The Plains Natives
The Plains NativesPlains Natives territoryThe territory of the Plains Natives in Canada ranged from the Rocky Mountains to the woodlands of Southeastern Manitoba. The Natives lived in what today is called the southern part of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.The Plains Natives who lived in the southern part of the prairie provinces marked the very northern limit of the plains Natives region. Most of their territory was further south in the United States. All of the Plains Natives had similarities, but not all of the plains Natives were the same. There were many different names like the Blackfoot , Cree and Sioux which all had different languages, customs and traditions. The three languages spoken in Canada were Algonquian, Athabascan and Siouan
Plains geographyThe great plains are dominated by flat ground covered with either low or high grass. Trees are uncommon in most of the area. Water can be scarce in the summer, although there are a few large rivers .(Assiniboine, Saskatchewan River, Red River etc.) and small lakes in this region.Weather in the great plains can be extremes. The winters are very cold with temperatures dropping to -40 degrees Celsius. The summers can be very hot with temperatures reaching 35 degrees Celsius. There are large herds of buffalo, deer, antelope, along with bears, cougars, coyotes. Many of these animals move around in the summer looking for food and water.The area has smaller animals like jack rabbits, prairie dogs, small herbivores, grouse, geese, ducks, cranes, and eagles.
Prairie animals Prairie dog
Plains Natives housingThe pine tipi (teepee) poles used to make the tipis were precious, because wood was scarce, since there were so few trees in the plains. The tipi poles were carefully protected and carried from place to place usually on a horse travois. A travois was a few poles on each side of the horse that other objects were attached to. The poles were simply dragged behind the horse.
The teepeeMost plains Natives were nomadic, so they needed a house that could be build and taken down and moved quickly. A teepee was a tall, cone-like structure made from animal hides. It was waterproof and very durable.The tipi was warm in winter and cool in summer. Light filtered in through the top to fill the interior. Fur line hides covered the ground, keeping it warm. The head of the family always sat opposite to the door flap. Triangular back rests made with willow and bound together with cord, made sitting more comfortable. The hearth fire was built just behind the centre of tipi, towards the back.
Women made, owned and built the tipis. Three or four foundation poles were tied together with a piece or rawhide and raised. Poles were placed to make the tipi slightly steeper at the back, making it sturdier, and more able to withstand strong wind. The last pole to go up was placed at the back. A carefully sewn buffalo hide cover was then carefully fitted over the poles. A hole to let the smoke was left at the top and could be regulated with two flaps attached to two long poles. The fire pit was in the centre of the tent, with the beds arranged around the walls of the tipi. The long end of the rawhide was staked to the ground to secure the foundation poles.
Stone tent ringsStone tent ringsHeavy stones were gathered to hold down the bottom edge of the tent covering to prevent the tipi from being blown down by the wind. When a tipi was taken down the stones were rolled away and the people moved on. Stones were common and easy to find, so they didnt need to be taken with the Natives.These heavy stones were always left behind. Today it is easy to find locations where plains Indian villages once stood. The tent rings of stones they left behind can be found on many hills or beside rivers all over the empty prairies of western Canada.
The Rising Sun: A tepee used a hide flap as a doorway. Weather permitting, the entrance faced east, towards the rising sun. If the weather was miserable or a storm was brewing, the people positioned the flap opening in whatever way would best serve the comfort of the occupants.Sometimes, the people arranged their tepees in a circle, with all the opening flaps facing the center open space created by the circle of tepees. The younger kids could play in this open space, under the watchful eyes of their mothers.
Shes the boss!Women were in charge of the teepees: It was up to the women where to place a tepee. The tepee was their castle, and they were in charge of anything to do with it, including building it and then breaking it down for transports. The woman was in charge of behavior inside the tepee, as well. If she said, "Go to sleep," everyone had to go to sleep or leave the tepee. If new furs were needed, the man had to supply new furs. It was her tepee.Painted Skins: Men were in charge of the outside of the tepee. It was up to them to bring back the skins necessary to cover the poles. It was up to them to either bring back horses or hides to trade for poles, or to make the poles themselves. The men often painted the outside of the tepee they called home. The painting was often symbolic of their achievements. Each tribe had their own style.
