Printable Version

The Diversity of Native America: The Plains
Digital History ID 639

Author:   Pedro de Castenada

Annotation: This extract offers one of the earliest Spanish accounts of the Plains Indians.

Document: these plains there was such a multitude of cows that they were numberless. These cows are like those of Castile, and somewhat larger, as they have a little hump on the withers, and they are more reddish, approaching black....Having proceeded many days through these plains, they came to a settlement of about 200 inhabited houses. The houses were made of the skins of cows, tanned white, like pavilions or army tents. The maintenance or sustenance of these Indians comes entirely from the cows, because they neither sow nor reap corn. With the skins they make their houses, with the skins they clothe and shoe themselves; of the skins they make rope, and also of the wool; from the sinews they make thread, with which they sew their clothes and also their houses; from the bones they make awls; the dung serves them for wood, because there is nothing else in that country; the stomachs serve them for pitchers and vessels form which they drink; they live on the flesh.... These people have dogs like those in this country, except that they are somewhat larger, and they load these dogs like beasts of burden, and make saddles for them like our pack saddles; and they fasten them with their leather thongs, and these make their backs sore on the withers like pack animals. When they go hunting, they load these with their necessities, and when they move--for these Indians are not settled in one place, since they travel wherever the cows move, to support themselves--these dogs carry their houses and they have the sticks of their houses dragging along tied on to the pack-saddles besides the load which they carry on top, and the load may be, according to the dog, from thirty-five to fifty pounds.

Source: George P. Hammond and Agapito Rey, Narratives of the Coronado Expedition, 1540-42 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, 1940), 208-9.

Copyright 2021 Digital History