Ewers, John Canfield. The horse in Blackfoot Indian culture, with comparative material from other western tribes

Table of Contents

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The Horse In Blackfoot Indian Culture With Comparative Material From Other Western Tribes By John C. Ewers

The Acquisition Of The Horse

The Northward Spread Of Horses

Sources Of The Horses Of The Plains Indians

Dating The Northward Spread Of Horses Among The Indians

The Process Of Diffusion

Acquisition Of Horses By The Blackfoot

Wealth In Horses

Blackfoot Tribal Wealth In Horses

Wealth In Horses Of Other Plains And Plateau Tribes

Horse Wealth Of Individual Blackfoot Indians

Horse Wealth Of Individuals In Other Tribes

Care Of Horses

The Indian Pony

Fate Of The Indian Pony

Means Of Identification

Daily Care Of Horses




Winter Care


Supplemental Winter Horse Food

Night Care

Winter Losses Of Horses

May Storms

Spring Condition

Common Horse Remedies

Treatment Of Saddle Sores

Treatment Of Sore Feet

Treatment Of Colic And Distemper

Precautions Against Chills

A General Tonic

Treatment Of Broken Bones

Treatment Of Unknown Illnesses

Losses Of Horses

Losses From Disease

Losses From Animal Predators

Losses From Stock-poisoning Plants

Care Of Old Horses

Horse Breeding

Important Role Of Horse Breeding

Selection Of Studs

Maintenance Of Color Lines

Magical Breeding Formulas

Care Of Gravid Mares And Colts


Training Of Horses And Riders

Capture Of Wild Horses

Breaking Horses For Riding

Pond Or Stream Breaking

Boggy Ground Breaking

Surcingle Breaking

Pad-saddle Breaking

Breaking Horses For The Travois

Teaching Children To Ride

Riding And Guiding


Horse Commands


Use Of Whip

Use Of Short Stirrups

Ability As Horsemen

Riding Gear

Making Of Rawhide Rope



Comparative Data On Bridles


The Dragging Line


Saddle Making

The Pad Saddle

Distribution Of The Pad Saddle

Pad-saddle Variants Among The Blackfoot

The “wood Saddle”

Distribution Of The “wood Saddle”

The “prairie Chicken Snare Saddle”

Distribution Of The “prairie Chicken Snare Saddle”


