The Assiniboine Indians



Thesis:  The Assiniboine Indian Tribe played a great  role in the shaping of north-eastern Montana as well as being a fundamental tool in the growth of the early fur industry.


1.      Introduction

2.      First original boundaries

a.      Minnesota

b.      South Dakota

3.      Settlers effect on boundaries

a.      Montana

                                                              i.      north of Yellowstone River

                                                            ii.      east of Milk River

b.      Alberta

                                                              i.      west of Calgary

                                                            ii.      south of Nanton

4.      Current Boundaries

a.      Montana

                                                              i.      north of Missouri River

                                                            ii.      east of Milk River

b.      Canada

                                                              i.      Southern Alberta

5.      Nicknames of the Assiniboine

a.      Within their own tribe

                                                              i.      Ass’ see’nee’poi’tuc - those who cook with stones

                                                            ii.      Nakota - the allies or the people

b.      Among other tribes

                                                              i.      Hohe-rebels - called by the Sioux

                                                            ii.      Stonies - called by the Canadians because Assiniboine cook with stones

6.      Families

a.      Children

                                                              i.      1-3 per family

                                                            ii.      each were born 5-7 years apart

b.      Men

                                                              i.      hunters

                                                            ii.      warriors

c.      Women

                                                              i.      made fur clothing and rugs

                                                            ii.      traditional female duties

7.      Chiefs

a.      Requirements

                                                              i.      good hunter

                                                            ii.      good warrior

1.      have 1 enemy scalp

b.      The next chief of the tribe

                                                              i.      not usually the son of the chief

                                                            ii.      usually a medicine man

8.      Communication

a.      Language

                                                              i.      Assiniboine language

                                                            ii.      Sioux dialect

b.      Taboo relationship among family members

                                                              i.      father-in-law and daughter-in-law

                                                            ii.      mother-in-law and son-in-law

9.      Hunting

a.      Buffalo

                                                              i.      main food source

b.      Hunting methods

                                                              i.      chased buffalo on horse over a cliff

                                                            ii.      shot other big animals with bow and arrow

c.      Hunted on other tribe’s territory

10. Ally tribes

a.      Monsoni

b.      Cree

c.      Chippewa

11. Enemy  tribes

a.      Sioux - once joined with Assiniboine

b.      Cheyenne

c.      Arikara

d.      Gros Ventres - now share reservation at Fort Peck

e.      Blackfeet

12. Early industries

a.      Fur trading

b.      Hide producing

13. Ceremonies

a.      Grass Dance

b.      Sun Dance

c.      Medicine Lodge Dance

d.      Tancowaci Dance

14. Conclusion



The Assiniboine Indian Tribe



            The culture of the Assiniboine Indian Tribe was and still is very unique.  Their culture was shaped by fur trading.  The Assiniboine Indians were one of the greatest influential tribes on the fur industry.  They also helped shape the beginning of Montana and southern Alberta.  The Fort Peck Reservation is shared by the Assiniboine, Gros Ventres, and the Sioux Indians.  It was shaped by the fighting among the tribe.  Fort Peck is a great location of history for the Assiniboine Indians.  The Assiniboine Indian tribe played a great role in the shaping of north eastern Montana as well as being a fundamental tool in the growth of the early fur industry.

             The first original boundaries of the Assiniboine Indian Tribe were very vast.  The tribe roamed around all of the land north of  the southern border of South Dakota, but south of the border of Canada and the United States.  The boundaries also ranged from west of the eastern border of Minnesota to the Milk River of Montana.  Bands of the tribe would move to areas where buffalo were plentiful.  When buffalo became scarce in their area, the band would move to another area where the herds of bison were plentiful.  These boundaries stayed for a couple hundred years until Europeans arrived in America.

            Europeans made a huge impact on the size of the Assiniboine Indian’s territory.  The greedy settlers pushed the tribe west because they wanted the fertile land for farming.  The defenseless tribe was pushed into north eastern Montana and southern Alberta.  The location of the tribe was north of the Yellowstone River and east of the Milk River.  In Alberta, the location of the bands were west of present day Calgary and south of present day Nanton.  These boundaries still gave the Assiniboine Indians a vast territory.  In these lands, there was still a lot of buffalo and other big food sources.  So the Assiniboine Indian Tribe was able to survive on their new territory.

