Before the advent of the iron ax, for example, Indians used to cut down trees with a combination of fire and stone hatchets and before iron wire came into being, they made fishhooks from the leg or wine bone of a large bird. The author explains these and many other processes in detail. If you wish, you can make your own canoe, tan buckskin, or Indian design. You will also learn the true behavior of Indians, such as: how they were not taciturn (as pictured in numerous erroneous movies) but laughed and joked much of the time; how many Indians were not nomadic hunters but settlers who got most of their food from farming; and how, in general, Indians were not savages but native Americans who had a culture of their own with an educational system and the land, a religious belief in the spirits of the other world, and a veneration of the values of courage, integrity, honor, and generosity.
For anyone with little or no knowledge of the American Indian, this book will be a revelation and a challenge to our modern way of life. For readers who have some acquaintance with Indian history or anthropology, this book offers a practical guide to over 70 of the crafts, methods, and activities of these first and best American naturalists. When it comes to getting closer to the land in body or in spirit, there is no better teacher than the American Indian.
Read an Excerpt
The Indian How Book
By Arthur C. Parker
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1954 Arthur C. Parker
All rights reserved.
THE ART OF MAKING THINGS
How is a questioning and answering word. It asks and answers "by what process, means or magic,"—all this and more.
Think if you will of all the strange things in Indian lore you have read and heard about, and then say if you have not often exclaimed, "How I wish I knew how!"
Thousands of people have asked me the how of Indian things. Thousands of them have written letters asking the how of Indian ceremonies, dress, customs, dances, songs, warfare, hunting and home life. As many have asked how canoes, snowshoes, tipis, traps, bark lodges, and war bonnets were made. Nearly every one who inquired about the how of Indian things wanted to know how arrowheads were made, how the Indians happened to get to America and how to talk the Indian language.
Sometimes queer questions were asked, such as, "How could the Indians live before there were grocery stores in America? How could Indians live before they had salt? How was it that all were not exterminated when Indians all kill each other? How does it come that Indians no longer grow feathers in their hair? How did they happen to lose them?"
The native red man, as a product of the soil, worked out his own way of doing things. They were things that he needed and which fitted his way of life. Now that we, too, are beginning to love the forest and the streams, the mountains and the crystal lakes of the hills, we are learning how to camp, how to find food in the forest and how to find healing leaves and herbs. The way of the red man is becoming our way, because we are going back to nature and trying to live in its sweet embrace, just as the red man did. This is one of the great reasons why we should know how the first American lived and how he made himself master of his surroundings.
The how of many Indian things is simple and quite reasonable. The how of making fire without matches is a thing that has attracted much attention among youthful groups, especially Boy Scouts, yet matches came into general use so rapidly that few Indians even in remote places know how to make fire as their fathers did a century ago. There are other Indian things that are not quite so simple. To tell how they organized their tribal hunts, how they venerated the sun, how they organized their tribes and how they held their secret society sessions, requires much explanation.
In this book of how will be found many subjects, and most of them are those about which there has been much inquiry. To tell the how of everything, however, would require a very large volume. The reader who masters the knowledge of all the hows that are here given will become acquainted with many of the little-known things of Indian lore. This knowledge will be sufficient as an introduction. The Why, Who, When, Where and What of Indian life will be described and answered at some other time. In a practical age we wish to know how to do things; the reason why other people did them is sought when there is more time for reflection.
With the red people of America the word "How" or haoh, as they pronounce it, means, "All right," it means, "Let's go !" and it means, "Come on, let's do it."
The pathway to the world of doers in every age starts with the question "How?" Very well, let us say with the Indians, "Haoh, let us learn how!"CHAPTER 2
HOW INDIANS MADE FIRE
Fire is a mysterious thing. To native people it was still more mysterious, and some of them thought that it was the breath of an unseen spirit. Still, they did not bother much about the spirit side of fire; they had practical uses for it.
