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Tahan
Chapter VI The Indian Girlís Training


THE girl, too, learned the duties that were to be hers, long before she was old enough to help.

The Indian mother was careful to teach her little daughter to observe particularly the method of preparing the skins for robes, clothing and tepees.

The deerskin was used for clothing. In the process of tanning, it was spread on the ground, and every particle of flesh scraped off with a knife. Then came the sprinkling with ashes to remove the grease. After the lapse of a day or two, the hide was spread over a log and the hair scraped off with the rib of a buffalo. The ashes removed, the skin was washed in the stream until clean. Then the brains of the animal were worked into the leather, which was rubbed and pulled and stretched until it was dry and soft. To give it a yellowish-brown colour, it was smoked.

In making it into clothing, the women used a small bone for a needle or awl, and for thread the sinew of an animalís leg. Being natural artists, they ornamented the wearing apparel in most beautiful patterns, using besides beads the eye-teeth of the elk.

By the time the girl was old enough for courtship, she was an expert at this work, and not infrequently showed her artistic ability by making a shirt for the young man who was to become her husband.

But she never made his war-bonnet. Only the warrior himself could do this, and he couldnít do it without getting the consent of the other warriors of his band or order. Then the event became one of ceremony and of song. Before a feather was put into its place, a war honour was recounted and bestowed upon it by the brother warriors. Thus a war-bonnet was the history of its makerís deeds.

The women and girls never made any head ornaments for themselves. In the long-ago time they never wore anything of any kind on the head, and now any such occasional adornment is simply a concession to the white manís fancy.

The girls were also taught how to prepare buffalo meat for winter use. It was cut into thin strips and placed upon a scaffolding of poles in the sun, where it would dry quickly. When it was pounded fine enough, it was put into skin bags in alternate layers with melted tallow and dried berries. It was then packed solid in these bags and hung up in the tepee for future use either on a journey or during the time when game was scarce.

All parts of edible animals were used for food, except the lungs, gall bladder, and one or two other organs. Parts, such as the liver, kidneys, stomach and small intestines, were frequently eaten raw. Some of the small intestines were often stuffed with long thin strips of tender meat, the entrail having first been turned inside out and washed. This was considered a great delicacy. The greatest was the roasted unborn calf of the buffalo. Prairie dog, roasted by simply covering it up in the ashes and heaping coals of fire on it, was good, and roasted polecat much better than jack-rabbit and finer than squirrel.

Fresh meat was usually roasted or broiled. Sometimes it was boiled, and the women used kettles of ( green hide, if there were no cooking utensils of other material.

In the country where the mesquite bush grew in abundance, the beans of it were used by the women to make a kind of meal, which they mixed with water and baked on the coals.

Once in a while a little cornmeal, sugar and coffee varied our fare. These highly prized articles were among the booty taken while raiding white men and Mexicans.

The women also prepared a kind of wild potato, which was dug in the autumn and half-roasted. It would keep then until needed.

We were a prairie people and the small band in which I grew up was nearly always at war, either with some other tribe or with the white man. So we were on the move much of the time, never staying long enough in one place to raise a crop of any kind, had we wished to raise any.


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