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The Adventures of Captain Bonneville by Washington Irving

Part 2 out of 7

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stay by our ashes, and you who are so hungry for fighting will
soon have enough. There are four hundred lodges of our brethren
at hand. They will soon be here--their arms are strong--their
hearts are big--they will avenge us!"

This speech was translated two or three times by Nez Perce and
creole interpreters. By the time it was rendered into English,
the chief was made to say that four hundred lodges of his tribe
were attacking the encampment at the other end of the valley.
Every one now was for hurrying to the defence of the rendezvous.
A party was left to keep watch upon the fort; the rest galloped
off to the camp. As night came on, the trappers drew out of the
swamp, and remained about the skirts of the wood. By morning,
their companions returned from the rendezvous with the report
that all was safe. As the day opened, they ventured within the
swamp and approached the fort. All was silent. They advanced up
to it without opposition. They entered: it had been abandoned in
the night, and the Blackfeet had effected their retreat, carrying
off their wounded on litters made of branches, leaving bloody
traces on the herbage. The bodies of ten Indians were found
within the fort; among them the one shot in the eye by Sublette.
The Blackfeet afterward reported that they had lost twenty-six
warriors in this battle. Thirty-two horses were likewise found
killed; among them were some of those recently carried off from
Sublette's party, in the night; which showed that these were the
very savages that had attacked him. They proved to be an advance
party of the main body of Blackfeet, which had been upon the
trail of Sublette's party. Five white men and one halfbreed were
killed, and several wounded. Seven of the Nez Perces were also
killed, and six wounded. They had an old chief, who was reputed
as invulnerable. In the course of the action he was hit by a
spent ball, and threw up blood; but his skin was unbroken. His
people were now fully convinced that he was proof against powder
and ball.

A striking circumstance is related as having occurred the morning
after the battle. As some of the trappers and their Indian allies
were approaching the fort through the woods, they beheld an
Indian woman, of noble form and features, leaning against a tree.
Their surprise at her lingering here alone, to fall into the
hands of her enemies, was dispelled, when they saw the corpse of
a warrior at her feet. Either she was so lost in grief as not to
perceive their approach; or a proud spirit kept her silent and
motionless. The Indians set up a yell, on discovering her, and
before the trappers could interfere, her mangled body fell upon
the corpse which she had refused to abandon. We have heard this
anecdote discredited by one of the leaders who had been in the
battle: but the fact may have taken place without his seeing it,
and been concealed from him. It is an instance of female
devotion, even to the death, which we are well disposed to
believe and to record.

After the battle, the brigade of Milton Sublette, together with
the free trappers, and Wyeth's New England band, remained some
days at the rendezvous, to see if the main body of Blackfeet
intended to make an attack; nothing of the kind occurring, they
once more put themselves in motion, and proceeded on their route
toward the southwest. Captain Sublette having distributed his
supplies, had intended to set off on his return to St. Louis,
taking with him the peltries collected from the trappers and
Indians. His wound, however obliged him to postpone his
departure. Several who were to have accompanied him became
impatient of this delay. Among these was a young Bostonian, Mr.
Joseph More, one of the followers of Mr. Wyeth, who had seen
enough of mountain life and savage warfare, and was eager to
return to the abodes of civilization. He and six others, among
whom were a Mr. Foy, of Mississippi, Mr. Alfred K. Stephens, of
St. Louis, and two grandsons of the celebrated Daniel Boon, set
out together, in advance of Sublette's party, thinking they would
make their way through the mountains.

It was just five days after the battle of the swamp that these
seven companions were making their way through Jackson's Hole, a
valley not far from the three Tetons, when, as they were
descending a hill, a party of Blackfeet that lay in ambush
started up with terrific yells. The horse of the young Bostonian,
who was in front, wheeled round with affright, and threw his
unskilled rider. The young man scrambled up the side of the hill,
but, unaccustomed to such wild scenes, lost his presence of mind,
and stood, as if paralyzed, on the edge of a bank, until the
Blackfeet came up and slew him on the spot. His comrades had fled
on the first alarm; but two of them, Foy and Stephens, seeing his
danger, paused when they got half way up the hill, turned back,
dismounted, and hastened to his assistance. Foy was instantly
killed. Stephens was severely wounded, but escaped, to die five
days afterward. The survivors returned to the camp of Captain
Sublette, bringing tidings of this new disaster. That hardy
leader, as soon as he could bear the journey, set out on his
return to St. Louis, accompanied by Campbell. As they had a
number of pack-horses richly laden with peltries to convoy, they
chose a different route through the mountains, out of the way, as
they hoped, of the lurking bands of Blackfeet. They succeeded in
making the frontier in safety. We remember to have seen them with
their band, about two or three months afterward, passing through
a skirt of woodland in the upper part of Missouri. Their long
cavalcade stretched in single file for nearly half a mile.
Sublette still wore his arm in a sling. The mountaineers in their
rude hunting dresses, armed with rifles and roughly mounted, and
leading their pack-horses down a hill of the forest, looked like
banditti returning with plunder. On the top of some of the packs
were perched several half-breed children, perfect little imps,
with wild black eyes glaring from among elf locks. These, I was
told, were children of the trappers; pledges of love from their
squaw spouses in the wilderness.


Retreat of the Blackfeet Fontenelle's camp in danger Captain
Bonneville and the Blackfeet Free trappers Their character,
habits, dress, equipments, horses Game fellows of the mountains
Their visit to the camp Good fellowship and good cheer A
carouse A swagger, a brawl, and a reconciliation

THE BLACKFEET WARRIORS, when they effected their midnight retreat
from their wild fastness in Pierre's Hole, fell back into the
valley of the Seeds-ke-dee, or Green River where they joined the
main body of their band. The whole force amounted to several
hundred fighting men, gloomy and exasperated by their late
disaster. They had with them their wives and children, which
incapacitated them from any bold and extensive enterprise of a
warlike nature; but when, in the course of their wanderings they
came in sight of the encampment of Fontenelle, who had moved some
distance up Green River valley in search of the free trappers,
they put up tremendous war-cries, and advanced fiercely as if to
attack it. Second thoughts caused them to moderate their fury.
They recollected the severe lesson just received, and could not
but remark the strength of Fontenelle's position; which had been
chosen with great judgment.

A formal talk ensued. The Blackfeet said nothing of the late
battle, of which Fontenelle had as yet received no accounts; the
latter, however, knew the hostile and perfidious nature of these
savages, and took care to inform them of the encampment of
Captain Bonneville, that they might know there were more white
men in the neighborhood. The conference ended, Fontenelle sent a
Delaware Indian of his party to conduct fifteen of the Blackfeet
to the camp of Captain Bonneville. There was [sic] at that time
two Crow Indians in the captain's camp, who had recently arrived
there. They looked with dismay at this deputation from their
implacable enemies, and gave the captain a terrible character of
them, assuring him that the best thing he could possibly do, was
to put those Blackfeet deputies to death on the spot. The
captain, however, who had heard nothing of the conflict at
Pierre's Hole, declined all compliance with this sage counsel. He
treated the grim warriors with his usual urbanity. They passed
some little time at the camp; saw, no doubt, that everything was
conducted with military skill and vigilance; and that such an
enemy was not to be easily surprised, nor to be molested with
impunity, and then departed, to report all that they had seen to
their comrades.

The two scouts which Captain Bonneville had sent out to seek for
the band of free trappers, expected by Fontenelle, and to invite
them to his camp, had been successful in their search, and on the
12th of August those worthies made their appearance.

To explain the meaning of the appellation, free trapper, it is
necessary to state the terms on which the men enlist in the
service of the fur companies. Some have regular wages, and are
furnished with weapons, horses, traps, and other requisites.
These are under command, and bound to do every duty required of
them connected with the service; such as hunting, trapping,
loading and unloading the horses, mounting guard; and, in short,
all the drudgery of the camp. These are the hired trappers.

The free trappers are a more independent class; and in describing
them, we shall do little more than transcribe the graphic
description of them by Captain Bonneville. "They come and go,"
says he, "when and where they please; provide their own horses,
arms, and other equipments; trap and trade on their own account,
and dispose of their skins and peltries to the highest bidder.
Sometimes, in a dangerous hunting ground, they attach themselves
to the camp of some trader for protection. Here they come under
some restrictions; they have to conform to the ordinary rules for
trapping, and to submit to such restraints, and to take part in
such general duties, as are established for the good order and
safety of the camp. In return for this protection, and for their
camp keeping, they are bound to dispose of all the beaver they
take, to the trader who commands the camp, at a certain rate per
skin; or, should they prefer seeking a market elsewhere, they are
to make him an allowance, of from thirty to forty dollars for the
whole hunt."

There is an inferior order, who, either from prudence or poverty,
come to these dangerous hunting grounds without horses or
accoutrements, and are furnished by the traders. These, like the
hired trappers, are bound to exert themselves to the utmost in
taking beaver, which, without skinning, they render in at the
trader's lodge, where a stipulated price for each is placed to
their credit. These though generally included in the generic name
of free trappers, have the more specific title of skin trappers.

The wandering whites who mingle for any length of time with the
savages have invariably a proneness to adopt savage habitudes;
but none more so than the free trappers. It is a matter of vanity
and ambition with them to discard everything that may bear the
stamp of civilized life, and to adopt the manners, habits, dress,
gesture, and even walk of the Indian. You cannot pay a free
trapper a greater compliment, than to persuade him you have
mistaken him for an Indian brave; and, in truth, the counterfeit
is complete. His hair suffered to attain to a great length, is
carefully combed out, and either left to fall carelessly over his
shoulders, or plaited neatly and tied up in otter skins, or
parti-colored ribands. A hunting-shirt of ruffled calico of
bright dyes, or of ornamented leather, falls to his knee; below
which, curiously fashioned legging, ornamented with strings,
fringes, and a profusion of hawks' bells, reach to a costly pair
of moccasons of the finest Indian fabric, richly embroidered with
beads. A blanket of scarlet, or some other bright color, hangs
from his shoulders, and is girt around his waist with a red sash,
in which he bestows his pistols, knife, and the stem of his
Indian pipe; preparations either for peace or war. His gun is
lavishly decorated with brass tacks and vermilion, and provided
with a fringed cover, occasionally of buckskin, ornamented here
and there with a feather. His horse, the noble minister to the
pride, pleasure, and profit of the mountaineer, is selected for
his speed and spirit, and prancing gait, and holds a place in his
estimation second only to himself. He shares largely of his
bounty, and of his pride and pomp of trapping. He is caparisoned
in the most dashing and fantastic style; the bridles and crupper
are weightily embossed with beads and cockades; and head, mane,
and tail, are interwoven with abundance of eagles' plumes, which
flutter in the wind. To complete this grotesque equipment, the
proud animal is bestreaked and bespotted with vermilion, or with
white clay, whichever presents the most glaring contrast to his
real color.

Such is the account given by Captain Bonneville of these rangers
of the wilderness, and their appearance at the camp was
strikingly characteristic. They came dashing forward at full
speed, firing their fusees, and yelling in Indian style. Their
dark sunburned faces, and long flowing hair, their legging,
flaps, moccasons, and richly-dyed blankets, and their painted
horses gaudily caparisoned, gave them so much the air and
appearance of Indians, that it was difficult to persuade one's
self that they were white men, and had been brought up in
civilized life.

