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American Museum of Natural 

Vol. V, Part I. 




Published by Order of the Trustees. 

March, 1910. 

«,-.■ ■■■■■■ 

.35^ W ^2- 

American Museum of Natural History. 


The results of research conducted by the Anthropological staff of the Museum, 
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Vol. V. Part I. The Material Culture of the Blackfoot Indians. By Clark 

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American Museum of Natural History 

Vol. V, Part I. 


By Clark Wissler. 


Food Habits 

Methods of Preparation 

Cooking . 

Utensils . 


Comparative Notes 

Textile Arts . 

Technique of Bead and Q 

Feather Work 

Skin Dressing 

Soft Bags and Pouches 

Rawhide Bags 




IMusical Instruments 
Transportation . 

Cradles . 

The Travois . 

Riding Gear 

Sleds and Snow Shoes 


The Tipi 

Comparative Notes 

uill Work 




Anihrogological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. Y, 

Dress ..... 

Men's Suits 


Collars and Mittens 

Women's Suits 

Belts .... 

Moccasins . . . 

Hair Dress 

Combs .... 

Hair and Neck Ornaments 

Tattooing and Mutilation 

Pigments and Painting . 

Comparative Notes 
Weapons and Warfare 

Bows, Arrows and Quivers 




General Discussion 





I. Boiling in Paunch Vessels and Dressing Skins. 

II. Tipis and other Objects. 

III. Scraping a Hide. 

IV. Dressing a Hide. 
V. Drying a Hide. 

VI. Setting up a Tipi. 
VII. Tipi Interiors. 
VIII. A Travois and Tipi-shelter. 

Te.xt Figures. 

1. Types of Mauls 

2. Meat drying Rack 

3. Types of Spoons 

4. A Dipper 

5. Stone Knives 

6. A bone Knife 

7. A Steel for striking Fire 

8. Plan of a Buffalo Pound 

9. A Deadfall . 

10. A fish Trap . 

11. Stitches used in Sewing 

12. Frame for a Back Rest 



Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 

13. The Back Rest Stitch . 
14-21. Bhickfoot Quill Work 
22-31. Quill Work of other Tribes 

32. A Hide Scraper of Stone 

33. Types of Scrapers 

34. Types of Fleshers 

35. A Pipe Bng . 

36. A Paint Bag . 

37. A carrying Bag 

38. A Bodkin Case 

39. A Toilet Bag for Young Men 

40. A Bag reaily for Sewing 

41. A Bag .... 

42. A fringed Bag 

43. A Medicine Case 

44. A small Medicine Case . 
4.5. A painted Hide for Parfleche and Bags 

46. A parfleche Pattern 

47. A Parfleche . 

48. A Man's Pipe 

49. A Woman's Pipe . 

50. An Inlaid Pipe secured in Trade 

51. A Knife Shai'pener 

52. A Drum 

53. A Rattle 

54. A Whistle 

55. A Baby Board 

56. Types of Travois 

57. A Saddle 

58. A Crupper 

59. A Saddle Bag 

60. The Blackfoot Tie 
61-3. Patterns of Tipi Covers 
64. Ground plan of a Tipi . 
65-6. Patterns of Back Walls 

67. Pattern of an Arapaho Tipi 

68. The Assiniboine Tie 

69. The Teton Tie 

70. The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tie 

71. A Man's Shirt 

72. Pattern for a Shirt 

73. A Man's Leggings 

74. Part of a Blanket Band 

75. A Woman's Dress 

76. Pattern for a Dress 

77. A Woman's Legging 

78. The One-Piece Moccasin Pattern 

79. Pattern of tapper for a Hard Soled Moccasin 


Ajithropological Papers American Mvsc7nn of Natural History. [Vol. \'. 

80. A Blaekfoot Moccasin 

81. A Hair Brush 

82. A Hair Brush of Horse 
83-98. Moccasin Patterns 
99. The Comanche Sole 

100. The Lace 

101. A Bow and Quiver 

102. ABow 

103. A War Club 




In this second paper of a series upon the Blackfoot Indians, the writer 
is again greatly indebted to Mr. D. C. Duvall, without whose aid and interest 
much of the information could not have been secured. As before, the greater 
part of the data come from the Piegan and Blood divisions, yet, many of our 
informants among these divisions were quite familiar with the life of the 
Northern Blackfoot, so that the statements given, may be taken as fairly 
representative. In rendering this characterization of Blackfoot material 
culture we have made use of such comparative data as came readily to hand, 
that this culture might be seen, not in isolation, but in relation to other cul- 
tures. Occasionally, we have carried these comparisons to considerable 
length in order to follow what seemed to be suggestions of former historical 
relations among the tribes concerned. In no case, however, have we sought 
to make a complete cultural survey of the Plains area. In the discussion 
we have followed the data gathered by us in the field but at the same time 
have taken note of the literature, especially that of the older writers, and in 
using the footnotes the reader should bear in mind that, unless the con- 
trary is stated, the citations are given as confirmation and not as authority 
for the statements in the text. The Avorks of greatest value to the student 
of the Blackfoot are the journal of the younger Henry, the writings of Maxi- 
milian and the later but much more complete accounts by George Bird 
Grinnell. As the first dates back to about 1808, the last to the years im- 
mediately preceding 1890, and oiu' own data to some twenty years later, 
these taken together give us a view of Blackfoot cultural history spanning 
a century, or almost the entire period they are known to history. We have 
sought by the supplementary aid of all previous contributions to present a 
fairly complete view of this culture as it existed in its historic prime, recog- 
nizing, however, that at all times during this interval it was subject to modi- 
fication from contact with both white and Indian, and that it can not be 
said to have been strictly stationary at any time during the period. 

We have made freciuent reference to the subject matter of myths and 
narratives published in Volume II of this series in which appear con- 
firmations of our other data but also presentations of cultural habits in a 
functional setting of daily events, thus affording a more realistic view of 
Blackfoot life. 

Acknowledgments are due Dr. Robert H. Lowie for important data 

Q Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

from the Northern Blackfoot and to !Mr. Walter ]McCHntock for many 
suggestions both in the field and at home. Recognition also should be given 
the many officials and traders of the various reservations and the Canadian 
mounted police, all of whom assisted us in many ways necessary to our 
success. In the preparation of the manuscript Mr. William C. Orchard 
gave special assistance with the tipi ties and worked out many moccasin 
patterns and cjuill techniques found in the area, descriptions of which he 
contributed to the text as indicated therein. Miss Ruth B. Howe made the 
drawings and contributed data on the types of stitches. For assistance 
with the manuscript and proof, the writer is under obligations to Miss Bella 

Clark Wissler. 
New York. 

October ], 1909. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfuot Indiayis. 


As the aim of this paper is to present Blackfoot material cailture in per- 
spective rather than in isolation, some ethnographic discussion seems in 
order. Many older writers speak of a Blackfoot confederacy composed of 
the Blackfoot, Sarcee, and Gros Ventre. Occasionally, the Kootenai are 
included. We found no evidence of any bonds between these tribes other 
than the usual alternating periods of friendship and strife. Thus, while 
the Sarcee seem to have been regarded as in a sense near relatives, the 
Gros Ventre and Kootenai were often treated as enemies. The Flatheads, 
Nez Perce, Northern Shoshone, Crow, Haidatsa, Assiniboine and Cree 
were usually considered as enemies, though there were, as among Indians 
of liliis area, alternate periods of hostility and truce. In many narratives, 
we find the young men fall to fighting while their elders are discussing peace 
in council, which indicates, in a characteristic manner, the status of inter- 
tribal relations. It is true that within historical times there did exist a bond 
of blood due to intermarriage between the Blackfoot on one hand and the 
Sarcee and Gros Ventre on the other, but there is no evidence for the existence 
of a formal political alliance of any sort. 

The Blackfoot call themselves Siksikauw^'' (black-foot-people). In 
addition to the main body, there were two tribes: the Kainaw^, or Blood, 
and the Pikunjiw^, or Piegan. So far as could lie learned, these divisions 
recognized no sovereignty of the main body, though all considered them- 
selves bound by ties of common descent. For many years the main body, 
or Northern Blackfoot, together with the Blood and some Piegan, have 
lived on separate reservations in Alberta. The greater part of the Piegan 
occupy a reservation in ^Montana. In conse([uence of this location, the 
Piegan are usually spoken of as the Northern and Southern Piegan respec- 
tively, who, if not now ethnically distinct, are at least politically so. 

Mention of the Blackfoot will be found in most of the journals and 
narratives of the fur traders of the Old Northwest. From such of these as 
are available, it appears that in 17S7, at least, the Blackfoot were already a 
typical Plains people, provided with horses and living chiefly upon the 
buffalo. The most ])recise definition of the country occupied !)y the Piegan 
is given by Henry, who says that they occupied in 1810 the same territory as 
when first met by trailers.^ This was along the foot of the Rocky ^Nloun- 

I Ileniy and Tlioiiii)si)ii, 670. 704. 

8 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V 

tains on the head waters of the various branches of the Saskatchewan. 
Bow River is mentioned as their chief place of residence and Thompson 
reported several camps near the present site of Calgary. Henry also men- 
tions their driving buffalo along Red Deer River, probably south and south- 
east of Rocky Mountain House. Throughout his journal, the Piegan are 
considered as near the mountains and he makes the interesting statement 
that one band lived almost entirely in the foothills, trapping beaver and 
seldom resorting to the Plains. The general import of Henry's account is 
that the home of the Piegan was in Alberta, along and south of the present 
main line of the Canadian Pacific Railroad. ^Mackenzie's ^ account is 
much the same, but more inclusive, for he says that they lived on the head 
waters of the south branch of the Saskatchewan, which area would com- 
prise a large triangular portion of Alberta between the Belly and Bow Rivers. 
However, the probability is, that jNIackenzie had only the Bow River in 
mind. Thompson, according to his editor's note, first named Bow River, 
Pekakemew or Pekahkemew." This was evidently intended for Piegan.^ 
Yet, the best proof that the Piegan lived near the mountains is that they 
traded at Rocky Mountain House, on Clearwater River, which post, accord- 
ing to Henry, was opened expressly for trade with the Piegan, Sarcee and 
Gros Ventre.'* Curiously, Harmon does not mention the Piegan on his map, 
but places Gros Ventre between Red Deer and Bad Rivers. 

The Blood and Blackfoot traded at the mouth of Vermillion River and at 
Fort Augustus (Edmonton) which would place them northeast of the Piegan.' 
All accounts agree in placing the Blood adjacent to the Piegan, and Vlac- 
kenzie ^ states that they ranged on the south branch of the Saskatchewan. 
This Avould Ije along the Red Deer River and southward. Somewhere to 
the east or northeast of these were the Blackfoot. 

The whole territory of the Piegan, Blood and Blackfoot is defined by 
Henry as follows: — "a line due south from Vermillion Fort to the south 
branch of the Saskatchewan and up that stream to the foot of the Rocky 
]Mountains; then goes N. along the mountains until it strikes the N. branch 
of the Saskatchewan, and down that stream to Vermillion River." ^ Henry 
was remarkably exact in the location of trading posts, etc., from which it is 
reasonable to infer that he took pains to inform himself as to the boundaries 
of the Indians. Yet, he is not quite consistent as to the southern boundary, 

1 Mackenzie, Ixx. 

2 Henry and Thompson, 485. 

3 Maclean, (h), 21, states that Bow River is naiiieil froai tlie wood found ( n its banks 
suital>le for making bows. 

* Henry and Thompson, 721. 

5 Henry and Thompson, 506, 576. 

" Mackenzie, Ixx. 

"■ Henry and Thompson, 524. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 9 

for in .s])eaking of the Piegaii in another place, he says that they extended to 
the ^Missouri.' That they sometimes went to that river is certain, but tratUng 
estabHshments were not opened upon that stream or in the adjacent parts of 
the valley until about 1831, which would of itself account for a tendency on 
the part of these tribes to camp on the Saskatchewan near the posts of 

The Gros Ventre, Fall Indians, or Atsina, seem to have lived in the fork 
of the Bow River and Red Deer River. Umfreville, who seems to be the 
first to mention these people, is not very definite in his location of their terri- 
tory but placed them on the south branch of the Saskatchewan from the 
rapids of which they took the name of Fall Indians. He claims that com- 
munication with them was by means of the Blackfoot language since many 
of them could speak that tongue. It is also interesting to note that while 
he found a great deal of intermarriage, the Blackfoot did not learn the 
language of the Gros Ventre.' Henry made a precise statement as to the 
home of the Gros Ventre to the effect that formerly they occu])ied the point 
of land between Red Deer and Bow Rivers but now (1810) reside south of 
the Piegan on the head waters of streams entering the Missouri.^ This would 
place them within the present bounds and eastward of the Blackfoot Indian 
Reservation, ^Montana. The journal of Harmon makes frequent mention 
of the Fall Indians as residing on the South Branch between the Assiniboine 
and the Blackfoot. Hayden gives the most complete historical account, 
but, as to the sources of his information, the writer is ignorant. The general 
import of all our information is that at or about 1800 the Gros Ventre lived 
along the South Branch of the Saskatchewan and perhaps on the head 
waters of the Marias and Milk Rivers. They seem to have made journeys 
to the south and also to the east into the country of the Assiniboine with 
whom and with the Cree they were often at war. 

We have yet to consider the Sarcee. Umfreville * speaks of them as 
seldom visiting his j)ost and that they had recently fallen out with the Blood. 
Henry ^ devotes a paragraph to the Sarcee in which it is inferred that until 
about 1800 they lived on the north side of the north branch of the Sas- 
katchewan, hunted beaver and made themselves useful to the fur traders, 
but that after that date they spent a great deal of time on the south side, 

' Henry and Thompson, 723. 

2 Henry and Thompson, 485, note that the south branch of the Saskatchewan was some- 
times called Big Belly Fork. The present Belly River in Alberta is noted by Maclean, (h) p. 21, 
as having received its name from the Gros Ventre who once lived in its valley. However, the 
modern Piegan claim that the name is their own and has no reference to the Gros Ventre. 

3 Henry and Thompson, 530. 
i Umfreville, 198. 

5 Henry and Thompson, .5.32. 737. 

10 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

where, with the Blaekfoot, they feasted on buffalo. Then- usual aljode was 
about the Beaver Hills. The Sarcee are a tribe of the Beaver, or Castor 
Indians residing at that time on the Peace River. So far as known, these 
Beaver Indians did not possess the manners and customs of the Plains 
Indians, but in 1810 Henry says that the Sarcee were the same as "the other 
Meadow Indians." Harmon prepared a map showing the distribution of 
tribes in his time and, though this is a copy of Mackenzie's map, the editor 
claims that Harmon re-located the tribes. On this map, the Sarcee are 
placed next to the mountains to the northwest of Penbina River, partly 
separated from the Beaver Indians on Peace River by the western limits 
of the Cree. This would place them north of Rocky ]Mountain House. 
Maclean ^ gives a brief but interesting account of the Sarcee in which he 
recites traditional accounts of their separation from the main body to the 
effect, that, as a small band they seceded, going down to Lesser Slave Lake 
and to the Plains. They were lost to their kindred for more than a century 
and discovered by some visiting Beaver Indians at a trading post on the 
Saskatchewan. This writer claims them to be the oldest inhabitants of the 
Plains, though upon what ground is not stated. He discusses their probable 
number, (;|Uoting Sir John Franklin and other writers, and finds that the 
estimates vary from 300 to 1200 persons. They seem to have roamcfl a 
great deal; in 1843 they were found upon the Marias River. While they 
retained their native language, many of them spoke Cree and Blaekfoot.^ 

The distribution of the group is now fairly defined in the period of 1784- 
1810. The Sarcee kept well toward the mountains above Rocky ]Moun- 
tain House and toward Edmonton, and the Piegan below Rocky ^Mountain 
House toward the head waters of the ]\Iilk and Marias Rivers. Touching 
the latter on the south and east, were the Gros Ventre. These three ex- 
tended like a crescent over the head waters of the Saskatchewan. In the 
vicinity of Red Deer River were the Blood and beyond them toward Battle 
River were the Blaekfoot. It is not to be inferred that these tribes rigidly 
respected these boundaries for they were disposed to the roving, limiting 
life of all Plains Indians and were much given to intertribal intercourse. 

So far we have not given much consideration to the evidence for the 
southern boundary of Blaekfoot territory. Lewis and Clark made their 
journey along tlu' u])per Missouri without meeting the Piegan or Gros Ventre, 
though they were in fear of the latter. On the return trip Lewis ascended 
the ]Marias and its northern branch, Cut Bank, to within about twenty 
miles of the foothills of the mountains, where his party found aliandoned 
camps and later, on Two Medicine River, fell in with the Indians. Lewis 

1 Maclean, (i), 9-19. 

- Henry and Thompson, 737. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture uj Blackfuot Indians. H 

claims to have asked them if they were Gros Ventre and to have received an 
affirmative answer. The editor of Lewis and Clark's journals has identified 
them as belonging to the Blackfoot, probably Piegan.^ Grinnell, as quoted 
l)y Wheeler,- states that in 1895, a Piegan named Wolf Calf was living who 
claimed to have been a member of this party of Indians. We have heard 
the details of this from Piegan now living and find the narratives not only 
consistent with themselves, l)ut with the account of Lewis. Scott argues 
that the Indians met by Lewis v\'ere not Blackfoot.^ His evidence is that 
the spot where the engagement occurred was Gros Ventre territory, and 
Lewis' statement of identification. The former counts for nothing in this 
case, and as to the latter, an examination of Lewis' journal indicates a 
tendency to use the term Gros Ventre of the Prairies for the whole area of 
Northern Montana and upward. Further, as he was expecting to fall in 
with this tribe his identification should not be given absolute validity. We 
feel that anyone who has heard the detailed narratives of the Piegan, giving 
the names of the killed and injured, as handed down to the present genera- 
tion and in turn compares them with the account of Lewis, will at once 
agree that the Gros Ventre had no part in the fight. 

It seems probable that the party of Lewis were the first white men to 
ascend the jNIarias, yet the tendency of some writers to attribute the sub- 
sequent hostility of the Blackfoot and Gros Ventre to the affair with Lewis 
seems hasty, because they had previously met white men in Canada and 
elsewhere, but chiefly because the Teton River and the lower ]Marias were 
on the Blackfoot frontier where war parties expected to meet enemies. Here 
the Blackfoot and Gros Ventre fought the Crow and sometimes the Indians 
west of the mountains. Under such conditions any one found in this region 
was the logical enemy of the Piegan and Gros Ventre. The fact that this 
was the place of war seems to indicate that the real territory of the Blackfoot 
found its extreme southern limit at the head waters of the Cut Bank or Two 
]\Iedicine River. In this connection, it is of interest to find an editor's 
note ■* in Larpenteur's journal quoting from the Contributions of the ^Ion- 
tana Historical Society, that in the winter of 1830-31 a party of traders went 
up the jNIarias, meeting with no Indians until they encountered a war party 
at the mouth of Badger Creek l)y whom they were conducted to the nearest 
camp which was on .the Belly River, a branch of the Saskatchewan. The 
Piegan have definite consistent traditions that the Snake formerly occu])ied 
all the streams flowing toward the Missouri, that tliev were eventualh driv(>ii 

1 Lewis and Clark, 3, 1099 (Coues ed.). 

2 Along the Trail of Lewis and Clark. 

3 Scott, 545. 

* Larpeiiteur, 109. 

12 Anthropulogiail Papers American Museum of Natural Histonj. [Vol. V, 

out and that their people ditl not make definite movements toward the 
Missouri until horses became numerous among them. Thus, we may pass 
the consideration of the southern boundary with the statement that all the 
evidence at hand implies its approximate position before 1800 to have been 
near the Two ^Medicine River and eastward, or just below the United States 

The geographical j^osition of the Blackfoot may become clearer from a 
brief discussion of the tribes holding their frontiers. On the east were the 
Assiniboine whose territory is defined by Henry as follows: — "They are now 
numerous, and inhabit a vast extent of plains. Their lands may be said to 
commence at the Hair hills near Red river, thence running W. along the 
Assiniboine, from that to the junction of the North and South liranches of 
the Saskatchewan, and up the former branch to Fort Vermillion; then due 
S. to Battle river, then S. E. to the Missourie, down that river nearly to the 
INIandane villages, and finally N. E. to the Hair hills again. All this space 
of open country may be called the lands of the Assiniboines." ^ Hayden- 
has summarized the literature on the Assiniboine and his statements agree 
fairly well with those of Henry. He places the southwestern limit of their 
range at Woody ]Mountains and northwest from that point. This agrees 
with the line of Henry, as extending southeast from a point on Battle River. 
The northern l)oundary is placed at the corresponding branch of the Sas- 
katchewan. (It will be noted that these lines and those defining the terri- 
tory of the Blackfoot group leave a peculiar triangular area with its base 
at the Missouri, the ownership of which is not accounted for, probably a 
place for hunting and war.) Dr. Lowie,^ in his study of the Assiniboine 
has made it probable that they occupied this area long before their discovery 
l)y the whites and while this does not throw any light on the period of occu- 
pation by the Blackfoot group, it is at least suggestive. 

The Cree stretched westward like a narrow bantl through the woods on 
the north side of the north branch of the Saskatchewan to the northwest as 
far as the Peace River and the foot hills of the Rocky ^Mountains. Mac- 
kenzie* expresses the opinion that the Cree, since the advent of the English 
on Hudson Bay, pushed out westward in pursuit of beavers and the spoils 
of war, and by means of their superior arms forced the Athapascan north 
and the other tribes south. Hayden says that by tradition, the Cree claim 
to have held this territory as far as Slave and Athabasca Lakes in 1700 and 
that in 1800 there was a movement of the Assiniboine toward the Missouri.' 

' Henry and Thompson, 516. 

- Haj-den, 379. 

3 Vol. 4, Pt. 1, this series. 

■* Mackenzie, Ixxvi. 

5 Hayden, 235-248. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culiurc vf bluckjuot Indians. ]3 

These dates are probably quite inexact but in substance agree with tlie 
statements of Henrv ^ and Harmon. Whatever the facts mav be as to 
previous migrations, it is certain that the western outposts of the Cree were 
the northern neighliors of the Blackfoot group during the period of 1787 
to 1870. Battle River - in Henrv's time was an interesting point because the 
Cree were at its mouth, the Assiniboine on its lower course and the Black- 
foot on its upper, a condition which doubtless served to perpetuate the 
name of this stream, for he states that it was traditionally and actuallv the 
fighting place of the Cree and the Blackfoot. 

On the west was the Great Divide which was certainly a barrier, but the 
Blackfoot were by no means strangers to those who dwelt bevond. ^Vest 
of Glacier Lake, the Kootenai were to be found. Henry gives some inter- 
esting information as to their relations to the Blackfoot.^ From his post 
at Rocky ]\Iountain House he ascended the Saskatchewan, crossing the 
Divide and visiting the Kootenai. Dater, he speaks of finding their aban- 
doned lodges on the eastern side out on the edge of the Plains toward Rocky 
Mountain House. His description of the ruins leaves little room for doubting 
that the Kootenai had been at that place. Later,^ he says that similar lodges 
are found on the Clearwater and other streams. In a matter of fact wa\-, 
he states that formerly the Kootenai frequented that ])art of the Plains to 
make dried provisions. This is quite probable for the buffalo were found 
by him in and across the range ^ and he speaks of a Kootenai buft'alo drive 
on a cliff, similar to those of the Blackfoot. This writer claims that the 
Kootenai were driven into the mountains by the tribes from the east. How- 
ever this may be, the Piegan have traditions of driving the Kootenai west- 
ward across the mountains and finally becoming friends. Henrv ° savs 
that the Piegan were the nearest neighbors and friends of the Kootenai. 
Catlin ^ counts these Kootenai (Cotoune) as a part of the Blackfoot group. 

The whole Blackfoot group was ])erpetually at war with the tribes south 
of the Kootenai. Here were the Flatheads, Pend d'Oreille, Nez Perce, etc. 
These tribes seem to have been at peace with each other in the time of Henr\-, 
Cox, et. al., and made common cause against the Piegan and Gros Ventre. 
They did not reside east of the mountains, but resorted there at times to 
kill the buffalo. All of these tribes and the Snake made annual hunting 
trips to the head waters of the ^Missouri. That in the time of Umfreville, 

' Hayden is not likely to have known tla- j )uriial of Ilt-nry. 

- Henry and Thompson, .'iOO. 

3 Henry and Thompson, 6S7. 

'' Henry and Thompson, 703. 

s Henry and Thompson, 691. 

f' Henry and Thompson, 704. 

" Cathn, 1, 52. 

14 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

the great war road of the Blackt'oot was toward the ^lissouri and over into 
what is now Idaho is implied in his statement as to how they got their horses.^ 
Henry's journal makes mention in various places of parties being out in this 
direction for blood and jilunder. This writer takes the view that the brunt 
of this work fell to the Piegan, and that in consequence of their position they 
were often attacked by retaliating parties sent by the enemy. The Gros 
Ventre seem to have been most at Avar with the Crow and the Assiniboine. 
Thus, to state the situation figuratively, the Blackfoot group stood with 
backs to the corner of the Plains formed by the mountains on the west and 
the forests on the north, facing the hostile Cree, Assiniboine and Crow and 
also Shoshone, Nez Perce, etc. who threatened to break through the range 
at the headwaters of the Missouri. At no time in the historic period, how- 
ever, were they reduced to the mere passive defense of this position, but 
were ever aggressive from all parts of their frontier. 

The geography of the Blackfoot country is interesting. Their range 
lav between two great water ways leading to mountain portages in the Great 
Divide. On the north, the Peace River formed a link between the region 
now known as British Columbia and the ^Mackenzie Basin. On the south, 
the Columl)ia River was reached via the Snake River. Thus, until 1860, at 
the least, the tides of commerce and immigration rolled harmlessly past their 
frontiers; but, at last, the cattle men and transcontinental railroads claimed 
their lands. It may be due to this situation that the Blackfoot have pre- 
served so much of their past culture for, from such accounts as we have, they 
lived almost untouched until the extinction of the buffalo in 1879 or 1880." 
It is also significant of their })ower and numbers that they were able to hold 
this territory against other jjowerful tribes that were being crowded out of 
their traditional hunting grounds in the east. 

When the first white men visited the Blackfoot country is not easy to 
determine. It seems that in 1751 a temporary French post was opened 
near the present site of Calgary.^ The change produced Ijy the treaty end- 
ing the so-called French and Indian war induced the Hudson Bay and other 
companies to push into the ui)per Saskatchewan country as a route to the 
north and west. About 1790 many houses were established on the north 
branch. Henry speaks of a pine tree near Rocky ]Mountain House on 
which Peter Pangman cut his name in 1790 as marking the western limits 
of exploration at that time. Rocky ^Mountain House was established in 
1802. It appears from this, that while the Blackfoot may have met with 
the French they were not in real contact with A\hite traders until about 1790. 

1 Umfreville, 197. 
■^ Hale, 699. 
Bryce, 90. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. ]5 

Buffalo hunting Indians did not appeal to the trader of the old regime: to 
him no Indian was worthy of consideration unless he produced beaver skins. 
Henry's journal teems with depreciation of the indolent Slave (Blackfoot, 
Sarcee and Gros Ventre) who would not kill beaver. The great beaver 
country, however, was to the north of the north branch and all trading posts 
on this river were thus in touch with two types of hunters. 

AVith this general sketch of the ethnography of the Blackfoot, we may 
turn to their origin. One of the first to advance an opinion as to the move- 
ments of the Blackfoot, was Mackenzie.^ He believed them still moving 
toward the northwest. How he came to this opinion is not stated. Later, 
Hale regards them as having reached their country by crossing the Plains 
from the vicinity of the Red River. He states that the Rev. John Maclean, 
a missionary, made a study of this question and quotes him as follows: — 
"The former home of these people was in the Red River country, where, 
from the nature of the soil which blackened their moccasins, they were called 
Blackfeet." " Assuming that this is the Maclean who wrote Canadian Sav- 
age Folk, the following may be noted: — "The Blackfeet tell us in their 
traditional lore that they came in the distant past from the north, from some 
great lake, supposed to be Lake AVinnipeg. When the Bloods, Piegans, and 
Blackfeet were all one people, living together, and not separated into tribes, 
as at the present time, the South Piegans,. . . .preferred to live close to the 
mountains, which they called their home, while the other members of the 
confederacy dwelt in the north." ^ Hale ^ suggests that the Cree who pushed 
from the east to Red River forced out the Blackfoot, but quotes INI. Lacombe 
to the effect that the Blackfoot themselves claim to have migrated from the 
southwest across the Rocky Mountains. Hayden '" does not discuss the 
migrations, simi)ly stating that in 1789 they were known to occupy their 
present country and to have consisted of the same divisions as now. He 
makes the interesting statement that he has collected a mass of information 
for a future publication on these people, data which seem to have been 

However, the most extended discussion of this question is by Grinnell ^ 
who takes the opposite view. According to this writer they recently migrated 
from the north and were once a mountain people. As this is a matter of 
some importance it seems worth while to examine the evidence offered. 
]Mr. Grinnell is a careful student of the traditional history of the Indian and 

1 Mackenzie, Ixxi. 

2 Hale, 700. 

3 Maclean, (i), 49. 
* Hale, 700. 

5 Hayden, 253. » 

fi Grinnell, (d), l,-)3. 

]5 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural Histonj. ["\'ol. V, 

takes his assumi)tioii in the ])resent case from that source. He also notes a 
t -aclition, recorded by J. W. Schultz, to the effect that the Blackfoot came 
from the southwest which may be the same as that known to Lacombe. He, 
himseH', secured traditions and testimony that the people formerly lived 
north of the Red River and regarded all the country to the south as strange 
land. Then he proposes that within 200 years they lived in the forests 
around Lesser Slave Lake "northeast" (?) of their present abode. His 
evidence is that the Blackfoot name for north is, behind, and for south, 
before; that the Cree call the Blackfoot, Slaves, and Lesser Slave Lake, 
the Blackfoot Lake; and on the statements of a few individuals. The latter 
are in substance, that the people ascendetl a river, leaving behind a country 
of timber, finally coming in sight of mountains and going into them to live. 
Let us consider in turn the interpretations given these facts. 

When first observed the Blackfoot appear as a large nation in j^rocess 
of expansion and doubtless forcing out their borders. Naturally, the 
Piegan by virtue of their position would have traditions of a southward migra- 
tion and the introductioii of the horse must have tin-ned the eyes of all 
toward the south and southeast. Then, as the associations l)etween names 
and directions are not absolute, the ])eculiar relation expressed in the Black- 
foot language may be accidental. That the Piegan, from whom most of 
Grinnell's information seems to have come, now refer everything to the 
north, is natural because their larger reservation is south of their former 
home. As to the term Slave, the writer has not found opportunity for inves- 
tigation. Henry speaks of the Blackfoot and Gros Ventre as Slaves, but 
he seems to be the only writer of journals during the fur trade period who 
makes such use of the term. The editor ^ comments on this peculiar use of 
the term but can give no information respecting it. The term, hoAvever, 
seems to have been current among later traders and to have been applied 
with considerable freedom. Mackenzie states: — -"When this country 
was formerly invaded by the Knisteneaux [Cree], they found the Beaver 
Indians inhabiting the land about Portage la Loche; [near ]Melhy Lake], and 
the adjoining tribe were those whom they called slaves. They drove both 
these tribes before them : when the latter proceeded down the river from the 
lake of the hills [Lake Athabasca], in consequence of which that part of it 
obtained the name of Slave River. The former proceeded up the river; 
and when the Knisteneaux made peace with them, this place [Peace Point 
near mouth of Peace River] was settled to be the boundary." - Since 
Mackenzie speaks of the divisions of the Blackfoot under their proper names 

1 Henry and Thompson, 523. 
* 2 Mackenzie, 123. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot hulians. 17 

and when he explauis the term Slave ^ makes no mention of its a})plication to 
tribes to the south otherwise known to him, it api)ears strange that Henry 
should use the term. Yet Mackenzie's explanation that the term was 
employed by the Cree as one of reproach makes it probable that it may then 
have been suggested to traders as a class name for the Blackfoot and their 
neighbors. There are not wanting other instances of such naming, and 
taking everything into consideration, this seems the most probable. The 
analogy between the Cree name of "Little Slaves" and Lesser Slave Lake, 
has appealed to Grinnell as a strong point in the support of his views that 
the whole of the Blackfoot formerly lived at that place. So far we fail to 
see just grounds for taking the distribution of the term Slave in geographical 
nomenclature as evidence for the former correlated distribution of the 
Blackfoot. On the other hand, if the Mackenzie statement is to be taken, 
the conclusion of Grinnell that the Blackfoot lived next south of the Beaver 
Indians would imply that they resided in the vicinity of the Blackfoot Hills, 
or at the mouth of the Vermillion River. This brings us back to our former 
definition of boundaries and to the edge of the Plains. Thus, while we find 
no actual disproof of JNIr. Grinnell's theory, it does not seem c[uite consis- 
tent with other data. 

We collected traditions bearing upon the above points which seem to be 
inconsistent with the theory that the Blackfoot formerly lived in the northern 
forests. The Piegan, especially, claim that they came up from the south 
from a region beyond, or to the w^est, of the mountains and that they formerly 
lived north of their present reservation, sometimes wintering in the foothills, 
among the trees. The incidents in some of their myths, especially those of 
the Old ^lan, are often definitely located in the north, but this north is in all 
cases |)laced between INIacleod and Edmonton, within the territory assigned 
to the Blackfoot in the previous discussion. The Piegan claim that before 
the white man dominated their country (an uncertain date, probably 1750- 
1S40) the Blackfoot, Blood, and Piegan lived north of ^Nlacleod; the Koo- 
tenai in the vicinity of the present Blood Reserve; the Gros Ventre and the 
Assiniboine to the east of the Kootenai ; the Snake on the Teton River, and 
as far north as Two ]MedicIne River; and the Flatheads on the Sun River. 
These traditions were so definite and consistent that consideration must be 
given them. The other point of interest is that the traditional expansion 
of the Blackfoot that drove all these beyond the Mountains or elsewhere 
came after the introduction of the horse.^ Before taking u]> the discussion 
of this point, it is well to note that we made inquiry as to traditions of trading 
upon Hudson's Bay and other posts in that direction. Xo such traditions 

' Mackenzie, 3. 

2 Maclean, (i), 597, claims that tiie Snake were driven out of Alhertu by the Blackfoot. 

18 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Xatural History. [Vol. V, 

exist for posts beyond the Forks, and nothing of a definite nature for points 
east of Old Fort ^>rnlillion. Tlie Northern Blackfoot claim to have 
received their first knowledge of white men from the Cree and themselves 
to have met them near Edmonton. 

^Ye may conclude that the migration of the Blackfoot from the north 
as claimed by Grinnell, is proven only for the territory ])reviously defined 
and that there is very little data for the assum])tion that they moved down 
from the forests still further north. The fact that they lived in the extreme 
northern part of the Plains and were more or less familiar Avith the forest 
must l)e taken into account when assigning probable weight to the foregoing 
traditions of such residence.^ At any rate, the definite tradition that the 
Blackfoot came from across the mountains is equally valid when taken alone 
with the tradition favored by Grinnell. We have seen that there is little 
direct data to support either. This is a matter of considerable importance, 
for acceptance of the view that the Blackfoot lived farther north would make 
them a forest people; whereas so far, practically no traces of such a life are 
to be found in their traditional culture. The habitat Ave liaA^e defined is 
Avell Avithin the Plains, and their southern movement seems to haA'e been 
the modern tendency tov\'ard the Missouri, beginning Avith the establishment 
of trading posts in that area. In general, no satisfactory evidence has come 
to hand that the Blackfoot ever occupied other definite territory than their 
historic habitat, defined in the preceding pages. A more exhaustive dis- 
cussion of this prol)lem Avill be undertaken at another time. 

The tradition that the pushing out into the Upper INIissoiu'i region Avas 
after the introduction of the horse suggests inciuiring as to the time of this 
occurrence. Grinnell - states that tribal tratlition places the date for the 
introduction of the horse "in the very earliest years of the present century" 
(1800), but this is contradictory to historical evidence. Umfreville Avas near 
the mouth of the Red Deer River in 1784-7 and states most emphatically 
that the Blackfoot Avere Avell sup])lied Avith horses. The elder Henry ^ in 
1770 saAv among the Assiniboine "one of those herds of horses Avhich the 
Osinipoilles possess in numbers." The same Avriter states that, "Such of 
the Cristinaux as inhabit the plains, haA'e also their horses, like the Osini- 
poilles." He did not meet the Blackfoot but heard the Assiniboine speak of 
them as a poAverful nation Avith Avhom they Avere at war. Now, it seems 
quite probable that if the Cree and Assiniboine Avere Avell su})])lied Avith 
horses in 1776 their Avar-like neighbors on the Avest Avere likcAvise the owners 

1 Heniy's statement that one band lived entirely in the wooded foot-hills of the mountains 
on the west should be considered when reading Grinnell's statement of traditions. 

2 Grinnell, (a), 177. 

3 Henry, 289, 299. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 19 

of horses. Thus we have evidence of horses amoiio; the Blaekfoot in 17S4 
and good reason for assuming that they were introthiced at an earlier date. 
The journal of Henry and Thompson makes constant mention of horses. 
Of the tribes west of the Mountains, the Nez Perce ' are mentioned as well 
provided with them and the ])resence of wild horses, "freriuently seen in 
the large gangs," in the Kootenai country is noted." Teit ^ asserts that 
horses were known in the Thompson River country "towards the end of 
the eighteenth century." Clark* cpiotes a letter from Father Ravalli to the 
effect that the Pend D'Oreille saw horses "about one hundred and forty 
vears since." The time of writing is not given liut Avas before 1885, Avhich 
would place the date at about 1745. Such seems to be the nature of the 
data upon which any determination of the time for the introduction of the 
horse among the Blaekfoot must be based. While quite unsatisfactory, 
it indicates the probable date as earlier than 1776. Once, when discussing 
the subject, an Indian made a suggestive remark to the ^vriter. He said, in 
substance, that it often ha])pened that a whole tribe or part of a tribe was, 
due to some accident, hostile raid or gambling mania, deprived of horses 
for a season or two and that some of the traditions and observations recorded 
in books doubtless referred to such events rather than to the first introduction 
of the horse. Our traditional information is, in effect, that the Piegan 
received horses first from the Snake and Flathead Indians, that this was long 
before white men came to their country and that the time was about two 
hundred years ago. 

1 Henry and Thompson, 712. 
- Henry and Thompson, 708. 

3 Teit, 257. 

4 Clark, 300. 

20 Anihroj>oloyifal Papers American Museion of Xatural History. [\'ol. ^', 

Food Habits. 

No one seems to have made an exhaustive study of the food of the 
Blackfoot when they were living their free life. They have no traditions of 
agriculture and seem to have been a hunting people for many generations, 
depending chiefly upon the buffalo and other large mammals. Like other 
non-agricultural plains tribes, however, they consumed a considerable 
amount of vegetable food. One of the earliest observers says, "their chief 
subsistence is the flesh of buffaloes, the deer species and likewise vegetables."' 
A very satisfactory statement of Blackfoot vegetable foods has been made 
by Grinnell,- in which are enumerated the following: service berries, Ame- 
lanchier alnifolia; "wild cherries, Prunns demissa; bull berries, Shepherdia 
argentea; red willow berries; camas root, Camassia esculenta; prairie 
turnip, Psoralea escidenta; bitter root; and Ijuds of the wild rose, Rosa 
cinnamomea? According to statements of the Blackfoot, the prairie turnij) 
was seldom found north of the Sun River and the camas root rarely east 
of the foothills of the mountains in Montana.. Thus, these important foods 
were accessible only in the extreme southern part of their historic habitat. 
On the other hand, in their opinion, the service berry was the most important 
vegetable food, reference to its gathering and curing being frequent in cere- 
monies and narratives. In general, while the quantity of vegetable food con- 
sumed was considerable, it is well to note that such food was in a large part 
com])Ounded with the flesh of buffalo or animals of the deer kind, flesh being 
the primary food. 

Umfreville notes a taboo on certain kinds of animal foods: "they will 
eat no kind of water-fowl, amphibious animal, or fish." * From our own 
information, we infer that this statement is too sweeping, since such food 
was taken when the flesh of mammals was not at hand. The flesh of the 
bear was usually regarded as too sacred to be eaten. ^ Dogs were not eaten, 

' Umfreville. 202. 

2 Grinnell, (a) 203. 

3 After this was written a very complete list was i)ul>lislie(i by McClintock (277) with 
some different identifications: — ssrvic? berry, Amelanchier oblongifoUa; buffalo Ijerry, Elaetiy- 
nus argentea; berries of Disporuni trarhycarpum; cow parsnij), Heracleum lanatum; wild 
potato, Claytonia lanceolnta; smart weed, Polygonum histortoicles; wild onion. Alhhun rpcurvo- 
tum; Carolina milk vetch, Astragalu.'s carolinirums; bitter root. Levnsa irdivina; wild mint. 
Mentha canadeiisi.s: wild turnip, Lithospermum linearifotium: evening primrose, Mitscnium 
divarication. With the exception of the first two and mint, the roots were the parts eaten. 

■» Umfreville, 202. 

5 See also Maximilian, 252: "They feed on almost every kind of animal except the grizzly 
bear * * * * and they have an a^version to amphibious animals." 


Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 


though the modern intrusive society of the Hair-parters, makes some jjretense 
of servino; them at ceremonies. At present, fish and fowls are eaten when at 

According to Henrv, "They [Piegan] have no ]:)articular hour for meals: 
all day meat of some kind is on the fire." ^ When economic conditions 
permit, this is the present practice. 

