Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine


Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

History of Saskatchewan and The Old North West
Chapter VI - Saskatchewan Indians: Origin. Tribes and Modes of Life


Origin of Term Indian and of the Indian Race—Physical Characteristics—Diversity of Linguistic Stocks—Four Chief Saskatchewan Tribes: Chipeweyans, Crees, Saulteaun, Assiniisoine-Sioux—Blackfeet of the farther West—estimated Indian Population—Totemism—Indian Generosity; Dignity and Courtesy; Imperturbability and Indifference to Pain—Indian Cruelty; Improvidence; Love of Display—Modes of Dress— Tatooinc;—Indian Villages and Encampments—Tribal Government; Chiefs; "Soldiers"—Indian Sleds; Travaillfs; Carioles and snow-shoes-indian horses—polygamy—cannibalism-Treatment of Aged and of Young Children—Funeral Ceremonies—Indian Foods: Pomme of. Prairie; Pemmican, etc.— Sutatoriics—Feasts—Naming of Children—Indian Dances— Gambling—Story Telling—Customs and Superstitions Relating to Hunting — Wampum — Pictography — Music — Indian Pipes—The Indians of Pre-Columbian Times—Transformation Wrought by Introduction of Horses and Firearms—Indian Warfare.

Christopher Columbus, in a letter written in 1493, referred to the aborigines of. the new lands which he had discovered as Indios. From this misnomer we have inherited the word Indians; and from the suggestion which it implies ill informed ethnologists have been led to adopt divers far-fetched or preposterous theories as to the origin of the North American Indians. It is of course out of the question to enter upon any extended study of exploded ethnological theories, but it may be interesting to note that books have been published undertaking to trace the Indians to a primeval home located according to taste in almost any corner of the old world,—Egypt, Carthage, Phoenecia, Canaan. Asia Minor and the Caucasus, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia and India. Central Asia, Siberia, the East Indies, Polynesia, Greece and ancient Celtic Europe, even medieval Ireland and Wales.

In general the North American Indians are brown skinned, though various shades of complexion occur from reddish brown to chocolate color, and sometimes almost black. The hair is uniformly black. The eyes vary in color from hazel brown to dark brown. Indians are usually tall, though some tribes of low stature exist. While most ethnologists feel justified in grouping the aboriginal inhabitants of America north of Mexico as a single race, it must not be forgotten that it includes very widely differing types. It was long ago observed that a very close relationship exists between the natives of North Eastern Asia and the Indians of North America, but whether our Indians are immigrants from Asia, or whether their Asiatic cousins are emigrants from America is a question still under debate. Some authorities believe that in relatively recent times, races quite distinct from the North American Indians have dwelt in what is now Canada and the United States. The Mandans, or white bearded Sioux, a race now practically extinct, are described by La Yerandrye and their other first visitors as sometimes white, and as possessing a grade of culture that seems to mark them off from the other North .American Indians as we know them.

In like maimer the so-called Mound Builders and the Eskimos have, by many, been considered as non-Indian races.

These views, however, do not seem to find favor with the most widely accepted authorities of the present time. '"The exaggerated ideas entertained by some authorities concerning the 'Mound Builders' of the Ohio and Mississippi valleys have led them to assume, without adequate proofs, long continued relations of the tribes inhabiting this part of the country in the past with the ancient people of Yukatan and Mexico, or even an origin of their culture from beyond the Gulf," says Dr. Chamberlain: "but since these mounds were in all probability wholly the work of modern Indians of this area or their immediate ancestors, and the greater part, if not all, of the art and industry represented therein lies easily within the capacity of the aborigines of North America, the 'Mexican' theory in this form appears unnecessary to explain the facts."

Whether or not the North American Indian belong to a single race, they include an astonishing number of different linguistic stocks. Indeed, a study of the many diverse languages spread over America would seem to indicate that the tribes speaking them could not have originated at a common center, unless, indeed, at a period anterior to the
 formation of organized language. More than fifty of these distinct linguistic branches have been definitely recognized by philologists. It is to be understood that a single one of these linguistic families may include several different but related languages; on the other hand, the most painstaking scholarship has failed to trace any common element in the root words of any two of the linguistic stocks of families themselves. The language of the Cree. for example, is as diverse from that of the neighboring Sioux as the English language is from that of the Japanese.

The Indian tribes with which we have to do in the study of Saskatchewan history are chiefly four,—the Chippewayans, Crees, Saulteaux and Stonies, —though others will be mentioned.

The Cbippewayans, including a number of semi-distinct tribes and representing the Athabascan linguistic stock, have long dwelt in the forests of the northern half of Saskatchewan and -adjacent territories. They have never been very numerous, enterprising or blood-thirsty, and consequently the role they have played has been inconspicuous. The general trend of Athabascan migration seems to have been from somewhere in the interior of North West Canada, though the family is now widely distributed from the interior of Alaska to Mexico and Texas.

The Crees have dwelt chiefly in the South Western part of the Province. They are commonly subdivided as the Plain Crees, the Wood Crees and the Swampies, according to their habitat. The Swampies, however, have resided chiefly in Keewatin and Manitoba. the Crees belong to the Algonquin stock. They are frequently called Kinistinoes, or Kristinoes by early writers. Various other forms of this name also occur.

The Ojibways, or Chippeways, frequently called the Saulteaux, were also Algonquins. They were the chief Indian dwellers in South Eastern Saskatchewan and the adjacent parts of Manitoba. The Saulteaux were immigrants from the Eastern provinces, and came to their present home but little more than a century ago.

When Canadian writers speak of the Sioux they usually mean the Decotas. The Assiniboins, however, who have always been looked upon as Canadian Indians are really of Siouan stock. These Assiniboins, or Stonies, were at one time very numerous in British Territory, but from the earliest period of white settlement in the West, their numbers have been small.

Along the southern border dwelt the Sioux or Dacotas. These are really American Indians, and have from the earliest times been looked upon as interlopers, but they have penetrated British domains so frequently and so persistently, whether in peace or war, that they must be given a place in out-history. Indeed, a considerable number of them are now permanent dwellers in Canada. They came chiefly as refugees after the Minnesota massacres of 1862 and 1S63, and after the so-called Custer massacre of 1876.

A few Iroquois found their way to the western plains in early times, but even half a century ago they were already nearly extinct or absorbed.

The Blackfeet occupied the western prairies and mountain slopes, and therefore belonged to Alberta, rather than Saskatchewan. This nation consisted of four tribes: the Blackfoot proper, the Bloods, the Picgans and the Gros Ventres. They, like the Saulteaux and Crees, are of Algonquin origin. The Algonquins are now generally believed to have originated somewhere between the Great Lakes and Hudson Bay, but they are at present the most widely scattered race in British America, and the languages spoken by the tribes have become so diverse as often not to be intelligible to other tribes of the same race.

Various authorities have attempted to compute the Indian population at various times. The more recent students of the subject believe that the figures earlier accepted were usually much too large.

Colonel H. Lefroy, in a treatise on the probable number of the native Indian population in British America places the aggregate of the tribes inhabiting the British plains in 1843 ;it not '"ore than twenty-three thousand four hundred. Attempts were made to estimate the Indians on the basis of the number visiting the Hudson Bay Co.'s establishments, but these estimates are very unreliable. During the first half of the Seventeenth Century, the Indians were probably four times as numerous as in the middle of the Eighteenth. Doubtless the chief influence at work in producing the wholesale reduction of the Indian population have been epidemics and the destruction of the buffalo and other game upon which the Indian subsisted.

Among numerous Indian tribes, descent usually followed the female line. This is notably the case among the Iroquois, whose social system was more definitely organized, or, at all events, has been more successfully studied than that of most other Indian nations. Each of the five tribes which constituted the original confederacy consisted of eight clans, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that each of the eight clans was sub-divided among the five tribes. Members of the same clan dwelt together in communal lodges. The clans were distinguished by the names of certain animals,—the Wolf, Bear, Beaver, Turtle, Deer, Snipe, Heron, and Hawk. Between the members of any of these eight clans there could be no intermarriage, as they were looked upon in all cases as near kinsmen, though one might hail from the Rocky Mountains and the other from Lake Cham-plain. Thus in every family two clans were represented. The children belonged to the mother's clan. It is manifest that such a system of cross relationship bound the tribes indissolubly together, and so constituted a permanent factor making for peace within the confederacy. It would be impossible for any of the tribes to make war on any other tribes, without violating, in the case of every warrior, the principle that war between kinsman and kinsman is. sacriligious and unnatural.

Totemisnt—as such a system of kinship and descent is called—was once thought to have been universal among the Indians, but later authorities hold a contrary view. The beliefs and institutions in this connection were not identical even within the same nation or stock. For example, female descent prevailed among the Algonquins of the South Eastern but not among those of the North Western 1'rovinccs of Canada.

The faults and virtues of the Indians are alike prominent, from the point of view of the white man. Perhaps their most admirable trait is their generosity. Doubtless this characteristic is closely connected with their undeveloped notion of private property, and -with the conception of the good of the individual as being entirely subordinate to the good of the tribe. The Indian hunter would rarely return successful from the chase without sending portions of his spoils to some of his neighbors, or inviting his friends to a feast.

Dignity and its allied virtue, courtesy, are in a special sense characteristic Indian traits. Dr. Milton relates that in one season of dire scarcity, he was visited when alone by a friendly native. He sat down and talked for an hour or two, stating that he was out trapping, and that his family was about five miles distant. In due time Milton produced some pemmican for supper, when the fellow justified the sobriquet of Mahaycgun, or The Wolf, eating most voraciously. He then mentioned that lie had not tasted food for two days. He had visited the while man's tent the day before in his absence and had lit a fire, melted some snow in the pot, and waited for a long time in the hope that some one might come in. At last he had gone away without touching the pemmican which lay on the table right to his hand. "The story was doubtless perfectly true, according with all the signs previously observed and the fact that the pemmican was untouched. With the pangs of hunger gnawing at his stomach, and eyeing no doubt with longing eyes the food around, he had yet, according to Indian etiquette, refrained from clamouring at once for food; he sat and smoked for a long time without making the slightest allusion to his starving condition."

The same author records another instance of a similar character in which a considerable number of starving Indians were involved. "As the miserable company came, they were invited lo sit down by the fire. Their cheerfulness belied their looks", and they smoked and chatted gaily without appearing to covet the meat that lay around, or making any request for food." When, however, a supply was cooked and offered to them they ate in silence and dignity, being loo well bred to show any signs of greediness, though they proved equal to the consumption of any quantity that was put before them.

In his intercourse with strangers, and on all formal occasions, the typical Indian was dignified to a degree, punctilious in the observation of his accustomed marks of respect to his associates and superiors, and never in haste. Of his customs in these connections we shall have occasion to speak elsewhere.

Growing out of his sense of liis own dignity was the Indian's imperturbability and ostentatious contempt for liis own physical pain. Instances are recorded in which an Indian submitting to torture at the bands of his enemies has sneered at their alleged unfamiliarity with the refinements of their art, and has himself given instruction and assistance to render more excruciating the agonies inflicted upon him and borne without a sign.

The characteristic Indian faults are the faults of childhood. It must not be forgotten that three centuries ago the Indians were just emerging from the stone age in their cultural development. Mentally and morally they were a race of children. Like children their imagination was vivid, but so limited as to render impossible that projection of oneself into the experience of another, upon which all broad and intelligent sympathies depend. Consequently the Indian was cruel, as judged by our standards.

Again, after the manner of children, be lived only for the present. As a rule he was utterly improvident in all his habits; feasting to excess while abundance lasted, and making no adequate provision for the wants of the future. While capable of cheerfully enduring enormous physical fatigue in pursuits appealing to his barbarous instincts, he held ordinary labor in profound disdain, and was incapable of prolonged and systematic toil the fruit of which was not immediately lo be obtained.

As Powell points out, however, the Indian "does not lack industry so much as wisdom.

Like a child, the Indian had an absurd and indiscriminating love of display and showy adornment. The Cree dandy would array himself in scarlet garments; paint a halo of bright vermilion about his eyes, a patch of the same color on each cheek and perhaps a circle about his mouth, arrange his hair in a fantastic manner, and then luxuriate in the admiration of his friends.

The dress of an Indian consisted chiefly of a tight pair of leggings,— each made of a single piece and sewed with a single seam running up the outside,—and a leather breech cloth about a foot wide and five times as long passing between the legs and over a belt, the ends hanging down. The body was also covered with a shirt, belted, and reaching to the thighs, over which the Indian would wrap a blanket of dressed buffalo skin, frequently highly ornamented. Caps were made of a single piece of fur. Their leather garments the Indians generally painted or ornamented with porcupine quills, fringes or tassels, often in a very tasty manner. They also used moccasins and mittens; and horns, claws, feathers and strings of teeth constituted additional ornaments. Many of the Indians rubbed their hair with grease or colored clay to give it a glossy appearance.

The dress of the women was made of the same material as that of the men, but somewhat differently arranged. The shirt was cut or fringed round the bottom of the skirt and fancifully painted. The arms were covered with detachable sleeves, connected by a cord extending from one to the other across the shoulders. Their hair the women parted at the top of the head and tied behind, or fastened with great knots over the ears and covered with ornaments.

Both men and women frequently tattooed their skins. With the women this form of ornament usually consisted of a line from the middle of the upper lip to the centre of the chin and others down the sides of the chin. The men indulged in tattooing to a much greater extent and frequently covered their bodies with all kinds of fanciful patterns.

"They would often pinch up a fold of the skin and flesh an inch broad, in which they pass the iron barb of an arrow; they raise stripes in this manner from the back of the hand to the shoulder, and thence to the breast, there joining three or four separate circles of incisions made in the same manner on the lower part of the breast. Some content themselves by raising stripes of different lengths upon their arms and thighs, and forming concentric cuts on the breast in a very regular manner, one within another; some with the horns upward, others downward, according to fancy."