Captain Bonneville, who was delighted with the game look of these
cavaliers of the mountains, welcomed them heartily to his camp,
and ordered a free allowance of grog to regale them, which soon
put them in the most braggart spirits. They pronounced the
captain the finest fellow in the world, and his men all bons
gar‡ons, jovial lads, and swore they would pass the day with
them. They did so; and a day it was, of boast, and swagger, and
rodomontade. The prime bullies and braves among the free trappers
had each his circle of novices, from among the captain's band;
mere greenhorns, men unused to Indian life; mangeurs de lard, or
pork-eaters; as such new-comers are superciliously called by the
veterans of the wilderness. These he would astonish and delight
by the hour, with prodigious tales of his doings among the
Indians; and of the wonders he had seen, and the wonders he had
performed, in his adventurous peregrinations among the mountains.

In the evening, the free trappers drew off, and returned to the
camp of Fontenelle, highly delighted with their visit and with
their new acquaintances, and promising to return the following
day. They kept their word: day after day their visits were
repeated; they became "hail fellow well met" with Captain
Bonneville's men; treat after treat succeeded, until both parties
got most potently convinced, or rather confounded, by liquor. Now
came on confusion and uproar. The free trappers were no longer
suffered to have all the swagger to themselves. The camp bullies
and prime trappers of the party began to ruffle up, and to brag,
in turn, of their perils and achievements. Each now tried to
out-boast and out-talk the other; a quarrel ensued as a matter of
course, and a general fight, according to frontier usage. The two
factions drew out their forces for a pitched battle. They fell to
work and belabored each other with might and main; kicks and
cuffs and dry blows were as well bestowed as they were well
merited, until, having fought to their hearts' content, and been
drubbed into a familiar acquaintance with each other's prowess
and good qualities, they ended the fight by becoming firmer
friends than they could have been rendered by a year's peaceable

While Captain Bonneville amused himself by observing the habits
and characteristics of this singular class of men, and indulged
them, for the time, in all their vagaries, he profited by the
opportunity to collect from them information concerning the
different parts of the country about which they had been
accustomed to range; the characters of the tribes, and, in short,
everything important to his enterprise. He also succeeded in
securing the services of several to guide and aid him in his
peregrinations among the mountains, and to trap for him during
the ensuing season. Having strengthened his party with such
valuable recruits, he felt in some measure consoled for the loss
of the Delaware Indians, decoyed from him by Mr Fontenelle.


Plans for the winter Salmon River Abundance of salmon west of the
mountains New arrangements Caches Cerre's detachment Movements
in Fontenelle's camp Departure of the Blackfeet Their
fortunes Wind Mountain streams Buckeye, the Delaware hunter, and
the grizzly bear Bones of murdered travellers Visit to Pierre's
Hole Traces of the battle Nez Perce Indians Arrival at Salmon

THE INFORMATION derived from the free trappers determined Captain
Bonneville as to his further movements. He learned that in the
Green River valley the winters were severe, the snow frequently
falling to the depth of several feet; and that there was no good
wintering ground in the neighborhood. The upper part of Salmon
River was represented as far more eligible, besides being in an
excellent beaver country; and thither the captain resolved to
bend his course.

The Salmon River is one of the upper branches of the Oregon or
Columbia; and takes its rise from various sources, among a group
of mountains to the northwest of the Wind River chain. It owes
its name to the immense shoals of salmon which ascend it in the
months of September and October. The salmon on the west side of
the Rocky Mountains are, like the buffalo on the eastern plains,
vast migratory supplies for the wants of man, that come and go
with the seasons. As the buffalo in countless throngs find their
certain way in the transient pasturage on the prairies, along the
fresh banks of the rivers, and up every valley and green defile
of the mountains, so the salmon, at their allotted seasons,
regulated by a sublime and all-seeing Providence, swarm in
myriads up the great rivers, and find their way up their main
branches, and into the minutest tributory streams; so as to
pervade the great arid plains, and to penetrate even among barren
mountains. Thus wandering tribes are fed in the desert places of
the wilderness, where there is no herbage for the animals of the
chase, and where, but for these periodical supplies, it would be
impossible for man to subsist.

The rapid currents of the rivers which run into the Pacific
render the ascent of them very exhausting to the salmon. When the
fish first run up the rivers, they are fat and in fine order. The
struggle against impetuous streams and frequent rapids gradually
renders them thin and weak, and great numbers are seen floating
down the rivers on their backs. As the season advances and the
water becomes chilled, they are flung in myriads on the shores,
where the wolves and bears assemble to banquet on them. Often
they rot in such quantities along the river banks as to taint the
atmosphere. They are commonly from two to three feet long.

Captain Bonneville now made his arrangements for the autumn and
the winter. The nature of the country through which he was about
to travel rendered it impossible to proceed with wagons. He had
more goods and supplies of various kinds, also, than were
required for present purposes, or than could be conveniently
transported on horseback; aided, therefore, by a few confidential
men, he made caches, or secret pits, during the night, when all
the rest of the camp were asleep, and in these deposited the
superfluous effects, together with the wagons. All traces of the
caches were then carefully obliterated. This is a common
expedient with the traders and trappers of the mountains. Having
no established posts and magazines, they make these caches or
deposits at certain points, whither they repair, occasionally,
for supplies. It is an expedient derived from the wandering
tribes of Indians.

Many of the horses were still so weak and lame, as to be unfit
for a long scramble through the mountains. These were collected
into one cavalcade, and given in charge to an experienced
trapper, of the name of Matthieu. He was to proceed westward,
with a brigade of trappers, to Bear River; a stream to the west
of the Green River or Colorado, where there was good pasturage
for the horses. In this neighborhood it was expected he would
meet the Shoshonie villages or bands, on their yearly migrations,
with whom he was to trade for peltries and provisions. After he
had traded with these people, finished his trapping, and
recruited the strength of the horses, he was to proceed to Salmon
River and rejoin Captain Bonneville, who intended to fix his
quarters there for the winter.

While these arrangements were in progress in the camp of Captain
Bonneville, there was a sudden bustle and stir in the camp of
Fontenelle. One of the partners of the American Fur Company had
arrived, in all haste, from the rendezvous at Pierre's Hole, in
quest of the supplies. The competition between the two rival
companies was just now at its height, and prosecuted with unusual
zeal. The tramontane concerns of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company
were managed by two resident partners, Fitzpatrick and Bridger;
those of the American Fur Company, by Vanderburgh and Dripps. The
latter were ignorant of the mountain regions, but trusted to make
up by vigilance and activity for their want of knowledge of the

Fitzpatrick, an experienced trader and trapper, knew the evils of
competition in the same hunting grounds, and had proposed that
the two companies should divide the country, so as to hunt in
different directions: this proposition being rejected, he had
exerted himself to get first into the field. His exertions, as
have already been shown, were effectual. The early arrival of
Sublette, with supplies, had enabled the various brigades of the
Rocky Mountain Company to start off to their respective hunting
grounds. Fitzpatrick himself, with his associate, Bridger, had
pushed off with a strong party of trappers, for a prime beaver
country to the north-northwest.

This had put Vanderburgh upon his mettle. He had hastened on to
meet Fontenelle. Finding him at his camp in Green River valley,
he immediately furnished himself with the supplies; put himself
at the head of the free trappers and Delawares, and set off with
all speed, determined to follow hard upon the heels of
Fitzpatrick and Bridger. Of the adventures of these parties among
the mountains, and the disastrous effects of their competition,
we shall have occasion to treat in a future chapter.

Fontenelle having now delivered his supplies and accomplished his
errand, struck his tents and set off on his return to the
Yellowstone. Captain Bonneville and his band, therefore, remained
alone in the Green River valley; and their situation might have
been perilous, had the Blackfeet band still lingered in the
vicinity. Those marauders, however, had been dismayed at finding
so many resolute and well-appointed parties of white men in the
neighborhood. They had, therefore, abandoned this part of the
country, passing over the headwaters of the Green River, and
bending their course towards the Yellowstone. Misfortune pursued
them. Their route lay through the country of their deadly
enemies, the Crows. In the Wind River valley, which lies east of
the mountains, they were encountered by a powerful war party of
that tribe, and completely put to rout. Forty of them were
killed, many of their women and children captured, and the
scattered fugitives hunted like wild beasts until they were
completely chased out of the Crow country.

On the 22d of August Captain Bonneville broke up his camp, and
set out on his route for Salmon River. His baggage was arranged
in packs, three to a mule, or pack-horse; one being disposed on
each side of the animal and one on the top; the three forming a
load of from one hundred and eighty to two hundred and twenty
pounds. This is the trappers' style of loading pack-horses; his
men, however, were inexpert at adjusting the packs, which were
prone to get loose and slip off, so that it was necessary to keep
a rear-guard to assist in reloading. A few days' experience,
however, brought them into proper training.

Their march lay up the valley of the Seeds-ke-dee, overlooked to
the right by the lofty peaks of the Wind River Mountains. From
bright little lakes and fountain-heads of this remarkable bed of
mountains poured forth the tributary streams of the Seeds-ke-dee.
Some came rushing down gullies and ravines; others tumbled in
crystal cascades from inaccessible clefts and rocks, and others
winding their way in rapid and pellucid currents across the
valley, to throw themselves into the main river. So transparent
were these waters that the trout with which they abounded could
be seen gliding about as if in the air; and their pebbly beds
were distinctly visible at the depth of many feet. This beautiful
and diaphanous quality of the Rocky Mountain streams prevails for
a long time after they have mingled their waters and swollen into
important rivers.

Issuing from the upper part of the valley, Captain Bonneville
continued to the east-northeast, across rough and lofty ridges,
and deep rocky defiles, extremely fatiguing both to man and
horse. Among his hunters was a Delaware Indian who had remained
faithful to him. His name was Buckeye. He had often prided
himself on his skill and success in coping with the grizzly bear,
that terror of the hunters. Though crippled in the left arm, he
declared he had no hesitation to close with a wounded bear, and
attack him with a sword. If armed with a rifle, he was willing to
brave the animal when in full force and fury. He had twice an
opportunity of proving his prowess, in the course of this
mountain journey, and was each time successful. His mode was to
seat himself upon the ground, with his rifle cocked and resting
on his lame arm. Thus prepared, he would await the approach of
the bear with perfect coolness, nor pull trigger until he was
close at hand. In each instance, he laid the monster dead upon
the spot.

A march of three or four days, through savage and lonely scenes,
brought Captain Bonneville to the fatal defile of Jackson's Hole,
where poor More and Foy had been surprised and murdered by the
Blackfeet. The feelings of the captain were shocked at beholding
the bones of these unfortunate young men bleaching among the
rocks; and he caused them to be decently interred.

On the 3d of September he arrived on the summit of a mountain
which commanded a full view of the eventful valley of Pierre's
Hole; whence he could trace the winding of its stream through
green meadows, and forests of willow and cotton-wood, and have a
prospect, between distant mountains, of the lava plains of Snake
River, dimly spread forth like a sleeping ocean below.