MctIiofI>i of Preparation. The methods of ])reparing food are usually 
of considerable ethnogra])hical interest. During the berry season, the 
Blackfoot cam])s were shifted to favorable localities where the women and 
girls worked industriously gathering the fruit into rectangular rawhide bags, 
or similar Ijags of soft dressed skin, which when filled, were emptied into 

Fig. 1 b (50-5854), c (50-6433). Types of Mauls. Length of a, 46 cm. 

larger storage bags. The gathered fruit was taken to camp and dried in the 
sun, after which it was stored in ])arfieche or other bags. According to 
(irinnell,- service berries were beaten from the bushes, falling upon a robe 
or blanket, a reference to which occurs in our myth of the Old ^^Fan (page 29, 
Vol. 2). 

The wild cherry was gathered when ripe and pounded on a stone until 
the fruit with its ]>its was reduced to a thick ])aste. This was dried and 
l)acked away in bags or used in making pemmican. While this dried mess 
was sometimes eaten alone, it was more often used in soups. For j^ounding 

' Henry and Thompson, 724. 
2 Grinnell, (a). 203. 

22 Anthropological Papers American Museum of N'atural History. [Vol. V, 

the cherries a hammer was used. These hammers were of stone, usually 
hafted to wooden handles by shrunken rawhide. One specimen in the 
Museum collection, Fig. Ic, was obtained from the woman who made it. 
The head is of stone, egg-shaped, and has a transverse groove around the 
middle. The handle is of wood, apparently double, passing around the 
head in the groove. Over the whole, is a firm covering of rawhide. The 
entire head, except the mere surface of contact, is covered. At the end of 
the handle is a small loop for a cord. The woman stated that she found the 
stone already grooved. She had never heard of anyone shaping or grooving 
them, always using such as were found around old camp sites. The collec- 
tion contains another specimen, showing marks of long usage. Another very 
old specimen is somewhat heavier and has a head of different shape (Fig. la). 
There is also a small pounder with a short handle (Fig. lb). The stone 
head is of irregular shape, somewhat pointed at the top, grooved around the 
middle and covered with calfskin. This specimen seems to be of recent 
manufacture. While, as stated above, such hammers were often used in 
smashing cherries, their chief function seems to have been the breaking of 
bones in order to obtain the marrow. 

Edible roots were formerly gathered with the digging stick, an instrument 
now surviving only in ceremonies. Prairie turnips were often peeled, strung 
and hung up to dry, though a great many were consumed in the raw state. 
Again, the dried turnip was pounded fine and used for thickening soup. 
Camas was usually roasted at the gathering camp, dried in the sun and 
stored. In general, it may be said that practically all kinds of vegetable 
foods were dried and stored.^ 

It is a singular fact that most peoples possess some important article 
of diet corresponding to the bread of European races: for example, in 
America, the Californians used acorn meal, the agricultural Indians, corn 
meal, etc. While the Blackfoot had no cereal from Avhich such bread sub- 
stance could be made, they found a substitute in a compound of berries 
and flesh generally known as pemmican. For this, the best cuts of buffalo 
Avere dried in the usual manner. Then they were pounded on a stone until 
fine. Hammers, as })reviously described, were often used for this purpose. 
Just before jiounding, the pieces of dried meat Avere held OA'er the fire to 
make them soft and oily. ^^lari-ow and oth(M- fats Avere heated and mixed 
Avith the pounded meats, after which crushed wild cherries Avere Avorked into 
the mess. Often, a few leaves from the peppermint plant Avere added in 
order to give flavor to it. The Avhole Avas then packed into parfleche or 

1 Further details are given by Grinnell, (a), 203. Unless otherwise indicated, all references 
to other writers are cited as confirming information secured by us except where comparative 
data are introduced 


Wissler, Material Culture of Blael./aot /ndians. 


other bags, a compact sticky mass, easily pi'eserved and good lor eating 
■without further preparation. While the flesh of the buffalo was preferred 
for pemmican that of deer and elk would be used if at hand. The marrow 
fat was obtained l)y l)oiling cracked bones and skimming the floating fat 
from the top of the kettle with a dipper made of horn.^ As among many 
tribes, such marrow fat or grease, was often stored in bladders.^ The 
following specific statement of the above process may be added: — 

"Pemmican is manufactured in the following manner: The choicest cuts of 
meat are selected and cut into flakes and dried. Then all the marrow is collected 
and the best of the tallow, which are dissolved together over a slow fire to prevent 
burning.' J Many tribes use berries in their pemmican. Mountaineers always do 
unless they have sugar. The meat is now pulverized to the consistency of mince 


Meat drying Raclv. 

meat ;' the squaws''generally doing this on a flat rock, using a pestle, many specimens 
of which may be seen on exhibition in museums. A layer of meat is spread, about 
two inches thick, the squav.-s using a wooden dipper, a buffalo horn, or a claw for 
this w-ork. On this meat is spread a certain amount of ingredients made from the 
marrow and tallow, the proportion depending on the taste. This same process is 
repeated until the required amount is secured. One jjound of pemmican is equal 
to five pounds of meat. 

1 For another account see Grinnell, (a), 207. Franklin, 104, observed the Cree beating 
■dried meat spread on a rawhide, with a stone. 

2 For such a decorated bag of the Gros Ventre, see Kroeber, (a), 167. 

24 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

Buffalo tongues are split the long way and dried for future use, and thus pre- 
pared are a delicacy fit for a prince." ' 

In early days, the great fur companies of the northwest consumed a great 
deal of dried meat. To meet this demand, the Indians supplied a kind of 
pemmican, packed in large bags sealed with tallow. In buffalo days, the 
Blackfoot produced a great deal of this material. For their own use, they 
often stored buffalo meat, cut into small pieces and mixed with dried and 
toasted back-fat. 

]Meats not made into pemmican nor consumed while fresh, were dried 
for storage or other purposes. The flesh was cut into large thin slices and 
hung up to cure in the wind and sun. In order that it might be out of the 
reach of dogs a scaffold of poles was erected, similar to that shown in Fig. 2. 
In recent years a simple rack was much used. (Plate ii.) At night, the 
meat was either covered or taken into the tipi to protect it from moistiu'c. 
The flesh of cattle is dried in the same manner. Such dried meat was some- 
times eaten without further treatment, though it was usually toasted over the 
fire or even fried in a pan. 

Back-fat and suet did not keep well unles^ ])artly cooked before drying. 
A special form of back-fat, tised by the Blackfoot and other tribes, has been 
given the name "depuyer" (depouille), a good description of which has 
been given by Hamilton: — 

"Another important article of food, the equal of which is not to be had except 
from the buffalo, is "depuyer" (depouille). It is a fat substance that lies along the 
Ijackbone; next to the hide, running from the shoulder-blade to the last rib, and is 
about as thick as one's hand or finger. It is from seven to eleven inches broad; 
tapering to a feather edge on the lower side. It will weigh from five to eleven 
pounds, according to the size and condition of the animal. This substance is taken 
off and dipped in hot grease for half a minute, then is hung up inside of a lodge to 
dry and smoke for twelve hours. It will keep indefinitely, and is used as a substitute 
for bread, but is superior to any bread that was ever made. It is eaten with the lean 
and dried meat, and is tender and sweet and very nourishing, for it seems to satisfy 
the appetite. When going on the war-path the Indians would take some dried meat 
and some depuyer to live on, and nothing else, not even if they were to be gone for 
months." - 

Cooking. The cookery of the Blackfoot may be considered imder the 
heads of roasting and boiling. Under the former, we shall place all meth- 
ods not making direct use of vessels. Vegetable food was often roasted or 
baked. The prairie turnip was baked in hot ashes. The camas root re- 

1 Hamilton, 32. WJiile this account is not given as ])t'culiar to the Blaclvfoot, the details 
closely agree with our information. 

2 Hamilton, ,32. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culluic of Bluckj'ool Imliuns. 25 

ceived more elaborate treatment in wliich were manifested eertain social 
and ceremonial functions. According to our information, men were sup- 
posed to keej) at some distance from the cooking place. First, a hole about 
ten feet s(|uare and three feet deep was dug. Stones, very hot, were placed 
over the bottom and co\ered with wet willow leaves and branches. C)n this, 
the camas roots were ])laced, each ^\•oman dividing her ])ortion from, the 
others. Willow brush was placed on the toj) and earth heaped over it. 
On this earth the fire was built and carefully tended for thirty-six hours or 
more, imtil the odor from the Ijaking camas indicated the end. The fire 
was then raked away and the camas uncovered, at which a cloud of steam 
arose. The roots Avere then taken out and what was not eaten on the spot 
was dried and put in bags for storage. Should any of the individual portions 
of camas be burned, ill-luck would most certainly befall the woman to whom 
they belonged — "some of her relatives would die soon." ^ 

While meats were pi*eferred boiled, there were other methods in common 
use. According to Henry - meat was often roasted on a spit or broiled on 
coals. Our information indicates this to be true, especially in the case of 
ril.)s. The large intestine, cut in sections and dried, was broiled over coals, 
and occasionally sections of the smaller intestines, blown u]> with air and 
tied at the ends, were prepared by broiling over a fire. Again, a section of 
the large intestine was filled with blood and fat, the ends tied and the whole 
roasted by covering with hot ashes. It was turned about and tested from 
time to time with a pointed stick. 

A preparation called Crow-Indian-guts was regarded as a luxury. A 
section of the small intestine was cleaned and drawn over a long strip of 
meat, the ends tied and the whole held over the coals supported by a stick. 
Care was recpiired to keep the intestine from bursting and permitting the 
juices of the meat to escape. 

A method of cooking in a hole was sometimes used for meats. At the 
time of the buffalo drive, a hole might be dug in the ground, many hot 
stones placed in the bottom and over these a layer of willow branches and 
grass. Next, a layer or two of feotal and newly ])orn calves over which 
again were spread branches, grass and finally earth. This was spoken of as 
a dry cook. The hole was usually filled in the evening and by the following 
day it woukl be ready to uncover. A variation of this was similar to the 
mode of roasting camas. A hole was dug to the depth of four spans of the 
thumb and fore finger and lined with hot stones and brush as before. Dressed 
calves were wrapped in fresh hides, two hides spread over the brush, water 

' Grinnell, (a). 204, gives a similar account. 
- Hfiiry and Thompson, 724. 

26 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [\q\. \ . 

])oiu'cd in, the calves ((uickly })lace(l and the whole covered with two more 
fresh hides. The upjjer hide was stretched and staked. Then earth was 
heaped over all and a fire kindled on top. 

Eggs of water fowl were sometimes cooked in a hole with hot stones as 
described by Grinnell.^ No one seemed to have heard of a method of 
cooking eggs in a bark tube as described by McDougall.- 

Boiling seems to have been the favorite Blackfoot method of preparing 
food and they were especially fond of soups. The preparation of such food 
necessitated cooking vessels of some sort. It is not certain that the Black- 
foot ever made pottery, though some individuals claim such information to 
have been handed down to the present generation. An old woman had 
heard that cooking pots were once made of pulverized rock and some sticky 
material. She never heard of pots hollowed out of stone. A man had heard 
that pots were made a long time ago. They were fashioned of mud and 
sand. A bag of rawhide was filled with sand, greased on the outside and 
the pot shaped over it. The sand was then i)oured out and the bag with- 
drawn. The ])ot was filled with fat and hung over the fire to harden. When 
finished, it was tested by Ijoiling water in it. Such pots grew gradually 
harder Avith use.^ They were supported by a rawhide cord passing aroimd 
the rim. The cord had to he changed often. He also heard that pipes were 
formerly made of clay and hardened by holding over the fire. During this 
operation they were always kept rulibed with fat. Aside from these narra- 
tives, there is no evidence that pottery was made by the Blackfoot. That 
these statements may represent intrusive traditions is suggested by their 
seeming parallels among the Gros Ventre * and certain striking agreements 
with processes employed by the ^Nlandan and other village Indians. Ever 
since the advent of the fur trade, they have used kettles of iron, copper and 
brass. In the tipis, these kettles were formerly hung from tripods of wood 
by a wooden hook. In later years, a single rod with a curved top, ending 
in a hook, was in general use. 

Methods of boiling without pottery vessels were known and practised. 
Men on war parties or other expeditions of hazard prepared their meals in 
such manner as conditions permitted, but, as one informant expressed it, 
it was difficult to get on without some kind of soup, especially blood soup. 
This is the kind of soup referred to in the story of the Blood Clot Boy. Old 
people, women as well as men, frecpiently testified that such soup was best 
when prepared by the methods used on war or hunting parties. This 

1 Grinnell, (a), 207. 

2 McDougall. 57. 

3 For a similar statement in a mytli, see Vol. 2, 43. 

4 Kroeber, (a), 150. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 27 

method was to boil in a fresh hide or paunch by means of hot stones. We 
observed an old man demonstratino; the })roeess of which photo(;ra])hic illus- 
trations are shown in Plate i. 

In this case, four sticks about 40 cm. in length were driven into the 
ground on a radius of about 15 cm. Near the top of each stake was a kind 
of catch, or notch, the but of a projecting twig or branch. The fresh painich 
of a cow was brought out, a slit cut in the edge with a knife and thrust down 
over one of the stakes. A second slit was cut near this one, the edge of the 
paunch given a twist and slipped over the stick once more. In a similar 
manner, the edge of the paunch was adjusted to the other stakes at such 
points as gave it the form of a bag. The form of this bag was then improved 
by the addition of two other stakes similar to the four first placed. The 
bag was still a little too loose but was quickly adjusted by turning an edge 
over the top of a stake. The rough surface of the paunch was on the outside. 
A stone about the size of an egg was placed gently in the bottom of the bag 
which now just touched the ground. The demonstrator said that it would 
boil cpiickly if the bottom touched the ground and that the stone served to 
keep the bag in place. About a cpiart of blood with an ecjual amount of 
water was poured in. In the meantime, a number of stones had been heated 
in a fire of wood and cow chips. A stick about 60 cm. long with a forked 
end and a stick similar to those supporting the paunch were used to carry 
the hot stones. From time to time, these were gently slid into the soup which 
was stirred with the shorter stick. The cook tested the mess now and then, 
by licking the end of the stirring stick. When the soup threatened to l)oil 
over, a little water was poured into it. It was stated that other kinds of 
soup were made in such a vessel, as berry soup and common meat souj). 

When a paunch was not at hand a fresh hide might be used in the same 
manner, though the usual ])rocedin'e was to depress it into a hole in the 
ground.^ The edges of the hide were held in place by stakes, but if these 
were not at hand stones were laid around to hold it by their weight or, if 
there were several in the ])arty, knives were stuck through the hide after the 
manner of stakes. The hide was used for boiling meat, the ])aunch rarely 
for anything but souj). 

According to one informant, should the butfalo be killed in a sheltered 
spot, the entrails would be removed, the carcass turned on its back with 
blood and fat in the cavity, a little water added and hot stones dropped in, 
thus producing a rich soup within the carcass itself, 'i'his, however, seems 
to have been an unusual method. 

Utensils. Culiiuiry and other utensils seem to have been maile of wood. 

1 Grinnell' (a), 205. 

28 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

horn and skins. The Northern Blackfoot seem to have some knowledge of 
birch bark but this may be the residt of observation when in contact with 
their northern neighbors.^ The Piegan, at least, seem to have no knowledge 
of its use among their ancestors. There is no satisfactory evidence that 
basketry was one of their arts, though the Piegan claim to have made some 
crude fish traps. At present, a great many so-called Xez Perce bags are 
found in use, Init these are secured by barter from the Indians west of the 

Though we fountl no specimens, wooden bowls were formerly in use 
for serving and eating. Large knots from any tree except the cottonwood 
were used in their manufacture. First, the outside was trimmed to agree 
with the general form of a bowl. Then the hollow was made with a hatchet 
or a piece of iron, shaped like a chisel. When the cavity was about the 
proper shape and size a red hot stone was dropped in and made to roll or 
slide round and round until the surface was smooth and even. It was then 
scraped with a stone chip or metal scraper. The outside Avas not burned 
but worked into shape by scraping. The surface was then given a coat of 
grease and polished by heating and rubbing. In more recent times augurs 
and chisels were used to work out the cavity. An early account states that : — 
"Their culinary utensils are few and very rough. Wooden dishes of different 
dimensions are made of aspen or poplar knots; spoons are formed of the 
same material, or more commonly of buffalo's or ram's horn. Some of the 
latter are very large, holding about two quarts, and answer as both dish and 
spoon." ' Wooden bowls are still used in certain ceremonies, especially 
those connected with the medicine pipe, Init are almost without exception 
bought of white traders. The collection contains a flat, oval Avooden dish 
of peculiar shape which, while probably of Indian make, seems to have been 
cut from a large commercial machine-made AVooden boAvl. HoAvever, it is 
provided Avith a hanger of thong like other Indian boAvls and cups. Accord- 
ing to Grinnell, "Basins or flat dishes Avere sometimes made of mountain 
sheep horn, boiled, split, and flattened, and also of split buffalo horn, fitted 
and sewed together Avith sineAA% making a flaring, saucer-shaped dish. 
These Avere used as plates or eating dishes. Of course, they leaked a little 
for the joints Avere not tight." ^ 

Spoons were made of Avood, bone, or horn. The collection contains a 
curious spoon made of bone, apparently from the pelvis of a calf (Fig. 3b). 
The boAvl is very shalloAV, the end is drilled and a small thong is tied through 
it. Though many spoons of neat and convenient form Avere made of buffalo 

1 For mention of bark dishes in a myth see A'ol. 2, 210. 
- Henry and Thompson, 724. 
.3 Grinnell, (a), 203. 


Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfool Indians. 


horn, the most of these have ])assed out of use. The collection contains a 
slender spoon ap])arently made of cow horn (Fig. 3c). The base of the 
horn has been split so as to give it a long slender graceful bowl, and the handle 
has been formed by l)ending the tip. The sha])e of the handle is such, that 
when the spoon is held between the thumb and finger it fits easily into the 

Fig. 3 a (50-5S53), h (50-7), c (,50-9). Types of Spoons. Length of a, 19 cm. 

hand. There is also a small buffalo horn spoon, of similar shai)e. Fig. 3a, 
seemingly of recent manufacture. The handle of this specimen has not 
been bent as in the preceding. From these specimens, we get the ini])ression 
that the former (Fig. 3c) was the ty])ical form of the small buffalo \ur:n 
spoon used by the Blackfoot. 

Large ladles or dippers were fashioned of mountain sheep horn. Such 
specimens are now exceedingly rare. The few now used rarely have handles, 
and have the ap})earance of dippers broken from their handles. About the 
only occasion of their present use, is in the ceremonies connected with the 
medicine women at the sun dance. The collection also contains a di})j)er 
made of the large end of a mountain sheep horn (Fig. 4). It may have 
had a handle at one time, but this is not certain. A hole is drilled at one 
end through whicli a section of thong is tied. Our failure to collect speci- 
mens with long haiulles as found among other tribes, suggests the scarcity 
of the long-handled horn type among the Blackfoot.' 

The process of shaping horn spoons was simple. First, the horn was 

1 Maximilian figures one of tliis type for tlie Upper Missouri, 250. 

30 Anthropological Papers Americati Musewn of Natural Histori/ [Vol. V, 

scorched in the fire, causing the ghiey matter to fry out, and then trimmed 
down to the correct shape with a knife. The horn was then boiled in water 
imtil soft. Then a stone of suitable shape was forced into the part for the 
bowl, the latter being held in place by the sides of a hole in the ground. The 
handle was bent as desired and weighted down with stones. \Yhen thor- 

Fig. 4 (50-4572). A Dipper. Length, .31 cm. 

oughly dry these were removed, the spoon then being ready for use. Both 
men and women made spoons and bowls. 

Buffalo horns were sometimes carried as drinking cups. ( )ne specimen 
secured is provided with a cord for slinging over the shoidder. The tip is 
ornamented with beadwork and the body of the horn with rows of brass 
headed nails. ^Yater was formerly carried in bags of paunch or bladder. 
Mention of these was made by Henry ^ but by far the best statement is by 
Grinnell: — 

"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 dr 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 

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. "- 

Si)oons and bowls were usually carried in bags of buffalo skin, dressed 
with the hair on. 

1 Henry and Thompson. 724. 

- Grinnell, (a), 201-2. 


Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfuot Indians. 


As to what kinds of knives were used before fur-trading days, can be 
little more than conjectured, yet some interesting information was oljtained. 
The people claim that bone and stone were used. In speaking of certain 
myths* and ceremonies reference is often made to a "white-rock knife." ^ 
A large leaf-shaped flaked blade was given us under this name (Fig. 5b). 
It had been jncked up from the surface of the ground and the claim was made 
that such blades were occasionally found. While this specimen is probably 
not a knife, it may be taken as a suggestion as to the kind of knife referred 
to in tradition. In the discussion of skin dressing it will be shown that the 
use of stone implements is not quite extinct (p. 60). Even in recent times, 
parties out for horse stealing occasionally found themselves far from home 
without knives. Sometimes the metal band from the but of a gun would be 
removed and sharpened on a stone. One man stated that he once found 
himself without a knife. He shot a buft'alo calf which he dressed with flakes 

Fig. 5 a (20.0-1500), h (50-4.536). Stone Knive.s. Length of a, S cm. 

struck from a bluish pebble. At another time, he showed us some chijis 
from an ancient camp site similar to those he used (Fig. oa). According to 
his testimony such a resort to stone knives was not infrequent. 

Bone was used for points and probably for knives. The jNIuseum col- 
lection contains what was said to be the model of a bone knife. It is a section 
of a cow's rib, the grip wrapped with undressed calf skin and one edge made 
keen by scraping. One peculiarity of the shape is the square end, causing 
the cutting edge to terminate in a ])()int that seems .sharp enough to cut flesh 
readily (Fig. 6). 

At present, every woman is provided \\ith a commercial ax, one of the 
most important household utensils. It is used in providing wood, cutting 
through the joints of large pieces of meat, cracking bones, driving stakes, etc. 
From the information at hand, it appears that this instrument has displaced 
the stone hammer shown in Fig. la. With such a hannner, dry branches 
could be broken readily, bones cracked, tij)is staked down, etc. 

1 Vol. 2, 41, 56, 75, etc. 


Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. Y, 

No definite information could be sec-ured as to aboriginal modes of mak- 
ing fire, but according to Grinnell, this was by forms of wood friction.^ 
Flint and steel is still in occasional use. Suitable stone was found in parts 
of their country and steel was secured by trade. The older type of .^teel is 
shown in Fig. 7, which, according to its owner, had been in the family for 
generations. For tinder, various forms of dry fungi Avere used. According 
to Grinnell, a fungus found on birch trees was preferred; - but according to 

Fig. 6 (50-6). A bone Knife. Length, 30 cm. 

our information, the preference was given to a large bulbous variety growing 
on the ground often called, "the fallen stars," or 'dusty stars." ^ With the 
introduction of the flint and steel, methods of preserving fire seem to have 
fallen into disuse. Grinnell states that in ancient times, fire was carried 
in a buffalo horn and fed from time to time with punk.* 

Fires were usually kindled with fragments of small dead branches. For 
many purposes, th? bark of the cotton-wood was preferred, because it burned 

Fig. 7 (.50-6457). A Steel for striking Fire. 

with very little smoke. Henry says of the Piegan: — "Many families are 
still destitute of either a kettle or an ax. The women, who are mere slaves, 
have much difficulty in collecting firewood. Those who have no axes fasteii, 
together the ends of two long poles, Avhich two women then hook over dry 
limbs of large trees, and thus break them oft". They also use lines for the 
same purpose; a woman throws a line seven or eight fathoms long over a 
dry limb, and jerks it imtil the limb breaks oft'. Others again set fire to 

1 Grinnell, (a), 200. 

2 Grinnell, (a), 201. 

3 See myth, Vol. 2, 42. 
'> Grinnell, (a), 201. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfuut Indians. 33 

the roots of large trees, which havino; burned down, the branches supply 
a good stock of fuel. The trunk is seldom attacked l)v those who have axes, 
as chopping l)listcrs their hands." ^ Brushwood for sunuiu'r use is still 
gathered by the women, though they are by no means averse to chopping 
heavv branches with an ax. Among the Blood and Northern Blaekfoot, 
slender dead branches are set up on end in a conical stack about the size 
of a tipi, a form of Mood pile common in central Canada. 

Hunting. Naturally, the killing of buffalo was of the greatest economic 
importance to the Blaekfoot. The habits of this animal doul)tless invited co- 
operative hunting, especially before the introduction of the horse. While in 
later davs, the Blaekfoot occasionally made use of the horse surround, it 
remains that the so-called drive was the most elaborate method of buft'alo 
hunting. Tradition and ceremony bear testimony to the anti([uity of this 
custom, but the introduction of firearms and the subsequent gradual diminu- 
tion of the Ijuffalo led to its abandonment. Umfreville, who evidently came 
in touch with the Blaekfoot, gives a good account of a drive, but apparently 
not as observed among the Blaekfoot. The earliest authentic descriptive 
note is by Henry: — 

"Another party of young men endeavored to impound the buffalo, but the 
weather continued unfavorable; the fog did not clear away until toward evening, 
and the wind was still contrary. A principal chief of a neighboring pound came 
to invite us to his camp, where he said the buffalo were numerous; but old Painted 
Feather would not consent to our going. The day passed, no buffalo came, and 
we had only the satisfaction of viewing the mangled carcasses strewn about in the 
pound. The bulls were mostly entire, none but good cows having been cut up. 
The stench from this inclosure was great, even at this season, for the weather was 
mild. 22d. We were called early to see the buffalo, and instantly were on the look- 
out hill, whence we saw plenty indeed; but the wind was still unfavorable, and 
every herd that was brought near the ranks struck off in a wrong direction. We 
could plainly discern the young men driving whole herds from different directions, 
until these came within scent of the smoke, when they dispersed. We remained 
until noon, when I lost all patience, and came away much disappointed. The 
Indians desired us to remain, as they were certain of getting at least one herd in 
before dark; but I would not listen to them. After a pleasant ride, we reached 
home at four o'clock, having run several races on the road. 23d. Some Blackfeet 
arrived from the camp where I had been, bringing a quantity of fat meat. They 
informed me we had scarcely left when a large herd was brought in; they had called 
to us, but we did not hear, as we were too busy racing." - 

This is certainly unsatisfactory, btit should be used in connection with 
the same writer's fine accoimt of Assiniboine drives,^ worded in a mannei" 

1 Henry and Thompson, 724. 
- Henry and Thompson, 577. 
3 Henry and Thompson, 518. 

34 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Nahiral History. [Vol. V, 

that indicates his having witnessed them on more than one occasion. From 
Henry's style and method, it seems safe to infer that had the Blackfoot pound 
possessed material differences he would have noted the fact. The place 
visited by him was on the Vermillion River, the camp of a division of the 
Northern Blackfoot. This assumption that this was a pound of the x\ssini- 
boine type is supported by Henry's remarks concerning the Piegan:— 

"So much do these people abhor work that, to avoid the trouble of making 
proper pounds, they seek some precipice along the bank of the river, to which they 
extend their ranks and drive the buffalo headlong over it. If not killed or entirely 
disabled from, the fall, the animals are generally so much bruised as to be easily 
dispatched with the bow and arrow. But this method sometimes proves dangerous ; 
for if the leading buffalo, coming to the edge of the precipice, is not entirely ex- 
hausted,, she may refuse to make the leap, suddenly turn about, and break through 
the ranks, followed by the whole herd, carrying before them everything which 
offers to obstruct their progress. No effort of man suffices to arrest a herd in full 
carreer after the cow that leads them; and thus lives are sometimes lost, as the 
natives standing near the precipice, to form the ranks and see the buffalo tumble 
down, have no time to get out of the way." ^ 

The accounts of later writers are all based upon informants. Thus, it 
appears that while Henry did not see the pounds of the Piegan type and had 
very little experience with either of them, he is the only available observer. 
The most complete later account is by Grinnell, from data collected among 
Indians and frontiersmen. He supports our inference from Henry, by at- 
tributing to the Northern Blackfoot pounds like those of the Cree and 
different from those of the Blood and Piegan.^ The method of the Plains 
Cree was about the same as that employed by the Assiniboine. 

We secured from Indians, information as to the essential features of 
Blood and Piegan drives. On the Blackfoot reserve in Montana, are 
several places regarded by the Indians as sites of buffalo drives. Similar 
sites are to be found on the Blood reserve in Alberta. The writer made a 
careful examination of a site on Two Medicine River, almost due south from 
Browning. On the south side of the stream is a flat bordered by a bluff 
about twenty meters high. The highest part of the bluff stands between 
two systems of coulees, or drains, whose heads enclose a large tract of 
grass land. We made a rough sketch of the site, showing the relation of 
the stream and flat to the bluff (Fig. 8). From the highest part of the 
bluff peculiar piles of boulders extend outward toward the grass land. 
While these boulders are somewhat scattered, their former positions are in- 
dicated by a nucleus of ten or more, often deeply imbedded in the svu'face 

1 Henry and Thompson, 725. 

2 Grinnell, (a), 230. 


Wissler, Material Culture of BlackJ'oot Indians. 


soil. These piles are arranged in somewhat irregular lines as seen in the 
diagram. The distances between the respective piles vary from three to 
seven meters, increasing as the line extends outward from the bluff. The 
line to the left can be traced about two miles and the one to the right, 
about half that distance, though both become verv indistinct and uncertain 


Fig. 8. Plan of ii Buffalo Pound. 

as their limits are approached. As shown in the diagram, there is a second- 
ai-y line on the right skirting a break in the bluff caused by one of the flank- 
ing coulees mentioned at the beginning of this description. Thus, it will be 
seen that the two main lines of rock piles enclose an irregular V whose apex 

36 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. \, 

is bcloAV the edge of the bluif. The distance between them near the top of 
the bkiflF is about fifty meters. 

It is scarcely possible to determine the original height of the rock piles, 
as boulders are soinewhat numerous along the lines, perhaps slightly more 
so than elsewhere: yet, the differences in numbers are so small that we are 
disposed to conclude that the piles near the bluff could not, on the average, 
have exceeded fifty centimeters in height. Beyond half the distance out, they 
seem to have been limited to four or five small boulders each. In no case 
did we see boulders much larger than the heads of men. 

The face of the bluft' is perj)endicular, a wall of outcropping rock, Ijut 
at its base is banked uj) a sharp slope of broken rock, sand and soil. An 
object falling from the edge would i)roceed unobstructed for a space of two 
to three meters, and then striking the sloping surface below, would roll, 
bounding to the level of the flat. 

We visited another site, a few miles down the same stream, which was 
similar in all essential details. We also received definite descriptions of two 
other sites on the same reservation by persons familiar with them. On the 
Blood reserve we saw two sites, one of which was of the type just described. 
The other, ran the buffalo over a steep hill, apparently the former cutbank 
of a small near-by creek. We heard of many other sites both on and oft' 
the present Blackfoot reserves in Alberta but did not visit them. 

At the Two Medicine River site just described, we gathered information 
from reliable old men as to the manner in which such drives were used. Of 
course, none of these had seen a drive, but had heard the accounts of their 
elders time and again. According to these, the herd was rini down between 
the lines of rock i)iles and forcetl over the bluft". An enclosure was built 
below into which the buftalo would fall. Stakes about the size of lodge 
poles were set in the grountl at an angle so that they crossed each other in 
lattice fashion. This fence was strengthened by binding the crossings of the 
poles with strips of rawhide. Into this, brush was woven until all the open- 
ings were closed. The fence was inclined inward so as to give it greater 
resistance and also to decrease the prol)ability of the buft'alo jumjjing it. 
Our informants insisted that no screens of lu-ush were added to the rock lines 
forming the chute to the enclosure or pound, and tliat the rock |)iles were now 
about as large as when in use. This is contrary to the infornuition fur- 
nished Grinnell.^ 

A drive was made by working a bunch of buft'alo between the outward 
ends of the lines. This was done by a few young men on foot, working tjuietly 
around a bunch orazing within a few miles of the drive and causing them to 

1 GrinncU, (a), 229. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 37 

drift toward the lines. This was by no means easy and the failures were 
many. The camp was usually on the flat in the vicinity of the drive and a 
watcher was postetl to give notice when a bunch was approaching the chute. 
When the conditions seemed favorable, he ordered all the yoimg, or able- 
l)odied men, out to the lines where they took their stations behind the rock 
piles, concealing themselves under blankets or newly cut branches. Then, 
if the bufl'alo drifted into the wide entrance to the lines, the outlying men 
began to stampede them and as they moved forAvard, the men concealed on 
their flanks arose shouting, waving blankets or brush, so as to keep them 
headed down the chute and to increase their fright. When near the brink, 
the leading buffalo attemptetl to stop and turn aside. Here, the number 
of men was greatest and the danger of being run down, considerable; but 
the pressure of the frightened buffalo in the rear, and the demonstrations of 
the men near the brink, were usually effective in forcing over the leaders 
whence the whole bunch followed blindly. The Indians claim that once 
the buffalo were running in the chute, success was practically assuretl. The 
fall maimed some of the buffalo and the others were shot as they milled 
around in the enclosure. When all were down, the struggling ones were 
dispatched by striking their foreheads with stone mauls. 

In some cases, a swift runner covered with a buffalo robe, hair side out, 
led the animals down the chute. According to Grinnell, such an individual 
sometimes unaided, enticed the buffalo into the lines. After horses came into 
use, the buffalo were sometimes Avorked into the lines by a few riders, then 
forced down into the chute by many horsemen on either flank, the lines 
near the brink being guarded l)y men on foot as before. The use of the 
horse, however, and later the gun, caused the drives to fall into disuse, it 
being nuich easier to round up a bunch in the open and, riding round and 
round, shoot them down in rapid succession. 

According to some informants, many drives were provided Avith a middle 
line of rock ])iles, much shorter than the others. In such cases tAVO coulees, or 
depressions led to the brink over the enclosure, the middle line passing along 
the crest between them. Buffalo running doAvn the main lines might take 
either of these coulees. The men on this secondary line Avere directed as to 
Avhich side to take by a watch posted on a near l)y knoll. In the diagram, 
there api)ears a secondary line outside of the chute, but this is, in reality, 
a diversion of the main line to coA'er the mouth of a break in the bluff. 

When the driving of buffalo was attem])ted, many dogs were muzzled to 
prcA-ent barking. In a piece of tanned hide, a hole was cut large enough to 
])ass OA'er the nose and Avell up on the jaAVS. The edges of the piece Avere 
ilraAvn back over the IknuI and fastened around the neck with a draw string. 
By this contrivance, the dog was also hooded. In addition, thev Avere 

38 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

either tied up, yoked to an anchored travois, or weighted with heavy pieces 
of wood to prevent their finding their way to the pound. 

The Piegan positively assert that they never used the Assiniboine, or 
Cree type, of pound. However, even in recent times, they occasionally 
made enclosures by pitching tipis closely in a circle and joining the covers. 
The buffalo were Avorked into this circle and shot as they stupidly ran round 
and round. 

It will be seen from information secured by us, and the statements of 
other writers, that the essential features of the buffalo drive among the 
Piegan and the Blood were an enclosure beneath the brow of a bluff, and 
irregular lines of rock piles enclosing a V-shaped space. In operation, a 
few skillful young men worked the buffalo by degrees into the chute formed 
by these lines, other men then stationed themselves along the lines, then the 
buffalo were stampeded, the leaders running down between the lines to the 
brink where they were forced over by their fellows in the rear.^ 

Antelope were taken in a pound somewhat after the method for taking 
buffalo. There is an old site on Birch Creek in the Blackfoot Reservation, 
Montana. A pit was dug about two meters wide by six meters long to a 
depth of from three to four meters. The earth from the excavation was 
ridged up at the sides of the hole and decked with fresh branches. Two 
converging lines led up to this pit as in the buftalo pound. There was one 
important difference, however. As the lines came near together, a turn like 
an elbow was made to conceal the obstruction at the pit, thus lessening the 
tendency of the running antelope to jump the line. The lines were marked 
by small heaps of stones, about a meter apart. Two or more slender willows 
were bowed over each rock pile, thus forming a kind of fence. When ante- 
lope were seen grazing within the lines, the young men stole up to the rear 
and flanks, while old men, women and even children manned the length of 
the lines. They lay down behind the rock piles. When the antelope were 
started and approached a line, the concealed watchers waved something 
in the air to turn them. Thus, the poor animals ran down between the ever 
narrowing fences to the brush-covered ridge in front of the pit. Leaping this, 
they fell into the hole and were caught. - 

Simple snares were used for deer and smaller game. For deer, a braided 
rawhide rope was rubbed with buffalo tallow to counteract human odors, 
then rubbed with white earth, and laid in the trail with an open noose. No 
bent sa})ling or trigger was used, the trapper trusting entirely to a chance 
entanglement of the deer's feet or horns. For catching the weasel, a number 
of snares were arranged in a small hoop, laid on the hole so that the animal's 

1 See also myths, Vol. 2, 27, 85, 109, U2. 

2 Grimiell, (a), 236. 


Wissler, Material Culture of Bluckfoot Indians. 


head would be entangled as he came out, the hoop preventing his getting 
back into the nole. These and other small animals were often snared by 
hand, the snare operated by a long cord in the hands of a watcher. For 
birds, small sinew snares were tied to a heavy stick and arranged on the 
ground with bait. 

The wolf, fox and coyote were taken in a kind of deadfall, as their strong 
teeth sometimes released them from snares. One end of a pole was sup- 
ported by an upright resting loosely upon a similar horizontal pole lying on 
the ground. Under the lower end of the upright was thrust the end of the 
bait stick (Fig. 9). A covering of sticks rested upon the long supported 
pole and the whole was weighted with stones. As the trap was used only in 
winter, snow was spread over the top. The bait was a tough piece of meat 

Fig. 9. A Deadfall. 

from the neck of a buffalo. Usually pieces of paunch or entrails were toasted 
over the fire, then chewed and the juice spit upon the bait to give it a strong 
scent. The only part of this trap having a fixed dimension was the sup- 
porting upright. ■ For fox, this was cut two hands and two fingers in length 
(grasping the stick hand over hand). The skins of the fox were stretched 
over an A-shaped frame for drying. Grinnell says snares were used for these 
animals and sometimes an enclosure into which they leaped from an incline.^ 
The streams in the region occupied by the Piegan and Blood abound in 
trout and other fish, which in times of starvation and especially after the 
buffalo began to disappear, became an. unportant food item. Fish were 
never speared or shot, but were taken in traps called jiiskin, the name for 
buffalo pound. A V-shaped bar of boulders was constructed in the stream, 
the apex pointing down the current. Such bars were partly of natural for- 

1 Grinnell, (a), 240-241. 


Anthropological Papers American Mitseuin of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

mation. Logs or poles were laid above this bar and a weir constructed by 
inclining sticks against them, held in place by strips of willow bark. At the 
apex of the V, an enclosure of poles was built up cabin-fashion, the interstices 
being of a size to let the water flow through freely, but to hold the fish. 
The bar and weir obstructed the current sufficiently to allow this enclosure 
to be placed below its level, so that the free current fell over into it through 
a chute. 

A simpler but similar method was to weave a kind of basket trap (Fig. 
10). This was made of willow twigs about 5 mm. in diameter and a meter 
in length. This basket had the usual bottle shape seen in fish traps, but 
its structure was crude, being nothing more than willow rods bound at 
intervals to hoops of the same material by strands of bark. In operation, 
weirs were constructed as before, though less elaborate, and the mouth of 
the basket placed at the apex so that the free current ran through it longi- 

Fig. 10. A Fish Trap. 

tudinally. There was no contrivance to prevent the fish from passing out 
again at the mouth, but the strength of the current was usually sufficient 
to force them into the apex of the trap where there was no room to turn. 
This method was regarded as of ancient origin. Both methods were in use 
in Montana until prohibited by the State fishing laA\s. 

Eagles were caught by a man concealed in a pit, covered with brush 
upon which bait was placed. As these birds were taken chiefly for their 
feathers which were used in ceremonial ways, the art of trapping them was a 
religious rather than an economic function and hence, not to be discussed 
at this tinie.^ 

While it appears, from the foregoing and other data, at our command, 
that impounding was a dominant method of taking game animals, individual 
hunting by stalking and otherwise was common. There are many tales of 
men having run down or otherwise overcome large and powerful animals. 

1 See myth, Vol. 2, 135. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of BlackJ'oot Indians. 41 

For example, a man once crept vip to some buffalo, sprang upon the back of 
one and felled it ^^■ith a blow from a stone-headed club, his only weapon. 
However, such tales, if true, only recount athletic feats instead of primitive 
modes of hunting. The acquisition of horses and guns imdoubtedly changed 
all modes of hunting, and this occurred so long ago that accurate information 
as to previous practices, is not available. 

While the Blackfoot were essentially a hunting people, and game was 
taken at all times of the year, certain seasons were recognized. Buffalo 
bulls were regarded in the best condition at about June of our calendar. 
The cows, on the other hand, were prime "when the leaves began to fall," 
this being, in recent times, the great hunting season. The time for fishing 
was in the spring of the year "when the night hawks first began to call." 

The man did most of the butchering, but when the meat was brought 
home it became at once the property of the women in his family. When 
game was killed near the camp, the women took a hand in the butchering, 
but usually under the active direction of the men. There was, however, no 
disgrace for women to engage in butchering: — as with us, dish-washing is 
woman's work, though some men may safely do it, so with the Blackfoot, 
butchering was man's work, though some women did it. 

