described by First Boy - James Larpenteur 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 108-117 (originally published as Land of
the Nakoda by the Montana Writer Program in 1942)
was the main source of livelihood for every tribe. Although
other game was eaten, buffalo meat was most used.
When meat was plentiful in camp, the men hunted alone
or in groups, as they desired. But as soon as the supply
was low and buffaloes were scarce, no one was allowed
to hunt alone or when he pleased.
were then sent out, and when they located a herd of buffaloes,
hunters were called together to hunt in a group. In the
course of the chase each man killed one or two animals
according to his needs. The owners of buffalo runners
often lent their horses to good hunters, who killed buffaloes
both for them-selves and for the owners of the horses.
hunters approached a herd, word was passed along, "Pick
out the fat ones and kill one or two extra. Remember,
there are old men and women at home who are looking this
way for their meat."
the chase was in progress, grown boys on horseback took
pack horses to the scene to bring the kill to camp.
buffaloes on horseback with bow and arrows was not easy,
nor could everyone make a kill in that manner. The horse
had to be a fast animal, used to the hunt, forever on
the alert, and watchful of the animal just ahead. Often,
if a buffalo was crowded, it would suddenly charge the
horse. A good horse would jump out of the way in an instant.
An experienced rider knew that this might happen, and
he guarded against being thrown amongst the herd, possibly
with fatal injuries.
tells this story of a hunt:
I was married, I hunted a great deal, more for the sport
of it than for food. This was after we had guns.
old man, named 'Medicine Cloud, owned a very good buf-falo
runner. He told my father that at the next hunt I could
use his horse.
very large herd of buffaloes crossed the Missouri River
at the mouth of Little Porcupine Creek and were moving
north up that creek. The leaders were already so far ahead
that they looked about the size of dogs. Across the river
the rear ones could not be seen, so many were there in
the herd. If the ones in sight had been counted, the number
would easily have reached one thousand. The buffaloes
had separated into small groups of ten to fourteen, and
when I got to them, hunters were already amongst the herd
and a chase was on here and there.
small group of cows and bulls ran out of a coulee and
I took after them. Right away I knew the horse was a trained
buffalo runner. His ears were continually moving about
and he watched the group ahead.
a short time I caught up to them, but I hadn't taken my
gun out. I stuck the gun under my belt and was carrying
it cross-ways with the stock at my right.
warning a buI1 jumped right in front of my horse. The
horse, being experienced, was out of the way in a flash,
but I was pitched off and landed across the hump and behind
the horns of the bull. He gave a snort and reared up in
the air, which threw me, and I landed on my back several
steps away. The fall knocked the wind out of me. While
I spun about trying to get my breath, a hunter rode up
and said, "I saw your mis-fortune and was afraid
the bull would attack you. Here, I have caught your horse."
Sometimes horses were better buffalo hunt-ers than their
were many other dangers. The story is told that a man
named Slanting was chasing a herd of buffaloes. He had
not made his kill, but was right behind ready to make
a selection. The dust raised by the chase was so dense
that only the animals in the rear could be seen. Without
warning, his horse bolted and ran for several hundred
paces before he could bring him under control.
the dust had cleared away, the rider saw why his horse
had shied. The whole herd, in their blindness to escape,
had run over a cut bank, and many were killed, while others
crawled around with broken limbs and backs.
dismounted and led his horse to the bank. He sur-veyed
the scene below, then rode back to camp and told of the
incident. People hurried to the coulee and killed the
ones that were injured. Then there was a great butchering
of the buffaloes.
of the old men tracked the hunter's horse. Signs were
easy, as the ground was badly torn up where the horse
had made the turn. At that point it was almost impossible
to see the edge of the bank, which seemed to be a part
of the prairie beyond. They found that the animal had
turned in the nick of time.
many years rocks could be seen that had been placed at
each hoof print by the old men; and whenever a camping
party was in that part of the country, the story was always
told. To this day the place is known as "Where Slanting
ran the buf-falo herd over the cut bank."
late summer the buffaloes, as a rule, got very fat and
lazy and lay around in groups. At this time men who were
the fastest runners hunted them on foot. They enjoyed
the sport, and it was a great honor among hunters to take
buffaloes in that manner.
hunters were all young unmarried men who took good care
of their physical condition and owed their ability as
runners to some supreme Being. Old men who were great
runners gave instructions and "made medicine"
for the younger men. They al-ways carried a small pouch
containing the medicine under their belts, at the right
side. The young men made sacrifices and gifts to the old
masters in return for these instructions and use of the
herbs that would make them fast runners.
a still, hot day the men planned this kind of chase. They
stripped off all clothing except moccasins and clouts
and tied their hair with bands on top of their heads.
Some carried knives in their hands and others carried
them in the sheath.
hunters stalked a herd with much care in order to get
as close as possible and then dashed at them. By the time
the sur-prised herd had scrambled to their feet to flee,
the runners were nearly amongst them. The fat buffaloes
were soon winded and ran with their tongues out. The men
ran close in and slashed their flanks until they dropped
this the buffaloes were butchered. Tall grass was cut
and spread on the ground near each slain animal. The parts
of meat were laid on the grass, and the hide was used
to cover it over.
was then sent to the camp, and either horse or dog travois
were brought to carry the meat to the lodges. Sometimes,
when the meat was to be left overnight, each hunter marked
his pile with some object to show ownership. Also, they
made flags of brush or parts of their clothing and placed
them on top of the piles to scare away marauding animals
a man came back from a hunt, his wife met him. If he was
successful and came home laden with the kill, it was one
of his happiest moments. He slid off his mount, and his
wife led him into their lodge, where he lay down. She
unpacked the horses, picketed them where the grass was
good, and gave only needed attention to the kill. She
then devoted all her time to him; first taking off his
moccasins, washing his feet, and powder-ing them with
dry vermilion-colored earth paint. Then she removed all
his clothing, and, while he wrapped himself in a robe
and rested, she prepared hot food for him. As she waited
on him, she carried on a pleasant conversation and talked
of things agreeable to him. There was peace and contentment
in the Iodge.
the man was a well-to-do person who had three wives, the
wife who always accompanied him to social gatherings was
the one who took him into the lodge and attended to his
wants. The other two saw to the care of the kill and the
horses. One remained and cared for the meat while the
other led the horses out to grass. If the man owned a
buffalo runner, the women saw to it that the horse was
rubbed down with soft sage before it was allowed to graze.
if the man came back empty handed, his reception was cold.