After enjoying this magnificent prospect, he descended into the
valley, and visited the scenes of the late desperate conflict.
There were the remains of the rude fortress in the swamp,
shattered by rifle shot, and strewed with the mingled bones of
savages and horses. There was the late populous and noisy
rendezvous, with the traces of trappers' camps and Indian lodges;
but their fires were extinguished, the motley assemblage of
trappers and hunters, white traders and Indian braves, had all
dispersed to different points of the wilderness, and the valley
had relapsed into its pristine solitude and silence.

That night the captain encamped upon the battle ground; the next
day he resumed his toilsome peregrinations through the mountains.
For upwards of two weeks he continued his painful march; both men
and horses suffering excessively at times from hunger and thirst.
At length, on the 19th of September, he reached the upper waters
of Salmon River.

The weather was cold, and there were symptoms of an impending
storm. The night set in, but Buckeye, the Delaware Indian, was
missing. He had left the party early in the morning, to hunt by
himself, according to his custom. Fears were entertained lest he
should lose his way and become bewildered in tempestuous weather.
These fears increased on the following morning, when a violent
snow-storm came on, which soon covered the earth to the depth of
several inches. Captain Bonneville immediately encamped, and sent
out scouts in every direction. After some search Buckeye was
discovered, quietly seated at a considerable distance in the
rear, waiting the expected approach of the party, not knowing
that they had passed, the snow having covered their trail.

On the ensuing morning they resumed their march at an early hour,
but had not proceeded far when the hunters, who were beating up
the country in the advance, came galloping back, making signals
to encamp, and crying Indians! Indians!

Captain Bonneville immediately struck into a skirt of wood and
prepared for action. The savages were now seen trooping over the
hills in great numbers. One of them left the main body and came
forward singly, making signals of peace. He announced them as a
band of Nez Perces or Pierced-nose Indians, friendly to the
whites, whereupon an invitation was returned by Captain
Bonneville for them to come and encamp with him. They halted for
a short time to make their toilette, an operation as important
with an Indian warrior as with a fashionable beauty. This done,
they arranged themselves in martial style, the chiefs leading the
van, the braves following in a long line, painted and decorated,
and topped off with fluttering plumes. In this way they advanced,
shouting and singing, firing off their fusees, and clashing their
shields. The two parties encamped hard by each other. The Nez
Perces were on a hunting expedition, but had been almost famished
on their march. They had no provisions left but a few dried
salmon, yet finding the white men equally in want, they
generously offered to share even this meager pittance, and
frequently repeated the offer, with an earnestness that left no
doubt of their sincerity. Their generosity won the heart of
Captain Bonneville, and produced the most cordial good will on
the part of his men. For two days that the parties remained in
company, the most amicable intercourse prevailed, and they parted
the best of friends. Captain Bonneville detached a few men, under
Mr. Cerre, an able leader, to accompany the Nez Perces on their
hunting expedition, and to trade with them for meat for the
winter's supply. After this, he proceeded down the river, about
five miles below the forks, when he came to a halt on the 26th of
September, to establish his winter quarters.


Horses turned loose Preparations for winter quarters Hungry
times Nez Perces, their honesty, piety, pacific habits, religious
ceremonies Captain Bonneville's conversations with them Their
love of gambling

IT WAS GRATIFYING to Captain Bonneville, after so long and
toilsome a course of travel, to relieve his poor jaded horses of
the burden under which they were almost ready to give out, and to
behold them rolling upon the grass, and taking a long repose
after all their sufferings. Indeed, so exhausted were they, that
those employed under the saddle were no longer capable of hunting
for the daily subsistence of the camp.

All hands now set to work to prepare a winter cantonment. A
temporary fortification was thrown up for the protection of the
party; a secure and comfortable pen, into which the horses could
be driven at night; and huts were built for the reception of the

This done, Captain Bonneville made a distribution of his forces:
twenty men were to remain with him in garrison to protect the
property; the rest were organized into three brigades, and sent
off in different directions, to subsist themselves by hunting the
buffalo, until the snow should become too deep.

Indeed, it would have been impossible to provide for the whole
party in this neighborhood. It was at the extreme western limit
of the buffalo range, and these animals had recently been
completely hunted out of the neighborhood by the Nez Perces, so
that, although the hunters of the garrison were continually on
the alert, ranging the country round, they brought in scarce game
sufficient to keep famine from the door. Now and then there was a
scanty meal of fish or wild-fowl, occasionally an antelope; but
frequently the cravings of hunger had to be appeased with roots,
or the flesh of wolves and muskrats. Rarely could the inmates of
the cantonment boast of having made a full meal, and never of
having wherewithal for the morrow. In this way they starved along
until the 8th of October, when they were joined by a party of
five families of Nez Perces, who in some measure reconciled them
to the hardships of their situation by exhibiting a lot still
more destitute. A more forlorn set they had never encountered:
they had not a morsel of meat or fish; nor anything to subsist
on, excepting roots, wild rosebuds, the barks of certain plants,
and other vegetable production; neither had they any weapon for
hunting or defence, excepting an old spear: yet the poor fellows
made no murmur nor complaint; but seemed accustomed to their hard
fare. If they could not teach the white men their practical
stoicism, they at least made them acquainted with the edible
properties of roots and wild rosebuds, and furnished them a
supply from their own store. The necessities of the camp at
length became so urgent that Captain Bonneville determined to
dispatch a party to the Horse Prairie, a plain to the north of
his cantonment, to procure a supply of provisions. When the men
were about to depart, he proposed to the Nez Perces that they, or
some of them, should join the hunting-party. To his surprise,
they promptly declined. He inquired the reason for their refusal,
seeing that they were in nearly as starving a situation as his
own people. They replied that it was a sacred day with them, and
the Great Spirit would be angry should they devote it to hunting.
They offered, however, to accompany the party if it would delay
its departure until the following day; but this the pinching
demands of hunger would not permit, and the detachment proceeded.

A few days afterward, four of them signified to Captain
Bonneville that they were about to hunt. "What! " exclaimed he,
"without guns or arrows; and with only one old spear? What do you
expect to kill? " They smiled among themselves, but made no
answer. Preparatory to the chase, they performed some religious
rites, and offered up to the Great Spirit a few short prayers for
safety and success; then, having received the blessings of their
wives, they leaped upon their horses and departed, leaving the
whole party of Christian spectators amazed and rebuked by this
lesson of faith and dependence on a supreme and benevolent Being.
"Accustomed," adds Captain Bonneville, "as I had heretofore been,
to find the wretched Indian revelling in blood, and stained by
every vice which can degrade human nature, I could scarcely
realize the scene which I had witnessed. Wonder at such
unaffected tenderness and piety, where it was least to have been
sought, contended in all our bosoms with shame and confusion, at
receiving such pure and wholesome instructions from creatures so
far below us in the arts and comforts of life." The simple
prayers of the poor Indians were not unheard. In the course of
four or five days they returned, laden with meat. Captain
Bonneville was curious to know how they had attained such success
with such scanty means. They gave him to understand that they had
chased the buffalo at full speed, until they tired them down,
when they easily dispatched them with the spear, and made use of
the same weapon to flay the carcasses. To carry through their
lessons to their Christian friends, the poor savages were as
charitable as they had been pious, and generously shared with
them the spoils of their hunting, giving them food enough to last
for several days.

A further and more intimate intercourse with this tribe gave
Captain Bonneville still greater cause to admire their strong
devotional feeling. "Simply to call these people religious," says
he, "would convey but a faint idea of the deep hue of piety and
devotion which pervades their whole conduct. Their honesty is
immaculate, and their purity of purpose, and their observance of
the rites of their religion, are most uniform and remarkable.
They are, certainly, more like a nation of saints than a horde of

In fact, the antibelligerent policy of this tribe may have sprung
from the doctrines of Christian charity, for it would appear that
they had imbibed some notions of the Christian faith from
Catholic missionaries and traders who had been among them. They
even had a rude calendar of the fasts and festivals of the Romish
Church, and some traces of its ceremonials. These have become
blended with their own wild rites, and present a strange medley;
civilized and barbarous. On the Sabbath, men, women, and children
array themselves in their best style, and assemble round a pole
erected at the head of the camp. Here they go through a wild
fantastic ceremonial; strongly resembling the religious dance of
the Shaking Quakers; but from its enthusiasm, much more striking
and impressive. During the intervals of the ceremony, the
principal chiefs, who officiate as priests, instruct them in
their duties, and exhort them to virtue and good deeds.

"There is something antique and patriarchal," observes Captain
Bonneville, "in this union of the offices of leader and priest;
as there is in many of their customs and manners, which are all
strongly imbued with religion."

The worthy captain, indeed, appears to have been strongly
interested by this gleam of unlooked for light amidst the
darkness of the wilderness. He exerted himself, during his
sojourn among this simple and well-disposed people, to inculcate,
as far as he was able, the gentle and humanizing precepts of the
Christian faith, and to make them acquainted with the leading
points of its history; and it speaks highly for the purity and
benignity of his heart, that he derived unmixed happiness from
the task.

"Many a time," says he, "was my little lodge thronged, or rather
piled with hearers, for they lay on the ground, one leaning over
the other, until there was no further room, all listening with
greedy ears to the wonders which the Great Spirit had revealed to
the white man. No other subject gave them half the satisfaction,
or commanded half the attention; and but few scenes in my life
remain so freshly on my memory, or are so pleasurably recalled to
my contemplation, as these hours of intercourse with a distant
and benighted race in the midst of the desert."

The only excesses indulged in by this temperate and exemplary
people, appear to be gambling and horseracing. In these they
engage with an eagerness that amounts to infatuation. Knots of
gamblers will assemble before one of their lodge fires, early in
the evening, and remain absorbed in the chances and changes of
the game until long after dawn of the following day. As the night
advances, they wax warmer and warmer. Bets increase in amount,
one loss only serves to lead to a greater, until in the course of
a single night's gambling, the richest chief may become the
poorest varlet in the camp.


Black feet in the Horse Prairie Search after the
hunters Difficulties and dangers A card party in the
wilderness The card party interrupted "Old Sledge" a losing
game Visitors to the camp Iroquois hunters Hanging-eared Indians.

ON the 12th of October, two young Indians of the Nez Perce tribe
arrived at Captain Bonneville's encampment. They were on their
way homeward, but had been obliged to swerve from their ordinary
route through the mountains, by deep snows. Their new route took
them though the Horse Prairie. In traversing it, they had been
attracted by the distant smoke of a camp fire, and on stealing
near to reconnoitre, had discovered a war party of Blackfeet.
They had several horses with them; and, as they generally go on
foot on warlike excursions, it was concluded that these horses
had been captured in the course of their maraudings.

This intelligence awakened solicitude on the mind of Captain
Bonneville for the party of hunters whom he had sent to that
neighborhood; and the Nez Perces, when informed of the
circumstances, shook their heads, and declared their belief that
the horses they had seen had been stolen from that very party.
Anxious for information on the subject, Captain Bonneville
dispatched two hunters to beat up the country in that direction.
They searched in vain; not a trace of the men could be found; but
they got into a region destitute of game, where they were
well-nigh famished. At one time they were three entire days
with-out a mouthful of food; at length they beheld a buffalo
grazing at the foot of the mountain. After manoeuvring so as to
get within shot, they fired, but merely wounded him. He took to
flight, and they followed him over hill and dale, with the
eagerness and per-severance of starving men. A more lucky shot
brought him to the ground. Stanfield sprang upon him, plunged his
knife into his throat, and allayed his raging hunger by drinking
his blood: A fire was instantly kindled beside the carcass, when
the two hunters cooked, and ate again and again, until, perfectly
gorged, they sank to sleep before their hunting fire. On the
following morning they rose early, made another hearty meal, then
loading themselves with buffalo meat, set out on their return to
the camp, to report the fruitlessness of their mission.

