Primary Sources


"Band of Kaskaias"

"Band of Kaskais" in Account of an expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains: performed in the years 1819 and 1820. By order of the Hon. J.C. Calhoun, secretary of war, under the command of Maj. S.H. Long, of the U.S. Top. Engineers / compiled from the notes of Major Long, Mr. T. Say, and other gentlemen of the party, by Edwin James.

Skin Lodges>
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Band of Kaskaias—Indian encampment—Unfriendly behaviour [sic] of the Kaskaias—Some account of their persons and manners—Salt plains—Camancias.

On the 9th we breakfasted on the last of the horse-beef, which, having been killed on the 5th, and the weather being unusually warm, had suffered from long keeping. We ate it cheerfully, only regretting we had not the prospect of any thing as good for dinner. All the marksmen of the party were kept constantly out in search of game, but for several days had met with no success in hunting.

Our sufferings from want of provisions, and from the apprehension of still more distressing extremities, were now so considerable, that we gave little attention to any object except hunting. Unfortunately for us, the wind had been high during the morning, and had blown from west to east, nearly in the direction of our route, so that whatever animals might have been on the way, had received early intimation of our approach, and made their escape. We were glad to observe considerable numbers of prairie wolves, and carrion birds, as they afforded an almost certain indication of the proximity of bisons. The recent tracks of a heard of these animals had been discovered, from which we learned that they had crossed the river within a day or two, in a crowded and hurried manner, as if pursued by hunters. We pursued nearly the same course during the day, and halted for the night at a late hour, having travelled [sic] twenty-eight miles and being much exhausted with fatigue, hunger, and the heat of the day, the mercury at noon having stood at 96.


travelling [sic], and were apparently satisfied with our answers, though as afterwards appeared, they did not entirely credit what we had told them of the purposes of our journey.

To our inquiries concerning the river, they answered without hesitation, that it was Red river; that at the distance of ten days travelling [sic], in the manner of Indians with their lodges, (about one hundred miles) we should meet with the permanent village of the Pawnee Piquas; that a large band of Camancias were hunting on the river below, whom we should fall in with in two or three days. Having described to them the route we had pursued, and the great and frequented road on which we had travelled [sic] they said that when we were at the point where that road first crosses the river, we were three days ride from Santa Fe, which was situated behind a low and distant range of hills, that we remembered to have been seen from that place.

We hesitated a little to comply with the request of the chief, enforced as it was with some insolence, that we would return and encamp with this party: but as we wished to purchase horses and provision, and to make the best use of an opportunity to become acquainted with the savages, we at length consented. The ground they chose for their encampment was a beautiful open plain, having a river in front and a small creek on the left. We were somewhat surprised to witness the sudden manner in which this plain became covered with their tall conic lodges, raised by the squaws, in perfect silence and good order.

For our accommodation, a lodge was spread, enclosing as much space as possible in a semi-circular area, in such a manner, that the skin covering afforded a shade, which was all the shelter needed. In order to enlarge this tent as much as possible, the covering was raised so high upon the poles that its lower margin did not extend to the ground by a space of several feet. To remedy this the squaws brought bushes from a neighboring thicket, which they placed around the


base of the lodge, in such a manner as effectually to exclude the sunshine. We were sorry to find afterwards that this had been done not more from motives of hospitality, than to aid them in their design of pilfering from our baggage.

These skin lodges, are the only habitations of the wandering savages, during all seasons of the year. Those of the Kaskaias differ in no respect from those we have already described, as used by the Otoes and others of the Missouri Indians. The poles, which are six or eight to each lodge, are from twenty to thirty feet in length, and are dragged constantly about in all their movements, so that the trace of a party with lodges is easily distinguished from that of a war party. When they halt to encamp, the women immediately set up these poles, four of them being tied together by the smaller ends, the larger resting on the ground, are placed so far apart as to include as much space as the covering will surround. The remaining poles are added to strengthen the work and give it a circular form.

The covering is then made fast by one corner to the end of the last pole, which is to be raised, by which means it is spread upon the frame with little difficulty. The structure when completed is in the form of a sharp cone. At the summit is a small opening for window, chimney, &c., out of which the lodge poles project some distance, crossing each other at the point where the four shortest are tied together. The skin of the lodge, of which a drawing by Mr. Peale is annexed, is greatly inferior in point of comfort, particularly in winter season, to the spacious mud cabins of the settled Indians.

The poles, necessary for the construction of these moveable dwellings, are not to be found in any part of the country of the Kaskaias, but are purchased from the Indians of the Missouri, or others inhabiting countries more plentifully supplied with timber. We were informed by Bijeau, that five of those poles are, among the Bad-hearts, equal in value to a horse.



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Last updated June 7, 2005