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The Oregon Trail by Francis Parkman, Jr.

Part 4 out of 7

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sunlight of overhanging boughs. I would I could recall to mind all
the startling combinations that presented themselves, as winding from
side to side of the passage, to avoid its obstructions, we could see,
glancing at intervals through the foliage, the awful forms of the
gigantic cliffs, that seemed at times to hem us in on the right and
on the left, before us and behind! Another scene in a few moments
greeted us; a tract of gray and sunny woods, broken into knolls and
hollows, enlivened by birds and interspersed with flowers. Among the
rest I recognized the mellow whistle of the robin, an old familiar
friend whom I had scarce expected to meet in such a place. Humble-
bees too were buzzing heavily about the flowers; and of these a
species of larkspur caught my eye, more appropriate, it should seem,
to cultivated gardens than to a remote wilderness. Instantly it
recalled a multitude of dormant and delightful recollections.

Leaving behind us this spot and its associations, a sight soon
presented itself, characteristic of that warlike region. In an open
space, fenced in by high rocks, stood two Indian forts, of a square
form, rudely built of sticks and logs. They were somewhat ruinous,
having probably been constructed the year before. Each might have
contained about twenty men. Perhaps in this gloomy spot some party
had been beset by their enemies, and those scowling rocks and blasted
trees might not long since have looked down on a conflict
unchronicled and unknown. Yet if any traces of bloodshed remained
they were completely hidden by the bushes and tall rank weeds.

Gradually the mountains drew apart, and the passage expanded into a
plain, where again we found traces of an Indian encampment. There
were trees and bushes just before us, and we stopped here for an
hour's rest and refreshment. When we had finished our meal Raymond
struck fire, and lighting his pipe, sat down at the foot of a tree to
smoke. For some time I observed him puffing away with a face of
unusual solemnity. Then slowly taking the pipe from his lips, he
looked up and remarked that we had better not go any farther.

"Why not?" asked I.

He said that the country was becoming very dangerous, that we were
entering the range of the Snakes, Arapahoes and Grosventre Blackfeet,
and that if any of their wandering parties should meet us, it would
cost us our lives; but he added, with a blunt fidelity that nearly
reconciled me to his stupidity, that he would go anywhere I wished.
I told him to bring up the animals, and mounting them we proceeded
again. I confess that, as we moved forward, the prospect seemed but
a dreary and doubtful one. I would have given the world for my
ordinary elasticity of body and mind, and for a horse of such
strength and spirit as the journey required.

Closer and closer the rocks gathered round us, growing taller and
steeper, and pressing more and more upon our path. We entered at
length a defile which I never had seen rivaled. The mountain was
cracked from top to bottom, and we were creeping along the bottom of
the fissure, in dampness and gloom, with the clink of hoofs on the
loose shingly rocks, and the hoarse murmuring of a petulant brook
which kept us company. Sometimes the water, foaming among the
stones, overspread the whole narrow passage; sometimes, withdrawing
to one side, it gave us room to pass dry-shod. Looking up, we could
see a narrow ribbon of bright blue sky between the dark edges of the
opposing cliffs. This did not last long. The passage soon widened,
and sunbeams found their way down, flashing upon the black waters.
The defile would spread out to many rods in width; bushes, trees, and
flowers would spring by the side of the brook; the cliffs would be
feathered with shrubbery, that clung in every crevice, and fringed
with trees, that grew along their sunny edges. Then we would be
moving again in the darkness. The passage seemed about four miles
long, and before we reached the end of it, the unshod hoofs of our
animals were lamentably broken, and their legs cut by the sharp
stones. Issuing from the mountain we found another plain. All
around it stood a circle of lofty precipices, that seemed the
impersonation of silence and solitude. Here again the Indians had
encamped, as well they might, after passing with their women,
children and horses through the gulf behind us. In one day we had
made a journey which had cost them three to accomplish.

The only outlet to this amphitheater lay over a hill some two hundred
feet high, up which we moved with difficulty. Looking from the top,
we saw that at last we were free of the mountains. The prairie
spread before us, but so wild and broken that the view was everywhere
obstructed. Far on our left one tall hill swelled up against the
sky, on the smooth, pale green surface of which four slowly moving
black specks were discernible. They were evidently buffalo, and we
hailed the sight as a good augury; for where the buffalo were, there
too the Indians would probably be found. We hoped on that very night
to reach the village. We were anxious to do so for a double reason,
wishing to bring our wearisome journey to an end, and knowing,
moreover, that though to enter the village in broad daylight would be
a perfectly safe experiment, yet to encamp in its vicinity would be
dangerous. But as we rode on, the sun was sinking, and soon was
within half an hour of the horizon. We ascended a hill and looked
round us for a spot for our encampment. The prairie was like a
turbulent ocean, suddenly congealed when its waves were at the
highest, and it lay half in light and half in shadow, as the rich
sunshine, yellow as gold, was pouring over it. The rough bushes of
the wild sage were growing everywhere, its dull pale green
overspreading hill and hollow. Yet a little way before us, a bright
verdant line of grass was winding along the plain, and here and there
throughout its course water was glistening darkly. We went down to
it, kindled a fire, and turned our horses loose to feed. It was a
little trickling brook, that for some yards on either bank turned the
barren prairie into fertility, and here and there it spread into deep
pools, where the beaver had dammed it up.

We placed our last remaining piece of the antelope before a scanty
fire, mournfully reflecting on our exhausted stock of provisions.
Just then an enormous gray hare, peculiar to these prairies, came
jumping along, and seated himself within fifty yards to look at us.
I thoughtlessly raised my rifle to shoot him, but Raymond called out
to me not to fire for fear the report should reach the ears of the
Indians. That night for the first time we considered that the danger
to which we were exposed was of a somewhat serious character; and to
those who are unacquainted with Indians, it may seem strange that our
chief apprehensions arose from the supposed proximity of the people
whom we intended to visit. Had any straggling party of these
faithful friends caught sight of us from the hill-top, they would
probably have returned in the night to plunder us of our horses and
perhaps of our scalps. But we were on the prairie, where the GENIUS
LOCI is at war with all nervous apprehensions; and I presume that
neither Raymond nor I thought twice of the matter that evening.

While he was looking after the animals, I sat by the fire engaged in
the novel task of baking bread. The utensils were of the most simple
and primitive kind, consisting of two sticks inclining over the bed
of coals, one end thrust into the ground while the dough was twisted
in a spiral form round the other. Under such circumstances all the
epicurean in a man's nature is apt to awaken within him. I revisited
in fancy the far distant abodes of good fare, not indeed Frascati's,
or the Trois Freres Provencaux, for that were too extreme a flight;
but no other than the homely table of my old friend and host, Tom
Crawford, of the White Mountains. By a singular revulsion, Tom
himself, whom I well remember to have looked upon as the
impersonation of all that is wild and backwoodsman-like, now appeared
before me as the ministering angel of comfort and good living. Being
fatigued and drowsy I began to doze, and my thoughts, following the
same train of association, assumed another form. Half-dreaming, I
saw myself surrounded with the mountains of New England, alive with
water-falls, their black crags tinctured with milk-white mists. For
this reverie I paid a speedy penalty; for the bread was black on one
side and soft on the other.

For eight hours Raymond and I, pillowed on our saddles, lay
insensible as logs. Pauline's yellow head was stretched over me when
I awoke. I got up and examined her. Her feet indeed were bruised
and swollen by the accidents of yesterday, but her eye was brighter,
her motions livelier, and her mysterious malady had visibly abated.
We moved on, hoping within an hour to come in sight of the Indian
village; but again disappointment awaited us. The trail disappeared,
melting away upon a hard and stony plain. Raymond and I separating,
rode from side to side, scrutinizing every yard of ground, until at
length I discerned traces of the lodge-poles passing by the side of a
ridge of rocks. We began again to follow them.

"What is that black spot out there on the prairie?"

"It looks like a dead buffalo," answered Raymond.

We rode out to it, and found it to be the huge carcass of a bull
killed by the Indians as they had passed. Tangled hair and scraps of
hide were scattered all around, for the wolves had been making merry
over it, and had hollowed out the entire carcass. It was covered
with myriads of large black crickets, and from its appearance must
certainly have lain there for four or five days. The sight was a
most disheartening one, and I observed to Raymond that the Indians
might still be fifty or sixty miles before us. But he shook his
head, and replied that they dared not go so far for fear of their
enemies, the Snakes.

Soon after this we lost the trail again, and ascended a neighboring
ridge, totally at a loss. Before us lay a plain perfectly flat,
spreading on the right and left, without apparent limit, and bounded
in front by a long broken line of hills, ten or twelve miles distant.
All was open and exposed to view, yet not a buffalo nor an Indian was

"Do you see that?" said Raymond; "Now we had better turn round."

But as Raymond's bourgeois thought otherwise, we descended the hill
and began to cross the plain. We had come so far that I knew
perfectly well neither Pauline's limbs nor my own could carry me back
to Fort Laramie. I considered that the lines of expediency and
inclination tallied exactly, and that the most prudent course was to
keep forward. The ground immediately around us was thickly strewn
with the skulls and bones of buffalo, for here a year or two before
the Indians had made a "surround"; yet no living game presented
itself. At length, however, an antelope sprang up and gazed at us.
We fired together, and by a singular fatality we both missed,
although the animal stood, a fair mark, within eighty yards. This
ill success might perhaps be charged to our own eagerness, for by
this time we had no provision left except a little flour. We could
discern several small lakes, or rather extensive pools of water,
glistening in the distance. As we approached them, wolves and
antelopes bounded away through the tall grass that grew in their
vicinity, and flocks of large white plover flew screaming over their
surface. Having failed of the antelope, Raymond tried his hand at
the birds with the same ill success. The water also disappointed us.
Its muddy margin was so beaten up by the crowd of buffalo that our
timorous animals were afraid to approach. So we turned away and
moved toward the hills. The rank grass, where it was not trampled
down by the buffalo, fairly swept our horses' necks.

Again we found the same execrable barren prairie offering no clew by
which to guide our way. As we drew near the hills an opening
appeared, through which the Indians must have gone if they had passed
that way at all. Slowly we began to ascend it. I felt the most
dreary forebodings of ill success, when on looking round I could
discover neither dent of hoof, nor footprint, nor trace of lodge-
pole, though the passage was encumbered by the ghastly skulls of
buffalo. We heard thunder muttering; a storm was coming on.

As we gained the top of the gap, the prospect beyond began to
disclose itself. First, we saw a long dark line of ragged clouds
upon the horizon, while above them rose the peak of the Medicine-Bow,
the vanguard of the Rocky Mountains; then little by little the plain
came into view, a vast green uniformity, forlorn and tenantless,
though Laramie Creek glistened in a waving line over its surface,
without a bush or a tree upon its banks. As yet, the round
projecting shoulder of a hill intercepted a part of the view. I rode
in advance, when suddenly I could distinguish a few dark spots on the
prairie, along the bank of the stream.

"Buffalo!" said I. Then a sudden hope flashed upon me, and eagerly
and anxiously I looked again.

"Horses!" exclaimed Raymond, with a tremendous oath, lashing his mule
forward as he spoke. More and more of the plain disclosed itself,
and in rapid succession more and more horses appeared, scattered
along the river bank, or feeding in bands over the prairie. Then,
suddenly, standing in a circle by the stream, swarming with their
savage inhabitants, we saw rising before us the tall lodges of the
Ogallalla. Never did the heart of wanderer more gladden at the sight
of home than did mine at the sight of those wild habitations!



Such a narrative as this is hardly the place for portraying the
mental features of the Indians. The same picture, slightly changed
in shade and coloring, would serve with very few exceptions for all
the tribes that lie north of the Mexican territories. But with this
striking similarity in their modes of thought, the tribes of the lake
and ocean shores, of the forests and of the plains, differ greatly in
their manner of life. Having been domesticated for several weeks
among one of the wildest of the wild hordes that roam over the remote
prairies, I had extraordinary opportunities of observing them, and I
flatter myself that a faithful picture of the scenes that passed
daily before my eyes may not be devoid of interest and value. These
men were thorough savages. Neither their manners nor their ideas
were in the slightest degree modified by contact with civilization.
They knew nothing of the power and real character of the white men,
and their children would scream in terror at the sight of me. Their
religion, their superstitions, and their prejudices were the same
that had been handed down to them from immemorial time. They fought
with the same weapons that their fathers fought with and wore the
same rude garments of skins.

