Sunday, August 31, 2014

Shattered Glass and Broken Bones: Piikani Domestic Space 1880-1960

Simon Arther Solomon
Simon Fraser University


Reserves have existed in Canada for over 140 years, yet their archaeological correlates are virtually unknown. Historical archaeologists in North America typically focus on sites of European origin, so critical examinations of Indian engagement with Canadian society from an archaeological perspective are lacking. Using a combination of historical documents, oral testimony, archaeological data, I examine the Piikani First Nation‘s transition from tipis to cabins in the late 19th- and early 20th-centuries. I detail the Piikani adoption of alien vernacular architecture, exploring what elements of tipi spatial organization persisted once they adopted cabins. I document the material culture associated with a sedentary occupation. It has been assumed that, having adopted European housing, Indians lived inside them as White people did. Yet the organization and use of space within the Piikani cabin reflected continuity from their pre-reserve tipi lifeways, even though the associated material culture indicated change.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Piikani Winter Buffalo Hunting at the Porcupine Hills

Bison walking through snow, Tower Junction, Yellowstone.  Photo by Jim Peaco.

Jack W. Brink
Imaging Head-Smashed-In
Athabasca University Press
2008, pages 135-137

"Billy [a Piikani Elder] was in his early seventies when I interviewed him in the mid-1980s.  He had been raised mainly by his grandparents.  They would have lived through the last half of the nineteenth century, the final days of the buffalo hunting culture.  Billy was raised by people who had lived in tipis, travelled by horse, and hunted buffalo.  When I asked questions about the old days, translated into Blackfoot, there might be some general discussion around the room, but someone would say, "Let Billy tell it."  The room would become quiet, and Billy would speak, often at considerable length, telling stories and passing on information just as it had been passed on to him.

"There is a great responsibility that comes with being recognized as one of the precious few who carry the history of a people.  It is imperative to recount what you have learned exactly as it was conveyed to you, without embellishment or change.  That this code was rigidly followed was made clear to me when I compared Billy's words (when translated) to texts of traditional Blackfoot stories written in both Blackfoot and English in the early twentieth century.  Astonishingly, I could follow along with the written text, noting an almost exact word-for-word correspondence with Billy's version (the correspondence was so uncanny that there were fleeting moments where I thought that Billy must have read the same decades-old book, though I assumed this was not possible).  But Billy also told stories that have never appeared in any book.  One of them struck a special chord with me, because it provided insight into rounding up and moving bison towards a kill.

"Billy told how sometimes buffalo jumps were held during winter.  The conditions for the people were much more difficult, and they had to contend with cold, frozen ground, and drive lanes covered with snow.  The people had to resort to other tricks, had to reach deep into their pool of knowledge.  The Porcupine Hills were an excellent wintering place for herds of buffalo, so the animals were often gathered in the hills.  The task was to move them towards the cliff.  Billy told how people knew that bison are attracted to and will follow their own trails, perceiving them as a safe route of travel.  The trick was to create a fake trail, one that bison would perceive as a means of escape but that, in reality, led to death.  Billy recounted how the hunters would first rub their bodies and moccasins with sage so as to hide their human smell.  Then they would take several tanned buffalo hides and head into the gathering basin, collecting all the frozen buffalo chips they could find.  Chips (now freeze-dried and lightweight) were piled on the hides and dragged by the hunters until they reached the place where the drive would begin.  Once in position, hunters walked backwards toward the edge of the cliff, dragging the chip-laden hides behind them.  Billy explained how dragging the hides over the footprints of the people further served to mask the scent of the humans.  As they walked, the hunters tossed out chip after chip, forming a long line of dark circles set against the snow of frozen ground.  They continued this until they reached the edge of the cliff.

"Hunters knew that bison preferred to follow an existing trail.  After all, if the animals had travelled in a certain route many times before, it must lead to safety.  There are several dead giveaways that a trail is old.  One clue is the deep ruts cut by thousands of sharp hoofs.  Another is the ubiquitous dark circles of dung that, in earlier times, surely lined all paths the bison travelled.  Hunters knew that this would be a chosen path of escape and so used dried buffalo chips to create a false trail leading to the cliff edge.  By walking backwards and dragging hides behind them, they covered their own scent with that of the intended prey.  A herd of bison, frightened by hunters circling around them, could see and smell a safe path of escape in the form of a beaten trail marked with a line of chips.  Billy's story made perfect sense.