"When on the warpath, the figure of a band is often painted over the mouth. The Ojibways are particularly fond of vermilion, the Plain Crees being partial to white, green and blue. They paint the chest and arms, as well as the face. It was customary to gash the arms, side, chest and legs as a token of grief, and some of the Indians were dreadfully disfigured by the resulting scars. Among the Plain Crees, the arms and breast were often ornamented with figures of animals and various symbols. Such tattooing is performed with a bone or other sharp instrument, the colour being rubbed in. These ornaments represented the brave's personal or tribal totems and were commonly tattooed upon him at puberty.

Many of the tribes shaved or plucked all the hair except a spot on the crown about the size of a silver dollar. Here the hair grew long and was made the object of the greatest care, being frequently covered with, a piece of skin.

The Wood Crees Milton describes as a race of solitary trappers as compared with the Crees of the plains, who are horsemen and very gregarious in their habits. The Wood Crees are very peaceable, and Cheadle considered them remarkably honest,—in this respect differing much from their kinsmen of the prairies. The objects of their chase were moose and fur bearing animals, and occasionally such buffalo as entered the bounds of the woods. They were better clothed and quartered than the Indians of the plains, but often suffered severely from' starvation, which, in Cheadle's time, rarely overtook the Plain Crees.

The Assiniboins, or Osinpoiles, as Alexander Henry, Sr., calls them, had had in bis time no acquaintance with any foreign nation sufficient to affect their pristine habits. "Like the other Indians, they were cruel to their enemies, but, as far as the experience of myself and other Europeans authorises me to speak, they were a harmless people, with a large share of simplicity of manners and plain dealing. They lived in fear of the Cristineaux, by whom they were not only frequently imposed upon, but pillaged when the latter met their bands in smaller numbers than their own." "They are generally of moderate stature, rather slender and very active; there are, however, many tall and well-proportioned men among them. Their complexion is of lighter copper colour than that of the Crees, and their features are more regular. Their dress, tents, customs and manners are nearly the same as those of the Crees, but they observe more decorum in camp, and are more cleanly and hospitable. Their robes and other garments are kept clean, but daubed with clay. They are excellent riders and notorious horse thieves, even among themselves, perpetually embroiled on account of horses and women; instant murder is frequently the consequence, and indeed to those two causes may be attributed all the quarrels and disturbance among the meadow tribes."

The Crees and the Stone Indians were numerous tribes, and Harmon tells us that they frequently intermarried. The Plain Crees and the Assiniboins were both well supplied with horses, but the Assiniboins were much more skilful in their use, and would never go any distance on foot.

The tents of all the tribes of the plains were made of dressed leather and erected upon poles, usually seventeen in number. Two of these were tied together about three feet from the top. These were set apart at the base, and the others were placed in a slanting position against them, so as to form a circle. the tent would consist of ten or fifteen dressed hides and be about twenty feet in diameter. The fire was always made in the centre, generally within a ring of stones. When new the Indian tents were white, and they were frequently decorated with fantastic devices suggested by dreams, or bygone adventures. Even those who have not seen an Indian village or encampment will realise that a large camp of such tents, pitched regularly on the level prairie, would present a very pleasing appearance, to which the gaily dressed natives and the horses grazing in the vicinity would lend additional interest and colour.

The wigwams of the Wood Indians were generally made of thin, flexible rods, fixed in the ground in a circle and then bent over, tied at tops and covered with strips of white birch bark. These strips were fitted at the bottom with a rim of cedar, around which they were rolled when the lodge was taken down. The most expert soldiers could not pitch or strike their tents more expeditiously than could the Indian braves, or rather, the Indian women, set up these bark lodges or roll them up to be placed in the canoes.

While certain families enjoyed a hereditary prestige among their people, the office of chief was not a mere matter of inheritance. Usually the community constituted a kind of rude democracy, and its chief rose to power over his people by virtue of his proven skill and courage in hunting and warfare and his exceptional force of character and oratorical ability. As he had no highly developed civil machinery for the enforcement of his will, he could lead his followers only when they chose to follow and were convinced of the wisdom of his plans.

The chief associated with himself ten or a dozen selected braves, whom the old writers designated by the rather ill-chosen name of "soldiers." The commanding officer of this group of police was called the "conductor." These young men regulated the hunting expeditions, and superintended the pitching or raising of the encampments. They kept the members of the tribe together when on the march or setting out upon a tribal hunt, and frequently enforced their authority even to the extent of the breaking of limbs and the destruction of tents. Every young man enjoyed, in his turn, the dignity of being a "soldier." but "the conductor'' retained his post as long as he was pleased to keep it. "The conductor," says Larocque, "never does anything of consequence without consulting the other chiefs, and it is in consequence of the resolution taken in council that he harangues and acts. His tent is thrown the first when they raise the camp, lie goes foremost all the way (exccpt a few young men who go far before as scouts) and pitches his tent the first, all the others encamp about him. Previous to their flitting he goes about the camp and tells them to throw down their tents, that they are going to such a place, and for such and such a reason. Some of the soldiers go far ahead, and others remain to watch and see if there be no enemies. When buffaloes are seen on the road and they wish to hunt, they cause the people to stop and the old man harangues from one end to the other. When all are ready, the huntsmen set off and the body of the people follow slowly.

"When a quarrel happens between two persons they interfere and try to reconcile them by fair means (that is, when they push their quarrels too far), but I do not know that they employed an authoritative one. Generally a present of a horse or gun is made to the offended person, as the means of reconciliation, but there happen few quarrels, and they are generally occasioned by their wives and jealousy."

The only animals domesticated by the Indians are the horse and dog, and the use of the former animals was confined to the Indians of the plains. The dogs were used as beasts of burden, and could carry upon their shoulders a load of sixty or seventy pounds over a distance of twenty-five or thirty miles a day. The only vehicles for transportation were sleds and travailles. The travaille is a contrivance consisting of two poles fastened together at an acute angle, with crossbars between them. The point of the angle rests on the back of the horse or dog, and the baggage is secured to the crossbars. the sleds or carioles consisted of thin strips of wood about one and a half feet wide and bound up at the front. The sides were made of green buffalo hide, dried and scraped free from hair. At the back there was a straight board. Over the upper and front part of the sled there was a leather covering. Each cariole accommodated but one person. To the back of the sled were attached cords which were held by a man running behind lo reduce the danger of the little craft capsizing. The dogs constituting the teams were gaudily decorated. One or two men usuallv ran in front to beat a track and lead the wav.

Indians' snowshocs differed considerably from those now used by the whiles. the shoe came to a point in front and was turned up. The side pieces were from eighteen inches to two feet apart and the shoe was frequently five or seven feet in length, double that of the snowshocs nowadays used by white men. The inner side was nearly straight, the outside arching, and the extremities came together behind at a point. The space between was covered with a network of thongs. The Indians farthest north used the simplest style of snowshoe. The natives were trained to their use from early childhood and could walk farther with them iu a day through the snow than they could go on the bare ground without them.

