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For other uses, see Assiniboine (disambiguation).
Full Moon, Assiniboine.jpg
Full Moon, an Assiniboine woman
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 Canada ( Saskatchewan)
 United States ( Montana)
Assiniboine, English
traditional tribal religion, Sun Dance,
Native American Church, Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Dakota, Stoney[1]

The Assiniboine or Assiniboin people (/əˈsɪnɨbɔɪn/ when singular, /əˈsɪnɨbɔɪnz/ when plural; Ojibwe: Asinaan, "stone Sioux"; also in plural Assiniboine or Assiniboin), also known as the Hohe and known by the endonym Nakota (or Nakoda or Nakona), are a Sioux First Nations/Native American people originally from the Northern Great Plains of North America. Today, they are centered in present-day Saskatchewan, but they have also populated parts of Alberta, southwestern Manitoba, northern Montana and western North Dakota. They were well known throughout much of the late 18th and early 19th century. Images of Assiniboine people were painted by such 19th-century artists as Karl Bodmer and George Catlin.


The Europeans and Americans adopted names that other tribes used for the Assiniboine; only later learning the self-appellation of this tribe, or autonym. In Siouan, they traditionally called themselves the Hohe Nakota. With the widespread adoption of English, however, many now use the English name. The English borrowed Assiniboine from earlier French colonists, who had adapted it from what they heard from the Ojibwe. They called the people in Ojibwe asinii-bwaan (stone Sioux). The Cree called them asinîpwâta (asinîpwâta ᐊᓯᓃᐹᐧᑕ NA sg, asinîpwâtak ᐊᓯᓃᐹᐧᑕᐠ NA pl). In the same way, Assnipwan comes from the word asinîpwâta in the western Cree dialects, from asiniy ᐊᓯᓂᐩ NA – "rock, stone" – and pwâta ᐹᐧᑕ NA – "enemy, Sioux". Early French traders in the west were often familiar with Algonquian languages. They transliterated many Cree or Ojibwe exonyms for other western Canadian indigenous peoples during the early colonial era. The English referred to the Assiniboine by adopting terms from the French spelled using English phonetics.

Other tribes associated "stone" with the Assiniboine because they primarily cooked with heated stones. They dropped hot stones into water to heat it to boiling for cooking meat. Some writers saw this as the association of the Ojibway term "Assin", stone, and the French "bouillir", to boil, but such an etymology is very unlikely [2]


Assiniboine is a Mississippi Valley Siouan language, in the Western Siouan language family. About 150 people today speak the Assiniboine language[1] or A' M̆oqazh, most are over 40 years old. The majority of the Assiniboine today speaks only American English. The 2000 census showed 3,946 tribal members who lived in the United States.

Assiniboines are closely linked by language to the Stoney First Nations people of Alberta. The latter two tribes speak varieties of Nakóda, a distant, but not mutually intelligible, variant of the Sioux language.[3]

Related peoples[edit]

Assiniboine man, Montana, ca. 1890–1891
Assiniboine man (left) with Yankton Dakota man (right)

The Assiniboine have many similarities to the Lakota Sioux in culture and language. They are considered to have separated from the central sub-group of the Sioux nation. Scholars believe that the Assiniboine broke away from Yanktonai Dakota[4] in the 16th century.

The Assiniboine were close allies and trading partners of the Cree, engaging in wars together against the Atsina (Gros Ventre). Together they later fought the Blackfoot. A Great Plains people, they generally went no further north than the North Saskatchewan River. They purchased a great deal of European trade goods from the Hudson's Bay Company through Cree middlemen.


Early History[edit]

The Assiniboine were originally part of the Great Sioux Nation which was made up of Eastern Dakota or Santee, Western Dakota or Yanktonai, and the Lakota or Teton Sioux. The Sioux were pushed gradually westward onto the plains from the woodlands of Minnesota by the Ojibwe people who acquired guns earlier from their French allies. Specifically the Assiniboine were part of the Yanktonai Sioux but split off around 1640 and headed north were they developed into a powerful and distinct people. Before horses were introduced to the Assiniboine they used domestic dogs as a pack animal to carry their belongings and pull their travois. The Assiniboine acquired horses by raiding and trading with neighboring plains nations such as the Crow and Sioux living further south who obtained horses earlier. The Assiniboine eventually developed into a large and powerful people with a horse and warrior culture centered around the vast numbers of bison that lived within and outside their territory. Assiniboine territory at the height of their power stretched from the North Saskatchewan River in the north to the Missouri River in the south and included portions of modern day Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, North Dakota, and Montana.