"I had never seen this trick recorded in any literature, yet armed with a bit of knowledge about the nature of bison, I had no doubts about the authority of the account.  Billy has now passed away, a sad loss for the community and for all who yearn to know the past.  Thankfully, some record of his profound knowledge was made before his passing."

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Clovis Complex (in Alberta and Saskatchewan)

David Meyer, Alwynne B. Beaudoin and Leslie J. Amundson
Human Ecology of the Canadian Prairie Ecozone ca. 9000BP: 
     The Paleo-Indian Period
in Human Ecology of the Canadian Prairie Ecozone 11,000 to 300 BP
     edited by B. A. Nicholson
Canadian Plains Research Center Press, 2011, page 10-11.

Clovis Complex

Clovis is the first widely recognized archaeological complex of North America south of the Laurentide ice sheet, including the northern plains, and has been dated to ca. 11,300-10,900 BP (Holliday 2000: 265).  Using AMS dates on highly purified materials, Waters and Stafford (2007) propose that Clovis spans a much shorter interval, ca. 11,050 to 10,800 BP.  (but see Haynes et al. 2007: 320).  Clovis across North America is distinguished by well-crafted fluted or basally-thinned projectile points.  This technology is also known for the presence of bone or ivory rods (Lahren and Bonnichsen 1974; Stanford 1990, 1996).  These rods are believed to have formed part of the foreshafts of spears or, more likely, atlatl darts (Hutchings 1997; Dixon 1999: 153).  In some parts of North America, people of Clovis culture also produced blades, which were struck from prepared cylindrical cores (Beck and Jones 2010: 88-93; Green 1963; LeBlanc and Wright 1990).  A number of tools were made on these blades.  On the American plains it is now known that these people "had a generalized foraging economy that utilized a wide variety of resources" (Stanford 1999: 326), including large, late Pleistocene fauna (see also, Grayson and Meltzer 2002: 349). Presumably, the same subsistence economy was present in the Canadian Prairie Ecozone.

It is apparent that by 11,200 BP the newly established plant and animal communities of the Canadian Prairie Ecozone had become sufficiently productive to support human hunters and gatherers - peoples of the Clovis culture (see also Beaudoin and Oetelaar 2003: 199).  Several surface-collected Clovis points have been found in Alberta (e.g. Gillespie 2002; Gryba 1985, 1988, 2001; Ives 2006), Saskatchewan (e.g. Kehoe 1966, Dyck 1983; Hall 2009; Pendree 1981; Pettipas 1975), and Manitoba (e.g. Pettipas 1969, 1970; Buchner and Pettipas 1990: 54).  As well, a bone rod similar to those known from Clovis assemblages has been found near Grenfell, in southeastern Saskatchewan (Wilmeth 1968).

In situ Clovis occupations have not been encountered on the Canadian Plains (but see Kooyman et al. 2006).  This is probably because of a sparse population, which produced a limited archaeological signature, and because the landscape was still in flux, given the lingering presence of buried ice blocks and slowly thawing permafrost (Mandryk 1996; Yansa 2006).  This likely led to the disturbance of many Clovis occupations and, in some cases, deep burial (Ives 2006: 25; Wilson and Burns 1999: 234, in Gillespie 2002: 158).  Given the very different landscape configuration at that time, we can expect Clovis (and other Llano) sites to have a different landscape signature and distribution to those of the Middle and Late Prehistoric, further reducing the likelihood of site discovery.

Anderson and Gillam (2000) have argued that Clovis populations were involved in rapid expansion across the continent, leapfrogging over some regions.  Given Anderson and Gillam's (2000) model, Ives (2006: 19, 27) has suggested that Clovis occupations of Alberta may have "leapfrogged" into this part of North America and become relatively isolated from people to the south - considering the few Clovis points found in adjacent Montana and the fact that the points in Alberta tend to be made of local materials.  The Saskatchewan population may well have been part of this relatively isolated northern group.

During Clovis times, most of the Greater Forks region was inundated by an early stage of Glacial Lake Saskatchewan and the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers formed a large delta that extended into the western end of the lake (Christiansen et al. 1995: 346).  For over half a century, the possibility of Clovis occupations in the lands bordering the southern shore of Glacial Lake Saskatchewan has been of intense interest to Thomas Smith (1964, 1967, 1972), an accomplished avocational archaeologist and resident of the region.  However, with two possible exceptions (Wilson and Smith sites, see below), Clovis points have not been found in the Great Forks region [of central Saskatchewan].