Great changes are at hand in that region. With the stream of
emigration to Oregon and California, the buffalo will dwindle away,
and the large wandering communities who depend on them for support
must be broken and scattered. The Indians will soon be corrupted by
the example of the whites, abased by whisky, and overawed by military
posts; so that within a few years the traveler may pass in tolerable
security through their country. Its danger and its charm will have
disappeared together.

As soon as Raymond and I discovered the village from the gap in the
hills, we were seen in our turn; keen eyes were constantly on the
watch. As we rode down upon the plain the side of the village
nearest us was darkened with a crowd of naked figures gathering
around the lodges. Several men came forward to meet us. I could
distinguish among them the green blanket of the Frenchman Reynal.
When we came up the ceremony of shaking hands had to be gone through
with in due form, and then all were eager to know what had become of
the rest of my party. I satisfied them on this point, and we all
moved forward together toward the village.

"You've missed it," said Reynal; "if you'd been here day before
yesterday, you'd have found the whole prairie over yonder black with
buffalo as far as you could see. There were no cows, though; nothing
but bulls. We made a 'surround' every day till yesterday. See the
village there; don't that look like good living?"

In fact I could see, even at that distance, that long cords were
stretched from lodge to lodge, over which the meat, cut by the squaws
into thin sheets, was hanging to dry in the sun. I noticed too that
the village was somewhat smaller than when I had last seen it, and I
asked Reynal the cause. He said that the old Le Borgne had felt too
weak to pass over the mountains, and so had remained behind with all
his relations, including Mahto-Tatonka and his brothers. The
Whirlwind too had been unwilling to come so far, because, as Reynal
said, he was afraid. Only half a dozen lodges had adhered to him,
the main body of the village setting their chief's authority at
naught, and taking the course most agreeable to their inclinations.

"What chiefs are there in the village now?" said I.

"Well," said Reynal, "there's old Red-Water, and the Eagle-Feather,
and the Big Crow, and the Mad Wolf and the Panther, and the White
Shield, and--what's his name?--the half-breed Cheyenne."

By this time we were close to the village, and I observed that while
the greater part of the lodges were very large and neat in their
appearance, there was at one side a cluster of squalid, miserable
huts. I looked toward them, and made some remark about their
wretched appearance. But I was touching upon delicate ground.

"My squaw's relations live in those lodges," said Reynal very warmly,
"and there isn't a better set in the whole village."

"Are there any chiefs among them?" asked I.

"Chiefs?" said Reynal; "yes, plenty!"

"What are their names?" I inquired.

"Their names? Why, there's the Arrow-Head. If he isn't a chief he
ought to be one. And there's the Hail-Storm. He's nothing but a
boy, to be sure; but he's bound to be a chief one of these days!"

Just then we passed between two of the lodges, and entered the great
area of the village. Superb naked figures stood silently gazing on

"Where's the Bad Wound's lodge?" said I to Reynal.

"There, you've missed it again! The Bad Wound is away with The
Whirlwind. If you could have found him here, and gone to live in his
lodge, he would have treated you better than any man in the village.
But there's the Big Crow's lodge yonder, next to old Red-Water's.
He's a good Indian for the whites, and I advise you to go and live
with him."

"Are there many squaws and children in his lodge?" said I.

"No; only one squaw and two or three children. He keeps the rest in
a separate lodge by themselves."

So, still followed by a crowd of Indians, Raymond and I rode up to
the entrance of the Big Crow's lodge. A squaw came out immediately
and took our horses. I put aside the leather nap that covered the
low opening, and stooping, entered the Big Crow's dwelling. There I
could see the chief in the dim light, seated at one side, on a pile
of buffalo robes. He greeted me with a guttural "How, cola!" I
requested Reynal to tell him that Raymond and I were come to live
with him. The Big Crow gave another low exclamation. If the reader
thinks that we were intruding somewhat cavalierly, I beg him to
observe that every Indian in the village would have deemed himself
honored that white men should give such preference to his

The squaw spread a buffalo robe for us in the guest's place at the
head of the lodge. Our saddles were brought in, and scarcely were we
seated upon them before the place was thronged with Indians, who came
crowding in to see us. The Big Crow produced his pipe and filled it
with the mixture of tobacco and shongsasha, or red willow bark.
Round and round it passed, and a lively conversation went forward.
Meanwhile a squaw placed before the two guests a wooden bowl of
boiled buffalo meat, but unhappily this was not the only banquet
destined to be inflicted on us. Rapidly, one after another, boys and
young squaws thrust their heads in at the opening, to invite us to
various feasts in different parts of the village. For half an hour
or more we were actively engaged in passing from lodge to lodge,
tasting in each of the bowl of meat set before us, and inhaling a
whiff or two from our entertainer's pipe. A thunderstorm that had
been threatening for some time now began in good earnest. We crossed
over to Reynal's lodge, though it hardly deserved this name, for it
consisted only of a few old buffalo robes, supported on poles, and
was quite open on one side. Here we sat down, and the Indians
gathered round us.

"What is it," said I, "that makes the thunder?"

"It's my belief," said Reynal, "that it is a big stone rolling over
the sky."

"Very likely," I replied; "but I want to know what the Indians think
about it."

So he interpreted my question, which seemed to produce some doubt and
debate. There was evidently a difference of opinion. At last old
Mene-Seela, or Red-Water, who sat by himself at one side, looked up
with his withered face, and said he had always known what the thunder
was. It was a great black bird; and once he had seen it, in a dream,
swooping down from the Black Hills, with its loud roaring wings; and
when it flapped them over a lake, they struck lightning from the

"The thunder is bad," said another old man, who sat muffled in his
buffalo robe; "he killed my brother last summer."