In ancient America fire was produced in two ways, and it was gained from nature in two ways, with a possible third way. So far as we know the oldest Indian method was to twirl a stick in a small cavity. Another method was to strike two stones together. It must have seemed an odd thing to find that fire came out of wood and also stone. If fire came out of wood why did it not burn it up in the first place, and if it came out of stone why did not stone burn? These questions puzzled the red men of the forest and plains, but they had no means of answering them.
The art of producing fire by means of friction is very old and was known throughout the world. Most of the Indian tribes used the rod drill, twirled by hand or by means of a bow, the string of which was twisted once around the rod. The upper end of the rod fitted into a socket, and the lower end was placed upon the "hearth." This was a piece of wood or small board of proper material, having a slight indentation near the edge and a groove or slot that led to the tow or tinder that was placed beneath it.
In working the apparatus the thong of the bow was twisted once about the rod, and the bow held across the rod at right angles. The working end of the spindle was now placed in the spot where drilling was to be done and the socket held by one hand at the top. Thus the spindle had two points of support and this was necessary when the bow began its work of whirling the rod or spindle. The bow was grasped firmly in the right hand and shoved ahead to its limit, and then it was quickly drawn back, the process being repeated again and again in rapid succession, care being taken to keep the bow at perfect right angles to the rod. If the bow was slanted the bowstring "walked" up or down the rod as the slant directed. This made the spindle wobble and retarded the friction. Sometimes it threw the spindle out of the socket.
The purpose of this rapid motion was twofold; first to create heat by friction, and second to pulverize small particles of the wood, receiving it in the hearth, at the point where it met the spindle. When, by rapid twirling, the heat reached the point of ignition, the super-heated wood powder began to glow. Fire had then been created, but to be effective a flame had to be produced. When the brown powder in the drilling pit, through the hot wisps of smoke that came forth, gave evidence of fire, this dust either fell through the side slot or was dumped out upon fine and dry tinder, rapidly enclosed in it by grasping the tinder in the two hands, and then blown upon with the breath.
If the glowing spark were large enough and live enough the oxygen and air blown into the tinder brought forth a living flame ; the tinder burst into flame. This done, it was thrown down and quickly covered with finely split or shaved kindling. The fire was now ready for its work.
It is one thing to describe the method, but another to get the right wood for spindle and hearth. Not every wood will serve the purpose, and some of the best woods are not found everywhere.
In general it may be stated that the woods used in the fire apparatus must be dry and not too hard. Hard wood will grow hot with friction but its fibers do not pulverize in sufficient quantities to provide substance for the necessary spark. Neither must the wood have resin in it, though resinous wood makes excellent kindling. Generally speaking, the spindle and the hearth ought to be of similar woods and of about equal hardness. This prevents the spindle from drilling into a softer base, or the harder base from resisting the softer spindle.
My own greatest success has been with cedar, the material being taken from old fence rails. Wood from a well-seasoned cedar log or stump will do. The weathered roots of the cotton wood were used in the desert region, the Apache used the stems of the yucca, and California tribes the roots of the willow.
The selection of tinder is most important, for the spark is of no use if a flame cannot be started. Wet or damp tinder is a most discouraging thing to have. Finely shredded red cedar bark is recommended by those who know most about fire-making. This is stripped from the trees and rubbed in the hands until the dust falls out, leaving the long fuzzy shreds. This material must now be thoroughly dried or even baked. A good handful of it, once ignited, will start a fire. Some varieties of grass are used, and the Plains tribe found it of high value.
Fire made by striking stones together was one of the arts of the northern Indians of the caribou country. The Eskimo, Micmac and other north and eastern Algonkian people knew the secret. This art is one of the oldest in Europe, and the two fire stones are found in the most ancient graves. Possibly the secret came over with bold explorers from the lands of the Northmen at a very early time.