Buffalo were not bled, though when shot back of the shoulder they bled 
profusely at the mouth. Buffalo or other animals were improved by running 
before killing. In dressing, the skin was cut down the median line of the 
breast and worked loose. Then the carcass as it lay on the outstretched skin 
was disemboweled. The manner of its dismemberment depended on the 
distance from camp. Assuming that the carcass was in camp, the procedure 
for buffalo or deer was about as follows: — The fore quarters were removed 
by cutting doAvn through the shoulder joints. Then cuts were made at the 
shins. The hind legs were cut off and the (juarters cut at the hip joints. The 
back-fat was removed in broad bands. The breast and belly were cut away 
in one piece; then the short ribs, eight on a side, in two pieces; also two 
similar pieces of neck ribs. The parts of the loin containing the kidneys 
were taken next. The "boss ribs" (hump) were stripped. If there was a 
feotus it was tied up with the "boss ribs." ^ The back bone was cut into 
two pieces. A chunk of meat from the rump and one from the neck were 
taken. The heart, tongue, brain, paunch and small intestines were taken. 
Sometimes the hoofs and some of the head meat were also taken. The 
marrow from the leg bones was usually eaten raw during the butchering. 
While, at the present time cattle are butchered in this way, the scarcity of 
food compels the Indian to use every part of the carcass. 

1 The Canadian name for the spinous process in the hump, Franklin. 102. 

42 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

In former times, when hunting on horses, it was necessary to prepare 
the carcass for packing. If the camp was near by, the procedure was about 
as stated above. The fresh skin was laid on the horse's back, the head 
piece toward his head. A strip of the hide ^\as sHpped through under the 
tendons of the fore cjuarters so they coukl be hung across the horse. The 
hind cjuarters were tied together by their own tendons and treated in a 
similar manner. The short ribs and the large pieces from the breast and 
belly were rolled up. The neck ribs, heart, tongue, back-fat, etc., were made 
up into bundles and placed on the horse. The tail end of the skin was then 
turned up over the pack of meat. This method was spoken of as "heavy 

"Light bvitchering" was the term ap})lied to a method much used when 
the killing was far from camp or when several animals were to be trans- 
ported by one or two horses. In this case, the loins were cut out of the 
quarters. Then these were tied in pairs as before. The back-fat was re- 
moved in two pieces, and tied so as to lay across the horse. The loins with 
the kidneys, the meat from the boss ribs, the heart, the tongue, breast and 
groin Avere taken as before. The flesh over the ribs was worked off in one 
piece. The paunch was emptied and the small intestines stripped. The 
whole was then packed in the skin on a horse as for the "heavy butchering." 
Thus, the bones were left behind. The marrow and sometimes the brain 
were eaten as the butchering went ou.^ 

The only tool used in butchering was a heavy metal knife. The bone 
of the fore leg was often used as a club to break smaller bones and joints. 
The time required for cutting up a carcass was short, as men now living 
claim to have been able unaided to butcher from five to twelve buffalo in a 
day. We have no way of knowing how butchering was carried on before 
the advent of metal knives, but the fact noted elsewhere, that occasionally in 
recent times butchering was, by necessity, done with stone flakes, suggests 
the probability of its accomplishment by these methods without steel knives. 

Comparative Notes. There seems to be little that can be considered 
distinctive in the food preferences of the Blackfoot. In the choice of vege- 
table foods they agree with most of the roving tribes in the JNIissouri-Saskat- 
chewan Basin.- The Sarcee, Plains Cree, Assiniboine, Gros Ventre, Teton, 
Yankton, Crow and Cheyenne, at least, made similar use of wild turnips, 
wild cherries and plums. The use of these and other vegetables naturally 
depended upon the distribution of the various species. This is quite ob- 
vious in case of the camas, an important food plant in the valley of the 
Columbia and the interior plateaus northward.^ This plant grows among 

1 For comparison see Harmon 286. 

- For use of this term see American Anthropologist, p. 197, Vol. 10, No. 2. 

3 Palmer, 408. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 43 

the foothills on the east of the Rocky ^Mountains adjacent to the territory of 
the Blackfoot, where it is gathered and prepared after the method used by the 
Nez Perce/ Flathead and other plateau tribes. In this case, there can be 
little doubt that the practice is due to Blackfoot contact Ayith plateau culture. 
When ^ye consider the fact that they are also on the northwestern edge of 
the habitat of the prairie turnip, a yery popular food among the Siouan groups, 
it becomes probable that eyen this was due to cultural contact. Wild rice 
seems not to haye come within their experience, nor is there any eyidence of 
the use of wild grains, as among the northern Shoshone. The use of berries, 
howeyer, seems to haye been considerable, and in this respect, they resemble 
the Thompson," Carrier ^ and other tribes of the interior plateaus. Yet 
eyen these tribes made use of roots in great yariety and quantity in contrast 
to the Blackfoot. The northern Shoshone * show certain similarities to the 
plateau tribes in the range and quantity of yegetable food, but in addition 
make use of seeds, or grains, something of which the Blackfoot seem to haye 
no traditional knowledge. Information on the yegetable foods of the Crow 
is not ayailable for comparison. 

The fact, that the vegetable food of the Blackfoot seems to haye been 
normally used as the secondary element in meat dishes, leaves little to be 
said as to cooking and preparation. The detail of the method used in 
cooking camas does not essentially differ from that used by the Thompson 
Indians for dry roots of all kinds. ^ In brief, this method of cooking roots in 
a hole seems to be generally distributed in the interior plateau and adjacent 
coast areas.® In the drying of berries, the Blackfoot do not follow the prac- 
tices of the plateau tribes who usually reduce all berries to a mash which is 
cooked somewhat before drying. The Carriers for example, used an ingen- 
ious device by which the mashing and cooking was somewhat automatic' 
Yet, so far as our information goes, the Blackfoot dried the service and other 
berries without mashing or cooking, the mash being used for cherries only 
and then chiefly in the manufacture of pemmican. In this respect, they 
resemble their southeastern neighbors. 

In the matter of animal food, the Blackfoot naturally belong to the 
Missouri-Saskatchewan type, the buffalo and animals of the deer-kind fur- 
nishing the main su})port of life. While the disposition of the Blackfoot to 
refuse fish can scarcely be taken as characteristic of the area, positive inform- 

1 Spinden, (b), 201. 

2 Teit, 230. 

3 Morice, (a). 216. 
* Lowie, 187. 

5 Teit, 236. 

<i Hill-Tout, 101. 

7 Morice, (a). 217. 

44 Ajithropological Papers American Museum, of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

ation for most tribes is wanting. The Gros Ventre did not make much 
use of them.^ In the south, the Navaho and the Apache, tabooed fish, while 
among the Dakota and Cree they sometimes formed a considerable part of 
their winter food, though apparently from necessity rather than choice. As 
practically none of the buffalo-eating tribes touched the salmon area, the 
disinclination to use fish may be due to economic conditions. While many 
tribes eat the flesh of the dog, the Blackfoot show a special antipathy toward 
it. According to Clark - the Crow, Flathead, Nez Perce, Snake, Bannock 
and Ute did not eat dog; but among the Dakota, Arapaho, Kiowa, Apache 
and Pawnee, they were regarded as a delicacy. This seems to indicate a 
geograj^hical distribution of the custom, rather than a linguistic one, the 
Blackfoot falling in the nortliAvestern cultural group. 

It may be, that a ceremonial has been one of the chief factors in the dis- 
tribution of this custom. Among the Pawnee, a dog was usually served at 
ceremonial feasts and it appears that among the Dakota its serving was a 
prominent feature of many dances. The so-called Omaha Dance is now 
the great occasion of a Dakota dog feast. The Gros Ventre have this dance 
and its dog feast. The Piegan learned it of the Gros Ventre and make some 
effort to eat dog-soup at the time of the ceremony.^ At least, there is a 
tendency for this ceremony to introduce the custom among the Blackfoot. 

In the manufacture of pemmican, the Blackfoot followed the general 
type of the plains. Harmon states that the tribes east of the Rocky Moun- 
tains in Canada, pound up wild cherries in the manner described.^ Nuttal 
speaks of a similar general distribution for the central and southern plains 
area.'^ Franchere notes the same kind of pennnican in the Columbia region. 
In most cases, this food Avas stored in a folded rawhide, generally called a 
parfleche. While the buffalo-chasing tribes seem to have been the centre of 
the berry-pemmican industry, the more general type of pennnican; i. e., 
unmixed pounded meat, AAas widely known among the Athapascan and 
Algonkin peoples. To the west of the Rocky Mountains in the salmon 
country, pulverized dried fish was a common food. Thus, we have a wide 
distribution of the method of pulverizing, or grinding, dried meat by the 
mortar process. 

Information as to the methods of cof)king meats is not abimdant for the 
neighbors of the Blackfoot. In a general way, the American tribes in con- 

' Kroeber, (a), 149. 

- Clark, 154. 

^ Dr. Lowie reports the Stoney Assiniboiiie as refusing dog in contrast to the other Assin- 
boine and curiously enough makes no mention of this ceremony among the Stoney but reports 
it at length for the Ft. Belknap division. This is in harmony with the above. P. 67, Vol. 4, 
this series. 

* Harmon, 282. 

•' Nuttal, 194. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of BluckJ'uot Indians. 45 

trast to the Ocianians, were great pot boilers. In regions where pottery or 
stone vessels ^\■ere not in use, boiling was in baskets or wooden vessels by 
means of hot stones. So far, the use of pottery vessels has not been fully 
proven for the Assiniboine, Gros Ventre, Sarcee, Blackfoot, Crow, Arapaho, 
Kiowa, Comanche and Cheyenne. Some of these have traditions of pottery, 
more or less probable, but definite statements by explorers are wanting, leav- 
ing the case, as tentative.^ 

So far, there has come to our notice no mention of cooking meat in an 
earth-covered hole as described by the Blackfoot. Swan - saw birds cooked 
with hot stones after the same general mode. However, the distribution 
of a similar method for cooking vegetables in the plateau area again suggests 
Blackfoot cidtural contact with their western neighbors. 

The use of a paunch or skin vessel for boiling was known to the Arapaho ■' 
and the Crow.'* The Gros Ventre, near neighbors to the Blackfoot used 
"rawhide bags, drawn together at the top with a sti-ing" and "holes in the 
ground lined with rawhide." ^ From the Teton Dakota, the writer ob- 
tained a full description agreeing in all essential details with the method 
among the Blackfoot.^ Here also, it was used chiefly by war parties. Mr. 
Skinner reports a similar practice by hunting parties among the Eastern Cree 
though the vessel is hung directly over the source of heat. The Haidatsa 
seem to have had the same custom.^ The Assiniboine method of cooking 
in a hole has been described by Catlin as follows: — 

" There is a very curious custom amongst the Assinneboins, from which they have 
taken their name; a name given them by their neighbors, from a singular mode they 
have of boiUng their meat, which is done in the following manner: — when they kill 
meat, a hole is dug in the ground about the size of a common pot, and a piece of 
the raw hide of the animal, as taken from the back, is put over the hole, and then 
pressed down with the hands close around the sides, and filled with water. The 
meat to be boiled is then put in this hole or pot of water; and in a fire which is built 
near by, several large stones are heated to a red heat, which are successively dipped 
and held in the water until the meat is boiled ; from which singular and peculiar cus- 
tom, the Ojibeways have given them the appellation of Assinneboins or stone boilers. 

"The Traders have recently supplied these people with pots; and even long 
before that, the Mandans had instructed them in the secret of manufacturing very 
good and serviceable earthen pots; which together have entirely done away the 
custom, excepting at public festivals; where they seem, like all others of the human 
family, to take pleasure in cherishing and perpetuating their ancient customs." 

1 Mooney, 18. 

2 Swan, 271. 

3 Kroeber, (b), 25. 
•» Curtis. 4. 

5 Kroeber, (a), 150. 

(■' See al,so Schoolcraft, (b ) part 2. 176. 

' Matthews, 23. 

46 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

Turning to the westward, we find that the Thompson Indians when out 
on the hunt sometimes resorted to the use of bark kettles or a deer's paunch. 
"A hole was dug in the soft ground near the fire, into which the kettle was 
placed, with brush underneath. The oj^en end was made small and stiff 
by means of a stick threaded through it around the edge; and the sides of 
the open end were sometimes fastened with bark to one or two cross-sticks 
which lay on the ground across the opening. Hot stones were put in to boil 
the food." ^ The more general practice of stone boiling is a well known 
cultural trait of the whole Pacific Coast and interior plateaus from southern 
California to Alaska and parts of the Mackenzie Basin and eastward. Tylor 
has given a comprehensive statement of its distribution.^ Noting that the 
Blackfoot in particular, and many other buffalo hunting 4;ribes in general, 
lay as a wxdge between the stone boiling and the pot boiling areas, it may be 
expected that, since traces of pottery are meager, they will show decided 
tendencies to adopt the practice of stone boiling. True to their environment 
and non-basket making habits, they used skins and paunch in contrast to the 
bark vessels of the northeast and the baskets of the southwest. To return 
to the Blackfoot, we find them in no way peculiar in this respect, having 
at least the boiling characteristics of their neighbors and the Dakota. In 
how far this boiling in skins may have once been a general household prac- 
tice is a matter of conjecture rather than otherwise. It is natural to assume 
that its practice by war parties and other travelers is in the nature of a sur- 
\'ival, but it remains an assumption. In its more modern form, at least 
among the Thompson, Cree, Assiniboine ^ and Blackfoot Indians, it was 
limited to hunting and war parties, and in consequence was nearly always 
performed by men. The distribution of this peculiar type of man's cooking 
can scarcely be accounted for as independent in origin, but must have 
resulted from tribal contact. 

In the materials for culinary utensils there is great uniformity in America. 
Horn, wood and bark were used for bowls and spoons from the Gulf of 
Mexico to Alaska, though apparently to a less degree in California and the 
Colorado-Rio Grande Area. In the eastern and central Algonkin areas, 
however, the wooden spoon seems to have been the prevailing type, occurring 
even in the interior of Labrador.* Carver ^ states that wooden spoons were 
used in the countries visited by him but makes no mention of horn spoons. 
We have seen buffalo horn spoons from the Gros Ventre and the Assiniboine 
without handles or with mere tips. This is similar to the usual modern 

1 Teit, 246. 

2 TylDi-, 264. 

3 This series, p. 12, VjI. 4. 
* Turner, 302. 

5 Carver, 234. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blaclfoot Indians. 47 

form of Blackfoot big-horn spoons, or dippers. The horn spoons of the 
Dakota seen by us have graceful shapes and long handles, the ends of which 
terminate in an enlarged head. This head and the adjoining part of the 
handle is often carved to represent a snake. Among the Dakota, we also 
find wooden spoons, one very old specimen seen by us being shaped like the 
medium sized big-horn spoons. In a general way, it appears that the 
spoons of the Gros Ventre and Blackfoot are about equally crude when com- 
pared to those of the Dakota. Information and matei-ial for further com- 
parison within the Missouri-Saskatchewan area is not accessible to us. 

The use of knots in the manufacture of Avooden bowls was not peculiar 
to the Blackfoot. According to information collected by the writer, they 
were made by the Dakota by methods similar to those employed by the 
Blackfoot.^ Long states that "as we were cutting up a log an Indian saw a 
knot and asked for it to make a bowl. He called a woman to cut it off for 
him." - From the specimens at our command, it appears that the wooden 
bowls of the Siouan tribes excelled those of other parts of the continent in 
lightness and perfection of form. While we have seen specimens from the 
Sauk and Fox and Menominee approximating the graceful shapes of the 
Dakota, they were much heavier and less symmetrical. Wooden bowls are 
rare in the collections we have seen from the Shoshone, Ute and Comanche 
and when they do occur, are inclined to be heavy and crude. 

Vessels made of skin seem to have been in use among tribes to the east 
and south of the Blackfoot. We have seen a pail from the Gros Ventre 
made of a cow's bladder. The Museum collection from the Haidatsa In- 
dians has two water pails of buffalo paunch and one of peracardium. Long 
describes water vessels made of paunch, observed among the Kaskaia and 
other tribes.^ Lewis and Clark say of the Teton, "the water which they 
carry with them is contained chiefly in the paunch of deer and other animals."* 
Henry saw among the Assiniboine "an ox's (buffalo's) paunch employed 
as a kettle, for melting snow." ^ Thus there seems nothing distinctive of 
the Blackfoot in these particulars. 

Fortunately for our purpose, the methods of killing buffalo have been 
described by several writers. The most satisfactory general review seems 
to be by J. A. Allen in his famous memoir on the American bisons. From 
this review it appears that diu'ing the historic period, the Indians followed 
four distinct co-operative methods, driving over cliffs, impounding, grass- 
firing and surrounding. Other methods such as chasing on snow shoes, on 

1 Lewis and Clark, 140; Carver, 234. 

= James, 1, 166. 

3 James, 2, 295. 

4 Lewis and Clark, 1, 140. 

5 Henry, 291. 

48 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

the ice, in the water, stalking etc., may be successfully pursued b}- single 
individuals acting independently and without organization. We shall pass 
over these methods and give our attention to the distribution of the co- 
operative methods. The use of the pound, as noted among the Northern 
Blackfoot seems to have been characteristic of the iVssiniboine. The earli- 
est definite account of this method noted by us, is by the elder Henry ^ as 
observed by him in 1776. The younger Henry- also writes, apparently 
from observation, in 1809. Father de Smet writing in 1854 describes an 
Assiniboine drive as witnessed by himself.^ These observers are in general 
agreement as to the structure of the pound. The enclosure was circular, 
built of trees, brush, stones, and stakes to the height of five or six feet. It 
was })laced in a narrow valley between two hills, or rather at the point where 
two converging ranges of low hills met and usually in a clump of trees. An 
inclined plane, or slope, led up to the top of the enclosure. The lines near 
the pound were formed of materials similar to the walls just described. At a 
distance of about one hundred meters they gradually break into an open 
line of sticks. The lines are about two miles in length. The buffalo were 
worked into the lines by two or three men, imitating the sound of a calf in 
distress,* by setting fire to grass,^ etc., each man doubtless using his own 
method. Once near the lines guarded by men, the buffalo were led along 
by a swift runner or horseman covered with buffalo robes, and frightened 
by the men in the lines are forced into the pound. Franklin also saw an 
Assiniboine pound and notes that a tree stood in the middle on which offer- 
ings were placed.^ 

The Plains Cree seem to have followed the same method. There were, 
however, some slight differences in the pound, as a palisaded enclosure and 
a ditch or pit ( ?) to prevent escape by the entrance. Also, their i)ound did 
not always have an inclined plane l)y which the buffalo could enter, the open- 
ing being on the level and guarded by skins held by })oles or even by i)ersons. 
This account of Hind's ^ is criticised by Hector and Vaux in a manner that 
leads one to suspect the Cree used the precise method of the Assiniboine. 
This is confirmed by a description of a Cree pound by John ]McDougall.^ 
Henry makes the statement that pounds were used by the Assiniboine in 
winter but not in summer.^ Hector and Vaux also specifically deny Hind's 
statement that they were used in summer. Also, it was winter when the 

1 Henry, 294. 

2 Henry and Thompson, 518. 

3 De Smet, 1027. 
■4 De Smet, 1030. 

5 Henry and Thompson, 577. 

6 Frankhn, 101 
" Hind, 357. 

s McDougall, 273. 

8 Henry and Thompson, 518. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 49 

elder Henry made his observation and curiously enough the visit of the 
younger Henry to a Blackfoot ])ound was in December. Alaximilian says 
the Blackfoot made pounds in winter.^ While pounds of this type were 
doubtless used at all times of the year before horses were introduced, the 
presence of these animals made a resort to this method unnecessary in sum- 
mer. The tenilency among all observers was to consider imj)ounding the 
primitive mode. 

Illustrations of pounds may be found in the works of Umfreville, Hind, 
and Franklin. The former, gives a general descri])tion apparently not 
referring to any particular tribe; he states, however, that the enclosures are 
circular or square, according to the nation using them. Harmon - mentions 
having seen poimds in use and gives a description of them agreeing in many 
particulars with that of Umfreville. So far, the Assiniboine type has been 
found in use among the Plains Cree and Northern Blackfoot. The younger 
Henry states that the Assiniboine were usually considered "the most expert 
and dexterous nation of the jjlains in constructing pounds, and in driving 
buffalo into them." '* Maximilian makes a similar statement.^ These 
taken with the limited distribution of this type of pound suggest strongly 
the Assiniboine as the centre of distribution. 

The use of a cliff or cut-bank over which the buffalo fell into a })ound 
might be assumed a makeshift to avoid the construction of the incline. How- 
ever, the enclosure was not always present. Schoolcraft^ says "the bands 
inhabiting the Missouri" drive buffalo over precipices. According to 
Allen,'' this was the practice of the ]\Iinnetarees, though Lewis ^ in his de- 
scription refers the practice to the "Indians of the Missouri." The first of 
these drives noted by I^ewis and Clark was, however, near the mouth of the 
Judith River, in territory in which he expected to meet the Gros Ventre 
antl Blackfoot tribes. In 1S73 Allen * saw remains of a pound "above the 
mouth of the Big Horn River" which from the context appears to have been 
of the Blackfoot type. Hornaday ^ quotes T. R. Davis as stating that the 
Indians between the Platte and Arkansas Rivers were seen by him driving 
buffaloes over ledges.^" From notes by Kroeber,^^ the Gros Ventre seem to 

1 Maximilian, 2.52. e Allen, 204. 

2 Harmon, 285. ~ Lewi.s ami Chirk, 2. 93. 

3 Henry and Thompson, 518. s Allen, 207, 

* Maximilian, 195. » Hornaday, 48.3. 

« Schoolcraft, 279. 

10 The following extract from a letter by Mr. Reese Kincaide is given in confirmation: — 
"In talking to Washee, one of the Arapaho chiefs, about this matter, he said that he remembers 
seeing the Arapaho hunters drive a herd of buffalD over a bluff in CDl3rado. The dead lay in a 
great pile and as the weather was very cold the bodies froze, so that the women worked for several 
weeks curing the meat and hides. George Bent, a C'.ieyenne, says that in the winter of 1872, 
he saw the Indians drive a bunch of buffalo over a bluff on the Cimirron River of Oklahoma 
and that man.v were killed. These likewise froze, so the women could take their time in saving 
the meat and hides. As to dri\ing them into pens, I couhl find nothing." 

11 Kroeber, (a), 148. 

50 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol.V, 

have followed the methods of the Piegan and Blood. Henry ^ saw in the 
Rockv INIoimtains a precipice over which the Kootenai drove buffalo and 
perhaps other animals. 

According to Allen,- rounding up buffalo by firing the grass was noted 
by Henne})in, Du Pratz, Charlevoix and J. G. Shea. To these may be 
added Schoolcraft ^ and Carver.^ Schoolcraft states that the method by 
fire was used on the upper INIississippi. From all these accounts, it appears 
that this method was chiefly in vogue in the prairies of Wisconsin, Illinois, 
Iowa and Miiuiesota, and therefc^re practised by the Algonkin and Siouan 
tribes within these limits. 

The surround was evidently a method developed after the introduction 
of the horse. A large body of horsemen under the direction of leaders rode 
round and round a flying herd, shooting down the animals as they rushed 
about. Descriptions of this have been given by Catlin,'^ James,^ Grinnell,^ 
and others. It apjjears that at the opening of the period this method was 
common to the Minnetarees,^ Mandan,® Arikara/" Pawnee," Arapaho,^^ 
Omaha," Cheyenne" and the southern tribes generally. Later, it was used 
in summer by all the northern tribes. 

Now, while the infornuxtion at our command is not entirely adequate 
for the purjwse, the general distribution of the tyi)es of co-operative buffalo 
hunting and the place of the Blackfoot in this culture area can be stated 
with considerable confidence. The pound of the Assiniboine was used by 
the Plains Cree and the Northern Blackfoot. According to Grinnell,^- 
the Cheyenne at one time used a similar pound, which, taken with the fact 
that this tribe once lived on the borders of the Cree-Assiniboine area, is 
suggestive. Driving over a cliff or a ledge with or without an enclosure below 
was largely practised by the Piegan, Blood, Gros Ventre, Kootenai and 
probably by the Haidatsa and Crow. The method of surrounding by fire 
was used by the Santee division of the Dakota, the Algonkin of the upper 
IVIississippi valley and probably the Iowa and Winnebago. Rounding up, 
by horsemen was the prevailing mode of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, jNIandan 
and southern Siouan tribes, the Caddoan tribes and perhaps some of the 

1 Henry and Thompson, 691. 

^ Allen, 202. 

3 Schoolcraft, (a") 279. 

■> Carver, 287. 

s Catlin, 1, 199. 

a James, 1, 190. 

7 Grinnell, (b), 284. 

8 Catlin, 1, 199. 

3 Spinden and Will, 121. 

lu Brackenridge, 157. 

'1 Hornaday, 483. 

i^ Grinnell, (a), 231. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 51 

Shoshonian tribes. Thus, the Blackfoot seem to be territorially divided 
between two types, the pound and the drive over a clift". There may be 
some justification in regarding these as varieties of the same type since 
they prevailed in contiguous parts of the Saskatchewan and Upper Missouri 
country. Harmon states that the pounds observed by him (the Assiniboine 
type) were placed in a clump of trees with the opening facing "a rising piece 
of ground, that the yard (enclosure) may not be seen from a distance." ^ 
Thus the Piegan and Blood type may be a normal variation from that of the 

The method by firing the grass can scarcely be considered as a variant 
of this general impounding type, even though fire was often employed to 
work the buffalo into the lines of a pound. Both, however, may be con- 
sidered as distinct from the "surround" in that horses were not necessary to 
them but absolutely essential to the latter. To c[uote from Schoolcraft: — 
"The Indians employ both the rifle and the arrow, and in the prairies of 
Missouri and Arkansas, pursue the herds on horseback; but on the upper 
INIississippi, where they are destitute of horses, they make amends for this 
deficiency by several ingenious stratagems. One of the most common of 
these is the method of hunting with fire." " We have previously pointed 
out the tendency of the northern tribes to use pounds in winter and not in 
summer. As the horse was evidently gradually introduced from the south- 
west, the inference is that impounding and grass-firing were methods being 
displaced by the surround in the course of events. However this may be, 
the Blackfoot seem to fall into a group with the Assiniboine, Plains Cree, 
Gros Ventre, Kootenai, and possibly the Crow and Haidatsa. 

The antelope pound used by the Blackfoot is quite similar to a descrip- 
tion secured from the Teton except that the lines were not provided with the 
elbow-like turn and terminated in an enclosure instead of a pit. It seems 
that the Mandan used a form like that of the Teton. (It is strange that no 
reference to their using a buft'alo pound is found). Grinnell saw the ruins 
of antelope pounds "in northwestern Utah, in the country ranged over by 
the Utes, Cheyennes and Arapahoes." ^ According to Charlevoix some such 
impounding was used in Canada for moose, caribou and deer.^ Lewis' 
saw an antelope pound used by the Assiniboine similar to that of the Teton. 
According to the same writer the Shoshone use a form of the surround for 
taking antelope." De Smet ^ gives a general description of antelope pounds 

1 Harmon, 286. 

2 Schoolcraft, (a) 279. 

3 Grinnell, (c) 60. 
■• Allen, 207. 

5 Lewis and Clark, 1, 31.3. 

6 Lewis and Clark, 2, 345. 
" De Smet, 1397. 

52 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

similar to those of the Teton. It seems that the Blackfoot show some 
individiudity in the use of the pit and the elbowed lines. The Coeur D'Alene 
used a form of grass-firing for deer.^ 

The Blackfoot, like their immediate neighbors, were not given to th(- 
taking of fur-bearing animals. The traps used by them were few and 
simple, and looked upon as pertaining to boyish things. It may be of interest 
to note that the general form of deadfall herein descriljed was rather widely- 
distributed in North America. The form of fish trap (Fig. 10) is similar iu 
that used by the Haidatsa, but whatever its origin it is certainly intrusive. 

In conclusion, it must be said that we have found little in the preceding 
that seemed truly characteristic of the Blackfoot. All their food habits seem 
to have been shared almost equally by the tribes of the Saskatchewan and 
the Upper Missouri. In a few methods of cooking, they show similarities 
to parts of the western plateau area and may, perhaps, be credited with slight 
individuality in the forms of some utensils. 

1 De Smet, 1021. 


Wissler, Material Culture of Black/out Iwlians. 



Ill all considerations of material culture, the productive processes of the 
home, and indeed there are few that are not of the home, must receive a 
great deal of attention. To be consistent, of course, all the objects de- 
scribed in this papcn- should be considered specimens of domestic production; 
but for convenience sake, we have chosen this head for the study of such as 
do not readily fintl their places elsewhere, or in which the process is of more 
importance to our |)roblems than the functions of the resulting objects. 

Textile Arts. Like most ]ieo])les of the Missouri-Saskatchewan area, 
the Blackfoot gave little attention to textiles, skins sufficing for their needs. 
No traces of basketry could be found. Soft woven bags from across the 

Fig. 11. Stitches used in Sewing. 

mountains are in use, but none were made by the Blackfoot themselves. 
A crude kind of fish trap has been described and some forms of the sweat 
house may be interpreted as attempts at basketry, but these few exceptions 
scom, after all, to prove the rule. As to weaving, the wrapped techni(iu{> in 
dog travois frames is the sole instance. 

Formerly, cord was made from the tough ))ark of an unidentified shrub 
(the buffalo berry?) which was twisted or ])laited into ropes, doubtless 
similar to the hair and thong ropes described elsewhere. Thread for sewing 
was of sinew. Large broad bands of sinew from the legs and neck of a 


Anthropological Pajjers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. '\', 

steer are dried and stored. AVhen thread is needed some shreds are puhed 
off by the teeth, softened in water or in the mouth and smoothed out with the 
fingers. Then placing one end in the mouth, the shreds are twisted by 
rolhng between the pahns. Sometimes the end is held vnider the foot. 
Heavy cord, or even rope, is occasionally made by twisting or braiding 
similar strands of twisted thread. (Plate ii.) 

For sewing, a bodkin of bone was used. This was displaced by those 
of metal and finally, in time, by needles. Their chief stitches are shown in 
Fig. 11. The first of these is the one in general use for all seams and the 
joining of moccasin soles to their uppers, often spoken of as over and over 
stitch. The second is in our terminology the running stitch of plain sewing, 

Fig. 12. Frame for a Back Rest. 

used by the Blackfoot for attaching borders and bands. The third is used 
as a mending stitch, while the fourth is chiefly for ornament. While these 
are very simple, they were primarily devised for work in skins and should 
be judged from that })oint of view. It appears that the use of two threads, 
as in our shoe and leather work, is unknown. We have not found time 
to examine many specimens from other tribes, but find the first and third 
in general use so far as our observation goes.^ 

Back rests, used in tipis at the heads of couches, may ])erhaps be con- 
sidered as examples of weaving. They are made of willows tied with sinew. 
As a rule, they are held together by three strands of cord. First, three cords, 

1 The stitches were determined by Miss R. B. Howe. 


Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 


Fig. 13. The Back Rest Stitch. 

the proper length fur a, are tightly .stretehed uu .stake.s (Fig. 12). 
at the base are driven in firmly: those at the other extremity are reinforced 
by cords attached to two other stakes.^ The willows are then laid on, 
lieginning at the base. Around each stretched cord is passed another as in 
Fig. 13, and drawn tight, thus securely tying each rod to its neighbor and 
the warp cord. While in most cases, the loose cord is introduced as shown 
in the figure, it is occasionally tied in a true knot. In most back rests, the 
willows are also perforated antl 
strung with two strands of sinew. 
The reason for this is not cpiite 
clear. Some Cheyenne rests in 
the jNIuseum are held together 
entirely by stringing, suggesting that the Blackfoot may have combined two 
techniques in the making of one object. 

Technique of Bead and Quill Work. The use of cjuills in ornamentation 
has almost become a thing of the past; hence, few specimens came to our 
notice. On the other hand, we have the testimony of many early observers 
to the effect that formerly these people were very efficient in this art. How- 
ever, we collected specimens of the following technique, the details of which 
were determined by Mr. William C. Orchard. For convenience, we have 
given each a serial number. 

1. In this technique, the quills are laitl on in rows or bands. Designs 
are worked out by changing the color of the quills. The ends of the quills 

Fig. 14. Quill Technique No. 1. 

Fig. 15. Technique No. 3. 

on the lower edge of a band are held in place by a string of sinew, or thread, 
a, running across the surface of the leather to be decorated, with another 
thread, h, going in the same direction but passing under the first thread 
through the surface of the leather, l)ack over the first thread and inider itself, 
thus forming a loop between each quill (Fig. 14). The thread holding the 

1 In use heavy pieces of wood or other weights are laid upon these cords to regulate the 
tension of the strands, or warps. For back rests in use see, Plate vii. 


Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

upper enil of the quills in place, is threaded through the surface of the leather 
in an obliciue direction, from left to right (assuming that the work is started 
from the right hand side) crossing under itself on to the next space between 
the quills. This is practically the same stitch as that employed for the 
lower edge, omitting thread a (50-4452-5452). 

2. This is done with a simple stitch, the thread caught under the 
surface of the leather between each turn of the quill (Fig. 16). Patterns are 
produced by varying the lengths of the quills (50-5377, 76). 

3. In this process (Fig. 15) the surface is similar to that for Xo. 1 but 

Fig. 16. Technique No. 2. 

the stitch is simple. The thread is passed through the leather and Ijack 
again between each quill (50-6787). 

4. This gives a diagonal effect and is laid on in narrow bands (Fig. 17) 
The quills are held in place by a loop stitch as described for No. 1 (50-5427) 

Fig. 17. Technique No. 4. 

5. In this form of decoration, the quill crosses itself oljlicjuely i)roducing 
a V-shai)ed surface pattern. To get this effect, the end of the quill is held 
under the stitch, turned back on itself over the stitch, to the opposite edge of 


Wissler, Material CuUnrc of Blackfout Iitdians. 


the band where a parallel stitch is made over the cjuill, which is again turned 
back to the opposite side where another stitch is made, etc., Fig. 18 (50-6164). 
6. The method employed in this case may be termed a plaiting, where 
two elements are active, crossing each other obliquely, under one and over 
one, which is practically a weave, forming a diamond shaped pattern. The 
qviills are held in position by a thread laid over them at such places where it 
will be covered by the next crossing quill, or as in the case of the edge, where 
the quill turns back over itself. The thread is caught under the surface of 

Fig. 19. 

Fig. 18. 

Fig. 20. 

Fig. 18. Technique No. 5. 
Fig. 19. Technique No. 6. 
Fig. 20. Technique No. 7. 

the leather at the interstices, the direction of which is shown in the dotted 
lines in Fig. 19. This form of (juill work may l)e used for narrow bands, or 
in widths limited only by the size of the article to be decorated. Where 
the width is more than the length of a (juill, a system of laj^ping is used. 
^Yhen the length of a (piill is used, the end is caught under a stitch in the 
nearest row, the end of another tucked under the same stitch and turned 
back over itself, whence the plaiting proceeds. The lappings are all care- 
fully concealed under the crossing elements (50-7422, 4484). 


Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

7. A different kind of technique (Fig. 20) is often used on a leather base 
for the lacings of moccasins, fringes or bands. The end of the quill is over- 
lapped and the winding proceeded ^Yith until the extremity of the quill is 
reached around which the end of another quill is turned half around and 
overlapped by the next layer. The lappings are arranged so that they always 
occur on the same side. The end is turned back under the last laps at the (50-5377, 76). 

8. This is used chiefly on a kind of fringe with a rawhide strip as a base, 
around which ((uills are twined and held in place by a thread, running the 
length of the strip, each extremity passing through from one side and knotted 
on the other. One end of the quill is passed under the thread; the remain- 
ing portion is turned back and overlaps the end, and then twined around the 
strip two or three times, according to the length of the (luill and width of the 
stri]) until the other end is reached, which is turned over and tucked under 
the thread to complete the binding. Other quills are adtled in like manner 

Fig. 21. Technique No. 8. 

Fig. 22. Technique No. 9. 

until the entire length of the strip is covered. The side on which the thread 
shows is the back and all beginnings and endings are made there. The 
edges of the quills are spread apart in the drawing to show the method, 
Fig. 21 (50-4452). 

In all quill work Mhere thread is used and the tpiills appear on one side 
only, the stitches pass in and out on the same side of the leather, thus not 
to be seen on the reverse side. This may be taken as characteristic of all 
(juill work so far observed in our collections. Of the preceding techniques 
all were certainly extensively used by the Blackfoot with the possible excep- 
tion of the last. This we suspect was recently learned from some of their 
neighbors as the pipe bag upon which it usually occurs is not typical. In the 
case of No. 1 it is not clear why a different stitch is used on each edge of the 
band as we have no data from the workers themselves. The women kept 
quills of assorted colors in cigar shaped bags of gut. When at work, the 
((uills were held in the mouth to soften, flattened and made flexible by work- 
ing with the fingers and immediately put into place. 


Wisslc)% Mdleridl Culture of Blackfoot In<lians. 


We are able to present some comparative observations on the techni(jue 
of neighboring tribes as determined by Mr. Orchard. 

9. A techni(iue found on some Gros Ventre specimens is shown in Fig. 
22. The stitch along the upper edge is made by looping the thread through 
the surface of the leather between each quill, that on the lower edge is caught 
through the surface in an oblique direction omitting the looj) which in sewing 
technique is known as a "back stitch" (50-4262). 

I 10. In this method of sewing quills to leather, a single thread is employed 
around which the quill is turned, the thread being caught through the surface 
of the leather between each turn of the quill (Fig. 23). The stitch is hitlden 
behind that part of the c^uill forming a loop in front. It is used for single 

Fig. 24. 


Fig. 23. 

Fig. 23. 

Technique No. 10 

Fig. 24. 

Technique No. 11 

Fig. 25. 

Technique No. 12 

Fig. 25. 

lines and edgings in designs and so far oV)served among the Gros Ventre and 
on an unidentified specimen in the Audubon collection (50-4275). 

11. The following is another method of fastening ({uills to a lace or other 
object to be decorated: — A thread is passed through the lace from one side 
to the other and knotted. The root ends of one or two (luills are placed 
side by side, the cpiills are turned back over their ends and wrajjped around 
the lace until the points are reached. The points are turned down the lace 
at right angles to the wrapping, and under the thread, which is passed 
through the leather, inunediatc-ly below the turning of the tpiills. The 
thread is pulled tight, holding the (piills securely (Fig. 24). To continue 


Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

the wra})ping, two more C[uill ends are tucked under the thread immediately 
over the turning point of the precetUng epulis, tiu-ned back and wrapped as 
before, imtil the lace is covered. It was observed among the Gros Ventre 

12. The Gros Ventre also have a simple winding for laces. The root 
end of the quill is overlapped and the winding proceeded with until the 

point is reached which is turned 
down and overlapped by the suc- 
ceeding quill with the root and 
treated as at the starting point. 
For the finish, the point is turned 
back under the last laps (Fig. 25). 

13. A method of winding quills 
on a narrow band observed among 
the Assiniboine and the Gros Ventre 
is as follows: — A thread is stretched along the surface, down the mitldle of 
a strip of rawhide, and secured at the extremities by passing the thread 
through perforations and knotting on the reverse side. The end of a quill 
is tucked under a string so stretched, the quill turned back over its end and 
around the strip where the point is carried beyond the thread turned down 
and tucked under. Another ([uill is started as in the first place and the 

Fig. 26. Technique No. 13. 

Teclmiqiie No. 14. 

operation repeated until the strip is covered (Fig. 20). The ends and points 
are all turned down along the thread toward the end of the strip until the 
last ends are reached, which are turned up and tucked under the preceding 
laps to form a finish. In some places, two laps are made by the ciuill but 
in the majority, only one. The accumulations of ])oints and ends form a 
very decided ridge along the centre of the strip (50-1935, 4308, 7423). 


Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 


14. In this form of decoration, tlir .sinew is made to run throuu;h upper 
and lower looj)s in the leather, and the ([uill twisted around the sinew be- 
tween each stitch and turned at an angle to make another turn around the 

Fig. 29. Technique No. 16. 

Fig. 28. Technique No. 15. 

next stitch. The sinew is caught under the surface of the leather beneath 

the apex of each sharp turn (Fig. 27). It was observed in an unidentified 

specimen in the Audubon collection. 

15. Among the Assiniboine and also in the Audubon collection occurs a 

narrow band plaiting similar to No. 1-i, Fig. 28 (50-2003). 

1(). Another form of quill bound strips of soft leather occurs among the 

Assiniboine (Fig. 29). A knotted string is passed through the leather and 

turned down over the end of a quill 

which is turned back over itself, 

wound around the leather strip 

until the point is reached, which is 

turned down under the thread 

where another quill end is inserted and turned back over itself and around 

the strip, and so on, until a sufficient length has l^een covered. To make a 

finish, the quill is turned back under the thread, the thread passed through 

the leather, pulled tight, and knotted (50-7423). 

17. The winding on Dakota pipe stems is a braid of four elements of 

which two are active and two 
passive. The passive ele- 
ment consists of two strings 
laid parallel, over which are 
braided two (luills crossing 
obliquely one over ami one 
under (Fig. 30). A similar 
Fig. 30. Technique No. 17. technique has been described 

by Roth ' (50-033(1, 7S5S). 
IS. In this connection, we may mention a technique found on Lilard 

River. The ([uills are passed over and under the strings of sinew which are 

1 Roth, 54. 


Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

in turn passed over and under similar sinew strings (Fig. 31). The whole, 
on being drawn tight together conceals the strings and presents a surface 
somewhat like fine beadwork^ (50-3904, 3939). 

As a summary, it appears that so far we have not found Nos. 3, 4 and 8 
except among the Blackfoot. Of their other technique Nos. 1, 2 and 7 are 
used by the Gros Ventre, Nos. 1, 2 and 5 by the Assiniboine, Nos. 2 and 7 
by the Sarcee and Nos. 6 and 7 by the Dakota. Among the Gros Ventre, 
we also find four types peculiar, among the Assiniboine, two and for the 
Dakota one. While this is in no sense complete, it indicates that consider- 
able individuality may be expected for the different tribes, though these 
individualities tend to resolve themselves into minor variations of very 

Fig. 31. Technique No. 18. 

widely distrilnited })rocesses. The woven work. No. 18, is an interesting 
type and may well be the more primitive form of the Intrusive woven bead- 
work highly developetl among some woodland peoples. 

