Plains Indians’ Hair

During his many years as a soldier in the Western United States of the mid 1800s, Richard Irving Dodge learned much about the Plains Indians. In his book, “Our Wild Indians” he described men’s hairstyles and taking of scalps.

Ute man, Ta-Wits-Na, 1890, wears braids wrapped in beaver fur

Ute man, Ta-Wits-Na, 1890, wears braids wrapped in beaver fur

          According to Dodge, the Cheyenne and Arapaho men parted their hair in the middle and wore two long tails of hair on each side of their heads.
          Kiowa men parted their hair in the middle. On the left side a long tail of hair dangled. They cut the hair on the right side just below the ear and wore it loose.
          The Comanche combed their hair back from the forehead and wove it into one long braid.
          The Sioux, Crow and Winnebago men parted their hair in the middle and tied it in one unbraided tail on each side of the head. A two inch circle of hair just over the crown of the head was separated out and braided.
          Indians took scalps from other Indians killed or seriously wounded in battle. They believed taking the scalp of dead enemy killed his soul. The scalp was also proof of valor, of success in battle.
          Among the Plains Indians, a scalp taken in single combat became the personal property of that warrior. But scalps were shared when taken in a battle involving a number of warriors. Some of these scalps were given to the chief, even if he did not participate in the battle. Some were hung in the Medicine Lodge, touched only by the Medicine Chief. Others were danced over by the war party and afterward returned to the warriors who took them.

From: Our Wild Indians: Thirty-three Years of Personal Experience Among the Red Men of the Great West by Richard Irving Dodge, A.D. Worthington and Company, Hartford, CT, 1882, page 515-517.
Photo: Courtesy Library of Congress

Living by Indian Time

plains indian woman and child         The Plains Indians measured distance and travel time by “sleeps” (one night = one sleep).
          They marked the passage of time by moons and winters. The first night of a new moon was the start of a new period of time (or a month). 
          A year began with the first snowfall.
          Each year was identified by a significant event: the death of a certain chief, a sickness that affected many people, a great battle with an enemy, particularly abundant or scarce food, lack of snow or particularly heavy snow.
          A year with no significant events might be identified by something as simple as the location of winter camp that year.
          An Indian marked his birth by the event that defined that year. He counted his age by the number of winters he had lived.

From: Our Wild Indians: Thirty-three Years of Personal Experience Among the Red Men of the Great West by Richard Irving Dodge, A.D. Worthington and Company, Hartford, CT, 1882, page 396.

More Moons and Seasons

moon2A year, for Plains Indians and many other Native American peoples, began with the first snow in the autumn. They measured time by moons and the seasons when certain events of nature took place. Here are more examples:

Zuni (New Mexico in the Southwest)

Jan    When limbs of trees are broken by snow
Feb    No snow in trails
Mar   Little sand storm
Apr    Great sand storm
May   No name
Jun    Turning moon
Jul     When limbs of trees are broken by fruit
Sep    When corn is harvested
Oct     Big wind moon
Dec    When Sun has traveled home to rest

Omaha (Central Plains)

Jan    When snow drifts into tipis
Feb    When geese come home
Mar   Little frog moon
Jun    When the buffalo bulls hunt the cows
Jul     When the buffalo bellow
Sep    When the deer paw the earth

Sioux (Great Plains, Dakotas, Nebraska)

Jan    Wolves run together
Feb    Dark red calves
Mar   Sore eye moon
Apr    Red grass appearing
May   Moon when the ponies shed
Jun    Strawberry moon
Jul     Red blooming lilies
Aug   Cherries turn black
Sep    Calves grow hair
Oct    Changing season
Nov   Falling leaves
Dec    When dear shed their horns

For more moon names see previous post:

Photo courtesy NASA

Indian names for moons (from the Western Washington University Planetarium)

Published in: on October 6, 2014 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Moons and Seasons

MoonA year, for Plains Indians and many other Native American peoples, began with the first snow in the autumn. They measured time by moons and the seasons when certain events of nature took place. Here are some examples:

Jan      Time of flying ants
Apr     Moon of the big leaves
May    Season when the leaves are green
Jul       Moon of the horse/time of ripeness
Oct      Time when the corn is taken in

 Cheyenne (Great Plains)
Jan       Moon of the strong cold
Apr      When the geese lay eggs
May     When the horses get fat
Sep       Drying Grass Moon
Oct       Freeze begins on stream’s edge
Nov      Deer rutting moon
Dec      When the wolves run together


