Blackfoot Lodge Tales
by George Bird Grinnell
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Then Old Man was very glad. He went to where there was a nest of bull bats, and made the young ones' mouths very wide and pinched off their bills, to make them pretty and queer looking. That is the reason they look so to-day.


Once Old Man was travelling around, when he came to the Sun's lodge, and the Sun asked him to stay a while. Old Man was very glad to do so.

One day the meat was all gone, and the Sun said, "Kyi! Old Man, what say you if we go and kill some deer?"

"You speak well," replied Old Man. "I like deer meat."

The Sun took down a bag and pulled out a beautiful pair of leggings. They were embroidered with porcupine quills and bright feathers. "These," said the Sun, "are my hunting leggings. They are great medicine. All I have to do is to put them on and walk around a patch of brush, when the leggings set it on fire and drive the deer out so that I can shoot them."

"Hai-yah!" exclaimed Old Man. "How wonderful!" He made up his mind he would have those leggings, if he had to steal them.

They went out to hunt, and the first patch of brush they came to, the Sun set on fire with his hunting leggings. A lot of white-tail deer ran out, and they each shot one.

That night, when they went to bed, the Sun pulled off his leggings and placed them to one side. Old Man saw where he put them, and in the middle of the night, when every one was asleep, he stole them and went off. He travelled a long time, until he had gone far and was very tired, and then, making a pillow of the leggings, lay down and slept. In the morning, he heard some one talking. The Sun was saying, "Old Man, why are my leggings under your head?" He looked around, and saw he was in the Sun's lodge, and thought he must have wandered around and got lost, and returned there. Again the Sun spoke and said, "What are you doing with my leggings?" "Oh," replied Old Man, "I couldn't find anything for a pillow, so I just put these under my head."

Night came again, and again Old Man stole the leggings and ran off. This time he did not walk at all; he just kept running until pretty near morning, and then lay down and slept. You see what a fool he was. He did not know that the whole world is the Sun's lodge. He did not know that, no matter how far he ran, he could not get out of the Sun's sight. When morning came, he found himself still in the Sun's lodge. But this time the Sun said: "Old Man, since you like my leggings so much, I will give them to you. Keep them." Then Old Man was very glad and went away.

One day his food was all gone, so he put on the medicine leggings and set fire to a piece of brush. He was just going to kill some deer that were running out, when he saw that the fire was getting close to him. He ran away as fast as he could, but the fire gained on him and began to burn his legs. His leggings were all on fire. He came to a river and jumped in, and pulled off the leggings as soon as he could. They were burned to pieces.

Perhaps the Sun did this to him because he tried to steal the leggings.


One day Old Man went out hunting and took the fox with him. They hunted for several days, but killed nothing. It was nice warm weather in the late fall. After they had become very hungry, as they were going along one day, Old Man went up over a ridge and on the other side he saw four big buffalo bulls lying down; but there was no way by which they could get near them. He dodged back out of sight and told the fox what he had seen, and they thought for a long time, to see if there was no way by which these bulls might be killed.

At last Old Man said to the fox: "My little brother, I can think of only one way to get these bulls. This is my plan, if you agree to it. I will pluck all the fur off you except one tuft on the end of your tail. Then you go over the hill and walk up and down in sight of the bulls, and you will seem so funny to them that they will laugh themselves to death."

The fox did not like to do this, but he could think of nothing better, so he agreed to what Old Man proposed. Old Man plucked him perfectly bare, except the end of his tail, and the fox went over the ridge and walked up and down. When he had come close to the bulls, he played around and walked on his hind legs and went through all sorts of antics. When the bulls first saw him, they got up on their feet, and looked at him. They did not know what to make of him. Then they began to laugh, and the more they looked at him, the more they laughed, until at last one by one they fell down exhausted and died. Then Old Man came over the hill, and went down to the bulls, and began to butcher them. By this time it had grown a little colder.

"Ah, little brother," said Old Man to the fox, "you did splendidly. I do not wonder that the bulls laughed themselves to death. I nearly died myself as I watched you from the hill. You looked very funny." While he was saying this, he was working away skinning off the hides and getting the meat ready to carry to camp, all the time talking to the fox, who stood about, his back humped up and his teeth chattering with the cold. Now a wind sprang up from the north and a few snowflakes were flying in the air. It was growing colder and colder. Old Man kept on talking, and every now and then he would say something to the fox, who was sitting behind him perfectly still, with his jaw shoved out and his teeth shining.

At last Old Man had the bulls all skinned and the meat cut up, and as he rose up he said: "It is getting pretty cold, isn't it? Well, we do not care for the cold. We have got all our winter's meat, and we will have nothing to do but feast and dance and sing until spring." The fox made no answer. Then Old Man got angry, and called out: "Why don't you answer me? Don't you hear me talking to you?" The fox said nothing. Then Old Man was mad, and he said, "Can't you speak?" and stepped up to the fox and gave him a push with his foot, and the fox fell over. He was dead, frozen stiff with the cold.


Old Man was travelling round over the prairie, when he saw a lot of prairie-dogs sitting in a circle. They had built a fire, and were sitting around it. Old Man went toward them, and when he got near them, he began to cry, and said, "Let me, too, sit by that fire." The prairie-dogs said: "All right, Old Man. Don't cry. Come and sit by the fire." Old Man sat down, and saw that the prairie-dogs were playing a game. They would put one of their number in the fire and cover him up with the hot ashes; and then, after he had been there a little while, he would say sk, sk, and they would push the ashes off him, and pull him out.

Old Man said, "Teach me how to do that"; and they told him what to do, and put him in the fire, and covered him up with the ashes, and after a little while he said sk, sk, like a prairie-dog, and they pulled him out again. Then he did it to the prairie-dogs. At first he put them in one at a time, but there were many of them, and pretty soon he got tired, and said, "Come, I will put you all in at once." They said, "Very well, Old Man," and all got in the ashes; but just as Old Man was about to cover them up, one of them, a female heavy with young, said, "Do not cover me up; the heat may hurt my children, which are about to be born." Old Man said: "Very well. If you do not want to be covered up, you can sit over by the fire and watch the rest." Then he covered up all the others.

At length the prairie-dogs said sk, sk, but Old Man did not sweep the ashes off and pull them out of the fire. He let them stay there and die. The old she one ran off to a hole and, as she went down in it, said sk, sk. Old Man chased her, but he got to the hole too late to catch her. So he said: "Oh, well, you can go. There will be more prairie-dogs by and by."

When the prairie-dogs were roasted, Old Man cut a lot of red willow brush to lay them on, and then sat down and began to eat. He ate until he was full, and then felt sleepy. He said to his nose: "I am going to sleep now. Watch for me and wake me up in case anything comes near." Then Old Man slept. Pretty soon his nose snored, and he woke up and said, "What is it?" The nose said, "A raven is flying over there." Old Man said, "That is nothing," and went to sleep again. Soon his nose snored again. Old Man said, "What is it now?" The nose said, "There is a coyote over there, coming this way." Old Man said, "A coyote is nothing," and again went to sleep. Presently his nose snored again, but Old Man did not wake up. Again it snored, and called out, "Wake up, a bob-cat is coming." Old Man paid no attention. He slept on.

The bob-cat crept up to where the fire was, and ate up all the roast prairie-dogs, and then went off and lay down on a flat rock, and went to sleep. All this time the nose kept trying to wake Old Man up, and at last he awoke, and the nose said: "A bob-cat is over there on that flat rock. He has eaten all your food." Then Old Man called out loud, he was so angry. He went softly over to where the bob-cat lay, and seized it, before it could wake up to bite or scratch him. The bob-cat cried out, "Hold on, let me speak a word or two." But Old Man would not listen; he said, "I will teach you to steal my food." He pulled off the lynx's tail, pounded his head against the rock so as to make his face flat, pulled him out long, so as to make him small-bellied, and then threw him away into the brush. As he went sneaking off, Old Man said, "There, that is the way you bob-cats shall always be." That is the reason the lynxes look so today.

Old Man went back to the fire, and looked at the red willow sticks where his food had been, and it made him mad at his nose. He said, "You fool, why did you not wake me?" He took the willow sticks and thrust them in the coals, and when they took fire, he burned his nose. This pained him greatly, and he ran up on a hill and held his nose to the wind, and called on it to blow hard and cool him. A hard wind came, and it blew him away down to Birch Creek. As he was flying along, he caught at the weeds and brush to try to stop himself, but nothing was strong enough to hold him. At last he seized a birch tree. He held on to this, and it did not give way. Although the wind whipped him about, this way and that, and tumbled him up and down, the tree held him. He kept calling to the wind to blow gently, and finally it listened to him and went down.

So he said: "This is a beautiful tree. It has kept me from being blown away and knocked all to pieces. I will ornament it and it shall always be like that." So he gashed it across with his stone knife, as you see it to-day.



Fifty years ago the name Blackfoot was one of terrible meaning to the white traveller who passed across that desolate buffalo-trodden waste which lay to the north of the Yellowstone River and east of the Rocky Mountains. This was the Blackfoot land, the undisputed home of a people which is said to have numbered in one of its tribes—the Pi-kŭn'-i—8000 lodges, or 40,000 persons. Besides these, there were the Blackfeet and the Bloods, three tribes of one nation, speaking the same language, having the same customs, and holding the same religious faith.