At length, after six weeks' absence, the hunters made their
appearance, and were received with joy proportioned to the
anxiety that had been felt on their account. They had hunted with
success on the prairie, but, while busy drying buffalo meat, were
joined by a few panic - stricken Flatheads, who informed them
that a powerful band of Blackfeet was at hand. The hunters
immediately abandoned the dangerous hunting ground, and
accompanied the Flatheads to their village. Here they found Mr.
Cerre, and the detachment of hunters sent with him to accompany
the hunting party of the Nez Perces.

After remaining some time at the village, until they supposed the
Blackfeet to have left the neighborhood, they set off with some
of Mr. Cerre's men for the cantonment at Salmon River, where they
arrived without accident. They informed Captain Bonneville,
however, that not far from his quarters they had found a wallet
of fresh meat and a cord, which they supposed had been left by
some prowling Blackfeet. A few days afterward Mr. Cerre, with the
remainder of his men, likewise arrived at the cantonment.

Mr. Walker, one of his subleaders, who had gone with a band of
twenty hunters to range the country just beyond the Horse
Prairie, had likewise his share of adventures with the
all-pervading Blackfeet. At one of his encampments the guard
stationed to keep watch round the camp grew weary of their duty,
and feeling a little too secure, and too much at home on these
prairies, retired to a small grove of willows to amuse themselves
with a social game of cards called "old sledge," which is as
popular among these trampers of the prairies as whist or ecarte
among the polite circles of the cities. From the midst of their
sport they were suddenly roused by a discharge of firearms and a
shrill war-whoop. Starting on their feet, and snatching up their
rifles, they beheld in dismay their horses and mules already in
possession of the enemy, who had stolen upon the camp
unperceived, while they were spell-bound by the magic of old
sledge. The Indians sprang upon the animals barebacked, and
endeavored to urge them off under a galling fire that did some
execution. The mules, however, confounded by the hurly-burly and
disliking their new riders kicked up their heels and dismounted
half of them, in spite of their horsemanship. This threw the rest
into confusion; they endeavored to protect their unhorsed
comrades from the furious assaults of the whites; but, after a
scene of "confusion worse confounded," horses and mules were
abandoned, and the Indians betook themselves to the bushes. Here
they quickly scratched holes in the earth about two feet deep, in
which they prostrated themselves, and while thus screened from
the shots of the white men, were enabled to make such use of
their bows and arrows and fusees, as to repulse their assailants
and to effect their retreat. This adventure threw a temporary
stigma upon the game of "old sledge."

In the course of the autumn, four Iroquois hunters, driven by the
snow from their hunting grounds, made their appearance at the
cantonment. They were kindly welcomed, and during their sojourn
made themselves useful in a variety of ways, being excellent
trappers and first-rate woodsmen. They were of the remnants of a
party of Iroquois hunters that came from Canada into these
mountain regions many years previously, in the employ of the
Hudson's Bay Company. They were led by a brave chieftain, named
Pierre, who fell by the hands of the Blackfeet, and gave his name
to the fated valley of Pierre's Hole. This branch of the Iroquois
tribe has ever since remained among these mountains, at mortal
enmity with the Blackfeet, and have lost many of their prime
hunters in their feuds with that ferocious race. Some of them
fell in with General Ashley, in the course of one of his gallant
excursions into the wilderness, and have continued ever since in
the employ of the company.

Among the motley Visitors to the winter quarters of Captain
Bonneville was a party of Pends Oreilles (or Hanging-ears) and
their chief. These Indians have a strong resemblance, in
character and customs, to the Nez Perces. They amount to about
three hundred lodges, are well armed, and possess great numbers
of horses. During the spring, summer, and autumn, they hunt the
buffalo about the head-waters of the Missouri, Henry's Fork of
the Snake River, and the northern branches of Salmon River. Their
winter quarters are upon the Racine Amere, where they subsist
upon roots and dried buffalo meat. Upon this river the Hudson's
Bay Company have established a trading post, where the Pends
Oreilles and the Flatheads bring their peltries to exchange for
arms, clothing and trinkets.

This tribe, like the Nez Perces, evince strong and peculiar
feelings of natural piety. Their religion is not a mere
superstitious fear, like that of most savages; they evince
abstract notions of morality; a deep reverence for an overruling
spirit, and a respect for the rights of their fellow men. In one
respect their religion partakes of the pacific doctrines of the
Quakers. They hold that the Great Spirit is displeased with all
nations who wantonly engage in war; they abstain, therefore, from
all aggressive hostilities. But though thus unoffending in their
policy, they are called upon continually to wage defensive
warfare; especially with the Blackfeet; with whom, in the course
of their hunting expeditions, they come in frequent collision and
have desperate battles. Their conduct as warriors is without fear
or reproach, and they can never be driven to abandon their
hunting grounds.

Like most savages they are firm believers in dreams, and in the
power and efficacy of charms and amulets, or medicines as they
term them. Some of their braves, also, who have had numerous
hairbreadth 'scapes, like the old Nez Perce chief in the battle
of Pierre's Hole, are believed to wear a charmed life, and to be
bullet-proof. Of these gifted beings marvelous anecdotes are
related, which are most potently believed by their fellow
savages, and sometimes almost credited by the white hunters.


Rival trapping parties Manoeuvring A desperate game Vanderburgh
and the Blackfeet Deserted camp fire A dark defile An Indian
ambush A fierce melee Fatal consequences Fitzpatrick and
Bridger Trappers precautions Meeting with the Blackfeet More
fighting Anecdote of a young Mexican and an Indian girl.

WHILE Captain Bonneville and his men are sojourning among the Nez
Perces, on Salmon River, we will inquire after the fortunes of
those doughty rivals of the Rocky Mountains and American Fur
Companies, who started off for the trapping grounds to the

Fitzpatrick and Bridger, of the former company, as we have
already shown, having received their supplies, had taken the
lead, and hoped to have the first sweep of the hunting grounds.
Vanderburgh and Dripps, however, the two resident partners of the
opposite company, by extraordinary exertions were enabled soon to
put themselves upon their traces, and pressed forward with such
speed as to overtake them just as they had reached the heart of
the beaver country. In fact, being ignorant of the best trapping
grounds, it was their object to follow on, and profit by the
superior knowledge of the other party.

Nothing could equal the chagrin of Fitzpatrick and Bridger at
being dogged by their inexperienced rivals, especially after
their offer to divide the country with them. They tried in every
way to blind and baffle them; to steal a march upon them, or lead
them on a wrong scent; but all in vain. Vanderburgh made up by
activity and intelligence for his ignorance of the country; was
always wary, always on the alert; discovered every movement of
his rivals, however secret and was not to be eluded or misled.

Fitzpatrick and his colleague now lost all patience; since the
others persisted in following them, they determined to give them
an unprofitable chase, and to sacrifice the hunting season rather
than share the products with their rivals. They accordingly took
up their line of march down the course of the Missouri, keeping
the main Blackfoot trail, and tramping doggedly forward, without
stopping to set a single trap. The others beat the hoof after
them for some time, but by degrees began to perceive that they
were on a wild-goose chase, and getting into a country perfectly
barren to the trapper. They now came to a halt, and be-thought
themselves how to make up for lost time, and improve the
remainder of the season. It was thought best to divide their
forces and try different trapping grounds. While Dripps went in
one direction, Vanderburgh, with about fifty men, proceeded in
another. The latter, in his headlong march had got into the very
heart of the Blackfoot country, yet seems to have been
unconscious of his danger. As his scouts were out one day, they
came upon the traces of a recent band of savages. There were the
deserted fires still smoking, surrounded by the carcasses of
buffaloes just killed. It was evident a party of Blackfeet had
been frightened from their hunting camp, and had retreated,
probably to seek reinforcements. The scouts hastened back to the
camp, and told Vanderburgh what they had seen. He made light of
the alarm, and, taking nine men with him, galloped off to
reconnoitre for himself. He found the deserted hunting camp just
as they had represented it; there lay the carcasses of buffaloes,
partly dismembered; there were the smouldering fires, still
sending up their wreaths of smoke; everything bore traces of
recent and hasty retreat; and gave reason to believe that the
savages were still lurking in the neighborhood. With heedless
daring, Vanderburgh put himself upon their trail, to trace them
to their place of concealment: It led him over prairies, and
through skirts of woodland, until it entered a dark and dangerous
ravine. Vanderburgh pushed in, without hesitation, followed by
his little band. They soon found themselves in a gloomy dell,
between steep banks overhung with trees, where the profound
silence was only broken by the tramp of their own horses.

Suddenly the horrid war-whoop burst on their ears, mingled with
the sharp report of rifles, and a legion of savages sprang from
their concealments, yelling, and shaking their buffalo robes to
frighten the horses. Vanderburgh's horse fell, mortally wounded
by the first discharge. In his fall he pinned his rider to the
ground, who called in vain upon his men to assist in extricating
him. One was shot down scalped a few paces distant; most of the
others were severely wounded, and sought their safety in flight.
The savages approached to dispatch the unfortunate leader, as he
lay struggling beneath his horse.. He had still his rifle in his
hand and his pistols in his belt. The first savage that advanced
received the contents of the rifle in his breast, and fell dead
upon the spot; but before Vanderburgh could draw a pistol, a blow
from a tomahawk laid him prostrate, and he was dispatched by
repeated wounds.

Such was the fate of Major Henry Vanderburgh, one of the best and
worthiest leaders of the American Fur Company, who by his manly
bearing and dauntless courage is said to have made himself
universally popular among the bold-hearted rovers of the

Those of the little band who escaped fled in consternation to the
camp, and spread direful reports of the force and ferocity of the
enemy. The party, being without a head, were in complete
confusion and dismay, and made a precipitate retreat, without
attempting to recover the remains of their butchered leader. They
made no halt until they reached the encampment of the Pends
Oreilles, or Hanging-ears, where they offered a reward for the
recovery of the body, but without success; it never could be

In the meantime Fitzpatrick and Bridger, of the Rocky Mountain
Company, fared but little better than their rivals. In their
eagerness to mislead them they betrayed themselves into danger,
and got into a region infested with the Blackfeet. They soon
found that foes were on the watch for them; but they were
experienced in Indian warfare, and not to be surprised at night,
nor drawn into an ambush in the daytime. As the evening advanced,
the horses were all brought in and picketed, and a guard was
stationed round the camp. At the earliest streak of day one of
the leaders would mount his horse, and gallop off full speed for
about half a mile; then look round for Indian trails, to
ascertain whether there had been any lurkers round the camp;
returning slowly, he would reconnoitre every ravine and thicket
where there might be an ambush. This done, he would gallop off in
an opposite direction and repeat the same scrutiny. Finding all
things safe, the horses would be turned loose to graze, but
always under the eye of a guard.

A caution equally vigilant was observed in the march, on
approaching any defile or place where an enemy might lie in wait;
and scouts were always kept in the advance, or along the ridges
and rising grounds on the flanks.