            Today the territory of Assiniboine Indian Tribe is still somewhat large, but not as big as their original territory.  Their territory extends from southern Alberta to the Missouri River in Montana.  Their territory is within the boundaries of the Milk River and the eastern border of Montana.  The population of Assiniboine Indians in Canada is 3,000 and 2,200 in the United States.  The Fort Peck holds the second largest population of Assiniboine Indians.  It is also the home to the Gros Ventres and Sioux Indian Tribes.  The Native Americans own 926,000 acres out of the 2,093,318 acres on the reservation.  The Assiniboine Indian Tribe moved near the Fort Peck in the early 1800’s.  A large quantity of the tribe has lived there ever since.

            The Assiniboine Indian Tribe has many names besides the Assiniboine Indians.  A nickname they call themselves is the Assseeneepoituc.  This old word means “ Those who cook with stones”(Montana the Magazine of Western History; 40).  Another nickname they call themselves is the Nakota.  The word Nakota mean the allies or the people.

            The Assiniboine Indians had many nicknames from other tribes.  The Sioux Indian Tribe had an offensive nickname for the Assiniboine Indian Tribe.  The name was the Hohe-rebels.  They were called this because at one time the Sioux and Assiniboine Indians were united.  But the Assiniboine turned on the Sioux.  For this reason they are called the Hohe-rebels by the Sioux Indian Tribe.  Another name was the Stonies which was called by the Canadians.  They called them the Stonies because the early French Canadians witnessed the Assiniboine Indian Tribe cooking their stew with stones.

            The Assiniboine Indian families were a very strong unit.  “ They are tall, graceful in their movements.  They wear their pictured robes of buffalo hide to good effect” ( George Catlin;  22).  The children were usually born five to seven years apart.  Usually there were about one to three children in each family.  The men were hunters and warriors.  They were taught how to be a warrior when they were about ten years of age.  The women of the tribe did traditional female duties like making coats, pants, or rugs out of buffalo fur.  This was the life style of a typical Assiniboine Indian family.

            The chiefs of the Assiniboine Indian Tribe were very powerful.  They were worshipped like a god.  The chief of the tribe was always a strong male with leadership qualities.  The requirements to become a chief were not very strict, but they were dangerous.  One requirement to become a chief was to be an excellent hunter.  You had to be a great hunter because if the tribe was in dire need of food, you had to be able to provide a hearty meal for your starving tribe.  Another requirement to become chief was to be a great warrior.  You were said to be a great warrior if you had one enemy scalp.  This scalp primarily had to be from the Sioux Indian Tribe because the Sioux and the Assiniboine were arch rivals.  As you can see, being the chief of a Assiniboine Indian Tribe would be no easy task. 

            Usually the next chief of the tribe would meet these requirements.  Never though was the son of the chief going to be the next leader.  Often the next chief of the tribe was a medicine man.  They sometimes voted for medicine men because they were good men even though most of them did not meet the requirements for chief.

            Communication was an essential asset to the Assiniboine Indian Tribe because they were big fur traders and needed to know how to communicate with fur traders from other tribes and countries.  The Assiniboine Indians had their very own language.  They spoke their language with a Sioux dialect because they were united at one time.

            There were a few taboos between the family members of the Assiniboine Indian Tribe.  For example, a father-in-law is not allowed to speak to his daughter-in-law.  Another example would be a mother-in-law is not allowed to speak to her son-in-law. 

            Hunting was the only way of survival for the Assiniboine Indians.  If there was no hunting, they would of had to live on plants, which there was not much of in eastern Montana.  So if there was no hunting, the Assiniboine Indians would probably have not been living today.  They would have been totally wiped out. 

            The buffalo was the main food source for the Assiniboine Indians.  They absolutely worshipped it.  The hunting method to kill a buffalo was simple.  All the Indians had to accomplish was to stampede a herd of bison over a cliff.  These treacherous cliffs were called buffalo jumps.  Other big animal food sources were usually trapped in a forest and shot with a bow and arrow.  The Assiniboine Indian Tribe was found rarely hunting on their own territory.  They were found most often on another Indian tribe’s land.  The Assiniboine Indians did this because buffalo were becoming scarce on their own territory. 