By the time the first white man came into the West the Indians of the plains were in the possession of some excellent horses. In this connection Harmon supplies us with some interesting information:

"They sometimes go seventy miles in twelve hours; but forty or forty-five miles is a common day's ride. They do not often use bridles', but guide their horses with halters, made of ropes which are manufactured from the hair of the buffalo, which arc very strong and durable. On the back of the horse they put a dressed buffalo skin, on top of which they place a pad, from which are suspended stirrups made of wood and covered with the skin of the testicles of the buffalo.

"Some of these Indians have forty or fifty horses; and they attach great value lo those that arc distinguished for their speed. Whenever an Assiuihoin sells a racer, be separates from him in a most affectionate manner. Immediately before delivering him to the purchaser he steps up to the favourite animal and whispers in his ear, telling him not to be cast down or angry with his master for disposing of him to another, for, he adds, 'You shall not remain long where you are; I sold you lo obtain certain articles that I have stood in great need of: but before many nights have passed I will come and steal you away.' And unless great vigilance on the part of the purchaser prevent, he generally fulfills his promise; for they are the greatest horse thieves,' perhaps, on the face of the earth."

When travelling by water the forest Indians used, as a rule, birch-bark canoes, constructed and propelled with great skill. The Indians of the woodless plains, however, had no watercraft except their clumsy curacles or bull-boats. These were constructed of leather stretched over a crude framework of light, bent rods, Bull-boats were used chiefly in emergencies when the plain dwellers had occasion to cross a river.

The status of the women varied considerably in different tribes. They performed all the drudgery of the camp, and European critics have usually considered the subdivision of labour very unfair to them. This opinion, however, is not shared by those whose familiarity with Indian life best fits them to form a judgment.

Schoolcraft, like others, emphasises the fact that in the domestic circle the wife was distinctly mistress. "The lodge itself with all its arrangements is the precinct of the government and rule of the wife. She assigns to each member his or her ordinary placc to sleep and to put their effects. These places are permanent and only changed at her will, as when there is a guest by day or night. The husband has no voice in this matter, and I have never heard of an instance in which he would so far deviate from bis position as to interfere in these minor particulars. . . The duties and labours of Indian life I believe to be equally and not unequally divided between the male and the female. This division is also a most natural one, and such as must necessarily result from the condition of man as a mere hunter. It is the duty of the maie to provide food, and the female to prepare it. ... To the man belongs not only the business of hunting, for this is an employment, not a pastime, but the care of the territory and the keeping off of intruders and enemies, and the preparation of canoes for travelling, and of arms and instruments of war. The duty of dressing the meats and fowl, on the other hand, is the share of the hunter's wife, with the care and control of the lodge, with the construction and keeping it in order, with all its utensils and appurtenances.

"The whole amount of the transferable materials of the lodge is often comprehended in some half dozen good rolls of bark and as many of rush mats, which the merest girl could easily lift. The mats, which arc the substitute for floor cloths, and also the under stratum of the sleeping couch, are made out of the common bulrush, or the flag, gathered at the proper season, and woven in a warp of fine hemp, such as is furnished by traders. The pattern of this soft vegetable woof is dyed and woven in various colours. Before we can affirm that the labour of preparing these barks and mats, and setting up and taking down the lodge is disproportionately great or heavy on the females, it will be necessary to inquire into other particulars, both on the side of the male and female.

"Much of the time of the Indian female is passed in idleness. She has not, like the fanner's wife, her cows to milk, her butter and cheese to make and flax to spin. She has not to wash and comb and prepare her children every morning for school. She has no extensive or fine wardrobe to take care of. She has no books to read. She sets little value on time, which is characteristic of the race. What she does is either very plain sewing or some very painstaking ornamental thing. When the sheathing and flooring of the lodges are once made, they are permanent pieces of property, and do not require frequent renewal. When a skin has been dressed and the garment made, it is worn till it is worn out. The articles which enter into the mysteries of the laundry add but little to the cares of the forest housekeeper. There is much unoccupied time when her husband is compelled by their necessities to traverse large tracts and endure great fatigues in all weathers in the quest of food.

"It is also part of her duty at all seasons to provide fuel for the lodge fire. She takes a hatchet of one or two pounds weight, and after collecting dry limbs in the forest, she breaks them into lengths of about eighteen inches and ties them in bundles or faggots and carries them at her leisure to her lodge. Small as these sticks are in length and diameter, but few are required to boil her pot. The lodge being of small circumference, but little heat is required to warm the place, and by suspending the pot by a string from above over a small blaze, she boils the contents without that expenditure of heat which to the amusement of the Indians characterises the immigrant's roaring fire of logs.

"The few fields which the Indians have cleared and prepared for cornfields in northern latitudes are generally to be traced to some adventitious opening, and have been enlarged very slowly. Could the whole of this physical effort, therefore, be traced to female hands, which is very doubtful, for the old men and boys will often do something, it would not be a very severe imposition.

"There is at least a good deal in this view of the domestic condition of the women to mitigate the severity of the judgment with which the proud and labour-hating hunter has sometimes been visited. He has, in our view, the most important part of the relative duties of Indian life to do. In the lodge he is a mild and considerate man of the non-interfering and non-scolding species. He may indeed be looked upon rather as the guest of his wife than what he is often represented to be, her tyrant, and he is often known only as the lord of the lodge by the attention and respect which she shows to him. He is a man of few words; if her temper is ruffled lie smiles; if he is displeased, he walks away. Tt is a province in which his actions acknowledge her right to rule; and it is one in which his pride and manliness have exalted him above the folly of altercation." (Schoolcraft.)

In the time of famine Cheadle observed that the children and women were much better supplied than the men. '"Although the Indian squaws and children are kept in subjection, and the work falls principally upon them, it is erroneous to suppose that they are ill treated, or that the women labour harder or endure greater hardship than the men. The Indian is constantly engaged in hunting to supply his family with food, and when that is scarce he will set out without any provisions himself, and often travel from morning to night before he finds the game he seeks; then, loaded with meat, he at last toils home again, and while it lasts considers himself entitled to complete rest after his exertions." Many examples of this self-denial and wonderful endurance of hunger are given by Cheadle.

My readers will doubtless be interested in the Indian methods of conducting a courtship. Upon this delicate topic I will again make use of the observations and records left us by first-hand observers.

"The young men", says Laroccjue, "seldom hunt until they are married, their whole lime previous to that epoch being dedicated to dress and parade. A young man rises late in the morning; about midday he begins to dress and he is not finished until late in the evening. He then mounts on his horse, on which he has spread two furs, red and blue, and then in company with his associates he rides about the camp, with the wing of a bustard or hawk before his face in lieu of a fan to keep him from the burning sun.

"At night he dismounts, courts the women or goes to the place of rendezvous and at daylight comes in to sleep. The married man dresses fine only when they raise the camp and on certain special occasions. To please the females and to attract their attention is the motive of the young men's attention to dress. They in their turn dress as clean and fine as they can to please the young men. I have seen courtship carried on in much the same manner as we do, whether it is their usual custom of wooing the girls before marriage or not I do not know, as I could not get the proper information; but some attention and deference seem to be paid to the young female."

