Thursday, February 9, 2012

Chippewa Indians of Minnesota Described in 1856

1856 Description of the Minnesota Chippewa Indians

Their old Chippewa Chippewa Photos Here costume is still retained as a general thing. The blanket is still worn instead of coats. Sometimes the men wear leggins, but often go with their legs naked. A band is generally worn upon the head with some ornament upon it. A feather of the war eagle worn in the head-band of a brave, denotes that he has taken the scalp of an enemy or performed some rare feat of daring. A Chippewa Indian does not consider himself in full dress without his war hatchet or weapons. I meet many with long-stemmed pipes, which are also regarded as an ornamental part of dress. They appear pleased to have anything worn about them attract attention. The Chippewa are of good size, taller than the Winnebagoes, and of much lighter complexion than tribes living five hundred miles further south. Herein the philosopher on the cooking of men is confirmed. Their hair is black, long, and straight; and some are really good-looking. There are but few who still paint. Those in mourning paint their faces black. 

What I have seen of the Chippewa houses raises high hopes of their advancement in civilization. We can now begin to lay aside the word lodge and say house. Over a year ago, Mr. Herriman promised every one a good cooking stove who would build himself a comfortable house. This promise had a good effect, for several houses were built. But the want of windows and several other conveniences, which are proper fixtures, gives their dwellings a desolate appearance to one who looks to a higher standard of comfort. Of course I saw a few of the men at the store (for there is a store at the agency), spending their time, as too many white men do in country villages. Eight miles beyond the agency, on Gull Lake, is a mission. It has been under the charge of Rev. J. L. Breck, a gentleman of high culture, and whose enlightened and humane exertions in behalf of the Indians have received much commendation both from the agent and Gov. Gorman, the Superintendent. He has been at the mission four years. While he had the benefit of the school-fund, he had in his school, under his own roof, 35 pupils; since that was withheld, the number of pupils has been 22. Mr. Breck will soon remove to Leech Lake, and will be succeeded by a gentleman who comes well recommended from a theological institution in Wisconsin. I desired very much to go as far as the mission, but from Crow Wing and back it would have been thirty miles, and it was otherwise inconvenient on account of the rain. 

The Indians are beginning to farm a little. They begin with gardens. Their support is chiefly from the annuities paid by the United States, which are principally received in some sort of dry goods. The goods are furnished by contract, and the price paid for them is about enough, if all stories are true. They also derive some support from their fur hunts and by fishing. Buffaloes are still hunted successfully beyond the Red River of the North. They bring home the furs, and also the best parts of the meat. The meat is preserved by being partially cooked in buffalo fat, cut into small pieces, and sewed up very tight in the hide of the animal. It is called pemmican, and sells here for twenty-five cents a pound. It is broken to pieces like pork scraps, and the Indians regard it as a great luxury. More Photos on Algonquin Indians here