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
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.