North Dakota Eclectics


The Assiniboins were also known as the Stone, due to their practice of boiling water and heating meat on hot stones. After killing a buffalo or other game, their practice was to dig a hole in the shape of a kettle, lining it with the skin of the animal that had been killed. Into this container they would place the meat that they wanted to cook, along with water. Stones would be heated in a fire and, when they were red hot, they would life them with tongs, dropping them into their improvised kettle, keeping this up until the meat was cooked to satisfaction, removing the previous stones as they added hot ones. Even after they had obtained pots that could be heated directly in the fire, they continued this practice.

The Assiniboins were a branch of the Sioux. They originally inhabited the area around the Lake of the Woods in Minnesota. Around 1670, they moved north and west to Lake Winnipeg, where they remained for a few generations, then spreading out to the west, coming into the region north of the Missouri River in North Dakota in the 1850s, moving north into Canada, and west as far as Montana, as their populations increased. As was the case with other Sioux tribes, the Assiniboins were known for having conflicts with other Native American tribes that they encountered.

In 1836, the tribe included as many as twelve thousand lodges. However, that year they were hit with a smallpox epidemic that reduced their numbers to around four hundred lodges.

The Assiniboins seldom cut their hair, twisting it into tails as it grew. As was the practice among the Mandans, they were also known to make their hair appear even longer by gluing on false hair. Their dress was similar to that of other plains tribes. Like many other Native American tribes, their livelihood was largely dependent upon the buffalo. They made large quantities of pemmican, which they traded for tobacco, liquor, powder, balls, and other items.

If a member of their tribe died in the winter while they were a distance from home, they would return the body to their village, each night, as they camped, placing it on a high scaffold, out of the reach of scavenging animals. When they arrived back at their village, the body would be buried in a sitting position in a round grave, about five feet deep, and lined with bark or skins. The body was then covered by bark. Several logs would be placed across the top of the grave, which was then covered with dirt.

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