Reynal, at my request, asked for an explanation; but the old man
remained doggedly silent, and would not look up. Some time after I
learned how the accident occurred. The man who was killed belonged
to an association which, among other mystic functions, claimed the
exclusive power and privilege of fighting the thunder. Whenever a
storm which they wished to avert was threatening, the thunder-
fighters would take their bows and arrows, their guns, their magic
drum, and a sort of whistle, made out of the wingbone of the war
eagle. Thus equipped, they would run out and fire at the rising
cloud, whooping, yelling, whistling, and beating their drum, to
frighten it down again. One afternoon a heavy black cloud was coming
up, and they repaired to the top of a hill, where they brought all
their magic artillery into play against it. But the undaunted
thunder, refusing to be terrified, kept moving straight onward, and
darted out a bright flash which struck one of the party dead, as he
was in the very act of shaking his long iron-pointed lance against
it. The rest scattered and ran yelling in an ecstasy of
superstitious terror back to their lodges.

The lodge of my host Kongra-Tonga, or the Big Crow, presented a
picturesque spectacle that evening. A score or more of Indians were
seated around in a circle, their dark naked forms just visible by the
dull light of the smoldering fire in the center, the pipe glowing
brightly in the gloom as it passed from hand to hand round the lodge.
Then a squaw would drop a piece of buffalo-fat on the dull embers.
Instantly a bright glancing flame would leap up, darting its clear
light to the very apex of the tall conical structure, where the tops
of the slender poles that supported its covering of leather were
gathered together. It gilded the features of the Indians, as with
animated gestures they sat around it, telling their endless stories
of war and hunting. It displayed rude garments of skins that hung
around the lodge; the bow, quiver, and lance suspended over the
resting-place of the chief, and the rifles and powder-horns of the
two white guests. For a moment all would be bright as day; then the
flames would die away, and fitful flashes from the embers would
illumine the lodge, and then leave it in darkness. Then all the
light would wholly fade, and the lodge and all within it be involved
again in obscurity.

As I left the lodge next morning, I was saluted by howling and
yelling from all around the village, and half its canine population
rushed forth to the attack. Being as cowardly as they were
clamorous, they kept jumping around me at the distance of a few
yards, only one little cur, about ten inches long, having spirit
enough to make a direct assault. He dashed valiantly at the leather
tassel which in the Dakota fashion was trailing behind the heel of my
moccasin, and kept his hold, growling and snarling all the while,
though every step I made almost jerked him over on his back. As I
knew that the eyes of the whole village were on the watch to see if I
showed any sign of apprehension, I walked forward without looking to
the right or left, surrounded wherever I went by this magic circle of
dogs. When I came to Reynal's lodge I sat down by it, on which the
dogs dispersed growling to their respective quarters. Only one large
white one remained, who kept running about before me and showing his
teeth. I called him, but he only growled the more. I looked at him
well. He was fat and sleek; just such a dog as I wanted. "My
friend," thought I, "you shall pay for this! I will have you eaten
this very morning!"

I intended that day to give the Indians a feast, by way of conveying
a favorable impression of my character and dignity; and a white dog
is the dish which the customs of the Dakota prescribe for all
occasions of formality and importance. I consulted Reynal; he soon
discovered that an old woman in the next lodge was owner of the white
dog. I took a gaudy cotton handkerchief, and laying it on the
ground, arranged some vermilion, beads, and other trinkets upon it.
Then the old squaw was summoned. I pointed to the dog and to the
handkerchief. She gave a scream of delight, snatched up the prize,
and vanished with it into her lodge. For a few more trifles I
engaged the services of two other squaws, each of whom took the white
dog by one of his paws, and led him away behind the lodges, while he
kept looking up at them with a face of innocent surprise. Having
killed him they threw him into a fire to singe; then chopped him up
and put him into two large kettles to boil. Meanwhile I told Raymond
to fry in buffalo-fat what little flour we had left, and also to make
a kettle of tea as an additional item of the repast.

The Big Crow's squaw was set briskly at work sweeping out the lodge
for the approaching festivity. I confided to my host himself the
task of inviting the guests, thinking that I might thereby shift from
my own shoulders the odium of fancied neglect and oversight.

When feasting is in question, one hour of the day serves an Indian as
well as another. My entertainment came off about eleven o'clock. At
that hour, Reynal and Raymond walked across the area of the village,
to the admiration of the inhabitants, carrying the two kettles of
dog-meat slung on a pole between them. These they placed in the
center of the lodge, and then went back for the bread and the tea.
Meanwhile I had put on a pair of brilliant moccasins, and substituted
for my old buckskin frock a coat which I had brought with me in view
of such public occasions. I also made careful use of the razor, an
operation which no man will neglect who desires to gain the good
opinion of Indians. Thus attired, I seated myself between Reynal and
Raymond at the head of the lodge. Only a few minutes elapsed before
all the guests had come in and were seated on the ground, wedged
together in a close circle around the lodge. Each brought with him a
wooden bowl to hold his share of the repast. When all were
assembled, two of the officials called "soldiers" by the white men,
came forward with ladles made of the horn of the Rocky Mountain
sheep, and began to distribute the feast, always assigning a double
share to the old men and chiefs. The dog vanished with astonishing
celerity, and each guest turned his dish bottom upward to show that
all was gone. Then the bread was distributed in its turn, and
finally the tea. As the soldiers poured it out into the same wooden
bowls that had served for the substantial part of the meal, I thought
it had a particularly curious and uninviting color.

"Oh!" said Reynal, "there was not tea enough, so I stirred some soot
in the kettle, to make it look strong."

Fortunately an Indian's palate is not very discriminating. The tea
was well sweetened, and that was all they cared for.

Now the former part of the entertainment being concluded, the time
for speech-making was come. The Big Crow produced a flat piece of
wood on which he cut up tobacco and shongsasha, and mixed them in due
proportions. The pipes were filled and passed from hand to hand
around the company. Then I began my speech, each sentence being
interpreted by Reynal as I went on, and echoed by the whole audience
with the usual exclamations of assent and approval. As nearly as I
can recollect, it was as follows:

I had come, I told them, from a country so far distant, that at the
rate they travel, they could not reach it in a year.

"Howo how!"

"There the Meneaska were more numerous than the blades of grass on
the prairie. The squaws were far more beautiful than any they had
ever seen, and all the men were brave warriors."

"How! how! how!"

Here I was assailed by sharp twinges of conscience, for I fancied I
could perceive a fragrance of perfumery in the air, and a vision rose
before me of white kid gloves and silken mustaches with the mild and
gentle countenances of numerous fair-haired young men. But I
recovered myself and began again.