Little could be learned as to native dyes used in (juill work as for a long 
time the Blackfoot have used commercial dyes, the usual mode being to boil 
cjuills and feathers with pieces of print goods of the desired color. ]Maxi- 
milian observes: — "They [women] are likewise very skillful in the art of 
dyeing: and, to produce the beautiful yellow colour, they employ a lemon- 
coloured moss from the Rocky Mountains, which grows in the fir trees, 
my specimens of which are unfortunately lost. A certain root furnishes 
a beautiful red eye, and they extract many other bright colours from the 
goods procured from the ^Yhites. With them they dye the porcupine ciuills 
and the ciuills of the feathers, with which they embroider very neatly. "- 

As yet, practically no woven beadwork is to be found among these people, 

1 See also Rotli, .54. 

2 Maximilian, 103. McCUntock, 276, identifies tiiis moss as Evernia vulpina. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blaekfoat Indians. 63 

though it is rai)i(lly si)rea(hng over the area. The usual form is to cover 
the surface of tannetl skin with strung beads. The strands are sewed down 
at fre(juent l)ut irregular intervals, giving a uniform beaded surface. This 
is in contrast to the })revailing Dakota, Crow, Cheyenne and Ute method of 
sewing all strands down at regular intervals, thus })roducing rows or ridges, 
exactly like ([uill work. On the other hand, the Northern Shoshone, Gros 
Ventre, and Assiniboine show tendencies to use the Blackfoot method, but 
not exclusively. 

Feather Work. In attaching feathers the Blackfoot use several methods. 
We have observed two of the modes described by Dr. Kroeber as character- 
istic of the Ara})aho and clearly shown in his Figs. 104a-b, and 105a. ^ Also 
in some cases the thong is passed through a slit in the quill. The more 
elaborate and varied techniques of the Arapaho are wanting. On the whole, 
the Blackfoot employ the feather much less than their immediate neighbors. 

Skin Dressing. Among all the buffalo hunting tribes, the dressing of 
skins was an important househokl industry and in this respect the Blackfoot 
were no exception to the rule. It was not only woman's work, but her worth 
and virtue were estimated by her outj)ut. The art still survives, in spite of 
the fact that materials are limited to steer hides, occasional elk or deer skins 
and i)elts of small animals used in ceremonial outfits; and that the com- 
mercial value of steer hides together with the cheapness of cloth tend to 
reduce the consumption of native tanned skins to a minimum. However, 
the continued use of the moccasin instead of the white man's shoe tends to 
preserve, at least, the cruder forms of the art. Soles of moccasins, parfleche 
and other similar bags are made of stiff' rawhide, the product of one of the 
simplest and perhaps the most primitive methods of treating skins. The 
uppers of moccasins, soft bags, thongs, etc., are of pliable texture, produced 
by a more elaborate and laborious process. The skill to produce the latter 
is fast disappearing and such examples as came under our observation may 
be regarded as survivals from a past regime, from which supplemented by 
information in the field, the following partial reconstruction of an important 
industry has been made. 

For the rawhide finish the treatment is as follows: — Shortly after the 
removal of a hide, it is stretched out on the ground near the tipi, hair side 
down and held in place by w^ooden stakes or pins, such as are used in stak- 
ing down the covers of tipis. Clinging to the upturned flesh side of the hide 
are many fragments of muscular tissue, fat and strands of connective tissue, 
variously blackened by coagulated blood. The first treatment is that of 
cleaning or fleshing. Shortly after the staking out, the surface is gone over 

1 Kroeber, (b), 321. 

64 Anthropological Papers America?! Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

with a fleshing tool by which the adhering flesh, etc., is raked and hacked 
away ^ (Plate i). This is an unpleasant and laborious })rocess requiring 
more brute strength than skill. Should the hide become tou dry and stitt' 
to work well, the surface is treated with warm water. After fleshing, the 
hide is left to cure and bleach in the sun for some days, though it may be 
occasionally saturated by pouring warm water over its surface. The next 
thing is to work the skin down to an even thickness by scrai)ing with an adze- 
like tool. The stakes are usually pulled up and the hard stiii" hide laid down 
under a sim-shade or other shelter. Standing on the hide, the woman 
leans over and with a sidewise movement removes the surface in chips or 
shavings, the action of the tool resembling that of a hand plane (Plate iii). 
After the flesh side has received this treatment, the hide is turned and the 
hair scraped away in the same manner. This completes the rawhiile process 
and the subsequent treatment is determined by the use to be made of it. 

The soft-tan finish as given to buffalo and deer hides for robes, soft 
bags, etc., is the same in its initial stages as the preceding. After fleshing 
and scraping, the rawhide is laid upon the ground and the surface rubbed 
over with an oily compound composed of brains and fat often mixed with 
liver.- This is usually rubbed on with the hands (Plate in). Any kind of 
fat may be used for this purpose though the preferred substance is as stated 
above. The writer observed several instances in which mixtures of packing 
house lard, baking flour, and warm water were rubbed over the rawhide 
as a substitute. The rawhide is placed in the sun, after the fatty compound 
has been thoroughly worked into the texture by rubbing with a smooth stone 
(Plate iv), that the heat may aid in its further distribution. When tjuite 
dry, the hide is saturated with warm water and for a time kept rolled up in a 
bundle. In this state, it usually shrinks and requires a great deal of stretch- 
ing to get it back to its approximate former size. This is accomplished by 
pulling with the hands and feet, two persons being required to handle a 
large skin (Plate iv). After this, comes the rubbing and drying processes. 
The surface is vigorously rubbed with a rough edged stone until it j)resents 
a clean grained appearance (Plate v). The skin is further drietl and 
whitened by sawing back and forth through a loop of twisted sinew or thong 
tied to the under side of an inclined lodge pole (Plate v). This friction 
develops considerable heat, thereby drying and softening the texture. As 
this and the preceding rubbing are parts of the same process their chrono- 

1 These pieces of flesh, fat, etc., are much prized for malviiig soup. For an Assiniboine 
reference to the same practice, see Vol. 4, p. 136. 

' McClintock states that the root of the parsnip, Leptntaenia multifida. was sometimes 
mixed with, 274. 

1910.] Wisslcr, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 65 

logical relation is not absolute, but the order, as observed, was usually as 
given above. ^ The skin is then ready for use. 

Skins with the hair on, are treated in the same manner as above, except 
that the adze-tool is not applied to the hair side. A large buffalo robe was 
no light object and was handled with some difficulty, especially in the 

No dressing of deer skins came under the observation of the writer, but a 
statement was secured from an old woman who still kept up the art. She 
proceeded as stated under soft tan, except that after the fatty compound had 
been worked into the skin, the hair surface was rubbed down with a beaming 
tool (now with a common knife, formerly with a rib bone) to remove any 
scattering hairs missed in working down with the adze. Then the skin was 
treated in the aforesaid manner and rubbed over a cord. The color and 
finish were imparted by smoking. The skins were spread over a frame 
similar to that of a sweat house, a hole was dug underneath and a smoulder- 
ing fire maintained with sage or rotten wood. My informant had a deer 
skin to which she had given the rawhide finish some time ago; later on, she 
expected to give it the soft tan and smoked finish. 

A minute study of the above process for any of the northern Plains tribes 
will have doubtful comparative value because the influence of the fur trade 
upon the mode of dressing skins must have been strong and is certainly almost 
beyond discovery. Even as late as 1880, the Blackfoot traded hundreds of 
soft tanned buffalo robes at Fort Benton and elsewhere. During the trading 
period great stores of rawhide were accumvdated din-ing the hunting season 
to be tanned at leisure. Hence, the reader may exj^ect a great deal of varia- 
tion in the process stated above and a great many modifications due to the 
demands of trade. However, a few comparative statements may not be out 
of place. The method of soft tan as described above, is practically the 
same as described by James.- \Yhile few writers are so explicit as this one, 
we get hints from many journals that indicate a general distribution of this 
process from Peace River to the Gulf of ^Mexico and from California to 
New England. Even the treatment of buckskin by smoking is known over 
this whole area, at least. However, the Kiowa processes as described by 
Battey are in greater agreement with those of the Blackfoot than all other 
accounts we have read.'* 

We may pass to a description of the instruments used by the Blackfoot. 
Unfortunately, the collection does not contain many specimens, but from 

1 See also James, 1, 202. 

2 James, 1, 202. 

3 Battey, 187. 

65 Anthropological Papers American Mvseum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

observation and information procured in the field, the types can be shown. 
The adze-Hke scraper is the well known antler elbow type; Fig. 33c, is minus 
the metal blade but otherwise complete. The wrapping to the blade is held 
by ii cord taking two turns around the handle and anchored in the end 
by a wire nail. In all tools of this type, the part of the handle forming the 
haft is usually wedge-shaped, flattened on the inner and rovmded on the 
outer surface. The blade is placed on the flattened surface, wrapped to the 
haft by a strip of soft tanned skin and the whole wound by many turns of a 
small thong. In use, the downward pressure of the stroke wedges the blade 
tight by forcing the wedged haft down into the aforesaid binding. When 
the pressure is removed the blade and its binding may slip off unless held in 
place by the cord passing around the handle. Old ]>eople say that formerly, 
the blades were of chippetl stone, but that iron has been in use for a very long 
time. The blades are now made of scraps of iron, often pieces of files, with 
slightly rounded ends on which are cutting edges bevelled from the outer 
surface. In operation, the blade is })ractically perpendicular to the surface 
to be scraped (Plate iii). 

Fleshers have iron blades, serrated, often the whole tool being made in 
the form of a common cold chisel. Until recently, fleshers had the form of a 
specimen collectetl among the Gros Ventre, Fig. 34d. In use, the shaft of 
the tool is grasped near the middle and the loop of thong above passed under 
the wrist as a brace (Plate i). No beaming tools were collected; but 
according to information they were of the rib bone type. 

In 1906, the writer observed a woman removing the hair from a rawhide 
with a rounded waterworn pebble (Plate i). She struck hard glancing 
blows and at each stroke removed a small bunch of hair. In reality, the 
action was about the same as rubbing and notwithstanding the force of the 
impact the hide was not damaged, even the pigmented layer being practi- 
cally intact. Further information was to the effect that this method was 
still used for various reasons, chiefly of convenience, and that in former times 
when making shields of buffalo hide the hair was removed in this way so as 
not to disturb the pigmented layer nor reduce the natural thickness of the 
hide. Many objects of buft'alo hide in collections are covered with a choco- 
late-like layer, apparently the normal pigmented layer of the skin. Such a 
layer would be damaged by the use of the adze tool and the above may be a 
suggestion as to the manner of dressing so as to produce this effect. 

At another time, a stone scraper was secured from an old woman about 
to dress a deer skin (Fig. 32). It is a slab struck from the outer surface 
of a waterworn pebble, the edge being formed by the fracture and the curved 
surface.^ The owner claimed to have made many such implements but that 

1 Spinden refers to a similar stone scraper used by the Nez Perce, (b), 215. 


Wissler, Material Culture of BlackfmA Indians. 


suitable pebbles were found with great difficulty. In use, this tool was 
held and handled in the same manner as the unshaped pebble noted above. 
The owner stated that she })referred such a 
tool for work on a deer skin because metal 
tools cut too many holes. Before leaving this 
subject, it may not be amiss to note the dis- 
tribution of the types of tools just described. 

The adze tool as found in the collections of 
this Museum is used by the Sarcee, Black- 
foot, Gros Ventre, Teton, Arapaho, Cheyenne, 
Comanche, Wind River and Lemhi Shoshone, 
and Turtle Mountain Ojibwa. According to 
^Nlason, the Crow, Kiowa, Pawnee, Paiute and 
a Pueblo group of New ^Mexico should be 
added; Long, the Omaha; De Smet, the Flat- 
heads and Spinden, the Nez Perce. Refer- 
ences to this instrument have not been found 

in the literature for California and the coast northward, the Athai^ascan area 
nor the Eastern Woodlands, though the search was not exhaustive. The 
above indicates that it is peculiar to the Plains area and confined chiefly 
to the buffalo hunting tribes. The fact that a specimen occurs in the Ojibwa 

Fig. 32 (50-6438). A Hide 
Scraper of Stone. Length, 11 cm. 

Fig. 33 a (50-6014), b (50-4760), c (50-2334), d (50-586a). 
of a, 35 cm. 

Types of Scrapers. Length 

Collection from Turtle Mountain and not in other Ojibwa collections is in 
keeping with this statement. The adze tools in the jMuseum collections and 
those figured by Mason ^ are of four types as in Fig. 3!^. Their distrilnition 
with the number of specimens noted, is as follows : — 

1 Mason, (el. Plates CXII-CXIII. 

58 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

a. Sarcee 2, Gros Ventre 1, Paiute 1, Wind River 1, Lemhi Shoshone 1, 
Teton 1 , Xez Perce 1 . 

b. Comanche 2, Pueblo 1, Turtle Mountain Ojibwa 1. 

c. Crow 1, Wind River Shoshone 3, Blackfoot 1. 

d. Gros Ventre 1, Arapaho 3, Cheyenne 2. 

The types a and d differ only in that a has handles of antler while h 
has a handle of wood. The distribution of these types as given aljove is, 
of course, tentative beyond the limits of the available material, l)ut the table 
suggests a narrow range for the specialized types h and c. 

The chisel-like fleshing tool with a rounded toothed edge is very Avidely 
distributed in North America east of California and the North Pacific Coast, 
seemingly characteristic of the forest areas. In the ^Museum collections and 
among the illustrated specimens described by ]Mason ^ appear the following 
types for the Plains area : — 

a. Shaft from the tibia of buffalo, steer, etc., with joint and part of 
femur attached. (Fig. 34d.) 
i. Bone edge; Isleta (New Mexico) 1, Teton 1. 
ii. Iron edge; small blade attached to shaft, Gros Ventre 2. 

h. Shaft from the tibia alone, bone edge; Ute 3, Dakota 1. (Fig. 34b.) 

c. Entire tool of iron; Teton 3, Sarcee 1, Arapaho 3, Cheyenne 1, Wind 
River Shoshone 1. (Fig. 34a.) 

Mason - states that the iron flesher was used by the Kiowa; I)e Smet ^ 
by the Flathead. As shown by the Museum collection the shaft of this type 
is covered with rawhide. Mason * figures a flesher of bone like Fig. 34b and 
one with a wooden shaft and metal blade from the Indians of the Ungava 
district, while Turner ^ figures one of bone. Morice ^ remarks that the bone 
fleshers with serrated edges are known to the Carriers and the Tse'kehue 
but not to the Chilcotin, the former, in his opinion, having borrowed it 
from the Cree and other eastern Algonkins among whom it is common. 
This instrument is not mentioned by Teit ^ nor is it found in any of the 
collections from the plateaus and coast of British Columbia. Russell * 
collected one from the Dog Ribs. The writer has seen such tools from the 
Thaltan. On the other hand, he has not been able to learn of their use by 
the Iroquois. Thus, it seems that this tool has most likely been distributed 

1 Mason, (a), 27.5. 

2 Mason, (e), 571. 

3 De Smet, 1003. 

4 Mason, (e), Plate LXVIII. 

5 Turner, 293. 

6 Morice, (c), 70. 
^ Teit, 182. 

s Russell, 177. 


W'iiidcr, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 


from the Algonkin area into the ^Mackenzie and Phiins areas. One also 
gets the impression from Mason that the flesher of the Plains is used as a 
prainino; tool bv the forest tribes, but reference to Turner and Morice indi- 
cates that almost everywhere it is used primarily as a flesher. About the 
onlv distinctive feature of Plains fleshers is the prevalence of the iron cold 
chisel tvpe not observed outside of that area. So far as the writer has 
observed, serrated bone fleshers of this type are not generally found in 
archaeological collections. From the Mandan country, however, some are 

Beaming tools are identified with the dressing of deer skins and in this 

Fig. 34 a (50-3002) b (D-193), c (50-4382a), d (50-1770). Types of Fleshers. Length 
of o, 38 cm. 

respect stand distinct from the adze tool used in dressing buffalo skins. 
They seem to be used wherever the dressing of deer skins is prevalent and 
best known under the following types: — 

a. Split leg bones. 

b. Combined tibia and fibula of deer or similar animal. 
r. Rib bone. 

(/. Wooden stick with metal blade in middle, stick usually curved. 
From the collection in this Museum it seems that the split leg bone type 

1 Will and Spinden, (a), 169. 

70 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History [Vol. \, 

is not found in the Plains. Should further inquiry show this to be the case, 
it would be a matter of some interest since the split bone type is found in 
archaeological collections from British Columbia, Ohio and New York. 
The general aspect of the foregoing, is that the beaming tool is a concomitant 
of deer skin dressing from Point Barrow ' and the Hupa,~ to Labrador ■' 
and Pennsylvania.^ 

The rubbing of the skin over a twisted cord seems common to buffalo 
hunting tribes; for example, we find it among the Blackfoot, Gros Ventre, 
Arapaho, Dakota, Pawnee and Omaha from which its general distribution 
in the Plains may be inferred. The writer has not been able to find its men- 
tion outside of the Plains area. On the other hand, the rubbing with a 
rough stone is the usual treatment accorded deer skins. According to 
Maximilian,^ the Indians of the u{)jier ^Missouri used pumice stone. Long 
states that the Omaha used pumice stone, sharp stones or hoes and the same 
is said of the Pawnee." The jNIuseum collections contain a rounded piece 
from the porous end of a large bone said to have been used in skin dressing 
by the Cheyenne, possibly as a substitute for pumice stone. The collections 
from the Dakota and Arapaho contain flat roimded oval stones which are 
very smooth and oily. From the Dakota, the writer learned that such 
stones were used to rub in the fatty substance spread over the skin. One of 
these stones, from the Teton, has a rough fractured end and was used by the 
owner for the rough rubbing also. 

A frame, or stage, for stretching hides was used by many tribes and is 
often met with among the Indians of the Plains. Though our information 
indicates the occasional use of such frames by the Blackfoot in the past, 
the almost invariable method of recent years is to stretch the skins upon the 
ground. The frame was used in winter when the ground was frozen too 
hard for driving stakes, but flat upon the surface and not horizontal. 

Thus, in general, the implements used by the Blackfoot in dressing skins 
closely conform to the types of the buffalo hunting tribes which as a group 
show decided differences from those of other ethnographical areas. As 
among other tribes, women took pride in the number and quality of robes 
they dressed, often keeping records and referring to them when al:)Out to 
perform a ceremony. 

Soft Bags and Pouches. Long slender bags for the smoking outfit were 

1 Mason, (e). 

2 Goddard. 

3 Turner. 

*■ Heckewelder, 202. 

5 Maximilian, 125. 

James, 1, 203. 


Wissler, MaterUd Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 


in use, Fig. 35 being the apparent type. They range in length from 70 to 

100 cm. (fringe inchided) and in width from 10 to 17 cm. They tai)er 

sHghtly toward the top and bear a fringe at the 

bottom. The tips are usually cut so as to form 

four ear-like flaps. A buckskin thong is fastened 

to one side, the loose ends serving to tie the 

mouth of the bag. The decoration is applied to 

a small field at the base and to the edges of the 

flaps at the mouth. The fringes are plain. 

We collected one specimen much shorter and 
wider than the typical pipe bags, fastened to one 
side of which is a slender sheath for the j)ipe stem. 
The decorations are also differently placed, sug- 
gesting foreign influence. However, the woman 
from wiiom it was received claimed to have made 
it. Another quill-worked bag lacks the flaps at 
the top and bears the slats of rawhide wrapped 
with quills, a characteristic of Dakota pipe bags. 
This is an old {)iece concerning which no infor- 
mation as to the maker could be secured; the pre- 
sumption is, that it is foreign. 

In use, the tobacco, })ipe bowl, stokers and 
lighting implements are dropped into the bag, 
while the stem, unless too short, ])rotrudes from 
the mouth, which is drawn tightly arountl it by 
the closing thong. While the largest and most 
highly ornamented bags are usually used by men, 
women may use them without breach of proprietv. 
In general, however, those used by women are 
smaller as are also their pipes. At present, the 
most common form of pipe bag among both sexes 
is a sim])le |)oke of cloth. 

The only comparative data at hand is that of the collections in the 
Museum. Pipe bags are especially cons])icuous among the Dakota, where 
they are much larger, ranging from 80 to 150 cm. in length, with proportion- 
ate widths. At the end they have rows of rawhide strips wrapped with 
quills. These do not hang free but are bound at the ends.^ Below is a 
fringe of buckskin. The decorated field is larger than in the Blackfoot 
type and a narrow band extends uj) one border to the top, which is cut straight 

Fig. 35 (50-4424). 
Bag. Length 54 cm. 

A Pipe 

1 Wissler, (b). 

72 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

and faced with beads or quills. A number of bags similar to the Dakota 
type were observed by the writer, among the Assiniboine of Fort Belknap 
reservation, and the collection made there contains a bag with a sheath for 
the stem similar in all respects to the one secured from the Blackfoot. The 
Cheyenne and the Crow seem to use pipe bags of the Dakota type. So far 
as the Museum collection goes, no pipe bags of either type appear among 
the Arapaho, Ute or Shoshone. They were rarely observed by the writer 
among the Gros Ventre. The Blackfoot type was found among the Lemhi 
Shoshone by Dr. Lowie.^ Mr. Skinner also collected one of this type among 
the Cree near James Bay. 

The ceremonial outfits of the Blackfoot contain tobacco pouches formed 
of animal and l)irtl skins, reminding 
one of the medicine bags used by the 
central Algonkin. The skin of a very 
voung antelope or deer was often used. 
This was removed entire by stripping 
back from the neck. Such bags are 
found in the collections from the Dako- 
ta, who claim this to have been the old, 
or parent form of })ipe and tobacco 
bag. The fact that the general type 
of seamless bag is common and used 
for a variety of purposes may warrant 
a ciuestion as to whether the introduc- 
tion of metal cutting and sewing 
implements during the historic period 
may not have influenced the develop- 
ment of these long, rectangular fringed 
pipe bags. 

Many of the paint bags used by the 
Blackfoot resemble their pipe bags 
(Fig. 36), even to the fringe and the 
flaps at the mouth. However, many 

paint bags in ceremonial outfits are without fringes or decorations of any 
kind. Some have square cut bases and some curved;- their lengths range 
from 8 to 15 cm. In some cases, those wuth square cut bases are provided 
with a pendant at each corner. Decorated paint bags of the fringed type 

Fig. 36 (50-4428). A Paint Bag. Length, 
26 cm. 

1 Lowie, 212. 

2 Such curved bottom bags among the Dakota and elsewhere were formerly made from the 
scrotum of bull-calves and it is quite plausible that the form described above had its origin in 
this practice. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 73 

occur among the Gros Ventre, Assiniboine, Arapaho, Sarcee, Dakota, and 
Shoshone. A specimen without the fringe appears in the Comanche col- 
lection. The Blackfoot, Sarcee, Gros Ventre, and Assiniboine use almost 
exclusively, bags Avith the flaps at the top, and bearing similar decorations. 
The Arapaho and Dakota incline to this type but also use those with straight 
tops. Among the Shoshone decorated paint bags are rare, but two speci- 
mens we have observed belong to these respective types. So far, it seems 
that the Arapaho alone, use the peculiar paint bag with a triangular tail, 
suggesting the ornamented pendants to the animal skin medicine bags of the 
Algonkin. However, we have seen a large bag of this pattern attributed to 
the Bannock. 

A round-ljottomed pouch with a decorated field and a transverse fringe 
was sometimes used for paint by the Blackfoot. The decorated part is on 
stiff rawhide while the upper is of soft leather, the sides and mouth of which 
are edged by two and three rows of beads respectively. This seems to be 
an unusual form for the Blackfoot and rare in other collections; while the 
related form fre({uently encountered in Dakota and Assiniboine collections 
has not been observed among the Blackfoot or their immediate neighbors.^ 
The Blackfoot collection contains two small, flat rectangular cases with 
fringes. One of these was said to have been made for a mirror, the other for 
matches. However, such cases were formerly used by many tribes for carry- 
ing the ration ticket issued by the government. Their distribution seems 
to have been general in the Plains. 

A type of pouch, usually said to have been used for strike-a-light, has 
not been found among the Blackfoot. It is usually made of stift" commercial 
leather and profusely beaded." It is numerous among the Shoshone, Ute, 
Arapaho, Cheyenne, Dakota, Gros Ventre and the Assiniboine. Among the 
Arapaho and Gros Ventre we also find a very large pouch of the same 

Although the Blackfoot claim not to have used the peculiar large rec- 
tangular bags called by the Dakota "a bag for every possible thing," a type 
of which is illustrated in a former ^Museum publication,'' one specimen of 
buft'alo hide was secured from a Blood woman. It is similar in form and 
decoration to the bag just cited, except that it lacks a flap to close the mouth, 
as observed among some Gros ^'entre specimens.^ On the whole, the char- 
acter of the quilled lines and the beaded designs on the ends, strongly sup- 

1 Wissler, (b), 236. 

2 Wissler, (b), Plate XLI. 

3 Kroeber, (b), 97. 
^ Wissler, (b), 243. 

° Kroeber, (a), 164. 


Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

port the claim that this specimen was not made by a Blackfoot woman. 
The current Indian name for such bags is Crow (Indian) bag. This type 
of bag occurs among the Assiniboine, the Gros Ventre, Dakota, Cheyenne, 
Arapaho, Ute, Shoshone and probably elsewhere with practically no varia- 
tions either in form or decoration. Yet, the Bannock and the Nez Perce 
seem to make use of a small bag of this type, easily distinguished by a slight 
variation in decoration. 

An interesting type of bag was made from the skins of antelopes' feet 
bearing the dew claws, two specimens of which occur in the collection. 
These were said to have been very common when game was abundant. 
Similar bags occur in the collections from the Ojibwa, northern Athai)ascan 
and eastern Cree. An Eskimo pouch made of birds' feet may be considered 
an analogous type ^ as well as some bags mentioned by Russell.-' The 
Museum collection contains an interesting bag made of foot skins of the wild 
goose, joined by a beaded strip of skin, which is credited to the ^Mackenzie 
area. JNIention may also be made of a Cheyenne paint Ijag made of the 
skin of a turtle's foot. 

A unique undecorated bag made of 
buffalo hide deserves mention. This form 
was once in general use and had a special 
name, signifying "double bag" (Fig. 37). 
Although it has some resemblance to a 
saddle bag, it was said to have been used 
by women as a general carrying bag. So 
far, we have not encountered bags of this 
kind among other tribes, imless a speci- 
men noted by P'ather ]Morice may be so 

For gathering berries, the Blackfoot, 
like many other tribes, often used the 
whole skins of small animals. No speci- 
mens of decorated bladders were observed 

as among the Gros Ventre, Arapaho and Dakota.^ By barter, woven bags 
of the Sahaptin type are secured and used for various purposes. 

Awl cases were of the tyi)e shown in Fig. 38. Unlike some other tribes, 
the women fastened these to the dress, either high up on the breast, or over 
the left shoulder so as to be easily reached with the hand. The awl cases 

Fig. 37. A Carrying Bag. 

1 Bulletin 15, 402. 

2 Russell, 175. 

3 Morice, (c), 148. 

•» Kroeber, (a), 167. 


Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Jyidians. 


of the Dakota are of the same shape but have closnig flaps. Curiou.slv 
enough, those of the Blackfoot like those of the Assini- 
boine are almost always covered with blue beads. 

From this brief comparative resume, it appears that 
in the matter of soft decorated bags and pouches, the 
Blackfoot resemble most the Athapascan, Cree and 
other northern Algonkin tribes rather than their neigh- 
bors of the Plains. As in most other cases, a complete 
statement cannot be given until more data are availal)le. 
Formerly, young men carried small toilet bags of 
which Fig. 39 is said to be a type. The decorations 
on this bag suggest Cree influence but according to our 
information are of an unusual recent pattern. A similar 
bag is fio-ured by Father JNIorice.' One noted by 

Fig. 38 (50-5453). 
A Bodkin Case. 
Length, 23 cm. 

Russell - was said to have 
been used for a strike-a- 
light outfit and for bullets. 
Dr. Lowie collected one 
of this type among the 
Assiniboine where it was 
regarded as a receptacle 
for war-medicine.^ 

Fig. 39 (50-4482). 
Length, 18 cm. 

A Toilet Bag for Young Men. 

1 Morice, (c), 148. 

2 Russell, 177. 

3 This series, Vol. 4, p. 32. 


Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

Beaded knife cases of the mere ornamental types found in the collections 

from the Dakota, Arapaho, Gros Ventre, Assinil)oine, 

etc., are now rare among the Blackfoot. In fact, 

none but practical examples were encountered and 

these were rarely decorated. The same general con- 
dition holds for bodkin cases. The few beaded 

specimens observed, so closely agreed with those in 

use among several divisions of the Siouan stock as 

to render their foreign origin quite probable. As 

among the Assiniboine, the knife case for men was 

provided with an eye for the belt while that of the 

women was supported by a hanger. 

Rawhide Bags. The collection contains a num- 
ber of rectangular bags made from a single piece of 

rawhide cut as in Fig. 40. As to form, they are of 

two types — those opening on the longer side and 

those opening on the shorter side. All vary much in 

size, ranging from 20 to 60 cm., on the longest side. 

The proportions of the two sides on a denominator of 

10, range from 6 to 9. They are closed by a flap as 

in Fig. 41 and are held in place by two thongs passed 

through as many holes in their edges. The edges are 

covered with cloth, either blue or red. The sewing is by an over stitch, holes 

being punched in the edges of the rawhide 
through which a single thong is passed, 
always from the same side. A])parently 
this sewing starts from the bottom of the 
bag. A knot is tied in the thong, some 
distance from the end, so that in the 
finished bag, the loose ends hang freely 
from the corners, forming simjile pend- 
ants. However, two bags in the collec- 
tion are sewed with a single thread passing 
in and out instead of over the edge. The 
short carrying strap is fastened on the 
back near the top. One large bag is 
])rovided Avith a strap long enough to 
pass over the shoulders. The faces of 
these bags and the fla})s are decorated 

with painted designs. 

The Museum collections contain similar bags from the Sarcee, Gros 

Fig. 40 (50-4578). 
Bag ready for Sewing. 

Fig. 41 (50-44.59). 
30 cm. 

A Bag. Length, 


Wissler, Material Culture of Blaekfoot Indians. 


Ventre, Assiniboine, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Dakota, Shoshone, Bannock, 
Ute and Nez Perce. Practically all are of the same range in size and pro- 
portion as those used by the Blaekfoot.^ The over stitch and the cloth bind- 
ing, red or blue, is almost uniform. A few Arapaho bags have the single 
thong in-and-out sewing. The pendants are equally universal. An addi- 
tional pendant is found on a few Xez Perce and Gros Ventre bags produced 
by extending the cloth binding below the bottom. In general, it may be 
said that we have scarcely found a single structural detail peculiar to any one 
of the above-mentioned tribes. These bags are used by women rather 
than by men. The larger ones may contain skin-dressing tools, the smaller 
ones, sewing or other small implements, etc. Sometimes, they were used in 

gathering berries and other vege- 
table foods. 

For ceremonial purposes, the 
Blaekfoot use a s([uare bag of the 
above type with heavy side fringes, 
cut from a rectangular piece of hide 
with the strands still joined at one 
edge. This edge is inserted be- 
tween the edges of the bag, and the 
whole sewed by a single thong pass- 
ing in and out. In some cases, a 
strip of cloth is laid on the face edge 
of the bag. The edge of the flap 
may also be fringed and cloth bound, 
though this occurs but rarelv (Fig. 

Among the Sarcee collections 
are bags in every way duj^licating 
these. A single specimen from the 
Gros Ventre is also a duplicate and 
is probably of Blaekfoot make. 
Two such duplicates appear in the 
Kootenai collection. From the 
Arapaho, we find one sewed with two thongs passing in and out from 
opposite sides. West of the mountains, another Blaekfoot duplicate 
was collected among the Yakima, while another, said to have come from 
Oregon has the sewing observed in the Arapaho specimen. Some other 

Fig. 42 (50-1448). 
35 cm. 

A fringed Bag. Length, 

> Recently an unusual bag was collected among the Comanche. One specimen is 70 cm. 
•wide by 39 cm. in depth, but otherwise its structure is of the type here noted. 


Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

bags of the same general shape among the Arapaho, Dakota and Nez Perce 
collections have a short fringe, formed by tying the ends of the thongs as 
described in Fig. 44. In passing, attention may be called to a bag of this 
type described by Teit ^ as common to the Thompson River Indians. How- 
ever, since this specimen agrees in every detail with those just described, 
it is probable that it was brought in by trade. 

A cylindrical rawhide case is used for many kinds of ceremonial objects 

(Fig. 43). The usual type is formed by 
rolling up a piece of rawhide cut so as to 
form a tapering tube. The ends are 
closed by disks of the same material. 
These are fastened in a simple manner; 
a hole is punched in the margin of the 
disk and another in the margin of the 
tube; through these a long thong is 
passed and tied so that the free ends 
hang down at length. The cover can be 
lifted by opening the knots on one side 
and drawing the thongs partly out. The 
edges of the tube section are held in 
place by a single thong, passing in and 
out. However, the most distinctive feature 
in such cases is the fringe. This is formed 
as in rectangular bags, and held between 
the overlapping edges of the tube. The 
strands are longest at the top of the case, 
Init the hanger is so placed that while 
the case itself takes a slanting position 
the ends of the strands are ai^jiroximately 
horizontal. All the specimens of this type, 
observed by us, are of the same approxi- 
mate size. The length of the case in six 
specimens measured, ranges from 50 to 58 
cm. The fringes vary in extreme lengths 
from 40 to SO cm. So far as examined, 
all are made exactly like Fig. 43. 
In the collection there are a number of small cases of similar structure. 
These range from 31 to 36 cm. in length (Fig. 44). Curiously enough, they 
are like the larger ones, except in the manner of joining the edges of the tube; 
})airs of holes are made at regular intervals through which thongs are tied, 
the ends forming a scattering fringe. The edge may be faced with cloth as 

Fig. 43 (50-4511) 
Length, 60 cm. 

A Medicine Case. 

' Teit, 203. 


Wissler, Material Culture of Blarhfoot Indians. 


on some rectangular bags. When so faced, the edges overlaj), otherwise 
they do not. 

The collections contain one unusual specimen aV)out 50 cm. long, without 
a cover but otherwise structurally somewhat like the small cases. Its decora- 
tion, however, is different from that of both the large and small types just 
described. In the ]\Iuseum collections are some large Sarcee and Gros 
Ventre cases of the Blackfoot type except that the fringes are tied in as with 
the small Blackfoot cases. The Nez Perce cases have very long fringes 
formed by separate or double thongs, giving the general 
appearance of those of the Blackfoot. The Arai)aho 
cases are seldom fringed at the side and the bottoms are 
close fitting, secured by a two thong in-and-out stitch. 
The sides are joined by a similar stitch. The Dakota 
cases have very short fringes formed by tying the 
thongs, as in small Blackfoot specimens, while the 
bottoms are heavily fringed. The Assiniboine seem 
more Uke the Dakota than otherwise. Shoshone cases 
vary a great deal in fringes and shapes, though all 
examined have the over edge stitch for the sides. 
The most peculiar form is that of the Ute, the covers 
and bottoms are somewhat larger in diameter than the 
case; the fringe is at the bottom and hangs ovei' the 
projecting edge of the disk. The Comanche collection 
contains a case peculiar in that it tapers from the 
bottom to the top, or the reverse of the usual form. 
It has the fringe at the bottom like the Ute, but lacks 
the projecting edg^ of the disk. 

Parfleche. Perhaps one of the most characteristic 
rawhide objects in the whole area is the parfleche. 
Its simplicity of construction is inspiring and its useful- 
ness scarcely to be over-estimated. Among the Blackfoot, they are always 
decorated in a characteristic manner. To make a parfleche, the Blackfoot 
women begin on a cow-hide, formerly that of a buffalo, that has been 
pegged out on the ground hair side down. After the fleshing, the surface 
is laid out for as many parfleche as it will make; the remainder of the 
space is given over to bags or reserved for moccasin soles. The painting 
is done at this time. Fig. 45 shows the outline of a steer hide with design 
for 2 parfleche and 2 bags.^ Finally, when this side is finished, the skin is 
taken up, thrown upon the ground, hair side up and scraped as described 
under a previous heading. Then the woman marks out with the point of a 

Fig. 44 (50-4473). 
A small Medicine 
Case. Length, 31 cm. 

' In addition the designs for three toy parfleche have been laid out on the hide. A bag 
cut out and ready for sewing is shown in Fig. 40. 

§0 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

Fig. 45 (50-4565). A painted Hide for Parfleche and Bags. Length, 160 cm. 

Fig. 46. A Parfleclie Pattern. 


Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 


Fig. 47 (50-4422). 
Length, 56 cm. 

A Parfleche. 

knife, the outline of the parfleche, bags etc., after which they are cut out. 

With a little trimming, they are ready for folding. The approximate form 

for a parfleche is shown in Fig. 46, and 

its completed form in Fig. 47. The side 

outlines as in Fig. 4(5 are irregular and 

show great variations, none of which can 

be taken as certainly characteristic. To 

fill the parfleche, it is opened out as in 

Fig. 46, and the contents arranged in the 

middle. The large flap is then brought 

over and held by lacing a', a". The ends 

are then turned over and laced b', b". 

The closed parfleche may then be secured 

by both or either of the looped thongs at 

c', c". 

Primarily, the parfleche was used for 

holding pemmican, though dried meat, 

dried berries, tallow, etc., found their 

way into it when convenient. In recent 

years, they seem to have more of a deco- 
rative than a practical value ; or rather, 

according to our impression, they are cherished as mementos of bufTalo days, 

the great good old time of Indian memory, always appropriate and 

acceptable as gifts. The usual fate of a gift parfleche is to be cut into 

moccasin soles. 

While there is great uniformity in the parfleche of the Missouri-Sas- 
katchewan area, some interesting differences may be noted. The range in 

size as found in the Museum collections, may be seen from the following 

average measurements : — 

Length. Width. 

Blackfoot 60 38 

Sarcee 61 38 

Gros Ventre 67 31 

Nez Perce 66 32 

Crow 68 36 

Kootenai 62 38 

Arapaho 63, 75 40 

Dakota 63 37 

Assiniboine 63 36 

Shoshone 80 38 

Ute 81 38 

Bannock 78 35 

82 Anthropological Papers American Musexim of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

From our measurements, it appears that there are two length types, 
the longer of which prevails among the Shoshone, Ute and Bannock. The 
shorter seems to prevail among the Siouan and Algonkin groups and in 
particular, in the areas contiguous to the Blackfoot habitat. The Arapaho 
collections seem to contain representatives of both types. While this col- 
lection is by far the largest in the Museum, the diversity in size cannot be 
attributed to this alone, since from the Nez Perce we have an almost equal 
number whose sizes are cjuite uniform. Curiously enough, the widths are 
not correlated to the lengths, but remain fairly constant. Blackfoot par- 
fleche have tapering flaps. This cannot be considered accidental, because 
when the design is painted as just described, its sides are made to slant in 
the same manner. The same feature is observable for the Assiniboine, 
Sarcee, Kootenai and a Comanche specimen. The other tribes fold their 
parfleche straight. The lacing in the ends of the flaps, varies in that the 
Crow, Arapaho, Gros Ventre, Ute, Shoshone and Nez Perce use a single 
lace in the middle with one pair of holes. The Assiniboine, Kootenai and 
Sarcee use the same method as the Blackfoot. The Dakota also use a 
single pair of holes but often place a single hole at each corner as well. 

In general, it may be said that the Blackfoot type of parfleche is char- 
acterized by the angling flaps, the three pairs of lace holes and the side loops. 
The latter seems peculiar to them; the former are shared by the Assiniboine, 
Sarcee, Kootenai and perhaps by the Comanche. 

Pipes. These are used by both men and women; those of the women, 
however, being much smaller than those carried by men. The pipe in 
Fig. 48 may be taken as the typical man's pipe. The bowl is of dark stone 
inlaid at the base with a band of lead. The stem is decorated with three 

Fig. 48 (50-5437). A Man's Pipe. Length, 64 cm. 

sections of wound brass wire. A woman's pipe of slightly different form is 
shown in Fig. 49. The stem has three windings of horse hair similar to 
those of wire, in the preceding. In this case, the stem has been split and 
the two halves grooved to form the bore, after which they were bound to- 
gether by the hair wrappings. 

Pipe stokers are usually short pointed sticks, in contrast to the long ones 
used by the Dakota, Arapaho, and some other tribes. Sometimes a ball 


Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 


of charcoal is placed in the bottom of the bowl before filling with tobacco, 
to prevent the contents of the pi})e from working uj) into the stem. The 
stems are almost without exception round, rather heavy and worked down to 
a smooth surface. The wood is of ash or other hard wood, selected in the 
natural round of the proper size and length from which the bark and sap 
layer are scra))ed before polishing. The holes in the stems are burned out 
with rods of iron. How thev were made before the introduction of iron 

Fig. 49 (50-S). A Woman's Pipe. Length, 19 cm. 

by white traders is not known, but is suggested by the split stem to the 
woman's pipe, Fig. 49. 

The bowls were made of a dark greenish stone found in many parts of 
the Blackfoot habitat. When first removed from the strata, this stone is 
easily worked down with a file. In course of time, the stone becomes hard 
and the heat from smoking turns the bowl a dull black. Some old people 
stated that according to tradition, stone pipe bowls were not made before 

the introduction of iron tools. Blocks 
of hard tough clay Avere cut into the 
form of a pipe bowl, rubbed with 
grease and hardened over the fire 
and by use. This is in agreement 
with the traditions concerning pottery 
but seems unlikely. Pipe bowls of 
red catlinite are often seen but these 
are of different shapes and are brought 
in by gift or l)arter. Fine pipes of 
black stone, inlaid with catlinite and other materials are also brought in 
from the Flathead country (Fig. 50). 

