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Assiniboine Indian Fact Sheet (Nakota)

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Assiniboine Indian tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our main Assiniboine pages for in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Assiniboine pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.

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   Assiniboine Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Assiniboine"? What does it mean?
Assiniboine is pronounced "ah-SIN-uh-boin." It comes from the Ojibwe name for the tribe, Asiniibwaan, which means "stone Sioux." The Ojibwe probably called them this because they used heated stones to boil most of their food. In Canada, the Assiniboines are also known as the Stoney Indians, for the same reason. In their own language, the Assiniboines call themselves Nakota or Nakoda, meaning "the allies."

Are the Assiniboines Sioux people?
The Assiniboines are relatives of the Lakota and Dakota tribes, and they speak a similar language. However, they have always been politically distinct from the Sioux. In fact, they were often at war with each other.

Where do the Assiniboines live?
The Assiniboine Indians are original people of Montana, North Dakota, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. Most Assiniboine people are still living there today. Here is a map showing the locations of the Assiniboines and other Great Plains tribes.

How is the Assiniboine Indian nation organized?
In the United States, the Assiniboine Indians live on two reservations, Fort Belknap and Fort Peck. A reeservation is land that belongs to an Indian tribe and is under their control. The Assiniboines at Fork Belknap share a reservation with the Gros Ventre, and the Assiniboines at Fort Peck share a reservation with the with the Sioux. In Canada, there are eight separate bands of Stoney Assiniboines, each with its own reservation (known as a reserve in Canada.) Each of these tribes has its own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country. However, the Assiniboines are also US or Canadian citizens and must obey the laws of those countries too.

In this past, each Assiniboine band was led by a chief elected by a tribal council. Some Assiniboine bands in Canada still operate this way today. In the United States, because the Assiniboines share reservations with the Gros Ventre and Sioux tribes, they are ruled by councils which are elected by all the citizens and include members from both tribes.

What language do the Assiniboine Indians speak?
The Assiniboine people speak English today. Some Assiniboines, mostly elders, also speak their native Nakoda language. The Nakoda language spoken in Canada is significantly different than the one spoken in the United States. Most linguists consider them two distinct languages, Stoney (Canadian) and Assiniboine (American.) Like Spanish and Italian, they share many similarities and speakers of one language can often guess what speakers of the other language are saying. If you'd like to know an easy Assiniboine word, "hau" (pronounced similar to the English word "how") is a friendly greeting. You can read an Assiniboine picture glossary here.

What was Assiniboine culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here's a link to the homepage of the Aaniiih Nakoda Community College of Fort Belknap. On their site you can find information about the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine people in the past and today.

How do Assiniboine Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Assiniboine children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play in their daily lives, just like colonial children. But they did have dolls, toys, and games to play. Here is a picture of a hoop and pole game played by Plains Indian kids. Older boys also liked to play lacrosse. An Assiniboine mother traditionally carried a young child in a cradleboard on her back--a custom which many American parents have adopted now.

What were men and women's roles in the Assiniboine tribe?
Assiniboine women were in charge of the home. Besides cooking and cleaning, an Assiniboine woman built her family's house and dragged the heavy posts with her whenever the tribe moved. Houses belonged to the women in the Asiniboine tribe. Men were hunters and warriors, responsible for feeding and defending their families. Only men became Assiniboine chiefs, but both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine.

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What were Assiniboine homes like in the past?
The Assiniboine people lived in large buffalo-hide tents called tipis (or teepees). Tipis were carefully designed to set up and break down quickly. An entire Assiniboine village could be packed up and ready to move within an hour. Originally tipis were only about 12 feet high, but after the Assiniboines acquired horses, they began building them twice that size. Here is a website of tipi pictures. Today, Native Americans only put up a tepee for fun or to connect with their heritage. Most Assiniboine families live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Assiniboine clothing like? Did the Assiniboines wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Assiniboine women wore long dresses made of mountain goat skin or deerskin. Assiniboine men wore breechcloths with leggings and Plains or Plateau-style shirts. Like most Native Americans, the Assiniboines wore moccasins on their feet. Here is a website with pictures of Plains Indian moccasins. In cold weather, they also wore long buffalo-hide robes. An Assiniboine lady's dress or warrior's shirt was fringed and often decorated with porcupine quills, beadwork, painting, and elk's teeth. Later, Assiniboine people adapted European costume such as cloth dresses and colorful blanket robes. Here is a site about the symbolism of Plains Indian war shirts, and some photos and links about Indian clothing in general.