"While I was living in the Meneaska lodges, I had heard of the
Ogallalla, how great and brave a nation they were, how they loved the
whites, and how well they could hunt the buffalo and strike their
enemies. I resolved to come and see if all that I heard was true."

"How! how! how! how!"

"As I had come on horseback through the mountains, I had been able to
bring them only a very few presents."


"But I had enough tobacco to give them all a small piece. They might
smoke it, and see how much better it was than the tobacco which they
got from the traders."

"How! how! how!"

"I had plenty of powder, lead, knives, and tobacco at Fort Laramie.
These I was anxious to give them, and if any of them should come to
the fort before I went away, I would make them handsome presents."

"How! howo how! how!"

Raymond then cut up and distributed among them two or three pounds of
tobacco, and old Mene-Seela began to make a reply. It was quite
long, but the following was the pith of it:

"He had always loved the whites. They were the wisest people on
earth. He believed they could do everything, and he was always glad
when any of them came to live in the Ogallalla lodges. It was true I
had not made them many presents, but the reason of it was plain. It
was clear that I liked them, or I never should have come so far to
find their village."

Several other speeches of similar import followed, and then this more
serious matter being disposed of, there was an interval of smoking,
laughing, and conversation; but old Mene-Seela suddenly interrupted
it with a loud voice:

"Now is a good time," he said, "when all the old men and chiefs are
here together, to decide what the people shall do. We came over the
mountain to make our lodges for next year. Our old ones are good for
nothing; they are rotten and worn out. But we have been
disappointed. We have killed buffalo bulls enough, but we have found
no herds of cows, and the skins of bulls are too thick and heavy for
our squaws to make lodges of. There must be plenty of cows about the
Medicine-Bow Mountain. We ought to go there. To be sure it is
farther westward than we have ever been before, and perhaps the
Snakes will attack us, for those hunting-grounds belong to them. But
we must have new lodges at any rate; our old ones will not serve for
another year. We ought not to be afraid of the Snakes. Our warriors
are brave, and they are all ready for war. Besides, we have three
white men with their rifles to help us."

I could not help thinking that the old man relied a little too much
on the aid of allies, one of whom was a coward, another a blockhead,
and the third an invalid. This speech produced a good deal of
debate. As Reynal did not interpret what was said, I could only
judge of the meaning by the features and gestures of the speakers.
At the end of it, however, the greater number seemed to have fallen
in with Mene-Seela's opinion. A short silence followed, and then the
old man struck up a discordant chant, which I was told was a song of
thanks for the entertainment I had given them.

"Now," said he, "let us go and give the white men a chance to

So the company all dispersed into the open air, and for some time the
old chief was walking round the village, singing his song in praise
of the feast, after the usual custom of the nation.

At last the day drew to a close, and as the sun went down the horses
came trooping from the surrounding plains to be picketed before the
dwellings of their respective masters. Soon within the great circle
of lodges appeared another concentric circle of restless horses; and
here and there fires were glowing and flickering amid the gloom of
the dusky figures around them. I went over and sat by the lodge of
Reynal. The Eagle-Feather, who was a son of Mene-Seela, and brother
of my host the Big Crow, was seated there already, and I asked him if
the village would move in the morning. He shook his head, and said
that nobody could tell, for since old Mahto-Tatonka had died, the
people had been like children that did not know their own minds.
They were no better than a body without a head. So I, as well as the
Indians themselves, fell asleep that night without knowing whether we
should set out in the morning toward the country of the Snakes.

At daybreak, however, as I was coming up from the river after my
morning's ablutions, I saw that a movement was contemplated. Some of
the lodges were reduced to nothing but bare skeletons of poles; the
leather covering of others was flapping in the wind as the squaws
were pulling it off. One or two chiefs of note had resolved, it
seemed, on moving; and so having set their squaws at work, the
example was tacitly followed by the rest of the village. One by one
the lodges were sinking down in rapid succession, and where the great
circle of the village had been only a moment before, nothing now
remained but a ring of horses and Indians, crowded in confusion
together. The ruins of the lodges were spread over the ground,
together with kettles, stone mallets, great ladles of horn, buffalo
robes, and cases of painted hide, filled with dried meat. Squaws
bustled about in their busy preparations, the old hags screaming to
one another at the stretch of their leathern lungs. The shaggy
horses were patiently standing while the lodge-poles were lashed to
their sides, and the baggage piled upon their backs. The dogs, with
their tongues lolling out, lay lazily panting, and waiting for the
time of departure. Each warrior sat on the ground by the decaying
embers of his fire, unmoved amid all the confusion, while he held in
his hand the long trail-rope of his horse.

As their preparations were completed, each family moved off the
ground. The crowd was rapidly melting away. I could see them
crossing the river, and passing in quick succession along the profile
of the hill on the farther bank. When all were gone, I mounted and
set out after them, followed by Raymond, and as we gained the summit,
the whole village came in view at once, straggling away for a mile or
more over the barren plains before us. Everywhere the iron points of
lances were glittering. The sun never shone upon a more strange
array. Here were the heavy-laden pack horses, some wretched old
women leading them, and two or three children clinging to their
backs. Here were mules or ponies covered from head to tail with
gaudy trappings, and mounted by some gay young squaw, grinning
bashfulness and pleasure as the Meneaska looked at her. Boys with
miniature bows and arrows were wandering over the plains, little
naked children were running along on foot, and numberless dogs were
scampering among the feet of the horses. The young braves, gaudy
with paint and feathers, were riding in groups among the crowd, and
often galloping, two or three at once along the line, to try the
speed of their horses. Here and there you might see a rank of sturdy
pedestrians stalking along in their white buffalo robes. These were
the dignitaries of the village, the old men and warriors, to whose
age and experience that wandering democracy yielded a silent
deference. With the rough prairie and the broken hills for its
background, the restless scene was striking and picturesque beyond
description. Days and weeks made me familiar with it, but never
impaired its effect upon my fancy.

As we moved on the broken column grew yet more scattered and
disorderly, until, as we approached the foot of a hill, I saw the old
men before mentioned seating themselves in a line upon the ground, in
advance of the whole. They lighted a pipe and sat smoking, laughing,
and telling stories, while the people, stopping as they successively
came up, were soon gathered in a crowd behind them. Then the old men
rose, drew their buffalo robes over their shoulders, and strode on as
before. Gaining the top of the hill, we found a very steep declivity
before us. There was not a minute's pause. The whole descended in a
mass, amid dust and confusion. The horses braced their feet as they
slid down, women and children were screaming, dogs yelping as they
were trodden upon, while stones and earth went rolling to the bottom.
In a few moments I could see the village from the summit, spreading
again far and wide over the plain below.

