The price is sent to the father through a friend or another man; if he accepts it, he sends the woman, and the marriage is consummated. If the wife behaves badly, or one grows tired of her, she is returned. No quarrel occurs as a result. She takes her belongings and leaves; the children remain the property of the husband. In ten to twelve Piegan [tipis], I saw certainly six or seven cutoff noses among the women. They also cut off [an offender’s] hair as punishment; she is then afraid to show her head [and] so covers it.M11During the winter often thirty to forty [tipis] of the Piegans stay around Fort McKenzie, mostly [occupied by] lazy elderly men who try to benefit from keeping women for the whites, to whom they rent them. At times they hunt, but [they] always have goods they exchange with their countrymen for meat. Many a time Mr. Mitchell cut their [tipis] in two to drive them away, because they are always a nuisance for the fort, and hence they gave him the name Black Thunder (Kristikum-Siksinam).

They have many children, at times eight to ten. The old man with the gray hair, Natoie-Poóchsen (see Mr. Bodmer’s sketch, which is a very good likeness), uncle of Nínoch NínochKiä́iu, had thirty children with different women. They run around in the prairie, completely naked, and play and swim in the water. Their faces are painted red, and their ears are pierced so that ornaments can hang from them. The boys run around naked until ten to thirteen. The girls [at an] earlier [age] receive a complete small leather costume, which is often nicely decorated with glass beads or bordered along the edges with elk teeth. The boys shoot early with bow and arrows, practice, and become skillful.[Page 2:272] Even the little children, as soon as their teeth grow, must chew meat, which they more often suck on. Often they still nurse from their mothers when they are already rather large. Immediately after birth, they give the children names of animals, outstanding deeds, and the like. They seem to love their children very much; their upbringing they rather entrust to nature.

In their domestic life the Blackfoot, like all Indians, are calm and quiet. Quarrelling is seldom seen, yet they are said to be more irritable and quick-tempered than other Indian nations. Duels and blood vengeance do occur. The latter is necessary: if one person kills another, the family must take revenge; and some member of the other family, preferably the murderer, is selected. Cleanliness is not particularly indigenous to them, yet this depends in part on their poverty. Many a person among these Indians has twenty or more horses, and then all his property is in the proper relationship; among such people, cleanliness and tidiness in the entire household are found to a higher degree. Picking off uninvited guests from their heads is customary among all these Indians, and they do this publicly at all times of the day and frequently put the yield between their teeth. In their thick, long hair, these unpleasant parasites have a place of refuge difficult to disturb.

The Indians’ bodies are strong and hardened from living in the open air. They walk with a vigorous, long stride and make a forceful appearance: young people, proud and erect; the elderly, stealthy and quick but stooped. Their gaze into the prairies is trained; they distinguish objects at a great distance. They are skillful at swimming. They do this after the fashion of the Brazilians in that they alternately thrust their arms forward. They have no canoes or vessels but cross the Missouri and other large rivers very easily and safely. They take the leather cover of a [tipi], bend [or fold] its edge down, and place a rope inside, which stretches the edge of the hide all around. The baggage, women, and children are placed in the middle of the hide, through which it receives its bulge. The men fasten a strap to it and swim and pull it; others push while swimming. Occasionally the person pulling is on horseback. In this way we saw them swimming swiftly across the Missouri.

The Blackfoot, even the worst of them—the Blood Indians—are very hospitable in their camps and [tipis]. When Mr. Mitchell visited a band of the Piegans at the falls of the Missouri during a cold October night, the chief let Mr. Mitchell and all his people sleep in his [tipi], and despite all objections, no Indians (women and children not included) were allowed to sleep in the [tipi]. The horses were well taken care of, and no one needed to look after them; [at the time] they were completely secure. It is easy for the Indians to feed several white visitors, but they always visit the whites in large number and then demand the same treatment. They have often been told, when they complain about this matter, that there is a big difference here, but they do not understand it, and this is always a major reason for Indians’ embitterment against whites. Everywhere they take great delight in stealing horses and regard this as an outstanding feat, but in their camps, even strangers’ baggage remains completely untouched.

Mr. Mitchell was once taught a lesson by the Dacotas on the Mississippi. They were eating in a [tipi], and although he was a stranger, he did not get a bite to eat. On the following morning the chief came and told him that he must have ill feelings against [the chief], since he let [Mr. Mitchell] go hungry the previous day. Recently the same thing had happened to him at Mr. Mitchell’s, and [the chief] had only wanted to make this clear to him so that he might never err in this matter again. Otherwise, at the trading posts of the whites, the Blackfoot are big beggars; they always beg for presents, whiskey, and tobacco. In this respect the Gros Ventres des Prairies, or Fall Indians, show themselves in a [more] favorable light.