Assiniboine Indian leaders sometimes wore the long warbonnets that Plains Indians are famous for. Other Assiniboine men wore buffalo headdresses, which were buffalo fur caps with horns attached to the side and a tail trailing behind. Traditionally, Assiniboine people only cut their hair when they were in mourning. Usually they wore their hair long and loose, though warriors sometimes wore their hair in braids or coiled on top of their heads. Here is a website with pictures of these Native American hair styles. The Assiniboines also painted their faces for special occasions. They used different patterns for war paint, religious ceremonies, and festive decoration. Assiniboine men also wore tribal tattoos on their chests and arms, while the women tattooed spirit lines on their faces.

Today, some Assiniboine people still have moccasins or a buckskin dress, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths... and they only wear traditional regalia on special occasions like a wedding or a dance.

What was Assiniboine transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
No--the Assiniboine Indians weren't coastal people, and when they traveled by river, they usually built a bowl-shaped raft called a bull boat out of a wooden frame covered with and buffalo hide. Over land, the Assiniboins used dogs pulling travois (a kind of drag sled) to help them carry their belongings. Here is an article with pictures of dog travois. Once Europeans introduced horses to North America, the Assiniboines became known as expert riders and traveled greater distances. Horse riding is still popular in the Assiniboine nation today, but like other Americans, Assiniboine people also use modern-day vehicles like cars now.

What was Assiniboine food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Assiniboines were big game hunters. Assiniboine men worked as a group to hunt buffalo and elk herds. (Women would go along on these group hunts too, to carve and pack the meat.) Assiniboine hunters also shot smaller game such as deer, bighorn sheep, and rabbits, and sometimes went fishing in the river. Besides meat, Assiniboine people ate fruits, nuts, and corn. They got the corn by trading with farming tribes. Here is a website with more information about Indian food.

What were Assiniboine weapons and tools like in the past?
Assiniboine hunters used bows and arrows. In war, Assiniboine men fired their bows or fought with war clubs and buffalo-hide shields. Here is a website with Native American weapon pictures and information.

What other Native Americans did the Assiniboine tribe interact with?
The Assiniboines traded regularly with other tribes of the Great Plains. They particularly liked to trade buffalo hides and meat to tribes like the Hidatsa in exchange for corn. These tribes usually communicated using the Plains Sign Language.

The Assiniboines also fought wars with other tribes. Plains Indian tribes treated war differently than European countries did. They didn't fight over territory but instead to prove their courage, and so Plains Indian war parties rarely fought to the death or destroyed each other's villages. Instead, their war customs included counting coup (touching an opponent in battle without harming him), stealing an enemy's weapon or horse, or forcing the other tribe's warriors to retreat. Some tribes the Assiniboines frequently fought with included the Crow, Blackfeet, and Sioux Indians.

What are Assiniboine arts and crafts like?
Assiniboine artists are famous for their quillwork, beadwork, and wood carving. Here is a museum website with photographs of a quilled and beaded tobacco bag by an Assiniboine-Sioux artist.

What is Assiniboine music like?
The two most important Assiniboine instruments are drums and flutes. Assiniboine drums were usually large and several men would play them together at tribal festivals and ceremonies. Flutes were carved from wood are were often used to play love songs. Here is a video of tribal drummers performing at the Alexis Nakodas pow wow in Canada.

What kinds of stories do the Assiniboines tell?
There are lots of traditional Assiniboine legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Assiniboine Indian culture. Here is one story about the adventures of the Assiniboine hero Icmá.

What about Assiniboine religion?
Spirituality and religion were important parts of Assiniboine life, and some people continue to practice traditional beliefs today. It is respectful to avoid imitating religious rituals for school projects since some Assiniboine people care about them deeply. You can read and learn about them, however. If you are interested, here is an online book about the sweat lodge ceremony, which was important to the Nakotas as well as other Sioux tribes, or another site about Native American spirituality in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
Drumbeat, Heartbeat is an excellent picture book about powwows by an Assiniboine author. Land of Nakoda: The Story of the Assiniboine Indians is a good collection of Assiniboine legends and oral history, or for younger readers How The Summer Season Came is a nice collection of Assiniboine Indian stories. If you like poetry, Nakoda Sky People is a beautiful collection of poems by an Assiniboine author. You can also browse through our reading list of recommended Native American literature in general. Disclaimer: we are an Amazon affiliate and our website earns a commission if you buy a book through one of these links. Most of them can also be found in a public library, though!

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2020.

Thanks for your interest in the Assiniboine Indian people and their language!

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Learn More About The Assiniboines

Assiniboine Indian Tribe
An overview of the Assiniboine people, their language and history.

Assiniboin Language Resources
Assiniboine language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Assiniboine Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Assiniboine tribe past and present.

Assiniboine Indian Words
Assiniboine Indian vocabulary lists.

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