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 20-27 (originally published as Land of
the Nakoda by the Montana Writer Program in 1942)
the tribe lived by the hunt, they moved from place to
place within their territory.
the Assiniboine were farther north and before they had
horses, each family had from six to twelve dogs capable
of carrying up to fifty pounds each. They were used to
pull the travois. As the women. did all the tasks about
the lodges, they named all the dogs. They spoke to them
like persons, either scolded them or praised them whenever
the dogs deserved it. Oftentimes on a move, the dogs took
after game, and sometimes the entire load was upset and
left out on the prairie. When the dogs finally came back,
they were scolded and sometimes whipped.
is told that, on one of those occurrences, a woman got
so angry she whipped her dog until the dog turned on her.
Several men, who were traveling parallel with the party,
saw what was happening and ran to aid the woman, but before
they got there, the dog killed her and ran away. The men
gave chase, and the dog climbed a big hill, where it sat
down on the very top. When the pursuers were near, the
dog disappeared beyond the hill. Although the men hunted
in all directions, the dog was nowhere to be seen.
many years after, whenever a party passed by that hill,
the dog could be seen sitting on top. After a time the
dog would rise and slowly go beyond, out of sight. One
time a war party planned to surround the hill and kill
the dog, but when they ran up the hill from all directions,
the dog vanished. When each told of seeing the dog disappear
over the hill from where they ascended, they were amazed
and said, "It is the spirit of the dog. Perhaps no
one would own it in the spirit world because it killed
a human being. It came back to live in the hill near where
the body of its mistress lies. Let us not disturb the
will of the Beings who have done this." The hill
was known as the home of the travois dog.
northern band, named Camp Movers to the Kill, never owned
many dogs, and when the men killed game, they butchered
it and sent word back to camp for the whole band to move
up to the kill.
women got all of the fuel and brought it to camp by dog
travois. The old women, with their dogs, went into the
timber and loaded the travois for the dogs and then carried
a load on their backs as well.
aged, who could not travel with the band on foot, and
small children rode travois. Two dogs, hitched to their
travois, were placed side by side and the two centerpieces
of the travois were fastened together with poles tied
across both of them. A short stick was also tied between
the necks of the travois to keep the dogs at a certain
distance from each other. An old man or woman sat or Iay
on the cross pieces which held the two travois together.
In that way, the load was drawn as one by both dogs.
way is told by Bad Hawk:
winter our band moved to another camping place and, as
my old grandfather was unable to walk, three grown boys
and myself pulled on a thong attached to a piece of hide
on which he sat. The hide was drawn so She hair was next
to the snow, and it slid along so smooth that we did not
mind the load. We took our time and played along near
the rear of the caravan. The location of the camping place
e was on a wooded creek, and when we came within sight,
the headers were already pitching their lodges. We stood
on the edge of the hill overlooking the camp ground, and.
then we followed the trail down the hill. As we were just
boys, we had no idea of the weight of our load. As we
descended, the load followed so quickly we jumped out
of the way. But grandfather slid on down the hill so fast
it was no time before he was to the bottom. As he hit
the snow-covered sagebrush on the creek bottom, he turn
ed over and over and landed in a heap that looked like
a pile of tinned robes. Several women, who were nearby,
came running over and helped him up, but he was not hurt
and joked about the lads giving him a fast ride.
old man, Last, told the following story:
long time ago, when there were no horses, a war party
found a lone horse and brought it back with them. The
people were amazed to see so large a dog, and they named
it Big Dog. And so horses are called today in the Assiniboine
was so strong that it could carry two men at one time
on its back.
a war party went forth, they always took the horse with
them. On one of those trips an enemy war party was surprised
and chased. Someone in the group, thought of the idea
to carry the slow ones on ahead with the horse. So on
e rode with him on each trip, and he took enough men to
the front so that the enemy was overtaken in that way
that, the people worshipped the horse, and whenever a
war party was to start, the warriors first made sacrifices
to it. The war parties were always successful, and one
time they brought back a large herd of horses. The horses
were distributed among the people and, so, for the first
time, our people owned horses.
old saying was, "Dogs in the north and horses in
the south." This was after our people were in both
southern bands were the first to own horses, which were
captured from enemy tribes to the southwest of them. (
In 1754, according to history, Anthony Hendry found horses
among the western Assiniboines, probably stolen from the
Plains bands used horses in the chase, so they had their
fast buffalo runners and packed the kill on extra horses.
The fast horses were never hitched to pull travois or
carry packs of any kind.
horses were being used by bands south of them, the peoples
of the north used dogs for a long time before they finally
owned horses. They killed buffaloes by the trap method
and usually camped nearby. They used the dogs to move
the kill from the trap to the camp.
bands moved often, and when the camp was moved to another
location, lodge poles were made into travois. Two poles
were sufficient, but in order to haul the extra poles,
two or three were lashed together and used on each side
of the travois. When dogs were used, only a pair of poles
v-ere attached to each travois.
permanent travois was made of two long poles tied together
at the small ends with the butt ends spread out; a round
or oval-shaped frame was fastened near the middle section.