Presumably, the landscape was still in the early stages of recovery following deglaciation, and animals populations were not large enough to attract much human attention.  Indeed, given the proximity of a large, cold glacial lake and cold katabatic winds blowing off the ice sheet immediately to the north, the environment may have been dominated by caribou, with some muskoxen - perhaps not of great interest to hunters accustomed to hunting Late Pleistocene species of the more productive steppe lands to the immediate south.

[Blog update, 2015:  Since this publication, the find of horse and camel bones, attributed to the Clovis Culture, at St. Mary's Reservoir in Southern Alberta, has lent further evidence to an early presence in Southern Alberta of the Clovis Culture.  See:  Horse and camel hunting by prehistoric humans in North America, Vol. 18 Spring 2015, Popular Archaeology (Link)]

Sunday, August 10, 2014

North American - Siberian Connections: Regional Rock Art Patterning Using Multivariate Statistics

Alice Tratebas
Chapter 9 in A Companion to Rock Art, edited by Jo McDonald and Peter Veth, 2012
(Link) Amazon


Rock art can sometimes provide better data for defining cultural entities than other archaeological data.  Multivariate statistical analysis of rock art data can help us define rock art traditions and distinguish between traditions.  Statistical methods can show change through time within a tradition.  Choosing the right statistical technique and careful selection of variables and attributes are vital for good results.  Learning how to interpret the numerical and graphical data generated by statistical techniques is also necessary for a meaningful application of statistics to rock art analysis.  This chapter uses multivariate methods to define and compare rock art traditions from the North American Plains and South Siberia.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Blackfoot Winter Count of Manistokos (1810-1889)

Manistokos (Father of Many Children)
   also known as Parkapotokan (Bad Head)
Recorded: in symbolic pictographs on tanned skin
In:  The R.N. Wilson papers, vol. 2, pages 367-377. -- [ca. 1890-1897].
Archives of the Glenbow Museum, Alberta

1810 - The Kainai see for the first time the horses with cropped tails of the American soldiers.

1811 - Crying Bear has been destroyed.

1812 - The Gambler has been killed by the Flathead.

1813 - Many went on the war path.

1814 - Top Knot has been killed.

1815 - Had Children destroyed by the Crees on the Belly River.

1816 - Kainai Extending His Paw killed by another Kainai.

1817 - Buffalo Paunch killed by his brother.

1818 - Kainai have their Sun Dance in the Winter time.

1819 - Coughing epidemic.

1820 - Four Horns killed by a Pend'oreille.

1821 - Great Chief No Top Knot dies.

1822 - A white man named by the Kainai Short Man takes a place at the confluence of the Musselshell and Missouri Rivers.

1823 - Long Hair dies.

1824 - The Kainai drove away the Crows.

1825 - The Kainai, Gros-Ventres, Flat Heads, Koutenais, and Nez-perces make a peace treaty.

1826 - The Kainai stole many horses from the Crows at a place called "Goose Neck" Butte.

1827 - Many died.

1828 - A chief named Crowfoot was killed by the Crow.

1829 - Seven Crow are destroyed on the American border.

1830 - Very severe Winter.  Many go on the war path and are frozen to death.

1831 - A white man named Kipp establishes a post at the confluence of the Bear and Missouri Rivers.

1832 - An American winters at a place called the Strait (narrows) on the Milk River.

1833 - Very remarkable meteor shower.  The Kainai were camped near High River.

1834 - The Kainai help themselves to the horses of the Crows.

1835 - Two Blackfoot Piegan jump in the Bears River and are killed.

1836 - Epidemic of constipation amongst the children.

1837 - Small pox.

1838 - People recover from the disease.

1839 - Chief White Calf  killed by a white man at Fort Benton (Montana).

1840 - An old Kainai woman named Potsiw was killed, the killer remaining unknown.

1841 - Another woman, Hind Face, was killed by a Kainai.

1842 - Going Crow killed by a party of Crow.

1843 - A large number of lodges camp near the Porcupine Hills at a place called "Woman Pound".

1844 - A white man named Running Wolf fires a cannon at Fort Benton (Montana) and kills thirteen Blackfoot.

1845 - The Kainai separate into two parties for the purpose of trading, one going to Fort Benton (Montana) and the other going to Rocky Mountain House (Alberta).

1846 - Kainai Going With The Sun hides himself from the Crees and escapes.

1847 - The Crows come into the camp to steal horses.

1848 - Not cared for child killed by the Crees on the Teton River.