Tools. Information concerning a few tools came to hand, chiefly those 
surviving the regime of the trader. Sticks and arrow shafts were smoothed 
and Avorked doAvn by tAvo grooved stones of the Avell knoAvn type. HoAvever, 
they AA-ere oval rather than elongated rectangular. Shafts were straightened 
by a kind of Avrench made by l)oring a hole in a piece of "boss rib." A 
peculiar kind of spoke-shave Avas made of a stone flake set in a curved cut 

Fig. 50 (50-4872). .\n Inlaid Pipe secured 
in Trade. Length, 11 cm. 

84 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

in the middle of a stick. We observed an old man working down a piece of 
wood for a cane with an unmounted flake (Plate ii). Little saws made of 
scrap iron were used to cut the notches in arrow shafts, for inserting the 
points. Holes in objects were usually made bv burning, but small ones 
were drilled with arrows, the shaft being twisted between the hands. Thei-e 
was knowledge of neither pump nor bow drills. 

In former times, wood for the fire was In-oken with the knees and hands 
or with stone headed mauls. Henry writes of the Piegan in ISU that, 
"Many families are still destitute of either a kettle or an ax. The women, 
who are mere slaves, have much difficulty in collecting firewood. Those 
who have no axes fasten together the ends of two long jioles, Avhich two 
women then hook over dry limbs of large trees, and thus l)reak them oft". 
They also use lines for the same purpose; a woman throws a line seven or 
eight fathoms long over a dry limb, and jerks it until the limb breaks oft". 
Others again set fire to the roots of large trees, which having burned down, 
the branches supply a good stock of fuel. The trunk is seldom attacked 
by those who have axes, as chopping blisters their hands. Axes broken in 

two pieces are still used by putting the 
fractured ends together and stretching over 
them the green gut of a buftalo, which, 
when dry, binds the pieces tightly. As 
^. ., „, such rei)airing soon wears loose, a fresh gut 

Fig. 51 (50-11). A Kmfe Sharp- . ,, ® 

ener. Length, 6 cm. is put on.' 

According to Grinnell, grooves in arrows 

were produced by pushing the shafts through a hole in a flat bone, the 

circumference of the hole being provided with a small projecting spun." 

An object in the collection formed of two bears teeth bound together by 
colored horse's hair is said to be a knife sharpener (Fig. 51). 

Musical Instruments. This aspect of culture is not well represented. 
The most common instrument is the hand drum. In recent years, at least, 
it is made by stretching cow skin over a broad hoop of wood. One side is 
open. The cover is secured by nails and cross cords of twisted thong placed 
at right angles. The crossing of these cords is wrapped with cloth to form 
the grip (Fig. 52). The beater is a short, slightly curved stick wrapped 
with cloth. When properly stretched, these drums give out a deep mellow 
tone. I^^arge driuns are now used at the sun dance and other general dances. 
If not the regular bass drum of white manufacture, they are of similar con- 
struction, formed by stretching skin over the ends of a wooden wash tub. 

1 Henry and Thompson, 724. 

2 GrinneU, (a), 200. 


Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Imiians. 


No doubt, in former years, large drums were made in the same manner; 
i. c, by stretching skin over a hollowed section of a tree. A fine example 
of this is to be seen in the Museum's Shoshone collection.^ 

Rattles varied in size antl form according to the ceremonies in which 
thev were used. The most common type is that shown in Fig. 53. The 
bulb is shaped from wet skins by a sand filling. When dry, the sand is 
shaken out and a wooden handle inserted.- The handle is well wrapped 
with thong and its connection Avith the bulb often concealed by a cover of 

Fig. 52 (50-6S92 a, b). A Drum. Diameter, 40 cm. 

COW skin. A ring-shaped rattle is used by some societies. So far as could 
be learned, the flat disk rattle of the Central Algonkins was never used. 
Selected pebbles are used for the rattling, the most prized of which are 
secured in trade with Plathead Indians. 

The simple whistle of bone, usually from the wing of an eagle, is found 
in most ceremonial outfits. The vent is plugged with resin and sometimes 
further adjusted by wrappings of sinew (Fig. 54). Many are so made 

1 This series. Vol. 2, 207. 

2 See also Henry and Thompson, 731 . 


Anthropological Papers American Museum, of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

as to be blown from either end, giving a difTerent note in each case. All 
such whistles are usually provided with a hanging strap for the neck. 

The'^ flageolette was known and used to some extent; but according to 

Fig. 53. 

Fig. 53 (50-4462). A Rattle. Length, 28 cm. 
Fig. 54 (50-5432). A Whistle. Length, 14 cm. 

Fig. 54. 

our judgment, to a much less degree than among the Dakota. We have 
seen but one specimen. This was of the four hole type. Curiously enough, 
it was made from part of a gun barrel, a form said to be used by the Cree. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 87 


According to tratlition, the prehistoric Bhickfoot travelled on foot, assisted 
by dogs in the transportation of their effects. The horse seems to have been 
introduced before the tribe came into positive historical notice, the evidence 
for which will be presented at another time. At present, it may suffice to 
state that it must have been earlier than 1776. If canoes were ever used, 
the fact has long been lost to tradition. This would naturally follow from 
a long occupation of their historic habitat where the streams are too shallow 
for practical navigation. They seem never to have used the bull-boat of 
the several tribes on the Upper Missouri ^ but often used an analogous form 
of improvised raft. When a deep stream was to be passed with camp equi- 
page, the skin covers of the tipis were folded into large dish-shaped bundles 
supported by cross pieces of wood, forming a kind of raft, upon which chil- 
dren, old people and baggage were placed and ferried across. These rafts 
were towed by the able-bodied men and women, usually the latter, swimming 
out and holding the lines with their teeth. The reports of the Palliser 
Expedition mention the services of the Blackfoot in ferrying baggage in 
circular boats, formed by wrapping the packages in leather tents.- From 
our own information it appears that the tow lines were sometimes attached 
to swimming horses. War parties made crude rafts of brush or logs upon 
which they placed such equipages as would be damaged by water, the men 
themselves, unless ill or wounded, swimming with a tow line held by the 
teeth. ^ 

As since horse days, there was little travel on foot, packing is scarcely a 
feature. Its only form is foimtl in the carrying of firewood by the women. 
The bundles of brush wood are held by a line, but not the familiar form with 
a head band, though this seems to have been used at times. The wood is 
usually made up into a bundle and secured by the line; then swung to the 
shoulders and held in place by the ends of the line in the hands.* 

Cradles. The baby transports or cradles, we have seen were made over 
a board or frame not unlike those of some Shoshonean tribes. Fig. 55 shows 
the form very well. A kind of fur-lined pocket with sides braced with raw- 
hide is attached for holding the infant. The large curved head of the board 

1 Kroeber credits the Gros Ventre with the bull-boat, but this may refer to the Blackfoot 
makeshift instead: though seemingly confirmed by Maximilian, 233. 

- Further Papers relative to the Exploration of British North America, 1859, 9. 
3 For an incident mentioning the use of such a raft see myth, this series. Vol. 2. 77. 
* For interesting touches of life in the use of this line see myths, Vol. 2, 58, 110. 

88 Anthropological Papers American Museimi of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

is decorated with quill and beaded designs. The form of these cradles is 

precisely that of the Nez Perce ^ as noted 
by Mason. In the same article, a Black- 
foot cradle of the Siouan type is shown, but 
this may belong to a division of the Dakota 
having the same name. 

The Travois. When dogs were used for 
transportation, they were usually harnessed 
to a kind of drag frame, the familiar 
travois.- This was probably in use long 
before the introduction of horses, though 
there is little direct evidence on this 
point. A similar travois of larger dimen- 
sions was used with horses, and notwith- 
standing the fact that Avagons were issued 
to the Blackfoot more than thirty years ago, 
the horse travois is still in general use among 
the older women. On the other hand, dog 
travois have not been in use for many years. 
According to our information, there were 
two types of travois. One of these is shown 
in Fig. 56. The sides of the frame are two 
poles locked together at the top with many 
turns of sinew and bent so as to converge 
like the arms of a Y. About midway, these 
arms are crossed by a netted oval formed by 
bending a stick into the desired shape and 
weaving across with thongs. The warp is 
stretched length^vise of the oval hoop and the weft introduced by wrapping 
as figured -by jNIason.^ The ends of the oval are lashed to the poles by a 
thong which is spirally carried upward on one pole almost to the crotch of 
the Y, where it crosses over and is brought down the other pole in the same 
manner, in order to lash the corresponding end of the oval. The crotch is 
wrapped about with a piece of skin dressed in the hair, forming a pad, or 

Fig. 55 (50-6164). 
Length, 92 cm. 

A Baby Board. 

1 Mason, (b), 187. 

2 For probable origin of the term, note the following: — " Travail a cheval, pi. travails d, 
dieval, literally horse-litter, also called in English travail, travaille, travois, traverse, and travee. 
Tlie French plural is often erroneously given as travaux, as if it were the plural of travail, mean- 
ing "work"; but it has nothing to do with this, the etymology of the word being from Lat. 
trabeculum, diminutive of trabs, a beam, through such forms as travallum and trabale, meaning 
a trave, brake, or shackle." (Henry and Thompson, 142). 

3 Mason, (c), 231. 

Fig. 56 a (50-5724, b (6158). Types of Travois. Length of «, 22 

5 cm.; b, 307 cm. 

90 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

saddle, for the shoulders of the dog. Soft pliable thongs are fastened to 
the ends of the oval by which the pack or load can be held in place. A 
broad band of rawhide which when in use passes around the dog's neck is 
fastened .to the top of the saddle and carried over the legs of the Y. Two 
narrow thongs, one fastened to each pole just back of the saddle, serve as a 

Another specimen in the collection also designed for a dog, differs from 
the preceding in that instead of the netted oval, there is a long rectangular 
frame with eight transverse bars lashed with sinew at intervals of about 
10 cm., giving the whole the appearance of a ladder. The same curious 
mode of lashing the carrying frame is found in this specimen; the thong, 
however, is first tied to the saddle then carried loosely down to the lower 
cross bar of the frame where the lashing begins. It is then carried spirally 
up the pole to the second cross bar which is lashed in turn ; then the thong 
is carried up the pole as before, crossing under the saddle and then passing 
spirally down the other pole, lashing the other ends to the bars, after which 
the lower end is brought up and fastened to the saddle as at the start. These 
lower ends are used in making up and securing the pack. Another difference 
between this and the preceding travois is in the length of the poles, 2.2 meters 
in the preceding case and 3 meters in this. According to our informants, 
the latter was about the usual length, though it naturally varied with the size 
of the dog. In this connection, the statement of Henry ^ that travois poles 
were long and were sometimes made of lodge-poles is of interest as a 
check upon our informants. Also, Catlin speaks of the Sioux dog travois 
as having poles about fifteen feet long.- 

The horse travois, though much larger, is identical in structure with the 
type just described except that there is no saddle and that the poles cross at 
the apex with long slender extended ends (Plate viii). The projection of 
these ends out above the horse's head is ]>robal)ly a conventionality. In 
use, the travois is usually fastened to a saddle upon which the woman rides. 
The part of the lashing thong that crosses from one pole to the other usually 
passes over the horn or projecting parts of the saddle while the poles are tied 
down at the sides or held in place by the weight of the rider. The purpose 
of the peculiar lashing noticed in all travois is now apparent; the draft is by 
the thong and not by the poles. In the dog travois where the crossing thong 
is concealed in the saddle, the breast strap, or yoke, is fastened by a thong 
passing through the saddle and around the crossing thong. By this ingen- 
ious contrivance, the pull is upon the pack frame rather than upon the poles 
and the possibility of the load being lost by the poles pulling out is reduced 
to a minimum. 

1 Henry and Thompson, 142. 

2 Catlin, 1, 45. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 91 

An interesting point in this connection is the general behef among the 
Blackfoot that the net type was generally used with dogs and the ladder 
type with horses. It will be observed that the apex of the dog travois differs 
in construction from that of the horse travois, the latter being formed bv a 
mere crossing of the poles with long diverging ends, while in the former, 
the poles are bent to a parallel position and securely lashed with sinew. 

Horse travois are still used for hauling wood and. other camp supplies. 
In former times, the aged, the sick, and children were placed upon skins 
upon the frame of the travois, protected from the sun and rain by a canopv 
of the same material.' Some of the old people state that they saw children 
and even aged persons transported on dog travois; that the dogs were large 
and stronger than now, some of them standing about seventy-five cm. in 
height; that many dogs were able to drag tipi poles and that the strongest 
ones hauled skin tipi covers. That these statements are near the truth 
appear from the estimates of a dog's carrying capacity by white observers; 
thus Gass, speaking of the Tetons, says the dogs will haul about seventy 
pounds each.- The arrangement of the load on the frame is such that the 
dog bears considerably less than the total weight on his shoulders and as the 
friction of the ends of the drag-poles upon the ground cannot have been 
great, these estimates do not seem unreasonable. 

It appears that formerly, before horses became numerous, some selective 
breeding was practised to provide large, strong dogs for travois use; but no 
detailed information could be secured. Within the memory of persons now 
living, male dogs were sometimes castrated "to keep them at home and make 
them quiet." In performing the operation, the dog Avas hitched to the 
travois and one hind leg bound firmly to one of the poles. That this was an 
aboriginal custom is doubtful. In recent times, horses were castrated by 
medicine men with the object of increasing their practical value, but no evi- 
dence was found that the idea of selective breeding was associated with 
the custom.^ 

The distribution of the travois cannot be stated definitely, but seems to 
have been general in the ]\Iissouri-Saskatchewan area. Specimens of the 
netted hoop type from the Dakota and Assiniboine * are found in the ]\Iuse- 
um's collections; those of the former for horses, the latter for dogs. Henry 
observed this type among the Assiniboine when dogs were used and implies 
that the same was used for horses.^ Franklin saw the same type for dogs 

1 See Densmore for an illustration. 

2 Lewis and Clark. 1. 140. 

3 We found no confirinatioii of Maximiliiin's .statement that tmfTalo were ca.strated by 
Indians; 290. 

•i According to McDougall, 69, the 8tone,v .\.s.sinil)oiiie did not the travois. 
5 Henry and Thompson, 518. 

92 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

used bv the Cree.^ Dr. William Jones collected a model of this type among 
the Ojibway in Minnesota. The rectangvdar frame type has been reported 
among the Plains Cree,^ Gros Ventre, Sarcee ^ and Arapaho.^ 

On the other hand, the Crow seem not to have used the travois at all. 
So far as the data at hand go, the Blackfoot dog travois are the only ones in 
which the poles do not cross at the apex;^ in all other cases, whether for 
dogs or horses, the poles cross and project as in the Blackfoot horse travois. 
Among several southern tribes, the travois appears to have no fixed form but 
seems to be an improvised affair of tipi poles and packs, as among the 
Pawnee,® Kiowa '^ and Comanche.^ In some cases, the pack is placed upon 
the back of the horse while the poles drag behind; in others, two or more 
cross pieces are adjusted to the poles u})on which the packs are placed as 
observed by Grinnell among the Pawnee. Catlin speaking of a moving 
Sioux camp, indicated that the dogs were harnessed to a real travois w^hile 
the horses dragged the improvised affairs of tipi poles and packs.^ Thus, 
we find the same peculiar variation from the crude to the definite as noted 
in the case of the bull-boat and the raft made of tipi covers. So far as the 
information at hand goes, the real travois was prevalent among the tribes 
north of the Platte; the Blackfoot using both of the prevailing types, one for 
dogs and one for horses. Statements by Morice and Spinden make it prob- 
able that formerly, all dog transportation on the interior plateau among the 
Athapascan, Salish, etc., was by packing, the travois being unknown. Thus, 
the Crow seem to resemble the plateau tribes rather than those of the Plains. 

Riding Gear. Saddles of their own manufacture were formerly in use 
among the Blackfoot. These seem to have been of three types. As a rule, 
women used a saddle with a very high pommel and cant'le similar to those 
used by the women of many other Plains Indians. Yet all the specimens 
we saw in the field were similar to Fig. 57. Men, hoAvever, used a pad 
saddle or a frame saddle with tree and cantle of elk horn and side bars of 
wood. Tvro of these types are accurately described by Henry: — 

"The saddles these people use are of two kinds. The one which I suppose to be 
of the most ancient construction is made of wood well joined, and covered with raw 

1 Franklin, 100. 

2 Hector and Vaux, 250; and Blackfoot informants. 

3 Hill-Tout, 61. 

* Kroeber, (b), 24. 

5 Since this was written a dog travois was collected among the Hidatsa by G. L. Wilson, 
in which the poles do not project and are joined somewhat hke those in Fig. 56. The poles are 
also of the same length in each. 

6 Grinnell, (b), 279. 

7 Whippel, 21. 

s CatUn, 2, Fig. 166. 
9 Catlin, 1, 45, Fig. 21. 


Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indiayis. 


buffalo hide, which in drying binds every part tight. This frame rises about ten 
inches before and behind ; the tops are bent over horizontally and spread out, form- 
ing a flat piece about six inches in diameter. The stirrup, attached to the frame by a 
leather tliong, is a piece of bent wood, over which is stretched ;aw bufTalo hide, mak- 
ing it firm and strong. When an Indian is going to mount he throws his buffalo 
robe over the saddle, and rides on it. The other saddle, which is the same as that 
of the Assiniboine and Crees, is made by shaping two pieces of parchment on dressed 
leather, about 20 inches long and 14 broad, through the length of which are sewed 
two parallel lines three inches apart, on each side of which the saddle is well stuffed 
with moose or red deer hair. Under each kind of saddle are placed two or three 
folds of soft dressed buffalo skin, to keep the horse from getting a sore back." '■ 

No pack saddles were made. The stirrups were usually covered with 
skin from the scrotum of a Ijuffalo bull. The types of saddle just described 
are found in collections from the Shoshone, Dakota, Gros Ventre, Cheyenne, 
Comanche and Crow and were doubtless in general use wherever the horse 
was common. Franchere notes a 
similar difference between men 
and women's saddles among the 
Sahaptin and Salish, the former 
using the pad-saddle, the latter, 
the frame with high pommel like 
those used by " ^Mexican ladies." - 
This is also affirmed by the Sho- 
shone.^ The Hidatsa also had 
both types. According to our 
personal information, saddles of 
the high-pommel type were rarely 
used by men in any part of the 

Missouri-Saskatchewan area, though pad-saddles and those of the low 
pommelled frame type were often used by women as well as men.^ As a 
matter of interest, the following characteristics of the woman's saddle may be 
noted: — The side bars are of wood, varying in length from 35 to 50 cm.; 
about 8 cm. in width and approximately one half a centimeter in thickness. 
These measurements are rather uniform in the various specimens examined. 
The pommels vary in height from 31 to 40 cm. The greatest difference 
appears to be in the breadth, or distance between the lower edgss of the side 
bars, 19-29 cm. Unlike the saddles used by whites, the bow and cantle are 
of the same general form. The former, however, is often slightly higher and 

1 Henry and Thompson, 526; see also Maximilian, 251 ; Harmon, 291. 

2 Early Western Travels, 6, 341. 

3 Lewis and Clark, 3, 31. 

■» McDougall, 131, in speaking of a trip to Fort Garry in 1864 says, "we had two Indian 
pads as the Mexican saddle had not yet made its appearance so far north." 

Fig. 57 (50-7433). A Saddle. Length, 34 cm. 


Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

more nearly perpendicular. In fact, the fork, or bow, often leans inward, 
while that of the rear, or cantle, leans outward. The forward horn is pro- 
vided with a hook and the rear with an eye in the corresponding position. 
Between them is suspended a piece of rawhide upon which the weight of the 
rider is supposed to rest.^ The hook has apparently become conventional, 
because it is found on saddles where this support is not used and the eye 
is wanting, though these are said to be degenerate forms. The bows are 

bound to the side bars by thongs and the whole 
covered with rawhide as just stated. 

The frame saddles used by men and sometimes 
by women have their side bars joined by bows of 
elk horn. Sometimes y-shaped pieces of the same 
material are used but never with high pommels. 
The method of cinching is the same throughout, 
a strip of hide, fastened to the ends of the side 
l)ar where two holes are bored, to the middle of 
which the cinch is fastened. The pad-saddle is 
cinched by a flap on each side in much the same 

Women's saddles are provided with cruppers of 
a peculiar shape (Fig. 58). The two wide rec- 
tangular portions are usually decorated by bead- 
work and fringes, M'hile just above this is a small 
square of distinct ornamentation. This peculiar 
arrangement of decorated fields is found in 
Blackfoot, Gros Ventre, Cheyenne and Shoshone 
cruppers in the jVIuseum's collections. The Sarcee 
cruppers, however, have rounded fields of deco- 
ration instead. 

Xo decorated, specially designed saddle 

blankets, such as are used by the Shoshone and 

Dakota, were seen by the writer among the 

Blackfoot; however, he failed to seek information on this point. Maximilian 

mentions the use of a " large panther's skin for a housing." 

Saddle bags of the type shown in Fig. 59 were in general use. In several 
specimens measured, the bag proper ranged from 123 to 131 cm. in length 
and 40 to 49 cm. in width, with fringes at the ends of from 29 to 48 cm. The 
outer surface of the bag bears two decorated fields from 29 to 38 cm. in 
length. The under surface is plain with a transverse slit, or mouth, in the 

Fig. 58 


1 For a slight variant of this type witli a double side bar see Early Western Travels, 5, 144. 


Wissler, Material Culture of Blachj'oot Indians. 


Some specimens secured among the 

middle. Similar bags have been collected among the Dakota and Cheyenne, 

but so far as our observation goes, are neither so long nor so wide as those 

of the Blackfoot. Also, they have a transverse slit, or mouth, to one side 

and through both sides of the bag. 

Sarcee are practically identical with 

those of the Blackfoot. Bags of 

this type are mentioned by Larpen- 

teur, as common in the Missouri 

x\rea, who implies that the shape is 

copied after those used by whites.^ 

Morice credits the Carriers with 

similar bags used on dogs." 

Formerly, the only bridle used 
for horses was a long rope, consist- 
ing of a single strand of buffalo skin, 
or several strands of the same ma- 
terial plaited. Braided hair ropes 
were also used. There is one in 
the Museum collection which is said 
to be made of human hair, members 
of a family sometimes saving their 
own hair for that purpose. This 
specimen was said to contain, in 
addition, hair from scalps taken in 
war. Maximilian mentions ropes 
made of buffalo hair, but we have 
no information on this point. ^ The 
Museum specimen is 8.7 m. long 
and for the greater part of its length 
seems to be four-ply. A red cord 
has been carried back and forth 
through the braid, apparently for 
ornament. There are tAvo other 
ropes in the collection, one a simple 
strand of skin about 1 cm. in width 

and the other, a four-ply braid of similar material; their lengths are o.\) and 
9.4 m. respectively. The liraided rope is providetl with an eye of rawhide 
for the noose, while the others have iron rings. Thus it seems that three 
kinds of ropes were in use. 

Fig. 59 (50-4407). 
130 cm. 

A Saddle Bag. Length 

1 Larpenteur, 67-8. 
- Morice, (c), 148. 
3 Maximilian, 251. 

96 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

In ase, the rope was looped around the lower jaw. When running buffalo 
or when on the war path, the rider tucked the long end of the rope under 
the belt, so that if thrown, he would have some chance of catching it as it 
paved out or trailed along the ground. An ingenious bridle was often 
devised by opening the noose to the approximate extent of a bridle rein and 
passing it around the lower jaw in a double half-hitch. ^Yhen dismounting, 
the rider holds on by the long end of the rope, Avhich, when ])ulled forward, 
closes the noose down upon the animal's neck thus holding him halter 

According to Lewis, the Shoshone used ropes of buffalo hair, plaited of 
six or seven strands of rawhide. In use, "it is first attached at one end about 
the neck of the horse with a knot that will not slip, it is then brought down to 
his under jaw and being passed through the mouth imliraces the under jaw 
and tongue in a simple noose formed by crossing the rope underneath the 
jaw of the horse. This when mounted he draws up on the near side of the 
horse's neck and holds in the left hand, suffering it to trail at a great distance 
behind him — sometimes the halter is attached so far from the end that 
while the shorter end serves him to govern his horse, the other trails on the 
ground as before mentioned." ^ This differs somewhat from the Blackfoot 
method just described, but was probably known to them also. Horse hair 
ropes are mentioned by Francliere" as common, west of the INIountains and 
rawhide thongs among the Pawnee by Grinnell.^ The Museum collection 
contains braided ropes and simple thongs from the Dakota, Cheyenne and 
Shoshone. All of the braided ropes we have examined are four-ply. 

Quirts were in general use among the Blackfoot. Those in the collection 
have handles of wood with double lashes of thong. These handles, are 
approximately 35 cm. in length, indicating some fixed standard of size, 
while the lashes vary from 55 to 65 cm. For about 12 cm. of their length, 
the latter are wrapped with red cloth or thongs. Though sometimes carved, 
the handles are usually plain. Formerly, handles of elk horn were common. 
Men sometimes used quirts with heavy club-like handles. All c^uirts were 
provided with wrist guards, often elaborately ornamented. 

Taken as a whole, the horse trappings of the Blackfoot are not distinctive 
but of the types generally diffused among all the horse-using tribes.* It is 
reasonable to assume that these objects were introduced with the horse and 
so gradually worked their way northward and westward. 

As with riding gear and trappings, the domestication and care of the 

1 Lewis and Clark, 3, 31. 

2 Early Western Travels, 6, 340. 

3 Grinnell, (b), 279. 

* Maximilian noted their close similarity from the Missouri to the Blackfoot, 384. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 97 

horse was quite uniform in the area of its distribution. As a rule, the 
horses were the property of the man. The woman owned her steed, pack 
horse, etc., which were usually females, but the herd belonged to the man. 
When grazing, the horses were usually in charge of boys or young men. At 
night, the best horses were brought into camp and picketed near the tipis of 
their owners. No system of branding was used, but each person knew the 
individualities of his horses so that he could recognize them at sight. Some 
men had a preference for horses of like color and prided themselves upon 
being the owners of many white horses, etc. Some mutilation was practised, 
as colts were sometimes bob-tailed and their ears split, but this was for deco- 
ration rather than for identification. INIules were highly prized as thev 
were thought to have superior powers of various kinds. Their origin was 
regarded as mysterious. 

Sleds and Snoio Sfwes. There seem to be no traditions of using sleds 
though other tribes and Canadians were known to have used them. The 
nearest approach to such modes of transportation, appears to have been the 
dragging of cri})ples about the camps on sheets of rawhide. Children used 
the same device in coasting. Grinnell states that the sled was scarcely seen 
south of parallel 50, the travois taking its place below this line in the jNIissouri- 
Saskatchewan area.^ Exception must be made, however, of some of the 
village Indians." 

According to our information, snow shoes were not in general use except 
among some of the northernmost bands. In the accounts of Avar parties, 
we often heard it stated that the men waded in snow up to their waists. 

Caches. To a people often on the move, the cache \\-as indispensable. 
War or hunting ])arties often placed in reserve extra ammunition, moccasins, 
tobacco, dried meat, etc., in pits. A hole about four feet in depth and of 
sufficient size was dug, lined on the sides and bottom A^ith stones and closed 
with a heavy slab of the same material, the whole concealed by a covering of 
earth. Should the party be separated, a straggler would open the cache and 
take what belonged to him, leaving the remainder for their rightful owners. 
However, food was seldom cached in this manner because rodents and other 
animals smelled it out antl burrowed into the store. To meet this difficultv 
various expedients were resorted to. Dried provisions in a parfleche were 
sometimes hung in a tree near the trail along which a party expected to 
return. A safer method was to climb a tree beside a youno- birch, lean 
it over and tie the parfleche to the top. Rattles of hoofs or deer-claws were 
tied on to frighten small climbing animals. It was the belief of some, that 

1 Grinnell, (d), 156. 

2 Maximilian, 345, states that dog sledges were used by the Mandans. 

98 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

gun powder rubbed over the package would have an analogous result. 
Again, food tied in rawhide bags was concealed in hollow trees. Fresh meat 
was sometimes tied to a stone and anchored under water. When in a rough 
country, holes in high ledges of rock were used, the opening being securely 
stopped with stones. 



Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 



At present, the Blackfoot erect small rectangular houses of heavy poles, 
fitted with doors and windows and heated with stoves. Of course, the 
general architecture and arrangement suggests white influence. These 
houses are used in midwinter, but during the greater part of the spring, 
summer and autumn, the people live in canvas-covered tipis, or conical 
tents, supported by a simple framework of poles. So far, no one except 
Grinnell ^ has given a detailed description of the structure of a Blackfoot 
tipi, or for that matter of any tipi, which is strange, to say the least, for this 
object is one of the most striking characteristics of the roving buffalo hunting 

The Tipi. The poles of the Blackfoot tipi as it stands to-day are long, 
slender and straight, usually of pine or spruce. They are carefully selected, 
cut and hauled home from the foothills of the mountains, then peeled of their 
bark, set up as a frame for a tipi and left to season. A set of well-seasoned 
poles is looked upon as a valuaV)le asset and is not to be parted with for trifles. 
As the tipi is made and owned by the woman, it is she who cuts the poles and 
prepares them, though her husband, if an old man, may lend a hand. 

To put up the tipi, a woman unrolls the cover — always folded many 
times on its vertical axis and 
finally rolled up. When unrolled 
its folded form gives the stretch 
from the base to the smoke hole. 
Then four poles of about equal 
length are selected, two of which 
are laid side by side near or on 
the folded cover. The other 
pair are placed across these near 
the top at a distance from their 
buts equal to the length of the 
folded cover (Plate vi and Fig. 
60). One end of a thong about 
15 feet long is passed around the 
crossing as shown in the drawing 
and tied with a simple knot. The poles are then raised and oriented; pole 

Fig. 60. The Blackfoot Tie. 

1 Grinnell, (e), 650. 

100 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

a and b toward the east (Fig. 60), c and d toward the west, the transposition 
of b and c, serving to lock the tie so firmly that there is no possibility of 
slipping.^ When in place, these four poles rest at the corners of a rectangle, 
the shortest side toward the east. (There is some variation in this manipu- 
lation, for some women tie three poles and force the foiu'th under the cord 
while others tie the four at once. In Plate vi two ])oles are laid side In- 
side and a third pole across them). The remaining poles are now ])ut in 
place. These are laid in on the north and south sides of the pyramitlal 
frame, the number on each side being approximately the same; then the 
poles on the west side, except the one for the middle. The last thing is 
the placing of the poles on the east side. Here the two door poles are placed 
last and hence rest in a secondary crotch formed by the crossing of the other 
poles (Plate vi). All the poles are now in place save three. 

The cover is then placed on the frame. At the top of the cover are two 
cords (Fig. 61). These are tied to a pole so that the lower edge of the cover 
will just touch the ground. The pole is then ended up and placed at the 
middle of the west side of the frame (Plate vi). This pole rests against 
the main crossing of the poles and extends out through the crotch of the 
two door poles, or those put in place last, forming a kind of secondary cross- 
ing or tripod, standing over the main framework^ (Plate vi). The cover 
is then carried around and pinned together above and below the door. 
To reach the upper pin holes in a large tipi the woman formerly stood on a 
travois frame, leaned against the tipi like a ladder; but now a small ladder 
is often carried for this purpose. 

As the tipi stands now, it is much too steep and the cover hangs loose 
and in folds. The woman goes inside and adjusts the poles by moving them 
out and in until the cover is tight and assumes its true conical shape. She 
puts the finishing touches to this from the outside, reaching vuider the cover 
and making such changes in the positions of the poles as may seem necessary. 

There remain two poles. These are to support the large projecting 
"ears" at the top. Standing on the ground, the woman pokes the small 
end of the pole through a hole, or eye, in the tip of the ear.^ The edge of 
the cover is staked down around the edge. This completes the process, 
a task which the average woman will perform in thirty minutes or less. 

Formerly, tipis w-ere covered with buffalo skins, soft dressed without the 
hair. Twelve to fourteen skins w^ere regarded as necessary to the making 

1 Pole c is carried'over to fall in line with a. 

~ Occasionally the use of the three-pole foundation, to he described later, is used Ijy the 
Blackfoot [Wissler, (a), 7.] By an error of observation this was taken as the typical method, 
whereas later investigation proved it extremely exceptional and certainly intrusive. The 
former statement, therefore, stands corrected. 

3 See myth, Vol. 2, 133. 


Wissler, Material Culture of BlackJ'oot Indians. 


of a tipi cover, though the number varied with the size of the tipi. They 
were fitted into each other in the most economical way and sewed with 
sinew. The ^Museum collection contains two skin tipi covers anil two of 
canvas. As practically all tipi covers are now of canvas, note will first be 
taken of this type. Spread u))on a fiat surface the two covers are as outlined 
in Figs. Gl and 02. The dotted lines indicate the seams where the strips of 

Fig. 61. 

Fig. 62. 
Figs. 61-62 (50-4485, 4535). Patterns of Canvas Tipi Covers. 

canvas are joined. A vertical strip of canvas serves as the foundation, 
or base, upon which the sides are built and from this the strips of cloth 
extend at right angles. The "ears" and additional stri})s for the laps and 
the sides of the door are added. A small extension is added at the top to 
which cords are attached for Ijinding to the back pole by which the cover 
is raised into place (Plate vi). Holes are made in the tips of the "ears" for 

102 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

the ends of the two outside poles. Between the "ears" and the door and 
also below the door are small holes made in pairs for the pins. Fig. (32 
provides for eight pins; Fig. (U for fifteen ])ins. Around the curved edge 
a're numerous loops of canvas or other strong cloth. There are fifty of 
these for the cover in Fig. 62. 

From the drawings, it is apparent that the curve of the two tij)i covers 
is not the same, nor do they appear to be the segments of circles. Yet, 
when a tipi is in ])osition this curved edge describes an approximate circle 
on the ground. However, the deviations from a true circle on the spread out 
cover may be more apparent than real, for the geometric centre would nat- 
urally fall at the crossing of the poles. A small deviation will also result 
from the fact that the rear of a tipi is usually steei)er than the front. 

The cover for the two skin tipis is shown in Fig. 63, the dotted lines 
indicating the seams where the pieces of skin are fitted together. Naturally, 
the skins are not laid down in the same manner as the strips of cloth, but a 
close examination of the drawings shows some resemblance. Down the 
middle from the top, we find a long narrow rectangular section similar to the 
foundation strip of canvas, except that it does not extend the entire length. 
From this radiate the skins trimmed to fit the space. One gets the impres- 
sion that three skins are placed on each side of the central strip and taking 
these as a core, six are arranged to give the general curved outline. The 
manner of attaching the ears and the narrow strip along the lap is similar 
to the treatment in the canvas cover. 

The curved edges are provided with holes for stakes and the laps with 
holes for the pins. The corners of the "ears" have holes for their support- 
ing poles. A flap is provided for tying to the back pole. The edges of the 
"ears" and the space between them are notched and two thongs interlaced 
near the edge, extending from one })ole-hf)le around to the other. The 
ends of these extend from the small flaj) and are used to tie the back pole. 
These are doubtless to support the heavy poles thrust through the ears. 

Just below the ears in most tii)i covers are strings for tying on the inside 
to take the strain from the pins. In Fig. 63 there are also strings on the 
inside, just over the door, for the same purpose. 

It will be observed that the shape of the skin cover differs from that of 
the canvas type. While the la])s of the latter are \n\vts of the same straight 
line, those of the former, deviate from such a line, apjjroximately, 16°. 
Also, the curve is practically the segment of a circle, in case of Fig. 63, as 
inscribed from a i)oint near o. An examination of the {)osition of the cover 
when in place on the \)o\es, shows that this centre will fall al)Out at the cross- 
ing of the poles. 

In how far the canvas type of cover may have Ijcen devised in response 


Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 


to the character of the material and in how far this may have influenced the 
arrangement of materials in the particular skin covers described above, 
cannot be determined. Fig. 63 was made about thirty-five years ago, the 
other about ten years ago. The latter, however, was made by an old 
woman who certainly made skin covers, or at least lived when such were 
common among the Blackfoot. The inference would l)e that these skin 

63 (50-3835). Pattern of a Skin Tipi Cover. 

covers were made after the prevailing type. The fact that they are similar 
in detail supports this inference, since according to our information they 
were not made by the same woman. In general, it may be said that all the 
Blackfoot tipi covers approximate a semi-circle and their size may be indi- 
cated by the following table: — 

Specimen. Radius. 

Skin cover (3835) 18 ft. 3 in. 

Skin cover (4521) - 17 ft. 1 in. 

Canvas (4485) 18 ft. 7 in. 

Canvas (4535) 13 ft. 10 in. 

Our information as to how the shape of the tipi cover was secured in 
its construction is not satisfactory. It seems that the skins were pieced to- 
gether in the approximate shape. It was then folded and a pair of tipi poles 
arranged across it somewhat as in Fig. 60; then the edges were trimmed to 
one of the poles and the ears adjusted. The bottom was trimmed after the 
cover was in position as in a finished tipi. 

The number of poles varies greatly. The writer chose seven tipis, rang- 
ing from the largest to the smallest, in the cam}) circle at a sun dance with 
the following result : — 

104 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

Tipis. Poles. 
2 13 

1 15 

2 16 
1 18 
1 23 

According to Hector and Vaux the number ranges from thirteen to thirty- 

That the number of poles bears no fixed relation to the tipi is supported 
by the fact that size is estimated by the number of skins used in making the 
cover. In general, however, the larger the cover, the greater the number 
of poles and likewise the greater the variation in their number. The length 
of pole also varies for tipis of ec^ual size, some projecting several feet above 
the crossing point, others barely a foot. The poles of a set in the collection 
are about seven meters in length and about seven cm. in diameter at their 
buts. The buts are sharpened to prevent slipping on the ground. 

The stakes for holding down the canvas are about 42 cm. long, and 2 cm. 
in diameter, made of birch or choke-cherry wood. The pins are of the 
same material about 28 cm. long and 1 cm. in diameter. According to 
observation, the number above the door varies, from six to sixteen, and 
below the door from two to five. The cover is lapped several inches, the 
edge on your right as you face the tipi being on the outside, and the pins are 
usually inserted from the right to the left. When on the move, stakes are 
usually carried in a bag while the pins were put in a small poke made of soft 
skin or a bladder precisely as among the Teton. 

The door of a tipi always faces the east. It is a long narrow oval opening, 
sometimes partly cut out but chiefly shaped by use. The lower part is about 
eighteen inches from the ground and its longest diameter on the specimens 
in the Museum is about four feet. The opening is guarded by a curtain 
on the outside, tied by two cords, passing through holes in the cover just 
above the door. This curtain is distended by a stick crosswise, one near the 
top and one near the bottom, acting both as weights and as handles in open- 
ing the door. In warm weather the door curtain is given a twist and laid 
over on the side of the tipi. At present, these curtains are made of worn- 
out blankets or other cloth. So far as our information goes, a rawhide door 
shaped like and decorated after the manner of a parfleche was sometimes 
used; but a door curtain made of soft dressed skins seems to have been the 
usual form. When entering a tipi, one raises the door curtain by the 
cross stick, puts one foot inside, then stooping over thrusts the head and 
shoulders through the opening, allowing the curtain to fall behind to its 
natural position. 


Wisslcr, Material CuKurc of Blackfoot Indians. 


Tipis were often j)rovided with door bells. One of the skin tipis in the 
collection has such a bell, or rattle, made of eight dew-claws from cattle, 
strung like a tassel, and tipped with pieces of red flannel. This rattle is 
suspended inside above the door so that any considerable movement of the 
door curtain or the stretching of the tipi cover as a person creeps through 
will cause it to swing and announce the intruder. Another specimen in the 
collection is made of six moose hoofs. 

Another interesting part of the tipi is the arrangement for guarding the 
smoke hole, a large opening in front of the crossing of the poles. This is 
flanked by two pointed sail-like projections of the cover. By moving the 
outside poles supporting these "ears" the draught may be regulated and 
the wind kept from forcing the smoke back into the tipi. At night, when the 
fire is low, or when rain is falling, the smoke hole may be entirely or partially 
closed by these "ears." The poles supporting the ears pass through eyes 
or holes, in their tips and are held in place by strings or small cross sticks 
tied to the poles. 

The inside of the tipi is a circular cone-shapetl cavity. The diameter 
of the base averages about fourteen feet. A general plan of a tipi as seen 
to-day is shown in Fig. 64. The fire is near the centre, though usually nearer 
the door than the rear, because the smoke hole is in front of the crossing of 
the poles. Sometimes the sides of the tipi are steeper in the rear and more 
sloping toward the front, thereby bring- 
ing the smoke hole near the centre. The 
fireplace is a small circle of water-worn 
stones. Just back of the fire, about half 
way to the rear of the tipi is a small 
cleared space upon which sweet grass or 
other incense is burned from time to time 
as the ceremonial obligations of the family 
may require. This "snudge place" may 
be regarded as the family altar. At the 
sides toward the rear, are the couches or 
beds. The usual form is as shown in 
Plate VII. At the head of each couch is a 
wooden tripod supporting a back-rest 

made of willows strung with sinew (Fig. 12). The beds are several thick- 
nesses of old blankets laid on the ground, or upon a thin layer of hay. 
Pillows are used and the sleepers covered with blankets or f(uilts. The bed 
on the south side is occupied by the man and woman, small children sleeping 
on another bed at the foot and larger children, guests, etc., on the o})posite 
side of the tipi. Clothing and similar personal property are kept in bundles 

Fig. 61. Giouiiiliiliin of a Tipi. 