Two things are essential for this two-stone process: a good type of flint or chert and a lump or crystal of high grade iron pyrites. If the two are used a good spark results. It is simply necessary to strike the flint against the pyrites to cause sparks to fly off. A few deft strokes brings a shower upon the tinder placed below and ignition soon takes place. It is essential to fan or blow upon this to produce a flame. A little experimentation brings skill in this method.
All races found natural fires and perhaps made use of them. One fire came from heaven above, the other from the earth beneath. A third form appeared on the surface of the earth.
Fire from the clouds came in the form of lightning which ignited trees or dead wood; fire from the earth beneath came from volcanoes. Brands and torches could be thrust in such fires and the flames borne away. The third possible source was from spontaneous combustion. Damp oily bark when piled up starts to oxodize rapidly, causing heat. This heat increases until the dry portion of the heap takes fire and begins to smolder. A little wind fans it into a flame.
Indians had a way of carrying smoldering punk for a great distance. The Iroquois used sheets of dried fungus rolled into tight cylinders and placed within a hollow corncob. There are traditions that fire was carried in tubes of stone. Certain types of stone tubes found in Indian graves contain a black charred matter resembling charred fungus.
Fire was a wonderful thing and the old Iroquois taught their young how to use it for many purposes. "Remember," said their wise men, "fire will burn a warrior's cabin as well as cook his meat."CHAPTER 3
HOW INDIANS MADE THEIR TIPIS
The feathered war bonnet and the conical tipi are perhaps the two things most closely associated with the living Indian. The tipi sheltered the Indian and his family but the war bonnet only sheltered his head on state occasions. Just as the feathered head-dress is the most spectacular and striking of all head-gear, so for its great practical utility the tipi is the most noteworthy of simple shelters.
Many persons spell the word teepee, pronouncing the ees as sounded in the alphabet, but scientists spell the word tipi, because the i is pronounced like the i in machine, and gives the same value without so many letters. Besides this the Sioux word for dwelling is ti, and with ITLπITL added (meaning used for), we have a word meaning "it is used for a dwelling."
There are several words that may be used for an Indian dwelling, among them, wigwam, wikiup, and hogan. The tipi, however, is distinctive. It is the conical tent of the Plains people, and is held up by a circular framework of poles brought together at the top in such a manner that the poles cross and hold each other up, or are braced against the four primary poles that are first set up and lashed together.
Originally the covering was of buffalo skins cut out and sewed together in such a manner as to form a semicircle with an extention along the diameter line, as shown in Fig. 2. Frequently tipis required from twelve to twenty buffalo hides, these being soft-tanned and without hair, except in special cases.
The first requirement for a tipi is a set of poles. From sixteen to twenty-four are necessary. The material is straight, slender cedar, pine or spruce. The saplings are selected with great care, cut on the mountain side or foothills, and then hauled to the camp, where they are peeled, freed from projecting branch stubs and then shaved down to the wood beneath the last growth ring. The poles are then trimmed to a length of about twenty-five feet (for a tall tipi) and set up in form to season out. A set of good tipi poles is worth considerable and is frequently sold for a good price. The poles do not grow on the prairies and have to be carried a great distance, whence their value.
Other wooden articles required are wooden pins, from eight to sixteen in number, for "pinning up" the front of the tipi and holding it secure. These are pushed through the holes provided for them. For holding the bottom of the tipi upon the ground forty or fifty pegs are required. These pass through bottom loops.
In erecting the tipi, to follow the Blackfoot plan, four poles are first erected, the tops being tied as shown in Fig. 1. These poles are placed by twos in a parallel position and then crossed at the top, or within a foot or so, at nearly right angles. A stout thong is then looped around the intersection and tied securely. The long end of this thong is about fifteen feet in length, and is allowed to hang down. When in place, the four poles rest on the points of a quadrangle, forming a square. The remaining poles are now placed in position, their tops resting in the forks of the four. The proper manner is to place them in equal numbers on the north and south sides of the tipi, and then the poles on the west side are put in place with the exception of the central pole of the back. The west side is always the back of the tipi.