But this land had not always been the home of the Blackfeet. Long ago, before the coming of the white men, they had lived in another country far to the north and east, about Lesser Slave Lake, ranging between Peace River and the Saskatchewan, and having for their neighbors on the north the Beaver Indians. Then the Blackfeet were a timber people. It is said that about two hundred years ago the Chippeweyans from the east invaded this country and drove them south and west. Whether or no this is true, it is quite certain that not many generations back the Blackfeet lived on the North Saskatchewan River and to the north of that stream.[1] Gradually working their way westward, they at length reached the Rocky Mountains, and, finding game abundant, remained there until they obtained horses, in the very earliest years of the present century. When they secured horses and guns, they took courage and began to venture out on to the plains and to go to war. From this time on, the Blackfeet made constant war on their neighbors to the south, and in a few years controlled the whole country between the Saskatchewan on the north and the Yellowstone on the south.

[Footnote 1: For a more extended account of this migration, see American Anthropologist, April, 1892, p. 153.]

It was, indeed, a glorious country which the Blackfeet had wrested from their southern enemies. Here nature has reared great mountains and spread out broad prairies. Along the western border of this region, the Rocky Mountains lift their snow-clad peaks above the clouds. Here and there, from north to south, and from east to west, lie minor ranges, black with pine forests if seen near at hand, or in the distance mere gray silhouettes against a sky of blue. Between these mountain ranges lies everywhere the great prairie; a monotonous waste to the stranger's eye, but not without its charm. It is brown and bare; for, except during a few short weeks in spring, the sparse bunch-grass is sear and yellow, and the silver gray of the wormwood lends an added dreariness to the landscape. Yet this seemingly desert waste has a beauty of its own. At intervals it is marked with green winding river valleys, and everywhere it is gashed with deep ravines, their sides painted in strange colors of red and gray and brown, and their perpendicular walls crowned with fantastic columns and figures of stone or clay, carved out by the winds and the rains of ages. Here and there, rising out of the plain, are curious sharp ridges, or square-topped buttes with vertical sides, sometimes bare, and sometimes dotted with pines,—short, sturdy trees, whose gnarled trunks and thick, knotted branches have been twisted and wrung into curious forms by the winds which blow unceasingly, hour after hour, day after day, and month after month, over mountain range and prairie, through gorge and coulee.

These prairies now seem bare of life, but it was not always so. Not very long ago, they were trodden by multitudinous herds of buffalo and antelope; then, along the wooded river valleys and on the pine-clad slopes of the mountains, elk, deer, and wild sheep fed in great numbers. They are all gone now. The winter's wind still whistles over Montana prairies, but nature's shaggy-headed wild cattle no longer feel its biting blasts. Where once the scorching breath of summer stirred only the short stems of the buffalo-grass, it now billows the fields of the white man's grain. Half-hidden by the scanty herbage, a few bleached skeletons alone remain to tell us of the buffalo; and the broad, deep trails, over which the dark herds passed by thousands, are now grass-grown and fast disappearing under the effacing hand of time. The buffalo have disappeared, and the fate of the buffalo has almost overtaken the Blackfeet.

As known to the whites, the Blackfeet were true prairie Indians, seldom venturing into the mountains, except when they crossed them to war with the Kutenais, the Flatheads, or the Snakes. They subsisted almost wholly on the flesh of the buffalo. They were hardy, untiring, brave, ferocious. Swift to move, whether on foot or horseback, they made long journeys to war, and with telling force struck their enemies. They had conquered and driven out from the territory which they occupied the tribes who once inhabited it, and maintained a desultory and successful warfare against all invaders, fighting with the Crees on the north, the Assinaboines on the east, the Crows on the south, and the Snakes, Kalispels, and Kutenais on the southwest and west. In those days the Blackfeet were rich and powerful. The buffalo fed and clothed them, and they needed nothing beyond what nature supplied. This was their time of success and happiness.

Crowded into a little corner of the great territory which they once dominated, and holding this corner by an uncertain tenure, a few Blackfeet still exist, the pitiful remnant of a once mighty people. Huddled together about their agencies, they are facing the problem before them, striving, helplessly but bravely, to accommodate themselves to the new order of things; trying in the face of adverse surroundings to wrench themselves loose from their accustomed ways of life; to give up inherited habits and form new ones; to break away from all that is natural to them, from all that they have been taught—to reverse their whole mode of existence. They are striving to earn their living, as the white man earns his, by toil. The struggle is hard and slow, and in carrying it on they are wasting away and growing fewer in numbers. But though unused to labor, ignorant of agriculture, unacquainted with tools or seeds or soils, knowing nothing of the ways of life in permanent houses or of the laws of health, scantily fed, often utterly discouraged by failure, they are still making a noble fight for existence.

Only within a few years—since the buffalo disappeared—has this change been going on; so recently has it come that the old order and the new meet face to face. In the trees along the river valleys, still quietly resting on their aerial sepulchres, sleep the forms of the ancient hunter-warrior who conquered and held this broad land; while, not far away, Blackfoot farmers now rudely cultivate their little crops, and gather scanty harvests from narrow fields.

It is the meeting of the past and the present, of savagery and civilization. The issue cannot be doubtful. Old methods must pass away. The Blackfeet will become civilized, but at a terrible cost. To me there is an interest, profound and pathetic, in watching the progress of the struggle.


Indians are usually represented as being a silent, sullen race, seldom speaking, and never laughing nor joking. However true this may be in regard to some tribes, it certainly was not the case with most of those who lived upon the great Plains. These people were generally talkative, merry, and light-hearted; they delighted in fun, and were a race of jokers. It is true that, in the presence of strangers, they were grave, silent, and reserved, but this is nothing more than the shyness and embarrassment felt by a child in the presence of strangers. As the Indian becomes acquainted, this reserve wears off; he is at his ease again and appears in his true colors, a light-hearted child. Certainly the Blackfeet never were a taciturn and gloomy people. Before the disappearance of the buffalo, they were happy and cheerful. Why should they not have been? Food and clothing were to be had for the killing and tanning. All fur animals were abundant, and thus the people were rich. Meat, really the only food they cared for, was plenty and cost nothing. Their robes and furs were exchanged with the traders for bright-colored blankets and finery. So they wanted nothing.

It is but nine years since the buffalo disappeared from the land. Only nine years have passed since these people gave up that wild, free life which was natural to them, and ah! how dear! Let us go back in memory to those happy days and see how they passed the time.

The sun is just rising. Thin columns of smoke are creeping from the smoke holes of the lodges, and ascending in the still morning air. Everywhere the women are busy, carrying water and wood, and preparing the simple meal. And now we see the men come out, and start for the river. Some are followed by their children; some are even carrying those too small to walk. They have reached the water's edge. Off drop their blankets, and with a plunge and a shivering ah-h-h they dash into the icy waters. Winter and summer, storm or shine, this was their daily custom. They said it made them tough and healthy, and enabled them to endure the bitter cold while hunting on the bare bleak prairie. By the time they have returned to the lodges, the women have prepared the early meal. A dish of boiled meat—some three or four pounds—is set before each man; the children are served as much as they can eat, and the wives take the rest. The horses are now seen coming in, hundreds and thousands of them, driven by boys and young men who started out after them at daylight. If buffalo are close at hand, and it has been decided to make a run, each hunter catches his favorite buffalo horse, and they all start out together; they are followed by women, on the travois or pack horses, who will do most of the butchering, and transport the meat and hides to camp. If there is no band of buffalo near by, they go off, singly or by twos and threes, to still-hunt scattering buffalo, or deer, or elk, or such other game as may be found. The women remaining in camp are not idle. All day long they tan robes, dry meat, sew moccasins, and perform a thousand and one other tasks. The young men who have stayed at home carefully comb and braid their hair, paint their faces, and, if the weather is pleasant, ride or walk around the camp so that the young women may look at them and see how pretty they are.

Feasting began early in the morning, and will be carried on far into the night. A man who gives a feast has his wives cook the choicest food they have, and when all is ready, he goes outside the lodge and shouts the invitation, calling out each guest's name three times, saying that he is invited to eat, and concludes by announcing that a certain number of pipes—generally three—will be smoked. The guests having assembled, each one is served with a dish of food. Be the quantity large or small, it is all that he will get. If he does not eat it all, he may carry home what remains. The host does not eat with his guests. He cuts up some tobacco, and carefully mixes it with l'herbe, and when all have finished eating, he fills and lights a pipe, which is smoked and passed from one to another, beginning with the first man on his left. When the last person on the left of the host has smoked, the pipe is passed back around the circle to the one on the right of the door, and smoked to the left again. The guests do not all talk at once. When a person begins to speak, he expects every one to listen, and is never interrupted. During the day the topics for conversation are about the hunting, war, stories of strange adventures, besides a good deal of good-natured joking and chaffing. When the third and last pipeful of tobacco has been smoked, the host ostentatiously knocks out the ashes and says "Kyi" whereupon all the guests rise and file out. Seldom a day passed but each lodge-owner in camp gave from one to three feasts. In fact almost all a man did, when in camp, was to go from one of these gatherings to another.

A favorite pastime in the day was gambling with a small wheel called it-se'-wah. This wheel was about four inches in diameter, and had five spokes, on which were strung different-colored beads, made of bone or horn. A level, smooth piece of ground was selected, at each end of which was placed a log. At each end of the course were two men, who gambled against each other. A crowd always surrounded them, betting on the sides. The wheel was rolled along the course, and each man at the end whence it started, darted an arrow at it. The cast was made just before the wheel reached the log at the opposite end of the track, and points were counted according as the arrow passed between the spokes, or when the wheel, stopped by the log, was in contact with the arrow, the position and nearness of the different beads to the arrow representing a certain number of points. The player who first scored ten points won. It was a very difficult game, and one had to be very skilful to win.