Contact with Europeans & Fur Trade[edit]

The first person of European descent to describe the Assiniboine was an employee of the Hudson's Bay Company named Henry Kelsey in the 1690s. Later explorers and traders Jean Baptiste de La Vérendrye and his sons (1730s), Anthony Henday (1754–55), and Alexander Henry the younger (1800s) confirmed that the Assiniboine held a vast territory across the northern plains including into the United States. The Assiniboine became reliable and important trading partners and middlemen for fur traders and other Indians, particularly the Hudson's Bay Company and North West Company operating in western Canada in a vast area known then as Rupert's Land. During the 1880s south of the border in mostly Montana and the Dakota territories the Assiniboine traded with the American Fur Company and the competing Rocky Mountain Fur Company. The Assiniboine obtained guns, ammunition, metal tomahawks, metal pots, wool blankets, wool coats, wool leggings, and glass beads as well as other goods from the fur traders in exchange for furs. Beaver furs and bison hides were the most commonly traded furs. Increased contact with Europeans caused widespread epidemics of European infectious diseases most notably smallpox among the Assiniboine. The Assiniboine population crashed from around 10,000 people in the late 18th century to only around 2600 by 1890.[5] Painters traveling with traders, explorers, and expeditions that encountered and painted the Assiniboine from life include Karl Bodmer, Paul Kane, and George Catlin.

The Iron Confederacy[edit]

Main article: Iron Confederacy

The Assiniboine were a major part of an alliance of northern plains Indian nations known as the Iron Confederacy or Nehiyaw-Pwat as it is known in Plains Cree. The Iron Confederacy revolved around the fur trade particularly with the Hudson's Bay Company and included the Assiniboine as well as the Plains Cree, Saulteaux, Plains Ojibwe, Métis, and individual Iroquois people who traveled west as employees for the fur traders. Other Indian peoples on the northern plains such as the Gros Ventre were occasionally part of the confederacy. The confederacy became the dominate force on the northern plains and was a major threat to Indian nations and settlers not associated with it including the Shoshone and Crow further south. The eventual decline of the fur trade and the deliberate eradication of the bison herds by Canadian and American hunters led to the defeat and breaking of the confederacy which saw military action with Canada during the North-West Rebellion.[6]


Assiniboine Hunting Buffalo, 1851

Traditionally Assiniboine people were semi-nomadic. During the warmer months, they followed the herds of bison for hunting—preserving the meat for winter. They hunted on horseback using bow and arrows. The tribe is known for its excellent horsemanship. They first obtained horses by trading with the Blackfeet and the Gros Ventre tribes. They did a considerable amount of trading with European traders in the fur trade. They worked with the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara tribes.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition journals mention Assiniboines, as the party was returning from Fort Clatsop down the Missouri River; however, the explorers did not encounter or come in direct contact with the tribe.


Assiniboine Family, Montana, 1890–1891
  • Aegitina (‘Camp Moves to the Kill’)
  • Bizebina (‘Gophers’)
  • Cepahubi (‘Large Organs’)
  • Canhdada (‘Moldy People’)
  • Canhewincasta (‘Wooded-Mountain People’ or ‘Wood Mountain People’ – ‘People Who live around Wood Mountain’)
  • Canknuhabi (‘Ones That Carry Their Wood’)
  • Hudesabina (‘Red Bottom’ or ‘Red Root’, split off from the Wadopabina in 1844)
  • Hebina (Ye Xa Yabine, ‘Rock Mountain People’, often called Strong Wood or Thickwood Assiniboine, later a core band of the Mountain Stoney-Nakoda)
  • Huhumasmibi (‘Bone Cleaners’)
  • Huhuganebabi (‘Bone Chippers’)
  • Hen atonwaabina (‘Little Rock Mountain People’)
  • Inyantonwanbina (‘Stone People’ or ‘Rock People’, later known as Nakoda (Stoney))
  • Inninaonbi (‘Quiet People’)
  • Insaombi (‘The Ones Who Stay Alone’, also known as Cypress Hills Assiniboine[7])
  • Indogahwincasta (‘East People’)
  • Minisose Swnkeebi (‘Missouri River Dog Band’)
  • Minisatonwanbi (‘Red Water People’)
  • Osnibi (‘People of the Cold’)
  • Ptegabina (‘Swamp People’)
  • Sunkcebi (‘Dog Band’)
  • Sahiyaiyeskabi (‘Plains Cree-Speakers’, also known as Cree-Assiniboine / Young Dogs)
  • Snugabi (‘Contrary People’)
  • Sihabi (‘Foot People’)
  • Tanidabi (‘Buffalo Hip’)
  • Tokanbi (‘Strangers’)
  • Tanzinapebina (‘Owners of Sharp Knives’)
  • Unskaha (‘Roamers’)
  • Wadopabina (‘Canoe Paddlers’)
  • Wadopahnatonwan (‘Canoe Paddlerrs Who Live on the Prairie’)
  • Wiciyabina (‘Ones That Go to the Dance’)
  • Waziyamwincasta (‘People of the North’)
  • Wasinazinyabi (‘Fat Smokers’)
  • Wokpanbi (‘Meat Bag’)[8]

Present day[edit]

Today, a substantial number of Assiniboine people live jointly with other tribes, like the Plains Cree, Saulteaux, Sioux and Gros Ventre, in several reservations in Canada and the United States. In Manitoba, the Assiniboine currently survive only as individuals, with no separate reserves.