The final touch in erecting the frame is to place the poles on the east side. The front of a tipi is always to the east. The east poles are called the door poles. Their tops rest in the forward intersection of the primary poles, and they lean back to the west.
Only three poles now remain to be placed. All is ready for the unrolling of the tipi cover. When opened and stretched out flat, the back, middle pole is laid upon the center of the cover in such a way that the bottom of the pole projects only a couple of inches below the bottom of the cover. The place where the pole touches the tip of the cover is now tied to it by means of the string or strings attached to the little flap in the middle of the smoke hole. (See Fig. 1.) The pole is now raised up, lifting with it the tipi cover. The pole is put in position and the cover pulled around the conical framework of poles. This last, or erecting pole, rests in the crotch formed by the two door poles, thus forming a sort of secondary tripod.
Once on, the tipi cover is drawn together at the door and pinned above and below the opening. The pinning all the way up now begins, and to do this the older women of the plains stood upon the bars of a travois frame, using it like a ladder.
The first work has now been done, but the tipi looks loose and irregular. The poles and cover must now be adjusted, and this is done by entering and crawling around to each pole and giving it a proper place to give the tipi a good circle and tighten the cover. When finished, the structure has a conical form, though the back may be a trifle steeper than the front.
The work is still unfinished, for the ears of the tipi, that is, its smoke flaps, hang down in a dejected manner. The two light, slender poles are now placed in the reversed pockets or loops at the corners of the smoke flaps and carried around in such a way that they shelter the hole from the wind. If there is no wind they are pulled around to the rear, displaying the ears "wide open."
All that now remains is to stake down the bottom to secure it to the ground. This is done by driving the pegs through the loops or holes. Of course the oval door is still wide open and will remain so until the shield-shaped cover is hung in place.
The tipi door is from a foot to eighteen inches from the ground and is sometimes as high as four feet, though as a rule it is much smaller, being frequently less than three feet. The door cover is tied at the top by two thongs that act as hinges. It can be tied inside. In warm weather the cover is twisted to one side and thrown against the tipi cover, as in Fig. 1. Covers are made by covering hoops or frames of flexible withes or small poles with skin or cloth and stiffening top, middle and bottom with a rod. At one time the door covers were made of rawhide painted in geometrical patterns. Many tipis, however, still have designs painted upon these shield-like covers.
When entering a tipi one raises the curtain and steps through the opening with one foot, stoops over and thrusts head and shoulders through, draws in the other foot, and, now being inside, drops the curtain to its normal position. The covers were often provided with rattles made of gourds or the hoofs of animals.
To thicken the walls of the tipi, and obscure the poles, a half-way lining was often provided. This was made from softly tanned skins hung from the poles and forming a lower lining that reached to the ground.