The frame was made of willow bent into shape and the center
laced with rawhide strings. The point was padded and placed
far up on a horse or dog and held in place by a harness.
The poles on a horse travois were crossed and secured
v,7ith thongs, then padded. The poles on the dog travois
were not crossed but brought together and bound with wet
rawhide, which, when dried, held the point strongly together.
dogs were in the habit of backing out of their travois,
so a belly band was used in addition to the regular breast
Travois horses were ridden by young mothers with their
babies and led by women.
a band was to move to another location, the camp crier,
who was instructed by the chief and head men, made the
rounds within the camp circle and proclaimed to the people
that the camp would move the next morning. "The grass
is getting short, the watering places are becoming stale,
wood is scarce, and the game is now at a long distance
from our camp, so make ready to move tomorrow," sang
the crier, repeating the same instructions at intervals
until the circle was completed.
morning came, the people watched the emblem that adorned
the top of the lodge of the chief. The ,emblem was usually
the tail of a horse or other animal, or an eagle's head,
stuffed, or sometimes the tanned skins of different animals.
It all depended on what the chief of a band had for his
the journey was to be made, the emblem, which was tied
to a long lodge pole, was taken down. The emblem was pointed
in the direction of the new camp location, and the pole
was raised on a tripod. If the emblem hung near the ground,
that was a sign the journey would be a long one. If the
pole was raised so the emblem was high in the air, then
only a short move was to be made.
women, children, and old people formed the main caravan.
They all traveled afoot, except the mothers with newborn
babies and those unable to walk. These people rode the
travois, the travois horses, or extra pack horses. The
men walked in groups along the sides, some distance away,
and others brought up the rear. The chief and the head
men rode horseback far ahead of the women.
the new location was reached, the emblem was stuck in
the ground in an upright position and the lodges were
pitched around it in the form of a circle. The women,
with the help of the children, pitched the lodges and
attended to the rest of the tasks. The old women got the
wood, and the young maidens brought water. Young men tarried
near the watering places for the chance to court the maidens
who came for water. They took the horses to water and
remained nearby as an excuse for being there.
men never helped with the tasks, but sat in groups, visiting,
until the lodges were all set up. Rivers were crossed
in skin boats made of buffalo hides stretched over a circular
framework of large willows. It was a basket-like framework
with the hide stretched over it. Some were made oblong
by sewing together two hides, with the seam through the
center. The boats were always laid on the bank, turned
over, when not in use.
a crossing was made in moving to new campgrounds, temporary
skin boats were built and then taken apart when the crossing
had been made.
a band crossed a large river, like the Missouri, the lodge
poles were laced together and another layer laid crossways,
then the two layers were made secure with thongs. All
the camp equipment was placed on the raft and children
and old people rode it. Then several men, all good swimmers,
got around and swam across with it. Able-bodied men and
women who were poor swimmers were permitted to hang on
to the sides and swim along as the raft was towed.
those crossings, the young men vied with one another in
their skill at swimming. Some swam alongside of their
favorite horses, while others rode without any kind of
a bridle and guided their mounts by patting the necks
with their hands. There were daring ones who turned their
horses loose and clung to the tails and swam across that
has been written about the old and feeble being left to
die on old campgrounds when a band moved to another place.
The well-to-do families, who had the means to move their
old relatives, never left any of them to die. It was only
those who were poor and could not take their relatives
along who had to do this.
abandonment was not considered inhuman at that time. It
was looked upon as the same as a person dying-nothing
could be done about it. The old people understood that,
with the infirmities of old age, death was near, and so
the wish to be left behind came from them.
as soon as the caravan was out of sight, the aged per-son
committed suicide; the men by knife and the women by hanging
themselves to limbs of trees with thongs.
before they did away with themselves, they sang the death
song. Their minds were not on the band that was moving
away, but on the journey toward the east, to the land
of de-parted relatives. Death in that manner was as honorable
as from a coup in battle.
old people who were left to die were not many," Mrs.
Crazy Bull says. "This act was uncommon. I am now
eighty-nine nears old and I knew of only one such happening"
the summertime we journeyed about a great deal. It was
on one of those moves that a crowd gathered near the edge
of a wooded creek. Everyone stopped their travois dogs
and horses and went ahead to see what it was about. I
was eighteen years old then and was just as curious as
the others so I hurried over to the gathering.
I got there, I heard from others on the way that they
were looking at the body of an old woman who had been
left to die some moons ago. She was of our band and had
been left behind, but many did not know of it until the
day when they saw the dead body.
band usually stopped at the same campgrounds in moving
about and we were headed for one of these camps.
saw the body hanging to the limb of a tree. It was dried
but had not fallen apart and was a ghastly sight. The
limbs were hanging straight down like sticks attached
to a bundle.
one made any attempt to take it down for burial and the
band moved on to another camping place.
spot, on Little Porcupine Creek, is known to this day
as the place where the dried old woman lies.