According to Harmon, however, courtship and marriage differed rather widely from the customs usually followed nowadays in polite society:

"A young man who is desirous of taking a wife, looks around among the young women of his acquaintance to find one that suits his fancy. Having thus singled out one. to her he makes known his intentions; and if his addresses are favourably received, he visits her in the night season by crawling softly into the tent where she lodges and where she is expecting him after the other inhabitants of the lodge are asleep. Here they pass the night by conversing in a whisper lest they should be heard by the rest of the family, who all occupy the same apartment. As the morning approaches he withdraws in the same silent manner in which lie came. . . . The girl then proposes the subject to her mother, and she converses with the father with regard to the intended match. If he give his consent, and the mother agree with him in opinion, she will direct her daughter to invite her suitor to come and live with them. It is now only that they cohabit; and whatever the young man kills, he brings it home and presents it to the father of his wife. In this way he lives during a year or more, without any property he can call his own. After his wife has a child she calls her husband by no other name than the father of her son or daughter. And now he is at liberty to leave the tent of his wife's father, if he pleases. All the Indians on the east side of the Rocky Mountains think it very indecent for a father or mother-in-law to speak to or look in the face of a son or daughter-in-law, and they never do either unless they are very much intoxicated.

"When two young persons of different sexes have an affection for each other and wish to be connected in marriage to which the father of the girl will not consent, they frequently leave the tents of the parents and go and join some distant band of Indians. They are, however, often pursued by the father of the young woman, and should he overtake them, lie will bring his daughter back and keep a strict watch over her conduct. All neighbouring tribes often intermarry."

Alexander Henrv tells us that the Cristincaux or Crees usually had two wives each and often three. According to Schoolcraft, however, polygamy occurred chiefly among bands that were favorably located and had the best means of subsistence. Even here it was often considered disreputable. There were always some who disapproved of the practice, even though it might increase the brave's general influence among his tribe.

Among many of the Indians it was customary to devour the heart of a courageous enemy with a view to acquiring his bravery, but real cannibalism was regarded universally with horror and superstitious dread. Says Kane: "I do not think that any Indian, at least none that I have ever seen, would eat his fellow creature except under the influence of starvation; nor do I think that there is anv tribe of Indians on the North American continent to whom the word cannibal can properly be applied." Anyone known to have been guilty of having used human flesh as food was called by the Algonquin Indians "Weendigo." These wretches were feared and shunned, as dangerous madmen, but were, as a rule, not subjected to active molestation. On the other hand, they were rather pitied for the miserv which alone could have reduced them to such straits.

Harmon and other observers agree that the aged of both sexes were generally treated kindly and not allowed to want for anything which it was in the power of their relatives to procure for them. When diseased or decrepit, however, and unable to follow their nomadic kinsmen or endure the hardships of savage life, they might, with their own consent, be slain as a release from their misery. This was looked upon as an act of filial piety. Kane relates that one of his Indian friends told him of having killed his own mother. Oppressed by age and infirmity, she had asked him in pity to end her misery, and lie had accordingly shot her. When Kane inquired whereabouts he had directed his bullet, his answer was, "Do you think I would shoot her in a bad place? I hit her there"—pointing his finger to the region of the heart. If not thus slain, it would, in many cases, be the sad fate of the sick and decrepit to be left behind as the nomadic bauds moved away to new hunting grounds.1

The Indians were exceedingly devoted to their little children, among whom corporal punishment for juvenile misdemeanours was practically unheard of. Infanticide from motives of prudence was, however, not uncommon among some of the Indians of the North West. With mothers dying in childbirth, their infants were buried. However, infanticide was rare among the Crees; and the Blackfoot Indians believed that women guilty of this unnatural act would never reach the Happy Mountain after death.

The private property of an Indian consisted of his horses, dogs, tents, weapons and household utensils. Some of these things he would bequeath to his friends, but all his clothing and weapons were buried with him. Nothing of which the deceased had made special and personal use was allowed to remain about the encampment, and it was even considered a kind of sacrilage to mention his name or speak of him as dead. East of the Rocky Mountains it was almost universally the custom to bury the dead. The corpse was dressed as gaily as possible and wrapped in a blanket. This garment, Harmon tells us, was never sewn or bound together, however, lest the deceased should be unable to shake it off upon his arrival in the land of the hereafter. Beside the corpse the Indians placed in the grave a pipe and some tobacco, dishes and materials for repairing the snowshoes of the deceased, together with sufficient provisions to support him during his few days' journey to the other world.

Frequently, however, the body, instead of being buried, was elevated on a scaffolding or stage of sticks, some ten feet in the air, and sometimes the body was incinerated. Harmon relates an incident illustrative of this form of funeral ceremony:

"The corpse was placed on a pile of dried wood with the face upward, which was painted and bare. The body was covered with a robe made of beaver skins and shoes were on the feet. In short, the deceased was clothed in the same manner as when alive, only a little more gaily. His gun and powder horn, together with every trinket which he had possessed, were placed by his side. As they were about to set fire to the wood on which the deceased lay, one of his brothers asked him if he would ever come amongst them again ; for they suppose that the soul of a person, after the death of the body, can revisit the earth in another body. They must, therefore, believe in the immortality, though they connect with it the transmigration of the soul.

"'The deceased had two wives, who were placed the one at the foot and the other at the head of the corpse; and there they lay until the hair of their heads was almost consumed by the flames and they were almost suffocated by the smoke. When almost senseless they rolled to the ground to a little distance from the fire. As soon as they had recovered a little strength they stood up and began to strike the burning corpse with both their hands alternately, and this disgusting, savage ceremony was continued until the body was nearly consumed. This operation was interrupted by their frequent turns of fainting, arising from the intensity of the heat. Jf they did not soon recover from these turns and commence the operation of striking the corpse, the men would seize them by the little remaining hair on their heads, and push them into the flames in order to compel them to do it. This violence was specially used towards one of the wives of the deceased, who had frequently run away from him while he was living.

"When the body was nearly burned to ashes, the wives of the deceased gathered up the ashes and the remaining pieces of bones, which they put into bags. These they will be compelled to carry upon their backs and to lay by their sides when they lie down, for about two years. The relations of the deceased will then make a feast and enclose these bones and 'ashes in a box and deposit them in a shed created for that purpose in the centre of the village. Until this time the widows are kept in a state of slavery, and are required to daub their faces over with some black substance and to appear clothed in rags and sometimes to go without any clothing except round their waists. But from the time of this feast they are set at liberty from these disagreeable restraints."

In some of the tribes it was customary, especially for women, to cut off a joint from one of their lingers when they lost a near relation. In consequence of this horrid usage, it was not infrequent to see aged women who lacked the first joint of each finger on both hands. The men on such occasions usually satisfied the proprieties by cutting their hair and by scratching and cutting the faces and arms, frequently in a shocking manner.

