The Hidatsa

Our chief authority for the names of the Hidatsa gentes is Morgan's

Ancient Society. Dr Washington Matthews could have furnished a corrected

list from his own notes had they not unfortunately been destroyed by fire.

All that can now be done is to give Morgan's list, using his system of


1. Knife, Mit-che-ro'-ka.

2. Water, Min-ne pae'-ta.

3. Lodge, Bae-ho-h

4. Prairie chicken, Scech-ka-be-ruh-pae'-ka (Tsi-tska' do-hpa'-ka of

Matthews; Tsi-tska' dco-qpa'-ka in the Bureau alphabet).

5. Hill people, E-tish-sho'-ka.

6. Unknown animal, Ah-nah-ha-nae'-me-te.

7. Bonnet, E-ku'-pae-be-ka.

The Hidatsa have been studied by Prince Maximilian (1833), Hayden, and

Matthews, the work of the last writer(8) being the latest one treating of

them; and from it the following is taken:

Marriage among the Hidatsa is usually made formal by the distribution of

gifts on the part of the man to the woman's kindred. Afterward presents of

equal value are commonly returned by the wife's relations, if they have

the means of so doing and are satisfied with the conduct of the husband.

Some travelers have represented that the marriage by purchase among the

Indians is a mere sale of the woman to the highest bidder, whose slave she

becomes. Matthews regards this a misrepresentation so far as it concerns

the Hidatsa, the wedding gift being a pledge to the parents for the proper

treatment of their daughter, as well as an evidence of the wealth of the

suitor and his kindred. Matthews has known many cases where large marriage

presents were refused from one person, and gifts of much less value

accepted from another, simply because the girl showed a preference for the

poorer lover. Marriages by elopement are considered undignified, and

different terms are applied to a marriage by elopement and one by parental

consent. Polygamy is practiced, but usually with certain restrictions. The

husband of the eldest of several sisters has a claim to each of the others

as she grows up, and in most cases the man takes such a potential wife

unless she form another attachment. A man usually marries his brother's

widow, unless she object, and he may adopt the orphans as his own

children. Divorce is easily effected, but is rare among the better class

of people in the tribe. The unions of such people often last for life; but

among persons of a different character divorces are common. Their social

discipline is not very severe. Punishments by law, administered by the

soldier band, are only for serious offenses against the regulations of

the camp. He who simply violates social customs in the tribe often

subjects himself to no worse punishment than an occasional sneer or

taunting remark; but for grave transgressions he may lose the regard of

his friends. With the Hidatsa, as with other western tribes, it is

improper for a man to hold a direct conversation with his mother-in-law;

but this custom seems to be falling into disuse.

The kinship system of the Hidatsa does not differ materially from that of

any of the cognate tribes. When they wish to distinguish between the

actual father and a father's real or potential brothers, or between the

actual mother and the mother's real or potential sisters, they use the

adjective ka'ti (ka{~LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED H~}t{~LATIN SMALL LETTER OPEN O~}i), real, true, after the kinship term when the

actual parent is meant.