Another popular game was what with more southern tribes is called "hands"; it is like "Button, button, who's got the button?" Two small, oblong bones were used, one of which had a black ring around it. Those who participated in this game, numbering from two to a dozen, were divided into two equal parties, ranged on either side of the lodge. Wagers were made, each person betting with the one directly opposite him. Then a man took the bones, and, by skilfully moving his hands and changing the objects from one to the other, sought to make it impossible for the person opposite him to decide which hand held the marked one. Ten points were the game, counted by sticks, and the side which first got the number took the stakes. A song always accompanied this game, a weird, unearthly air,—if it can be so called,—but when heard at a little distance, very pleasant and soothing. At first a scarcely audible murmur, like the gentle soughing of an evening breeze, it gradually increased in volume and reached a very high pitch, sank quickly to a low bass sound, rose and fell, and gradually died away, to be again repeated. The person concealing the bones swayed his body, arms, and hands in time to the air, and went through all manner of graceful and intricate movements for the purpose of confusing the guesser. The stakes were sometimes very high, two or three horses or more, and men have been known to lose everything they possessed, even to their clothing.

The children, at least the boys, played about and did as they pleased. Not so with the girls. Their duties began at a very early age. They carried wood and water for their mothers, sewed moccasins, and as soon as they were strong enough, were taught to tan robes and furs, make lodges, travois, and do all other woman's—and so menial—work. The boys played at mimic warfare, hunted around in the brush with their bows and arrows, made mud images of animals, and in summer spent about half their time in the water. In winter, they spun tops on the ice, slid down hill on a contrivance made of buffalo ribs, and hunted rabbits.

Shortly after noon, the hunters began to return, bringing in deer, antelope, buffalo, elk, occasionally bear, and, sometimes, beaver which they had trapped. The camp began to be more lively. In all directions persons could be heard shouting out invitations to feasts. Here a man was lying back on his couch singing and drumming; there a group of young men were holding a war dance; everywhere the people were eating, singing, talking, and joking. As the light faded from the western sky and darkness spread over the camp, the noise and laughter increased. In many lodges, the people held social dances, the women, dressed in their best gowns, ranged on one side, the men on the other; all sung, and three or four drummers furnished an accompaniment; the music was lively if somewhat jerky. At intervals the people rose and danced, the "step" being a bending of the knees and swinging of the body, the women holding their arms and hands in various graceful positions.

With the night came the rehearsal of the wondrous doings of the gods. These tales may not be told in the daytime. Old Man would not like that, and would cause any one who narrated them while it was light to become blind. All Indians are natural orators, but some far exceed others in their powers of expression. Their attitudes, gestures, and signs are so suggestive that they alone would enable one to understand the stories they relate. I have seen these story-tellers so much in earnest, so entirely carried away by the tale they were relating, that they fairly trembled with excitement. They held their little audiences spell-bound. The women dropped their half-sewn moccasin from their listless hands, and the men let the pipe go out. These stories for the most part were about the ancient gods and their miraculous doings. They were generally related by the old men, warriors who had seen their best days. Many of them are recorded in this book. They are the explanations of the phenomena of life, and contain many a moral for the instruction of youth.

The I-kŭn-ŭh'-kah-tsi contributed not a little to the entertainment of every-day life. Frequent dances were held by the different bands of the society, and the whole camp always turned out to see them. The animal-head masks, brightly painted bodies, and queer performances were dear to the Indian heart.

Such was the every-day life of the Blackfeet in the buffalo days. When the camp moved, the women packed up their possessions, tore down the lodges, and loaded everything on the backs of the ponies or on the travois. Meantime the chiefs had started on, and the soldiers—the Brave band of the I-kun-uh'-kah-tsi—followed after them. After these leaders had gone a short distance, a halt was made to allow the column to close up. The women, children, horses, and dogs of the camp marched in a disorderly, straggling fashion, often strung out in a line a mile or two long. Many of the men rode at a considerable distance ahead, and on each side of the marching column, hunting for any game that might be found, or looking over the country for signs of enemies.

Before the Blackfeet obtained horses in the very first years of the present century, and when their only beasts of burden were dogs, their possessions were transported by these animals or on men's backs. We may imagine that in those days the journeys made were short ones, the camp travelling but a few miles.

In moving the camp in ancient days, the heaviest and bulkiest things to be transported were the lodges. These were sometimes very large, often consisting of thirty cow-skins, and, when set up, containing two or three fires like this or in ground plan like this . The skins of these large lodges were sewn together in strips, of which there would be sometimes as many as four; and, when the lodge was set up, these strips were pinned together as the front of a common lodge is pinned to-day. The dogs carried the provisions, tools, and utensils, sometimes the lodge strips, if these were small enough, or anything that was heavy, and yet could be packed in small compass; for since dogs are small animals, and low standing, they cannot carry bulky burdens. Still, some of the dogs were large enough to carry a load of one hundred pounds. Dogs also hauled the travois, on which were bundles and sometimes babies. This was not always a safe means of transportation for infants, as is indicated by an incident related by John Monroe's mother as having occurred in her father's time. The camp, on foot of course, was crossing a strip of open prairie lying between two pieces of timber, when a herd of buffalo, stampeding, rushed through the marching column. The loaded dogs rushed after the buffalo, dragging the travois after them and scattering their loads over the prairie. Among the lost chattels were two babies, dropped off somewhere in the long grass, which were never found.

There were certain special customs and beliefs which were a part of the every-day life of the people.

In passing the pipe when smoking, it goes from the host, who takes the first smoke, to the left, passing from hand to hand to the door. It may not be passed across the door to the man on the other side, but must come back,—no one smoking,—pass the host, and go round to the man across the door from the last smoker. This man smokes and passes it to the one on his left, and so it goes on until it reaches the host again. A person entering a lodge where people are smoking must not pass in front of them, that is, between the smokers and the fire.

A solemn form of affirmation, the equivalent of the civilized oath, is connected with smoking, which, as is well known, is with many tribes of Indians a sacred ceremony. If a man sitting in a lodge tells his companions some very improbable story, something that they find it very hard to believe, and they want to test him, to see if he is really telling the truth, the pipe is given to a medicine man, who paints the stem red and prays over it, asking that if the man's story is true he may have long life, but if it is false his life may end in a short time. The pipe is then filled and lighted, and passed to the man, who has seen and overheard what has been done and said. The medicine man says to him: "Accept this pipe, but remember that, if you smoke, your story must be as sure as that there is a hole through this pipe, and as straight as the hole through this stem. So your life shall be long and you shall survive, but if you have spoken falsely your days are counted." The man may refuse the pipe, saying, "I have told you the truth; it is useless to smoke this pipe." If he declines to smoke, no one believes what he has said; he is looked upon as having lied. If, however, he takes the pipe and smokes, every one believes him. It is the most solemn form of oath. The Blackfoot pipes are usually made of black or green slate or sandstone.

The Blackfeet do not whip their children, but still they are not without some training. Children must be taught, or they will not know anything; if they do not know anything, they will have no sense; and if they have no sense they will not know how to act. They are instructed in manners, as well as in other more general and more important matters.

If a number of boys were in a lodge where older people were sitting, very likely the young people would be talking and laughing about their own concerns, and making so much noise that the elders could say nothing. If this continued too long, one of the older men would be likely to get up and go out and get a long stick and bring it in with him. When he had seated himself, he would hold it up, so that the children could see it and would repeat a cautionary formula, "I will give you gum!" This was a warning to them to make less noise, and was always heeded—for a time. After a little, however, the boys might forget and begin to chatter again, and presently the man, without further warning, would reach over and rap one of them on the head with the stick, when quiet would again be had for a time.

In the same way, in winter, when the lodge was full of old and young people, and through lack of attention the fire died down, some older person would call out, "Look out for the skunk!" which would be a warning to the boys to put some sticks on the fire. If this was not done at once, the man who had called out might throw a stick of wood across the lodge into the group of children, hitting and hurting one or more of them. It was taught also that, if, when young and old were in the lodge and the fire had burned low, an older person were to lay the unburned ends of the sticks upon the fire, all the children in the lodge would have the scab, or itch. So, at the call "Look out for the scab!" some child would always jump to the fire, and lay up the sticks.

There were various ways of teaching and training the children. Men would make long speeches to groups of boys, playing in the camps, telling them what they ought to do to be successful in life. They would point out to them that to accomplish anything they must be brave and untiring in war; that long life was not desirable; that the old people always had a hard time, were given the worst side of the lodge and generally neglected; that when the camp was moved they suffered from cold; that their sight was dim, so that they could not see far; that their teeth were gone, so that they could not chew their food. Only discomfort and misery await the old. Much better, while the body is strong and in its prime, while the sight is clear, the teeth sound, and the hair still black and long, to die in battle fighting bravely. The example of successful warriors would be held up to them, and the boys urged to emulate their brave deeds. To such advice some boys would listen, while others would not heed it.

The girls also were instructed. All Indians like to see women more or less sober and serious-minded, not giggling all the time, not silly. A Blackfoot man who had two or three girls would, as they grew large, often talk to them and give them good advice. After watching them, and taking the measure of their characters, he would one day get a buffalo's front foot and ornament it fantastically with feathers. When the time came, he would call one of his daughters to him and say to her: "Now I wish you to stand here in front of me and look me straight in the eye without laughing. No matter what I may do, do not laugh." Then he would sing a funny song, shaking the foot in the girl's face in time to the song, and looking her steadily in the eye. Very likely before he had finished, she would begin to giggle. If she did this, the father would stop singing and tell her to finish laughing; and when she was serious again, he would again warn her not to laugh, and then would repeat his song. This time perhaps she would not laugh while he was singing. He would go through with this same performance before all his daughters. To such as seemed to have the steadiest characters, he would give good advice. He would talk to each girl of the duties of a woman's life and warn her against the dangers which she might expect to meet.

