indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Native Sun News: Ration cards were part of reservation life

Filed Under: National
More on: native sun news, oglala sioux, south dakota
     

The following story was written and reported by Karin Eagle, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.


Ration cards were meant to replace the buffalo as the means to feeding families during early reservation days. The card shown here had been issued to an Oglala, Woman’s Dress. COURTESY/Smithsonian Institute

Ration Cards embarrassed early Native Americans
By Karin Eagle
Native Sun News Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Standing in line waiting for a small ration of food supplies to feed your family; this in place of the tradition of hunting for your food is one of the indignities served up to Indian people in the early reservation era.

Now, as a part of the American history displayed among the Smithsonian collections in Washington, a small heavy piece of paper no bigger than a business card, a reminder of that indignity, a ration card, is displayed.

Written on this card, issued to an Oglala named Woman’s Dress, is the hand written number nine probably indicates Woman’s Dress was allowed to draw rations of beef and, when available, beans, corn, flour, salt, and occasionally sugar, coffee, soap and tobacco for nine dependents each Saturday.

The flour and grains were often moldy, and the beef was a poor, less flavorful, substitute for the healthier buffalo meat the tribes were used to. For these foreign and sorry substitutions, Indian men no longer able to support themselves sometimes had to perform labor.

Of the some 136 million objects and specimens in the grand Smithsonian collections, most carry an implied positive energy, or a promise of better things to come, or sometimes just simple joy. But there are also, though fewer, things of a darker mien, artifacts revealing caliginous corners of American history, including one so unimposing in size and materials as to appear insignificant; you could slip it into a shirt pocket, forget it’s there and run it through to its destruction in the wash.

For the tribes who were used to hunting buffalo to eat, to clothe themselves, build their homes and honored the buffalo, the food ration lines were the antithesis of their culture and way of life. Gone were the opportunities for young men to capture their first kill, to be honored as a man who provides for his family. The young women no longer had fresh skins to clean and scrape and then decorate with their own unique designs, establishing their feminine artistry in the tribe.

These rations which were meant to satisfy the governments treaty obligation to the tribes is the result of an 1883 act of Congress that furthered the appropriation of Indian lands west of the Missouri by moving tribal peoples onto assigned reservations, where, proclaims the act, “they may live after the manner of white men.”

The reality was something else. The enforced reservation system meant native, nomadic tribes could live neither like white men—unless those whites were indigents—nor like the red men they had so recently been.

By the time Woman’s Dress was issued this particular ticket, the buffalo had been hunted to near extinction by white hunters. These hunters went for the pleasure of the kill and perhaps took only the tongue or hide, leaving the rest to rot. The buffalo went from a time when they were killed with gratitude and honor for its sacrifice and gifts to sustain life, where all parts of its body was used for practical and often spiritual purpose to the undignified killing that served no purpose.

It was not unheard of for a holder of a ration ticket to decorate their ticket, perhaps in an attempt to add culture and dignity to what the heavy piece of paper stood for. Reminiscent of the honor and spiritual meaning once given to the buffalo that once sustained life for the tribes, ration cards were often decorated with porcupine quills and sometimes red tape. Among many of the Plains tribes to paint something red is to bestow sacredness on it.

Some of the ration card holders made elaborately decorated cowhide leather pouches to carry and protect their cards.

The lower third of the ticket, once imprinted with the dates for collecting rations, shows each numeral punched out with a hole in the shape of a cross. The symbolism exists, whether intentional or not.

A genuine essence of humanity and generosity existed behind the rationing system as revealed by a remark in the 1850 Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs: “It is, in the end, cheaper to feed the whole flock for a year than to fight them for a week.”

Two years later, Gen. E. D. Townsend wrote in his California Diary of the Indians facing pressure from the 1849 gold rush: “If the tale of the poor wretches...could be impartially related, it would exhibit a picture of cruelty, injustice, and horror scarcely surpassed by that of the Peruvians in the time of Pizarro.”