During a burial the friends of the deceased would sing a weird chant, and weep and cry aloud in a despairing manner. Suicide from grief at the loss of a member of the family was not uncommon. Harmon is our authority for stating that the strength of conjugal attachment was the frequent cause of suicide in even' part of the Indian country.

An important article of food among the Indians of Saskatchewan was the potume de prairie? This plant has a root nearly a foot long and two or three inches in circumference. It is shaped like a carrot and tastes something like a turnip. The Crccs used it in many ways—uncooked, boiled, roasted, dried or crushed into a powder for making soup. Hind remarks that in the Qu'Appelle country especially many bushels of this plant were collected by the squaws and children and large quantities were stored in buffalo bags for the winter. The roots were cut into shreds and dried in the sun.

Animal food, however, supplied the chief sustenance of the Indians. The meat of the buffalo, moose, deer, antelope, bear, etc., was prepared by boiling or roasting. Iiefore the advent of the whites the kettles used were frequently made of bark. The water was heated by throwing into them hot stones. The meat was roasted on a spit stuck in the ground and inclining towards the fire. As the Indians were ignorant of the use of salt for the preservation of their meat, the lean parts of what was not immediately consumed they used to cure by drying in the smoke, and the fat was melted down. Boiled marrow fat was considered a special delicacy.

A staple article of Indian food was pemmican. This consisted of lean meat, dried and pounded fine, and then mixed with melted fat. Sometimes a flavoring of wild berries was added. This mixture was put into leather bags and when cold it became solid. If kept dry, it would remain good for years. This pemmican was very healthy and nourishing food.

Cheadle reports that the Crees regarded the moose as a sacred animal. Certain portions of the meat, including the breast, liver, kidneys and tongue, must be eaten at once. All scraps were burnt, never given to the dogs.

No regular meal hours were observed. The Indians would eat a little half a dozen times a day if they had food to hand, and sometimes, particularly at formal feasts, they would gorge incredibly. Generally speaking, however, they were not great eaters, and sometimes existed for a very long time upon very little food.

In eating, the Indians made use very commonly of birch-bark dishes.

They would take a piece of meat in their fingers and dip it in the soft marrow contained in their dish. The pottery of the Algonquin and Iroquoian tribes was generally crude and undeveloped.

One of the most interesting institutions to be found in connection with every Indian encampment was the sutatory, or sweating-house. Such lodges were commonly made of plaited willows. If for one or two persons only, they were three or four feet in height, and about five feet in diameter. Over the willows were laid the skins of buffaloes, and in the centre of the hut heated stones were placed. The Indian would enter the lodge perfectly naked, carrying with him a dish of water which he would sprinkle over the hot stones. The steam and the heat of the stones would soon put him in a profuse perspiration, and in this condition he would remain for perhaps an hour, though a person unaccustomed to such heat could not bear it for half that time. The Indians believed that by this sweating they rendered their limbs supple. Moreover, they considered sweating a sovereign remedy for most disorders. On leaving the sweating lodge, they would often plunge into a stream or rub themselves with snow. The sutatory was also an important factor in very many of the religious ceremonies observed by the Indians.

Whenever food was plentiful, feasts of a social or religious character were very common. When a chief proposed to make s feast, he sent to his friends little tokens of his intended hospitality, cither consisting of small pieces of wood or quills. Every guest brought with him a dish and knife. The host received his guests either standing or sitting in his wigwam, and they were appointed scats according to their age and social status, the most honourable place being next to the chief giving the feast. When the food had been divided up among the guests, the host would light his pipe, draw a few whiffs himself and present the stem towards the sun, the earth and the fire. Having thus done honor to his gods and deceased relatives, he presented the pipe successively to each person present. A small quantity of food was then sacrificed by being cast on the fire, and the feast began. It was considered an evidence of appreciation and good breeding to devour one's portion with the utmost rapidity. While the company were eating, it was customary for the chief to sing, beating time to his song upon a tambourine or drum.

Interesting ceremonies were associated with the birth of children. As soon as the child was born, it was washed in water previously prepared by boiling in it a sweet-scented root. The mother would then order a feast for the neighbouring women who had gathered to assist her. The oldest of the women would cast a small portion of the food into the fire and then divide the rest among the company. Thereupon she would offer up a prayer to the Master of Life on behalf of the newborn infant, asking that its life might be spared and that it might grow up in beauty. The meat of the first annuals killed by a male child was carefully preserved by the parents until sufficient was collected to make a feast. Upon this auspicious occasion the most respected warrior present would place some of the food in the fire and beseech the Great Spirit to be kind to the lad, allowing him to grow-up a skilful hunter and a brave and successful warrior.

Names were usually bestowed by some aged member of the lodge or camp and the choice was usually considered to be guided by some particular spirit.' frequently the names were suggested by mysterious scenes occurring in dreams. Names bestowed in childhood with solemn ceremony were considered sacred, and were seldom used. An Indian would rarely give his own name, though he would freely indicate those of other persons

"Among the natives," says Harmon, "those persons who are in any wav deformed or have any blemish about them, receive their names from this circumstance, while the others are often named after some beast or bird No Indian will inform another, even if requested, what his own name is though he will, if asked, give the names of other Indians. Of the reason' of this reserve I am ignorant.''

Feasts of a certain character were habitually observed in silence and darkness. After dividing up the food, the master of the lodge would perhaps for half an hour address himself to the spirits of deceased relatives and friends, praying them to be with him to share the food and to assist bun in his hunting enterprises. The food would then be eaten in silence, after which the host made still another speech. Thereafter a new fire was kindled and the pipes lit. The whole family would then dance and sing, continuing these exercises for a greater part of the night.

Among the many Indian dances were four of special importance, according to Schoolcraft's classification. These were the war dance, the medicine dance, the wabeno dance, and the dance of honour. Each of these had its own special movements and was performed to special music with associated words.

The dance was a common resource, as Schoolcraft remarks, whenever tne mass of the Indian mind was to be acted upon, and it may thus be viewed as related in nature to the school, the platform and the press in civilized society. Harmon gives the following description of a native dance as witnessed by himself:

"While I was at a camp of the natives. I was invited to attend and see them dance. The dancers were about thirty in number, and were all clothed with the skins of the antelope-dresses which were nearly as white as snow: and upon their heads they sprinkled a white earth which gave them a very genteel appearance. Their dance was conducted in the following manner: A man nearly forty years of age arose with a tomahawk in his hand, and made with a very distinct voice, a long harangue. lie recounted all the noble exploits which he had achieved, with the several war parties with which he had engaged his enemies; and he made mention of two persons in particular whom he first killed and then took off their scalps; and for each of these he gave a blow with his tomahawk against a post, which was set up expressly for that purpose near the centre of the tent. And now the music began, which consisted of tambourines and the shaking of bells, accompanied by singing. Soon after, the man who had made the harangue began the dance with great majesty, then another rose and joined him; then another, and so on until there were twelve or fifteen up. and all danced round a small fire that was in the middle of the tent. While dancing, they made many savage gestures and shieks, such as they are in the habit of making when they encounter their enemies. In this course they continued for nearly an hour, when they took their seats, and another party got up and went through with the same ceremonies."