At the time of the Medicine Lodge, he would take her to the lodge and point out to her the Medicine Lodge woman. He would say: "There is a good woman. She has built this Medicine Lodge, and is greatly honored and respected by all the people. Once she was a girl just like you; and you, if you are good and live a pure life, may some day be as great as she is now. Remember this, and try to live a worthy life."

At the time of the Medicine Lodge, the boys in the camp also gathered to see the young men count their coups. A man would get up, holding in one hand a bundle of small sticks, and, taking one stick from the bundle, he would recount some brave deed, throwing away a stick as he completed the narrative of each coup, until the sticks were all gone, when he sat down, and another man stood up to begin his recital. As the boys saw and heard all this, and saw how respected those men were who had done the most and bravest things, they said to themselves, "That man was once a boy like us, and we, if we have strong hearts, may do as much as he has done." So even the very small boys used often to steal off from the camp, and follow war parties. Often they went without the knowledge of their parents, and poorly provided, without food or extra moccasins. They would get to the enemy's camp, watch the ways of the young men, and so learn about going to war, how to act when on the war trail so as to be successful. Also they came to know the country.

The Blackfeet men often went off by themselves to fast and dream for power. By no means every one did this, and, of those who attempted it, only a few endured to the end,—that is, fasted the whole four days,—and obtained the help sought. The attempt was not usually made by young boys before they had gone on their first war journey. It was often undertaken by men who were quite mature. Those who underwent this suffering were obliged to abstain from food or drink for four days and four nights, resting for two nights on the right side, and for two nights on the left. It was deemed essential that the place to which a man resorted for this purpose should be unfrequented, where few or no persons had walked; and it must also be a place that tried the nerve, where there was some danger. Such situations were mountain peaks; or narrow ledges on cut cliffs, where a careless movement might cause a man to fall to his death on the rocks below; or islands in lakes, which could only be reached by means of a raft, and where there was danger that a person might be seized and carried off by the Sū'-yē tŭp'-pi, or Under Water People; or places where the dead had been buried, and where there was much danger from ghosts. Or a man might lie in a well-worn buffalo trail, where the animals were frequently passing, and so he might be trodden on by a travelling band of buffalo; or he might choose a locality where bears were abundant and dangerous. Wherever he went, the man built himself a little lodge of brush, moss, and leaves, to keep off the rain; and, after making his prayers to the sun and singing his sacred songs, he crept into the hut and began his fast. He was not allowed to take any covering with him, nor to roof over his shelter with skins. He always had with him a pipe, and this lay by him, filled, so that, when the spirit, or dream, came, it could smoke. They did not appeal to any special class of helpers, but prayed to all alike. Often by the end of the fourth day, a secret helper—usually, but by no means always, in the form of some animal—appeared to the man in a dream, and talked with him, advising him, marking out his course through life, and giving him its power. There were some, however, on whom the power would not work, and a much greater number who gave up the fast, discouraged, before the prescribed time had been completed, either not being able to endure the lack of food and water, or being frightened by the strangeness or loneliness of their surroundings, or by something that they thought they saw or heard. It was no disgrace to fail, nor was the failure necessarily known, for the seeker after power did not always, nor perhaps often, tell any one what he was going to do.

Three modes of burial were practised by the Blackfeet. They buried their dead on platforms placed in trees, on platforms in lodges, and on the ground in lodges. If a man dies in a lodge, it is never used again. The people would be afraid of the man's ghost. The lodge is often used to wrap the body in, or perhaps the man may be buried in it.

As soon as a person is dead, be it man, woman, or child, the body is immediately prepared for burial, by the nearest female relations. Until recently, the corpse was wrapped in a number of robes, then in a lodge covering, laced with rawhide ropes, and placed on a platform of lodge poles, arranged on the branches of some convenient tree. Some times the outer wrapping—the lodge covering—was omitted. If the deceased was a man, his weapons, and often his medicine, were buried with him. With women a few cooking utensils and implements for tanning robes were placed on the scaffolds. When a man was buried on a platform in a lodge, the platform was usually suspended from the lodge poles.

Sometimes, when a great chief or noted warrior died, his lodge would be moved some little distance from the camp, and set up in a patch of brush. It would be carefully pegged down all around, and stones piled on the edges to make it additionally firm. For still greater security, a rope fastened to the lodge poles, where they come together at the smoke hole, came down, and was securely tied to a peg in the ground in the centre of the lodge, where the fireplace would ordinarily be. Then the beds were made up all around the lodge, and on one of them was placed the corpse, lying as if asleep. The man's weapons, pipe, war clothing, and medicine were placed near him, and the door then closed. No one ever again entered such a lodge. Outside the lodge, a number of his horses, often twenty or more, were killed, so that he might have plenty to ride on his journey to the Sand Hills, and to use after arriving there. If a man had a favorite horse, he might order it to be killed at his grave, and his order was always carried out. In ancient times, it is said, dogs were killed at the grave.

Women mourn for deceased relations by cutting their hair short. For the loss of a husband or son (but not a daughter), they not only cut their hair, but often take off one or more joints of their fingers, and always scarify the calves of their legs. Besides this, for a month or so, they daily repair to some place near camp, generally a hill or little rise of ground, and there cry and lament, calling the name of the deceased over and over again. This may be called a chant or song, for there is a certain tune to it. It is in a minor key and very doleful. Any one hearing it for the first time, even though wholly unacquainted with Indian customs, would at once know that it was a mourning song, or at least was the utterance of one in deep distress. There is no fixed period for the length of time one must mourn. Some keep up this daily lament for a few weeks only, and others much longer. I once came across an old wrinkled woman, who was crouched in the sage brush, crying and lamenting for some one, as if her heart would break. On inquiring if any one had lately died, I was told she was mourning for a son she had lost more than twenty years before.

Men mourn by cutting a little of their hair, going without leggings, and for the loss of a son, sometimes scarify their legs. This last, however, is never done for the loss of a wife, daughter, or any relative except a son.

Many Blackfeet change their names every season. Whenever a Blackfoot counts a new coup, he is entitled to a new name. A Blackfoot will never tell his name if he can avoid it. He believes that if he should speak his name, he would be unfortunate in all his undertakings. It was considered a gross breach of propriety for a man to meet his mother-in-law, and if by any mischance he did so, or what was worse, if he spoke to her, she demanded a very heavy payment, which he was obliged to make. The mother-in-law was equally anxious to avoid meeting or speaking to her son-in-law.


The primitive clothing of the Blackfeet was made of the dressed skins of certain animals. Women seldom wore a head covering. Men, however, in winter generally used a cap made of the skin of some small animal, such as the antelope, wolf, badger, or coyote. As the skin from the head of these animals often formed part of the cap, the ears being left on, it made a very odd-looking head-dress. Sometimes a cap was made of the skin of some large bird, such as the sage-hen, duck, owl, or swan.

The ancient dress of the women was a shirt of cowskin, with long sleeves tied at the wrist, a skirt reaching half-way from knees to ankles, and leggings tied above the knees, with sometimes a supporting string running from the belt to the leggings. In more modern times, this was modified, and a woman's dress consisted of a gown or smock, reaching from the neck to below the knees. There were no sleeves, the armholes being provided with top coverings, a sort of cape or flap, which reached to the elbows. Leggings were of course still worn. They reached to the knee, and were generally made, as was the gown, of the tanned skins of elk, deer, sheep, or antelope. Moccasins for winter use were made of buffalo robe, and of tanned buffalo cowskin for summer wear. The latter were always made with parfleche soles, which greatly increased their durability, and were often ornamented over the instep or toes with a three-pronged figure, worked in porcupine quills or beads, the three prongs representing, it is said, the three divisions or tribes of the nation. The men wore a shirt, breech-clout, leggings which reached to the thighs, and moccasins. In winter both men and women wore a robe of tanned buffalo skin, and sometimes of beaver. In summer a lighter robe was worn, made of cowskin or buckskin, from which the hair had been removed. Both sexes wore belts, which supported and confined the clothing, and to which were attached knife-sheaths and other useful articles.

Necklaces and ear-rings were worn by all, and were made of shells, bone, wood, and the teeth and claws of animals. Elk tushes were highly prized, and were used for ornamenting women's dresses. A gown profusely decorated with them was worth two good horses. Eagle feathers were used by the men to make head-dresses and to ornament shields and also weapons. Small bunches of owl or grouse feathers were sometimes tied to the scalp locks. It is doubtful if the women ever took particular care of their hair. The men, however, spent a great deal of time brushing, braiding, and ornamenting their scalp locks. Their hair was usually worn in two braids, one on each side of the head. Less frequently, four braids were made, one behind and in front of each ear. Sometimes, the hair of the forehead was cut off square, and brushed straight up; and not infrequently it was made into a huge topknot and wound with otter fur. Often a slender lock, wound with brass wire or braided, hung down from one side of the forehead over the face.

As a rule, the men are tall, straight, and well formed. Their features are regular, the eyes being large and well set, and the nose generally moderately large, straight, and thin. Their chests are splendidly developed. The women are quite tall for their sex, but, as a rule, not so good-looking as the men. Their hands are large, coarse, and knotted by hard labor; and they early become wrinkled and careworn. They generally have splendid constitutions. I have known them to resume work a day after childbirth; and once, when travelling, I knew a woman to halt, give birth to a child, and catch up with the camp inside of four hours.

As a rule, children are hardy and vigorous. They are allowed to do about as they please from the time they are able to walk. I have often seen them playing in winter in the snow, and spinning tops on the ice, barefooted and half-naked. Under such conditions, those which have feeble constitutions soon die. Only the hardiest reach maturity and old age.

