Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ginger sings...Oh Give Me a Home Where the Buffalo Roam...


This title to this post contains a familiar line from a famous old song...one which might have been more appropriately sang by the plains Indian tribes, among which the Sioux counted. Their very lives depended upon the shaggy beast that gradually disappeared from the prairies as white men took sport in killing this poor-sighted animal.

 Ritualistic in thought and deed, each year throngs from the nomadic Indian tribes gathered for what was known as a Summer Sun Dance to pray, make offerings, visit, and prepare for a buffalo hunt.  Stripped down to breechclouts and moccasins, and riding downwind because of the animals superior sense of smell,  mounted warriors darted in and out of the herd, trying to drive a major number into a circle so they could easily be picked off with their bows and arrows.  Many men lost their lives in pursuit of the massive prey.

Returning to to the camp with an ample kill was cause for celebration.  While the women did the majority of butchering and readied meat for the cooking racks, the man often ate  raw organs such a livers and kidneys...a sign of strength and virility.  The tongue and hump were favorites upon which the majority of the tribe feasted, but nothing was wasted. 

The scraped skins served a variety of purposes:  swaddling for the young, shrouds for the dead, and anywhere from six to 28 pelts sewn together to cover a tepee.  Once tanned and softened the hides were made into shirts, leggings, dresses and moccasins.  During autumn hunts, the longer haired pelts served the people well as blankets and robes.  The animal was revered and thanks always given to the Great Spirit for prosperity in a hunt.

Even the sinew for bows and sewing came from buffalo tendons and rawhide.  Woven hair served as strong rope, cradleboard stuffing, pillows and horse blankets.  Horns were fashioned into spoons and vessels from which to drink, while even the bladder became a pouch sufficient for hauling water and the paunch, a cooking pot.  Suspended over a fire on four sticks and filled with water heated by hot rocks, the stomach made a fine cooking kettle.

What meat left over from the celebratory feasts was dried into jerky or pounded together with fat and berries into something called pemmican which sustained the families through the winter months or nourished warriors who journeyed away from the village.

While the majority of animal parts belonged to the tribe, the tepee itself was considered the property of the woman.  She made it, erected it and took it down when the tribe migrated.  We often see and read about the bravery of the warriors in movies and books, but the true workforce behind the American Indian had to have been the women.  Take about heroines...

I'd be lost without my research source purchased years ago:  America's Fascinating Indian Heritage.  I've learned so much from this book from Reader's Digest and authored by James A. Maxwell, I've practically memorized it.

My love for the American Indian is endless.  I can't explain the fascination or adoration, but I do know that my next book will be about an Indian heroine.  You had to have been strong to have survived as a female, facing the hardships, expectations, and tribulations of what we know as the old west.  There's just so much to tell.

4 comments:

Ellen O'Connell said...

The different tribes provoke different feelings for me, Ginger, but you're right, the stories of the native peoples are endlessly fascinating. The thought of what those people lost, often within a single generation, is impossible to comprehend.

Jacquie Rogers said...

Bison meat is delicious--my favorite. The mass killing of these animals is nearly as horrific as the genocide that ensued. At least a few herds are doing well now. Not so sure about the American Indian cultures, though. Many of the languages are gone forever.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Ginger, terrific post, and I agree that the Indian women were real heroines. Sociologists say they actually had more free time than we do, though. I still prefer our lifestyle to theirs, but have great admiration for them.

Ginger Simpson said...

Thanks, Ladies for visiting on my post day. I may not always comment, but I do read and share on FB, Google and Triberr. I'm so blessed to have such talented co-bloggers and friends. I'm surprised I met my obligation this month since health issues seem to rule my time these days. I'm praying hard to I don't lose the sight in my left eye as that will really put a crimp in my plans. Regardless, I know Cowboy kisses will continue to thrive. I can't believe how the following has grown and the number of 'hits' we get every day.