Amelia M. Paget.

The people of the plains online

. (page 1 of 9)
Online LibraryAmelia M. PagetThe people of the plains → online text (page 1 of 9)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


of the 4













l rotn a painting by Kd)in<nd Morris.

CHIEF MOOXIAS, OJIBWAY.



THE PEOPLE OF
THE PLAINS



BY
AMELIA M. PAGET



Edited tfitH Introduction b^

DUMCAN CAMPBELL SCOTT



THE RYERSON PRESS
TORONTO



72.




Copyright, Canada, 1909,
by tKe Department
of Indian Affairs



4

i



TO



GOVERNOR-GEN ERAL.

I , A N r \ *

F OfF THE



DOMINION OF CANADA

Shis ttolume

IS
BY GRACIOUS PERMISSION OF HIS EXCELLENCY

RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED



INTRODUCTION



THERE are at the present time several old
Indians who believe that their forefathers,
many years ago, came to this from some
other continent; that they crossed a large
body of water, landing at several different
islands on their voyage; that they travelled
towards the rising sun, and were stopped
in their journey by unfriendly tribes.
These hostile Indians forced them to
settle upon the prairies, where they have
dwelt for hundreds of years. A different
language was spoken by their forefathers,
and the country they came from was
warmer than this part of the world.

They insist that the Great Spirit had
guided them to this land, and had given it
to them, with all its vast expanses teeming
with game, from which they derived their
sustenance. While they were the sole in-
5

943282



INTRODUCTION

habitants of these territories they were
wealthy; they had everything they could
desire for their happiness, and they were
proud of being what they were the chil
dren of Kichie Manitou. When the white
men came misfortunes came with them.

These ideas are mere shadows of dreams,
the remnants of legends referring to migra
tions which are recent compared with the
incalculable age of the race. The earliest
explorers found established languages,
tribes firmly fixed in their traditional terri
tories, formalized manners and habits. But
ages upon ages had passed in which the
form of the continent had changed, and
again changed, before these peoples had
become differentiated. Where was the
cradle of the race; drifting from what
plateau or valley came the progenitors of
the tribes who were in possession when the
Northmen and Columbus first touched the
shore? The answer to the question takes
the form of conjecture and suggestion, but
investigation of this interesting ethnologi
cal problem has proceeded so far that all
the unscientific theories of the last hundred
6



INTRODUCTION

years have been abandoned and a working
hypothesis established which may be varied,
modified or strengthened, but which, a hun
dred years from this, may have been firmly
established by evidence which is not now
available. The theory that they were the
descendants of the " ten lost tribes " of
Israel has had its day, and that which
traces their coming to an easterly migration
by way of Behring Straits or the Aleutian
Islands is slowly passing.

As these preliminary words are only in
tended to serve the purpose of connecting
the Indian of to-day with some past, even
the indefinite and speculative, instead of
leaving him without any affiliation with
the general human stock, it will not be
advisable to give any extended argument
cogent to the theory of such affiliation, but
simply to state the theory itself.

The explanation which gains force from
geological and other scientific evidence is
that the inhabitants of this continent came
from Europe by a westerly migration across
a huge land bridge which gave continuous
communication in an equable climate by
7



INTRODUCTION

way of Iceland and Greenland. The sub
sidence of this plateau, which now forms
the shallow bottom of the North Atlantic,
cut off the people of our continent from
other portions of the world, and left them to
develop amid the circumstances and envir
onment which evolved during the succeeding
ages.

Anyone more than superficially interested
in this fascinating subject may begin his
reading with the last chapter of Frederick
S. Dellenbaugh s " The North Americans
of Yesterday. He may then be tempted to
read Dr. David G. Brinton s " The Amer
ican Race," where he will find a condensed
but exhaustive treatment of the matter.

There is no doubt that the native inhabi
tants of North America are of one race,
with strongly marked characteristics, but
with many linguistic variations and other
less important tribal distinctions arising
from environment. Chief among the lin
guistic stocks is the Algonquin, which ex
tends over a larger area than any other.
From as far north as the Peace River and
the Churchill River to North Carolina, and
8



INTRODUCTION

from the Atlantic coast to the Rocky
Mountains, the tribes of this great division
possessed the land. They now number
about ninety-five thousand, and the main
tribal divisions are as follows: Abenakis,
Algonquin, Blackfoot, Cree, Mississauga,
Micmac, O jib way and Ottawa.

The four tribes inhabiting the Provinces
of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, which are
described in the succeeding chapters, are
the Crees, Saulteaux (a name given to the
O jib ways by the early French explorers,
who first found them at Sault Ste. Marie),
Assiniboines and Sioux. Of these four
tribes the Crees and Assiniboines were the
first inhabitants of the provinces.

The Crees are to be found from the shores
of Hudson Bay to the foot of the Kocky
Mountains, and as far north as the Beaver
River, and even farther north. They claim
that they were the original owners of the
vast prairies of the western provinces, and
that eventually the tribe was joined by the
Assiniboines, who are a branch of the
Dakota stock.

The Sioux, another branch of the
9



INTRODUCTION

Dakota stock, who now form part of our
Indian population, are refugees from south
of the international boundary. These In
dians in times long past were the sworn
enemies of the Crees and Saulteaux, and
would follow them, especially the former,
into their own territory often as far north
as the Saskatchewan Kiver. In later years
they came into Canada, fleeing from justice,
taking refuge in Manitoba and Saskatch
ewan. They were responsible for many out
rages upon the early pioneers in Minnesota
and Dakota, but have been peaceable and
law-abiding since they became wards of the
Dominion. They come of the once powerful
Dakota stock, and are fine specimens of
the Indian race.

The O jib ways, another large branch of
the great Algonquin stock, occupy the vast
area between Hudson Bay and James Bay
on the north and Lakes Superior and
Huron on the south.

It seemed necessary to write these few
words upon the probable origin of the In
dians and upon the tribes specially dealt
with in the following pages, so that the
10



INTRODUCTION

reader might not find himself, without in
troduction, in the very midst of the subject.
Moreover, books dealing with Indian
manners and customs have not been so fre
quent of late that a new one may pass with
out comment, and the present volume has
special claim to more than momentary
attention by reason of its authentic value.
It is the easiest of easy tasks, at this day, to
compile a volume about anything; stated
facts are common property, be they or be
they not trustworthy, and with a little in
dustry and a certain amount of literary
craftsmanship, any person may patch up a
book about Indians, a subject that does not
lose its interest. But the present work is
no compilation; it is a statement of per
sonal experience, and has all the merit of
original observation. One cannot deny to
these pages the interest which flows from
this source. No literary charm can con
done for imperfect material, but often the
author s knowledge of his subject lends
a certain grace to his style; this latter
claim may safely be made for these
unaffected chapters. Mrs. Frederick H.
11



INTRODUCTION

Paget, when her father, Mr. W. J. Mac-
Lean, was an officer of the Hudson s
Bay Company, had many opportunities to
gain at first-hand the information which
is now given to the public. Moreover, she
was gifted with a language-sense which
made possible a knowledge of the subtlest
peculiarities of two languages, the Cree and
O jib way, both highly expressive, but the
last eminently flexible and poetic. Thus
from her earliest years she was brought
into contact with the best specimens of
the two races. Qu Appelle, where her
father was Factor for eight years, was a
particularly favourable observation-point
when that post was thronged with a
free concourse of Indian and half-breed
traders. The plains were furrowed by
cart-tracks only, and dotted with the
fugitive shelters of the aborigines; the
buffalo was disappearing, and the time
for change was upon them yet still the
Indian was lord of his domain. Active
tribal warfare had ceased, but the post was
alive with men who had been upon the war
path and whose lodges were decorated with
12



INTRODUCTION

the trophies of foray and ambush. The
position which the Factor held gave his
daughter, no doubt, special privilege and
opportunity; and growing skill in the
language added the last power to win
the confidence of these proud, shy people.
And two years after, during the half-
breed troubles of 1885, Miss MacLean
with her father and the rest of his
family had sharp experience of the trials
which attend upon Indian hostilities. Cap
tured at Fort Pitt in April of that year by
Big Bear and his braves, they were held
until the 17th of June following, sharing
all the hardships of his shifting camp. Dur
ing this experience Mrs. Paget s knowledge
of the Cree language and her intimacy with
all the ways of the Indians, even the very
fashion of their thoughts, proved a constant
defence for the whole party. The following
pages must be read by the light of these
facts; they account for the tone of cham
pionship for all Indians, and for the ideal
istic tendency w r hich places everything in a
high and favorable aspect.