At length, one day, a large band of Blackfeet appeared in the
open field, but in the vicinity of rocks and cliffs. They kept at
a wary distance, but made friendly signs. The trappers replied in
the same way, but likewise kept aloof. A small party of Indians
now advanced, bearing the pipe of peace; they were met by an
equal number of white men, and they formed a group midway between
the two bands, where the pipe was circulated from hand to hand,
and smoked with all due ceremony. An instance of natural
affection took place at this pacific meeting. Among the free
trappers in the Rocky Mountain band was a spirited young Mexican
named Loretto, who, in the course of his wanderings, had ransomed
a beautiful Blackfoot girl from a band of Crows by whom she had
been captured. He made her his wife, after the Indian style, and
she had followed his fortunes ever since, with the most devoted

Among the Blackfeet warriors who advanced with the calumet of
peace she recognized a brother. Leaving her infant with Loretto
she rushed forward and threw herself upon her brother's neck, who
clasped his long-lost sister to his heart with a warmth of
affection but little compatible with the reputed stoicism of the

While this scene was taking place, Bridger left the main body of
trappers and rode slowly toward the group of smokers, with his
rifle resting across the pommel of his saddle. The chief of the
Blackfeet stepped forward to meet him. From some unfortunate
feeling of distrust Bridger cocked his rifle just as the chief
was extending his hand in friendship. The quick ear of the savage
caught the click of the lock; in a twinkling he grasped the
barrel, forced the muzzle downward, and the contents were
discharged into the earth at his feet. His next movement was to
wrest the weapon from the hand of Bridger and fell him with it to
the earth. He might have found this no easy task had not the
unfortunate leader received two arrows in his back during the

The chief now sprang into the vacant saddle and galloped off to
his band. A wild hurry-skurry scene ensued; each party took to
the banks, the rocks and trees, to gain favorable positions, and
an irregular firing was kept up on either side, without much
effect. The Indian girl had been hurried off by her people at the
outbreak of the affray. She would have returned, through the
dangers of the fight, to her husband and her child, but was
prevented by her brother. The young Mexican saw her struggles and
her agony, and heard her piercing cries. With a generous impulse
he caught up the child in his arms, rushed forward, regardless of
Indian shaft or rifle, and placed it in safety upon her bosom.
Even the savage heart of the Blackfoot chief was reached by this
noble deed. He pronounced Loretto a madman for his temerity, but
bade him depart in peace. The young Mexican hesitated; he urged
to have his wife restored to him, but her brother interfered, and
the countenance of the chief grew dark. The girl, he said,
belonged to his tribe-she must remain with her people. Loretto
would still have lingered, but his wife implored him to depart,
lest his life should be endangered. It was with the greatest
reluctance that he returned to his companions.

The approach of night put an end to the skirmishing fire of the
adverse parties, and the savages drew off without renewing their
hostilities. We cannot but remark that both in this affair and
that of Pierre's Hole the affray commenced by a hostile act on
the part of white men at the moment when the Indian warrior was
extending the hand of amity. In neither instance, as far as
circumstances have been stated to us by different persons, do we
see any reason to suspect the savage chiefs of perfidy in their
overtures of friendship. They advanced in the confiding way usual
among Indians when they bear the pipe of peace, and consider
themselves sacred from attack. If we violate the sanctity of this
ceremonial, by any hostile movement on our part, it is we who
incur the charge of faithlessness; and we doubt not that in both
these instances the white men have been considered by the
Blackfeet as the aggressors, and have, in consequence, been held
up as men not to be trusted.

A word to conclude the romantic incident of Loretto and his
Indian bride. A few months subsequent to the event just related,
the young Mexican settled his accounts with the Rocky Mountain
Company, and obtained his discharge. He then left his comrades
and set off to rejoin his wife and child among her people; and we
understand that, at the time we are writing these pages, he
resides at a trading-house established of late by the American
Fur Company in the Blackfoot country, where he acts as an
interpreter, and has his Indian girl with him.


A winter camp in the wilderness Medley of trappers, hunters, and
Indians Scarcity of game New arrangements in the camp Detachments
sent to a distance Carelessness of the Indians when
encamped Sickness among the Indians Excellent character of the
Nez Perces The Captain's effort as a pacificator A Nez Perce's
argument in favor of war Robberies, by the Black feet Long
suffering of the Nez Perces A hunter's Elysium among the
mountains More robberies The Captain preaches up a crusade The
effect upon his hearers.

FOR the greater part of the month of November Captain Bonneville
remained in his temporary post on Salmon River. He was now in the
full enjoyment of his wishes; leading a hunter's life in the
heart of the wilderness, with all its wild populace around him.
Beside his own people, motley in character and costume--creole,
Kentuckian, Indian, half-breed, hired trapper, and free
trapper--he was surrounded by encampments of Nez Perces and
Flatheads, with their droves of horses covering the hills and
plains. It was, he declares, a wild and bustling scene. The
hunting parties of white men and red men, continually sallying
forth and returning; the groups at the various encampments, some
cooking, some working, some amusing themselves at different
games; the neighing of horses, the braying of asses, the
resounding strokes of the axe, the sharp report of the rifle, the
whoop, the halloo, and the frequent burst of laughter, all in the
midst of a region suddenly roused from perfect silence and
loneliness by this transient hunters' sojourn, realized, he says,
the idea of a "populous solitude."

The kind and genial character of the captain had, evidently, its
influence on the opposite races thus fortuitously congregated
together. The most perfect harmony prevailed between them. The
Indians, he says, were friendly in their dispositions, and honest
to the most scrupulous degree in their intercourse with the white
men. It is true they were somewhat importunate in their
curiosity, and apt to be continually in the way, examining
everything with keen and prying eye, and watching every movement
of the white men. All this, however, was borne with great
good-humor by the captain, and through his example by his men.
Indeed, throughout all his transactions he shows himself the
friend of the poor Indians, and his conduct toward them is above
all praise.

The Nez Perces, the Flatheads, and the Hanging-ears pride
themselves upon the number of their horses, of which they possess
more in proportion than any other of the mountain tribes within
the buffalo range. Many of the Indian warriors and hunters
encamped around Captain Bonneville possess from thirty to forty
horses each. Their horses are stout, well-built ponies, of great
wind, and capable of enduring the severest hardship and fatigue.
The swiftest of them, however, are those obtained from the whites
while sufficiently young to become acclimated and inured to the
rough service of the mountains.

By degrees the populousness of this encampment began to produce
its inconveniences. The immense droves of horses owned by the
Indians consumed the herbage of the surrounding hills; while to
drive them to any distant pasturage, in a neighborhood abounding
with lurking and deadly enemies, would be to endanger the loss
both of man and beast. Game, too, began to grow scarce. It was
soon hunted and frightened out of the vicinity, and though the
Indians made a wide circuit through the mountains in the hope of
driving the buffalo toward the cantonment, their expedition was
unsuccessful. It was plain that so large a party could not
subsist themselves there, nor in any one place throughout the
winter. Captain Bonneville, therefore, altered his whole
arrangements. He detached fifty men toward the south to winter
upon Snake River, and to trap about its waters in the spring,
with orders to rejoin him in the month of July at Horse Creek, in
Green River Valley, which he had fixed upon as the general
rendezvous of his company for the ensuing year.

Of all his late party, he now retained with him merely a small
number of free trappers, with whom he intended to sojourn among
the Nez Perces and Flatheads, and adopt the Indian mode of moving
with the game and grass. Those bands, in effect, shortly
afterward broke up their encampments and set off for a less
beaten neighborhood. Captain Bonneville remained behind for a few
days, that he might secretly prepare caches, in which to deposit
everything not required for current use. Thus lightened of all
superfluous encumbrance, he set off on the 20th of November to
rejoin his Indian allies. He found them encamped in a secluded
part of the country, at the head of a small stream. Considering
themselves out of all danger in this sequestered spot from their
old enemies, the Blackfeet, their encampment manifested the most
negligent security. Their lodges were scattered in every
direction, and their horses covered every hill for a great
distance round, grazing upon the upland bunch grass which grew in
great abundance, and though dry, retained its nutritious
properties instead of losing them like other grasses in the

When the Nez Perces, Flatheads, and Pends Oreilles are encamped
in a dangerous neighborhood, says Captain Bonneville, the
greatest care is taken of their horses, those prime articles of
Indian wealth, and objects of Indian depredation. Each warrior
has his horse tied by one foot at night to a stake planted before
his lodge. Here they remain until broad daylight; by that time
the young men of the camp are already ranging over the
surrounding hills. Each family then drives its horses to some
eligible spot, where they are left to graze unattended. A young
Indian repairs occasionally to the pasture to give them water,
and to see that all is well. So accustomed are the horses to this
management, that they keep together in the pasture where they
have been left. As the sun sinks behind the hills, they may be
seen moving from all points toward the camp, where they surrender
themselves to be tied up for the night. Even in situations of
danger, the Indians rarely set guards over their camp at night,
intrusting that office entirely to their vigilant and
well-trained dogs.

In an encampment, however, of such fancied security as that in
which Captain Bonneville found his Indian friends, much of these
precautions with respect to their horses are omitted. They merely
drive them, at nightfall, to some sequestered little dell, and
leave them there, at perfect liberty, until the morning.

One object of Captain Bonneville in wintering among these Indians
was to procure a supply of horses against the spring. They were,
however, extremely unwilling to part with any, and it was with
great difficulty that he purchased, at the rate of twenty dollars
each, a few for the use of some of his free trappers who were on
foot and dependent on him for their equipment.

In this encampment Captain Bonneville remained from the 21st of
November to the 9th of December. During this period the
thermometer ranged from thirteen to forty-two degrees. There were
occasional falls of snow; but it generally melted away almost
immediately, and the tender blades of new grass began to shoot up
among the old. On the 7th of December, however, the thermometer
fell to seven degrees.

The reader will recollect that, on distributing his forces when
in Green River Valley, Captain Bonneville had detached a party,
headed by a leader of the name of Matthieu, with all the weak and
disabled horses, to sojourn about Bear River, meet the Shoshonie
bands, and afterward to rejoin him at his winter camp on Salmon

More than sufficient time had elapsed, yet Matthieu failed to
make his appearance, and uneasiness began to be felt on his
account. Captain Bonneville sent out four men, to range the
country through which he would have to pass, and endeavor to get
some information concerning him; for his route lay across the
great Snake River plain, which spreads itself out like an Arabian
desert, and on which a cavalcade could be descried at a great
distance. The scouts soon returned, having proceeded no further
than the edge of the plain, pretending that their horses were
lame; but it was evident they had feared to venture, with so
small a force, into these exposed and dangerous regions.

A disease, which Captain Bonneville supposed to be pneumonia, now
appeared among the Indians, carrying off numbers of them after an
illness of three or four days. The worthy captain acted as
physician, prescribing profuse sweatings and copious bleedings,
and uniformly with success, if the patient were subsequently
treated with proper care. In extraordinary cases, the poor
savages called in the aid of their own doctors or conjurors, who
officiated with great noise and mummery, but with little benefit.
Those who died during this epidemic were buried in graves, after
the manner of the whites, but without any regard to the direction
of the head. It is a fact worthy of notice that, while this
malady made such ravages among the natives, not a single white
man had the slightest symptom of it.

