Thursday, April 1, 2010

Assiniboine Tribe Fast Facts

How do you pronounce the word "Assiniboine?" What does it mean?It's pronounced "ah-SIN-uh-boin." It comes from the Ojibwe name for the tribe, Assinipwan, which means "stone water people." The Ojibwe probably called them this because they used heated stones to boil most of their food. In Canada, the Assiniboines are also known as the Stoney Indians, for the same reason. In their own language, the Assiniboines call themselves Nakota or Nakoda, which means "the allies."

Are the Assiniboines Sioux people?The Assiniboines are relatives of the Lakota and Dakota tribes, and they speak a similar language. However, they have always been politically distinct from the Sioux. In fact, they were often at war with each other.

Where do the Assiniboines live?The Assiniboine Indians are original people of Montana, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. Most Assiniboine people are still living there today.

How is the Assiniboine Indian nation organized?In the United States, the Assiniboine Indians live on two reservations, Fort Belknap and Fort Peck. A reservation is land that belongs to an Indian tribe and is under their control. The Assiniboines at Fork Belknap share a reservation with the Gros Ventre, and the Assiniboines at Fort Peck share a reservation with the Sioux. In Canada, there are eight separate bands of Stoney Assiniboines, each with its own reservation (known as a reserve in Canada.) Each of these tribes has its own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country. However, the Assiniboines are also US or Canadian citizens and must obey the laws of those countries too. In this past, each Assiniboine band was led by a chief elected by a tribal council. Some Assiniboine bands in Canada still operate this way today. In the United States, because the Assiniboines share reservations with the Gros Ventre and Sioux tribes, they are ruled by councils which are elected by all the citizens and include members from both tribes.

What language do the Assiniboine Indians speak?The Assiniboine people speak English today. Some Assiniboines, mostly elders, also speak their native Nakoda language. The Nakoda language spoken in Canada is significantly different than the one spoken in the United States. Most linguists consider them two distinct languages, Stoney (Canadian) and Assiniboine (American.) Like Spanish and Italian, they share many similarities and speakers of one language can often guess what speakers of the other language are saying. If you'd like to know an easy Assiniboine word, "hau" (pronounced similar to the English word "how") is a friendly greeting.

How do Assiniboine Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Assiniboine children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play in their daily lives, just like colonial children. But they did have dolls, toys, and games to play. There was a hoop game played by Plains Indian kids. Older boys also liked to play lacrosse. An Assiniboine mother traditionally carried a young child in a cradleboard on her back--a custom which many American parents have adopted now.

What were men and women's roles in the Assiniboine tribe?Assiniboine women were in charge of the home. Besides cooking and cleaning, an Assiniboine woman built her family's house and dragged the heavy posts with her whenever the tribe moved. Houses belonged to the women in the Asiniboine tribe. Men were hunters and warriors, responsible for feeding and defending their families. Only men became Assiniboine chiefs, but both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine.

What were Assiniboine homes like in the past?The Assiniboine people lived in large buffalo-hide tents called tipis (or teepees). Tipis were carefully designed to set up and break down quickly. An entire Assiniboine village could be packed up and ready to move within an hour. Originally tipis were only about 12 feet high, but after the Assiniboines acquired horses, they began building them twice that size. Today, Native Americans may put up a tepee for fun or to connect with their heritage. Most Assiniboine families live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Assiniboine clothing like? Did the Assiniboines wear feather headdresses and face paint?Assiniboine women wore long dresses made of mountain goat skin or deerskin. Assiniboine men wore breechcloths with leather leggings and Plains or Plateau-style shirts. The Assiniboines wore moccasins on their feet, and in cold weather, they wore long buffalo-hide robes. A Assiniboine lady's dress or warrior's shirt was fringed and often decorated with porcupine quills, beadwork, painting, and elk's teeth. Later, Assiniboine people adapted European costume such as cloth dresses and colorful blanket robes. Assiniboine Indian leaders sometimes wore the long warbonnets that Plains Indians are famous for. Other Assiniboine men wore buffalo headdresses, which were buffalo fur caps with horns attached to the side and a tail trailing behind. Traditionally, Assiniboine people only cut their hair when they were in mourning. Usually they wore their hair long and loose, though warriors sometimes wore their hair in braids or coiled on top of their heads. The Assiniboines also painted their faces for special occasions. They used different patterns for war paint, religious ceremonies, and festive decoration. Assiniboine men also wore tribal tattoos on their chests and arms, while the women tattooed spirit lines on their faces. Today, some Assiniboine people still have moccasins or a buckskin dress, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths... and they only wear traditional regalia on special occasions like a wedding or a dance.

What were Assiniboine weapons and tools like in the past?Assiniboine hunters used bows and arrows. In war, Assiniboine men fired their bows or fought with war clubs and buffalo-hide shields.

What other Native Americans did the Assiniboine tribe interact with?The Assiniboines traded regularly with other tribes of the Great Plains. They particularly liked to trade buffalo hides and meat to tribes like the Hidatsa in exchange for corn. These tribes usually communicated using the Plains Sign Language. The Assiniboines also fought wars with other tribes. Plains Indian tribes treated war differently than European countries did. They didn't fight over territory but instead to prove their courage, and so Plains Indian war parties rarely fought to the death or destroyed each other's villages. Instead, their war customs included counting coup (touching an opponent in battle without harming him), stealing an enemy's weapon or horse, or forcing the other tribe's warriors to retreat. Some tribes the Assiniboines frequently fought with included the Sioux, Blackfeet, and Crow Indians.

What are Assiniboine arts and crafts like?Assiniboine artists are famous for their quill embroidery, beadwork, and carving arts.

What kinds of stories do the Assiniboines tell?There are lots of traditional Assiniboine legends and tales. Storytelling is very important to the Assiniboine Indian culture. There are many stories about the adventures of the Assiniboine hero Icmá. For more information, follow this link: Reprinted with permission.

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