It is said that very long ago the people made houses of mud, sticks, and stones. It is not known what was their size or shape, and no traces of them are known to have been found. For a very long time, the lodge seems to have been their only dwelling. In ancient times, before they had knives of metal, stones were used to hold down the edges of the lodge, to keep it from being blown away. These varied in size from six inches to a foot or more in diameter. Everywhere on the prairie, one may now see circles of these stones, and, within these circles, the smaller ones, which surrounded the fireplace. Some of them have lain so long that only the tops now project above the turf, and undoubtedly many of them are buried out of sight.

Lodges were always made of tanned cowskin, nicely cut and sewn together, so as to form an almost perfect cone. At the top were two large flaps, called ears, which were kept extended or closed, according to the direction and strength of the wind, to create a draft and keep the lodge free from smoke. The lodge covering was supported by light, straight pine or spruce poles, about eighteen of which were required. Twelve cowskins made a lodge about fourteen feet in diameter at the base, and ten feet high. I have heard of a modern one which contained forty skins. It was over thirty feet in diameter, and was so heavy that the skins were sewn in two pieces which buttoned together.

An average-sized dwelling of this kind contained eighteen skins and was about sixteen feet in diameter. The lower edge of the lodge proper was fastened, by wooden pegs, to within an inch or two of the ground. Inside, a lining, made of brightly painted cowskin, reached from the ground to a height of five or six feet. An air space of the thickness of the lodge poles—two or three inches—was thus left between the lining and the lodge covering, and the cold air, rushing up through it from the outside, made a draft, which aided the ears in freeing the lodge of smoke. The door was three or four feet high and was covered by a flap of skin, which hung down on the outside. Thus made, with plenty of buffalo robes for seats and bedding, and a good stock of firewood, a lodge was very comfortable, even in the coldest weather.

It was not uncommon to decorate the outside of the lodge with buffalo tails and brightly painted pictures of animals. Inside, the space around was partitioned off into couches, or seats, each about six feet in length. At the foot and head of every couch, a mat, made of straight, peeled willow twigs, fastened side by side, was suspended on a tripod at an angle of forty-five degrees, so that between the couches spaces were left like an inverted V, making convenient places to store articles which were not in use. The owner of the lodge always occupied the seat or couch at the back of the lodge, directly opposite the door-way, the places on his right being occupied by his wives and daughters; though sometimes a Blackfoot had so many wives that they occupied the whole lodge. The places on his left were reserved for his sons and visitors. When a visitor entered a lodge, he was assigned a seat according to his rank,—the nearer to the host, the greater the honor.

Bows were generally made of ash wood, which grows east of the mountains toward the Sand Hills. When for any reason they could not obtain ash, they used the wood of the choke-cherry tree, but this had not strength nor spring enough to be of much service. I have been told also that sometimes they used hazle wood for bows.

Arrows were made of shoots of the sarvis berry wood, which was straight, very heavy, and not brittle. They were smoothed and straightened by a stone implement. The grooves were made by pushing the shafts through a rib or other flat bone in which had been made a hole, circular except for one or two projections on the inside. These projections worked out the groove. The object of these grooves is said to have been to allow the blood to flow freely. Each man marked his arrows by painting them, or by some special combination of colored feathers. The arrow heads were of two kinds,—barbed slender points for war, and barbless for hunting. Knives were originally made of stone, as were also war clubs, mauls, and some of the scrapers for fleshing and graining hides. Some of the flint knives were long, others short. A stick was fitted to them, forming a wooden handle. The handles of mauls and war clubs were usually made of green sticks fitted as closely as possible into a groove made in the stone, the whole being bound together by a covering of hide put on green, tightly fitted and strongly sewed. This, as it shrunk in drying, bound the different parts of the implement together in the strongest possible manner. Short, heavy spears were used, the points being of stone or bone, barbed.

I have heard no explanation among the Blackfeet of the origin of fire. In ancient times, it was obtained by means of fire sticks, as described elsewhere. The starting of the spark with these sticks is said to have been hard work. At almost their first meeting with the whites, they obtained flints and steels, and learned how to use them.

In ancient times,—in the days of fire sticks and even later, within the memory of men now living,—fire used to be carried from place to place in a "fire horn." This was a buffalo horn slung by a string over the shoulder like a powderhorn. The horn was lined with moist, rotten wood, and the open end had a wooden stopper or plug fitted to it. On leaving camp in the morning, the man who carried the horn took from the fire a small live coal and put it in the horn, and on this coal placed a piece of punk, and then plugged up the horn with the stopper. The punk smouldered in this almost air-tight chamber, and, in the course of two or three hours, the man looked at it, and if it was nearly consumed, put another piece of punk in the horn. The first young men who reached the appointed camping ground would gather two or three large piles of wood in different places, and as soon as some one who carried a fire horn reached camp, he turned out his spark at one of these piles of wood, and a little blowing and nursing gave a blaze which started the fire. The other fires were kindled from this first one, and when the women reached camp and had put the lodges up, they went to these fires, and got coals with which to start those in their lodges. This custom of borrowing coals persisted up to the last days of the buffalo, and indeed may even be noticed still.

The punk here mentioned is a fungus, which grows on the birch tree. The Indians used to gather this in large quantities and dry it. It was very abundant at the Touchwood Hills (whence the name) on Beaver Creek, a tributary of the Saskatchewan from the south.

The Blackfeet made buckets, cups, basins, and dishes from the lining of the buffalo's paunch. This was torn off in large pieces, and was stretched over a flattened willow or cherry hoop at the bottom and top. These hoops were sometimes inside and sometimes outside the bucket or dish. In the latter case, the hoop at the bottom was often sewed to the paunch, which came down over it, double on the outside, the needle holes being pitched with gum or tallow. The hoop at the upper edge was also sewed to the paunch, and a rawhide bail passed under it, to carry it by. These buckets were shaped somewhat like our wooden ones, and were of different sizes, some of them holding four or five gallons. They were more or less flexible, and when carried in a pack, they could be flattened down like a crush hat, and so took up but little room. If set on the ground when full, they would stand up for a while, but as they soon softened and fell down, they were usually hung up by the bail on a little tripod. Cups were made in the same way as buckets, but on a smaller scale and without the bail. Of course, nothing hot could be placed in these vessels.

It is doubtful if the Blackfeet ever made any pottery or basket ware. They, however, made bowls and kettles of stone. There is an ancient children's song which consists of a series of questions asked an elk, and its replies to the same. In one place, the questioner sings, "Elk, what is your bowl (or dish)?" and the elk answers, "Ok-wi-tok-so-ka," stone bowl. On this point, Wolf Calf, a very old man, states that in early days the Blackfeet sometimes boiled their meat in a stone bowl made out of a hard clayey rock.[1] Choosing a fragment of the right size and shape, they would pound it with another heavier rock, dealing light blows until a hollow had been made in the top. This hollow was made deeper by pounding and grinding; and when it was deep enough, they put water in it, and set it on the fire, and the water would boil. These pots were strong and would last a long time. I do not remember that any other tribe of Plains Indians made such stone bowls or mortars, though, of course, they were commonly made, and in singular perfection, by the Pacific Coast tribes; and I have known of rare cases in which basalt mortars and small soapstone ollas have been found on the central plateau of the continent in southern Wyoming. These articles, however, had no doubt been obtained by trade from Western tribes.

[Footnote 1: See The Blackfoot Genesis, p. 141.]

Serviceable ladles and spoons were made of wood and of buffalo and mountain sheep horn. Basins or flat dishes were sometimes made of mountain sheep horn, boiled, split, and flattened, and also of split buffalo horn, fitted and sewn together with sinew, making a flaring, saucer-shaped dish. These were used as plates or eating dishes. Of course, they leaked a little, for the joints were not tight. Wooden bowls and dishes were made from knots and protuberances of trees, dug out and smoothed by fire and the knife or by the latter alone.

It is not known that these people ever made spears, hooks, or other implements for capturing fish. They appear never to have used boats of any kind, not even "bull boats." Their highest idea of navigation was to lash together a few sticks or logs, on which to transport their possessions across a river.

Red, brown, yellow, and white paints were made by burning clays of these colors, which were then pulverized and mixed with a little grease. Black paint was made of charred wood.

Bags and sacks were made of parfleche, usually ornamented with buckskin fringe, and painted with various designs in bright colors. Figures having sharp angles are most common.

The diet of the Blackfeet was more varied than one would think. Large quantities of sarvis berries (Amelanchier alnifolia) were gathered whenever there was a crop (which occurs every other year), dried, and stored for future use. These were gathered by women, who collected the branches laden with ripe fruit, and beat them over a robe spread upon the ground. Choke-cherries were also gathered when ripe, and pounded up, stones and all. A bushel of the fruit, after being pounded up and dried, was reduced to a very small quantity. This food was sometimes eaten by itself, but more often was used to flavor soups and to mix with pemmican. Bull berries (Shepherdia argentea) were a favorite fruit, and were gathered in large quantities, as was also the white berry of the red willow. This last is an exceedingly bitter, acrid fruit, and to the taste of most white men wholly unpleasant and repugnant. The Blackfeet, however, are very fond of it; perhaps because it contains some property necessary to the nourishment of the body, which is lacking in their every-day food.