All Indians were inordinately addicted to gambling. Before commencing a game cf chance, each player collected whatever he intended to stake, and the relative value was mutually agreed upon. The players commonly sat side by side with a blanket over their knees. One favourite game consisted in one player holding in his hands certain small objects, and the other participants being required to guess what he had in each hand. The holder would keep his hands continually in motion, now under the blanket, now behind his back. At each change of position the hands are held out to invite a guess, but usually considerable time elapsed before a stake was risked. Meantime the onlookers drummed and sang, and the players' bodies bent rhythmically backwards and forwards. Such a game might last half a day or more, or until one of the players had won all the stakes.

Story telling was a favourite form of entertainment in the Indian camp, and in this art the aborigines greatly excelled. The scene described was acted out in so far as was possible, by very free use of gesture and pantomime. Sometimes the stories were simply tales of adventure. Very often they were deliberately adapted to the inculcation of Indian virtues in the breasts of the children and young folk who were permitted to hear them. Others of their tales embodied the religious beliefs of the tribe, or the traditionary history of its mighty men of old. William Henry tells us that by the tone of voice, the Indian story teller would clearly indicate whether lie was relating incidents communicated to him bv others, or whether he was describing his own experience or expressing his own personal sentiments. Some examples of Indian folk lore will be given in a future chapter.

Some of the most important Indian customs were, of course, those relating to the chase. The favorite method of hunting the buffalo was by the use of what is called the buffalo pound. This was an enclosure formed with .straight sticks about four feet high, wattled with smaller branches. If possible, the enclosure was lower than the surrounding prairie. From each side of the opening there extended two ranges of sticks at a wide angle. This lane would reach perhaps two miles into the plain. When a herd of buffalo wandered near or had been cautiously rounded up in the vicinity, some of the most experienced hunters would go forth to decoy the animals into the pound. They would cover their faces and array themselves in buffalo skins, and take positions between the herd and the pound, bellowing from time to time in imitation of the. wild battle. Their actions would so closely resemble those of the buffalo themselves that the authors of some of our old journals confess that had they not been in the secret they would have been as much deceived as the unthinking cattle. When the herd was got in motion and approached the pound, the dogs were muzzled and all the members of the band would surround the enclosure. Sometimes horsemen pressed upon the herd from behind, and as they approached they were gradually raised to a high pitch of excitement, and would rush forward, tumbling wildly into the pit inside the gateway of the pound. When the buffaloes were secured within the enclosure, the Indians smoked their ceremonial pipes, and then went into the yard killing the buffalo with their bows and arrows. When the animals were all slaughtered, their tongues were taken to the tent of the chief; part of them were used for a feast and the remainder were generally given back as presents. The meat and skins were then distributed among the people. Should any of the party be displeased with their share, they were too dignified to complain, but would quietly decamp and join another band.

As the Indians believed that animals were possessed of souls similar to their own, they frequently addressed long harangues to the animals they had taken. Sometimes these speeches would be delivered before the slaughter and sometimes afterwards. The bear was held in special honor. When one was slain the Indians would kiss and stroke its head, apologizing profusely for having taken its life, and explaining at length the dire necessity which had forced such an act upon them. At the lodge the bear's head would be adorned with trinkets such as wristbands and belts of wampum and laid upon a scaffold. Near its nose the Indians would place a huge quantity of tobacco. Pipes would be lit, and the master of the lodge would blow smoke into the bear's nostrils to appease its anger at being killed. After all this formality the chief would make a speech in which he would specially deplore the necessity under which men labored of thus destroying their friends. Then the whole party would devote themselves to a hearty feast of bear's flesh. Even the head, after remaining a few days 011 the scaffold, would find its way into the kettle.

The superstitions of the Indians sometimes seriously interfered with their hunting operations. An unpropitious dream would be sufficient to prevent an attempt being made to capture any animals of the chase even if they were numerous in the vicinity.

Various simple arts had their place in Indian life. Basketry was highly developed among many Indian tribes, and woven goods made of buffalo hair were produced by the Indians of the plains. Wampum ornaments were manufactured especially by many of the Algonquins and Iroquois tribes.

Wampum might be called the shell money of the North American Indians. It consisted of beads made from shells, and required considerable skill in its manufacture. The beads were cylindrical in form, purple or white in color, and about a quarter of an inch in length. The term "wampum" was applied to the beads only when strung or woven together. Wampum belts served as symbols of authority, and were surrendered on defeat in battle. They were also used to commemorate feats of personal or tribal history. Belts passing from one nation to another on the occasion of any important inter-tribal transaction were very carefully preserved as public treasures and memorials. The patterns on the belts served as mnemonic symbols, particular facts being associated with a particular string or figure to aid the memory.

No real hieroglyphics were used by the aborigines of America north of Mexico, but picture writing was widely practised. This mode of communication was of great service. When a band of Indians separated they would fix in the ground where they had encamped a number of sticks leaning towards the direction in which they were travelling. If they had been successful in the chase, the Indians painted or drew, on pieces of bark, pictures indicating the number and kinds of animals which they had killed, and then having the piece of bark upon a stick. Other Indians, unsuccessful in the chase, finding these notices, might derive important advantages from them, and be guided to a place where they would probably obtain a supply of food. But for such devices, the Indians would have been in much greater danger of perishing by starvation than they already were. Upon the piece of bark there would also be symbols representing the phase of the moon indicative of the time of the month. So accurate was this mode of conveying intelligence that a person accustomed to it would generally ascertain the designated time to within twenty-four hours.

The Indians al-o used pictography upon their leather tents, and even upon their garments. In some tribes a warrior's robe might contain a pictorial history of his wars and hunting expeditions, and show the number of scalps he had taken.

"The pictographic delineation of ideas is found to exist chiefly among the Shamans, hunters and travellers of the Ojibwa, and there does not appear to be a recognized system by which the work of any one person is fully intelligible to another. . . . The figures are more than simply mnemonic; they are ideographic."

Agriculture was engaged in but little by the Indians of the North West. The Satilteatix, however, and some others, planted Indian corn and potatoes. Other tribes also cultivated tobacco, pumpkins, beans, etc. Sugar was made from the sap of the maple tree in regions where it grew.

Indian music constituted an exceedingly important factor in tribal life. It was the medium through which man communicated with his own soul, with the unseen world, and in a special manner with his companions. The music of each Indian ceremony had its peculiar rhythm. Fasting, prayer, hunting, courtship, games, and the facing or defying of death, all had their special and peculiar songs associated with them.

The only wind instrument known of by Schoolcraft as existing among Indians was a kind of flute, made generally of some cylindrical pieces of cedar, united with fish glue, and having a snake skin drawn in a wet state tightly over it to prevent its cracking. In this instrument eight holes are perforated by burning. It had a month piece, and was blown like a flageolet. This was called a "pibbegwon." The "taywacgtin" was a drum or tambourine, made by stretching a skin over the end of a section of hollow tree. The "sheshegwou" was a rattle, made sometimes of the wild gourd, sometimes of a bladder, and sometimes by attaching the dried hoofs of a deer to a stick.