A familiar intercourse of some standing with the Pierced-nose and
Flathead Indians had now convinced Captain Bonneville of their
amicable and inoffensive character; he began to take a strong
interest in them, and conceived the idea of becoming a
pacificator, and healing the deadly feud between them and the
Blackfeet, in which they were so deplorably the sufferers. He
proposed the matter to some of the leaders, and urged that they
should meet the Blackfeet chiefs in a grand pacific conference,
offering to send two of his men to the enemy's camp with pipe,
tobacco and flag of truce, to negotiate the proposed meeting.

The Nez Perces and Flathead sages upon this held a council of war
of two days' duration, in which there was abundance of hard
smoking and long talking, and both eloquence and tobacco were
nearly exhausted. At length they came to a decision to reject the
worthy captain's proposition, and upon pretty substantial
grounds, as the reader may judge.

"War," said the chiefs, "is a bloody business, and full of evil;
but it keeps the eyes of the chiefs always open, and makes the
limbs of the young men strong and supple. In war, every one is on
the alert. If we see a trail we know it must be an enemy; if the
Blackfeet come to us, we know it is for war, and we are ready.
Peace, on the other hand, sounds no alarm; the eyes of the chiefs
are closed in sleep, and the young men are sleek and lazy. The
horses stray into the mountains; the women and their little babes
go about alone. But the heart of a Blackfoot is a lie, and his
tongue is a trap. If he says peace it is to deceive; he comes to
us as a brother; he smokes his pipe with us; but when he sees us
weak, and off our guard, he will slay and steal. We will have no
such peace; let there be war!"

With this reasoning Captain Bonneville was fain to acquiesce;
but, since the sagacious Flatheads and their allies were content
to remain in a state of warfare, he wished them at least to
exercise the boasted vigilance which war was to produce, and to
keep their eyes open. He represented to them the impossibility
that two such considerable clans could move about the country
without leaving trails by which they might be traced. Besides,
among the Blackfeet braves were several Nez Perces, who had been
taken prisoners in early youth, adopted by their captors, and
trained up and imbued with warlike and predatory notions; these
had lost all sympathies with their native tribe, and would be
prone to lead the enemy to their secret haunts. He exhorted them,
therefore, to keep upon the alert, and never to remit their
vigilance while within the range of so crafty and cruel a foe.
All these counsels were lost upon his easy and simple-minded
hearers. A careless indifference reigned throughout their
encampments, and their horses were permitted to range the hills
at night in perfect freedom. Captain Bonneville had his own
horses brought in at night, and properly picketed and guarded.
The evil he apprehended soon took place. In a single night a
swoop was made through the neighboring pastures by the Blackfeet,
and eighty-six of the finest horses carried off. A whip and a
rope were left in a conspicuous situation by the robbers, as a
taunt to the simpletons they had unhorsed.

Long before sunrise the news of this calamity spread like
wildfire through the different encampments. Captain Bonneville,
whose own horses remained safe at their pickets, watched in
momentary expectation of an outbreak of warriors, Pierced-nose
and Flathead, in furious pursuit of the marauders; but no such
thing -- they contented themselves with searching diligently over
hill and dale, to glean up such horses as had escaped the hands
of the marauders, and then resigned themselves to their loss with
the most exemplary quiescence.

Some, it is true, who were entirely unhorsed, set out on a
begging visit to their cousins, as they called them, the Lower
Nez Perces, who inhabit the lower country about the Columbia, and
possess horses in abundance. To these they repair when in
difficulty, and seldom fail, by dint of begging and bartering, to
get themselves once more mounted on horseback.

Game had now become scarce in the neighborhood of the camp, and
it was necessary, according to Indian custom, to move off to a
less beaten ground. Captain Bonneville proposed the Horse
Prairie; but his Indian friends objected that many of the Nez
Perces had gone to visit their cousins, and that the whites were
few in number, so that their united force was not sufficient to
Venture upon the buffalo grounds, which were infested by bands of

They now spoke of a place at no great distance, which they
represented as a perfect hunter's elysium. It was on the right
branch, or head stream of the river, locked up among cliffs and
precipices where there was no danger from roving bands, and where
the Blackfeet dare not enter. Here, they said, the elk abounded,
and the mountain sheep were to be seen trooping upon the rocks
and hills. A little distance beyond it, also, herds of buffalo
were to be met with, Out of range of danger. Thither they
proposed to move their camp.

The proposition pleased the captain, who was desirous, through
the Indians, of becoming acquainted with all the secret places of
the land. Accordingly, on the 9th of December, they struck their
tents, and moved forward by short stages, as many of the Indians
were yet feeble from the late malady.

Following up the right fork of the river they came to where it
entered a deep gorge of the mountains, up which lay the secluded
region so much valued by the Indians. Captain Bonneville halted
and encamped for three days before entering the gorge. In the
meantime he detached five of his free trappers to scour the
hills, and kill as many elk as possible, before the main body
should enter, as they would then be soon frightened away by the
various Indian hunting parties.

While thus encamped, they were still liable to the marauds of the
Blackfeet, and Captain Bonneville admonished his Indian friends
to be upon their guard. The Nez Perces, however, notwithstanding
their recent loss, were still careless of their horses; merely
driving them to some secluded spot, and leaving them there for
the night, without setting any guard upon them. The consequence
was a second swoop, in which forty-one were carried off. This was
borne with equal philosophy with the first, and no effort was
made either to recover the horses, or to take vengeance on the

The Nez Perces, however, grew more cautious with respect to their
remaining horses, driving them regularly to the camp every
evening, and fastening them to pickets. Captain Bonneville,
however, told them that this was not enough. It was evident they
were dogged by a daring and persevering enemy, who was encouraged
by past impunity; they should, therefore, take more than usual
precautions, and post a guard at night over their cavalry. They
could not, however, be persuaded to depart from their usual
custom. The horse once picketed, the care of the owner was over
for the night, and he slept profoundly. None waked in the camp
but the gamblers, who, absorbed in their play, were more
difficult to be roused to external circumstances than even the

The Blackfeet are bold enemies, and fond of hazardous exploits.
The band that were hovering about the neighborhood, finding that
they had such pacific people to deal with, redoubled their
daring. The horses being now picketed before the lodges, a number
of Blackfeet scouts penetrated in the early part of the night
into the very centre of the camp. Here they went about among the
lodges as calmly and deliberately as if at home, quietly cutting
loose the horses that stood picketed by the lodges of their
sleeping owners. One of these prowlers, more adventurous than the
rest, approached a fire round which a group of Nez Perces were
gambling with the most intense eagerness. Here he stood for some
time, muffled up in his robe, peering over the shoulders of the
players, watching the changes of their countenances and the
fluctuations of the game. So completely engrossed were they, that
the presence of this muffled eaves-dropper was unnoticed and,
having executed his bravado, he retired undiscovered.

Having cut loose as many horses as they could conveniently carry
off, the Blackfeet scouts rejoined their comrades, and all
remained patiently round the camp. By degrees the horses, finding
themselves at liberty, took their route toward their customary
grazing ground. As they emerged from the camp they were silently
taken possession of, until, having secured about thirty, the
Blackfeet sprang on their backs and scampered off. The clatter of
hoofs startled the gamblers from their game. They gave the alarm,
which soon roused the sleepers from every lodge. Still all was
quiescent; no marshalling of forces, no saddling of steeds and
dashing off in pursuit, no talk of retribution for their repeated
outrages. The patience of Captain Bonneville was at length
exhausted. He had played the part of a pacificator without
success; he now altered his tone, and resolved, if possible, to
rouse their war spirit.

Accordingly, convoking their chiefs, he inveighed against their
craven policy, and urged the necessity of vigorous and
retributive measures that would check the confidence and
presumption of their enemies, if not inspire them with awe. For
this purpose, he advised that a war party should be immediately
sent off on the trail of the marauders, to follow them, if
necessary, into the very heart of the Blackfoot country, and not
to leave them until they had taken signal vengeance. Beside this,
he recommended the organization of minor war parties, to make
reprisals to the extent of the losses sustained. "Unless you
rouse yourselves from your apathy," said he, "and strike some
bold and decisive blow, you will cease to be considered men, or
objects of manly warfare. The very squaws and children of the
Blackfeet will be set against you, while their warriors reserve
themselves for nobler antagonists."

This harangue had evidently a momentary effect upon the pride of
the hearers. After a short pause, however, one of the orators
arose. It was bad, he said, to go to war for mere revenge. The
Great Spirit had given them a heart for peace, not for war. They
had lost horses, it was true, but they could easily get others
from their cousins, the Lower Nez Perces, without incurring any
risk; whereas, in war they should lose men, who were not so
readily replaced. As to their late losses, an increased
watchfulness would prevent any more misfortunes of the kind. He
disapproved, therefore, of all hostile measures; and all the
other chiefs concurred in his opinion.

Captain Bonneville again took up the point. "It is true," said
he, "the Great Spirit has given you a heart to love your friends;
but he has also given you an arm to strike your enemies. Unless
you do something speedily to put an end to this continual
plundering, I must say farewell. As yet I have sustained no loss;
thanks to the precautions which you have slighted; but my
property is too unsafe here; my turn will come next; I and my
people will share the contempt you are bringing upon yourselves,
and will be thought, like you, poor-spirited beings, who may at
any time be plundered with impunity."

The conference broke up with some signs of excitement on the part
of the Indians. Early the next morning, a party of thirty men set
off in pursuit of the foe, and Captain Bonneville hoped to hear a
good account of the Blackfeet marauders. To his disappointment,
the war party came lagging back on the following day, leading a
few old, sorry, broken-down horses, which the free-booters had
not been able to urge to sufficient speed. This effort exhausted
the martial spirit, and satisfied the wounded pride of the Nez
Perces, and they relapsed into their usual state of passive


Story of Kosato, the Renegade Blackfoot.

IF the meekness and long-suffering of the Pierced-noses grieved
the spirit of Captain Bonneville, there was another individual in
the camp to whom they were still more annoying. This was a
Blackfoot renegado, named Kosato, a fiery hot-blooded youth who,
with a beautiful girl of the same tribe, had taken refuge among
the Nez Perces. Though adopted into the tribe, he still
retained the warlike spirit of his race, and loathed the
peaceful, inoffensive habits of those around him. The hunting of
the deer, the elk, and the buffalo, which was the height of their
ambition, was too tame to satisfy his wild and restless nature.
His heart burned for the foray, the ambush, the skirmish, the
scamper, and all the haps and hazards of roving and predatory

The recent hoverings of the Blackfeet about the camp, their
nightly prowls and daring and successful marauds, had kept him in
a fever and a flutter, like a hawk in a cage who hears his late
companions swooping and screaming in wild liberty above him. The
attempt of Captain Bonneville to rouse the war spirit of the Nez
Perces, and prompt them to retaliation, was ardently seconded by
Kosato. For several days he was incessantly devising schemes of
vengeance, and endeavoring to set on foot an expedition that
should carry dismay and desolation into the Blackfeet town. All
his art was exerted to touch upon those springs of human action
with which he was most familiar. He drew the listening savages
round him by his nervous eloquence; taunted them with recitals of
past wrongs and insults; drew glowing pictures of triumphs and
trophies within their reach; recounted tales of daring and
romantic enterprise, of secret marchings, covert lurkings,
midnight surprisals, sackings, burnings, plunderings, scalpings;
together with the triumphant return, and the feasting and
rejoicing of the victors. These wild tales were intermingled with
the beating of the drum, the yell, the war-whoop and the
war-dance, so inspiring to Indian valor. All, however, were lost
upon the peaceful spirits of his hearers; not a Nez Perce was to
be roused to vengeance, or stimulated to glorious war. In the
bitterness of his heart, the Blackfoot renegade repined at the
mishap which had severed him from a race of congenial spirits,
and driven him to take refuge among beings so destitute of
martial fire.