1849 - Manistokos (author), with a large band of Kainai, moves camp during the Winter to go to Fort Benton (Montana).

1850 - Fifty Crees are killed by the Milk River on this side of the boundary.

1851 - Eagle White Calf killed by a Cree near the Sweet Grass Hills.

1852 - Plenty of snow and the weather becoming mild.  A freshet occurred in the Wintertime.  The Kainai fought the Snake Indians.

1853 - Manistokos (author) winters this side of the boundary line.

1854 - The Crees coming after the Kainai make a shelter of branches in the newly abandoned camp.

1855 - The Kainai are starving and eat their dogs.

1856 - The Indians of different tribes receive a large distribution of goods from the American soldiers whose commanding officer Short Man (Stephens) is very much renowned amongst them.  [Refers to the treaty of October 17th, 1855, enacted with Isaac I. Stevens at the mouth of the Judith River with "the Blackfoot Nation".]

1857 - The ground is very slippery on account of glassy frost.

1858 - Prairie Man kills a Pend'oreille.

1859 - The Kainai make a large sweat bath.

1860 - Two Kainai, Hind Bull and Fish Child, kill each other.

1861 - The Crees steal horses from the Pend'oreille near the Sweet Grass Hills.

1862 - Visit of Medicine Pheasant, great chief of the Crows.  (He was half Blackfoot Piegan and half Crow.)

1863 - Kainai Tartowa gets mad and fires through the camp.  He is killed by his two brothers.

1864 - Four lodges of Gros Ventres, whose chief was Orkotok (Stone), were destroyed by the Blackfoot Piegan on the Belly River.

1865 - Black smallpox.

1866 - The Kainai are kept waiting a long time for the trader.

1867 - A Kainai war party falls among the Crees, and they fight hand to hand.

1868 - The Kainai have plenty of furs and make a big trade.

1869 - Joining the Bear, being drunk, rushes through the camp and kills many.

1870 - Smallpox.

1871 - Great battle with the Crees on the Belly River near Coal Bank - 200 to 250 Crees are killed.

1872 - Some white men settle on High River.

1873 - They winter there again.

1874 - Calf Shirt is killed.

1875 - The Mounted Police are at Fort MacLeod.

1876 - Whiskey trading is stopped [by the Mounted Police.]

1877 - Plenty of buffaloes.  [No mention is made of the signing of Treaty No. 7.]

1878 - The Spring is very late.  The Kainai lose many of their horses.

1879 - Very mild winter.

1880 - The buffalo are no more.

1881 - All of the Blackfoot leave the territory of the United States and come to this side of the boundary.

1882 - Visit of the Marquis of Lorne, son-in-law of the Queen [and Governor General of Canada, who made this tour across Canada in 1881.]

1883 - The Crees steal the horses of [Chief] Red Crow.

1884 - The railway is built across the country. [The C.P.R.]

1885 - Epidemic of Erysipelas.

1886 - Many cattle died.

1887 - The chiefs of the Blackfoot are taken [by train] to visit Ottawa [the capital of Canada.]

1888 - Chief Crowfoot visits the Gros Ventres and is knocked down by a drunken Gros Ventre.

1889 - Epidemic of Influenza.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Stomi'ksaosa'k (Buffalo Bull Back Fat)

    Stomi'ksaosa'k (Bull Back Fat) as painted by George Catlin in 1832

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Stomi'ksaosa'k appears again in history as an attendee to the Treaty No 7 negotiations with the Canadian government and is mentioned in the book The True Spirit and Original Intent of Treaty Seven.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Buffalo Pony

                        "Buffalo Chase, A Single Death",
          as painted by George Catlin, Upper Missouri, 1832

“In the chase of the buffalo, or other animal, the Indian generally ‘strips’ himself and his horse, by throwing off his shield and quiver, and every part of his dress, which might be an encumbrance to him in running; grasping his bow in his left hand, with five or six arrows drawn from his quiver, and ready for instant use . . . These horses are so trained, that the Indian has little use for the rein, which hangs on the neck, whilst the horse approaches the animal on the right side, giving his rider the chance to throw his arrow to the left; which he does at the instant when the horse is passing---bringing him opposite to the heart, which receives the deadly weapon ‘to the feather’ . . . I have fairly represented the mode of approaching, at the instant the arrow is to be thrown; and the striking disparity between the size of a huge bull of 2000 pounds weight, and the Indian horse, which, it will be borne in mind, is but a pony.” (George Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 1, no. 31, 1841; reprint 1973)

Smithsonian American Art Museum