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
Kill The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement
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...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Pine Ridge actors make a splash with new film (5/29)
Ernestine Chasing Hawk: Let's change the image of 'Racist City' (5/29)
Miccosukee Tribe joins Native youth announcement at DOI in DC (5/29)
Kurt Luger: It's time to put an end to the Indian wars in America (5/29)
Summer Montileaux: Silence on sexual abuse in Indian Country (5/29)
John Guenther: Protecting Indian children and protecting ICWA (5/29)
Kerry Hawk Lessard: Urban Indians come together in Baltimore (5/29)
Lydia Millet: Selling off sacred Apache land to foreign interests (5/29)
Stuart Delery: Safeguarding voting rights of the first Americans (5/29)
Student from Navajo Nation competes in national spelling bee (5/29)
Navajo Nation to vote on fluency requirements for candidates (5/29)
Cherokee Nation signs hunting and fishing compact with state (5/29)
Onondaga Nation player earns top lacrosse award for 2nd year (5/29)
Wisconsin Supreme Court rules for Oneida Nation in permit case (5/29)
School district in Wisconsin bans clothing with 'Indian' mascots (5/29)
Republican former congressman Dennis Hastert hit with charges (5/29)
Court allows lawsuit against gaming officials of Pechanga Band (5/29)
Another lawsuit seeks to block Jamul Band from $360M casino (5/29)
Bill for one more tribal casino in Connecticut sent to governor (5/29)
Saginaw Chippewa Tribe shares another $2.7M in gaming funds (5/29)
Native Sun News: Ex-Rapid City police chief admits erasing tape (5/28)
Omaha Tribe surprised by appeal in reservation boundary case (5/28)
Mary Annette Pember: Historical trauma might affect Native DNA (5/28)
Erik Stegman: Native youth subjected to racism and stereotypes (5/28)
Charges announced in big drug trafficking ring in Indian Country (5/28)
Osage Nation expects to see offers from land buy-back program (5/28)
Voters of Red Cliff Band show support for some uses of marijuana (5/28)
Maine tribes assert sovereignty and sever relationship with state (5/28)
Navajo Nation sees larger numbers of sand dunes on reservation (5/28)
Mille Lacs Band plans public hearing on proposed energy pipeline (5/28)
Michigan tribes warn of disaster from pipeline spill in Great Lakes (5/28)
Coquille Tribe completes acquisition of 3,200 acres of forestland (5/28)
Spiritual leader of Lipan Apache Tribe back in court over feathers (5/28)
Lumbee Tribe to appeal findings of misuse of federal HUD funds (5/28)
Nebraska ends death penalty in historic and close veto override (5/28)
Tohono O'odham Nation chooses new leader amid casino conflict (5/28)
Poarch Creeks file lawsuit over taxes imposed on gaming facility (5/28)
Connecticut tribes counting up votes on bill for one more casino (5/28)
Comanche Nation closed casino for one day to address flooding (5/28)
Native Sun News: EPA hears Native views about uranium mining (5/27)
Renae Yellowhorse: Navajo Nation can't cede power to outsiders (5/27)
Donna Loring: Politicians circle the wagons around Maine tribes (5/27)
David Treuer: Andrew Jackson turned on Cherokee Nation allies (5/27)
NCAI responds to criticism from Rep. Young on land-into-trust (5/27)
Lawsuit challenges constitutionality of Indian Child Welfare Act (5/27)
Hopi Tribe seeks to prevent auction of sacred property in France (5/27)
Indian students face harsh punishment at public schools in Utah (5/27)
Menominee Nation school sees dramatic rise in graduation rate (5/27)
Poarch Creeks planning family-friendly entertainment at project (5/27)
Coquille Tribe names executive at economic development entity (5/27)
Cherokee law students eager for summer work on Indian issues (5/27)
USDA sends $125K to Indian economic development corporation (5/27)
County by Pine Ridge Reservation receives justice service grant (5/27)
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick to challenge Sen. John McCain in 2016 race (5/27)
Law Article: Indian inmate wins religious rights suit in Wisconsin (5/27)
Alaska Native corporation holds election for five seats on board (5/27)
Blood Tribe combats rise in abuse of extremely dangerous drug (5/27)
First Nations housing program brings just 99 homes to reserves (5/27)
Supreme Court won't hear challenge to Graton Rancheria casino (5/27)
Kialegee Tribal Town given extension to respond in gaming case (5/27)
Quapaw Tribe looks to dispel concerns about casino in Arkansas (5/27)
Pokagon Band faces hurdles in plan to develop casino in Indiana (5/27)
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.