Assiniboin Indians

Assiniboin Indians. From a Chippewa term signifying “one who cooks by the use of stones.”

  • E-tans-ke-pa-se-qua, Hidatsa name, from a word signifying “long arrows” (Long, 1823).
  • Guerriers de pierre, French name.
  • Hohe, Dakota name, signifying “rebels.”
  • Sioux of the Rocks, English name.
  • Stonies, or Stone Indians, English name translated from the Indian.
  • Tlu’tlama’eka, Kutenai name, signifying “cutthroats,” the usual term for Dakota derived from the sign language.
  • Weepers, given by Henry (1809).

Assiniboin Connections. The Assiniboin belonged to the Siouan linguistic family, and were a branch of the Dakota (see South Dakota), having sprung traditionally from the Yanktonai whose dialect they spoke.

Assiniboin Location. The Assiniboin were most prominently associated historically with the valleys of the Saskatchewan and Assiniboin Rivers, Canada. In the United States they occupied the territory north of the Milk and Missouri Rivers as far east as the White Earth. (See also North Dakota)

Assiniboin Subdivisions

The latest list is that given by Professor Lowie (1939). He states that, anciently, there were three principal tribal divisions, viz:

  • Ho-‘ke (Like-Big-Fish)
  • Tu-waa’hudaa (Looking-like-Ghosts)
  • Sitcoa’-ski (Tricksters, lit. “Wrinkled-Ankles”).

Lowie obtained the names of the following smaller bands:

  • Tcanxta’daa, Uaska’ha (Roamers),
  • Wazi-‘a wintca’cta, (Northern People),
  • Wato-‘paxna-on wan or Wato’paxnatun,
  • Tcan’xe wintca’cta (People of the Woods),
  • Tani°’ta’bin (Buffalo-Hip),
  • Hu’deca-‘bine (Red-Butt),
  • Waci-‘azI hya-bin (Fat-Smokers),
  • Witci-‘abin,
  • In’yanton’wanbin (Rock People),
  • Wato-‘pabin (Paddlers),
  • Cuñtce-‘bi (Canum Mentulae),
  • Cahi-‘a iye’ska-bin (Speakers of Cree (Half-Crees) ),
  • Xe’natonwan (Mountain People),
  • Xe-‘bina (Mountain People),
  • Icna’umbisa, (Those-who-stayalone), and
  • Ini’na u’mbi.

Hayden (1862) mentions a band called Min’-i-shinak’-a-to, or Lake People, which does not seem to be identifiable with any of the above. This last may be the band called by Henry (1809) Those-who-have water-for-themselves-only.

The following bands cited by Henry are wholly unidentifiable:

  • Red River
  • Rabbit
  • Eagle Hills
  • Saskatchewan
  • Foot
  • Swampy Ground Assiniboin.

Assiniboin History

According to tradition, this tribe separated from the Wazikute band of Yanktonai. The separation evidently took place before contact with the Whites, but there is evidence that when Europeans first heard of the tribe they were south of their later habitat, probably in the vicinity of the Lake of the Woods and Lake Nipigon. Thence they moved northwest toward Lake Winnipeg and later to the banks of the Assiniboin and Saskatchewan Rivers. In the mean-time they had allied themselves with the Cree and had become enemies of their own southern relatives with whom they were afterward almost constantly at war. This northward movement and alliance with the Cree was due in large measure to the establishment of British posts on Hudson Bay and the desire of the Assiniboin Indians to have access to them and thus supply themselves with firearms and other European articles. The Assiniboin in the United States were gathered under the Fort Belknap and Fort Peck agencies; those in Canada under the Battleford, Edmonton, and Assiniboin agencies, at Moose Mountain, and on Stoney Reservation.

Assiniboin Population. Mooney (1928) estimated that there were 10,000 Assiniboin in 1780. In 1829 Porter gave 8,000, and Drake (in Church, 1825) thought that there were 10,000 before the smallpox epidemic of 1836, when 4,000 died. The United States Indian Office Report of 1843 gave 7,000; in 1890 they numbered 3,008; and in 1904, 1,234 in the United States, and 1,371 in Canada, a total of 2,605. The census of 1910 gave 1,235 in the United States, and the United States Indian Office Report for 1923 gave 1,400, while there was an approximately equal number in Canada. The United States Census of 1930 gave 1,581. In 1937, 2,232 were returned in the United States.

Connections in which the Assiniboin have become noted. The Assiniboin attained prominence during the dealings of explorers and traders with the Indians along the upper Missouri. As Assiniboin or Assiniboine, the name has been adopted for an important affluent of the Red River of the North in Manitoba and Saskatchewan Provinces. Mount Assiniboin is in the Rocky Mountains near the boundary between British Columbia and Alberta, about 20 miles south of Banff.

Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office. 1953.

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