If there were hardship and squalor,
13



INTRODUCTION

starvation, inhumanity and superstition in
this aboriginal life, judged by European
standards, here it is not evident. All things
are judged by the Indian idea of happiness,
and the sophistication of the westerner dis
appears. The real felicities of the situation
are heightened by the glow which might be
spread over the reminiscences of some
ancient chief whose lines had been cast in
pleasant places, and to whom everything in
the old days had become transfigured. This
animating spirit is pleasant; there is no
reason why the arrogance of our so-called
civilization should everywhere prevail, and
it is probably fortunate that, when the
Dominion Government set apart a small
appropriation for the purpose of gleaning
such memories as remain of the bygone
domestic life of the western tribes, the task
should have fallen to the lot of one whose
early training placed her rather in the seat
of the cordial advocate than in that of the
frigid critic.

Although the picture here presented is
not complete in every detail, yet when the
ancient manners and customs of the Crees
14



INTRODUCTION

and Saulteaux have changed and become
either a matter of conjecture or of vague
recollection, this book will be sought as a
faithful record of many old things that have
passed away.

D. C. S.

Department of Indian Affair*.
April, 1909.



15



CONTENTS



CHAPTER I.

PASS

A primeval faith Kichie Manitou Machie Manitou
Pow-wah-kunah The Happy Hunting Ground
Burial customs Trust in the Great Spirit . . 21

CHAPTER II.

The Sun Dance The invitation The search for the
centre pole Building the lodge Enter the dancers
The making of braves Forms of torture ... 28

CHAPTER III.

The Medicine Dance, or Dog Feast Gifts to the Pow-
wah-kun Smoke Dance War Dance Buffalo
Dance The Lodge Dance The Giving-away Dance 42

CHAPTER IV.

The medicine man Primitive medicines Methods of
curing the sick The Ween-de-go Love philters
Bad medicine Medical fees The vapour bath
Food and sanitary measures 53

CHAPTER V.

The buffalo Hunting on the plains Method of dress
ing the hides Embroidery and dyeing Picture
writing Pemmican and other food preparations . 68

CHAPTER VI.

The scalp-lock Bravery in war Reckless daring in
hunting Endurance of pain Akoose and his hun
dred-mile race Courage of women 82

2 17



CONTENTS

CHAPTER VII.

PAGE
Transportation The travels Beautiful camping places

Making a wigwam Tea and Labrador tea A
strange tea-chest Painting the tepee Women s
work Story-telling Bead work An ideal exist
ence Fire-making Cooking 90

CHAPTER VIII.

Signs and wonders The naming of children Peculiar
reticence as to names The alternative Premoni
tions and second-sight The northern lights Ven
triloquism 107

CHAPTER IX.

The love of children Methods of training Polygamy
Natural sensitiveness and inherent dignity
Indian oratory Poetry and satire 119

CHAPTER X.

Hospitality An Indian welcome Friendly terms of
address No beggars Decline in good manners
Ingratiating speeches Practical jokes .... 128

CHAPTER XI.

Social feasts Council meetings Arranging the signal
code Scouts and scouting A narrow escape
Kou - min - ah - koush (Like-a-Pine-Tree) A brave
grandmother The boy s first raid The subtle
warrior How the Blackfeet were deceived Chim-
ass-cous A foray and a Sun Dance A night
battle A prophecy Kin-ah-cas 137

CHAPTER XII.

Poetry and music Constant improvisation The minor
mode No poetic or musical literature The march
song Love songs "The Calling River" The
farewell song A boy s first song 160

18



CONTENTS

CHAPTER XIII.

PAGE
The Algonquin divinity Wee-sack-ka-chack Napiw

Nay-na-push Two creation myths 165

CHAPTER XIV.

Two more legends Wee-sack-ka-chack and the Bald-
headed Eagles Wee-sack-ka-chack and the Fox . 185



19



ILLUSTRATIONS



PAGB
Chief Moonias, Ojibway Frontispiece

Mutsinamakan and Squaw, Sarcees 24

A Chief and his Squaws 48

Cree Indian with Travois 92

Chief Poundmaker, Cree 112

Mustatem Moutiapec (Horse Roots), Cree .... 144

Pisquapita (Hair in Knot), Cree 168

A Prairie Encampment 184



THE PEOPLE OF THE PLAINS



CHAPTER I.

A primeval faithRichie Manitou Machie Manitou
Pow-wah-kunah The Happy Hunting Ground
Burial customs Trust in the Great Spirit.