The ration card from the late 1800s still stands for many as a symbol of the bowing of the head by tribal members forced into reservation living. To others it symbolizes the perseverance of the people who stand to this day as the greatest adaptors to their environment and plight. History reveals the story of both sides.

(Contact Karin Eagle at staffwriter@nsweekly.com)

Copyright permission Native Sun News


Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...

Latest Headlines:

Secretary Zinke removes protections for grizzlies over tribal objections
Court sets final deadline for remaining payments from Cobell settlement
Mary Annette Pember: Indian Child Welfare Act strengthens our families
Peter d'Errico: Navajo authors offer fresh perspective on sovereignty
Native woman was jailed and forced to ride with assailant during trial
Ute Mountain Ute Tribe challenges new permit for uranium operation
Montana tribes get new member of Congress who pleaded to assault
Connecticut tribes welcome court decision favoring new casino law
Pueblo tribes dispute state's demand for $40M in gaming revenues
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe remains confident of approval of casino
Nooksack Tribe accepting slot tickets while casino remains closed
Key House committee under fire for moving slowly on tribal agenda
Tribes go it alone on climate change as Trump team shifts priorities
Bryan Newland: President Trump's budget threatens tribal treaties
Steve Russell: The GI Bill changed the United States for the better
Harold Monteau: Democrats lack proactive agenda, proactive strategy
St. Regis Mohawk Tribe orders 20 non-citizens to leave reservation
Wilton Rancheria accused of working too closely with city on casino
Witness list for hearing on bill to reform the Indian Health Service
Arne Vainio: What does the princess want to be when she grows up?
Doug George-Kanentiio: 'Spirit Game' brings Iroquois lacrosse to life
Cronkite News: Navajo activist vows fight against racist NFL mascot
Eric Hannel: Addressing the health care crisis among Native Americans
Bill for tribal regalia at graduation ceremonies advances in California
Ramapough Lunaape Nation wins reversal of ruling on prayer camp
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe still waits on casino ruling from Trump team
Another former leader of Winnebago Tribe pleads in gaming theft case
Supreme Court ruling poses hurdle for opponents of racist NFL mascot
Change the Mascot campaign responds to negative Supreme Court ruling
Secretary Zinke set for another hearing on Interior Department budget
Mark Trahant: Republicans write health reform bill behind closed doors
Jeff Grubbe: Agua Caliente Band focuses on protecting our groundwater
Steven Newcomb: Asserting our traditions in the era of Donald Trump
Shasta Dazen: 'Family Spirit' program incorporates our tribal traditions
Secretary Zinke shuffles top Indian Affairs officials at Interior Department
Choctaw Nation travels to Ireland to dedicate 'Kindred Spirits' sculpture
Nooksack Tribe closes doors to casino after being hit with federal order
Muscogee Nation asserts authority at allotment where casino was proposed
Mark Trahant: Dakota Access decision offers a chance to return to respect
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe hails 'victory' in Dakota Access Pipeline case
Nooksack Tribe told to close casino amid leadership and citizenship feud
Kristi Noem: Enough is enough - It's time to fix the Indian Health Service
Second hearing scheduled on bill to reform the Indian Health Service
Trump nominee for appeals court seen as favorable to tribal interests
Terese Mailhot: We don't tell Native women how brilliant they really are
Indian Country cheers as judge orders review of Dakota Access Pipeline
Jacqueline Keeler: Connecting the Dakota Access Pipeline to history
Cronkite News: Tribes win decision in water rights dispute in Arizona
Secretary Zinke rejects complaints about consultation and Bears Ears
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs approves two bills at meeting
Embattled Indian Health Service hospital losing top executive again
Connecticut tribes heap praise on senior Trump administration official
Gabe Galanda: Tribal 'membership' rules strip away at sovereignty
Swinomish Tribe still pursuing lawsuit against oil trains on reservation
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians unveil biking and hiking trail system
>>> more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.