At our encampment that afternoon I was attacked anew by my old
disorder. In half an hour the strength that I had been gaining for a
week past had vanished again, and I became like a man in a dream.
But at sunset I lay down in the Big Crow's lodge and slept, totally
unconscious till the morning. The first thing that awakened me was a
hoarse flapping over my head, and a sudden light that poured in upon
me. The camp was breaking up, and the squaws were moving the
covering from the lodge. I arose and shook off my blanket with the
feeling of perfect health; but scarcely had I gained my feet when a
sense of my helpless condition was once more forced upon me, and I
found myself scarcely able to stand. Raymond had brought up Pauline
and the mule, and I stooped to raise my saddle from the ground. My
strength was quite inadequate to the task. "You must saddle her,"
said I to Raymond, as I sat down again on a pile of buffalo robes:

"Et hoec etiam fortasse meminisse juvabit."

I thought, while with a painful effort I raised myself into the
saddle. Half an hour after, even the expectation that Virgil's line
expressed seemed destined to disappointment. As we were passing over
a great plain, surrounded by long broken ridges, I rode slowly in
advance of the Indians, with thoughts that wandered far from the time
and from the place. Suddenly the sky darkened, and thunder began to
mutter. Clouds were rising over the hills, as dreary and dull as the
first forebodings of an approaching calamity; and in a moment all
around was wrapped in shadow. I looked behind. The Indians had
stopped to prepare for the approaching storm, and the dark, dense
mass of savages stretched far to the right and left. Since the first
attack of my disorder the effects of rain upon me had usually been
injurious in the extreme. I had no strength to spare, having at that
moment scarcely enough to keep my seat on horseback. Then, for the
first time, it pressed upon me as a strong probability that I might
never leave those deserts. "Well," thought I to myself, "a prairie
makes quick and sharp work. Better to die here, in the saddle to the
last, than to stifle in the hot air of a sick chamber, and a thousand
times better than to drag out life, as many have done, in the
helpless inaction of lingering disease." So, drawing the buffalo
robe on which I sat over my head, I waited till the storm should
come. It broke at last with a sudden burst of fury, and passing away
as rapidly as it came, left the sky clear again. My reflections
served me no other purpose than to look back upon as a piece of
curious experience; for the rain did not produce the ill effects that
I had expected. We encamped within an hour. Having no change of
clothes, I contrived to borrow a curious kind of substitute from
Reynal: and this done, I went home, that is, to the Big Crow's lodge
to make the entire transfer that was necessary. Half a dozen squaws
were in the lodge, and one of them taking my arm held it against her
own, while a general laugh and scream of admiration were raised at
the contrast in the color of the skin.

Our encampment that afternoon was not far distant from a spur of the
Black Hills, whose ridges, bristling with fir trees, rose from the
plains a mile or two on our right. That they might move more rapidly
toward their proposed hunting-grounds, the Indians determined to
leave at this place their stock of dried meat and other superfluous
articles. Some left even their lodges, and contented themselves with
carrying a few hides to make a shelter from the sun and rain. Half
the inhabitants set out in the afternoon, with loaded pack horses,
toward the mountains. Here they suspended the dried meat upon trees,
where the wolves and grizzly bears could not get at it. All returned
at evening. Some of the young men declared that they had heard the
reports of guns among the mountains to the eastward, and many
surmises were thrown out as to the origin of these sounds. For my
part, I was in hopes that Shaw and Henry Chatillon were coming to
join us. I would have welcomed them cordially, for I had no other
companions than two brutish white men and five hundred savages. I
little suspected that at that very moment my unlucky comrade was
lying on a buffalo robe at Fort Laramie, fevered with ivy poison, and
solacing his woes with tobacco and Shakespeare.

As we moved over the plains on the next morning, several young men
were riding about the country as scouts; and at length we began to
see them occasionally on the tops of the hills, shaking their robes
as a signal that they saw buffalo. Soon after, some bulls came in
sight. Horsemen darted away in pursuit, and we could see from the
distance that one or two of the buffalo were killed. Raymond
suddenly became inspired. I looked at him as he rode by my side; his
face had actually grown intelligent!

"This is the country for me!" he said; "if I could only carry the
buffalo that are killed here every month down to St. Louis I'd make
my fortune in one winter. I'd grow as rich as old Papin, or
Mackenzie either. I call this the poor man's market. When I'm
hungry I have only got to take my rifle and go out and get better
meat than the rich folks down below can get with all their money.
You won't catch me living in St. Louis another winter."

"No," said Reynal, "you had better say that after you and your
Spanish woman almost starved to death there. What a fool you were
ever to take her to the settlements."

"Your Spanish woman?" said I; "I never heard of her before. Are you
married to her?"

"No," answered Raymond, again looking intelligent; "the priests don't
marry their women, and why should I marry mine?"

This honorable mention of the Mexican clergy introduced the subject
of religion, and I found that my two associates, in common with other
white men in the country, were as indifferent to their future welfare
as men whose lives are in constant peril are apt to be. Raymond had
never heard of the Pope. A certain bishop, who lived at Taos or at
Santa Fe, embodied his loftiest idea of an ecclesiastical dignitary.
Reynal observed that a priest had been at Fort Laramie two years ago,
on his way to the Nez Perce mission, and that he had confessed all
the men there and given them absolution. "I got a good clearing out
myself that time," said Reynal, "and I reckon that will do for me
till I go down to the settlements again."

Here he interrupted himself with an oath and exclaimed: "Look! look!
The Panther is running an antelope!"