Whether he was poor or well-to-do, his wife or wives scorn-fully
went at once to the lodges of their parents or visited
at other lodges. The man had to take care of his horses
himself, dry his moccasins, and then get a cold meal.
order to avoid an unpleasant welcome, many men joined
the Deer Society, a men's religious organization. They
received a bracelet with an ornament attached to it which
they wore during the hunt. The ornament was a charm made
from the short prong of a deer horn. Only when a hunter
was on his way back empty handed did he resort to the
actual use of the charm. When he saw game, he wore it
around his left wrist while mak-ing the kill.
bracelets were made only by old society officers. A suit-able
offering, which was a fee for the maker, was made by the
recipient. Women, children, and male nonmembers were never
allowed to touch the bracelet because, as it was a part
of the sacred regalia of the Deer Society, this was forbidden.
When a meeting was held, all of the regalia used by the
So-ciety were passed back and forth over a burnt sweetgrass
offer-ing, in full view of the audience, to purify them.
All members were expected to pass their bracelets in for
inclusion in the puri-fication ceremony.
member who owned a bracelet was instructed by an officer
on how it was to be used and taken care of, and the officer
also made known to him the rigid penalties for violations
of any part of the rules that governed the society.
The exact ordering of the instructions was a society secret,
known only to men who became members.
How the charms worked is not known, but the bracelets
were supposed to make it easier for a hunter to procure
meat of the deer family, excluding the larger species
such as elk and moose.
the secret was, it is said that a member of the Deer Society
was more apt to come home from a hunting trip laden with
deer meat and be warmly welcomed by his wife than a nonmember.
A famous hunting story is told by the old man named Cloud,
also called Cree. He describes what is considered one
of the most outstanding feats in the history of the tribe.
“When I was about twenty-four years old, I joined
a group of young men who were going on a visit to other
bands near the Fort Belknap Agency. There were ten or
twelve in the party and all on foot.
traveled by easy stages as there was no occasion to hurry
our journey. We killed game for our needs as we moved
from one camping place to another.
we passed the Big Lake [Lake Bowdoin], someone called
our attention to some antelope that were at a distance.
Presently, a buck left the band and came toward us in
a reluctant mood, yet curious, perhaps, as we were dressed
in white and gray cloth-ing and looked nearly alike. From
a distance, we, too, may have looked much like a band
was in the time when the juneberries were ripe [July},
and one afternoon was very hot, Only in jest, I said to
them, "I am going to chase him if someone will carry
my clothes and bundle." A man named Medicine Walk
offered to carry my belongings, so I stripped off my clothing
and wore only my moccasins and clout. My knife was in
my belt. Still in jest, I made a play at "making
medicine" by taking soft sage with which I rubbed
my legs and feet.
my approach the buck turned and ran back in a stiff-legged
fashion, but still hesitated occasionally until I was
rather close to him. The buck seemed to draw me on in
the chase. He kept just so far ahead and finally dropped
out of sight over a knoll I speeded up, and as I went
over the hill, he was so close that I gave chase in earnest.
you see me now, I am well over six feet, and I was always
classed among the good runners. I never rode horseback
but traveled about on foot. The old men used to say to
me, "If you wish to keep on being a fast runner,
you should not ride horses, as your legs will be bowed
and your joints will grow fast together”
we had subsisted on small and feathered game since we
left home, the sight of antelope meat sent a gnawing desire
for it through my system.
must have been made to run on and on as I did. I gave
sev-eral war cries. I spoke aloud to the buck, "You
are not the only one on this land that can run. Begone.
I am coming and I have a knife."
my surprise, I gained right up to the bewildered animal.
His mouth was open, and, as he glanced back, he gave a
muf-fled cry that sounded like he was winded and distressed.
I was so close that I reached out and seized a hold near
the hip. He broke away, with the result that I lost ground.
But again I was soon alongside of him. I caught hold of
one of his horns, and as he lunged forward, he almost
jerked me out of pace. In an instant my knife was out.
I slashed his flank and immediately slackened my pace.
He ran a short distance, then fell among the tall grass.
stopped and looked back. The party was not in sight. Soon
two came running up and one of them was Medicine Walk.
"Why didn't you stop a long time ago?" he said.
"It is so hot that you
could burn your lungs up by so foolish a chase:' I said,
"Over in the tall grass lies your meat:' There was
a surprised look in their faces when as one they said,
"Did you say you killed?"
rest of the party came then, and while I rested, the others
skinned the buck. I said to them, "Skin him very
carefully to see if he is a cripple, he may have had a
broken limb some time:' But as we looked him over, the
animal was as sound as could be.
distance that I ran was, as you call it now, about a mile
and a half. The feat has always been a mystery to me.
Up to that time I had no knowledge of herbs, which in
later years were used by runners. My only thought is that
it was very hot that day, and the animal, fast as he was,
perhaps was scared and winded. “