            The Assiniboine Indian Tribe had many allies, but even more enemies.  The Assiniboine Indians were great friends with the nearby Monsoni Indian Tribe.  They have been doing barters since both of the tribes met.  Another great ally of the Assiniboine Indians were the Cree Indians.  The Cree Indians usually helped the Assiniboine defend their trading posts from raids from tribes like the Blackfeet or the Sioux Indians.  The Chippewa Indian Tribe was another great ally with the Assiniboine Indians.  They also did many tasks and barters with the Assiniboine Indian Tribe.

            The Assiniboine Indian Tribe had a bunch of enemies, and enemies they were.  Their most harmful enemy was probably the Sioux Indian Tribe.  They were probably the worst enemy because once the Sioux and Assiniboine were united as one large Indian nation.  But about one third of the Indians split from the group because they did not believe that they were getting their fair share of the buffalo meat.  These rebellious Indians were known as the Assiniboine.  Another powerful enemy was the Cheyenne Indian Tribe.  The Cheyenne and the Sioux Indian Tribes usually allied together, so they were probably the worst enemies.  A few other harsh enemies were the Arikara, Gros Ventres and Blackfeet Indians.  Of course the Blackfeet Indians were an enemy to the Assiniboine Indian Tribe because the Blackfeet Indians were pretty much enemies to every Indian tribe in Montana.  These days the Sioux, Gros Ventres, and the Assiniboine Indians share Fort Peck Reservation in northeastern Montana.  This is a great example of how times change.

            Fur trading and hide producing benefited and damaged the Assiniboine Indian Tribe greatly.  For example, the Assiniboine Indians benefited from fur trading because when they did barters, they received a surplus of supplies like guns and horses.  Horses were a great benefit because they made it a lot easier to hunt buffalo.  The tribe made many trades with the Hudson Bay Company, the American Fur Company, and the Northern Fur Company.  The Assiniboine Indians set up a bunch of trading posts with these companies.  Usually their trading posts last about forty years.

            The biggest problem with fur trading with Europeans was probably the spread of European disease.  In 1780, Smallpox struck the Assiniboine Indians.  Disease practically died out the Assiniboine.  Another problem with trading with the Europeans was they often would try to rip off the Indians.  The other big problem was the European traders would sneakily try and set up trading posts on the Assiniboine Indian territory.  This caused many skirmishes between the Europeans traders and the Assiniboine Indian traders.

            Ceremonies were a very big tradition in the Assiniboine culture.  One ceremony was called the Grass Dance.  This dance is supposed to make the grass grow so the buffalo would come.  Another traditional dance was the Tancowaci Dance.  This ceremony was the dance without robes.  Two other dances were named the Medicine Lodge Dance and the Sun Dance.  The Sun Dance is done once a year when it rains for a long period of time.  Ceremonies were very sacred to the Assiniboine Indian Tribe.

            In conclusion, the Assiniboine Indian Tribe was a great influence to northeastern Montana and the early fur trading industry.  The Assiniboine Indians proved to be a very strong Indian tribe.  They survived many European diseases and other harsh hardships.  They also proved they were great warriors because they fought and protected their territory against rival tribes.  After extensive research, I discovered that the Assiniboine Indian Tribe was a very interesting topic.  I have enjoyed and learned a lot from my studies.



Work Cited

Committee on Indian Affairs. “Historical Overview of Montana’s Indians.”  Tribal Nations of Montana.  Helena, Montana:  Montana Legislative Council, March 1995.

Fort Peck Community College.  “Tribal History.”  Fort Peck, Montana:  Fort Peck Community College, 1993-1995.

(No Author).  Fort Peck Reservation.  Fort Peck, Montana:  Fort Peck Agency

Long, James L.  The Assiniboines.  Norman, Oklahoma:  University of Oklahoma Press, 1961.

Mcloughlin, Denis.  Wild and Wooly.  Garden City, New York :  Doubleday and Company Inc., 1975

Medicine, Bea.  “ Assiniboin.”  Grolier Electronic Publishing Inc., 1993

(No Author).  Montana the Magazine of Western History.  Montana Historical Society, Winter 1976

Tribal Leaders Council.  “ The Early Days.”  Fort Peck, Montana: Tribal Leaders Council