The Panther, on his black and white horse, one of the best in the
village, came at full speed over the hill in hot pursuit of an
antelope that darted away like lightning before him. The attempt was
made in mere sport and bravado, for very few are the horses that can
for a moment compete in swiftness with this little animal. The
antelope ran down the hill toward the main body of the Indians who
were moving over the plain below. Sharp yells were given and
horsemen galloped out to intercept his flight. At this he turned
sharply to the left and scoured away with such incredible speed that
he distanced all his pursuers and even the vaunted horse of the
Panther himself. A few moments after we witnessed a more serious
sport. A shaggy buffalo bull bounded out from a neighboring hollow,
and close behind him came a slender Indian boy, riding without
stirrups or saddle and lashing his eager little horse to full speed.
Yard after yard he drew closer to his gigantic victim, though the
bull, with his short tail erect and his tongue lolling out a foot
from his foaming jaws, was straining his unwieldy strength to the
utmost. A moment more and the boy was close alongside of him. It
was our friend the Hail-Storm. He dropped the rein on his horse's
neck and jerked an arrow like lightning from the quiver at his

"I tell you," said Reynal, "that in a year's time that boy will match
the best hunter in the village. There he has given it to him! and
there goes another! You feel well, now, old bull, don't you, with
two arrows stuck in your lights? There, he has given him another!
Hear how the Hail-Storm yells when he shoots! Yes, jump at him; try
it again, old fellow! You may jump all day before you get your horns
into that pony!"

The bull sprang again and again at his assailant, but the horse kept
dodging with wonderful celerity. At length the bull followed up his
attack with a furious rush, and the Hail-Storm was put to flight, the
shaggy monster following close behind. The boy clung in his seat
like a leech, and secure in the speed of his little pony, looked
round toward us and laughed. In a moment he was again alongside of
the bull, who was now driven to complete desperation. His eyeballs
glared through his tangled mane, and the blood flew from his mouth
and nostrils. Thus, still battling with each other, the two enemies
disappeared over the hill.

Many of the Indians rode at full gallop toward the spot. We followed
at a more moderate pace, and soon saw the bull lying dead on the side
of the hill. The Indians were gathered around him, and several
knives were already at work. These little instruments were plied
with such wonderful address that the twisted sinews were cut apart,
the ponderous bones fell asunder as if by magic, and in a moment the
vast carcass was reduced to a heap of bloody ruins. The surrounding
group of savages offered no very attractive spectacle to a civilized
eye. Some were cracking the huge thigh-bones and devouring the
marrow within; others were cutting away pieces of the liver and other
approved morsels, and swallowing them on the spot with the appetite
of wolves. The faces of most of them, besmeared with blood from ear
to ear, looked grim and horrible enough. My friend the White Shield
proffered me a marrowbone, so skillfully laid open that all the rich
substance within was exposed to view at once. Another Indian held
out a large piece of the delicate lining of the paunch; but these
courteous offerings I begged leave to decline. I noticed one little
boy who was very busy with his knife about the jaws and throat of the
buffalo, from which he extracted some morsel of peculiar delicacy.
It is but fair to say that only certain parts of the animal are
considered eligible in these extempore banquets. The Indians would
look with abhorrence on anyone who should partake indiscriminately of
the newly killed carcass.

We encamped that night, and marched westward through the greater part
of the following day. On the next morning we again resumed our
journey. It was the 17th of July, unless my notebook misleads me.
At noon we stopped by some pools of rain-water, and in the afternoon
again set forward. This double movement was contrary to the usual
practice of the Indians, but all were very anxious to reach the
hunting ground, kill the necessary number of buffalo, and retreat as
soon as possible from the dangerous neighborhood. I pass by for the
present some curious incidents that occurred during these marches and
encampments. Late in the afternoon of the last-mentioned day we came
upon the banks of a little sandy stream, of which the Indians could
not tell the name; for they were very ill acquainted with that part
of the country. So parched and arid were the prairies around that
they could not supply grass enough for the horses to feed upon, and
we were compelled to move farther and farther up the stream in search
of ground for encampment. The country was much wilder than before.
The plains were gashed with ravines and broken into hollows and steep
declivities, which flanked our course, as, in long-scattered array,
the Indians advanced up the side of the stream. Mene-Seela consulted
an extraordinary oracle to instruct him where the buffalo were to be
found. When he with the other chiefs sat down on the grass to smoke
and converse, as they often did during the march, the old man picked
up one of those enormous black-and-green crickets, which the Dakota
call by a name that signifies "They who point out the buffalo." The
Root-Diggers, a wretched tribe beyond the mountains, turn them to
good account by making them into a sort of soup, pronounced by
certain unscrupulous trappers to be extremely rich. Holding the
bloated insect respectfully between his fingers and thumb, the old
Indian looked attentively at him and inquired, "Tell me, my father,
where must we go to-morrow to find the buffalo?" The cricket twisted
about his long horns in evident embarrassment. At last he pointed,
or seemed to point, them westward. Mene-Seela, dropping him gently
on the grass, laughed with great glee, and said that if we went that
way in the morning we should be sure to kill plenty of game.

Toward evening we came upon a fresh green meadow, traversed by the
stream, and deep-set among tall sterile bluffs. The Indians
descended its steep bank; and as I was at the rear, I was one of the
last to reach this point. Lances were glittering, feathers
fluttering, and the water below me was crowded with men and horses
passing through, while the meadow beyond was swarming with the
restless crowd of Indians. The sun was just setting, and poured its
softened light upon them through an opening in the hills.

I remarked to Reynal that at last we had found a good camping-ground.

"Oh, it is very good," replied he ironically; "especially if there is
a Snake war party about, and they take it into their heads to shoot
down at us from the top of these hills. It is no plan of mine,
camping in such a hole as this!"

The Indians also seemed apprehensive. High up on the top of the
tallest bluff, conspicuous in the bright evening sunlight, sat a
naked warrior on horseback, looking around, as it seemed, over the
neighboring country; and Raymond told me that many of the young men
had gone out in different directions as scouts.