Excerpted from The Indian How Book by Arthur C. Parker. Copyright © 1954 Arthur C. Parker. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of ContentsI: THE HOW OF INDIAN THINGS
I. THE ART OF MAKING THINGS
II. HOW INDIANS MADE FIRE
III. HOW INDIANS MADE THEIR TIPIS
IV. HOW INDIANS LIVED IN THEIR TIPIS
V. HOW INDIANS MADE BARK HOUSES
VI. HOW INDIANS MADE CANOES
VII. HOW INDIANS MADE WAR BONNETS
VIII. HOW INDIANS MADE THEIR TRAPS
IX. HOW INDIANS MADE THEIR FISHHOOKS
X. HOW INDIANS MADE THEIR ARROWHEADS
XI. HOW INDIANS CUT DOWN TREES
XII. HOW INDIANS MADE WAMPUM
XIII. HOW INDIANS USED WAMPUM
XIV. HOW INDIANS MADE MASKS
XV. HOW INDIANS MADE COLORS
XVI. HOW INDIANS TANNED BUCKSKIN
XVII. HOW INDIANS MADE RAWHIDE
XVIII. HOW INDIANS MADE BASKETS
XIX. HOW INDIANS MADE POTTERY
XX. HOW INDIANS DREW THEIR DESIGNS
II. THE INDIAN HIMSELF
XXI. HOW INDIANS COURTED
XXII. HOW INDIANS MARRIED
XXIII. HOW INDIANS TREATED WOMEN
XXIV. HOW INDIAN BOYS AND GIRLS WENT TO SCHOOL
XXV. HOW INDIANS WALKED
XXVI. HOW INDIANS BATHED
XXVII. HOW INDIANS SMELLED
XXVIII. HOW INDIANS CUT THEIR HAIR
XXIX. HOW INDIANS PAINTED THEIR FACES
XXX. HOW INDIANS GAVE THEIR GREETINGS
XXXI. HOW INDIANS TALKED
XXXII. HOW INDIANS CRACKED THEIR JOKES
XXXIII. HOW INDIANS DANCED
XXXIV. HOW INDIANS SANG
XXXV. HOW INDIANS PLAYED GAMES
XXXVI. HOW BAD WERE THE INDIANS?
III: DRESS AND ORNAMENT
XXXVII. HOW INDIANS DRESSED
XXXVIII. HOW INDIANS MADE THEIR HATS
XXXIX. HOW INDIANS MADE THEIR MOCCASINS
XL. HOW INDIANS EMBROIDERED
IV: THE FOOD QUEST
XLI. HOW INDIANS FOUND FOOD IN FOREST
XLII. HOW INDIANS COOKED THEIR FOOD
XLIII. HOW INDIANS ATE THEIR FOOD
XLIV. HOW INDIANS MADE THEIR GARDENS
XLV. HOW INDIANS PREPARED FOR THE HUNT
XLVI. HOW INDIANS HUNTED THE BUFFALO
XLVII. HOW INDIANS HUNTED GAME
XLVIII. HOW INDIANS GATHERED MEDICINE
V: CEREMONIES AND MYSTERIES
XLIX. HOW INDIANS TOOK THEIR OATHS
L. HOW INDIANS HELD SECRET LODGES
LI. HOW INDIANS DREAMED OF THEIR TOTEMS
LII. HOW INDIANS MADE MAGIC
LIII. HOW INDIAN WITCHES WORKED THEIR SPELLS
LIV. HOW INDIANS OVERCAME WITCHES
LV. HOW INDIANS TALKED TO ANIMALS
LVI. HOW INDIANS VENERATED THE EAGLE
LVII. HOW INDIANS TAMED ANIMALS
LVIII. HOW INDIANS USED THE CALUMET
VI: STRANGE DANCES
LIX. HOW THE SUN DANCE WAS PERFORMED
LX. HOW THE GHOST DANCE WAS DONE
LXI. HOW INDIANS DANCED WITH SNAKES
VII: WAR AND STRATEGY
LXII. HOW INDIAN TRAILS WERE MADE
LXIII. HOW INDIANS SENT SIGNALS
LXIV. HOW INDIANS TRACKED AND ELUDED THEIR ENEMIES
LXV. HOW INDIANS SWAM UNDER WATER
LXVI. HOW INDIANS SWAM RAN THE GAUNTLET
LXVII. HOW INDIANS WENT TO WAR
LXVIII. HOW INDIANS SCALPED THEIR FOES
LXIX. HOW INDIANS CONDUCTED ADOPTIONS
LXX. HOW INDIANS USED EAGLE FEATHERS
LXXI. HOW THE WAR BONNET WAS MADE AN HONOR SIGN
VIII: FACTS ABOUT INDIANS
LXXII. HOW INDIANS CAME TO AMERICA
LXXIII. HOW INDIANS MADE THE UNITED STATES
LXXIV. HOW CIVILIZED ARE THE INDIANS TO-DAY?