The camas root, which grows abundantly in certain localities on the east slope of the Rockies, was also dug, cooked, and dried. The bulbs were roasted in pits, as by the Indians on the west side of the Rocky Mountains, the Kalispels, and others. It is gathered while in the bloom—June 15 to July 15. A large pit is dug in which a hot fire is built, the bottom being first lined with flat stones. After keeping up this fire for several hours, until the stones and earth are thoroughly heated, the coals and ashes are removed. The pit is then lined with grass, and is filled almost to the top with camas bulbs. Over these, grass is laid, then twigs, and then earth to a depth of four inches. On this a fire is built, which is kept up for from one to three days, according to the quantity of the bulbs in the pit.

When the pit is opened, the small children gather about it to suck the syrup, which has collected on the twigs and grass, and which is very sweet. The fresh-roasted camas tastes something like a roasted chestnut, with a little of the flavor of the sweet potato. After being cooked, the roots are spread out in the sun to dry, and are then put in sacks to be stored away. Sometimes a few are pounded up with sarvis berries, and dried.

Bitter-root is gathered, dried, and boiled with a little sugar. It is a slender root, an inch or two long and as thick as a goose quill, white in color, and looking like short lengths of spaghetti. It is very starchy.

In the spring, a certain root called mats was eaten in great quantities. This plant was known to the early French employees of the Hudson's Bay and American Fur Companies as pomme blanche (Psoralea esculenta).

All parts of such animals as the buffalo, elk, deer, etc., were eaten, save only the lungs, gall, and one or two other organs. A favorite way of eating the paunch or stomach was in the raw state. Liver, too, was sometimes eaten raw. The unborn calf of a fresh-killed animal, especially buffalo, was considered a great delicacy. The meat of this, when boiled, is white, tasteless, and insipid. The small intestines of the buffalo were sometimes dried, but more often were stuffed with long, thin strips of meat. During the stuffing process, the entrail was turned inside out, thus confining with the meat the sweet white fat that covers the intestine. The next step was to roast it a little, after which the ends were tied to prevent the escape of the juices, and it was thoroughly boiled in water. This is a very great delicacy, and when properly prepared is equally appreciated by whites and Indians.

As a rule, there were but two ways of cooking meat,—boiling and roasting. If roasted, it was thoroughly cooked; but if boiled, it was only left in the water long enough to lose the red color, say five or ten minutes. Before they got kettles from the whites, the Blackfeet often boiled meat in a green hide. A hole was dug in the ground, and the skin, flesh side up, was laid in it, being supported about the edges of the hole by pegs. The meat and water having been placed in this hollow, red-hot stones were dropped in the water until it became hot and the meat was cooked.

In time of plenty, great quantities of dried meat were prepared for use when fresh meat could not be obtained. In making dried meat, the thicker parts of an animal were cut in large, thin sheets and hung in the sun to dry. If the weather was not fine, the meat was often hung up on lines or scaffolds in the upper part of the lodge. When properly cured and if of good quality, the sheets were about one-fourth of an inch thick and very brittle. The back fat of the buffalo was also dried, and eaten with the meat as we eat butter with bread. Pemmican was made of the flesh of the buffalo. The meat was dried in the usual way; and, for this use, only lean meat, such as the hams, loin, and shoulders, was chosen. When the time came for making the pemmican, two large fires were built of dry quaking aspen wood, and these were allowed to burn down to red coals. The old women brought the dried meat to these fires, and the sheets of meat were thrown on the coals of one of them, allowed to heat through, turned to keep them from burning, and then thrown on the flesh side of a dry hide, that lay on the ground near by. After a time, the roasting of this dried meat caused a smoke to rise from the fire in use, which gave the meat a bitter taste, if cooked in it. They then turned to the other fire, and used that until the first one had burned clear again. After enough of the roasted meat had been thrown on the hide, it was flailed out with sticks, and being very brittle was easily broken up, and made small. It was constantly stirred and pounded until it was all fine. Meantime, the tallow of the buffalo had been melted in a large kettle, and the pemmican bags prepared. These were made of bull's hide, and were in two pieces, cut oblong, and with the corners rounded off. Two such pieces sewed together made a bag which would hold one hundred pounds. The pounded meat and tallow—the latter just beginning to cool—were put in a trough made of bull's hide, a wooden spade being used to stir the mixture. After it was thoroughly mixed, it was shovelled into one of the sacks, held open, and rammed down and packed tight with a big stick, every effort being made to expel all the air. When the bag was full and packed as tight as possible, it was sewn up. It was then put on the ground, and the women jumped on it to make it still more tight and solid. It was then laid away in the sun to cool and dry. It usually took the meat of two cows to make a bag of one hundred pounds; a very large bull might make a sack of from eighty to one hundred pounds.

A much finer grade of pemmican was made from the choicest parts of the buffalo with marrow fat. To this dried berries and pounded choke-cherries were added, making a delicious food, which was extremely nutritious. Pemmican was eaten either dry as it came from the sack, or stewed with water.

In the spring, the people had great feasts of the eggs of ducks and other water-fowl. A large quantity having been gathered, a hole was dug in the ground, and a little water put in it. At short intervals above the water, platforms of sticks were built, on which the eggs were laid. A smaller hole was dug at one side of the large hole, slanting into the bottom of it. When all was ready, the top of the larger hole was covered with mud, laid upon cross sticks, and red-hot stones were dropped into the slant, when they rolled down into the water, heating it, and so cooking the eggs by steam.

Fish were seldom eaten by these people in early days, but now they seem very fond of them. Turtles, frogs, and lizards are considered creatures of evil, and are never eaten. Dogs, considered a great delicacy by the Crees, Gros Ventres, Sioux, Assinaboines, and other surrounding tribes, were never eaten by the Blackfeet. No religious motive is assigned for this abstinence. I once heard a Piegan say that it was wrong to eat dogs. "They are our true friends," he said. "Men say they are our friends and then turn against us, but our dogs are always true. They mourn when we are absent, and are always glad when we return. They keep watch for us in the night when we sleep. So pity the poor dogs."

Snakes, grasshoppers, worms, and other insects were never eaten. Salt was an unknown condiment. Many are now very fond of it, but I know a number, especially old people, who never eat it.


The social organization of the Blackfeet is very simple. The three tribes acknowledged a blood relationship with each other, and, while distinct, still considered themselves a nation. In this confederation, it was understood that there should be no war against each other. However, between 1860 and 1870, when the whiskey trade was in its height, the three tribes were several times at swords' points on account of drunken brawls. Once, about sixty or seventy years ago, the Bloods and Piegans had a quarrel so serious that men were killed on both sides and horses stolen; yet this was hardly a real war, for only a part of each tribe was involved, and the trouble was not of long duration.

Each one of the Blackfoot tribes is subdivided into gentes, a gens being a body of consanguineal kindred in the male line. It is noteworthy that the Blackfeet, although Algonquins, have this system of subdivision, and it may be that among them the gentes are of comparatively recent date. No special duties are assigned to any one gens, nor has any gens, so far as I know, any special "medicine" or "totem."

Below is a list of the gentes of each tribe.

BLACKFEET (Sik'-si-kau)


Puh-ksi-nah'-mah-yiks Flat Bows.

Mo-tah'-tos-iks Many Medicines.

Siks-in'-o-kaks Black Elks.

E'-mi-tah-pahk-sai-yiks Dogs Naked.

Sa'-yiks Liars.

Ai-sik'-stuk-iks Biters.

Tsin-ik-tsis'-tso-yiks Early Finished Eating.

Ap'-i-kai-yiks Skunks.

BLOODS (Kai'-nah)

Siksin'-o-kaks Black Elks.

Ah-kwo'-nis-tsists Many Lodge Poles.

Ap-ut'-o-si'kai-nah North Bloods.

Is-ts'-kai-nah Woods Bloods.

In-uhk!-so-yi-stam-iks Long Tail Lodge Poles.

Nit'-ik-skiks Lone Fighters.

Siks-ah'-pun-iks Blackblood.


I-sis'-o-kas-im-iks Hair Shirts.

Ak-kai'-po-kaks Many Children.

Sak-si-nah'-mah-yiks Short Bows.

Ap'-i-kai-yiks Skunks.

Ahk-o'-tash-iks Many Horses.

PIEGANS (Pi-kun'-i)

Ah'-pai-tup-iks Blood People.

Ah-kai-yi-ko-ka'-kin-iks White Breasts.

Ki'yis Dried Meat.

Sik-ut'-si-pum-aiks Black Patched Moccasins.

Sik-o-pok'-si-maiks Blackfat Roasters.

Tsin-ik-sis'-tso-yiks Early Finished Eating.

Kut'-ai-im-iks They Don't Laugh.

I'-pok-si-maiks Fat Roasters.

Sik'-o-kit-sim-iks Black Doors.

Ni-taw'-yiks Lone Eaters.

Ap'-i-kai-yiks Skunks.

Mi-ah-wah'-pit-siks Seldom Lonesome.

Nit'-ak-os-kit-si-pup-iks Obstinate.

Nit'-ik-skiks Lone Fighters.

I-nuks'-iks Small Robes.

Mi-aw'-kin-ai-yiks Big Topknots.

Esk'-sin-ai-tup-iks Worm People.

I-nuk-si'-kah-ko-pwa-iks Small Brittle Fat.

Kah'-mi-taiks Buffalo Dung.

Kut-ai-sot'-si-man No Parfleche.

Ni-tot'-si-ksis-stan-iks Kill Close By.

Mo-twai'-naiks All Chiefs.

Mo-kum'-iks Red Round Robes.

Mo-tah'-tos-iks Many Medicines.

It will be readily seen from the translations of the above that each gens takes its name from some peculiarity or habit it is supposed to possess. It will also be noticed that each tribe has a few gentes common to one or both of the other tribes. This is caused by persons leaving their own tribe to live with another one, but, instead of uniting with some gens of the adopted tribe, they have preserved the name of their ancestral gens for themselves and their descendants.