" THE Indians of North America, as I have
before said, are copper-coloured, with long,
black hair, black eyes, tall, straight and
elastic forms are less than two millions
in number were originally the undisputed
owners of the soil, and got their title to the
land from the Great Spirit, who created
them on it were once a happy and flour
ishing people, enjoying all the comforts and
luxuries of life which they knew of, and
consequently cared for were sixteen mil
lions in number, and sent that number of
daily prayers to the Almighty, and thanks
for His goodness and protection."*

* Catlin s "North American Indian," Vol. I., page 6.
21



THE PEOPLE OF THE PLAINS

The foregoing is quoted from one of Cat-
lin s letters. As he was one of the first
white men who travelled among the Indians
to study their habits and characteristics,
spending eight years among them (1832-
1839), it is worthy of note that he found
them offering prayers to the Great Spirit.
And their faith in these prayers was as the
faith of a little child ; so that in speaking of
the Indians it is not quite fair to call them
pagans or heathens. Their belief in the
Great Spirit (Kichie Manitou) as the one
Supreme Being who held their destiny in
His keeping, and whom they worshipped
indirectly through the thunder, the wind
and other manifestations of nature, places
them above such a soulless classification.
They also believed in the Bad Spirit
( Machie Manitou ) , who was felt to be near
them, ever tempting them to stray into
paths of wickedness, and whom they be
lieved to be responsible for all harm and
affliction which befell them.

They would never worship the Great
Spirit directly, counting themselves un
worthy to address Him, but through some



POW-WA&KUNAH

of His works. Thus one Indian would ever
plead through the thunder for such bless
ings and gifts as he desired, another would
approach Him through the winds, or
through the lightning, or through some bird
or animal. Their faith in their intercessors
was remarkable.

Certain members of the tribe were be
lieved to have closer communion with their
particular intermediator, and these gifted
Indians possessed wonderful second sight;
they were consulted in times of pressing
necessity and urged to plead for blessings
or guidance.

These intermediators were called Pow-
wah-kunah (meaning dreams), and every
confidence was placed in them. They had a
wonderful significance for each Indian,
practically influencing every action of his
life. Nothing would be undertaken until
the Pow-wah-kun was appealed to, so that
the blessing of the Kichie Manitou might
fall upon such effort.

The Indians idea of the life beyond the
close of the one spent here is certainly
worth to them any amount of hardship and
23



THE PEOPLE OF THE PLAINS

suffering. They believe that after death a
few days or weeks (according to the lives
they led upon this earth) shall find them at
their journey s end, and in a land teeming
with game of all kinds, where they shall
live a perfect life forever and ever. This
land is called the Happy Hunting Grounds,
a land which must indeed be worth attain
ing if the pictures they dream of it
have anywhere any realization in fact,
All Indians, according to their belief,
will reach this land in the end. Some will
take longer than others on the journey, as
on the way they will meet with hardships
and difficulties in order to atone for sins
committed on this earth.

In the early days of their existence in
this territory, they were a model race.
Their misdeeds were very few, and they
were honourable to a degree. But if any
one transgressed and committed some trivial
wrong or misdemeanor, he or she realized
that the journey to the future home would
be made more difficult by the Good Spirit.
And to help these less fortunate ones, their
friends on earth would provide them, for



BURIAL CUSTOMS

weeks and months after their departure,
with provisions, wearing apparel, weapons
and utensils for their use during the jour
ney to the Happy Hunting Grounds.

It was customary for the Indians to
dispose of their dead upon scaffolds.
These were built of four good, stout
poles of from ten to twelve feet in length,
stuck firmly in the ground, and on the
top of these would rest other poles,
making a stage of the desired size. And on
this peculiar construction would be placed
the dead body, wrapped in many rolls of
finely dressed buffalo or deer skins. With
the body would be placed the dead Indian s
most treasured possessions in the case of
a brave, his pipe and weapons, and the
scalps of any enemies he had been fortunate
enough to take in time of war, together
with his festive garments and two or three
pairs of moccasins. Near the scaffold
would be left any other articles which his
friends considered necessary for his use on
the journey across the valley which divides
this earth from the Happy Hunting
Grounds.

25



THE PEOPLE OF THE PLAINS

It was considered a good omen if rain
fell shortly after the burial of the departed.
The body was placed on the scaffold so that
the rain falling down from the heavens
(Kichie-kisek-kouck, great and good skies)
upon the dead body would cleanse it of all
its sins and hasten its arrival at the Happy
Hunting Grounds. This was their belief as
to the washing away of their sins.