Jan       When snow blows like spirits in the wind
Feb      Frost sparking in the sun
Mar      Buffalo dropping their calves
Apr      Ice breaking in the river
May     When the ponies shed their shaggy hair
Jun      When the buffalo bellows
Jul        The hot weather begins
Aug      Geese shedding their feathers
Sep       Dying grass
Oct       Falling leaves
Nov     When the rivers start to freeze
Dec      Popping trees

Lakota (northern plains)

Jan        Hard moon
Feb       When the trees crack because of the cold
Mar      Moon of the sore eyes
Apr      When the wife had to crack bones for marrow
May      Moon of the green leaves
Jun       When the berries are good
Jul        When the chokecherries are black
Aug      Moon of the ripening
Set        Moon of the brown leaves
Oct       When the wind shakes off leaves
Nov     When winter begins
Dec      When the deer shed their antlers

Photo Courtesy NASA

Published in: on September 29, 2014 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Naming Years

Plains IndiansNative American people identified a year by a memorable event that took place. It might have been the year a certain chief died. A weather event, such as particularly deep snow or a flood, might be most remembered. A great battle with enemies could mark a year. Sometimes these events were recorded in painting on a piece of animal hide or even on the side of a teepee.

Years are sometimes identified in religious works by events. In the Bible, for instance, Isaiah 6:1 references an event in “the year when King Uziah died.”

A Native American might say, “I was born the year the grasshoppers came and ate everything that grew from the land.”

If you had to identify the past five years by a major event that took place in each year, how would you name those years?

School Schedule, Colorado 1890’s

Boys 1890Colorado’s College of the Sacred Heart, located West of Denver, was a boarding school that accepted younger boys than its name implies. Students lived by a strict schedule. Here is the “Order of Daily Exercises” in the 1890’s.

On Class days:
5:30 A.M. Rising, Toilet
6:00 Mass, Morning Prayers
6:30 Study
7:30 Breakfast and recreation
8:30 Mental Philosophy, Latin, English
10:00 Recess
10:15 Mathematics, Astronomy, Physics
11:15 Recess
11:30 Study. Optional Branches
12:00 Dinner, Recreation
1:30 P.M. Study
2:00 Moral Philosophy, Greek, English
3:00 Recess
3:15 Christian Doctrine, Evidences of Religion,
Chemistry, Elocution
3:45 Penmanship
4:15 Recreation, Lunch, Calistthenics
5:15 Study
6:30 Supper, Recess, Night Prayers
7:30 Study
8:30 Dormitory
9:00 Retire

On Sunday:
6:00 A.M. Rising, Toilet
6:30 Sodality Mass, Morning Prayers
7:30 Breakfast, Recreation
9:15 Mass, Catechetical Instruction, Recreation
10:45 Reading of Marks, Instruction on Politeness
11:45 Toilet
12:00 Dinner, Recreation
5:15 Study, etc.

Families could visit a student between 1:00 and 5:00 p.m. on Sundays.

See previous post for more information about the school.

Private School, Colorado 1890s

College Sacred heartResearching a new biography led me to the collection of pre-1900 records from the College of the Sacred Heart in Colorado. The school was chartered by the Colorado legislature in 1887. This school for boys was located on 50 acres in Clear Creek Valley west of Denver. It was operated by the Fathers of the Society of Jesus. The school later became part of what is now Regis University.
          In the mid 1890s, tuition and board at the College of the Sacred Heart cost $100 per five month term. There was a $10 fee per term for “Washing and Mending of Linens (clothing).”
          Here is the list of “necessary articles” a student was expected to bring on entering the school each term:
3 changes of underwear
6 shirts
3 night shirts
6 collars
4 cravats
12 handkerchiefs
3 suits of clothes
6 pair socks or stockings
3 pair shoes
1 pair overshoes
6 table napkins
8 towels
combs and other toilet articles
Note to parents: “The student’s number should be marked on each item.”