The Blackfoot terms of relationship will be found interesting. The principal family names are as follows:—

My father Ni'-nah.

My mother Ni-kis'-ta.

My elder brother Nis'-ah

My younger brother Nis-kun'.

My older sister Nin'-sta.

My younger sister Ni-sis'-ah.

My uncle Nis'-ah.

My aunt Ni-kis'-ta.

My cousin, male Same as brother.

My cousin, female Same as sister.

My grandfather Na-ahks'.

My grandmother Na-ahks'.

My father-in-law Na-ahks'.

My mother-in-law Na-ahks'.

My son No-ko'-i.

My daughter Ni-tun'.

My son-in-law Nis'-ah.

My daughter-in-law Ni-tot'-o-ke-man.

My brother-in-law older than self Nis-tum-o'.

My brother-in-law younger than self Nis-tum-o'-kun.

My sister-in-law Ni-tot'-o-ke-man.

My second cousin Nimp'-sa.

My wife Nit-o-ke'-man.

My husband No'-ma.

As the members of a gens were all considered as relatives, however remote, there was a law prohibiting a man from marrying within his gens. Originally this law was strictly enforced, but like many of the ancient customs it is no longer observed. Lately, within the last forty or fifty years, it has become not uncommon for a man and his family, or even two or three families, on account of some quarrel or some personal dislike of the chief of their own gens, to leave it and join another band. Thus the gentes often received outsiders, who were not related by blood to the gens; and such people or their descendants could marry within the gens. Ancestry became no longer necessary to membership.

As a rule, before a young man could marry, he was required to have made some successful expeditions to war against the enemy, thereby proving himself a brave man, and at the same time acquiring a number of horses and other property, which would enable him to buy the woman of his choice, and afterwards to support her.

Marriages usually took place at the instance of the parents, though often those of the young man were prompted by him. Sometimes the father of the girl, if he desired to have a particular man for a son-in-law, would propose to the father of the latter for the young man as a husband for his daughter.

The marriage in the old days was arranged after this wise: The chief of one of the bands may have a marriageable daughter, and he may know of a young man, the son of a chief of another band, who is a brave warrior, of good character, sober-minded, steadfast, and trustworthy, who he thinks will make a good husband for his daughter and a good son-in-law. After he has made up his mind about this, he is very likely to call in a few of his close relations, the principal men among them, and state to them his conclusions, so as to get their opinions about it. If nothing is said to change his mind, he sends to the father of the boy a messenger to state his own views, and ask how the father feels about the matter.

On receiving this word, the boy's father probably calls together his close relations, discusses the matter with them, and, if the match is satisfactory to him, sends back word to that effect. When this message is received, the relations of the girl proceed to fit her out with the very best that they can provide. If she is the daughter of well-to-do or wealthy people, she already has many of the things that are needed, but what she may lack is soon supplied. Her mother makes her a new cowskin lodge, complete, with new lodge poles, lining, and back rests. A chiefs daughter would already have plenty of good clothing, but if the girl lacks anything, it is furnished. Her dress is made of antelope skin, white as snow, and perhaps ornamented with two or three hundred elk tushes. Her leggings are of deer skin, heavily beaded and nicely fringed, and often adorned with bells and brass buttons. Her summer blanket or sheet is an elk skin, well tanned, without the hair and with the dew-claws left on. Her moccasins are of deer skin, with parfleche soles and worked with porcupine quills. The marriage takes place as soon as these things can be provided.

During the days which intervene between the proposal and the marriage, the young woman each day selects the choicest parts of the meat brought to the lodge,—the tongue, "boss ribs," some choice berry pemmican or what not,—cooks these things in the best style, and, either alone, or in company with a young sister, or a young friend, goes over to the lodge where the young man lives, and places the food before him. He eats some of it, little or much, and if he leaves anything, the girl offers it to his mother, who may eat of it. Then the girl takes the dishes and returns to her father's lodge. In this way she provides him with three meals a day, morning, noon, and night, until the marriage takes place. Every one in camp who sees the girl carrying the food in a covered dish to the young man's lodge, knows that a marriage is to take place; and the girl is watched by idle persons as she passes to and fro, so that the task is quite a trying one for people as shy and bashful as Indians are. When the time for the marriage has come,—in other words, when the girl's parents are ready,—the girl, her mother assisting her, packs the new lodge and her own things on the horses, and moves out into the middle of the circle—about which all the lodges of the tribe are arranged—and there the new lodge is unpacked and set up. In front of the lodge are tied, let us say, fifteen horses, the girl's dowry given by her father. Very likely, too, the father has sent over to the young man his own war clothing and arms, a lance, a fine shield, a bow and arrows in otter-skin case, his war bonnet, war shirt, and war leggings ornamented with scalps,—his complete equipment. This is set up on a tripod in front of the lodge. The gift of these things is an evidence of the great respect felt by the girl's father for his son-in-law. As soon as the young man has seen the preparations being made for setting up the girl's lodge in the centre of the circle, he sends over to his father-in-law's lodge just twice the number of horses that the girl brought with her,—in this supposed case, thirty.

As soon as this lodge is set up, and the girl's mother has taken her departure and gone back to her own lodge, the young man, who, until he saw these preparations, had no knowledge of when the marriage was to take place, leaves his father's lodge, and, going over to the newly erected one, enters and takes his place at the back of it. Probably during the day he will order his wife to take down the lodge, and either move away from the camp, or at least move into the circle of lodges; for he will not want to remain with his young wife in the most conspicuous place in the camp. Often, on the same day, he will send for six or eight of his friends, and, after feasting them, will announce his intention of going to war, and will start off the same night. If he does so, and is successful, returning with horses or scalps, or both, he at once, on arrival at the camp, proceeds to his father-in-law's lodge and leaves there everything he has brought back, returning to his own lodge on foot, as poor as he left it.

We have supposed the proposal in this case to come from the father of the girl, but if a boy desires a particular girl for his wife, the proposal will come from his father; otherwise matters are managed in the same way.

This ceremony of moving into the middle of the circle was only performed in the case of important people. The custom was observed in what might be called a fashionable wedding among the Blackfeet. Poorer, less important people married more quietly. If the girl had reached marriageable age without having been asked for as a wife, she might tell her mother that she would like to marry a certain young man, that he was a man she could love and respect. The mother communicates this to the father of the girl, who invites the young man to the lodge to a feast, and proposes the match. The young man returns no answer at the time, but, going back to his father's lodge, tells him of the offer, and expresses his feelings about it. If he is inclined to accept, the relations are summoned, and the matter talked over. A favorable answer being returned, a certain number of horses—what the young man or his father, or both together, can spare—are sent over to the girl's father. They send as many as they can, for the more they send, the more they are thought of and looked up to. The girl, unless her parents are very poor, has her outfit, a saddle horse and pack horse with saddle and pack saddle, parfleches, etc. If the people are very poor, she may have only a riding horse. Her relations get together, and do all in their power to give her a good fitting out, and the father, if he can possibly do so, is sure to pay them back what they have given. If he cannot do so, the things are still presented; for, in the case of a marriage, the relations on both sides are anxious to do all that they can to give the young people a good start in life. When all is ready, the girl goes to the lodge where her husband lives, and goes in. If this lodge is too crowded to receive the couple, the young man will make arrangements for space in the lodge of a brother, cousin, or uncle, where there is more room. These are all his close relations, and he is welcome in any of their lodges, and has rights there.

Sometimes, if two young people are fond of each other, and there is no prospect of their being married, they may take riding horses and a pack horse, and elope at night, going to some other camp for a while. This makes the girl's father angry, for he feels that he has been defrauded of his payments. The young man knows that his father-in-law bears him a grudge, and if he afterwards goes to war and is successful, returning with six or seven horses, he will send them all to the camp where his father-in-law lives, to be tied in front of his lodge. This at once heals the breach, and the couple may return. Even if he has not been successful in war and brought horses, which of course he does not always accomplish, he from time to time sends the old man a present, the best he can. Notwithstanding these efforts at conciliation, the parents feel very bitterly against him. The girl has been stolen. The union is no marriage at all. The old people are ashamed and disgraced for their daughter. Until the father has been pacified by satisfactory payments, there is no marriage. Moreover, unless the young man had made a payment, or at least had endeavored to do so, he would be little thought of among his fellows, and looked down on as a poor creature without any sense of honor.

The Blackfeet take as many wives as they wish; but these ceremonies are only carried out in the case of the first wife, the "sits-beside-him" woman. In the case of subsequent marriages, if the man had proved a good, kind husband to his first wife, other men, who thought a good deal of their daughters, might propose to give them to him, so that they would be well treated. The man sent over the horses to the new father-in-law's lodge, and the girl returned to his, bringing her things with her. Or if the man saw a girl he liked, he would propose for her to her father.

Among the Blackfeet, there was apparently no form of courtship, such as prevails among our southern Indians. Young men seldom spoke to young girls who were not relations, and the girls were carefully guarded. They never went out of the lodge after dark, and never went out during the day, except with the mother or some other old woman. The girl, therefore, had very little choice in the selection of a husband. If a girl was told she must marry a certain man, she had to obey. She might cry, but her father's will was law, and she might be beaten or even killed by him, if she did not do as she was ordered. As a consequence of this severity, suicide was quite common among the Blackfoot girls. A girl ordered to marry a man whom she did not like would often watch her chance, and go out in the brush and hang herself. The girl who could not marry the man she wanted to was likely to do the same thing.