106 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

or soft bags, tucked away under the sloping edge of the tipi behind the beds 
where they are out of sight and serve to keep out wind and cold. Cooking 
utensils and provisions are usually stacked just inside to the south of the door, 
while riding gear, etc., are stacked on the opposite side. 

]\Iost tipis are provided with a back wall, or lining, which is now a pair 
of blankets or pieces of cloth. In a few tipis one may yet see a single or 
double back wall of soft dressed cow skins. When a pair of such back walls 
are used they usually meet in the space between the back-rests, though as 
may be expected, there is a great deal of variation in their adjustment. They 
are supported by a thong or rope tied to the successive poles, strings for this 
purpose being inserted at regular intervals along the upper edge of the 
back wall. \Yhile these are often rendered highly decorative, they are really 
practical. They serve to keep out the wind and any water that may find its 
way down the poles from their tops. They protect the people from draughts, 
as air can enter under the edge of the ti\n, pass upward between the cover 
and the back wall and out over their heads, affording ventilation of the most 
approved type. There are five specimens in the collection, one of them of 
buffalo skins, about ten to twelve feet long and six feet wide. They are 
made of two skins, with a triangular piece extending upward between them 
to give the whole the proper shape to fit the surface of the conical interior 
(Figs. 65 and 66). 

The space at the rear of the tipi l^etween the l)ack-rests is reserved for 
ceremonial objects and tro})hies. These are usually the property of the man. 
Here will hang from the ])oles or tripods of the back-rests, the ever present 
bag for the buffalo rocks ^ and paints (Fig. 42) and the long fringed cylindri- 
cal rawhide case for ceremonial regalia (Fig. 43). On the ground, will be 
found a tobacco board, pipe, pipe stoker, tobacco and a long slender forked 
stick for picking up coals of fire. The standing and wealth of a family may 
be gauged by the number and size of the bundles displayed in this place. 

While the above detail of the internal arrangement of the tipi applies 
to the present, it is probably not unlike that of a century ago. The people 
tell us of a former chief who had a tipi so large that it contained two fires 
while Grinnell heard of one containing three fires", and McDougal visited 
a very large tipi, containing two fires during the coldest weather.^ Hector 
and Vaux saw a few tipis requiring from forty to fifty skins to make their 
covers, but place the usual number at twelve to twenty. All these were ex- 
ceptions. Old Indians believe the tipis of their childhood to have been about 
the size of those now in use. They say that the back-rests were formerly 

1 See myth, Vol. 2, 85. 

2 Grinnell, (a), 187. 

3 McDougal, 265. 


Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 


used in pairs, one for the head and one for the foot of the bed. This was 
always the case when two or more married men or when two or more wives 
occupied the same tipi. Enforced monogamy and individualism mav 
account for the present practice. Also, that in large ti])is there were often 
two such beds on the south side and three on the north side. The willow 

Fig. 65 

Figs. 65-66 (50-4522, 4521). Patterns of Hack Wal 

Leiigtiis, 3.1 and 3.5 M. 

curtains of the back-rests were usually covered with a buffalo calf skin, 
dressed soft with the hair on and hung by the nose from the top of the 
tripod. The beds were of buffalo robes similarly dressed, often spread over 
grass or small twigs with })art of a broken tipi pole along the outer etlge as a 
guard rail. The only illumination in the tipi was from the fire, any tempo- 

108 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

rary light being supplied by a brand from the fire. During the winter, or 
even at any time, the cover of the tipi was often held down by stones laid on 
its edges. Circles of such stones are to be seen in many parts of the Black- 
foot country, marking the sites of former cami)s or burial tipis. 

Grinnell states that according to tradition, the Blackfoot formerly lived 
in houses made of sticks and mud.' According to our information this is 
an Indian theory rather than a tradition. Their myths and rituals contain 
no reference to habitations other than tipis. In summer, a sunshade is 
made of a few ])oles and a piece of cloth.^ On festive and ceremonial occa- 
sions, a wind brake is set up in the same fashion.^ One of these may be com- 
bined with a tipi so that the onlookers at a ceremony may be sheltered. 

Comparative Notes. The cultural affiliations of the Blackfoot in the 
matter of shelter habits is one of the many interesting problems of the Mis- 
souri-Saskatchewan area. So far as we know, no careful detailed study of 
the shelters of the various tribes has been made and while this is neither the 
time nor place to make such an investigation, a tentative survey of the area 
from the vantage of the Blackfoot problem seems necessary to the end we 
have in view. For many tribes, the necessary data was not to be had, except 
from the field and we have been obliged to fall back upon the kindness of 
friends residing on reservations in the area and an objective study of speci- 
mens in the jNIuseum collections. 

An Omaha tipi cover in the ]\Iuseum collection is approximately a half 
circle and is peculiar only in that the "ears" seem to be defined by a slanting 
cut in the edge. However, when the tipi is up, its general appearance will 
be about the same as for others. The skins are put together in about the 
same manner as for the Blackfoot tipi, except that the long rectangular axis 
is absent. The latter feature seems to be a peculiarity of the Blackfoot. 
Two native-made models of tipi covers from the Teton have the form of 
Fig. 63 for the Blackfoot. The "ears" of a Cheyenne model are cut like 
those of the Arapaho (Fig. 67). In the Teton models they ai-e cut like the 
Omaha tipi except that they extend out beyond the edges of the laps. There 
are models of three Sarcee covers in the Museum, all cut on the same general 
plan, similar to the pattern for Blackfoot skin lodges. The ears are cut 
like those of the Blackfoot in Fig. 61. Each of these has fifteen poles. An 
Assiniboine model has a cover similar to the above. The canvas tipis of 
the Arapaho A\e have examined do not show the central axis in the pattern. 
Fig. 67. 

1 Grinnell, (a), 198. 

- A similar shelter was observed among the Cheyenne, Henry and Thompson, 382. 
3 A similar structure used as a council house by the Dakota is mentioned by Clark, Lewis and 
Clark, 1, 107. 


Wissler, Material Culture of Bluckfoot Indians. 


The poles for the "ears" of the Omaha and Arapaho tipis in the collec- 
tion do not pass through holes but into little corner pockets. This is true 
of models from the Cheyenne, Assiniboine and Teton. While from photo- 
graphs the same appear among the Dakota, Bannock, Ute, Shoshone and 
according to GrinnelV the Crow also. The Sarcee, on the other hand, have 
holes in the corners like the Blackfoot: two models in the Museum have 
poles for the ears similar to those of the Blackfoot, one having cross pieces 
to prevent slip])ing too far through the holes, the other having projections 
formed by trimming away a branch. 

• ^^ According to Dunbar, the Pawnee used but one ear and, hence, one pole, 
but Grinnell - says two were used. In all the photographs of modern tipis 
that we have seen two ears appear. It is apparent, hovN-ever, that Catlin's 

Fig. 67 (50-41 la). Pattern of an Arapaho Tipi. 

drawings and the implications in Long's narratives to the effect that the 
Comanche and the Kaskaia (Kiowa-Apache?) used but one ear, must be 
considered as evidence for an older one-ear type. 

Among the Blackfoot, the door faces the east, perhaps because the winds 
are usually from the west, though a mystic reason is often assigned thereto. 
This orientation of tipis seems to be usual wherever they are usetl and not 
even peculiar to them. The doors for the Cheyenne and Teton models are 
shaped by a U of bent willow. Henry describes something similar for the 
Plains Cree, "a piece of hide stretched upon a frame of the same shape as 
the door, but somewhat larger." ^ Maximilian * says a similar thing of the 
Dakota (Teton?). A similar door with the addition of two cross braces is 

1 Grinnell, (d), 655. 

2 Grinnell, (b), 268. 

3 Henry and Thompson. 513. 
* Maximilian, 151. 

110 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

found in the Assiniboine model previously noted. On the other hand, it 
seems that many of the southern tribes, formerly used a kind of curtain sup- 
ported on the outside by a pole, serving more as a wind break than a door. 

The back wall is used by the Assiniboine at Ft. Belknap, the Gros Ventre, 
Sarcee and from private information by the Crow and Dakota. A similar 
contrivance is sometimes seen in the bark and mat covered wigwams of the 
Menominee and Ojibway. The head of the family sits near the rear on the 
south side of the tipi among the Dakota, Gros Ventre and Sarcee. As to the 
custom among other tribes, we have no information. In some cases, the 
man sits almost opposite the door. 

The back-rest was used by the Cheyenne among whom they were usually 
in pairs and the bed placed upon a raised mattress of similar willow construc- 
tion. They also seem to have been used by the Gros Ventre, Assiniboine, 
Cree, Dakota and were no doubt generally distributed. Sketches pub- 
lished by ^Maximilian also indicate their general use in the earth covered 
lodges of the Mandan and other village Indians. 

According to'what may be inferred from the off hand statements of vari- 
ous travelers the number of tipi poles varies among other tribes in much 
the same manner as with the Blackfoot. The size of tipis seems about the 
same though Hector and Vaux found those of the Blackfoot larger than those 
of the Cree and these in turn larger than those of the Stoney Assiniboine.^ 

Passing now to the pole structiu'e of the tipi, we may note that the Black- 
foot use of four poles, tied as a foundation, or support, is by no means the 
rule. So far, we have knowledge of its present use among the Crow, Hid- 
atsa, Sarcee, and Comanche. Long - credits it to the Kaskaia (Kiowa- 
iVpache ?) but INIr. J. ]\Iooney informs the writer that the Kiowa now use 
three.^ On the other hand, we observe that the Teton ^ (Dakota) use three 
and according to Dunbar '^ the same is true of the Pawnee. The Museum 
■has native-made motlels of tipis from the Cheyenne and the Assiniboine ^ 
in which the three pole foundation is used. From other sources of informa- 

1 Hector and Vaux, 257. 

2 James, 293. 

3 On a recent visit to tlie Saultaux, Mr. Skinner found a four pole foundation in use with 
a tipi-like structure, which is further suggestive of the northern distribution of this type. 

•i The contrary statement of Curtis, Vol. 3, 24, is obviously incorrect since contradictory 
to his own photographic illustrations. 

s Clark, 372. 

c While Clark, in commenting on an abandoned Assiniboine (?) camp, describes tipis as being 
erected by tying four poles as a support to eight to twelve others, the original statement of 
Lewis imphes that this is the result of observations on the tipi which they used on the expedition, 
the property of the captive Snake woman (Bird-woman). As this woman was an Hidatsa cap- 
tive, it is likely that .she used the mode of the Hidatsa and Crow. The probability of this is 
increased by information from Gilbert L. Wilson that when the Mandan and Hidatsa used tipis 
they employed the four pole foundation. — Lewis and Clark, 1, 285, 310. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. \\l 

tion ^ we may add the Gros Ventre, Arapaho, Kiowa, and Nez Perce. 
Carver - states that two were used by the Sioux and Henry ^ says the same 
thing of the Cree, though it is not clear whether this means two pairs of tied 
poles or actually two poles. However, recent information from the Eastern 
Cree, furnished by INIr. Alanson Skinner, makes it probable that this refers 
to two tied poles, supported by a third crotched pole; hence, a three pole 

The Blackfoot mode of setting up the poles seems to differ greatly from 
that used with the three pole foundation. We observed the following pro- 
cedure among the Teton : — The cover of the tipi is laid out, folded in half 
and three poles laid upon it, two parallel and the other crossing between 
them at the proper place. This is so that the proper height of the crossing 
may be taken. These poles are tied at the crossing by the end of a long 
strap or thong. When set up, these poles form a tripod, one leg of which is 
to be on the left side of the door. The two rear legs of the tripod are nearer 
together than they are to the forward leg. Poles are then laid in, on the 
left of the door pole and then on the right. Two turns of cord are made by 
walking around the poles twice (usually to the right) and the end tied doAvn 
to the forward leg of the tripod. The rear poles are now put in place. 
The pole for the cover is often the longest and may bear a scalp-lock at the 
end. The cover is tied to this and raised in place, after which the cover is 
pinned above the door and staked down. The poles are so adjusted that 
the back of the tipi is usually stee})er than the front. According to Dunbar, 
the Pawnee take the turns with the cord after all of the poles are in place. 
Among the Teton and Assiniboine, as well as the Blackfoot, the end of this 
cord is often fastened to a stake in the centre of the tipi to prevent the wind 
from overturning the structure. 

A model from the Northern Cheyenne has the appearance of a faithful 
copy of a tipi. The poles are arranged as a tripod, one leg to the left of 
the door, as among the Teton, around which are nine other poles. The 
whole arrangement of the i)oles is like that of the Teton. However, all the 
poles except the one by which the cover is raised, are bound by the cord. 
An Assiniboine model is similar to the above in construction, except that the 
forward leg of the tripod is to the right of the door. Mr. Reese Kincaide 
kindly furnished the following additional information from the Cheyenne: — 
"The third pole of the tripod always forms the left side of the door as one 
enters the tipi, so they begin to fill in with the balance of the poles to the 

1 Messrs. James Mooney, Reese Kincaide, W. C. Roe, J. R. Wall<ei', R. H. Lowie and H. J. 

2 Carver, 231. 

3 Henry and Thompson, 513. 


Anthrojmlogirnl Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

right of this one, then to the left and hist at the back. When aU the poles 
are in place, the long end of the rope is wrapped several tinies around the 
tops of the poles to bind them securely together, and tied to the north trijiod 
pole, or to a stake near the centre of the tipi floor, if the wind blows hard. 
As to the Arapaho women, I find that their way is exactly the same as that 
of the Cheyenne. Their tipis tliffer in shape from those of the Cheyenne 
in that the base diameter is less in proportion to the height than with the 
Cheyenne. As one Cheyenne Avoman said, 'We want our tents big.' To 
the uninitiated they both look alike, but the Arapaho tipi is the more pointed 
of the two." 

From the foregoing accounts it is evident that the appearance of the 
crossing of the poles and the tops of tipis among the Teton, Assiniboine, 
Arapaho and Cheyenne will differ from the Blackfoot antl Crow. With 
the former, the two door poles in the uj^per crotch are not in evidence as 
they are the first poles in position. Familiarity with the forms produced by 
these two kinds of foundation, enaliles us to make use of photographs as a 
check on other information. Those at hand, agree with the above, except 
in case of the Kiowa Avhere they seem to have the form of the four-pole 
foundation. True, a three pole foundation can be so manipulated as to 
give the appearance of the other type; but experiment will show that to do 
so implies a four-pole beginning, in reality a four-pole foundation. The 
difference between the two types may be characterized by the fact that in 

the four pole type the door posts are the last 
to be placed, whereas in the three pole type 
they are the first. 

The tops of the Blackfoot and Sarcee tipis 
are often characterized by very long poles, 
though there seems to be too much variation 
in this to be distinctive. This peculiarity is 
especially noticeable in Crow tipis. 

In the course of this comparison, some data 
as to the tie for the fovmdation poles came to 
hand. The Crow used the tie and same ma- 
nipulation of the poles as the Blackfoot, accord- 
ing to a series of photographs taken by Rev. O. 
A. Petzold. The Assiniboine tie, as it appears 
in a model in the Museum^ is shown in Fig. 
68. The ends of the thong are drawn home 
with a simple knot, the essential feature being 
the peculiar passing of the thong around the poles. In the sketch, a is the 

Fig. 68. The Assiniboine Tie. 

1 Collected by Mr. Tappan Adney. 


Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 


door post. The Teton tie i.s as follows: — "Lay three poles side 

Pass one entl of a rojie under all the poles at 

the place to tie (Fio;. 09). Then pass it over 

the third pole, under the second, over the first, 

under the first, over the second, under the third, 

over the third and once around all. Then draw 

on the rope, brino-ing the poles into a triangular 

relation, and tie (Fig. 09). Then wrap the long 

end of the rope about one of the poles. To set 

up the poles spread the three tied poles to equal 

distances, drive a peg into the earth, and tie the 

long end of the rope to it. Then lean ten or 

more poles against the tripod. In old times, the 

tripod pole that was to be next the door was 

longer .from the tie to the groimd than the 

bv side. 

Fig. 69. The Teton Tie. 

others, so that the side of the tipi opposite 
the door was more nearly perpendicular 
than the other." ^ 

The Cheyenne and Arapaho tie is not 
so complicated as the preceding. As tipis 
usually face the east, we ma}" designate 
the legs of the tripod as north, south and 
east. Referring to Pig. 70, the tie is as 
follows. — "Take the north and south 
poles and lay them side by side in front of 
you, pointing from you and towards the 
left, the south pole being nearest you. 
Now take the east pole, or the left door 
Y>ost, and lay it across the other two, 
having the part below the tie a little longer 
than for the others. Then take the cord, 
passing it, not around as some do, but up and down at the crossing point, 

The Che.veniie and Arapalio 

1 Dr. J. K. Walker. 

114 Anthropological Papers Arnerican Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

the rope being between the one and the two. Then tie, bringing the knot 
on the under side, or so it will be down when the tripod is set up. Draw the 
rope fairly tight. Now, set up the tripod with the one pole to the east, pull 
the south pole in that direction and the other one towards the north, spread- 
ing them as much as the cover requires." ^ 

The aim of all tipi ties is to provide a locking arrangement so that the 
weight of the tipi will only draw the cord tighter. While with the Blackfoot 
four-pole tie, this is easily accomplished by passing the rope once around as 
in case of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tie, raising them into position and 
spreading; the result is attained with three poles only by the careful manipu- 
lation of the poles from the starting position. On the other hand, both the 
Teton and Assiniboine ties, the latter being a simpler mode of the former, 
lock in the most efficient manner conceivable. Unfortunately, we have no 
more data but the preceding seems to show that the Siouan peoi)les fall 
into one type as opposed to the Blackfoot, Cheyenne and Arapaho. 

The general import of the discussion, so far, seems to be that the tipi 
of the ]\Iissouri-Saskatchewan area is, excepting a few very minor details, 
of one definite type — crossing poles on a three or four-pole foundation, a 
one piece cover, an oval door, two ears for the smoke hole, etc. Its absolute 
distribution is fairly well knoAvn. There is, however, one aspect of its use 
so far given little consideration. Among the Blackfoot it was the primary, 
indeed, the only shelter, winter and summer alike. On the other hand, the 
Hidatsa and other village Indians used the tipi but occasionally when on a 
summer hunt or otherwise out from their more permanent home. Between 
these extremes there were all degrees of alternation. We may, therefore, 
for convenience divide the tipi users into two groui)s: one in which the tipi 
was the primary dwelling and one in which it seems secondary. Among 
the former, may be counted the Blackfoot, Crow, Assiniboine, Sarcee, Gros 
Ventre, Plains Cree, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, Teton and Yankton Da- 
kota, Comanche and perhaps the Wind River Shoshone and some Ute. To 
the other class belonged the Hidatsa, Kansas, Mandan, Omaha, Osage, Otto, 
Ponca, San tee Dakota, the Northern Shoshone, Nez Perce, the chief modern 
divisions of the Caddoan stock, possibly some Cree and some Central 
Algonkin tribes. While it is true that most of these latter were to varying 
extents agricidturalists, this may have no particular significance other 
than geographical position; yet, in most cases such a use of the ti))i can be 
correlated with a temporary migration out across the open country to hunt 
buffalo. Within the historic period, at least, the tipi and the horse, with all 
the appurtenances thereto, were the prerequisites of such movements. In a 

1 Mr. Reese Kincaide. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfuot Indians. 115 

o-cneral way, the ])0})ular conception that wherever the buffalo, the horse 
and the tipi were found together, all the main material cultural character- 
istics of the area were in function, was not far from the truth among those 
tribes using the tipi as a primary dwelling. 

There is, however, another point to be considered. No matter how 
nomadic these tribes were in summer, they tended to fixed abodes in the 
winter. This was more marked in the north than in the south, and while 
the ti|)i when the primary shelter seems to have sufficed for the winter in 
most cases; it is not certain that any of these tribes were entirely ignorant of 
wooden shelters. Catlin ^ states that the Blackfoot, Crow and Assiniboine, 
in winter, pitched their tipis in thick timber, always found in the valleys 
and sometimes built rude huts there. The same, according to our field- 
notes, was stated by the Teton. The Blackfoot now seem to believe that 
skin tipis were superior in winter for Avarmth and comfort. Elsewhere, it 
has been shown that while the Santee Dakota used houses of stakes and 
bark, such were summer dwellings near their fields and that the greater part 
of the year, especially in winter, they lived in tipis. Further, J. O. Dorsey 
makes it clear that among the Omaha, tipis were used in winter as opposed 
to earth covered and other houses in summer. Thus, "The tent was used 
when the people were migrating, and also when they were travelling in search 
of buft'alo. It was also the favorite abode of a household during the winter 
season, as the earth lodge was generally erected in an exposed situation, 
selected on account of comfort in the summer. The tent could be pitched 
in the timber or brush, or down in wooded ravines, where the cold winds 
never had full sweep. Hence, many Indians abandoned their houses in 
winter and went into their tents, even when they were of canvas." ^ Curi- 
ously enough, the Skidi (Caddoan) claim to have used the tipi exclusively 
before taking up the earth covered house.^ This is a subject deserving special 
investigation for, if it should turn out that the earth covered and other forms 
of shelter are, in the main, truly secondary in this area a problem of very 
great importance would be defined. 

This is not the place to follow up the suggested primary nature of the 
tipi as a dwelling among these tribes and the clues to its possible origin; 
yet, it seems worth while looking toward tlu> north for related types. A good 
descri]>tion of the Chippewa tipi has been given by Beaulicw.' Three poles 
are set up in a tripod and the other poles arranged around them. The 
cover is of birch bark. The interior is fitted with a fioor of fir or cedar boughs 

1 Catlin, 1, 43. 

2 Dorsey, 271. 

3 Dorgey. G. A., xiv. 
■• Clark, 375. 

116 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

and a cross pole to support the kettle. The Museum collection contains 
two models of similar tipis from the Ojibway of Leech Lake, Minnesota. 
The pole structure of these is braced by one or two horizontal poles bent 
around and bound to the other poles by strips of bark. Around the frame 
is stretched a broad band of birch bark. This bark cover is usually rec- 
tangular in shape, instead of semicircular as with the true tipi. In the north, 
the present Athapascan groups, or Dene, use a tipi somewhat like that of the 
Ojibway, though the horizontal poles are usually lacking. In some cases, 
true tipis, with tw.o ears, are to be seen.^ Yet this tipi, whether covered with 
skin or bark is often like the Ojibway in that the cover is rectangular and 
rests low on the frame; being, in other words, more of a wind-break. 

According to Willoughl)y,- a tipi-like house was used occasionally in 
New England, especially by the Penobscot. As this is, in some respects, 
a part of the northern Algonkin area, it may be assumed that this form is 
allied to that used by the Ojibway and Cree. The Xenenot of Labrador 
spend the entire year in a tent of skins which according to Turner's descrij)- 
tion has the general form of a tipi but not the characteristic cover, door or 
ears.^ The internal arrangement is much like that for the Dog Rib and 
Beaver Indians. This is particularly true as to cross poles above the fire. 
The Eskimo about Bering Strait, according to Nelson,^ use a conical summer 
tent but its structure is less like the tipi than the tents of the Xenenot. In the 
Museum, there are models of tipi-like structures, covered with birch bark, 
from Siberia, but the principles of their construction are unlike those of the 
American tipi. 

Morice ^ states that the Beavers live in skin covered conical tents all the 
year round. Four poles are first set up, supported by forks at their ends, 
around which other poles are arranged in a circle. Over this is drawn a 
cover lapped over the door, like a tipi. Even the door curtain is distended 
by two cross sticks as among the Blackfoot. The smoke hole is guarded by 
one ear supported by an outside i)ole. A conical structure sometimes covered 
with skins, with a single ear, supported by a pole, and a door curtain, crossed 
by a stick at the lower edge, was sometimes used by the Thompson Indians,^ 
also a floor covered with fir branches similar to that used by the Beaver, 
Dog Rib and Nenenot. 

Thus, from Labrador to the Thompson Salish of interior British Colum- 
bia, we find a similarity in the internal arrangement of the general tipi-like 

1 Russell described a Dog Rib tipi tliat has two ears supported by two outside poles. 

2 Willoughby, US. 

3 Turner, 299. 
■1 Nelson, 260. 

^ Morice, (c), 192. 
Teit, 197. 

1910.J Wissler, Material Culture of Blarhjoot Indians. 117 

structure. Among the Dene generally, cand some of the Salish, there is a 
tendency to use a four-pole foundation and one ear for the smoke hole. 
The former characteristic we have found among the Blackfoot, Sarcee, 
Crow, Alandan, Hidatsa ^ Comanche and perhaps the Kiowa- Apache; the 
former northern Plains tribes in historical times, the two latter regarded as 
spending at least part of the year near the Black Hills at the opening of the 
historic period. The use of one ear seems to have disappeared in the historic 
|)eriod. Yet Hector and Vaux " speak of Blackfoot tipis with two ears as if 
that were different from what they had observed to the eastward, and previous 
reference to Long and Catlin implies that one ear was formerly used by the 
Comanche and Kiowa. In a way, this reenforces the four-pole tribal distinc- 
tion, placing their geographical group in a class with tribes on the northern 
border, differentiating them from a southern and eastern three-pole group in 
which the Dakota are the most conspicuous. 

It was not intended that this comparative review should be complete but 
sufficient to give basis for a suggestive statement. It appears that the tipi- 
like structures of the Beaver, Chippewa and Dog Rib Indians tend to one 
type while those of the buffalo hunting tribes tend to another. We desig- 
nate these types as northern and southern, respectively. Both have many 
things in common, but such are general rather than specific features. There 
are suggestions that a few specific features of the northern tipi were formerly 
foimd in the Missouri-Saskatchewan area, among the Sarcee, Blackfoot, 
Crow, Comanche and perhaps the Kiowa and Kiowa-Apache. If, as has 
been assumed, the latter of these tribes formerly roamed in Montana and 
northward, we are tempted to look to the Dene and northeastern Algonkin 
areas for the centre of distribution for this type. However that may be, we 
may conclude with having shown ground for differentiating the tipi of this 
area from similar types of shelter used elsewhere and that while the Blackfoot 
and some of their neighbors conform in most respects to the southern type, 
they also show correspondences with the northern type. 

1 The fact that the Hidasta and Mandan are credited with but occasional use of the tipi, 
and that of the Crow type, need not be taken into account here; though more information is 
desh'able. Maximilian credits the Hidatsa with having formerly roamed about like the Crow, 
living chiefly in tipis. 

- Hector and Vaux, 257. 

118 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 


Satisfactory data as to original costume is scarcely to be had as no one 
now living can remember the time when some commercial cloth was not in 
use. We have, however, some descriptive notes by Henry and Maximilian. 
According to the former, the young men, at least, were not over-dressed, 
appearing at his post nude on several occasions, apparently much to his 
disgust. However, this must be taken with some reserve since to reach the 
post these young men swam their horses across a stream, a circumstance 
naturally justifying nakedness. '^ Yet he is cjuite specific in the following: — 

"They wear no breech-clouts and are quite careless about that part of the body. 
Their dress consists of a leather shirt, trimmed with human hair and quill-work, and 
leggings of the same; shoes are of buffalo skin dressed in the hair; and caps, a strip 
of buffalo or wolf skin about nine inches broad, tied around the head. Their necklace 
is a string of grizzly bears claws. A buffalo robe is thrown over all occasionally." - 

Again he writes: — 

"The ordinary dress of these peoj^le is plain and simple, like that of all otlier 
Meadow Indians; plain leather shoes, leather leggings reaching up to the hip, and a 
robe over all, constitutes their usual summer dress, though occasionally they wear an 
open leather shirt, which reaches down to the thigh. Their winter dress differs little 
from that of the summer; their shoes are then made of buffalo hide dressed in the 
hair, and sometimes a leather shirt and a strip of buffalo or wolf skin is tied around 
the head. They never wear mittens. * * * * The young men have a more elegant dress 
which they put on occasionally, the shirt and leggings being trimmed with human 
hair and ornamented with fringe and quill work; the hair is always obtained from 
the head of an enemy." ^ 

A description by INIaximilian may be added to make the ])icture more 
complete : — 

" The dress of the Blackfeet is made of tanned leather, and the handsomest leather 
shirts are made of the skin of the bighorn, which, when new, is of a yellowish-white 
colour, and looks very well. A narrow strip of the skin with the hair is generally 

1 In this connection, tlie following note l)y Henry has some comparative interest: — "They 
wear not the least article of covering: therefore, during their stay, which is generally most of the 
day, they remain perfectly naked, walking or riding about the fort with the composure. 
Some of them have modesty enough to use their hands to cover the parts, while others find 
means of putting it into the Ijody, and then fastening the orifice so tight with a string that 
.scarcely anything appears." Henry and Thompson, 544). As the same mode of concealment 
is depicted in some of Catlin's drawings it seems Hkely that this custom was generally diffused 
throughout the area. , ' 

- Henrj' and Thompson, 525. 
3 Henrj^ and Thompson, 725. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 119 

left at the edge of such a skin. These shirts have half sleeves, and the seams are 
trimmed with tufts of human hair, or of horsehair dyed of various colours, hanging 
down, and with porcupine quills sewn round their roots. These shirts generally have 
at the neck a flap hanging down both before and behind, which we saw usually lined 
with red cloth, ornamented with fringe, or with stripes of yellow and coloured porcu- 
pine quills, or of sky-blue glass beads. Some have all these fringes composed of slips 
of white ermine ; this is a very costly ornament, these little animals having become 
scarce. Many of the distinguished chiefs and warriors wore such dresses, which are 
really handsome, ornamented with many strings hanging down, in the fashion of a 
Hungarian tobacco pouch. When these leather shirts begin to be dirty, they are 
often painted of a reddish-brown colour; but they are much handsomer when they 
are new. Some of these Indians wear on the breast and back round rosettes like 
the Assiniboins, but this is only a foreign fashion, and the genuine Blackfoot costume 
has no such ornament. Their leggins are made like those of the other Missouri 
Indians, and ornamented, in the same manner, with tufts of hair or stripes of porcu- 
pine quills; the shoes, of buffalo or elk leather, are also adorned with porcupine 
quills, each having a ground of a different colour for its ornaments; thus if one is 
white, the other is yellow — a fashion which does not exist lower than the Missouri, 
where both shoes are of the same colour. The chief article of their dress, the large 
buffalo robe, is, for the most part, painted on the tanned side, but less skillfully than 
among the other nations. In general, there are black parallel lines mixed with a 
few figures, often with arrow heads, or other bad arabesques; others, again, are 
painted with representations of their warlike exploits, in black, red, green, and yellow. 
The figures represent the taking of prisoners, dead or wounded enemies, captured 
arms and horses, blood, balls flying about in the air, and such subjects. Such robes 
are embroidered with transverse bands of porcupine quills of the most brilliant colours, 
divided into two equal parts by a round rosette of the same. The ground of the 
skin is often reddish-brown, and the figures on it black. All the Missouri Indians 
wear these robes, and it is well known that those of the Manitaries and the Crows 
are the most beautifully worked and painted. In the description of Major Long's first 
expedition, there is a representation of such a skin, but it is the only one of this kind 
which has come to my knowledge, and I have, therefore, had a drawing made of such 
a one. The Company gives the value of six to ten dollars for such a skin. During 
the summer, the fur is worn outside, and in winter inside. The right arm and 
shoulder are generally bare. It might be thought that this dress was too hot in 
summer, and too cold in winter, but custom reconciles us to everything, and they 
dress pretty nearly in the same manner in the opposite seasons." '■ 

The present people claim no knowledge of a time when breech cloths 
were not used by the men, as Henry's statements imply. On the other 
hand, the usual accuracy of this observer must be given some weight. His 
remarks from time to time, give one the feeling that a simple apron may 
have been worn in front like the Assiniboine and some other tribes. On 
the other hand, the Blackfoot visiting the Missouri in Maximilian's time are 
credited with having the body covered most of the time in contrast to other 
tribes to the east and south.- This is further supported by the almost entire 

1 Maximilian, 248. 
- Maxiniiliaii, 247. 


Anthropological Papers American Miisewn of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

absence of body painting. Thus, notwithstanding Henry's statements, our 
information and that of other observers would characterize the Blackfoot as 
more completely clothed than most other tribes of the area. 

Mens Suits. A man's shirt collected by ]\Ir. Grinnell may be taken as 
the Blackfoot type. The body is made of two deer or antelope skins, joined 
by a seam at the top except across the slit for the head. The skin from the 
hind legs of the animal forms side trailers as shown in Fig. 71, and that 

Fig. 71 (50-1681). A Man's Shirt. Length, 84 cm. 

from the tail with a tuft of hair remaining forms a centre border ornament. 
The back of the body is a duplicate of the front and the sides are open save 
for two ties, one near the arm pit, the other at the waist. The sleeves are 
closed: one is made of a single piece, the other of two pieces. It is thus 
possible to make such a garment of four pieces, cut from two patterns as shown 
in the sketch. All the o])cn edges of the body are cut into short broad 
fringes. The tips of the trailers are cut into fringes of twenty centimeters, 
the strands of which are twisted. The ornamental effects of these are 


Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 


further increased by the hair remaining on the part from which they were 
cut. The cuff is spht back some distance and the edges of each half notched 
with points instead of the rectangular fringes of the body. Beaded bands 
are laid over the shoulders and down the sleeves. There are four of these 
bands, or two pairs; those over the shoidders bear an even number of the 
main design units, those on the sleeves, an odd nuniber. The neck slit is 
bordered before and behind by a triangular flap, one half red, the other 
black, so arranged that the one in front Avill have the red on the right side 
of the wearer. This flap is decorated with fringes. The upper part of the 
body and the sleeves are painted red with cross bands of black. Along 

Fig. 72. Pattern for ;i Shirt. 

the tops of the sleeves and across the shoulders are strips of white weasel 
skins. Usually, the making of each strip requires a complete skin to furnish 
the black tail tip, making a garment quite expensive. Six tassels of red horse- 
hair are symmetrically arranged among the weasel strips. As the two sides 
of this shirt are alike, it can be worn either way. There is no vertical open- 
ing as on the bosom or back of trade shirts; but the head slit can l)e enlarged 
or reduced by a lace on the shoidders. 

Another shirt in the collection is generally similar to the ])rcccding, though 
not so well made. It bears, however, a typical feature not found on the 
preceding; viz., a large beaded disk on the breast and back. Taking shirts 


Anthrojiological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. Y, 

as they come when observed at a tribal gathering, these disk ornaments 
prevail and the native opinion seems to be that they should appear on all 
decorated shirts. 

A shirt of calf skin is made on the same general pattern. The tails, 
however, are square cut and the edges plain. Instead of weasel skins, the 
sleeves, back and front are bordered by very long fringes of calf skin. An- 
other shirt is similar in pattern, but decorated with bands of porcupine quill 
work with fringes of weasel skins and human hair. 

The two former may be taken as the highest type of man's shirt, and 
also the most characteristic. The two latter appear to represent an intrusive 

type since the decorations are almost 
identical with some observed among 
the Assiniboine. The same re- 
semblances hold for the beading 
and quill technique. In passing, 
it may be noted that the punctured 
shirt known to the Nez Perce and 
elsewhere is occasionally met with 
among the Blackfoot. 

With such shirts, the men wore 

long leggings reaching to the hip 

and supported from the belt by a 

strap. The type is shown in Fig. 

73. The bottoms are usually cut 

into four parts and notched or 

slightly fringed. Bead or quill 

worked bands extend almost the 

full length of the leggings and are 

bordered by strips of weasel skin or 

other fringes. As a rule, leggings 

are painted yellow and striped with 

black throughout, similar to those of the Mandan and other village Indians; 

yet the cut of the Blackfoot legging differs at the ankle, those of the former 

being full and trailing.^ 

Suits for small boys were often made on the same lines, one in the collec- 
tion being in most respects a duplicate of that just described. While in 
popular literature, garments with wxasel skins are regarded as the insignia 
of a chief and there are some traditions to that effect, it may be doubted 
that such a rule w^as strictly observed. As nearly as we can judge from the 
data at hand, it is rather to be considered full dress. 

Fig. 73 (50-1683) 
Length, 92 cm. 


1 Maximilian, 341. 


Wissler, Material Culture of BlackJ'oot Indians. 


During trade days many men wore large overcoats made of blankets. 
These had closed sleeves and usually an attached hood. A few of these 
were still in use in 1905. The breech cloth is still worn by old men. It 
passes between the legs and under the belt behind and before. The pendant 
ends are cut square but do not hang far down like the long pendant ones of 
some Siouan tribes. In former times, these cloths were of deer or other 
soft skin. One in the collection is a rectangular piece 31 by 138 cm. The 
belt is of similar material, 5 by 140 cm. 

Robes of buffalo skin were in general use but these have been displaced 
by trade blankets. Though robes are now made of steer-hide, these are 
seldom worn, being reserved for bed covers or decorative purposes. Accord- 
ing to Grinnell, winter robes of beaver skin were in use, and summer robes 
of cow and other skin from which the hair had been removed.^ The collec- 
tion contains an elk hide robe tanned on both sides, one of which bears 
painted designs. The man's robe was usually crossed by a broad band of 
cjuill or beadwork, examples of which may still be seen attached to trade 
blankets. There are several such bands in the collection. One which may 
be taken as the type is quill worked (Fig 74). The most characteristic 

Fig. 74 (50-67S7). Part of a Blanket Band. Length, 154 cm. 

feature is the use of disks, usually four in number, to the centres of which 
strips of weasel skin are attached. These bands were placed upon the tanned 
side of the buft'alo robe, extending from the head to the tail. In use on 
trade blankets, they are worn horizontally: i. e., passing around the waists 
of the wearers. As to how they were worn in the past, there is a difference 
of opinion : some maintaining that they were vertical on the back, as among 
the Arapaho. This is doul)tless, ecpiivalent to stating that sometimes the 
robe was worn with the head uppermost and the tail at the heels, an excep- 
tional position, for it is agreed that the correct position was the head to the 

> Grinnell, (a), 197. 

124 Anthropological Papers American Museum, of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

left and the tail to the right. The painted designs were usually pictographic 
for men and striped for women, though great variations Avere permissible. 
Some maintain that the women wore these stripes transversely, while in 
men's robes, if used, they were vertical. 

Ordinarily, the men drew the robe al)out the body, almost to the arm pits 
and secured it by a kind of hitch in front, so that it remained in position. 
The trade blanket is still secured in this manner. 

Fleadgear. To rpiote from Grinnell: — "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 headdress. Sometimes a cap 
was made of the skin of some large bird, such as the sage-hen, duck, owl, or 
swan." ^ 

There is some recollection among the Piegan of the rawhide eye shade, 
painted like a parfleche, used by the tribes beyond the mountains. This 
seems not to have come into general use and to have been regarded as a 
borrowed custom. With the shirts previously described, a special head- 
dress seems to have been worn. This consisted of a hood of cowhide falling 
low down on the neck, covered completely with strips of white weasel skins. 
To the top, a pair of horns were attached.^ 

The feather headdress used by many tribes seems not to have found favor 
among the Blackfoot. In fact, what the eagle feather seems to have been 
in the costume of other tribes, the weasel skin was to them. It should not 
be inferred, however, that there were no associations in which eagle feathers 
were of prime importance. 

Another type of headdress was made of strands of human hair, joined 
by pieces of gum. This was hung from the back of the head. There is a 
fine specimen of this type in the Museum, attributed to the Nez Perce and 
we have seen others among the Gros Ventre. Catlin observed something 
of the kind among the CroM' and in the Museum there is a Shoshone piece 
made of buffalo hair. 

Special forms of headdress are associated with ceremonies and therefore 
belong to another part of our subject. In general, however, they are of one 
type, a head-band to which the accessories are fastened. 

Collars and Mittens. Skins of otter, fox, coyote, etc., were split in the 
middle, slipped over the head and worn over the breast and back. These 
were, however, hung with charms and so must be regarded as not strictly 
articles of dress. Bead-covered cords were worn in parallel curves across 

1 Grinnell, (a), 196. 

2 Catlin, 1, Plate 14, 32. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Cvlture of Blackfuot Indians. 125 

the breast by men. In recent years, at least, mittens of butt'alo skin were 
used. Each was joined to the sleeve by a cord so that it might not be lost. 
Women's Suits. Women's costumes were not given much considera- 
tion by Henry so that the following quotation from Maximilian must suffice: 

"The dress of tlie women is tfie same as among the other Missouri Indians; it is 
a long leather shirt, coming down to their feet, bound round the waist with a girdle, 
and is often ornamented with many rows of elks' teeth, bright buttons, and glass 
beads. The dress wraps over the breast, and has short, wide sleeves, ornamented 
with a good deal of fringe, which often hang down nearly in the same manner as in 
the national Polish dress, but not below the elbows. The lower arm is bare. The 
hem of the dress is likewise trimmed with fringes and scolloped. The women orna- 
ment their best dresses, both on the hem and sleeves, with dyed porcupine quills 
and thin leather strips, with broad diversified stripes of sky-blue and white glass 
beads. * * * * *The girls are dressed in the same manner as the women, and their 
dresses are generally ornamented with elks' teeth, for which the Indians pay a high 

Grinnell states that 

"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 aljove 
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. "- 

If this is correct as to the older form, these people had a costume some- 
what Uke the tribes farther north and eastward and it would imply that the 
later form of dress was an intrusion from the Missouri area. This mav, 
however, refer to the Cree type to be mentioned later. 

The Audubon collection contains a woman's dress dating back to about 
1843 (Fig. 75). The strvictural details of this agree with exami)les of 
recent make collected by us. Pieces of elk or deer skin are cut as shown 
in the pattern (Fig. 76). The spreading parts to forjn the cape are pieced 
out Avith a long strip cut as sliown. To this often adheres the tail tuft, as 
for shirts, and a fringe of hair on the edges. The pendant points, also in 
the hair, are fringed and twisted as for shirts.^ However, the tail may be a 
part of the skirt piece. The top of the yoke is joined to the skirt jiiece by 
overlacing, the edge being slightly notched or fringed. In the completed 
garment these two halves of the robe are sewed together across the top, 

1 Maximilian, 249. 

- Orinnell, (a), 196. 

•' 8ee drawings by Catliii. 


Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

except at the neck-hole. The sides are sewed to the arm pits, except for 
mothers of nursing children when the sewing stops at the breast. The 
lower part of the skirt may be piecetl if the original tanned hide is not large 
enough and likewise a strip may be inserted at the side. The bottom is 
cut zigzag with a point at each side and one in the middle. The side edges 
are fringed as is also the bottom. 

Double pendant thongs are placed across the skirt at intervals in two 

Fig. 75. A Woman's Dress. Length, 133 cm. 

or three rows. Sometimes these are anchored to bits of red and black cloth, 
encircled by beads. At each side below the first row of fringes a small 
cloven hoof-shaped piece of skin is attached (four in all). Still lower, appears 
a triangular piece, half black and half red, and two rectangular pieces simi- 
larly divided. Duplicates of these a})pear again on the back. 

The beading on the yoke is still much like that on the Audubon specimen, 
consisting of rows of tubular glass beads, following the contoiu* of the cape, 

1910.] Wisslcr, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 127 

and curvin"; arouiul the tail tuft. Below this beading were hung elk teeth; 

Fig. 76. Pattern for a Dress. 

now shells, thimbles and other trinkets. In former times, quills were used 
in place of beads. There are no sleeves, the cape hang- 
ing freely over the bare shoulders and arms. ' 

Women's leggings are^now usually of cloth reaching 
the knee. They have a single seam on the side, worn 
on the outside of the leg. When decorated, a beaded 
piece of tanned skin, about 14 by 25 cm. is placed at 
the bottom, the edges overlapping and held by a series 
of two strand laces by which it may be drawn snug to 
the ankle (Fig. 77). The high upper of the moccasin 
is gathered beneath this so that the legging reaches to 
its decorated border. The combined legging and moc- 
casin of southern tribes was not used. The beaded 
designs arc usually arranged to give a striped effect. 

Belts. Belts were worn by both men and women, 
but especially by the latter. It is said that those of 

the men were verv narrow, but otherwise similar to those used bv women. 

Fig. 77 (50-4498) 
A Woman's Legging, 
Length, 43 cm. 


Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

At present, women wear belts of trade leather about 10 cm. in breadth/ 
decorated with beads and brass nails. One very old piece that we collected 
is covered with many heavy brass buttons; this was said to have been the 
only form of belt decoration in former years and as the buttons were costly, 
such a belt was a luxury indeed. Some of these belts seem to have borne 
the long trailers found on Assiniboine belts. 

i*^ Women's knife cases were similar in construction to the belts and were 
suspended by a cord so as to hang down on the thigh. For men, however, 
the belt passed through a hole in the margin of the scabbard, as observed 
among the Assiniboine. 

[■'^\ Moccasins. The moccasins seem to have been of two general forms. 
The one, which is the older by tradition, is made from a single piece cut as 
shown in Fig. 78. The following note of explanation is contributed by Mr. 
William C. Orchard: — • "That part of the pattern marked a forms the upper 
side of the moccasin ; b, the sole ; e, the tongue, /, the trailer. The leather 
is folded lengthwise, along the dotted line, the points c and cl are brought 

Fig. 78 (.50-4411). Tlie One-piece Moccasin Pattern. 

together and the edges sewed along to the point g, which makes a seam the 
whole length of the foot and around the toes. The vertical heel seam is 
formed by sewing c and d now joined to h, /projecting. The strips c and d 
are each, half the width of that marked h, consequently the side seam at the 
heel is half way between the top of the moccasin and the sole, but reaches the 
level at the toes. As the sides of this moccasin are not hiu'li enough for the 

1 The almost exact uniformity in the width of the belts collected by us makes it probable 
that the Blackfoot had a definite standard measure for these. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 129 

wearer's comfort, an extension or ankle flap is sewed on, var\ iiiij; from two 

Fig. 79 (50-4.566). Pattern of Upper for a Hard Sjled Moccasin. 

to six inches in Avidth, cut long enough to overlap in front and held in place 

by means of the usual draw string or lacing 
around the ankle." 

Winter moccasins were of this form, but 
usually made of buffalo skin with the hair inside. 
The moccasin generally worn to-day is of two or 
more pieces and usually provided with a raw- 
hide sole. Parfleche and bags are often pressed 
into service for such purposes, remnants of the 
painted designs being observable within. The 
soles conform generally to the outlines of the 
foot and are in consequence rights and lefts. 
The uppers are of the form shown in Fig. 79. 
Sometimes the tongue is joined instead of being 
continuous with the material of the upper. 
Around the ankle on many moccasins is a fold 
of cloth, usually red, bordered by black or green 
and ornamented by a peculiar cross stitch ^ 
(Fig. 80). A high top is frecpiently added 
which, with the tongue, fully covers the ankle. 
The string or lace, ])asses around under the 

fold of cloth, occasionally looped through the heel, making the entire cir- 

1 In former times, it is said, a strip of white weasel skin was attached to the moccasin of a 
prominent man. 

Fig. SO (50-4406). A Black- 
foot Moccasin. Length, 27 cm. 

130 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

cuit. Sometimes, however, two strings are used, the ends fastened near the 
heel seam, but otherwise as before. 

Trailers are used. Thirteen pairs of BlackFoot moccasins examined by 
us ranged as follows: no trailers, 4; one trailer, 3; two trailers, 3; fringed 
along the heel seam, 3. 

No definite differences between moccasins used by men and women 
are now observable. In summer, a plain canvas moccasin is the usual form 
for ordinary use. For decoration, paints, quills and beads are employed. 
As among many other tribes, the entire decoration of the upper is completed 
before attaching to the sole. This joining usually begins at the toe Avith the 
parts turned wrong side out but righted before entirely sewed up. The 
use of tiny rattles of metal or dew-claws as moccasin decorations seems not 
to have found a place in Blackfoot culture. At one time, it was fashionable 
for men to fasten the tails of badgers or other objects to the heels as trailing 
ornaments, a practice formerly observed among the village Indians. Nothing 
of this kind remains, though a few old men still tie tails to their stirrups — 
apjjarently a survival. 

Hair Dress. The women wear their hair in two braids, or hanging loose, 
confined by a band about the forehead. In either case, it is carefully parted 
in the middle. The braids are used by girls and matrons, while old women 
almost invariably wear the hair loose. This is also the usual form for cere- 
monies. In careful dress, the hair is smoothed down closely over the sides 
of the head and temples concealing the ears, though generally exposing more 
of the forehead than is the case among the Dakota and some other tribes. 
The hair is seldom dressed with paint though it may have been otherwise 
in the past, for Henry says, "Their ornaments are few — feathers, t[uill- 
work and human hair, with red, white and blue earth, constitute the whole 
apparatus; but they are fond of European baubles to decorate their hair. 
The young men appear proud and haughty, and are particular to keep their 
varments and robes clean. The women are a filthv set. Their dress con- 
sists of leather; their hair, never combed except with the fingers, is worn 
loose al)0ut the neck and always besmeared with the red and lead-colored 
earth. This gives them a savage covmtenance, though the features of many 
of them would be agreeable, were they not so incrusted Avith earth." ^ 
Grinnell seems to confirm the carelessness of the Avomen in hair dressing.^ 
While at present this characterization is not just, alloAvance must be made for 
changes introduced by the schools and otherwise. 

In contrast to the preceding, the men seem to have giA^en a great deal of 

1 Henry and Thompson, 525. 

2 Grinnell, (a), 197. 

1910.] Wisslcr, Material Culture of Blaekfoot Indians. 131 

attention to the hair. Henrv states, "The young men allow theirs to flow 
loose antl lank about their necks, taking great care to keep it smooth about 
the face; they also M'ear a lock hanging down over the forehead to the tip 
of the nose, these cut scjuare, and kept smooth and flat as if to hide the nose." 
Again, "The elder men allow their hair to grow, and twist it in the same 
manner as the Assiniboines ; but instead of forming the coil on the crown, 
they wear it on the forehead, projecting seven or eight inches in a huge knob, 
smeared with red earth." ^ 

The long face-lock is not now seen but will be noticed in some of Catlin's 
drawings. Maximilian gives the following: — "Their hair hangs down 
straight and stifl^', often in disorder over the eyes and round the head. Young 
people, however, who pay more attention to neatness, part it regularly over 
the forehead, and comb it smooth.* * * * Some braid the hair in a long thick 
queue behind, and many, especially the medicine men or jugglers, Avear it, 
like the Mandans and ^Nlinitaries divided into several thick queues all 
around, and generally bind them all together with a leather strap, in a 
thick knot over the forehead." ' The knot referred to has long been the 
characteristic of a medicine pi})e man.^ Occasionally, the hair on the top 
of the head is cut short and dressed to stand on end. However it may have 
been in the past, many men of the present spend a great deal of their time 
brushing and caring for their hair. They admire long hair and use 
charms to increase its length. (Plates ii and vii.) 

Like other Indians, the Blaekfoot had a distaste for face-hair. While 
a few old people can recall a few instances in which men of their tribe 
trained small beards, they Avere the exceptions. The pubic hair and that 
of the arm pits is fairly abundant and some indivitluals are very hairy on 
the back and limbs. All such hair save that of the pubes, where concealed 
by the breech cloth, is usually puUetl out with tweezers. Formerlv, tweezers 
are believed to have been made of wood or bone. 

Combs. So far as known, true combs were never in use, their j^lace 
being taken by the widely distributed jiorcupine tail brush. Three types 
were collected by us. The type known to most tribes in the ^Missouri 
valley, a porcupine's tail mounted on a stick, was in general use. In P'ig. 
81, we see a true brush, jjorcupine bristles l)ound to a stick by rawhide. 
An unusual form made by binding horse hair is shown in Fig. 82. Some- 
times brushes were made by binding a bundle of small flexible twigs instead 
of hair or bristles. 

' Henry and Thompson, 525. 
- ^laxiniiliaii, 247. 

3 For a pliot()t;raph .showing this tyiie of hair dress we are indebted to Mr. Walter McClin- 
tock, Plate ii. 


Anthropological Papers American Miiseum of Natural History. [Vol. \ , 

Hair and Neck Ornaments-. We may finally direct our attention to 
hair ornaments: though we shall very soon find ourselves led into charms 
and amulets, a subject not within the scope of the present work. At present, 
there are few, if any, native hair ornaments. The bimches of feathers and 
other objects tied upon the head are siu'vivals of an immediate past in 
which they had a value other than decorative. According to ^Maximilian ^ 
a small shell was often suspended over the temple: again, small locks 
wrapped with brass wire (evidently a detached ornament) hung from one 
or both sides of the forehead. The use of eagle feathers on the head seems 
much less pronounced than among the Dakota, the inclination being to use 
stri])s of ermine and bunches of owl feathers. 

A peculiar necklace worn by some men is formed of fungus, prized be- 

Fig. 81. Fig. 82. 

Fig. 81 (50-4546). A Hair Brush. Length, 11 cm. 

Fig. 82 (50-15). A Hair Brush of Horse Hair. Length, 9 cm. 

cause of its delicate odor. It consists of variously shaped pieces about the 
size of tennis balls, strung at intervals on a thong. In former times, bear's 
claws were worn as among many neighboring tribes. 

Tattooing arid Mutilation. While tattooing was not a custom, it was 
occasionally performed. The designs were simple, confined to the arms 
and face. They were pricked by needles and colored with gun })owdcr. 
Nose rings, as well as lip, cheek and ear plugs seem to have been unknown. 
The ears of children are pierced, but the ear ornaments worn at jiresent are 
simple. They are usually rectangular or circular pieces of shell secured in 
trade. While perhaps more women than men wear these ear ornaments, 
there seem to be few important differences between them. It is said that 

1 Maximilian, 247. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 133 

formerly, small rings of buckskin were worn, though not to the exclusion of 
shells, 'i'he ears of infants are usually pierced by old women. Formerly, 
a sharpened twig, usually of service berry, was thrust through the lobe and 
broken off close to the surface. At ])resent, a piece of lead is used. An 
open ring, something like that used for hogs' noses is formed and pressed 
home on the part to be perforated. The irritation at the points of contact 
and subsecjuent pressure forms an opening. Head deformation was not 
practised. Scarif action was rarely seen;^ though it was sometimes an 
incid(Mital result of sacrifices to be described in a future jjublication. We 
found no traces of mutilation of the genitales as observed by Henry and 
Maximilian among some of the tribes of the Upper Missouri valley. The 
name of a Piegan band, however, refers to a similar malformation of the 

Pigmrnis and Painting. The use of paint for the face is still a daily 
practice with many and seems to have been universal in former years. 
Henry credits them with ten pigments: — "The ten different colors of earth 
and clay they use in painting and daubing their garments, bodies, and faces 
are: a dark red, nearly a Spanish brown; a red, inclining to pale vermillion; 
a deep yellow; a light yellow;' a dark blue; a light or sky-colored blue; 
a shining and glossy lead color; a green; a white; and charcoal." " The 
probability is that some of these were secured in trade. The following kinds 
of native paints were listed by us. As these will be fully treated under the 
ceremonies in which they find their most important function we give the 
English equivalents of their names here : — 

Yellow earth. 

Buffalo yellow (buffalo gall stones). 

Red earth (burned yellow earth). 

Red earth (as found). 

Rock paint (a yellowish red). 

]\Iany-times-baked-paint (a yellow earth ma<lc red by exposure to the 

Red many-times-baked (a similar red, as found). 

Seventh paint (a peculiar ghastly red-purple). 

Blue (a dark blue mud). 

White earth (as found). 

Black (charcoal). 

We have not had an opportunity to submit samples of these native pig- 
ments for analysis nor hav(^ we verified by observation the sources and con- 
ditions given in the above table. It is (juite probable from the above, that 

' Maximilian, 247. 

- Henry and Thompson, 731. 

134 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

the term for blue is also used for green. The clahii is made that a native 
green was often produeetl from a mud; hut that this was in reality a green 
in the modern sense of the word is unlikely. The reader should not confuse 
this list with dyes, for by jwints we mean the e([uivalent of the Indian term 
for face and body paint. ^Yhile, naturally, these pigments may be used 
for other purposes, it is as articles for the toilet and esj)ecially as ceremonial 
accessories that they find their true functions. As we have here to do with 
the former, to the exclusion of the latter, we may be content with their 
enumeration. Henry in his contemptuous way observes: — 

" The Slave Indians, [Blackfoot, Sarcee and Gros Ventre] daub their bodies, 
robes, and garments profusely with red earth, which appears to be the principal 
article of their toilet. They have another favorite pigment [Our seventh paint], 
which they procure on their excursions beyond the rocky mountains, of a glossy 
lead color, which is used to daub their faces after red earth has been applied. This 
kind of paint tends to give them a gastly and savage appearance."' 

Maximilian gives the following accoimt as observed in his day: — 

"They paint their faces red with vei'milion; this colour, which they procure by 
barter from the traders, is rubbed in with fat, which gives them a shining appearance. 
Others colour only the edge of their eyelids, and some stripes in the face, with red; 
others use a certain yellow clay for the face, and red round the eyes; others, again, 
paint the face red, and forehead, a stripe down the nose, and the chin, blue, with the 
shining earth from the mountains which I have before mentioned, and which, being 
analyzed by Professor Cordier, at Paris, he found to be mixed with an earthy peroxide 
of iron, probably mixed with some clay. Others colour the whole face black, antl 
only the eyelids and some stripes red. The women and children paint the face only 
of a uniform red." - 

At present, men as well as women paint the face, usually with ordinary 
red pigment of their own finding. It may be applied wet or the face rubbed 
with tallow into which some of the pigment is worked with the hands. Some- 
times the backs of the hands are painted. The women often trace the part 
of the hair with vermillion. The making of designs, stripes, or the use of 
two or more colors is practically limited to ceremonial functions. However, 
one frequently sees a person with large circular spots of red on the cheeks, 
a broad band on the forehead and chin, but with such irregular outlines as to 
preclude their interpretation as true designs. In this statement, we refer 
to ordinary every day painting and not to that directly associated with 

Paint pouches have been considered in another part of this publication. 
A toilet outfit can scarcely be distinguished from a ceremonial outfit as both 

1 Henry and Thompson, 525. 

2 Maximilian, 247. The shining earth mentioned liere seems to be oiir "seventli paint." 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blachfuot Indians. 135 

are found in all cleo;rees of completeness. The ideal- outfit for all uses is a 
series of bags containing the different kinds of paint, a bag containing pieces 
of tallow, a few clam shells for mixing (though a cup is usually called into 
service nowadays) and a few pointed sticks used in penciling some of the 
more elaborate designs in ceremonial painting. 

Some of these pigments are still used in decorating rawhide bags, drums, 
tipis and robes, though commercial colors are much preferred. In former 
times, the paint was applied and rubbed into the texture Avith wedge-shai)ed 
])encils of bone. The collection contains a set of five cut from the spongy 
end of a buft'alo leg-bone. We have been informed that the pointed toe 
bones of buffalo and deer were sometimes used in the same way. At present, 
rags and trade brushes are often used. Formerly, the outlines for such 
painting were traced with a marking bone. This was a knife-shaped piece 
with a smooth rounded point. In use, the point was heated in the fire and 
applied to the rawhide with pressure, where it left a depressed and often a 
colored trail. The same method was used in robe decoration. At present, 
this technicjue is rarely employed, trade crayons being more convenient. 
Stencils are frequently used in tipi decoration, Imt this seems to be a recent 

Comparaiiv? Notes. To ])lace the Blackfoot as to their dress we must 
give a general review of the distribution of the related types. The earlier 
observers show a tendency to make the man's shirt with fringes of hair, etc., 
bearing quill ornaments and especially the rosette, or disk, an Assiniboine 
characteristic. Of the Mandan, Maximilian says, "These Indians generally 
wear no covering on the upper part of the body; the leather shirt of the 
Assiniboins, Sioux [Dakota], Crows, Blackfeet, and other nations that live 
more to the north and north-west, are seldom used among them; yet a few 
individuals have obtained them from those Indians, either as presents, or 
by barter."' Brackenbridge observed such shirts occasionally among the 
village Indians of the ^Missouri." From all the information at hand, it 
seems probable that the Hidatsa, Arikara and ]Mandan, made little use of 
the shirt as a regular costume, if indeed, they used it at all. 

The men's shirts in the Museum collections seem to have the following 
characteristics: — The Arapaho specimens have closed sleeves like a modern 
coat with seams at the sides of the body. ()n(> s])ecimen, however, has one 
side open, held together at intervals l)y a tie. Among the Gros Ventre speci- 
mens there is a ceremonial shirt with a half sleeve; i. e., closed from the elbow 
to the wrist but open at the sides of the l)ody like Dakota shirts. The shirts 
of the Dakota, as just mentioned are open at the sides; many times not even 

1 Maximilian, 340. 

2 Brackenridge, 150. 

136 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

tied, and in most cases provided with half sleeves. The Xez Perce specimens 
are open at the sides and also provided with what appears to be a half sleeve, 
though the opening in the sleeve is very small. These Xez Perce shirts 
resemble those of the Blackfoot in that the tail tufts are at the bottoms of the 

Shirts seem not to have Ijeen used by the men among the Osage, Pawnee, 
and in Long's time among the Kiowa, Cheyenne, Arapaho and Comanche.' 
However, the Arkansas seem to have used shirts. - 

The general type to which the Blackfoot specimens belong: i. e., the 
fringed front or sleeves, with broad decorative bands over the shoulders 
and on the sleeves, was used by the northern Shoshone, the Sahaptin, Crow, 
Assiniboine, Dakota, and probably by some of the village tribes of the 
Upper ]Missouri. For later years, this list could be much extended as any 
collection of photographs will show. Like the Blackfoot, the northern 
Shoshone and Sahaptin show a tendency to use the closed sleeve, but with a 
fringe confined to the upper arm, a feature not usually observed east of the 
Mountains. Henry describes the Cree shirt as having sleeves open from 
the shoulders to the elbow like those of the women.^ ^Maximilian says 
something like this of the Blackfoot.^ From the data at hand, it appears 
that this decorated shirt is a special costume, or a kind of regalia, with pre- 
dominant military associations. Its general diffusion among southern non- 
shirt wearing tribes is apparently due to this idea. It seems to have been 
most accentuated among the Dakota, Assiniboine, Crow, Blackfoot and their 
immediate neighbors west of the Great Divide and by the hair fringes and 
otherwise varying devices symbolic of military triumphs. 

So far as our positive information goes, the people wearing shirts as a 
regular costume were the Assiniboine, Blackfoot, Nez Perce, some Shoshone 
and interior Salish, Crow and possibly the Dakota and Gros Ventre. Bear- 
ing in mind that the Cree and eastern Dene wore shirts, we may confidently 
look upon this as a northern characteristic. Hence, it may be correct to 
say that as a true garment for men, the shirt was not a characteristic of 
the entire area; but a special shirt worn on dress occasions, was quite char- 
acteristic, at least, during the historic period. Naturally the Blackfoot 
with their immediate neighbors show strong tendencies toward the use of 
both types. 

In like manner, the woman's dress or shirt, has a special distribution. 
The general type of Blackfoot sleeveless dress was used by the village Indians, 

» James, 3. 48. 

2 Marcy, 98. 

3 Henry and Tlioinpson, 514. 
■" Maximilian, 248. 

1910.] Wisslcr. Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 137 

the Crow, Dakota, Arapaho, Xez Perce, northern Shoshone, Assinihoine, 
and Plains Cree. From collections of photographs it a|)pcars that the same 
form of dress is fomid among the Ute, Kiowa, and Comanche. At an earlier 
l^eriod, it seems that the Assiniboine women wore dresses like the Cree.' 
What this garment was is not quite clear though it has been described by 
^lackenzie,' Henr}*^ and Harmon.^ All are agreed that the sleeves are 
detached and closed from the wrist to the elbow, "but thence to the shoulder 
they are open underneath and drawn up to the neck, where they are fastened 
across the breast and back." * Harmon says they are hekl on by a cord 
joining the two sleeves.^ Mackenzie says the corners of the open part of 
the sleeve hang down behind the waist. ^ The dress proper was fastened 
over the shoulders by strips of leather, "a liap or cai)e turning down about 
eight inches, both before and behind, anil agreeably ornamented with quill- 
work and fringe." ^ (Ciu'iously enough, the women of the area wore their 
robes with a fold at the top). This cape seems to correspond in a way 
with the yoke to the Blackfoot dress just described. Otherwise, the skirt 
of the Cree and Assiniboine is apparently similar to the characteristic dress 
of the present Plains women. The closed, or partially closed sleeve, seems 
to be a northern characteristic as Carver states that the women seen by him 
wore no sleeves.^ Recalling Grinnell's statement as to older Blackfoot 
costume having sleeves, we may conjecture that his informants had the Cree 
type in mind. 

Among some of the Algonkins and the eastern Siouan tribes, the women 
wore skirts reaching to below the knee, which were simply pieces of cloth 
or buckskin open on one side or in front. Long'" observed this among the 
Osage and again when among the Cheyenne and other tribes." Something 
like this seems to have been anciently worn by the Ojibway and Eastern 
Cree. Tf we take the more general form, of a short skirt reaching from 
the waist to below the knees, we may add the Pawnee.'- In these cases, an 
upper garment was worn, usually without sleeves, cut square with a simple 
hole for the head, or a kind of cloak fastened over one shoulder. These 
characteristics serve to differentiate this type of woman's dress from that 
of the tribes previously enumerated. 

1 Henry, 306; Henry and Thompson, 517. 

- Mackenzie, xciv. 

■' Henry and Thompson, 514. 

■" Harmon, 275. 

■'■' Henry and Thompson, 515. 

'■' Harmon, 176. 

" Mackenzie, xciv. 

^ Mackenzie, xciv; see Maximilian's Atlas for drawings. 

9 Carver. 229. 

•« James. 1, 119. 

11 James, 3, 47. 

1-' Clark, 156. 

138 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

The western Dene women seem to have inchned toward the apron and 
robe ^ of the Pacific shore, while the interior Sahsh appear to have used a 
form intermediate between the Dene and the Blackfoot type.- 

Thus, it appears that the general type of woman's dress in the JMissouri- 
Saskatehewan area was distinct from that used to the north, east and south. 
It was, however, common to many parts of the Sahaptin and Shoshone areas. 
This dress seems to be primarily a one piece garment as opposed to that 
used by women in other parts of the continent. Within its area of distribu- 
tion, it seems possible to differentiate certain sub-types. The Sahaptin 
seem to have a tendency to make a true sleeve of the cape extensions, strongly 
suggestive of the detached sleeves of the Cree. The Kiowa, Comanche and 
possibly the Ute tend to the use of a low-cut open neck, as in the sleeveless 
waists of the Pima, Moki, etc. Again, these more southwestern tribes seem 
to have used a detached cape, to all appearances a duplicate of the large yoke 
in Dakota dresses. Some collectors have, however, given these capes a 
ceremonial value.^ 

The specimens of women's dress which we have examined give the 
Arapaho and perhaps the Cheyenne a tendency toward a yoke with square 
cut cape extensions ; the Dakota have a characteristic notched cape, though 
Catlin sketches them as in the Blackfoot mode. Early observers regard 
the Assiniboine as in appearance scarcely to be distinguished from the Cree 
of the Plains and while no clear description of costumes of that period have 
come to hand, Maximilian's artist sketches Assiniboine women with a dress 
strongly suggestive of the Cree sleeved type. Thus, from the pattern alone, 
the Blackfoot are nearest the Mandan and other village Indians. While 
this is not the place to enter into a discussion of the eml)roiderv and other 
decorations it may be said, that the Sahaptin and the Northern Shoshone 
seem to be of the exact Blackfoot variety, while the Dakota form is found 
among the Kiowa, Arapaho, Ute, etc. In practically all the specimens 
examined, we have found the U-shaped turn, which on Blackfoot dresses 
borders the tail tuft. We feel that the Blackfoot form can be safely taken 
as indicating the real origin of this decoration, notwithstanding the symbolic 
character given it by some tribes. 

It would be interesting to follow up the problem as to the more specific 
origin of the Blackfoot form of dress. From structiu-al and geographical 
points of view, there must be a historical relation between the inserted top 
piece of the Blackfoot yoke, the attached cape-like yoke of the Dakota, etc., 

1 Harmon, 244. 

2 Hill- Tout, 68; Teit, 215. 

3 Battey, 128. Also a mixed blood Piegan once showtMl the writer a similar cape said to 
have been used by nude women dancers among the Blackfoot; all our other informants denied 
this, however. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blaclfoot Indians. 139 

and the folded over yoke of the Cree. The separate cape of some Shoshone 
and other southern tribes may be accounted for as a special differentiation or 
an independent feature afterward entering into the dress. While we need 
more data, the distribution is suggestive; the sej^arate cape in the south, 
the heavy combined cape and skirt in the middle, the lighter more sleeve-like 
cape in the north. Grinnell's statement that the Blackfoot women formerly 
used a costume that we now know to have been typical among the Cree and 
Saultaux, implies that among them the widely distributed Plains type is 

The woman's legging seems to have been the same for the Cree,^ Assini- 
boine, northern Shoshone, Mandan, Hidatsa, and Dakota. This type may 
be characterized as the short ankle to knee type. 

One type of legging worn by women and also ])y men seems to have been 
in occasional use among most tribes in this area, but also very widely dis- 
tributed among the Algonkin and other eastern tribes. This type may be 
characterized by a stiff flap along the outer seam produced by an extension 
of the two edges of the cloth or leather beyond the seam. The distribution 
of this type is so wide and its use outside of the area so varied, that it cannot 
be considered important from an ethnographic point of view. The most 
probable thing seems to be that here it is an intrusive eastern type, not by 
any means displacing what seems to be a type pecvdiar to this area. 

In general, the cut and make of clothing was uniform among the eastern 
and southern neighbors of the Blackfoot. As Catlin states, "I cannot say 
that the dress of the Mandans is decidedly distinct from that of the Crows 
or the Blackfeet, the Assinneboins or the Sioux; yet there are modes of stitch- 
ing or embroidering, in every tribe, which may at once enable the traveller, 
who is familiar with their modes, to detect or distinguish the dress of any 
tribe. These differences coi^sist generally in the fashions of constructing 
the head-dress, or of garnishing their dresses with the porcupine tpiills, 
which they use in great profusion." " 

Blackfoot costume, in contrast to the Crow, presents a dark ground due 
to the mode of dressing deer skins.^ This peculiarity, while not unknown 
among other Plains tribes prevailed among the Shoshone and especially 
among all the Plateau and Mackenzie tribes from whom it may be assumed 
to have reached the Blackfoot. 

The following com])arative study of moccasins is contributed by Mr. 
William C. Orchard. It appears that the types fall into three classes: o, 
those with separate soles; /;, the soles and uppers of one piece, c, the boot 

1 Henry and Thompson, 514. 

2 Catlin, 1, 100. 

3 Catlin, 1, 45. 

140 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natvral History. [Vol. V, 

moccasin. Since the former seems to predominate Avest of the ^lississippi 
River, it will be considered first. 

Pattern No. 1, Fig. 83, may be called a three piece pattern, consisting of 
u])per, tongue and sole. A cut of about three inches down the centre of the 
upper is made to a ])oint just beloAV the instep and short cut at right angles 
to that, making a T-shaj)ed cut with the vertical line much longer than the 
horizontal. To the edge of the short cut is sewed the tongue. (With Ute 
moccasins it is to be noted that the tongue is sewed to the three edges made 
by the horizontal cut). The upper is sewed to the rawhide sole turned 
inside out. When the sewing is completed the moccasin is turned right side 
out; consec(uently the stitches are on the inside as is invariably the case 
with the stiff soled moccasins. The common form of lacing (Fig. 100) is used 
to secure the moccasin to the foot. In most cases, the top of the moccasin 
is formed by an extension sewed to the upper. 

Pattern No. 2, Fig. 84. The shape of the cut in this case causes the heel 
seam to be made on the inner side of the foot. In other respects it is the 
same as No. 1. 

Pattern No. 3, Fig. 79, is a very simple pattern for a two piece moccasin. 
The upper and the tongue are cut in one piece from soft tanned leather. 
In many cases, the edges of the tongue are cut parallel; but occasionally 
taper toward the end which consequently increases the height of the moccasin 
at the heel. In the majority of cases an extension or ankle flap has been 
added and the common method of lacing employed. 

Pattern No. 4, Fig. 85, is distinguished by one straight cut down the 
centre of the upper and an inset tongue with a pointed base. This pattern, 
almost peculiar to the Ute, is sometimes found without a tongue, a wedge- 
shaped insert taking its place. 

Pattern No. 5, Fig. 86. The upper has one straight cut down the centre 
of the pattern and a V-shaped cut at the end, forming a very short pointed 
tongue. This form seems to be peculiar to the Sarcee. 

Pattern No. 6, Fig. 87 is peculiar in that the flexible sole is cut wide 
towards the heel and turned up, forming a seam with the upper tapering 
down towards the tread of the foot. The cut of the upper is as in No. 1. 
We have so far observed this among the Shoshone only. 

Pattern No. 7, Fig. 88. A cut is made nearly the entire length of the 
pattern, along the centre. In the opening thvis made a long taj^ering piece 
of leather is let in, the sewing on either side being carried to a point just over 
the instep, the loose part of the inset forming a tongue. The pattern is cut 
four or five inches longer than is required and the pieces extending beyond 
the heel seam are fringed. So far, this form seems peculiar to the Apache. 

The second general type (b) is less frequent than the preceding. What 

Fig. 83 (50-4405). Moccasin Pattern No. 1. 

Fig. 84 (50-6462). Moccasin Pattern No. 2. 

Fig. 85 (50-1278). Moccasin Pattern No. 4. 


Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

we may designate as Pattern No. 8 has been described in the discussion of 
Blackfoot moccasins (Fig. 78). This is, perhaps, the most general form for 
the one piece moccasin. 

Pattern No. 9, Fig. 89. This pattern is folded down the middle from 
toe to heel and the edges from a to h are sewed together, forming the toe 

Fig. 87. Moccasin Pattern No. 6. 

of the moccasin and those from c to d, the heel. Ankle flaps are sometimes 
sewed along the sides of the opening and in some cases are cut in one piece 
with the pattern. The seam down the centre of the foot is drawn, or gath- 
ered, near the toes in such a manner that the stitches do not go beyond, but 
end about half an inch frt)m the point of the moccasin on the upper side of 


Wissler, Material Culture of Bluckfooi Indians. 


the foot. The heel seam being pointed at the lower end, it is sometimes 
turnetl in and sewed to the upper in an vipright position, giving a somewhat 
rounded finish to the outside. 

Fig. 88 (1-5423). Moccasin'Pattern No. 

Fig. 89 (50-2251). Moccasin Pattern No. 9. 

Pattern No. 10, Fig. 90. For this pattern, a soft tanned leather is used 
for the entire moccasin. The edge of the larger piece of leather between the 
points marked a and b is sewed to the edge of the smaller piece from c to d, 

144 Anthro^mlogical Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

the larger piece being turned up and gathered. This forms the toe of the 
moccasin. The two ends marked e and / are l;)rought together and sewed, 
which makes the heel seam. 

Pattern No. 11, Fig. 91. This type of moccasin is made from a simple 

Fig. 91 (1-4614). Moccasin Pattern No. 11. 

pattern but the sewing, or bringing together of the parts, is complicated. 
Two pieces of soft tanned leather are required, consisting of a piece marked a, 
the upper and sole combined ; and a smaller piece for the tongue which is 
inset far enough down the front of the upper to cover the instep. The 


Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 


pattern for the upper is folded along the dotted line and those edges marked 
c to d are sewed together after the point produced by the folding, has been 
trimmed off, which brings the seam down the centre of the foot, under the 
toes. The inset piece is now sewed into the opening, between that part 
marked c and d which is in the centre and the two points at / and e on either 
side. The distance along the edge between e and / being greater than that 
on the inset piece between g and h it is overcome by a series of small " gathers" 
which are remarkable for their regularity and neatness, in some cases each 
fold being emphasized by a pointed implement. The heel seam is made by 
sewing the edges i and j together, the trailer k, being cut off, which forms an 
inverted T-shaped seam. 

In most cases, the sides of the moccasins are not high enough and ankle 
flaps or extensions have been sewed on, from two to ten inches in width. 
The common form of lacing is employed. There are other methods of 
finishing the toe seam than those mentioned above. The Naskapi mocca- 
sins examined, instead of the seam turning under the toe which is brought 
about by rounding the })oint h, have a cut at right angles to the seam, thus 
removing the point and i)roducing a T-shaped seam, the cross arm of the 
T being above the toes. Among the eastern Cree, a series of moccasins was 
collected with the extremity of the toe seam gathered in various forms. 

Pattern Xo. 12, Fig. 92, from the Shasta is almost unicjue. This j^attern 

Fig. 92 (50-3442). Moccasin Pattern No. 12. 

is folded down the centre from c to (/. The points a and h are brought 
together, making the distance from 6 to c greater than that from c to a, 

146 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

which is overcome by a series of gathers made on the longer edge while the 
seam is being sewed, producing a curved seam from the point of the toe to 
the instep, the convex side being towards the outer side of the foot. This 
pattern is for the right foot and it will be seen that the ankle flap on the 
inner side, is much larger than that on the opposite side. The heel seam 
which is made between the points e and / is not sewed the entire length, a 
space of about 2 inches at the top being left free. The usual method of 
lacing is em])loyed, the thongs being of sufficient length to wind around the 
ankle several times. 

The boot type of moccasin seems to be a southwestern rather than a 
northern type. The prevailing type in the Plains is in structure at least, 
a combination moccasin and legging. This is shown in Pattern No. 13, 
Fig. 93. The upper is of simple cut, independent of the legging, in some- 
what of a horseshoe shape. The legging is a rectangidar piece of leather 
broader at the end which joins to the upper, narrowing slightly at the ankle 
and gratlually growing wider towards the knee, conforming in a small meas- 
ure to the shape of the leg. The seam is up the front of the leg with a narrow 
overlooking strip giving the appearance of being fastened on the side. The 
sole is of rawhide and the sewing of the upper to the sole is performed in the 
same manner as in sewing moccasins of the first class (a). Occasionally, 
a draw string, or lace, is used around the ankle. 

Pattern Xo. 14, Fig. 94, observed among the Hopi, is another interesting 
example. In cutting the pattern a whole hide of soft, white, tanned deer 
skin is used. An irregularly shaped piece from the neck or leg is used for 
the toe piece. The only part that is shaped, is that covering the toes and in- 
step, the shaped end forming the tongue. The legging is made of one half 
the hide, cut down the centre from head to tail, the head end being trimmed 
to fit around the heel of the moccasin, overlapping the toe piece on either side. 
The sole is made of rawhide, cut longer and wider than the foot, allowing 
the edge to be turned up, which is neatly gathered at the toe and heel in the 
sewing, the stitches being made from the outside. When the toe piece is in 
place, the legging is sewed on commencing with a of the leg piece at d on 
the sole, bringing the cut edge of the hide to the inside of the leg. 

The legging effect is produced by a spiral-winding of the hide around the 
leg, commencing on the inside and winding from left to right across the front 
of the leg which brings the cut edge of the leather on the outside of the roll. 
The remaining loose ends are tucked in around the knee and the whole is 
secured by means of a thong, or strap, sewed to the tail end of the hide. 

Pattern No. 15, Fig. 95 is another Pueblo variation. It has a seam at 
the back of the leg. Soft, white tanned deer skin is used for the uppers and 
rawhide for the soles. The toe piece a is cut separate from the leg, making 

Fig. 94. Moccasin Pattern No. 14. 

Fig. 9.5. Moccasin Pattern No. 15. 


Anthropological Papers American Mvseum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

a seam across the instep. In sewing the upper to the soles, which are turned 
up all around, the stitches are made on the outside and the sole leather is 
gathered at the toe and heel. The leg is cut of sufficient length to make a 
fold around the top immediately below the knee. 

Pattern No. 16, Fig. 96 is frequently met with among the Apache. The 
edge of the upper from a to h is sewed to the sole, commencing at c on the 
sole and going back round the heel along the inner side of the foot and 
finishing at d, b overlai)i)ing a. The dotted line across the toe of the pattern 
indicates another method of cutting the leather, the toe piece being separate. 
The dotted line r/ indicates a shorter cut for the leg. The sole of the Apache 

Fig. 96 (1-5173). Moccasin Pattern No. 16. 

moccasin is of thick rawhide and is turned up all round, the upi)er Ijcing 
sewed to it just clear of the edge, making a projection of varying width accord- 
ing to the thickness of the sole leather used. The draw string, or lace, is 
sometimes used around the ankle. The seam up the legging is buttoned or 
tied with a short thong. 

Pattern Xo. 17, Fig. 97 is seen among Zuni collections. It is made of 
soft tanned leather uppers and rawhide soles. The sole is turned up about 
one half to three fourth inches all around. The u])per, at the point marked 
a is first attached to the sole below and a trifle forward of the ankle on the 
outer side of the foot and carried around the heel along the inner side of the 
foot around the toes and back to the starting point, with that part of the 
upper marked b, overlapping that marked a. The leather of the sole at the 


Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 


toes and heel is gathered with fine stitches which are made on the outside. 
A triangular piece, c, is sewed to the upper at b, reaching well to the back 
where a button is used to secure the moccasin to the foot. 

Pattern No. 18, Fig. 98 is similar to the preceding. The toe piece (a) 

Fig. 97. Moccasin Pattern No. 17. 

Fig. 98. Moccasin Pattern No. 18. 

is cut separate from the rest of the upi)er (h) from a piece of soft tanned skin. 
The sole is of rawhide and turned uji all around. When the toe ])iece is 
sewed in position the part of the ui)])cr marked r and d is sewed around the 
heel, c joining that part of the toe piece near the centre on the outer side of 


Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. Y, 

Fig. 99. The Comanche 

the foot and d joining on the opposite side, the hieing point leading across 
the instep, the edge of which from d to e is sewed to 
the edge of the toe piece, the end of the point reaching 
to a button below the ankle. The sewing of the 
upper to the sole is from the outside. 

When of rawhide, the soles of all moccasins con- 
form to the shape of the foot rather than to conven- 
tion. The Comanche, however, use a truly conven- 
tional sole (Fig. 99). The line along the inner side 
of the sole, excepting the curves at the heel and toe, 
is straight, following the shape of the foot around the 
toes, to a point rather back of the centre of the tread, 
thence tapering back to the heel with another straight 
line. The soft leather of the upper lends itself to the 
shape of the stiff sole and a moccasin of angular 
appearance is the result. 

One common form of lacing or draw string pre- 
vails, that of })assing a thong through slits in the 
sides of the upper, and around the heel (Fig. 100). The lace is tied over 
the instep in the case of low moccasins and where an 
extension or ankle flaj) has been added, a thong of 
sufficient length to wind around the leg above the ankle 
is used. Where this form of lacing is not employed, 
a short thong is sewed to the edge of the flap where 
the end of the lace would come out if it had been 
threaded around in the usual way. The variations 
in lacing and in the extensions that have been observed 
in the area, seem to have a general distribution. 
Some tribes, especially the Blackfoot, use a kind of 

rudimentary flap on the extensions suggesting the pendant ones so charac- 
teristic of the Iroquois and other eastern tribes.^ 

The only attempt at a comparative study of moccasin patterns coming 
to our notice, is a recent article by H. Ling Roth.- This writer described 
four patterns corresponding to our Nos. 3, 4, 8, and 12. It may be noted 
that he finds our pattern No. 12 among the Kickapoo, an observation we 
have not been able to verify for lack of authentic material. In our study 
we have so far given attention to these general patterns only, passing all 
that may be considered ornamental or secondary for future discussion. 
A large number (271) of moccasins in the Museum's collection were 

1 Mr. Orchard's contribution ends liere. 

2 Rotli, 47. 

Fig. 100. The Lace. 


Wissler, Material Culture of Slackj'oot Indians. 


classified according to tlie i)receding patterns and their relative distributions 
given in the table. It is clear that moccasins of the two piece type prevail 
almost exclusively in the southwest of interior North America and those of 
one piece in the woodlands of the east and north. So far as our table goes, 
in the Missouri-Saskatchewan area the Blackfoot and the Sarcee shoAV the 
strongest inclination to use the one piece type. As previously stated, the 
Blackfoot winter moccasin was of the one piece type which seems also to 
have been the case among the Gros Ventre and many divisions of the Dakota. 
While our data is not complete, it suggests the Missouri-Saskatchewan area 
as the border land between tribes using the two types of moccasins, the one 
well adapted to winter use, the other to summer wear. The inference is, 
that the soled type came in from the southwest, perhaps an adaptation of the 
sandal idea. The Blackfoot claim to have traditional knowledge that the 
soled type is the later form. In any event, they show both northern and 
southern characteristics. 

The Relative Distribution of Moccasin Patterns. 

































Nez Perce 


























Gros Ventre 








Dakota (Teton) 




































Ft. Leavenworth 




152 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

As to hair dressing for men, three features may be taken for comparison : 
the fore 'lock, the lengthened tresses, and hair painting. The trailing back 
ornament of quill-covered strips of rawhide and later a beaded ornament, 
general among the Assiniboine, Gros Ventre, Dakota and the village Indians 
seems not to have been adopted by the Blackfoot. Taking the drawings 
by Bodmer and Catlin as probably correct, we find the fore lock among the 
following: Assiniboine, Yankton (Dakota), Hidatsa, Mandan, Arikara, 
Kootenai, Nez Perce and Kiowa, suggesting a wide range of distribution. 
Lengthening the hair by sections held on by gum has been mentioned among 
the Mandan, Arikara, Hidatsa, Gros Ventre, Assiniboine, Dakota, Arapaho, 
Kiowa, Comanche, Cheyenne and Nez Perce.^ It is probable, however, 
that some of these observers have mistaken the detached headdress used 
by the Blackfoot and of which there is a specimen in the Xez Perce collection. 
Painting the hair was usual among the village Indians, Henry stating that 
"they daub it afresh every morning" with "red earth."- The Cree used 
paint sparingly and the Assiniboine regularly.^ Though information on this 
point is not definite, it seems that the disinclination of the Blackfoot to paint 
their hair differentiates them somewhat from the tribes to whom they in other 
respects bear great resemblance. 

Something like the knot used by some Blackfoot men seems to have been 
used by the Cree and Assiniboine; though from the description, the re- 
semblance of the latter to eastern Eskimo styles is suggested.^ 

In conclusion, it may be well to note that the INIissouri-Saskatchewan 
area may be characterized by men's hair being worn in natural and even 
artificial lengths while among the Quapaw, Otto, Osage, Pawnee, Kickapoo, 
Sauk and Fox and many eastern tribes, the hair on the sides of the head was 
cut close or shaved leaving ridges or tufts on the top."* Some Tetons informed 
the writer, that there was a saying among their old people to the effect that 
such was one time common among them, though so far no historical support 
to such a belief has come to our knowledge. We may say then, that the love 
of long, heavy tresses was greatly accentuated among the tribes of the 
Missouri-Saskatchewan area and while the Blackfoot may not have entered 
into this as keenly as some others, they nevertheless manifest it as a cultural 

The hair of the women throughout the area was usually worn in the two- 
braid fashion with the medium part from the forehead to the neck. In 

1 James 1,161; 3,46; Maximilian, 259; Henry and Tliompson, 342, 347; Clark, 134. 
- Henry and Thompson, 325. 

3 Henry and Thompson, 515, 517. 

4 Maximilian, 159. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfnot Indians. 153 

Henry's time, however, the Cree women seem to have worn a laro;e knot 
behind each ear.^ 

As to the breech cloth being a recent accjuisition of the BUickfoot, Henry 
may be correct. Harmon gives one the impression that the Carriers, in his 
day, seklom used them, if at aU." Some early accounts of the interior Salish 
give a similar im[)ression. The men occupying these areas seem to have 
worn long shirts and leggings in contrast to those in our area, rendering 
the use of a breech cloth unnecessary. The Crow are believed to have 
adopted it in modern times and, while in ^Maximilian's time, it was worn 
by the ^Nlandan, La Verendrye, their first observer, found it entirely wanting.^ 
The Cree^ used the regvdar form described for the Blackfoot, which seems 
to have been general throvighout the area, at least since the opening of the 
historical period. The suggestion is, however, that the breech cloth was 
introduced to the area by traders. 

Since robes were simply the skins of buffalo, their shape was fixed. The 
decorations differed somewhat among the different tribes, but the band with 
three or more disks, or rosettes, seems to have been in general use throughout 
the entire area. In Maximilian's day, the village Indians were taking to the 
wide bands like the Blackfoot, having previously vised narrow ones. It 
appears from the collections we have examined that the very wide bands 
were in recent years confined to the Blackfoot and their immediate neighbors. 

1 Henry and Thompson, 515 
- Harmon, 245. 

3 Recent information secured by G. L. Wilson makes it reasonably certain that the l)reech- 
cloth was introduced among the village Indians after their first contact with traders. 
•* Henry and Thompson, 515, 517. 

154 A?}throiioloyical Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

Weapons and Warfare. 

Henry, who had traded long with many tribes to the eastward, states over 
and over again that war was the chief activity of the Bhickfoot. In one part 
of his journal, we find the following: — 

"War seems to be the Piegan's sole delight; theu* discourse always turns upon 
that subject; one war-party no sooner arrives than another sets off. Horses are 
the principal plunder to be obtained from these enemies on the W. Formerly the 
Flat Heads and other tribes became an easy prey, and were either killed or driven 
away like sheep, but within a few years they have acquired firearms and become 
formidable. The severe defeat the Piegans sustained last summer did not discourage 
them from renewed enterprises of the same nature. They are always the aggressors; 
there never has an instance been known of a native coming to war from the W. side 
of the mountains. The Crows are the only nation that sometimes venture north- 
ward in search of the slaves. The Snakes are a miserable, defenseless nation, who 
never venture abroad. The Piegans call them old women, whom they can kill 
with sticks and stones. They take great delight in relating their adventures in war, 
and are so vivid in rehearsing every detail of the fray that they seem to be fighting 
the battle over again. A Piegan takes as much pleasure in the particulars of the 
excursion in which he is engaged as a Saulteur does in relating a grand drinking 
match — how many nights they were drunk and how many kegs of liquor they 
consumed." ' 

In other parts of his journal, he expresses similar estimates of the Blood 
and other divisions so that what he assigns to the Piegan, was to his mind 
in no way peculiar to them alone. While Henry was always a severe critic 
of the Indian, his comparisons give the impression that he found a contrast 
in this respect between the Blackfoot on the one hand and the Cree and 
Ojibway on the other. This seems to imi)ly that the Blackfoot attitude 
toward war was similar to that of their southern neighbors. 

We have found it impossible to secure information as to the mode of 
warfare before the introduction of horses and firearms. Each of these inno- 
vations in turn, must have made a great change, since the most probable 
tendency w^ould be for the Blackfoot to imitate the methods of those intro- 
ducing the resjiective ecjuipments. Until within thirty years, the firearms 
traded these Indians were of no great efficiency and their skill with them 
was held in some contempt by early observers. Some of these observers 
mention the carrying of what appeared to be an extra ram rod for their 
muzzle loaders, but according to our informants, this was used as a support, 
or rest, when firing. 

' Henry and Thompson, 726. 

1910.] Wisslcr, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 155 

As elsewhere, the steaUng of horses was ahnost a synonym for war, raids 
being made without reserve upon all their neighbors, exeept at such times 
as a truce might be established. There were even occasions on which men 
from one division raided the horses of another, but such was not approved 
by the large majority in all divisions. The manner of conducting such raids 
belongs, however, to another part of our research. AVhen out for plunder, 
the feeling was that, if horses could be secured and if attacked, their owners 
frightened oft' without loss to either side, the affair was a success, for killing 
the enemy was not quite up to the standard. However, expeditions for 
scalps and for revenge were sometimes made and with a different attitude. 
When fighting mounted they, like other tribes, protected their bodies by 
hanging on the sides of the horses. The charge was a rush in a compact 
body, scattering along the front of the enemy as they passed, in order to 
deliver their fire. 

Nothing in the way of fortifications was used except such improvised 
affairs as the occasion demanded. When a party was hard pressed In- 
superior numbers, it took refuge in a natural or hastily constructed pit. 
Once so intrenched w-ith a liberal supply of ammunition, a large number of 
opponents w^ere easily beaten off. For protection against night attacks, 
war parties made use of "war lodges." These were made by setting up 
heavy poles forming a conical hut, the door of which was protected by a 
curved covered way. Such a structure not only concealed the fire, but made 
defence against a night attack easy. Sometimes a rectangular structure was 
made, the walls converging to the apex. All of these forms were used by 
other tribes as well. They stood along war trails and were kept in rejiair 
from year to year. 

Scalping was common, though the counting of coup and the ca])ture of 
weapons seems to have been of greater significance. So far as our informa- 
tion goes, there was less interest in preserving scal})s than among manv other 
tribes, the usual practice being to throw them away after the women's dance. 

Bows, Arrows, and Quivers. The bow has been out of use so long, that 
good, practical specimens are scarcely to be found and accurate knowledge 
concerning them difficult to secure. The collection contains few bows, only 
one of which can be considered as designed for use as a weaj)on, the others 
being intended for gaming by youths and boys. This specimen was col- 
lected in 1870. It is sinew-backed and now somewhat warped as shown in 
Fig. 101. The length in its present condition is 105cm. The grip iswrapjied 
with a narrow thong, apjiarently of buffalo hide. The ends for a distance of 
10 cm. are encased in a uieinbranc of some sort, probably an intestine. The 
sinew back is painted green and the remainder of the surface red. The 
string is of sinew. When in good condition, and strung, this bow was evi- 


Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

dently of the double curve type. A similar bow made by a Blood, examined 
by the writer had such a curve and was in other respects similar to the 
specimen just described.^ The game bows are simple wooden affairs, appar- 
entlv cut from slender stems of the birch. Their lengths are 116, 110 and 

Fiff. 102. 

Fig. 101. 

Fig. 101. A Bow and Quiver. Length of a, 107 cm., 6, 84 cm. 
Fig. 102 (50-5732). A Bow. Length, 120 cm. 

97 cm. The shapes are those of Fig. 102, varying in the amount of curvature. 
It will be observed that none of these are straight but show a reverse curve 
at the belly. 

1 See Catlin, 1, Plate 18, for a drawing of a similar bow. 

1901.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 157 

The strings to the bows are of sinew. x\t one end a noose shps over 
notches when the bow is strung while at the other the string is tied in similar 
notches with the extra length wound around the bow. Thus these bows are 
doubled nocked. Ash was the favorite bow wood. 

Arrows were usually made of service berry wood though sometimes of 
willow. The shaft was of a single piece and feathered. The quiver accom- 
panying the bow in Fig. 101 contains thirteen arrows with iron points. The 
shafts vary in length from 55 to 58 cm. The feathers are three in number, 
about 18 cm. in length and arranged at approximately equal distances 
around the shaft. Although these feathers are not always exactly parallel 
to the shaft, it has evidently been the intention of the maker to have them so. 
The feathers seem to be from the wing of a hawk, split through the quill and 
trimmed to a width of about 1 cm. at the top, tapering away on the quill. 
The ends of the quills are bound to the shaft by many turns of sinew or 
narrow bands of some membrane. The points are about 7 cm. long and 2 
cm. wide at the base, inserted in a notch about 1 cm. deep and bound with 
sinew or membrane. The feathers have been dyed; on nine of the arrows 
they are red, on four they are yellow. Near the notched end is the usual 
band of color. On the arrows Avith red feathers, this consists of a band of 
blue about 5 cm. in width, extending around the shaft with a narrow border 
of red above and below. The other arrows bear an unbordered band of 
green about the same width. These four seem to differ from the others also 
in that the shafts have three to four shallow longitudinal grooves. They 
may have been made by a different person. The notches are V-shaped 
and the nocks bidbous. At the bases of the quills to the feathers, are bound 
small bits of plume, or soft feathers. 

The collection contains seven arrows with bone })()ints made recently 
by an old man as models. The shafts ap}>ear to be of willow and are heavy, 
being 1 cm. in thickness, or about twice that of the preceding. Their total 
length varies from 65 to 67 cm. The feathers are 20 cm. in length and 
arranged as in the preceding. The markings are different being a l)and of 
dark red below the notch, about 9 cm. wide, bordered on the lower edge by 
blue about 1 cm. in width and separated from the red by a border of e([ual 
width without color. The shafts are grooved with two to three waving 
irregular lines. The arrows for the game sets are somewhat longer than 
those just described. Acc'ording to INlorse, the Blackfoot used the tertiary 

While there are traditions of stone headed arrows, the claim most fre- 
quently made is that, pn-ceding the introduction of iron, points of Ijone 

» Morse, 3-52. 

158 Antln-opological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

and of deer horn were used. According to some informants some were 
made from buffalo horns, this material being easily worked when softened 
by heating. Grinnell writes that metal points "were of two kinds — barbed 
slender points for war, and barbless for hunting." ^ This agrees Avith Cat- 
lin's sketches.^ 

Some writers have made the statement that arrow-heads were either 
parallel or at right angles to the plane of the notch — according to use. For 
killing buffalo, they were vertical, for men horizontal, so that they might 
pass more easily between the ribs.^ No one among the present Blackfoot 
seemed to have heard of such a distinction. The heads of arrows in the 
collection seem to be chiefly horizontal, but many are vertical and others 
oblique. On the whole, it appears that no great effort was made to set them 
at any exact angle. The only difference reported for war arrows was a dis- 
position to bind the heads loosely, so that they would remain in the wound, 
after the shaft was withdrawn. 

With the bow (Fig. 101) is a combined quiver and bow-case made of 
otter skin. The quiver is almost as long as the case and joined to it with a 
thong by a peculiar wrapping stitch over a stick which keeps the two from 
collapse. Around the top and bottom of each is a broad beaded strip of elk 
hide. At the bottoms are fringes of strips of otter skin. From the top of 
the quiver, hangs a long pointed appendage of otter skin, backed by a piece 
of beaded elk skin of similar shape. From the top of the bow case hangs 
a piece of otter skin of similar shape. The carrying strap is of otter skin, 
fastened to the stick, over which the thong joining the two is wrapped. At 
the two points where attached, are two large tassels of otter skin, bound by a 
band of beaded elk skin. At the top of the quiver is a peculiar upright object 
about 15 cm. high made by wrapping a strip of rawhide around a piece of 
brass wire. According to our information, this was always placed in quivers, 
but knowledge of its significance has been lost. The size is that of an ordi- 
nary lead pencil. The surface is beaded and to the top are tied two small 
strips of otter skin. This is probably a charm. Maximilian says of the 
Blackfoot: — "For their quivers they prefer the skin of a cougouar, for which 
they give a horse. The tail hangs down from the quiver, is trimmed with 
red cloth on the inner side, embroidered with white beads, and ornamented 
at the end or elsewhere, with strips of skin, like tassels." ^ Catlin also 
describes bows. and quivers and says that the skins of otters were used for 
quivers.^ Maximilian's atlas contains sketches of Blackfoot Indians bearing 

1 Grinnell, (a), 200. 

2 Catlin, 1, Plate 18. 
a Mason, (d), 661. 

■* Maximilian, 257. 
s Catlin, 1, 32. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 159 

quivers to Avliieli are attached long flaps bearing designs, chiefly of the 
rosette type. This would indicate the general use of such flaps at that time. 
A similar ornament also appears on a Snake Indian ciuiver described by 
Mason. ^ 

We are indebted to Professor O. T. Mason for an extensive comparative 
study of North American Indian bows." He regards the self-bow, or the 
simple wooden bow, as characteristic of the Mississippi basin and the Atlantic 
slope, while west of the Rocky Mountains in the United States and British 
Columbia, the sinew-lined, or sinew-backed bow prevails. In this westward 
area he claims two types of sinew-backed bows, a broad, flat, short type 
and a long slender narrow type. The latter was distributed among the 
Shoshonean tribes, Canadian Athapascan, Apache, Navajo and Pueblo 
tribes further south. To cjuote directly: — " The Athapascan sinew veneered 
bow is found strictly west of the Rockies, the slender variety in the Basin and 
British Columbia, the flat variety on the Pacific Slope. The Navajo also 
have adopted this type of sinews-lined bow." ^ If this were strictly true, the 
sinew-backed bow should be denied the Blackfoot, whereas we have just 
described specimens of the long, narrow, slender type. In the iNIuseum 
collection we find similar bows among the Cheyenne and the Arapaho and 
according to Kroeber, they were used by the Gros Ventre.* All of these 
tribes, however, lived on the eastern border of the sinew-backed bow area. 
On the other hand, as stated by Mason, bows of the compound type rein- 
forced with sinew, were known to the Indians of the Upper Missouri. These 
bows were made of horn and have been described by Bradbury ^ and Clark.^ 
The JNIuseum's collections contain a Nez Perce bow made of sheep horn. 
This bow^ is sinew-backed. The descriptions of horn bows from the Upper 
Missouri just cited do not make it clear that they are sinew-backed, yet 
such must have been the case. We may assume, then, that the sinew-backed 
bows, of whatever type, found among the tribes east of the Rocky ^Mountains 
are intrusive. This assumption is further supported l)y the fact that among 
the Plains tribes where sinew-backed bows were in use, the statements of 
travelers imply them to have been exceptional rather than general, the simple 
wooden bow being the prevailing type. 

In the Museum collections, the Blackfoot and Northern Cheyenne sinew- 
backed bows are most like those of the Nez Perce, while those accredited 
to the Arapaho and Ute are much shorter and of a difTerent curve. That 

> Mason (d), Plate 87. 

2 Mason (d), 631-680; Plates 37-94. 

» Mason, (d), 640. 

■• Kroeber, (a), 151. 

5 Early Western Travels, .5, 172. 

« Clark, 78. 

160 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

the Blackfoot acquired this type of bow from the west is made more probable 
by the following from Henry's journal: — 

"The bows used by the natives W. of the mountains are neatly made, and of 
three kinds — the horn, the red cedar, and the plain wooden bow. The horn bow 
is made of a slip of ram's horn. The outside is left undressed, but overlaid with 
several successive layers of sinew glued to the thickness of one- third of an inch, and 
then covered with rattlesnake skin. The inside is smoothly polished, and displays 
the several ridges of the horn. These neat bows are about three feet long, and throw 
an arrow an amazing distance. The red cedar bow is made of a slip of that wood, 
overlaid with sinew and glue like the horn bow, and also well polished inside; it is 
nearly four feet long, and throws an arrow a great distance. The plain wooden bow 
is of cedar, willow, or ash ; the outside is untouched, except that the bark is removed. 
It is well smoothed, but not so much esteemed by the natives as either kind of sinew 
bows. These people make the handsomest bows I have ever seen — always pre- 
ferred by other Indians. I have known a Piegan to give a gun or horse for one of 
those made of sinew." ^ 

Many years later, ]Maximilian observes that the Blackfoot are less skillful 
in the manufacture of weapons than the Crows, Hidatsa and Mandans and 
that "they do not themselves make bows of the horn of the elk, or of the 
mountain sheep, which are consequently not common among them." ' 

The simple wooden bows of the ^Missouri-Saskatchewan area show some 
tribal differences. As previously noted, those we have collected from the 
Blackfoot show a slight double curve. This is quite pronounced in the 
Dakota bows we have examined. On the other hand, those we have seen 
from the Sarcee, Comanche and vShoshone were of the single curve type. 
This suggests a generaluniformity in the IMissouri-Saskatchewan area. Pro- 
fessor Mason regards the single lower nock as universal among Plains tribes, 
but in the Museum collection of Dakota bows, we find both the single and 
double nock. The same appears to be true of bows credited to the Comanche 
and Shoshone. So far as our observation goes, all the sinew-backed bows 
are double nocked though in a manner different from simple wooden bows. 
The Sarcee bows we have seen are double nocked like those of the Blackfoot. 
Thus, the two methods of nocking appear about equally distrilnited in the 

The arrows used in the Missouri-Saskatchewan area were shorter than 
those west of the Rocky Mountains and probably shorter than those of the 
eastern woodland Indians. They are all three-feathered. According to 
the Museum collection, Blackfoot arrows are about the same average length 
(65 cm.) as those of the Sarcee, Dakota and Cheyenne. Those of the 

' Henry and Thompson, 713-714. 

2 Maximilian, 257. For information as to methods of manufacture, comparative qualities 
and modes of liandlinfj siiiew-haclved bows see Clark. 77; Henry and Thompson, 714. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 161 

Shoshone are somewhat longer and those of the Comanclie shorter. The 
color bantls near the nock show considerable variation afnong the different 
tribes. The Blackfoot varies from two to three; the Chevenne, none to one; 
the Dakota, one to three; the Shoshone uniformly two; the Comanche and 
Sarcee many bands of color. 

The claim is sometimes made that these color bands are ownership 
marks; but we have failed to find any evidence that such was the case. It is 
true that each man recoji'nized his own arrows, but so far as we know, this 
was by the same means by which we identify our own writing; i. e., not by 
a definite system of marks but by general individuality. We have observed 
such differences between the contents of quivers from the same tribe and it 
is a matter of general ex})erience that hand-workers everywhere have no 
difficulty in recognizing their products regardless of specific marks. 

There are some important differences in the length of the feathering. 
For the arrows measured, they ranged as follows: 

Blackfoot 18-20 

Sarcee 15-16 

Cheyenne 14-23 

Dakota 16-19 

Shoshone 11-13 

Comanche 10-12 

The shafts of the Dakota arrows we have seen are grooved as are also 
those of the Cheyenne. Those of the Shoshone and Comanche are not 
grooved. However, according to ]Mason, the Apache, Comanche, Ute, 
Shoshone and also the Pawnee used grooved arrows. The practice seems 
not to have been universal in any tribe. 

While this discussion of arrows has not shown anything very charac-ter- 
istic for the Blackfoot as meniV)ers of the ^Missouri- Saskatchewan grouj), it 
indicates a general uniformity in this group as opposed to southern and 
western trilies. 

The combined bow case and (.juiver is frequently met with among the 
Missouri-Saskatchewan tribes. The two are joined together and usually 
stiffened by a stick. The ends of the carrying strap usually hang down and 
are fringed. The ^Museum collection contains specimens of this type from 
the Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Dakota, Sarcee, Comanche and Shoshone. 
Among those for the Cheyenne and the Comanche we find examples of the 
long triangular flai)s noted for the Blackfoot. The Shoshone collection 
contains two C[uivers in which the bow is carried with the arrows. The 
specific type of bow case and (juiver shown in Fig. 101 has been found among 
the southern Cheyenne, Kiowa, Dakota, Northern Shoshone, Xez Perce, 

162 Anthropological Papers American Musenm of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

Ute, Crow, and Sarcee. IMaximilian credits the ^Nlandan, Hidatsa and 
Crow with the long quiver flap, hned with red cloth and decorated with 
rosettes. '^ The closest ])arallels, however, are found among tribes immedi- 
ately to the east, south and west of the Blackfoot. Nez Perce quivers figured 
by Mason (Plates 78 and 90) are strikingly like that of Fig. 101. In one case 
the designs on the long flaps are almost identical. Also a Snake Indian 
cjuiver bearing similar fla]> ornaments has been described by j\Iason.~' 

Returning to our ])revious statements implying that the Blackfoot looked 
westward for their bows, it may be added that we find no evidences of such 
intrusion with respect to arrows. This exception, however, seems to support 
our conclusions. All the evidence indicates that the older type of Blackfoot 
bow and arrow was that of the ethnogra])hical area in which they resided and 
that this bow Avas partially displaced by importations of compound and 
sinew-backed types, while the importation of arrovrs was obviously impractic- 
able. On the other hand, the Blackfoot type of quiver vras found immedi- 
ately east, south and west of their habitat. 

Lances. Though Maximilian ^ saw few lances among the Blackfoot, 
according to our information they were at one time in general use. This 
direct testimony is supported by the fact that lances formed a conspicuous 
part of the regalia for societies composed of warriors. All the specimens 
we have seen, however, are ceremonial rather than practical; hence, their 
description will be postponed. The use of a combined bow and s})ear; 
i. e., a bow with a lance head on one end, seems to have been unknown 
though common in the ^Missouri valley and some parts of the interior of 
British Columbia. 

Shields. The circular buffalo hide shield was in general use. Those 
in our collection are about 49 cm. in diameter. The skin is very hard, and 
about 2 cm. in thickness. One specimen is about 2 cm. thick but apparently 
two ply. They are not flat, but dished to a depth of about 8 cm. The 
painted and other decorations are usually placed directly upon the shield 
and not upon a cover as is done by the Crow, Dakota, and some other tribes. 
However, one specimen in our collection bears the design upon a cover. 
Around the circumference of the shield is a strip of red cloth about 9 cm. 
in width to which are hung eagle feathers varying in number, according to 
our observations, from 19 to 28. The decorations are always upon the 
dished, or flesh side of the skin. While the Dakota often used horse hide 
for the shield, the Blackfoot seem to have used buffalo hide exclusively. 

The true cover, not to be confused with the inner facing just mentioned, 

1 Maximilian, 389. 

2 Mason, (d), Plate 87. 

3 Maximilian, 258. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Iiidiaiis. 163 

is of soft buckskin fitted with a draw string of the same material. Such 
covers are to protect the designs and feathers, the latter being turned back 
into the dished hollow before the cover is put in jjlace."^ As a rule, no 
decorations occur on such covers but two covers coming to our notice had 
simple decorations. One had a small circle at the centre, another a trans- 
verse buckskin fringe. The decorations upon Blackfoot shields together 
with their ceremonial functions will be discussed in a future paper. The 
designs are usually in black, red and green. - 

A general comparison of the shields availai)le indic.ites that those of the 
Blackfoot and Cheyenne are approximately 49 cm. in diameter, those of the 
Crow a little larger, while those of the Dakota range near 43 cm. Some 
Comanche shields seen by the writer were nearly 60 cm. in diameter. Accord- 
ing to Lewis and Clark those made by the Northern Shoshone were about 
75 cm. in diameter.^ Though the number of specimens herein considered is 
not large, the result suggests tribal standards as to size. 

When a shield was to be made, a buffalo bull was skinned by cutting down 
the back. A large piece from the breast was taken, laid on the ground, hair 
side up and soaked with boiling water which loosened the hair and caused 
the shrinkage. Finally, the skin was turned over while wet and shaped 
over a small heap of earth and weighted down for drying. It was this heap 
of earth that gave the peculiar dish observed in these shields. The hair 
was removed with a stone, not with a scraper (p. 66). The last step in the 
process was to trim the edges to a circle previously marked out by a stick. ^ 

Armor. Wooden armor seems to have been unknown but there are 
traditions implying that buckskin shirts of two or more thicknesses were 
worn as protection against stone and bone points. This suggests borrowed 
ideas from tribes west of the mountains. 

Clubs. The Avell known stone-headed war club was in use, though 
simple short cudgels of wood were very common. Three tyj^es of stone- 
headed clubs seem to have been known; the pointed club, the club with a 
ball, and the ax-shaped club. The club with a ball is shown in Fig. 103 
and bears a close resemblance to some clubs seen in collections from the Nez 
Perce though the type also occurs among the Dakota. In the specimen 
figured, a rounded stone is sewed up in a skin cover, an extension of which 
forms the sheath for a wooden handle. No specimen of the ax type came 

1 One informant gave the following suggestive information: — Shields were dish-shaped 
and could be sprung in or out. When not in use, they were sprung in and covered with the 
buckskin cover. The standard size for a shield was that the pendant feathers should just reach 
the centre when turned inward. 

2 Maximilian, 258. 

3 Lewis and Clark, 3, 19. 

* For a good account of tiie Northern Shoshone method see Lewis and Clark, 3, 20. 


Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

to our notice, but according to descriptions, it is similar to the specimen 
figured by IMaximilian.^ There are traditions that this was the prevailing 

Fig. 103 (50-5422). A War Club. Length, SO cm. 

type; also it was used in killing buffalo when wounded in the pound. The 
double pointed stone club head of the Dakota seems not to have been in use. 

1 Maximilian, 179. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Bluckfuoi Imlians. Ig5 

General Discussion'. 

x\.s a matter of convenience we offer at the outset of this discussion a l)rief 
summary of the resuhs attained in the comparative sections of the preceding 
paper. In order to minimize the chances for misunderstandings let us 
make, in the first place, a mere statement of fact. We found no direct 
evidence that the Blackfoot had ever occupied any other territory than their 
range in the time of Henry (1808), except in so far as remote linguistic 
relationship may be considered such evidence. Certain Blackfoot processes 
and choices in berry foods bear resemblance to Dene traits, while the methods 
of handling camas are identical with those of the Nez Perce and neighboring 
tribes. In the choice of other foods the Blackfoot are scarcely to be dis- 
tinguished from the other tribes of the area, nor as to processes except that 
their cooking is more suggestive of the interior ])lateaus than otherwise. 
They, like their immediate neighbors, did not cultivate corn. In manu- 
factures and the arts they shoAV striking uniformity with the other buffalo 
hunting tribes even in many minor details of technique, though on the 
other hand they show slight inclinations toA\ard Western Cree and Dene 
types in contrast to the almost entire absence of such among their immediate 
neighbors. In all that pertains to shelter and to transportation by horse 
or dog they show little individuality. In costume the true Blackfoot char- 
acteristics were to be found in a few minor details of decoration and not in 
general pattern and scheme. Perhaps this may be clearer if presented in a 
statistical fashion. Taking as their near neighbors the Plains Cree, Assini- 
boine, Sarcee, Gros Ventre, Crow, Nez Perce and Hidatsa we find the 
following traits cpiite similar in all essential details among the great majority, 
the very few positive exceptions having been noted in the text: — methods of 
cooking, buffalo ])ounds, skin dressing, travois, cradles, quivers and sinew 
backed bows, war lodges, shirts for men, black striped leggings, blanket 
bands, weasel skin ornaments, wide belts for women, caps for men and 
fringed bags. It is not necessary to our purpose to make this list complete. 
It is plain that most of these parallels to Blackfoot traits are found on the 
east and south. There are, for example, relatively few traits closelv analo- 
gous to those of the interior Salish, the western and eastern Athapascan. 
While there are some striking similarities between the Blackfoot and Xez 
Perce, the latter seem to show greater relation to the Hidatsa and Crow. 
On this point more information is needed. In a previous ]niblication we 
have noted some mythological ])arallels between the Blackfoot and the 

1(36 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

Crow. Thus we have the suggestion that the Hidatsa and Crow have 
influenced the Blackfoot on one hand and the Nez Perce on the other. 
However, this must remain tentative until further data are available. 

Bearing in mind that the traits enumerated above are also in common pe- 
culiar to the immediate neighbors of the Blackfoot as a group of Plains peo- 
ple, we may turn to the enumeration of Blackfoot traits widely distributed 
among the tribes of the Missouri basin and the Shoshone area. Among these 
we find great uniformity in: — antelope drives, eagle traps, paunch vessels, 
horn spoons, skin dressing tools, mauls, travois, tipis, riding gear, shields, 
men's ornamented shirts, legging bands, soled moccasins, buffalo robes, 
long hair for men, woman's dress and leggings, si)liced hair for men, par- 
fleche and stjuare bags, globular skin rattles and flageolettes. 

Of traits widely distributed among these tribes but practically foreign 
to the Blackfoot we have noted the strike-a-light j^ouch, elaborate body 
painting, the soft strii)ed bag (p. 74), the flat hanging hair ornament. The 
somewhat trifling character and small numl;)er of these as opposed to the 
tipi, riding-gear, etc., all of which a])pear in the culture of the Blackfoot 
serve to emphasize the almost overwhelming similarity of material traits 
throughout the ^Missouri-Saskatchewan area in which this tribe resides. 
Facing about to enumerate the traits entirely peculiar to the Blackfoot w^e 
seek almost in vain. A few objects such as bags made of deer's feet, their 
type of pipe bag and men's toilet bags while rare in the Plains are common 
northward. Thus eliminating the traits of material culture common to 
other tribes we have left almost nothing that the Blackfoot can call their own. 

Having no'\\' made at least a sample invoice of the data observable, we 
may give some space to a discussion of the j)roblems and interpretations 
therein suggested. In the first place, confining ourselves to the limits of the 
data presented, it may be asked in how far we are justified in speaking of a 
Blackfoot material culture at all. About the only defence we can make for 
our title is that Ave have a people speaking one language, a definite obvious 
social l)ond, and that we have a right to determine what their habits are 
regardless. Now, in the discussion of this Blackfoot material culture we 
have, as it were, luicovered a larger whole of which it is in the main an 
integral part. Taking our stand with the Blackfoot and turning our eyes to 
the buffalo country, or to the geographical area of which their lands are a 
part, we see first a very slight diminution of traits among immediate tribes 
and a few glimpses of strange ways, then as we look beyond increasing and 
ever greater divergence until little is familiar. The region in which the 
uniformity is decidedly to the fore is the combined drainage of the INIissouri 
and the Saskatchewan — for convenience, the ^Missouri-Saskatchewan 
culture area. Thus, for those who take stock in precise definition, it may 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blackfoot Indians. 167 

be admitted that, in even a specific sense, we should say that the Blackfoot 
manifest the material culture of the Missouri-Saskatchewan area and speak 
of a Blackfoot culture only in the case of those few minor details in which 
they show their individuality. On the other hand, we must not overlook 
the existence of variation among the individuals composing the various 
divisions of the Blackfoot. It must not be assumed that the detailed state- 
ments in the preceding hold absolutely for all individuals, for in the field 
we have seen from time to time touches of individual initiative and origi- 
nalit} in their turn copied by others. The naive assimiption is often made, 
e\'en by those who should know better, that custom is absolute in the culture 
of American races, whereas those cultures we have actually experienced not 
only show a considerable range in variability, but also seem to be subject to 
frequent changes and transitions. This applies even to well developed 
methods of procedure; as for example, the Blackfoot method of setting up a 
ti])i from which a few \\'omen so far departed as to use a method found 
among other tribes. While in theory, at least, some of these variations and 
departures from prevailing customs we have observed are destined to be- 
come in turn prevalent, we have for obvious reasons presented in this paper 
chiefly those that were found to prevail at least among a considerable fraction 
of the people. As this is a relative criterion there are chances for obser- 
vatival errors on the ])art of every field-worker that should not be entirely 
ignored. Further, if we take the view that the only thing worth while in 
anthropology is to offer data as to how a definite linguistic unit manages to 
work out a culture, the ignoring of these individual variations may lead to 
abortive results in that we reject the very phenomena in which at least a 
part of the process is underway. However, since anthropology n(»w seems 
to concern itself with cidtures rather than with the individuals wlio practise 
them, it may be best to think of the case as the culture fovmd in function 
among people speaking the Blackfoot language. Hence, we choose to 
define our theoretical problem from this point of view, not forgetting that 
here culture is but a generalized statement of many variable activities in the 
manifestation of which the individuals concerned are not by any means so 
stereotyped as some writers would have us believe. 

To return to the Blackfoot, the plain question that arises with all and 
refuses to down is, how came these ])eople by this culture ? If the preceding 
I)ages had described customs wholly unicjue, we could all agree that, aside 
from some troublesome presu])positions of linguistic theories, there were no 
])robable reasons why they did not themselves create this culture. Since 
directly the opposite tendency is observable the matter is not so simple. 
Obviously several alternatives in whole or in })art may be proposed: the 
whole culture may have originated with the Blackfoot and have been passed 

IQS Anthropological Papers American Mtiscmn of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

on to other tribes; it may have originated contemporaneously but inde- 
pendently among several or all the different tribes; the Blackfoot may have 
developed some traits, other tribes still others, a gradual selection having 
taken place until the whole area came to the same level. Two greatly over- 
worked theories have been rec[uisitioned by their respective partisans to 
account for similarities of culture: viz., the independent development theory 
and the diffusion theory. Those who hold to the former may say that the 
general uniformity of economic conditions and the similarity of materials 
throughout the area would in time bring all to adopt inde})endently the same 
material culture. Now, it may be conceded that this will account for some 
things; the use of buff'alo robes, for example. Again, if there were no 
l)utt'alo to hunt except within two widely separated areas, the case would be 
clear; but neither the general distribution of buffalo nor their uniform hal)its 
will make it certain that a number of tribes would each develop a drive on 
the same detailed plan. Even were this true, how could we account for the 
wearing of artificially lengthened hair, particular cut of dress and bag within 
the same area Avithout doing violence to all experience with probabilities ? 
As we have just remarked, we have a culture spread over the area in A\hich 
the Blackfoot are incidentally found among other tribes, a point of view 
that renders serious consideration of the independent theory out of cjuestion 
for this particular case. Turning to the theory of dift'usion, we find our feet 
nearer solid ground for we have found that in keeping with their position on 
the frontier of the area the Blackfoot show some traits similar to those be- 
yond the borders and that within the area itself the Blackfoot and their 
immediate neighbors can be differentiated somewhat from the others. 
Without offering many more even weightier reasons, we may accept the 
theory of diffusion as the most satisfactory explanation so far presented. 

We come now to the specific problem of Blackfoot culture which narrows 
down to a cjuestion of cultural priority in whole or in part. Here we are 
forced to confess an almost hopeless task for the dominant anthropological 
method assumes to be historical, while here historical data seem to fail us. 
We can only infer that the Blackfoot as an ethnic unit were not always 
inhabitants of the area on the basis of linguistic relationship which is far 
from final. In defining the distribution of cultural traits as we have clone 
we can only at best make a few doubtful inferences as to the part the Black- 
foot took in their diffusion. It may be possible to determine lines of aflfilia- 
tion and tribal intercourse at the opening of the historic period and correlate 
them with the distribution of cultural details.^ For example, there was at 
one time, some intermarriage between the Blackfoot and Sarcee, Gros 

1 Wissler, (d). 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture of Blachfoot Indians. 169 

Ventre, Cree and Flathead; and captive women of the Shoshone, Crow, 
Assiniboine and in short of all tribes with whom they were at war, were 
brought home and retained. Thus in peace as well as war there must have 
been many op])ortunities for becoming acquainted with the cultural traits 
of others. There is every reason to believe that some native trade existed 
long before the advent of the fur dealer and that along these lost trails passed 
and repassed many triljal arts. Such a method applied to the area at large 
promises results of importance, but the difficulty in our present narrow 
problem is that even at the opening of the historic period the Blackfoot stand 
out as a powerful nucleus. Thus while early traders report many ])ersons 
among the neighboring tribes who had learned Blackfoot, they foimd the 
Blackfoot unable to speak foreign languages. This with other data of like 
tenor implies that, long before the opening of the historic period, these people 
were dominant in their area and its environs and on this assumption must 
have played some part in the formation of the culture of the Missouri- 
Saskatchewan area. Further, we may then assume that such traits as are 
dominant among them and minor among their neighbors were original, 
but it is well to bear in mind that Aveare piling up assumption on assumption. 
However, if we accept the Grinnell theory that the Blackfoot are but recent 
arrivals from the forests, then part of our problem is solved — - they Ijorrowed 
the whole thing, lost every vestige of their own material culture and origin- 
ated nothing. 

When, however, we turn to the area as a whole and consider the cultures 
on its borders, the case is not cpiite so hopeless. Take for exam})le what 
meagre data we gathered on the tipi. The mere matter of pole arrange- 
ment arrays the Blackfoot, Crow, Hidatsa, Sarcee and Comanche as oppos- 
ing the Dakota, Assiniboine, Cheyenne, Arapaho and Gros ^'entre; while 
students of Indian history have claimed early tribal contacts that are in the 
main consistent with this grou})ing. However, a careful examination of all 
tipis, an ultimate grouping for all ti})i users and a re-valuation of historical 
data, are sufficiently promising to warrant further researches. Again, the 
distribution of analogous forms of tipi-like structures offers a basis for fairly 
satisfactory inferences as to the centres of distrilnitiou for the specific features 
of this type of shelter. In this as in all other tracings of resemblance in 
culture we must avoid the general and the essential. Thus an experiment 
will make it clear that to put up a tipi the natural course will be to tie three 
or four poles, but that beyond that there are many ways of accomj^lishing 
the desired practical result without the uniformity in the orders of placing the 
poles we have observed. In all cases it is full detailed data we need. The 
present tendency among many field-workers is to be satisfied with the very 
general and give us such bare statements as they use tipis and first set up 

170 Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History. [Vol. V, 

three poles, statements good as far as they go but as we have seen quite 
deficient in the sokition of cultural problems. Details, trivial in themselves, 
are likely to contribute more to the result than a wealth of repeated general 

In conclusion, while we cannot say what part the Blackfoot played in the 
development of the material culture of the area we have shown their position 
in it both with reference to their immediate neighbors and the tribes of the 
whole. While no one can say what the future will bring forth, we despair of 
ever reaching a more definite conclusion in their case. It would seem that 
on the whole from the standpoint of material culture, in this area the tradi- 
tional linguistic units have little weight, the linguistic factor being almost 
negligible in the face of geographical continuity and economic uniformity, 
suggesting that the ultimate method must be an intensive study of the 
distribution of a number of cultural traits for a considerable area. 

1910.] Wissler, Material Culture af Blaekfoot Imlians. 171 


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An THKOP. Pap. A. M. N. H. 

VoL.'V, Plate 


Boiling in a Paunch Vessel. 
(Page 27) 







Fleshing a Hide. 
(Page 64) 

UsiNti A Stone Scraper. 
(Page 166) 

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