The character and conduct of this man attracted the attention of
Captain Bonneville, and he was anxious to hear the reason why he
had deserted his tribe, and why he looked back upon them with
such deadly hostility. Kosato told him his own story briefly: it
gives a picture of the deep, strong passions that work in the
bosoms of these miscalled stoics.

"You see my wife," said he, "she is good; she is beautiful --I
love her. Yet she has been the cause of all my troubles. She was
the wife of my chief. I loved her more than he did; and she knew
it. We talked together; we laughed together; we were always
seeking each other's society; but we were as innocent as
children. The chief grew jealous, and commanded her to speak with
me no more. His heart became hard toward her; his jealousy grew
more furious. He beat her without cause and without mercy; and
threatened to kill her outright if she even looked at me. Do you
want traces of his fury? Look at that scar! His rage against me
was no less persecuting. War parties of the Crows were hovering
round us; our young men had seen their trail. All hearts were
roused for action; my horses were before my lodge. Suddenly the
chief came, took them to his own pickets, and called them his
own. What could I do? he was a chief. I durst not speak, but my
heart was burning. I joined no longer in the council, the hunt,
or the war-feast. What had I to do there? an unhorsed, degraded
warrior. I kept by myself, and thought of nothing but these
wrongs and outrages.

"I was sitting one evening upon a knoll that overlooked the
meadow where the horses were pastured. I saw the horses that were
once mine grazing among those of the chief. This maddened me, and
I sat brooding for a time over the injuries I had suffered, and
the cruelties which she I loved had endured for my sake, until my
heart swelled and grew sore, and my teeth were clinched. As I
looked down upon the meadow I saw the chief walking among his
horses. I fastened my eyes upon him as a hawk's; my blood boiled;
I drew my breath hard. He went among the willows. In an instant I
was on my feet; my hand was on my knife --I flew rather than ran
-- before he was aware I sprang upon him, and with two blows laid
him dead at my feet. I covered his body with earth, and strewed
bushes over the place; then I hastened to her I loved, told her
what I had done, and urged her to fly with me. She only answered
me with tears. I reminded her of the wrongs I had suffered, and
of the blows and stripes she had endured from the deceased; I had
done nothing but an act of justice. I again urged her to fly; but
she only wept the more, and bade me go. My heart was heavy, but
my eyes were dry. I folded my arms. ' 'Tis well,' said I; 'Kosato
will go alone to the desert. None will be with him but the wild
beasts of the desert. The seekers of blood may follow on his
trail. They may come upon him when he sleeps and glut their
revenge; but you will be safe. Kosato will go alone.

"I turned away. She sprang after me, and strained me in her arms.
'No,' she cried, 'Kosato shall not go alone! Wherever he goes I
will go -- he shall never part from me.

"'We hastily took in our hands such things as we most needed, and
stealing quietly from the village, mounted the first horses we
encountered. Speeding day and night, we soon reached this tribe.
They received us with welcome, and we have dwelt with them in
peace. They are good and kind; they are honest; but their hearts
are the hearts of women.

Such was the story of Kosato, as related by him to Captain
Bonneville. It is of a kind that often occurs in Indian life;
where love elopements from tribe to tribe are as frequent as
among the novel-read heroes and heroines of sentimental
civilization, and often give rise to bloods and lasting feuds.


The party enters the mountain gorge A wild fastness among
hills Mountain mutton Peace and plenty The amorous trapper-A
piebald wedding-A free trapper's wife-Her gala equipments-
Christmas in the wilderness.

ON the 19th of December Captain Bonneville and his confederate
Indians raised their camp, and entered the narrow gorge made by
the north fork of Salmon River. Up this lay the secure and
plenteous hunting region so temptingly described by the Indians.

Since leaving Green River the plains had invariably been of loose
sand or coarse gravel, and the rocky formation of the mountains
of primitive limestone. The rivers, in general, were skirted
with willows and bitter cottonwood trees, and the prairies
covered with wormwood. In the hollow breast of the mountains
which they were now penetrating, the surrounding heights were
clothed with pine; while the declivities of the lower hills
afforded abundance of bunch grass for the horses.

As the Indians had represented, they were now in a natural
fastness of the mountains, the ingress and egress of which was by
a deep gorge, so narrow, rugged, and difficult as to prevent
secret approach or rapid retreat, and to admit of easy defence.
The Blackfeet, therefore, refrained from venturing in after the
Nez Perces, awaiting a better chance, when they should once more
emerge into the open country.

Captain Bonneville soon found that the Indians had not
exaggerated the advantages of this region. Besides the numerous
gangs of elk, large flocks of the ahsahta or bighorn, the
mountain sheep, were to be seen bounding among the precipices.
These simple animals were easily circumvented and destroyed. A
few hunters may surround a flock and kill as many as they please.
Numbers were daily brought into camp, and the flesh of those
which were young and fat was extolled as superior to the finest

Here, then, there was a cessation from toil, from hunger, and
alarm. Past ills and dangers were forgotten. The hunt, the game,
the song, the story, the rough though good-humored joke, made
time pass joyously away, and plenty and security reigned
throughout the camp.

Idleness and ease, it is said, lead to love, and love to
matrimony, in civilized life, and the same process takes place in
the wilderness. Filled with good cheer and mountain mutton, one
of the free trappers began to repine at the solitude of his
lodge, and to experience the force of that great law of nature,
"it is not meet for man to live alone.''

After a night of grave cogitation he repaired to Kowsoter, the
Pierced-nose chief, and unfolded to him the secret workings of
his bosom.

"I want," said he, "a wife. Give me one from among your tribe.
Not a young, giddy-pated girl, that will think of nothing but
flaunting and finery, but a sober, discreet, hard-working squaw;
one that will share my lot without flinching, however hard it may
be; that can take care of my lodge, and be a companion and a
helpmate to me in the wilderness." Kowsoter promised to look
round among the females of his tribe, and procure such a one as
he desired. Two days were requisite for the search. At the
expiration of these, Kowsoter, called at his lodge, and informed
him that he would bring his bride to him in the course of the
afternoon. He kept his word. At the appointed time he approached,
leading the bride, a comely copper-colored dame attired in her
Indian finery. Her father, mother, brothers by the half dozen and
cousins by the score, all followed on to grace the ceremony and
greet the new and important relative.

The trapper received his new and numerous family connection with
proper solemnity; he placed his bride beside him, and, filling
the pipe, the great symbol of peace, with his best tobacco, took
two or three whiffs, then handed it to the chief who transferred
it to the father of the bride, from whom it was passed on from
hand to hand and mouth to mouth of the whole circle of kinsmen
round the fire, all maintaining the most profound and becoming

After several pipes had been filled and emptied in this solemn
ceremonial, the chief addressed the bride, detailing at
considerable length the duties of a wife which, among Indians,
are little less onerous than those of the pack-horse; this done,
he turned to her friends and congratulated them upon the great
alliance she had made. They showed a due sense of their good
fortune, especially when the nuptial presents came to be
distributed among the chiefs and relatives, amounting to about
one hundred and eighty dollars. The company soon retired, and now
the worthy trapper found indeed that he had no green girl to deal
with; for the knowing dame at once assumed the style and dignity
of a trapper's wife: taking possession of the lodge as her
undisputed empire, arranging everything according to her own
taste and habitudes, and appearing as much at home and on as easy
terms with the trapper as if they had been man and wife for

We have already given a picture of a free trapper and his horse,
as furnished by Captain Bonneville: we shall here subjoin, as a
companion picture, his description of a free trapper's wife, that
the reader may have a correct idea of the kind of blessing the
worthy hunter in question had invoked to solace him in the

"The free trapper, while a bachelor, has no greater pet than his
horse; but the moment he takes a wife (a sort of brevet rank in
matrimony occasionally bestowed upon some Indian fair one, like
the heroes of ancient chivalry in the open field), he discovers
that he has a still more fanciful and capricious animal on which
to lavish his expenses.

"No sooner does an Indian belle experience this promotion, than
all her notions at once rise and expand to the dignity of her
situation, and the purse of her lover, and his credit into the
bargain, are taxed to the utmost to fit her out in becoming
style. The wife of a free trapper to be equipped and arrayed like
any ordinary and undistinguished squaw? Perish the grovelling
thought! In the first place, she must have a horse for her own
riding; but no jaded, sorry, earth-spirited hack, such as is
sometimes assigned by an Indian husband for the transportation of
his squaw and her pappooses: the wife of a free trader must have
the most beautiful animal she can lay her eyes on. And then, as
to his decoration: headstall, breast-bands, saddle and crupper
are lavishly embroidered with beads, and hung with thimbles,
hawks' bells, and bunches of ribbons. From each side of the
saddle hangs an esquimoot, a sort of pocket, in which she bestows
the residue of her trinkets and nick-nacks, which cannot be
crowded on the decoration of her horse or herself. Over this she
folds, with great care, a drapery of scarlet and bright-colored
calicoes, and now considers the caparison of her steed complete.

"As to her own person, she is even still more extravagant. Her
hair, esteemed beautiful in proportion to its length, is
carefully plaited, and made to fall with seeming negligence over
either breast. Her riding hat is stuck full of parti-colored
feathers; her robe, fashioned somewhat after that of the whites,
is of red, green, and sometimes gray cloth, but always of the
finest texture that can be procured. Her leggings and moccasins
are of the most beautiful and expensive workman-ship, and fitted
neatly to the foot and ankle, which with the Indian woman are
generally well formed and delicate. Then as to jewelry: in the
way of finger-rings, ear-rings, necklaces, and other female
glories, nothing within reach of the trapper's means is omitted
that can tend to impress the beholder with an idea of the lady's
high estate. To finish the whole, she selects from among her
blankets of various dyes one of some glowing color, and throwing
it over her shoulders with a native grace, vaults into the saddle
of her gay, prancing steed, and is ready to follow her
mountaineer 'to the last gasp with love and loyalty.' "

Such is the general picture of the free trapper's wife, given by
Captain Bonneville; how far it applied in its details to the one
in question does not altogether appear, though it would seem from
the outset of her connubial career, that she was ready to avail
herself of all the pomp and circumstance of her new condition. It
is worthy of mention that wherever there are several wives of
free trappers in a camp, the keenest rivalry exists between them,
to the sore detriment of their husbands' purses. Their whole time
is expended and their ingenuity tasked by endeavors to eclipse
each other in dress and decoration. The jealousies and
heart-burnings thus occasioned among these so-styled children of
nature are equally intense with those of the rival leaders of
style and fashion in the luxurious abodes of civilized life.