To amuse themselves, they play all kinds of games, which are given the general designation “game” ([— —]). In one of them they sit on the ground in a circle. Several piles of glass beads or other objects are wagered, for which they play. One person takes several pebbles in his hand, which he moves back and forth in rhythm with a certain song; another one guesses, and in this way they win or lose things that are often of significant value.

They have several dances: 1. La danse des maringouins, 2. des chiens, 3. des boeufs à corne fine, 4. des chiens de prairie, 5. de ceux qui portent le corbeau, 6. des soldats, [Page 2:273]7. des vieux boeufs, 8. des imprudents ou téméraires, 9. de médecine, 10. de la chevelure (Scalp Dance). The first seven dances are danced in one and the same manner; only the chanting is different. Generally their chanting is now loud and high, now soft and deep, always composed of short, often repeated tones, often interrupted by loud exclamations, “Ey! Ey!” “ Ey ! Ey !” or “ Hey ! Hey !” The same among all these nations. For information on the first seven dances, see below.

[From 2:276:] The Dance of the Women does not take place every year. It is a medicine ceremony for the women, [in which] some men, however, also play a part. They build a big wooden lodge. The women dress in the most beautiful manner, and all of them wear a big feather bonnet on their heads. Not all the women take part in the dance; these women and the men make up the spectators. Men beat the drum (stohkimáhtiss) and shake the chichikué (auanay—‘aua’ separate).Figure 13.12. Plan of buffalo park or pound and of the ceremony related to it (see note 14, this chapter): “‘b’ and ‘c’ lead out from the medicine lodge, ‘a,’ from which the women crawl out on all fours, imitating buffalo cows. When they finish the dance on the final day, they imitate the buffalo park. The men, children, and others form two diverging lines. Several men imitate buffalo bulls, whom the women initially driveback drive back. Then [a] fire is started upwind, just as during the hunt; when they scent the fire, the women withdraw into the lodge, and this concludes the ceremony. They do this dance during the summer whenever they feel like it.

The Scalp Dance, or Dancing the Scalp (danse la chevelure) (Auáh AuáhUakaehs — ‘Aua’ separate): the women dress and dance like men and also carry weapons. If women have been present on a campaign where enemies were killed, they paint their faces black. Sometimes a woman carries the scalp or several carry them, [and] sometimes an old woman remains uninvolved and dances alone, while the others form a circle; drum and chichikué accompany the chanting.

The Dance of the Brave, of the Braves or Warriors: they form a circle and several dance inside it while they all mimic gestures of fighting and fire off their guns. They also paint themselves.

[From 2:273:] Medicine men and superstitious ideas and preconceptions in general play a major role among all Indians. Every Indian selects an object, often an animal, which he regards as his guardian and of which he carries certain parts on his person: parts of the bear, for example. Such an animal they do not eat. Nor do they stay in lodges where even part of it is found without dedicating certain sacrificial rites to it. If a Blackfoot is about to go to war or out horse stealing, he first invokes his protective spirit [and] promises it all manner of objects—a joint from a finger, for example, or often several, if it will bring him luck. Often they have insignificant objects, [such as] a nail, stone, piece of horn, or the like, wrapped in many pieces of cloth or hides, which they carefully and reverently unwrap before the undertaking. Often these are objects they have received from the whites.

To first get to know such a protective patron, or to select one, they go to a solitary place; address the sun, their god (Nantóhs—‘an’ as in French, the rest as in German), in long speeches, and ask it to show them which object or animal they should select. They often spend several days suffering hunger in [this] solitude; their entire imaginative faculty is taken up with the object, and then they dream at night. Then some animal or other object appears to them in the dream, or they decide to select the first animal they come upon, which then becomes their protective spirit or, as the Anglo-Americans and French Canadians call it, their medicine.

To get some idea of such a marvel, see the figure of the white wolf hide of the Piegan [named] Kiäsax. The grizzly bear, for example, is medicine for some of these Indians. Then they never kill or eat it and will not go into a [tipi] where a hide or a part of the animal is found. These and similar customs exist among all northern Indians, and one reads descriptions of them in all [the] travel accounts. Many a Dacota or Ojibwe will not kill a deer or otter, etc., if these animals are their medicine.

Mr. Culbertson was once invited to a medicine ceremony among the Dacotas on the St. Peter’ s [Minnesota] River; a bear was being eaten, and he did not hold back. Meanwhile, three Indians sat there, shrieking and lamenting; they had all stuck their medicine lances in front of them and opened their medicine bags. When Culbertson had eaten, one of the Indians asked him, “Is your belly full now?” “I am full, ” was his reply. The Indian took him by the hand [and] led him into another lodge, where branches of the spruce pine (which are always lit at Dacota medicine ceremonies) were burning and giving off smoke. [The Indian] brought him into this smoke and rubbed it into his hands and face. Then [the Indian] said [that] without this precautionary measure, the head of the household would never again be able to kill a bear.