Montana, United States[edit]

Saskatchewan, Canada[edit]

  • Carry the Kettle Nakoda First Nation (the reserve Carry the Kettle Nakoda First Nation #76, also known as: 'Assiniboine #76', or Carry the Kettle #76-18,19,22, Treaty Four Reserve Grounds #77, includes ca. 350 km², in SE Saskatchewan, 80 km east of Regina and 18 km south of Sintaluta, of 2,387 registered Assiniboine only about 850 live on the reserve)[12]
  • Mosquito, Grizzly Bear's Head, Lean Man First Nations (also known as Battleford Stoneys) (includes the following reserves: Mosquito #109, Cold Eagle, Grizzly Bear`s Head #110 & Lean Man #111, Mosquito Grizzly Bear`s Head Lean Man Tle #1, Tribal Headquarters and Administration are 27 km south of Battleford, ca. 127 km², in 2003 there were about 1,119 registered Assiniboine)[13]
  • White Bear First Nation (reserves: White Bear #70 and Treaty Four Reserve Grounds #77 are located in SE corner of the Moose Mountain area of Saskatchewan, Tribal Headquarters are located 13 km north of Carlyle, ca. 172 km², about 1,990 Assiniboine, Saulteaux (Anishinaabe), Cree and Dakota)[14]
  • Ocean Man First Nation (reserves: Ocean Man #69, 69A-I, Treaty Four Reserve Grounds #77, Tribal Headquarters are located 19 km north of Stoughton, ca. 41 km², of 454 registered Assiniboine, Cree and Saulteaux (Anishinaabe) only 170 are living on reserve grounds)[15]
  • Pheasant Rump Nakota First Nation (reserve: Treaty Four Reserve Grounds #77, Tribal Headquarters are located in Kisbey, about 333 Assiniboine, Saulteaux (Anishinaabe) and Cree)[16]


Canada Steamship Lines named one of their new ships the CSL Assiniboine.[17]

Fort Assiniboine was a name given to a trading post opened in 1793 in Manitoba and in 1824 in Alberta

The Assiniboine River drains much of Saskatchewan and Manitoba into the Red River of the North, which in turn flows into the Arctic Ocean via Lake Winnipeg and the Nelson River.


Notable Assiniboine people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Assiniboine." Ethnologue. Retrieved 30 March 2013.
  2. ^ George Bryce, "The Assiniboine River and its Forts", Trans. Roy. Soc. Canada, 1893, Section II, p. 69.
  3. ^ Ullrich, Jan (2008). New Lakota Dictionary (Incorporating the Dakota Dialects of Yankton-Yanktonai and Santee-Sisseton). Lakota Language Consortium. pp. 2–6. ISBN 0-9761082-9-1. 
  4. ^ for a report on the long-established blunder of misnaming “Nakota” the Yanktonai people, see the article Nakota
  5. ^ "Assiniboine". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2013-05-28. 
  6. ^ Neal McLeod. "Cree". The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan. Canadian Plains Research Centre. Retrieved 13 November 2012. 
  8. ^ James L. Long, William Standing: Land of Nakoda: The Story of the Assiniboine Indians, Riverbend Publishing 2004, ISBN 978-1-931832-35-9
  9. ^ History of the Fort Peck Reservation
  10. ^ Fort Peck Tribes
  11. ^ Fort Belknap Indian Community
  12. ^ Carry the Kettle First Nation
  14. ^ White Bear First Nation
  15. ^ Ocean Man First Nation
  16. ^ Pheasant Rump Nakota Nation
  17. ^ Great Lakes and Seaway Shipping (2005). "CSL Assiniboine". Retrieved 2007-05-02. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Denig, Edwin Thompson, and J. N. B. Hewitt. The Assiniboine. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000. ISBN 0-8061-3235-3
  • Fort Belknap Curriculum Development Project. Assiniboine Memories Legends of the Nakota People. Harlem, Mont: Fort Belknap Education Dept, 1983.
  • How the Summer Season Came And Other Assiniboine Indian Stories. Helena, Mont: Montana Historical Society Press, with the Fort Peck and Fort Belknap Tribes, 2003. ISBN 0-917298-94-2
  • Kennedy, Dan, and James R. Stevens. Recollections of an Assiniboine Chief. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1972. ISBN 0-7710-4510-7
  • Nighttraveller, Will, and Gerald Desnomie. Assiniboine Legends, Saskatoon: Saskatchewan Indian Cultural College, 1973.
  • Nighttraveller, Will, and Gerald Desnomie. Assiniboine Legends, Saskatoon: Saskatchewan Indian Cultural College, 1973.
  • Schilz, Thomas F. 1984. "Brandy and Beaver Pelts Assiniboine-European Trading Patterns, 1695–1805". Saskatchewan History. 37, no. 3.
  • Writers' Program (Mont.), James Larpenteur Long, and Michael Stephen Kennedy. The Assiniboines From the Accounts of the Old Ones Told to First Boy (James Larpenter Long), The Civilization of the American Indian series. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1961.

External links[edit]