The Dakota and Ojibwe Nations: Selections from Mayo Clinic Libraries History of Medicine Library Collection

August 6, 2012 at 3:13 pm

In conjunction with the exhibit Why Treaties Matter: Self Government in the Dakota and Ojibwe Nations displayed in Mathews Grand Lobby, Mayo Building, from July 16 to August 15, Mayo Clinic History of Medicine Library curated a small exhibit highlighting the Dakota and Ojibwe nations.  The books and images used in this exhibit were from the library’s Browsing Collection, a special collection established by Dr. Henry S. Plummer, and the Dr. Edgar Van Nuys Allen Collection on Native Americans.

All images of the buffalo hunts are taken from volume one of George Catlin’s two volume set titled Illustrations of the manners, customs and condition of the North American Indians…… published in 1876.  They show the skill and fine horsemanship of the hunting party and how different strategies were used in winter hunts to trap the buffalo in deep snow making them easier to kill.

Images of infant cradles are taken from volume two and show a mourning cradle.  This cradle would be filled with black quills and feathers and carried around by the grieving mother for a year or more after her baby died.  It poignantly illustrates how the Dakota handled death and grieving by allowing the mother time to heal from the loss of a child in a gentle and caring manner.

The fine craftsmanship of the Dakota and Ojibwe in canoe building show how birch bark canoes, made by the Ojibwe, were constructed from a complete rind of one birch tree shaped and sewn together.  Dakota log canoes were dug out of a solid log by men who had few tools to work with. 

Snowshoes made by the Dakota and Ojibwe used strings of rawhide for webbing, an ingenious design to carry a person atop the snow without sinking in.  Our modern day snow shoes are based on this design.

Images from Frances Densmore’s book Uses of plants by the Chippewa Indians, published in 1928 show the different stages of wild rice processing.  

Wild rice constituted the chief cereal food of the Chippewa. Each family or small group of families had a portion of a rice field. The portion was outlined by stakes and a woman established her claim to it by going to the field about ten days before the rice was ripe and tying portions of it in small sheaves. When it was time to harvest the rice a camp was established on the shore of the lake where the rice grew. The ideal weather for rice gathering was warm and still, as wind or rain dislodged the kernels. Rice was carried to the camp and spread on sheets of birch bark where it was dried in the sun. It could also be dried over a slow fire in a kettle. The rice was then put into a barrel and pounded with wooden pestles; this loosened the husk without breaking the kernel. The rice was then winnowed by tossing. The final step was the treading of the rice to dislodge the last segments of the husk. This was done by a man wearing clean moccasins. The stored rice was sewn in bags.

This exhibit was a collaborative effort by Betty Smith and Shirley Greising, members of the Mayo Clinic Employee Resource Group called Celebrate Dakota! and Hilary J. Lane, Coordinator of the Mayo History of Medicine Library.

  • Catlin, George: Illustrations of the manners, customs and condition of the North American Indians with letters and notes written during eight years of travel and adventure among the wildest … tribes now existing. With three hundred and sixty coloured engravings from the author’s original paintings. London, Chattp & Windus, c1876. Vols. 1 & 2.
  • Densmore, Frances. Uses of plants by the Chippewa Indians. Washington, Government Printing Office, 1928.


Submitted by
Hilary J. Lane, Coordinator
History of Medicine Library

Entry filed under: Feature Articles. Tags: , , , .

Library and Cannaday Split, But Find Opportunity on Stabile 7 Issue 43, July 2012

%d bloggers like this: