Atsina Indians

Atsina Indians. Probably from Blackfoot At-se’-na, supposed to mean “gut people.” Also called:

  • Acapatos, by Duflot de Mofras (1844).
  • A-re-tear-o-pan-ga, Hidatsa name.
  • Bahwetego-weninnewug, Chippewa name, signifying “fall people.”
  • Bot-k’in’ago, signifying “belly men.”
  • Fall Indians, common early name.
  • Gros Ventres des Plaines, derived from an incorrect interpretation of the tribal sign and the qualifying phrase “des Plaines” to distinguish them from the Hidatsa, the Gros Ventres de la Riviere.
  • Haaninin or Aa’ninena, own name, said to signify “white-clay people,” “lime-men,” or “chalk-men.”
  • His-tu-i’-ta-ni-o, Cheyenne name.
  • Hitfinena, Arapaho name, signifying “beggars” or “spongers.”
  • Minnetarees of the Plains, Minnetarees of the Prairies, so called to avoid confusion with the Hidatsa (q. v. under North Dakota).
  • Rapid Indians, from Harmon (1820).
  • Sa’pani, Shoshoni name, signifying “bellies.”
  • Sku’tani, Dakota name.

Atsina Connections. The Atsina were a part of the Arapaho, of which tribe they are sometimes reckoned a division, and both belong to the Algonquian linguistic family.

Atsina Location. On Milk River and adjacent parts of the Missouri, in what is now Montana, ranging northward to the Saskatchewan. (See also Canada.)

Atsina Subdivisions

Kroeber (1908 b) has recorded the following names of bands or clans, some of which may, however, be duplications:

Names of clans whose position in the camp circle is known, beginning at the south side of the opening at the east:

  • Frozen or Plumes, “Those-who-water-their-horses-once-a-day”
  • Tendons, “Those-who-do-not-give-away,” or “Buffalo-humps”
  • Opposite (or Middle) Assiniboin, “Ugly-ones or Tent-poles worn smooth [from travel]”
  • Bloods, “Fighting-alone”

Other clan names:

  • Berry-eaters
  • Breech-cloths
  • Coffee
  • Dusty-ones
  • Gray-ones or Ash-colored
  • Kanhutyi (the name of a chief)
  • Night-hawks
  • Poor-ones
  • Torn-trousers
  • Weasel-skin headdress

Atsina History. If the Arapaho once lived in the Red River country, the Atsina were probably with them. At least, the languages of both point to the region of the Algonquian tribes northeast of the Plains for their origin. At the same time Kroeber (1900) thinks that they must have been separated for at least 200 years. According to Hayden (1860), they were south of the Saskatchewan about 1800. In 1818 they joined the Arapaho and remained with them until 1823 when they returned to the location given above in the neighborhood of Milk River. For a long time they maintained an alliance with the Blackfeet but later joined the Crow against them and in the course of the ensuing war, in 1867, suffered a severe defeat. Later they were placed on Fort Belknap Reservation, Montana, with the Assiniboin.

Atsina Population. Mooney (1928) estimates that the Atsina numbered 3,000 in 1780. In 1904 there were 535. The census of 1910 reported 510, and the United States Office of Indian Affairs in 1923 reported 586; 631 were reported by the census of 1930, and 809 in 1937.

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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