Teepee rulesInside the Tepee: There was a small fire in the center for cooking and for warmth when needed. Tepees had an open space at the top, a little off center, to let the smoke out. When it rained or snowed, the men were sent outside to wrap an extra piece of hide around the top of the tepee. The men always left a little room for the smoke to get out. The Plains people used little furniture; They slept on buffalo skins on the floor of their homes. Tepee Manners If the entrance flap was open, it was an invitation to enter. If the flap was closed, you needed to announce yourself and wait for an invitation to enter a tepee, even if you lived there. A guest always sat to the left of the head of the family, who always sat the farthest from the door flap. These were rules that everyone knew and everyone followed.
Food Prairie chicken
Indian turnip Drying Saskatoon Berries
Saskatoon BerriesThe Plains Natives had a wide variety of animals and plants to eat. The women collected berries that were eaten fresh or dried and saved for the winter months. The Saskatoon berry (similar to blueberries) was a favourite for most of the Plains Natives.The Plains Cree and Plains Ojibwa Natives fished since they lived near rivers and small lakes. Deer, moose and elk, along with wolves, coyotes, lynx, rabbits, gophers, and prairie chickens were hunted for food. The Natives also ate Bannock which was a type of bread cooked over the fire. The Indian Turnip was a common vegetable that was eaten.
Buffalo food.PemmicanBy far the most common food eaten by the Plains Natives was the Bison (Buffalo). The Buffalo could be eaten raw (the liver), dried and made into Pemmican and soups, or cooked over an open fire. Cooked was the most common way. Pemmican was a common way to eat buffalo. The buffalo meat was dried and then pounded into thin strips. Hot buffalo fat was added along with some Saskatoon berries for flavour. Pine nuts could also be added. The mixture was poured into a leather bag and left to cool. Pemmican could last up to one year inside the bag without spoiling. It supplied the natives with a quick and high-energy meal. You can find Pemmican in stores today, but it is not the same. It is only dried meat.
Buffalo versatility buffalo horns
Buffalo feetbuffalo tailThe buffalo was an important source of food, yet the Natives valued this animal because of the vast amount of every-day products that could be made from just one buffalo.
HAIR headdresses, saddle pad filler, pillows, rope, ornaments, halters, medicine balls.
TAILmedicine switch, fly swatter, teepee decorations, whips.
HOOF & FEET glue, rattles, hatchets used for butchering.
HORNScups, fire carriers, powder horn, spoons, ladles, headdresses, signals, toys , wedges to split wood, tips, hide scrapers with a blade inserted into them, parts of bows.MEAT (every part eaten) hump ribs eaten immediately .Liver was eaten immediately by the hunters, sprinkled with gall fluid and considered the trophy of the hunt.
SKIN OF HIND LEGmoccasins or boots RAWHIDE containers, clothing, headdress, food, medicine bags, shields, buckets, moccasin soles, rattles, drums, drumsticks, splints, cinches, ropes, belts, bullets, pouches, saddles, horse masks, lance cases, armbands, quirts, bull boats, knife cases, stirrups, thongs, horse ornaments.Elk, Deer or Antelope hides were preferred for dresses for women as they were lighter than the heavier Buffalo skins.TANNED HIDES Robes, tipi coverings, moccasins, loin clothes, wrappings for the dead, bedding, war deed records, winter counts, tipi flooring, various pouches, disguise for hunting more buffalo.BONES were used for tools, needles, awls (used to puncture the skins for sewing). Shoulder blades made digging hoes. Large leg bones were used as ground pegs. Bones were shaped as tools to flatten porcupine quills used in decoration. Skulls used in religious ceremonies.
Buffalo dungBUFFALO DUNGDried, it was collected and used for fuel in fires to cook and provide heat. Finely powdered dung was used as a prevention of diaper rash.STOMACH.Water containers, Cooking, Boiling water, storage.BLADDER tobacco pouches, water containers.INTESTINES Water bags, storage containers, sausage making.BRAINStanning hidesHEART eaten but the outer lining was used as a bagTALLOW (boiled down fat)Healing wounds, weaning children, sealing tobacco into pipes, mixing paints, sealing food into containers, mixed with jerky to make pemmican.GRISTLE Glue, te
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