The Indians have many an implement to which they ascribe a high value in this respect and which they would not give up for any price. If one asks a Blackfoot whether he is willing to sell such an object, he replies, “I like it, ” and presses it to his chest. If one smokes tobacco with them, many first blow the smoke toward the sun and the earth before they continue smoking while they turn the mouthpiece of the pipe toward that region. An old Piegan, who carried a bundle of large bells on a strap over his shoulder, first rattled them vigorously before he began smoking. Another one had a staff painted red and black, decorated with feathers and bells (see the depiction), in which he inserted a piece of wood at the bottom and, only with this, lit his pipe again because, as he said, he was “afraid of the iron. ” Noteworthy in this regard are the large calumet pipes of which occasionally several, [but] often not one, are found among a band of Indians. [Page 2:274]The owner, who selects it as his medicine, often pays a high price for it, [then] wraps it in several sheaths; for [those] they like to buy colored cloth. He carries it carefully, handles it respectfully; and when he smokes, he blows smoke on it, points it toward the sun, and addresses it. If he has owned it [for] three or more years and does not want it any longer, then at night he lays it down beside someone sleeping whom he knows is rich and will pay well for it. He touches him with it, and in most cases this person will, and really should, take it. Many try to avoid such presents and are evasive or absent themselves. If the medicine pipe is accepted, then large gifts—horses (sometimes as many as fifteen head), guns, powder, lead, woolen blankets, cloth, and the like—are given, and the protective device is then in his hands and gives him a certain esteem.

If the Indians are planning an undertaking, they promise, as mentioned, one or two finger joints to their good spirit; one sees very few men who do not lack such joints. If the undertaking goes according to plan, the joint is chopped off with a sharp instrument, which is struck by another person. This is also done as a sign of mourning.

The Blackfoot worship the sun (Nantóhs) and bring it some kind of offering. They regard it as an important, high-ranking person, or medicine, in nature. Nevertheless, they do not regard it as the creator of all things; rather, they call him who has created everything the Old One or Old Man (Nahpe—‘e’ full quality) but do not venerate him. Actually, they have a large number of relevant legends and traditions that they believe. They invoke the sun when they wish to undertake an important venture, [and they] sacrifice to it a beautiful white robe, a red blanket, or the like, which they then hang up on a tree. If they go to war, they promise to sacrifice all kinds of things, [such] as, for example, a finger. If the sun has halos [parhelia], they believe that it has burst into pieces and that this occurs in winter, [and] for that reason it can then no longer provide much warmth.

Quite unusual are certain associations or societies among the Blackfoot that have certain names and rules and serve in part to maintain law and order in the camp. 25 Seven of them were named to me; [their] members are more or less numerous in a band. [These societies] are based in part on age, and in [them] one can advance from the lower to higher ranks. The lowest, or bottom, society or class is that of the

  1. Maringouins [Mosquitoes] (Sohskriss). This society has no police function but consists entirely of young people, many of whom are only eight to ten years old. Older [but still] young people are also included, [and] sometimes even several old people, [the latter to see that] the laws and regulations are upheld. This society carries out youthful pranks and, when in the mood, swarms about in the camp, pinching, nipping, and scratching men, women, and children as the maringouins, or mosquitoes, do. They do not even spare old respected men. If anybody offends one of them, then he has all of them on his back, because they stick together. One starts in this society and then climbs higher. On their wrists they carry an eagle’ s talon as a symbol of their society. In this society, like all the others, there is a special way of painting oneself and a different chant at the regular dance, for which reason it is called danse des maringouins.M12Some of this information regarding the societies of the Blackfoot has been provided me by the interpreter Berger, who lived a long time among these tribes.
  2. Chiens [Dogs] (Emitähks). Their symbol is not known to me. Their painting is varied. They consist of young married men. Their number is uncertain.
  3. Chiens de prairie [Kit Foxes] (Sähnipähks). This is a police association. They accept married men. Like that of all the others, their dance has a different chant.Figure 13.13. Medicine flag (society emblem). Their symbol is the long, bent staff with feathers.
  4. Qui portent le Corbeau [Raven-Bearers] (Mastö́hpate—‘e’ half [= ǝ]).Figure 13.14. Society emblem. Their emblem is a long rod with black feathers attached to it. (See journal.)M13[See] vol. 2, p. 232 below. They [also] contribute to law and order. [Their] chanting while dancing and [their] manner of painting themselves [are] different from the others.
  5. Boeufs à corne fine [Thin-horned Buffaloes] (Ehtskinná). When they dance they wear horns on their bonnets, as follows. When they camp, the [tipis] of the societies are in the center of the circle, which surrounds an open spot in its center. If disorders break out, they aid the soldiers (see the following), who always mark out or decide upon the camp and also have first choice as to location.
  6. Soldats [Soldiers] (Innakehks). The most highly respected people, [they] exercise some police power, particularly in camp. In public deliberations they are the deciding voice on whether to go hunting, move to another region, and the like. They carry a war club, a handsbreadth wide, made of wood and decorated with an emblem of the buffalo cow on the handle with hooves. [Their] dance music and manner of painting [are] different from the others. Occasionally they are forty to fifty men strong. When they dance the medicine dance, their women are painted in the same manner.
  7. Or actually, first society, of the Gros Boeufs [Large Bulls] (Stomíck). They are the first in rank; [they] carry in their hands a medicine with buffalo hooves. When they dance, for which there is a special chant, they rattle the hooves. They are too old to exercise police power, have advanced through all the societies, and in a sense are in retirement. In some respects they have already stepped down from the society of active soldiers. When they dance their medicine dance, they wear a cap on their heads with the forehead hair and long manes of the bison bull, which hang far down.

To all these societies, new members are elected who have to pay something [for admission]; the medicine men and most highly respected people pay more. If a woman from any one of these societies has had intercourse with another man, the society meets in one of their [tipis]. They smoke there, and at night, when everyone is asleep, they break into the woman ’s [tipi] and take her outside.[Page 2:276] Each one satisfies his desires with her, and then they cut off her nose. On such occasions they are often very cruel. The husband can do nothing at all about this; he repudiates this woman. He is then told why they behaved this way, and he has to deal with the adulterer, from whom he usually takes horses.

[From 2:274:] We saw some of them riding into battle half naked, some of them in their finest attire. Then all of them had their medicines hanging freely out in the open and regarded [these] as their protective devices. Through the battle, which we observed, we could fairly well evaluate their method of fighting, which incidentally does not differ from that of the other North American [Indians]. Small war parties, nearly naked, sneak up on the enemy and try to defeat him by cunning, ambush, or sudden assault. The attack occurs at daybreak. All this has long since been described and is well known. In masses, the Piegans are said not to be as brave as the Assiniboines; yet here, where they were over three hundred to four hundred men strong, one could partly attribute their weak advance to the horses, which by that time had largely been exhausted in the great heat. They could, however, have dismounted and fought more on foot. Some of them appeared at this battle beautifully attired, some with the feather crowns and shields, with many feathers hanging down from them, obtained from the Crows at the last peace treaty (see the depictions). The Piegan owner had added several stuffed weasels [ermine].

[2:276] They formed long, drawn-out firing lines and shot enormous distances but strikingly inaccurately, for which the poor guns are often the cause. With arrows they are much more dangerous; the Assiniboines, too, fired with their bows into the fort and wounded whites, Indians, and horses.

The [Piegan] women and children were deeply concerned about their wounded; they lamented and shrieked loudly about them. They numbed and warmed up those with head wounds with large amounts of whiskey, whereby their fever was elevated. To make the wounds heal, they shook bells, shouted, wept, and sang, all together. The wounded person joined in with the chanting, if he had enough strength. The enemy stabbed and shot down men, women, and children—everyone, without distinction, whom he could reach with guns, arrows, lances, and knives—and scalped the women too. The Piegans then gave vent to their vengeance on the slain enemy. No woman or child of the later-approaching [Piegans] rode past without insulting the dead. They struck the dead body with cudgels, stoned it, or stabbed and shot it with arrows and guns, after the scalp had been taken. Soon the head of the dead Assiniboine, which I had hoped to acquire for Blumenbach’ s collection, was completely destroyed. His lance and the plume from his head, however, I was fortunate [enough] to [take] down to Fort Union. Later they threw wood on the dead man and burned part of him, so that several days later one could still see roasted flesh and charred bones, which attracted the dogs.[Page 2:277] The Assiniboines are said to have carried off several women. They are said not to treat them badly and to keep [the captives] as they do their own women. Children are also taken prisoner; men are cut down, [however,] as are all ages and sexes in the heat of battle. One no longer finds any instances of the torture of prisoners, which once was generally the custom among the North American Indians.

During the following nights, the Piegans celebrated festivities and danced the Scalp Dance, even though they had taken only two scalps (exactly the same number as the Assiniboines). This dance has already been discussed; here at Fort Mc Kenzie, it was not now carried out in full. After a battle the Indians usually gather where they have killed enemies, paint their faces black [and wear] their bodies leggins and robes spotted black, array themselves in the open, and chant without musical accompaniment. This merriment is called aninay, that is, they are painted black. They sing of their heroic deeds. Scalps are not involved here but only at the scalp dance, where the women play the major role. The song has no words but the usual melodies. When the warriors approach their camp after a battle, they chant. One of them rides or runs ahead, in serpentine lines, often back and forth near the [tipis]; then they raise and shake the scalps and show them from a distance. If one of them has captured a weapon, he also lifts it and shows it from a distance and in so doing calls out his name as the one who has taken this weapon.

The weapons of the Blackfoot are not significantly different from those of the other Missouri Indians; they are, however, not as beautifully and finely made as those of the Crows, Hidatsas, and Mandans. One does not find bows of elk horn or bighorn among them, as among the Crows, but [only] of ordinary wood. In their area they have no outstanding variety of wood from which to make bows; therefore, they like to trade for bow wood or yellow wood (Maclura aurantiaca) from the Arkansas River, or they choose ash wood. Their quivers are of buffalo hide, with a sheath for the bow, often made of otter hide, fastened to it. But for this they like best to use the hide of the panther (Felis concolor Linn.), for which they often pay a horse. On such a quiver the tail, which is often backed on the flesh side with red cloth, hangs down; and at other places, especially on the ends, there are strips of hide, like tassels. I did not see lances among them; on the other hand, [I did see] war clubs, or head breakers, here and there, these mostly taken as booty from the Salish. Many carry shields (parfleches); they are cut from thick leather, round, usually painted green and red, and decorated with all kinds of medicines and here and there with feathers. Usually when they intend to fight, they wrap their leather gun sheaths around their heads. Wolf hides are then useful to them. They wear [the hides] over their shoulders, and if they want to approach the enemy unnoticed, they wrap them around their heads [and] lie down behind a hill or uneven spot of the terrain, so that one thinks a white wolf is lying in a ditch, a furrow, or behind an elevation.

The medicine men of the Blackfoot are very inept. In our presence they constantly spat on the severely wounded with water that they took into their mouths, perhaps also with their saliva. The wounds were not washed or cleaned at all. On the second day, all the dried blood was still on them, and only at our urging was this [cleaning] finally done. As mentioned, they gave the wounded whiskey in large amounts, made a din, shouted, and moved their wounded incessantly from one place to another. That the wounded, including severely wounded, all recovered without exception after this strange treatment demonstrates the strength of their nerves and the inurement of their bodies, of which one can easily convince oneself. The women supported the bullet-perforated limbs of the wounded; this was all that I saw of medical treatment among them, except for the drum and chichikué, which the medicine men usually employed daily with the [tipi] closed. This latter, however, occurs more in the case of illnesses, where they want to expel the tormenting spirit. Mortally wounded children lay on the ground, uncovered, without any care whatsoever and exposed to the blazing sun; they soon died. The Blackfoot are said to have healed several severe wounds very well.[Page 2:278] But according to what I have seen, I must ascribe such cures chiefly to the sound constitution of these children of nature. In nearly all nations of the Missouri, one sees individuals who have been scalped and restored to health. There were several such individuals among the Blackfoot and Gros Ventres; they wear a leather cap or the like on the sensitive spot.

Several efficacious medicines are said to be found among these Indians: for example, the whitish root that is here called rhubarb and grows in the Rocky Mountains. It causes vomiting and the opposite effect and tastes somewhat like our rhubarb. Another root is said to be especially effective against snakebite. 34 Superstitious devices, such as the drum and the chichikué, enjoy great confidence among these Indians. They [also] have great confidence in the medicines of the whites; they ask very often for such help. Many were terribly devastated by old venereal infections and had let these diseases progress too far. If Indians are healed by their medicine men—something that frequently happens, because they [do] completely heal some illnesses, that is, coughs and colds, through steam and sweat baths in huts especially constructed and heated with hot stones—then they often pay the doctors much, or the doctors themselves charge high fees. Last spring several Piegans died quite suddenly of stomach disorders accompanied by vomiting. They died quickly; the sickness was similar to cholera.

When a Blackfoot dies, he is not buried in the ground; when possible, he is tied up in his buffalo robe, wearing his best clothes, his face painted red, and he is laid in an inaccessible place—in ravines, forests, cliffs, high banks—with his best possessions (though not with weapons). Because of the wolves, he is also occasionally covered with wood or with stones and boulders. The relatives cut off their hair, paint it as well as [their] faces and articles of clothing with gray clay, and during mourning go about very badly dressed. Frequently they cut off a finger joint. They believe that the dead man enters another land, and they have often been heard there summoning each other to smoke together. Among rich people, several horses are often killed on the grave; I have been told of cases where twelve to fifteen horses were killed in this manner after the death of a chief. A rich Indian who owned four to five hundred horses died. At least 150 of them were killed with arrows. This great chief of the Piegans was called Sachkómapöh (Child).

The relatives gather around the dead man [and] wail and weep—the men too. Usually the dead [are buried] on the very day they die. If they die at night, they are disposed of the next morning. Frequently a solitary, isolated place cannot be found [and] then the dead man remains aboveground in a kind of wooden hut; sometimes they [are] compelled to inter him. At Fort Mc Kenzie they presented their dead to Mr. Mitchell, and this always caused expenses for the whites, because they must donate some cloth for this purpose. Following the skirmish they buried six dead persons in our woodcutting trench, and a new [trench] then had to be made. They were buried so shallowly there that a powerful stench arose.

Twenty Words of the Blackfoot Language
Sun Natohs or Nantohs (‘an’ as in French)
Moon Natohs Kokui-éta-úawakah (‘ui’ together)
Star Kakatohs
God Is the sun; they bring it a kind of sacrifice
Fire Stih (‘St’ apical)
Water Ochkéh (‘Och’ velar as in German)
Earth Ksáchkumm (‘ách’ velar as in German)
Man Nahpe (‘e’ full quality)
Woman Ahké
Child Poh-ka (Sa-ku-mán-pö—‘án’ as in French, ‘ö’ full quality—a small boy)
Head Oh-tu-kuahn (‘kua’ together)
Arm Oh-tíss (‘í’ almost like ‘ü’)
Hand Oh-ke-tíss (‘í’ almost like ‘ü’)
Hair [——]
Eye O-abs-pih (‘O-abs’ together, ‘abs’ as in German)
Mouth Ma-å-ih (together)
Bow Spikenn-ahmai (‘mai’ as in German, together)
Arrow Ápse (‘e’ full quality)
Pipe Akuïnimahn (as in German)
Tomahawk Kaksahkin (‘in’ as in German)

The Blackfoot language does not sound bad and is not difficult for Germans to pronounce. They frequently have the velar ‘ch’ like ‘ach’ and ‘och’ in German, but [there are a] few unclear and nasal sounds. There is no article. Frequently they place the noun before the adjective. They do not say the “white buffalo, ” for example, but “buffalo white, ” not “Bear Chief” but rather “Chief Bear” “ Chief Kiä́iu. Besides their spoken language, which they accompany with constant, lively gesticulation, all Indians have, as is well known, a very extensive and quite unique sign language, which is almost identical among all nations of North America (see Major Long's''s Expedition). It deviates completely from that of the whites and therefore has to be learned as time and opportunity permit. A few examples of signs:

  • Good or beautiful: one moves the right hand held flat forward away from the chest in a horizontal direction.
  • To go into a house, hut, or room: one moves the right hand forward from above in a curve under the left palm.
  • To come from far away: one moves the half-open right hand far away from himself and then brings it back again toward the body.
  • To sit down: one moves the closed right fist from above down toward the stretched-out left [hand], palm facing up.
  • To engage in combat or fight: one closes both fists and moves them alternately to and fro in front of the chest in a horizontal direction, etc.


The Blackfoot call these Indians Azäna; they call themselves Ahni-ninn. They live in the vicinity of the Blackfoot and are neighbors of the Arapahoes, from whom they are said to be descended. Alexander Mackenzie calls them Fall Indians, because they lived along the falls of the Saskatchewan River when he found them.M14The river, which is usually called Saskajawan or Saskatschawan, and is called la Rivière aux Rapides [The River of Rapids] by the French, is the K[——].

They are well-built Indians and differ little in outward appearance and costume from the Blackfoot. Many of them wore very large iron or brass rings with a diameter of 2 1/2 inches in their ears. Some had eight to ten of them, one on top of the other, on the outer rim of the ear. Like the Blackfoot, they paint their faces red [and] the forehead and [single] stripes with bluish metallic earth. Many wear their hair like the Gros Ventres (Hidatsas) and Mandans in long, wide, flat strands kneaded with reddish brown clay or like many Dacotas, with a single long lock of hair in back decorated with one or several brass rosettes. Their robes are marked with very attractive parallel stripes of porcupine quills, mostly yellow or yellowish red; little red cloth flaps are sewed on [these] straight downward, one above the other (see the drawing of a Gros Ventre). The Arapahoes are said to make these robes in exactly the same way. Their shoes, like those of the Blackfoot, usually have a different base color (one white, the other yellow), [each] with colorful markings.

Their [tipis], household implements, and weapons are the same. Figure 13.15. Elk-antler war club.Among them I saw many war clubs of elk horn, made from a long tine of the bull elk. I bought an interesting dagger from them; the handle was the lower jawbone of a bear, individual examples of which one also sees among the Crees and Assiniboines.Figure 13.16. Elk-antler war club. Formerly they were very poor [and] had poor [tipis] and no guns. Some time ago, however, they recovered, and most of them now have guns and their [tipis] are good and like those of the Piegans.

They like to beg and, like all Indians, also steal—particularly the women and children. But in this respect, the Crows are said to outdo all other Indians. Recently they have had to make big expenditures. About thirty of them fell into the hands of the Crows and had to buy themselves free with a high ransom. In battles with the Crows, they have lost so many men that now the number of their women is much larger than it would be in proper proportion. They are estimated at three hundred to four hundred warriors and about two hundred [tipis].M15People from the north, from the vicinity of the Sas- katchewan and the Fort des Prairies, have assured me that the Gros Ventres des Prairies are far more numerous than is usually believed; they are a very numerous nation. They have many pack dogs and more horses now than formerly. In an emergency they probably also eat dogs. They still do not have as many horses as the Blackfoot.

At Fort Piegan, or McKenzie, they always behaved very well, obeyed their chiefs—as our experience on the keelboat showed—[and] supplied beautiful buffalo robes, which they prepared in the best and most perfect manner. All of them offered their women for whiskey and other articles; we saw very pretty girls among them. They dispose of their dead as the Piegans do and in the main have the same practices. They are brave, good fighters and treat the whites well.

The language of these Indians is one of the most difficult of all. Furthermore, there is not yet a single interpreter for it.[Page 2:281] It consists entirely of short, abrupt sounds—mostly similar sounding, sometimes nasal, sometimes velar—which in long conversations are so similar that often one can hardly distinguish them. If single words are pronounced slowly and distinctly, one can, if need be, write them down, but a conversation sounds most strange and fantastic. Many Prairies speak the language of their neighbors and allies, the Blackfoot, and this is helpful. They often have the habit, like the English, of lisping. Language Samples of the Gros Ventres des Prairies speak the language of their neighbors and allies, the Blackfoot, and this is helpful. They often have the habit, like the English, of lisping.

Language Samples of the Gros Ventres des Prairies
Sun Ehsiss
Moon Kahå-hássa (together)
Star Áto (‘o’ almost like ö)
God Mehåa (‘e’ short, each ‘a’ separate)
Fire Esittah (‘E’ very short)
Water Netse (‘e’ very short)
Earth Meth-auuch (‘au’ together, ‘auuch’ very short)
Man Nenítta (‘e’ and ‘a’ short)
Woman Ésta (‘És’ lisping)
Child Tä́yalle (all syllables a little clipped and separate, ‘e’ half [=ə])
Head Nöth-ah (indistinct, ‘ah’ separate)
Arm Nah-köth (the syllables separate)
Hand Nah-kettinach (somewhat indistinct)
Hair Näwi-táss (‘táss’ stressed)
Eye Ne-séh-seh (‘Ne’ short and half [=ə], first ‘séh’ carries stress)
Mouth Nöt-ti (‘ti’ somewhat more softly)
Bow Nemáth (‘e’ half [=ə])
Arrow Nénnitch (‘ch’ apical, not velar)
Pipe Eht-tsá
Tomahawk Aha-loss

I have already mentioned farther above that Lewis and Clark as well as Brackenridge, and perhaps some others, too, are very mistaken when they regard this language as related to that of the Hidatsas and of the Crows (Corbeaux). The name “Gros Ventre” is not significant, because it has been coined by the whites.


They are not of tall stature but very fine and good Indians; they fight well and treat the whites well. They shoot very well. [They] are not numerous. Six years ago they had about one hundred [tipis]; since then they have decreased rather than increased. Now they are estimated to have 280 warriors. They are [a] handsome people who wear their hair long and do not significantly differ from the Blackfoot. Their heads are not pressed flat, and the name is inappropriate. They call themselves Säh Sähenih (‘e’ half [= ǝ]). They have adopted various Christian customs: they strictly observe Sunday, when they sing medicine songs in their lodges; on Sunday they do not kill any animals either. They are the best Indians of the prairies; they do not kill whites. Clothing and weapons as among the Blackfoot. They live at the sources of the Columbia, on the rivière [s] des Serpens [River] and du Saumon [Salmon River]. They are at war with all branches of the Blackfoot, who last spring, as they say, killed forty-seven of them. Nínoch NínochKiä́iu led the Blackfoot; he gave me the following words of the Salish language, which he understands. Generally, Indians do not like rifles, but the Salish are said to have many. Whenever the Blackfoot took rifles from the whites, they usually sold them back to the whites again. According to Mr. Campbell, the Salish have more horses by far than the Crows. Frequently the [Salish] wear a horned bonnet, like the Assiniboines, with a long strip of scarlet cloth hanging down, fluttering behind in the wind, something that is supposed to look unusual. Perhaps this is the long warbonnet?

Language Samples of the SalishM16Communicated to me by the Piegan chief Nínoch-Kiä́iu.
Sun Ehs-pach-kann (softly and palatal)
Moon Ehs-pach-kann (softly and palatal)
Star Skoch-koiomm (softly and together, ‘och’ velar)
God Inuméhcho (‘I’ like ‘e,’ ‘ch’ velar)
Fire Steechke (‘St’ apical, ‘ch’ velar, final ‘e’ half [=ə])
Water Saotuch (softly, ‘ch’ velar)
Earth Soputh
Man Taiskáltomo (little stress and softly)
Woman Semääm (‘e’ half [=ə], ‘ä’ and ‘ä’ separate)
Child Skochkussa (‘ch’ velar, ‘sa’ softly and barely audible)
Head Estáchk (‘Es’ softly, ‘ch’ velar)
Eye Ehsuetst
Mouth Onuchuaye (‘ch’ velar, ‘e’ half [=ə])
Bow Soh-nonn (the same for “shotgun”)
Arrow Tah-pu-minn
Pipe Simä́h-noch (‘Simäh’ short, ‘noch’ velar, little stress)
Tomahawk So-nonn