The man had absolute power over his wife. Her life was in his hands, and if he had made a payment for her, he could do with her about as he pleased. On the whole, however, women who behaved themselves were well treated and received a good deal of consideration. Those who were light-headed, or foolish, or obstinate and stubborn were sometimes badly beaten. Those who were unfaithful to their husbands usually had their noses or ears, or both, cut off for the first offence, and were killed either by the husband or some relation, or by the I-kun-uh'-kah-tsi for the second. Many of the doctors of the highest reputation in the tribe were women. It is a common belief among some of those who have investigated the subject that the wife in Indian marriage was actually purchased, and became the absolute property of her husband. Though I have a great respect for some of the opinions which have been expressed on this subject, I am obliged to take an entirely different view of the matter. I have talked this subject over many times with young men and old men of a number of tribes, and I cannot learn from them, or in any other way, that in primitive times the woman was purchased from her father. The husband did not have property rights in his wife. She was not a chattel that he could trade away. He had all personal rights, could beat his wife, or, for cause, kill her, but he could not sell her to another man.

All the younger sisters of a man's wife were regarded as his potential wives. If he was not disposed to marry them, they could not be disposed of to any other man without his consent.

Not infrequently, a man having a marriageable daughter formally gave her to some young man who had proved himself brave in war, successful in taking horses, and, above all, of a generous disposition. This was most often done by men who had no sons to support them in their old age.

It is said that in the old days, before they had horses, young men did not expect to marry until they had almost reached middle life,—from thirty-five to forty years of age. This statement is made by Wolf Calf, who is now very old, almost one hundred years, he believes, and can remember back nearly or quite to the time when the Blackfeet obtained their first horses. In those days, young women did not marry until they were grown up, while of late years fathers not infrequently sell their daughters as wives when they are only children.

The first woman a man marries is called his sits-beside-him wife. She is invested with authority over all the other wives, and does little except to direct the others in their work, and look after the comfort of her husband. Her place in the lodge is on his right-hand side, while the others have their places or seats near the door-way. This wife is even allowed at informal gatherings to take a whiff at the pipe, as it is passed around the circle, and to participate in the conversation.

In the old days, it was a very poor man who did not have three wives. Many had six, eight, and some more than a dozen. I have heard of one who had sixteen. In those times, provided a man had a good-sized band of horses, the more wives he had, the richer he was. He could always find young men to hunt for him, if he furnished the mounts, and, of course, the more wives he had, the more robes and furs they would tan for him.

If, for any cause, a man wished to divorce himself from a woman, he had but to send her back to her parents and demand the price paid for her, and the matter was accomplished. The woman was then free to marry again, provided her parents were willing.

When a man dies, his wives become the potential wives of his oldest brother. Unless, during his life, he has given them outright horses and other property, at his death they are entitled to none of his possessions. If he has sons, the property is divided among them, except a few horses, which are given to his brothers. If he has no sons, all the property goes to his brothers, and if there are no brothers, it goes to the nearest male relatives on the father's side.

The Blackfeet cannot be said to have been slave-holders. It is true that the Crees call the Blackfeet women "Little Slaves." But this, as elsewhere suggested, may refer to the region whence they originally came, though it is often explained that it is on account of the manner in which the Blackfeet treat their women, killing them or mutilating their features for adultery and other serious offences. Although a woman, all her life, was subject to some one's orders, either parent, relative, or husband, a man from his earliest childhood was free and independent. His father would not punish him for any misconduct, his mother dared not. At an early age he was taught to ride and shoot, and horses were given to him. By the time he was twelve, he had probably been on a war expedition or two. As a rule in later times, young men married when they were seventeen or eighteen years of age; and often they resided for several years with their fathers, until the family became so large that there was not room for them all in the lodge.

There were always in the camp a number of boys, orphans, who became the servants of wealthy men for a consideration; that is, they looked after their patron's horses and hunted, and in return they were provided with suitable food and clothing.

Among the Blackfeet, all men were free and equal, and office was not hereditary. Formerly each gens was governed by a chief, who was entitled to his office by virtue of his bravery and generosity. The head chief was chosen by the chiefs of the gentes from their own number, and was usually the one who could show the best record in war, as proved at the Medicine Lodge,[1] at which time he was elected; and for the ensuing year he was invested with the supreme power. But no matter how brave a man might have been, or how successful in war, he could not hope to be the chief either of a gens or of the tribe, unless he was kind-hearted, and willing to share his prosperity with the poor. For this reason, a chief was never a wealthy man, for what he acquired with one hand he gave away with the other. It was he who decided when the people should move camp, and where they should go. But in this, as in all other important affairs, he generally asked the advice of the minor chiefs.

[Footnote 1: See chapter on Religion.]

The I-kun-uh'-kah-tsi (All Comrades) were directly under the authority of the head chief, and when any one was to be punished, or anything else was to be done which came within their province as the tribal police, it was he who issued the orders. The following were the crimes which the Blackfeet considered sufficiently serious to merit punishment, and the penalties which attached to them.

Murder: A life for a life, or a heavy payment by the murderer or his relatives at the option of the murdered man's relatives. This payment was often so heavy as absolutely to strip the murderer of all property.

Theft: Simply the restoration of the property.

Adultery: For the first offence the husband generally cut off the offending wife's nose or ears; for the second offence she was killed by the All Comrades. Often the woman, if her husband complained of her, would be killed by her brothers or first cousins, and this was more usual than death at the hands of the All Comrades. However, the husband could have her put to death for the first offence, if he chose.

Treachery (that is, when a member of the tribe went over to the enemy or gave them any aid whatever): Death at sight.

Cowardice: A man who would not fight was obliged to wear woman's dress, and was not allowed to marry.

If a man left camp to hunt buffalo by himself, thereby driving away the game, the All Comrades were sent after him, and not only brought him back by main force, but often whipped him, tore his lodge to shreds, broke his travois, and often took away his store of dried meat, pemmican, and other food.

The tradition of the origin of the I-kun-uh'-kah-tsi has elsewhere been given. This association of the All Comrades consisted of a dozen or more secret societies, graded according to age, the whole constituting an association which was in part benevolent and helpful, and in part military, but whose main function was to punish offences against society at large. All these societies were really law and order associations. The Mŭt'-sĭks, or Braves, was the chief society, but the others helped the Braves.

A number of the societies which made up the I-kun-uh'-kah-tsi have been abandoned in recent years, but several of them still exist. Among the Pi-kun'-i, the list—so far as I have it—is as follows, the societies being named in order from those of boyhood to old age:—


Tsĭ-stīks', Little Birds, includes boys from 15 to 20 years old.

Kŭk-kūīcks', Pigeons, men who have been to war several times.

Tŭis-kĭs-tīks, Mosquitoes, men who are constantly going to war

Mŭt'-sĭks, Braves, tried warriors.

Knăts-o-mi'-ta, All Crazy Dogs, about forty years old.

Ma-stoh'-pa-ta-kīks Raven Bearers.

E'-mi-taks, Dogs, old men. Dogs and Tails are different societies, Is'-sui, Tails, but they dress alike and dance together and alike.

Ĕts-āi'-nah, Horns, Bloods, obsolete among the Piegans, Sin'-o-pah, Kit-foxes, Piegans, but still exists with Bloods.

Ĕ-ĭn'-a-ke, Catchers or Soldiers, obsolete for 25-30 years, perhaps longer.

Stŭ'mīks, Bulls, obsolete for 50 years.

There may be other societies of the All Comrades, but these are the only ones that I know of at present. The Mūt'-sĭks, Braves, and the Knats-o-mi'-ta, All Crazy Dogs, still exist, but many of the others are being forgotten. Since the necessity for their existence has passed, they are no longer kept up. They were a part of the old wild life, and when the buffalo disappeared, and the Blackfeet came to live about an agency, and to try to work for a subsistence, the societies soon lost their importance. The societies known as Little Birds, Mosquitoes, and Doves are not really bands of the All Comrades, but are societies among the boys and young men in imitation of the I-kun-uh'-kah-tsi, but of comparatively recent origin. Men not more than fifty years old can remember when these societies came into existence. Of all the societies of the I-kun-uh'-kah-tsi, the Sin'-o-pah, or Kit-fox band, has the strongest medicine. This corresponds to the Horns society among the Bloods. They are the same band with different names. They have certain peculiar secret and sacred ceremonies, not to be described here.

The society of the Stum'-īks, or Bulls, became obsolete more than fifty years ago. Their dress was very fine,—bulls' heads and robes.

The members of the younger society purchased individually, from the next older one, its rights and privileges, paying horses for them. For example, each member of the Mosquitoes would purchase from some member of the Braves his right of membership in the latter society. The man who has sold his rights is then a member of no society, and if he wishes to belong to one, must buy into the one next higher. Each of these societies kept some old men as members, and these old men acted as messengers, orators, and so on.

The change of membership from one society to another was made in the spring, after the grass had started. Two, three, or more lodge coverings were stretched over poles, making one very large lodge, and in this the ceremonies accompanying the changes took place.

In later times, the Braves were the most important and best known of any of the All Comrades societies. The members of this band were soldiers or police. They were the constables of the camp, and it was their duty to preserve order, and to punish offenders. Sometimes young men would skylark in camp at night, making a great noise when people wanted to sleep, and would play rough practical jokes, that were not at all relished by those who suffered from them. One of the forms which their high spirits took was to lead and push a young colt up to the door of a lodge, after people were asleep, and then, lifting the door, to shove the animal inside and close the door again. Of course the colt, in its efforts to get out to its mother, would run round and round the lodge, trampling over the sleepers and roughly awakening them, knocking things down and creating the utmost confusion, while the mare would be whinnying outside the lodge, and the people within, bewildered and confused, did not know what the disturbance was all about.

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