The Indian, in speaking of any incident
in his life, would always emphasize the fact
that he was loved by the Great Spirit, or
Kichie Manitou ; for example, he might
relate the incidents of some very hard
journey he had successfully undertaken,
and w r ould conclude the narrative by saying
that it was accomplished because of the
great love of the Kichie Manitou. They
never imagined themselves capable of doing
even an unimportant thing without this
love which they believed in so firmly.

If any member of their tribe or any
friend were leaving for some long journey,
or for even a few days, they would always
say, " May the love of the Great Spirit be
with you."

26



THE GREAT SPIRIT

In time of war, when hard pressed by the
enemy, some members of their band would
always encourage them to greater effort by
reminding them of this great love. If they
were the victors, they would be reminded
that the victory was theirs only through
this love. If they met with defeat, it was
because they had not trusted sufficiently in
the love of the Great Spirit. So in all their
doings they never lost sight of the fact that
for everything they must look to His help
and love. And when the Indians were first
met by intelligent white men, they certainly
were examples of the blessings which come
from faith in a higher beneficent Power.



CHAPTER II.

The Sun Dance The invitation The search for
the centre pole Building the lodge Enter the
dancers The making of braves Forms of tor
ture.

THE principal religious ceremony of the
Crees was undoubtedly the Sun Dance,
sometimes spoken of as the Thirst Dance.
In the Cree language it was called Nee-pah-
quah - see - mun, which means " dancing
through a day and night without quenching
one s thirst."

Passionately attached as are the Crees to
this ceremony, it is evidently foreign to the
Algonquin stock. While religious beliefs
are common to all the tribes of this great
family and are persistent everywhere, this
extraordinary religious function is known
only to the Blackfeet, the Western Crees
and the Dakotas. The Ojibways do not
practise it, and there are no traces of it
among the eastern divisions of the race.

This ceremony only took place in the
28



THE SUN DANCE

early summer, generally in the month of
June, the moon of Young Birds,* and was
primarily a thank-offering to the Great
Spirit, Kichie Manitou, for the re-awaken
ing of all nature after the silence of winter.
It was a time for the making of braves, or,
rather, an opportunity for the test of cour
age and endurance; it was a time for
mourning their dead, and a time of peti
tions through their Pow-wah-kuns for fu
ture blessings and love.

Those taking part in it did so at the invi
tation of the Indian who felt himself
worthy to give such a great ceremony.
And this Indian would not send out his
invitations on the impulse of the moment,

* The authority for the following names for months
(moons) of the year is the old Indian, Qui-witch, who
is referred to on page 87 :

The first moon.

The eagle moon.

The goose moon.

The frog moon.

The mating moon.

The egg moon.

The young birds moon.

The moulting of birds moon.

The young birds fly moon.

The shedding of horns moon.

The falling leaves moon.

The falling snow moon.

The hard ice moon

29



THE PEOPLE OF THE PLAINS

but would give the subject long and serious
consideration. The information as to who
intended giving the Nee-pah-quah-see-mun
was usually made known early in the win
ter. This was done in order to avoid any
confusion which might arise if another
member of the band had thought of issuing
invitations for such a ceremony.

The invitations were sent by trusty mes
sengers, usually picked from the younger
men of the band, and to them was entrusted
the pipe of peace. This pipe might well be
called a " pipe of ceremony " too, as it
played an important part in all such events.
The messengers would ride to distant friend
ly bands, and convey to them the informa
tion that they carried the pipe from a cer
tain member of their band, who extended
to them an invitation to take part in the
Nee-pah-quah-see-mun. After the accept
ance of the invitation by the smoking of the
pipe, the messengers would go on to some
other band. The invitation was usually
conveyed in the following words : " We
are young men from (say) Day Star s
band, and bring an invitation to you
30



INVITATION TO A DANCE

from White Bear, one of our head
men, who requests you to take part in
the Nee-pah-quah-see-mun which he is
arranging for the second week in the month
of young birds (June) at the Last Stand
Hill. It is to be a time of thank-offering to
the Kichie Manitou for all His blessings to
us during the past winter and for the
return of summer, with all its promises of
plenty. Come in time to help erect the
lodge in which it is to take place."

Very few, if any, Indians did not avail
themselves of this invitation. And a few
days before the time appointed, many wig
wams would be added to those of the band


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Online LibraryAmelia M. PagetThe people of the plains → online text (page 1 of 9)