"In the hot summer evenings," says Schoolcraft, "the children of the Chippeway Algonquins, along the shores of the upper lakes and in the northern latitudes, frequently assemble before their parents lodges, and amuse themselves by chants of various kinds, with shouts and wild dancing. Attracted by such shouts of merriment and gambols, I walked out one evening to a green lawn skirting the edge of the St. Mary's river, with the fall in full view, to get hold of the meaning of some of these chants. The air and the plain were literally sparkling with the phosphorescent light of the fire fly." The following is Schoolcraft's translation of the fire-fly song as lie then heard it: "Flitting-white-fire-insect! Waving-white-fire-bug! give me light before I go to bed! Come, little dancing white-fire-bug! Come little flitting white-fire-beast! Light me with your bright white-flame-instrument—your little candle."

"Metre there was none," he says, "at least of a regular character; they were the wild improvisations of childhood in a merry mood."

Indian smoking pipes were usually made of a kind of stone harder than gypsum and softer than carbonate of lime, now known to science as catlinite,

in honor of the well known traveller Catlin. He was the first white man to visit the famous pipestone quarry on the Missouri Coteau, 1836. This quarry was the centre of Indian poetry and romance. Here was to be found what was apparently the only deposit of red pipe stone, though grey pipe stone occurred elsewhere. For ages the red pipe stone quarry was the most sacred shrine of the red man. It was neutral ground, and upon entering it the Indians buried their weapons of war, and met as friends.

Different tribes of Indians show a preference for different shapes and ornament in making their pipes. "While the stone pipes of the Indians were the result of long and patient labor, they could on emergency manufacture a pipe at very short notice. They would join together some reeds, and attach to the end a piece of firm clay, which they would mould with their fingers.

Chamberlain, one of our most distinguished authorities on Indian affairs, believes, with many others, that the amount and extent of tribal wars north of Mexico in pre-Columbian times was not nearly so great as is generally supposed. Such wars usually involved only a portion of the tribes concerned, there often being permanent peace tribes.

Even within historic times, the hunting grounds of the various tribes were definitely distinguished the one from the other, and, upon the whole, it was very unusual for any nation to encroach upon the territory of the others.

The Indian birth rate was low, and owing to their mode of life and barbarous practices in connection with the treatment of disease, the death rate was high. From these and other causes the population was practically stationary. The small bands or tribes scattered throughout an enormous continent abounding in game were generally able to maintain themselves in comparative plenty without moving far from their natal hunting grounds. When discovered by the Europeans, Towell tells us that the Indians of the East were found living in fixed habitations from which their wanderings were but occasional excursions. The extraordinary dissimilarity of most of their languages, shows that in primitive times the different nations had practically nothing to do with each other. The gradual introduction of fire arms and the acquisition of the horse, which was of course introduced into America by the white men, are responsible for great changes in aboriginal habits. The horse made nomads of many tribes which there is abundance of evidence to show were formerly almost sedentary in character.

Moreover, as the white settlers displaced the native tribes the latter retreated westward, and, strengthened by the weapons obtained from the Europeans, they in turn displaced adjacent tribes. Thus, long before the first white man had crossed the continent, the malign influence of white settlement bad produced an almost universal state of war all through the interior, as tribes driven from their ancestral homes retreated to lands previously occupied by other peoples. Nomadic habits and, in consequence, Indian wars, were further encouraged when a commercial value was given to skins and furs. It thus appears that in pre-Columbian times, the normal condition of the tribes was one of peace, and the original moral responsibility for its disturbance rests with ourselves.

Personal vengeance lay at the root of much Indian strife. A savage whose near relation had been killed was never content until he bad avenged the death, if possible by killing the murderer, or some person nearly related to him; at all events, by killing somebody, liven a natural death would often be avenged by indiscriminate homicide. This barbarous custom was strengthened by the belief that death from natural causes was attributable to some one's hostile magic. The following entry from an old journal is of special interest in this connection:

"Yesterday five Sicaunies came here, from MacLeod's Lake, who form a small war party. Their leader, or war chief, desired me to allow them to go where they might think proper; upon which I inquired of them whither they wished to direct their course, and what their intention was. The speaker replied that when they left, their lands their intention was to go and try to take a scalp or two from the Indians of Eraser's Lake, 'who,' he added, 'have done us no injury; but we have lost a relation, and we must try and avenge his death on some one.' This is a custom common to a greater or less extent to all the tribes."

Through various parts of the West there existed special paths of travel through which hunting was disallowed. They constituted established war roads for the Ojibways and Crees in their periodical expeditions against the Sioux. One of these extended from near the elbow of the south branch of the Saskatchewan to the flank of the Grand Coteau. War parties would frequently travel four hundred or five hundred miles before they would reach the territories of their enemies.

The Wood Crees and Chippewcyans, and the forest tribes generally, were less given to warfare than the Indians of the plains. The summer was the only season employed for military operations, but with its return the Plain Indians usually engaged in war, offensive or defensive, every year. The war pipe was then lighted, and those wishing to join in the approaching campaign smoked it together. No one, however, was compelled to enlist.

Pitched battles were unknown. Warfare consisted in stealthy and unexpected attacks. In these onslaughts the attacking party generally had greatly the advantage and usually wrought terrible havoc among the men of their enemies' tribes. The women and children were taken alive, if possible, and carried home as slaves. They were sometimes even adopted into the families of their enemies, in the place of children lost, and were then treated with all the tenderness and affection that would be exercised in the case of near relations. These captives were rarely tortured, though warriors who fell into the hands of their enemies might expect to die a terrible death.

The Indians were usually very skilful archers. From childhood to maturity their youths passed almost half their time shooting arrows at a mark. To render this sport the more interesting, the participants had almost always something at stake. In times of war, the stone arrow heads were sometimes dipped in poisonous juices.

When an Indian settlement expected an immediate attack which it would be unable to resist, the whole camp would flee, leaving their lodges standing. Under such circumstances, however, it was not unusual for the old and feeble warriors to remain. They would dress themselves in their gayest garments, paint their faces, light their pipes and sing their war-songs until the enemy arrived and dispatched them.

As a general rule, Indian raids were not associated with any very great loss of life. If a victorious party returned with a score of hideous trophies after their summer's war excursion, the warriors were well satisfied with their success.

The practice of scalping, which most people associate solely with Indian warfare, has been common in Asia, and Africa, and even in Europe. It is described by Herodotus as a Scythian practice, and it existed among the Franks and Anglo-Saxons as late as the ninth century. Its, motive lay in the desire of the warrior to preserve some indisputable token of his prowess. The Indian braves wore scalping tufts as an implied challenge. Captured scalps were dried, mounted and consecrated by solemn dances, and were sometimes worn as articles of personal adornment.


Return to our History of Saskatchewan Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus