described by First Boy - James Larpentuer Long, Fort Peck
Assiniboine-Sioux, in The Assiniboine: From Accounts of
the Old Ones Told to First Boy (James Larpenteur Long),
edited by Michael Stephen Kennedy , University of Oklahoma
Press, 1961, p 78-84 (originally published as Land of
the Nakoda by the Montana Writer Program in 1942)
is an old Assiniboine saying, "The buffalo gives
food from his flesh and clothing from his hide. The marrow,
sinew, bones, and the horns can be used by the people,
so that a skilled woman can make many different kinds
of food and the family does not eat the same thing each
day. It is so also with the man, who can make many things
from the buffalo for use in war, hunting, and pleasure.
All these things the buffalo offers to the ones who heed
the talks of the old men and the old women who know that
the lives of the people and the growth of children depend
on the buffalo."
were satisfied with meat as their main food. This was
prepared in many ways. Often it was roasted over an open
fire. A piece consisting of several ribs was stuck on
a stick with the other end of the stick in the ground
near the fire. The meat was turned over and over until
cooked. Some preferred to have pieces of fat laid on the
tip, so that it melted and ran down into the buffalo flesh
to give it flavor.
method was to spread a piece of meat sliced thin on live
embers until cooked.
also made much dried meat. To do this, a large piece of
fresh meat was first cut almost through the center and
sliced each way until it was much larger and very thin.
This was then hung on poles and turned over each day until
it was as dry as a bone. The cured meat was then packed
away for future use. It was also mixed with rendered marrow,
Packed in sacks made from dried bladders, and stored away.
The dried meat was usually boiled until tender, but it
could be eaten uncooked without preparation. Often it
was toasted, then pounded into a pulp and eaten dry with
a piece of tallow or fat.
dried from parts of the rump and from the two pieces on
each side of the backbone of the buffalo was considered
best. This was made into a pulp and mixed with rendered
marrow and pounded chokecherries to be served at feasts
or ceremonial gatherings. It was called pemmican by the
story about the way men cooked meat was told by Last:
I was a member of a small war party that went on foot
to the Piegan's country [near Glacier Park] . They were
we entered their country, we rested one whole day, which
was devoted to mending, looking over our equipment and
various other things that needed attention. My cousin
Red Feather suggested that I prepare a boiled meal, so
I dug a hole in the ground about eighteen inches in diameter
and twelve inches deep. I cut a piece of hide from the
neck of a buffalo that we had just killed and lined the
hole with it. I used pieces of buffalo ribs to peg the
edges fast to the top of the hole and my pot was complete.
I next filled it with water and placed pieces of different
kinds of meat that each member wanted into the pot. I.
heated five rocks, larger than a fist, red hot, and by
using a buffalo shoulder blade, I slipped one rock at
a time into the pot, each time taking out the cooled rock,
until the fourth one was in and the water began to boil.
I left that one in and followed with the fifth. Then the
water boiled hard enough to cook the meat. After a time
I took the meat out and put buffalo blood into the broth
and, with two more rocks, I cooked a soup that we all
women never cooked that way. It was a custom among men
when they were away from home and wanted a change from
the roasting method.”
story is told by Bad Hawk:
grandfather told how the men cooked buffalo ribs when
they were out on trips. A hole about two feet square and
a foot or more in depth was dug. Into that was laid a
piece of ribs wrapped in green buffalo hide. This was
then covered with dirt and a fire built over it.
cooking was timed this way: When the first fire had died
down to embers, a fresh pile of fuel was laid on, and
when the last fuel was all burned, the meat was considered
done. They called this method "ribs covered and cooked
with two fires."
tongues were a great delicacy. They were generally eaten
on special occasions during feasts or served in guest
lodges to the headmen while in council. Families also
served them to invited guests to honor some member of
the family. While buffalo tongue was considered a choice
dish, hoofs cooked tender were looked upon as poor fare
and eaten only when there was not much of anything else
humorous story is told about this: A young man waited
patiently to see his sweetheart one evening. Being uneasy,
he tiptoed to the lodge and peeped in to see if the young
lady was at home, as men never entered the lodges of their
sweethearts. He saw her eating boiled hoofs, the poor
food. After she had finished, she came out. As she wiped
the perspiration from her face, she said, to his dismay,
"Sorry to keep you waiting, I have just finished
feasting on buffalo tongue."
the latter part of May a plant similar to rhubarb was
gath-ered, cut up in small pieces, and cooked with soup.
turnips were rooted up with a pointed stick in the latter
part of June and through July. Women both old and young,
with the help of boys and girls, would spend a day at
a time in gathering turnips. The boys and girls went ahead
and located the turnip plants for their mothers, grandmothers,
or sisters who made up the party.
It was a common sight to see two or more children run
on ahead to find turnip plants for their old grandmothers,
who per-haps could not see very well. The children vied
with each other in finding the largest plants and took
great pride in calling their grandmothers to view some
especially large specimen.
for turnip plants was often combined with visiting. Young
women, in pairs, strolled about in search of the turnips
and at the same time exchanged news and gossip of the
camp. Oftentimes a young lady carried a message from her
brother to the lady of his choice and delivered it during
such a time.
were peeled and eaten raw or sliced and cooked into a
soup, with pieces of fat added to give a rich flavor.
The bulk of the turnips gathered were peeled, sliced,
and spread out on hides on the ground and dried. After
they were thoroughly dried, they were packed away for
winter use. Sometimes a portion of them was pounded and
stored in that manner. The cured tur-nips were boiled
during the winter months very much as the white people
cook dry beans. Being dry and hard, they took a long time
to cook. Children often chewed them while at play.
the end of the turnip season, juneberries were ready for
picking, and all who were able helped with the task. Al-though
men never helped with any household duties, it was no
disgrace for them to pick juneberries, as there was always
danger of bears being in the berry patches. So the men
acted as escorts and sometimes helped pick the berries.
were spread out on hides, dried in the sun, and packed
away. The grandmothers usually tanned fawn skins for use
as berry bags, the skins from speckle-backed fawns being
the most popular. When cured, these skins were tanned
with the hair left on, and all holes were sewed shut,
except for one opening in the under side. The skin was
filled and packed with cured berries and the opening sewed
up. When completed, the bag resembled a stuffed fawn.
It was then presented to a favor-ite grandchild,
juneberries were often rubbed into pounded dried tur-nips.
The mixture was cured in the sun and stored for winter
followed the juneberries. Some of the berries were dried
unpitted as the juneberries were, and some were crushed
between two rocks. To do this, a flat rock about eight
inches in diameter was placed in the middle of a hide
spread on the ground. A woman, seated with the rock directly
in front of her, took a handful of unpitted cherries with
the left hand. A few were poured on the rock, and crushed
by a smaller rock made with a handle, which was held in
the right hand. This process was repeated until the desired
amount was ob-tained. The crushed pile was then made into
patties and dried in the sun.
cherries, unpitted or crushed, were cooked as a soup and
flavored with fats. Only crushed cherries were mixed with
tallow and allowed to harden. They were also mixed with
dried and pounded buffalo meat and rendered marrow fat.
the berry season there was a lull until the buffalo hunt-ing
time in the early fall. During this quiet period, the
old women picked ripe rosebuds. These were washed, mixed
with tallow, and allowed to harden. The mixture was eaten
with the regular meal. They also gathered buffalo berries,
which were washed and dried. After meat was boiled and
taken out of the kettle, a portion of dried buffalo berries
was added to the soup, which was then brought to a boil.
were water, clear broth, and a tea brewed from dried juneberry
leaves. No grain of any kind was used, and salt and spices
were unknown to the early Assiniboines.