The genial festival of Christmas, which throughout all
Christendom lights up the fireside of home with mirth and
jollity, followed hard upon the wedding just described. Though
far from kindred and friends, Captain Bonneville and his handful
of free trappers were not disposed to suffer the festival to pass
unenjoyed; they were in a region of good cheer, and were disposed
to be joyous; so it was determined to "light up the yule clog,"
and celebrate a merry Christmas in the heart of the wilderness.

On Christmas eve, accordingly, they began their rude fetes and
rejoicings. In the course of the night the free trappers
surrounded the lodge of the Pierced-nose chief and in lieu of
Christmas carols, saluted him with a feude joie.

Kowsoter received it in a truly Christian spirit, and after a
speech, in which he expressed his high gratification at the honor
done him, invited the whole company to a feast on the following
day. His invitation was gladly accepted. A Christmas dinner in
the wigwam of an Indian chief! There was novelty in the idea. Not
one failed to be present. The banquet was served up in primitive
style: skins of various kinds, nicely dressed for the occasion,
were spread upon the ground; upon these were heaped up abundance
of venison, elk meat, and mountain mutton, with various bitter
roots which the Indians use as condiments.

After a short prayer, the company all seated themselves
cross-legged, in Turkish fashion, to the banquet, which passed
off with great hilarity. After which various games of strength
and agility by both white men and Indians closed the Christmas


A hunt after hunters Hungry times A voracious repast Wintry
weather Godin's River Splendid winter scene on the great Lava
Plain of Snake River Severe travelling and tramping in the
snow Manoeuvres of a solitary Indian horseman Encampment on Snake
River Banneck Indians The horse chief His charmed life.

THE continued absence of Matthieu and his party had, by this
time, caused great uneasiness in the mind of Captain Bonneville;
and, finding there was no dependence to be placed upon the
perseverance and courage of scouting parties in so perilous a
quest, he determined to set out himself on the search, and to
keep on until he should ascertain something of the object of his

Accordingly on the 20th December he left the camp, accompanied by
thirteen stark trappers and hunters, all well mounted and armed
for dangerous enterprise. On the following morning they passed
out at the head of the mountain gorge and sallied forth into the
open plain. As they confidently expected a brush with the
Blackfeet, or some other predatory horde, they moved with great
circumspection, and kept vigilant watch in their encampments.

In the course of another day they left the main branch of Salmon
River, and proceeded south toward a pass called John Day's
defile. It was severe and arduous travelling. The plains were
swept by keen and bitter blasts of wintry wind; the ground was
generally covered with snow, game was scarce, so that hunger
generally prevailed in the camp, while the want of pasturage soon
began to manifest itself in the declining vigor of the horses.

The party had scarcely encamped on the afternoon of the 28th,
when two of the hunters who had sallied forth in quest of game
came galloping back in great alarm. While hunting they had
perceived a party of savages, evidently manoeuvring to cut them
off from the camp; and nothing had saved them from being
entrapped but the speed of their horses.

These tidings struck dismay into the camp. Captain Bonneville
endeavored to reassure his men by representing the position of
their encampment, and its capability of defence. He then ordered
the horses to be driven in and picketed, and threw up a rough
breastwork of fallen trunks of trees and the vegetable rubbish of
the wilderness. Within this barrier was maintained a vigilant
watch throughout the night, which passed away without alarm. At
early dawn they scrutinized the surrounding plain, to discover
whether any enemies had been lurking about during the night; not
a foot-print, however, was to be discovered in the coarse gravel
with which the plain was covered.

Hunger now began to cause more uneasiness than the apprehensions
of surrounding enemies. After marching a few miles they encamped
at the foot of a mountain, in hopes of finding buffalo. It was
not until the next day that they discovered a pair of fine bulls
on the edge of the plain, among rocks and ravines. Having now
been two days and a half without a mouthful of food, they took
especial care that these animals should not escape them. While
some of the surest marksmen advanced cautiously with their rifles
into the rough ground, four of the best mounted horsemen took
their stations in the plain, to run the bulls down should they
only be maimed.

The buffalo were wounded and set off in headlong flight. The
half-famished horses were too weak to overtake them on the frozen
ground, but succeeded in driving them on the ice, where they
slipped and fell, and were easily dispatched. The hunters loaded
themselves with beef for present and future supply, and then
returned and encamped at the last nights's fire. Here they
passed the remainder of the day, cooking and eating with a
voracity proportioned to previous starvation, forgetting in the
hearty revel of the moment the certain dangers with which they
were environed.

The cravings of hunger being satisfied, they now began to debate
about their further progress. The men were much disheartened by
the hardships they had already endured. Indeed, two who had been
in the rear guard, taking advantage of their position, had
deserted and returned to the lodges of the Nez Perces. The
prospect ahead was enough to stagger the stoutest heart. They
were in the dead of winter. As far as the eye could reach the
wild landscape was wrapped in snow, which was evidently deepening
as they advanced. Over this they would have to toil, with the
icy wind blowing in their faces: their horses might give out
through want of pasturage, and they themselves must expect
intervals of horrible famine like that they had already

With Captain Bonneville, however, perseverance was a matter of
pride; and, having undertaken this enterprise, nothing could turn
him back until it was accomplished: though he declares that, had
he anticipated the difficulties and sufferings which attended it,
he should have flinched from the undertaking.

Onward, therefore, the little band urged their way, keeping along
the course of a stream called John Day's Creek. The cold was so
intense that they had frequently to dismount and travel on foot,
lest they should freeze in their saddles. The days which at this
season are short enough even in the open prairies, were narrowed
to a few hours by the high mountains, which allowed the
travellers but a brief enjoyment of the cheering rays of the sun.
The snow was generally at least twenty inches in depth, and in
many places much more: those who dismounted had to beat their way
with toilsome steps. Eight miles were considered a good day's
journey. The horses were almost famished; for the herbage was
covered by the deep snow, so that they had nothing to subsist
upon but scanty wisps of the dry bunch grass which peered above
the surface, and the small branches and twigs of frozen willows
and wormwood.

In this way they urged their slow and painful course to the south
down John Day's Creek, until it lost itself in a swamp. Here they
encamped upon the ice among stiffened willows, where they were
obliged to beat down and clear away the snow to procure pasturage
for their horses.

Hence they toiled on to Godin River; so called after an Iroquois
hunter in the service of Sublette, who was murdered there by the
Blackfeet. Many of the features of this remote wilderness are
thus named after scenes of violence and bloodshed that occurred
to the early pioneers. It was an act of filial vengeance on the
part of Godin's son Antoine that, as the reader may recollect,
brought on the recent battle at Pierre's Hole.

From Godin's River, Captain Bonneville and his followers came out
upon the plain of the Three Butes, so called from three singular
and isolated hills that rise from the midst. It is a part of the
great desert of Snake River, one of the most remarkable tracts
beyond the mountains. Could they have experienced a respite from
their sufferings and anxieties, the immense landscape spread out
before them was calculated to inspire admiration. Winter has its
beauties and glories as well as summer; and Captain Bonneville
had the soul to appreciate them.

Far away, says he, over the vast plains, and up the steep sides
of the lofty mountains, the snow lay spread in dazzling
whiteness: and whenever the sun emerged in the morning above the
giant peaks, or burst forth from among clouds in his midday
course, mountain and dell, glazed rock and frosted tree, glowed
and sparkled with surpassing lustre. The tall pines seemed
sprinkled with a silver dust, and the willows, studded with
minute icicles reflecting the prismatic rays, brought to mind the
fairy trees conjured up by the caliph's story-teller to adorn his
vale of diamonds.

The poor wanderers, however, nearly starved with hunger and cold,
were in no mood to enjoy the glories of these brilliant scenes;
though they stamped pictures on their memory which have been
recalled with delight in more genial situations.

Encamping at the west Bute, they found a place swept by the
winds, so that it was bare of snow, and there was abundance of
bunch grass. Here the horses were turned loose to graze
throughout the night. Though for once they had ample pasturage,
yet the keen winds were so intense that, in the morning, a mule
was found frozen to death. The trappers gathered round and
mourned over him as over a cherished friend. They feared their
half-famished horses would soon share his fate, for there seemed
scarce blood enough left in their veins to withstand the freezing
cold. To beat the way further through the snow with these
enfeebled animals seemed next to impossible; and despondency
began to creep over their hearts, when, fortunately, they
discovered a trail made by some hunting party. Into this they
immediately entered, and proceeded with less difficulty. Shortly
afterward, a fine buffalo bull came bounding across the snow and
was instantly brought down by the hunters. A fire was soon
blazing and crackling, and an ample repast soon cooked, and
sooner dispatched; after which they made some further progress
and then encamped. One of the men reached the camp nearly frozen
to death; but good cheer and a blazing fire gradually restored
life, and put his blood in circulation.

Having now a beaten path, they proceeded the next morning with
more facility; indeed, the snow decreased in depth as they
receded from the mountains, and the temperature became more mild.
In the course of the day they discovered a solitary horseman
hovering at a distance before them on the plain. They spurred on
to overtake him; but he was better mounted on a fresher steed,
and kept at a wary distance, reconnoitring them with evident
distrust; for the wild dress of the free trappers, their
leggings, blankets, and cloth caps garnished with fur and topped
off with feathers, even their very elf-locks and weather-bronzed
complexions, gave them the look of Indians rather than white men,
and made him mistake them for a war party of some hostile tribe.

After much manoeuvring, the wild horseman was at length brought
to a parley; but even then he conducted himself with the caution
of a knowing prowler of the prairies. Dismounting from his horse,
and using him as a breastwork, he levelled his gun across his
back, and, thus prepared for defence like a wary cruiser upon the
high seas, he permitted himself to be approached within speaking

He proved to be an Indian of the Banneck tribe, belonging to a
band at no great distance. It was some time before he could be
persuaded that he was conversing with a party of white men and
induced to lay aside his reserve and join them. He then gave them
the interesting intelligence that there were two companies of
white men encamped in the neighborhood. This was cheering news to
Captain Bonneville; who hoped to find in one of them the
long-sought party of Matthieu. Pushing forward, therefore, with
renovated spirits, he reached Snake River by nightfall, and there
fixed his encampment.

Early the next morning (13th January, 1833) , diligent search was
made about the neighborhood for traces of the reported parties of
white men. An encampment was soon discovered about four miles
farther up the river, in which Captain Bonneville to his great
joy found two of Matthieu's men, from whom he learned that the
rest of his party would be there in the course of a few days. It
was a matter of great pride and selfgratulation to Captain
Bonneville that he had thus accomplished his dreary and doubtful
enterprise; and he determined to pass some time in this
encampment, both to await the return of Matthieu, and to give
needful repose to men and horses.

It was, in fact, one of the most eligible and delightful
wintering grounds in that whole range of country. The Snake River
here wound its devious way between low banks through the great
plain of the Three Butes; and was bordered by wide and fertile
meadows. It was studded with islands which, like the alluvial
bottoms, were covered with groves of cotton-wood, thickets of
willow, tracts of good lowland grass, and abundance of green
rushes. The adjacent plains were so vast in extent that no single
band of Indians could drive the buffalo out of them; nor was the
snow of sufficient depth to give any serious inconvenience.
Indeed, during the sojourn of Captain Bonneville in this
neighborhood, which was in the heart of winter, he found the
weather, with the exception of a few cold and stormy days,

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