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The Native People of Canada
The Peoples of the Plains
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     In the Interior Plains, there was a large group of North American Natives including the Plains (Cree and Ojibwa), Blackfoot, Sarcee, Assinibon and more. The buffalo (bison) affected their social organization and daily lives in many ways.
 

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The Interior Plains and the Native groups to it.

     The People of the Plains depended mainly on bison for food, shelter, cups, spoons, robes and strong cords that could be used for bow strings, bindings of spears and arrows, or for stitching tipis. Bison herds had tens of thousands of buffalo, who were herded by the Plains people into a funnel-like area where they would soon be killed. Either the placid buffalo were led off the edge of a cliff (a jump) and the hunters would slaughter the barely surviving ones at the bottom, or they would funnel the buffalo into a pen where hunters would kill the bison (a pound). During the "funneling process", the children, the women, and the elderly shouted and waved along the sides of the funnel to keep the buffalo on track. Meanwhile, the men are usually hiding (behind blinds most of the time). waiting for the approaching buffalo herd. Many people can be and are crushed from the thousands of buffalo, but that is the risk they know they are taking.

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The buffalo being herded through a "funnel" into a pen.

     Pemmican, made of dried ground bison meat, dried berries, and lard provided the Indians with other essential nutrients while "on the road" as fruit was not always readily available. It was then wrapped in bison hide to keep fresh. Other than bison and pemmican, deer also provided a source of food for the people of the Plains.

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Pemmican ingredients

     The Indians wore clothes different than we do today - tunics, skirts, leggings, moccasins, and breechcloths. Instead of being made out of bison hide like most other items made by the Plains people, the clothing was made from deer skin (usually stripped except for the winter when the fur helps keep the people warm).

     The tipi was both their type of housing, and a common marquee of the people of the Plains. As you can see in the picture below, four poles (thin tree trunks) were leaned together and tied at the top to create an almost "pyrimid" shape. Then a cut bison hide was wrapped around it and stitched, leaving a hole in the top for smoke to escape from. There was also a "door" (flap over hole near bottom of tipi) to allow people to go in and out.

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     The Sun Dance, is more of a religious ceremony or festival, rather than a dance by itself like the name suggests. Also known as the "thirsting dance", the Plains people show how much pain they can take, and how much bravery they have. The women would dance for as long as the festival lasted (even up to four days) without stopping for rest, drink or food. The men have to put tied skewers through there chests and put the other end of the rope on the top of a tall pole. These young men would lean back until the skewers ripped out of their skin -  proving that they are brave and can stand high amounts of pain.

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Sun Dance ceremony

copyright 2004 Jessica Kalynn