The buffalo meat, however, is the great staple and “staff of life” in this country, and seldom (if ever) fails to afford them an abundant and wholesome means of subsistence. There are, from a fair computation, something like 250,000 Indians in these western regions, who live almost exclusively on the flesh of these animals, through every part of the year. During the summer and fall months they use the meat fresh, and cook it in a great variety of ways, by roasting, broiling, boiling, stewing, smoking, etc.; and by boiling the ribs and joints with the marrow in them, make a delicious soup, which is universally used, and in vast quantities. The Mandans, I find, have no regular or stated times for their meals, but generally eat about twice in the twenty-four hours. The pot is always boiling over the fire, and any one who is hungry (either of the household or from any other part of the village) has a right to order it taken off, and to fall to eating as he pleases. Such is an unvarying custom amongst the North American Indians, and I very much doubt, whether the civilised world have in their institutions any system which can properly be called more humane and charitable. Every many, woman, or child in Indian communities is allowed to enter any one’s lodge, and even that of the chief of the nation, and eat when they are hungry, provided misfortune or necessity has driven them to it. Even so can the poorest and most worthless drone of the nation; if he is too lazy to hunt or to supply himself, he can walk into any lodge, and any one will share with him as long as there is anything to eat. He, however, who thus begs when he is able to hunt, pays dead for his meat, for he is stigmatised with the disgraceful epithet of a poltroon and a beggar.
George Catlin, North American Indians, pg. 137-138 (1880, originally published in 1841)