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Page 15 text:
Cfjtnook The garments of the Indian were very plain and simple. Those of the men consisted of leggings and robes made of the skins of buffalo; moccasins were their only footwear. In active sports the men took off the leggings and robes and only wore a breech-clout. The garments of the women consisted of a short leather belted dress, moccasins and robes. The tasks of the camp were left largely to the women, while the men hunted and fought enemy tribes. The women always followed the men after a buffalo hunt and skinned and cut up the animals for use in the camp. Although a food known as pemmican, consisting of meat and berries pounded together and dried in the sun, was prepared for the winter, the Indian did not take much thought of the morrow. In fact, one of the most outstand¬ ing qualities in the Indian’s character was his complete freedom from worry. Even today this trait is noticeable among the tribes on the reservations. Many people have a serious misconception induced, doubtless, by their readings, that before the white man came the Indians led a rather unprincipled life. However, if one hear the tribal lore direct from the older Indians it is important to note that they tell of Five Commandments upon which were based the morals of the tribes. It is further interesting to note that these Com¬ mandments are almost identical with the last five of our Ten Commandments. Thus we see that despite the occasional raid and fight with enemy tribes the Indian of early times roved the plains contentedly, living a healthful, out¬ door life, governed by the laws and customs of his race. Then the period of transition came. The white man arrived, and the Indian was forced to follow his laws. Many of these statutes could not be reconciled with the Indian’s former manner of living and havoc followed. We have all heard and read many stories of this time of unrest among the Indians who had hitherto been monarchs of all they surveyed. They could not understand why they should only be allowed to use certain tracts of land. Their chief source of food and clothing, the buffalo, disappeared rapidly under the destructive hand of the white man, and they were faced with starvation. E. Pauline Johnson, the brilliant Indian poetess, graphically describes the bewildered feelings of the Indian in this period of transition in her poem “The Cattle Thief” when she says: Page Fourteen
Page 14 text:
tEfje Ctmoofe THE INDIAN OF THE PLAINS The Indian of the North American Plains is a truly epic and interesting character. In saying this, we do not mean the Indian of the stampedes, pic¬ tures, newspapers, or novels, but the natural, true man. Before speaking of the ancient customs, laws and life of the Indian it is necessary to know something of his characteristics and appearance in those early days. He was essentially a primitive man, kind to his family, hospitable, cheery and straightforward. For his friend he would die if need arose. In appearance the Indian may be likened to his chief weapon, the straight, slender arrow. He was a noble figure of copper hue, lithe and supple. The Indian of the plains had straight black hair and well-shaped features. The high cheek bones, the aquiline nose, and the firm, well-moulded mouth gave him an aristocratic appearance. The home of the great majority of Indian tribes has always been the yellow far-flung prairies. Their favorite haunts were the f oothills, where the heaving swells of the hills melted into the far-distant blue of the Rockies. Here, with the brilliant prairie sky arched above them, the early Indians fought, hunted and lived. In a secluded valley beside one of the sparkling rivers of our plains an Indian encampment might have been found in the very early days. The dwell¬ ings, built in a rough circle, were cone-shaped structures of poles with buffalo hide stretched across them. Between the extended ears at the top of each conical home a dark opening was visible from which curled blue wreaths of aromatic wood smoke. Travois, the Indian’s freight car, made of two poles joined to fit over the back of a horse or dog, leaned against each of the lodges. One of the most interesting features of the camp were the tripods near some of the larger tepees. From these tripods rawhide bags hung containing the charms of the medicine men. As the day progressed the tripod was moved around the lodge in the path of the sun. The Indian is intensely religious, and this worship of the sun was one of his ways of worshiping Nature, a form of religion so common among primitive people. It is also interesting to note in this regard that whenever the Indian took his canoe over a stretch of water he always dropped some little gift into the current to propitiate the “Under Water People,” so that they would not overturn his craft. Page Thirteen
Page 16 text:
Ufa Cfnnoofe You say your cattle are not ours, your meat is not our meat; When you pay for the land you live in, we’ll pay for the meat we eat. Beside the moral degeneration due to contact with civilization, the Indian degenerated physically at this time. The change of diet, the new conditions of living, together with inter-marriage with the white race helped to bring disease to the hitherto robust native. However, those wonderful men, the missionaries of early days, with a zeal that does not come from this earth, stepped in, and with the help of the Canadian Government commenced the great task of giving back to the Indian his health and independence. Today, although the Indian of the Plains is still regarded by many as a social and moral outcast, he is gradually learning to earn his own living by farming on the land over which his forefathers roamed. The race is no longer on the decrease; tuberculosis among the tribes is no longer rampant, and better conditions of living are found in many of the Indian homes of today than can be found in hundreds of civilized homes. Thus we may say that civilized and educated, the Indian of the future has every capacity for becoming a good citizen of Canada and one she may be proud to call her own. In conclusion we can say no more of the Indian of the past, the present, and the future than to quote once more, words of E. Pauline Johnson in her poem “Cana dian Born” when she says: We first saw light in Canada, the land beloved of God, We are the pulse of Canada, its marrow and its blood. And we, the men of Canada, can face the world and brag, That we were born in Canada, beneath the British flag. SOPHIE MIDDLETON. Page Fifteen
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