Penguin Lessons

UE Back to school time always reminds me of teachers. Let me introduce one of my favorites.
          The first college class of my freshman year, Honors English, met on the third floor of the massive old stone administration building. I climbed the well worn stairs with trepidation.
          The classroom door stood open. Coming from a sleek, modern high school, I was shocked when I peeked inside. The room was tiny! A battered desk faced rows of wooden seats with attached writing plates. The last row of chairs touched the back wall and the front row pressed against the professor’s desk.
          The one redeeming feature in the tiny room was the bank of tall windows that filled the far wall. The well-worn wood floor squeaked and groaned as I stepped inside. The chair creaked when I sat down. Other students arrived, but no one spoke.
          The professor arrived right on time. He was short and compact. He wore a shapeless black suit with a white shirt and plain tie. He walked with a Chaplinesque waddle. I stifled a laugh when I saw his bulbous-toed shoes that looked like small versions of circus clown footwear. His bald head was shiny as the capital dome. Wire-rimmed spectacles perched on his beak nose. He looked like a penguin!
          Placing his black briefcase on the battered desk, he continued across the room to raise the sash of the forward window. Fresh air filled the room. Returning to the desk, he carefully centered a small lectern and stepped into position squarely behind it. He surveyed the class. Slowly. Solemnly. Silently.
          “Hello,” he said at last. “My name is Archie.”
          Okay. I expected college to be different from high school. Maybe college professors liked their students to address them by first names.
          He continued. “I am a cockroach.”
          Whoa! I hit the weirdo jackpot in my first class. Frozen in place, I lowered my eyelids and shifted my eyes to the right. The student beside me sat wide-eyed and sphinx-like.
          Without a hint of a smirk, The Penguin proceeded to recite the full opening poem from Archie & Mehitabel, Don Marquis’ book about a little cockroach who lived in a newsroom and hopped from key to key writing poems and messages to the editor. One by one, we let go our held breath as we realized this professor did not really think he was a cockroach.
          Honors English turned out to be a writing class. Three mornings a week, with windows open, we watched the seasons change from our tiny aerie as the Penguin and a fictional insect trained our minds.
          He used no overhead slides, no video presentations, and no handouts. Thought-stimulating quotes from Archie the cockroach looped across the blackboard in the Penguin’s neat handwriting. We simply wrote. We wrote in class. We wrote in the library, in the shade of campus trees, on busses, and in dormitory rooms to complete our assignments.
          The Penguin critiqued our work with a red pen and read selected papers aloud to the class. We discussed structure, word use, and overall effect. While some of our papers came back looking bloodied, the Penguin never failed to write notes of encouragement on each paper. The exercise opened mental windows to the diversity of thoughts and writing styles among class members and the value of divergent ideas and expressions.
Most class members returned for a second term with the Penguin. A sign on our third floor doorway informed us that Honors English had been moved to the much touted—and very expensive—new academic and theater complex. It had kept the campus in mud and construction fences most of the fall.
          We trouped down the stairs together, tiptoed over slick sidewalks and found our room in the center of the new building. It was spacious, freshly painted, and brightly lighted. Polished metal desk-chairs faced a sleek professor’s desk with a formidable lectern positioned beside it.
          The Penguin arrived right on time. The floor did not make a sound as he entered. He set his black briefcase on the desk and surveyed the room from side to side.
          “Well, what do you think of this room?” he asked.
          In unison we replied, “It has no windows!”
          He nodded in agreement. “I’ll see what I can do about that.”
When we met again two days later, we were back in our cramped third floor room with open windows and creaky floor.
          The Penguin taught me that brand new bricks and mortar, fancy equipment, and the latest textbooks are not the essentials of an exceptional learning experience.
          The teacher makes the difference!

The Penguin, aka Dr. George Klinger, died in 2010 at age 81.

Password Plague

whispersSecret passwords were a fun part of childhood. It felt special to have a secret shared by only a few friends.
          On the popular 1960s TV game show Password a contestant had ten chances to guess a secret word. Before the game began, the password was shared with viewers at home. In those days of low tech communication, there was little chance of the home audience slipping the secret word to a contestant.
          Lately, passwords have become an aggravation.
          For many years my husband and I had one password for the few places where a password was required. If one of us became incapacitated, the other could easily access bank and investment accounts. But cyber hackers have changed all that. Passwords have become complex. Our one word no longer fits.
          Today’s advice from the security experts: Create a password containing eight or more characters in a random combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Use a different password for every account. Then, change your passwords often.
          The number of my passwords now exceeds my age (remember, I was watching the original Password on TV) and fills two columns of a page!
          Yes, I can store them in The Cloud. Of course, I’ll need a new telephone with Internet access so I can look them up–assuming I can remember the password.

An Old Book Still Speaks

Old Books

I came across the following verses, excerpted from a slender collection of poems, The View From Pike’s Peak by Bernard L. Rice, published in 1898.


Silent friends are the books we read;
Yet they speak with note sublime,
Oft in the august voice of praise,
Oft in the sweeter tones of rhyme…

They tell us strange legends and stories old
Of the far-off days of the long-ago,
And we’re sitting beside the tavern gray
While the village clock strikes long and slow.

And often they tell us a merrier tale
Of revels and glittering banquet halls,
Bright glimpses we catch of faces gay
And a mirthful laugh to the pleasure calls…

There’s a world of wealth in the printed page,
There are hoarded treasures, rich thoughts of gold,
There are diamonds of wisdom from every age,
The well-gathered wages of labor untold.

Published in: on August 18, 2014 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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