Use Of White Men’s Saddles And Accessories

Saddle Blankets

Saddle Housings

Martingales And Cruppers


Horse Decoration

Head Ornaments

Body Paint

Mane And Tail Ornaments

Decoration Of Women’s Horses

The Travois And Transport Gear

The Horse Travois

Horse Travois Construction

Travois Accessories

Travois Adjustment And Repair

Care Of The Travois In Camp

Survival Of The Horse Travois

The Lodgepole Hitch

Distribution Of The Travois And Methods Of Pole Transport

Principal Items Of Luggage Carried By Pack Animals

The Parfleche

Antiquity Of The Parfleche

The Double-bag

Principal Items Of Luggage Transported By Riding Horses

The Double Saddlebag

Rectangular Rawhide Saddlebags

Cylindrical Rawhide Saddlebags

The Horse In Camp Movements

The Blackfoot Country

The Blackfoot Yearly Round

The Winter Camp

Spring Hunting And Collecting Season

Summer Hunting And Sun Dance Season

Fall Hunting And Collecting Season

Movement Of A Blackfoot Band Camp

Preparation For Movement

Packing Up

Packing The Lodge

Packing Household Furniture

Packing Food


Household Utensils

Society And Medicine Paraphernalia



Weights And Loads

Horse Needs For The Average Family

Moving Camp On The Part Of A Wealthy Family

Moving Camp On The Part Of A Poor Family

Comparative Data On The Poor In Horses

Formations On The March

The Noon Stop For Lunch

Crossing Streams En Route

Stops En Route Because Of Rain

Arrival At Night Camp

Making Camp Without Wood Or Water

Distances Traveled Per Day

The Horse In Hunting

Buffalo In The Blackfoot Country

Blackfoot Uses Of The Buffalo

Buffalo Hunting Seasons

The Buffalo Horse

Methods Of Buffalo Hunting On Horseback

The Buffalo Chase On Horseback



The Approach

The Run

Number Of Buffalo Killed In A Single Chase

Boys’ Hunting Of Buffalo Calves

Hunting Accidents

Eutchering And Packing

Loaning Of Buffalo Horses For Hunting

Feeding The Poor

Regulation Of The Summer Buffalo Hunt

Early Winter Buffalo Drives

Winter Hunting On Horseback

The Winter Hunting Horse

Winter Hunting On Foot

Food Rationing

Meat Consumption Of The Blackfoot

Improvident Food Habits Of Other Plains Tribes

Hunting Of Other Mammals On Horseback

The Horse In War

Brief History Of Blackfoot Intertribal Warfare

The Horse As A Cause Of Intertribal Conflicts

The Horse Raid

Tribal Preferences Of Blackfoot Horse Raiders

Organization Of The Horse Raid


War Medicines



The Pack


The Outward Journey

The Attack

The Homeward Journey

Distribution Of Captured Horses

Return To Camp

Accustoming Captured Horses To One’s Herd

Women On Horse-raiding Expeditions

Boys On Horse-raiding Expeditions

Frequency Of Horse Raids

White Quiver, The Most Successful Blackfoot Horse Raider

The Raid For Scalps

The Riding Big Dance

The War Horse

Equipment: Clothing

Tactics In Mounted Warfare

Use Of Fire Weapons

Use Of Shock Weapons

The Shield

Early Use Of Protective Armor

Use Of The Horse As A Shield

Postraid Ceremonies

Defensive Warfare

Defense Of The Camp

The Individual Lodge Watch

The Horse Corral

The Ambush

Ownership Of Horses Recovered From The Enemy

Defensive Warfare In The Field

Influence Of Warfare On Blackfoot Population

War Honors

Pictographic Representation Of War Honors

The Blackfoot Warrior Ideal

The Horse In Trade

Intertribal Trade

Intratribal Trade

The Horse As A Standard Of Value

Judgment Of Horses

Examples Of Horse Values In Intratribal Trade

Horse Value In Buffalo Robes

Horse Value In Weapons

Horse Values In Articles Of Men’s Clothing

Horse Values In Articles Of Women’s Clothing

Horse-pipe Relative Values

Horse Payments In Transfer Of Ceremonial Paraphernalia

Blackfoot Uses Of Horse Materials

The Horse As Food

Use Of Horsehide

Use Of Horsehair

Horse-chestnut Perfume

Horse-tooth Necklaces

Use Of Horse Hoofs

Use Of Horse Manure

The Horse In Recreation

The Horse In Children’s Play

Horse Racing

Race Horses

Intratribal And Intertribal Horse Races

Intersociety Races

Horse Races Between Blackfoot Tribes

Other Intertribal Horse Races In Which Blackfoot Participated

Later History Of Blackfoot Horse Racing

Horse Racing Among Other Plains And Plateau Tribes

Horse Symbolism In Intersociety Hoop And Pole Games

Sham Battles

Horses As Stakes In Gambling

The Horse As A Factor In Social Relations

Social Status

The Rich

The Middle Class

The Poor

Changes In Social Status

Political Organization

The Band

Tribal Chieftaincy



The Horse In Punishment Of Civil And Criminal Offenses

The Horse In Society Organization And Ceremonies

Personal Names

Horses As Gifts

The Horse In Religion

The Horse Medicine Cult

Origin And History Of The Piegan Horse Medicine Cult

Transfer Of Horse Medicine Power

The Horse Dance: Ceremony Of The Horse Medicine Men

Uses Of Horse Medicine

Taboos Recognized By Horse Medicine Men

Identification Of Horse Medicines

Comparative Data On Horse-medicine Identification

Relationship Of Horse Medicine To Other Blackfoot Medicines

The South Piegan Black Horse Society

Evidences Of The Horse Medicine Cult Among Other Tribes

Sacrifice Of Horses After The Death Of Their Owners

Comparative Data On Horses As Grave Escorts

Disposal Of Horses After The Death Of Owner

Secondary Associations Of The Horse In Blackfoot Religion

In Bundle Transfers

In The Sun Dance Ceremony

Beliefs Concerning The Supernatural Powers Of Horses

Beliefs Regarding The Origin Of Horses

Thunder’s Gift Of Horses

Water Spirit’s Gift Of Horses

How Morning Star Made The First Horse

The Influence Of The Horse On Blackfoot Culture

The Pre-horse Blackfoot Indians

Horse Acquisition As A Stimulus To Cultural Innovation

Influence On Hunting

Influence On Camp Movements And Possessions

Influence On Warfare

Influence On Trade

Influence On Recreation

Influence On Social Life

Influence On Religion

The Horse And The Fur Trade


The Plains Indian Horse Complex

Elements In The Horse Complex Of The Plains Indians

Origins Of The Plains Indian Horse Complex

The Horse Complex In Plains Indian History

The Natural And Cultural Setting

1. Period Of Diffusion And Integration

2. Period Of Crystallization And Maximum Utilization

3. Period Of Disintegration

Old Theories And New Interpretations

Publication Information

Paragraph Subjects (OCM)

Publication Information The main body of the Publication Information page contains all the metadata that HRAF holds for that document.

Author: Author's name as listed in Library of Congress records

Title: The horse in Blackfoot Indian culture, with comparative material from other western tribes

Published By: Original publisher Washington: U. S. Govt. Print. Off.. 1955. xv, 374 p. ill., maps

By line: Author's name as appearing in the actual publication John Canfield Ewers

HRAF Publication Information: New Haven, Conn.: Human Relations Area Files, 1999. Computer File

Culture: Culture name from the Outline of World Cultures (OWC) with the alphanumberic OWC identifier in parenthesis. Blackfoot (NF06)

Subjects: Document-level OCM identifiers given by the anthropology subject indexers at HRAF Domesticated animals (231); Animal transport (492); Acculturation and culture contact (177); Warfare (726); Instigation of war (721); Applied animal science (232); Comparative evidence (171); Travel (484); Representative art (532); Congregations (794);

Abstract: Brief abstract written by HRAF anthropologists who have done the subject indexing for the document The influence of the horse on Plains Indian culture is the subject of this monograph. John Ewers, who was the curator of the Museum of the Plains Indian, did archival research and interviewed elderly informants to gather this data on the horse in pre-reservation Blackfoot culture. A great deal of information is presented including chapters on care, breeding, gear, the use of the horse in such activities as camp movements, hunting, war, trade, recreation, and religion. Comparative data from other Plains cultures is presented. Ewers concludes that '… the influence of the horse permeated and modified to a greater or lesser degree every major aspect of Plains Indian life' (p. 339).

Document Number: HRAF's in-house numbering system derived from the processing order of documents 9

Document ID: HRAF's unique document identifier. The first part is the OWC identifier and the second part is the document number in three digits. nf06-009

Document Type: May include journal articles, essays, collections of essays, monographs or chapters/parts of monographs. Monograph

Language: Language that the document is written in English

Note: Comparative material and information on the horse in Plains culture in general were indexed for Comparative Evidence (171)

Field Date: The date the researcher conducted the fieldwork or archival research that produced the document 1941-1951

Evaluation: In this alphanumeric code, the first part designates the type of person writing the document, e.g. Ethnographer, Missionary, Archaeologist, Folklorist, Linguist, Indigene, and so on. The second part is a ranking done by HRAF anthropologists based on the strength of the source material on a scale of 1 to 5, as follows: 1 - poor; 2 - fair; 3 - good, useful data, but not uniformly excellent; 4 - excellent secondary data; 5 - excellent primary data Ethnologist, Government Official-4,5

Analyst: The HRAF anthropologist who subject indexed the document and prepared other materials for the eHRAF culture/tradition collection. Marlene Martin ; 1982

Coverage Date: The date or dates that the information in the document pertains to (often not the same as the field date). ca. 1750-1952

Coverage Place: Location of the research culture or tradition (often a smaller unit such as a band, community, or archaeological site) northwestern Montana, United States; southern Alberta, Canada

LCSH: Library of Congress Subject Headings Siksika Indians


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