[They] live on the other side of the mountains at the sources of the Marias River, [inhabited by] the white mountain goat, which they hunt. The English and Anglo-Americans call them Kutnehä, the French, Koutanais; they call themselves Kutonáchä. The Blackfoot know them by the name Kutanä. They are not numerous [and] do not count more than forty [tipis]. Among their ornaments they have many cylinders cut from mussels as well as dentalium, which they sell to neighboring nations. These mussels are found beyond the Rocky Mountains along rivers and the ocean. A container of theirs, which I received, is made from coniferous (épinette) roots and has all kinds of whitish figures. The Kootenais are at peace with the Piegans, enemies of the Kaë́nnas and the Siksikas. They do not live on buffalo, which do not occur in those mountains; on the other hand, they catch many beaver, have splendid fish (trout) in the lakes, roots, berries, and several other species of animals, especially the white mountain goats, the bighorn, and the orignal [moose]. They raise strong, fine horses in large numbers; [they] are good Indians, well dressed, and excellent beaver trappers. They make very fine bows and arrows.

Language Samples of the KootenaisM17Written according to the pronunciation of the old Kootenai (Big Earth).
Sun Natannick (‘k’ only a slight velar sound barely audible)
Moon Natannick (like “sun”)
Star Akisnohs (a special clicking at the ‘s’)
God Núma
Fire Akingkóko (indistinctly)
Water Woh (abruptly and directly expelled)
Earth Amma
Man Aksmacki (a short pause on the ‘s’ but not very distinct)
Woman Paski (‘ki’ softly and short)
Child Skammu (everything softly and gently, velar)
Head Achksemnis (‘k’ lisping the way L. Schwendler speaks, indistinctly, short, ‘Ach’ velar)
Arm Achkusottis (indistinctly)
Hand Achkehs (velar and softly)
Hair Akuksammus (‘s’ lisping)
Eye Akaksisches (‘es’ full quality)
Mouth Achkesmaës (‘Ach’ velar, ‘s’ lisped)
Bow Züpil (‘i’ very short and almost like ‘e’, indistinctly)
Arrow Ahk (the ‘k’ lingers in the throat)
Pipe Achkússa (‘ch’ velar, the whole [word] soft and velar)
Tomahawk Achkenksä (‘ks’ with tongue clicking, the way Schwendler speaks)

Their language is difficult to learn. I wrote it down according to the pronunciation of an old Kootenai who pronounced the words softly and indistinctly. They have many clicking sounds. They lisp [and] speak softly, in muffled fashion, and in the throat; [they have] many velar sounds like the German ‘ach’.

[Page 2:284]THE [SHOSHONE] SNAKE INDIANSM18Chochoné, Snake.

They live in the Rocky Mountains, more easterly and southerly than the Crows, and along the Columbia. [They] are generally not as well developed as the Blackfoot, but there are also tall and well-built individuals among them. Costume and weapons little different from those of the latter. [They] do not have as many horses as the Blackfoot but [do have] leather [tipis] and dogs, which they do not eat. They do not load travois but [instead use] horses. [They] are enemies of the Blackfoot, whom they like to fight against, [and] are also brave. They call themselves SchoschonéFrench call them Serpens. They are very numerous, even more so than the Dacotas. They are thought to be the most numerous of all Indians. [They] carry on trade with the Spaniards.M19And the American fur traders.

Some of them live only from roots and go almost naked; the Spaniards call them maradicos [sic], the French, radiyeurs [sic]. These radiyeurs have no guns and are a wretched people. They are not bad toward whites. The Spaniards trade with them for beaver pelts, leather apparel, deer hides, and the like. They are also at war with the Crows.M20They eat ants in plentiful amounts: scoop out the whole mound, wash the heap, and knead them together into balls, then bake them between hot coals, pulverize them, and bake boil soup from this. M20

They are divided into two bands. 1. The actual Shoshones, who have many horses. They are called Chochonés. Have lodges like the Blackfoot. 2. The Gens de Pitié, a poor branch in the mountains. They have no leather [tipis]; they put poles together and cover them with branches, hay, and grass. People say all of them have somewhat flat noses. These are the root diggers, or radiyeurs. Mr. Campbell provided me with the following information about them: They are so primitive and unconcerned about what goes on around them that everything they saw on him looked new and ridiculous to them. They were not even aware of the usefulness of beavers and singed them. [The] several lodges he found had been living for many years on the same spot, without looking around for better areas. He found a great number of white mountain goat hides among them, and because they were so little acquainted with the whites, he bartered very advantageously with them.


They call themselves Yamparicka and speak the same language as the Shoshones, with a few deviations. On their jackets they adorn one arm with braids of hair, [while] the other one is decorated with feathers. They live at the sources of the Rio Colorado (de la rivière Rouge).

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