George First Rider
December 1st, 1968
Interviewer: John C. Hellson
Interpreter: Dave Melting Tallow
Blackfoot Kainai Reserve, Alberta, Canada
Blog note: Contrary to the note at the beginning of the transcript, George First Rider, a Blackfoot Kainai born in 1904, was not "converted" to Christianity. He was also not uneducated. He was tolerant of Christian traditions, but at the same time, was unapologetically proud of his Blackfoot customs and beliefs. Although George did struggle with alcoholism, it should also be said that he had to deal with the residential school system that forced him to suppress his language, beliefs and customs. George somehow maintained his language. The many transcripts that he made with the ethnographer and ethnobotanist John C. Hellson in the 1960s and 70s are recorded in long form Kainai Blackfoot. The translation here by Dave Melting Tallow in places did not correctly translate the tense of some of George's statements. For this reason, I have made minor tense corrections and edits to improve the readability of the translation.
Excerpt from the transcript:
The Beaver Pipe was hung on a tripod on the west side [of the sweat lodge]. The Pipe would be put on top of the sweat lodge when the entrances were closed. When everyone was seated, dirt was spread out inside and then covered with water grass (aquatic plants).
Then the wife of the Beaver Bundle owner would pick up the Pipe and carry it around the sweat lodge in the direction that the Sun travels (clockwise) and then hand it in.
The Beaver Bundle owner, the man, he took it and offered a smoke to the one that sat at the back and the shaman said a prayer with it. He prayed to the former Beaver Bundle owners; then they lit the Pipe and they all smoked it. He blew a puff of smoke on the palm of his right hand and he touched himself with it on his left side. He blew a puff of smoke on his left hand and he touched himself with it on his right side. He blew a puff of smoke on his right hand and he did the same to his side. He blew a puff of smoke on his left hand and he did the same.
All the people that were going to have a sweat bath did the same, they touched themselves with the smoke . . . -- it's the Pipe that was smoked inside the sweat lodge -- he stuck the tamp stick into the Pipe bowl and he emptied it on the northwest side.
He turned the Pipe around in the direction that the sun goes and he emptied it again on the east side. He turned it around again and on the southeast side and on the west side. That is how he emptied the Pipe, then the Pipe was taken out and the stones were taken in.
Then stones were just rolled in [by the wife of the Beaver Bundle owner]. They call them striped rocks. Those were river rocks which had spots on them and were gray in color [granite river rocks]. It was said that [this type of rock] got very hot. That is what they call them, striped rocks. So the rocks were rolled inside.
A forked stick was weaved with bark into the shape of a shovel. They couldn't lift the stones with it because it would burn [so] they just pushed the rocks in with them and they shove them into the hole which was dug in a circle.
[The sticks] were called "the gnaw of the beavers through the ice."
The pail [for bringing in the water] was a real pail (cast iron pail). It contained the water that was poured on the hot stones.
The forked sticks were made of willow gathered at the river from sticks that were gnawed off by the beavers.
The one that sat at the back [the shaman] turned around to his right facing outside. It was afternoon at this time. He prayed to the Sun. "The way you are gladly seen in the morning when you are rising, may we gladly see this Pipe in the same way, this Pipe that is going to be wrapped up," and then they went on with the sweat bath.
Related Post on this Blog:
Peter Fidler's Journals - December 31th, 1792 - Oldman River, Livingstone Gap, Racehorse Creek and Naapi's Playground, Alberta