The shadows had reached to the very summit of the bluffs before the
lodges were erected and the village reduced again to quiet and order.
A cry was suddenly raised, and men, women, and children came running
out with animated faces, and looked eagerly through the opening on
the hills by which the stream entered from the westward. I could
discern afar off some dark, heavy masses, passing over the sides of a
low hill. They disappeared, and then others followed. These were
bands of buffalo cows. The hunting-ground was reached at last, and
everything promised well for the morrow's sport. Being fatigued and
exhausted, I went and lay down in Kongra-Tonga's lodge, when Raymond
thrust in his head, and called upon me to come and see some sport. A
number of Indians were gathered, laughing, along the line of lodges
on the western side of the village, and at some distance, I could
plainly see in the twilight two huge black monsters stalking, heavily
and solemnly, directly toward us. They were buffalo bulls. The wind
blew from them to the village, and such was their blindness and
stupidity that they were advancing upon the enemy without the least
consciousness of his presence. Raymond told me that two men had
hidden themselves with guns in a ravine about twenty yards in front
of us. The two bulls walked slowly on, heavily swinging from side to
side in their peculiar gait of stupid dignity. They approached
within four or five rods of the ravine where the Indians lay in
ambush. Here at last they seemed conscious that something was wrong,
for they both stopped and stood perfectly still, without looking
either to the right or to the left. Nothing of them was to be seen
but two huge black masses of shaggy mane, with horns, eyes, and nose
in the center, and a pair of hoofs visible at the bottom. At last
the more intelligent of them seemed to have concluded that it was
time to retire. Very slowly, and with an air of the gravest and most
majestic deliberation, he began to turn round, as if he were
revolving on a pivot. Little by little his ugly brown side was
exposed to view. A white smoke sprang out, as it were from the
ground; a sharp report came with it. The old bull gave a very
undignified jump and galloped off. At this his comrade wheeled about
with considerable expedition. The other Indian shot at him from the
ravine, and then both the bulls were running away at full speed,
while half the juvenile population of the village raised a yell and
ran after them. The first bull was soon stopped, and while the crowd
stood looking at him at a respectable distance, he reeled and rolled
over on his side. The other, wounded in a less vital part, galloped
away to the hills and escaped.

In half an hour it was totally dark. I lay down to sleep, and ill as
I was, there was something very animating in the prospect of the
general hunt that was to take place on the morrow.



Long before daybreak the Indians broke up their camp. The women of
Mene-Seela's lodge were as usual among the first that were ready for
departure, and I found the old man himself sitting by the embers of
the decayed fire, over which he was warming his withered fingers, as
the morning was very chilly and damp. The preparations for moving
were even more confused and disorderly than usual. While some
families were leaving the ground the lodges of others were still
standing untouched. At this old Mene-Seela grew impatient, and
walking out to the middle of the village stood with his robe wrapped
close around him, and harangued the people in a loud, sharp voice.
Now, he said, when they were on an enemy's hunting-grounds, was not
the time to behave like children; they ought to be more active and
united than ever. His speech had some effect. The delinquents took
down their lodges and loaded their pack horses; and when the sun
rose, the last of the men, women, and children had left the deserted

This movement was made merely for the purpose of finding a better and
safer position. So we advanced only three or four miles up the
little stream, before each family assumed its relative place in the
great ring of the village, and all around the squaws were actively at
work in preparing the camp. But not a single warrior dismounted from
his horse. All the men that morning were mounted on inferior
animals, leading their best horses by a cord, or confiding them to
the care of boys. In small parties they began to leave the ground
and ride rapidly away over the plains to the westward. I had taken
no food that morning, and not being at all ambitious of further
abstinence, I went into my host's lodge, which his squaws had erected
with wonderful celerity, and sat down in the center, as a gentle hint
that I was hungry. A wooden bowl was soon set before me, filled with
the nutritious preparation of dried meat called pemmican by the
northern voyagers and wasna by the Dakota. Taking a handful to break
my fast upon, I left the lodge just in time to see the last band of
hunters disappear over the ridge of the neighboring hill. I mounted
Pauline and galloped in pursuit, riding rather by the balance than by
any muscular strength that remained to me. From the top of the hill
I could overlook a wide extent of desolate and unbroken prairie, over
which, far and near, little parties of naked horsemen were rapidly
passing. I soon came up to the nearest, and we had not ridden a mile
before all were united into one large and compact body. All was
haste and eagerness. Each hunter was whipping on his horse, as if
anxious to be the first to reach the game. In such movements among
the Indians this is always more or less the case; but it was
especially so in the present instance, because the head chief of the
village was absent, and there were but few "soldiers," a sort of
Indian police, who among their other functions usually assumed the
direction of a buffalo hunt. No man turned to the right hand or to
the left. We rode at a swift canter straight forward, uphill and
downhill, and through the stiff, obstinate growth of the endless
wild-sage bushes. For an hour and a half the same red shoulders, the
same long black hair rose and fell with the motion of the horses
before me. Very little was said, though once I observed an old man
severely reproving Raymond for having left his rifle behind him, when
there was some probability of encountering an enemy before the day
was over. As we galloped across a plain thickly set with sagebushes,
the foremost riders vanished suddenly from sight, as if diving into
the earth. The arid soil was cracked into a deep ravine. Down we
all went in succession and galloped in a line along the bottom, until
we found a point where, one by one, the horses could scramble out.
Soon after we came upon a wide shallow stream, and as we rode swiftly
over the hard sand-beds and through the thin sheets of rippling
water, many of the savage horsemen threw themselves to the ground,
knelt on the sand, snatched a hasty draught, and leaping back again
to their seats, galloped on again as before.

Meanwhile scouts kept in advance of the party; and now we began to
see them on the ridge of the hills, waving their robes in token that
buffalo were visible. These however proved to be nothing more than
old straggling bulls, feeding upon the neighboring plains, who would
stare for a moment at the hostile array and then gallop clumsily off.
At length we could discern several of these scouts making their
signals to us at once; no longer waving their robes boldly from the
top of the hill, but standing lower down, so that they could not be
seen from the plains beyond. Game worth pursuing had evidently been
discovered. The excited Indians now urged forward their tired horses
even more rapidly than before. Pauline, who was still sick and
jaded, began to groan heavily; and her yellow sides were darkened
with sweat. As we were crowding together over a lower intervening
hill, I heard Reynal and Raymond shouting to me from the left; and
looking in that direction, I saw them riding away behind a party of
about twenty mean-looking Indians. These were the relatives of
Reynal's squaw Margot, who, not wishing to take part in the general
hunt, were riding toward a distant hollow, where they could discern a
small band of buffalo which they meant to appropriate to themselves.
I answered to the call by ordering Raymond to turn back and follow
me. He reluctantly obeyed, though Reynal, who had relied on his
assistance in skinning, cutting up, and carrying to camp the buffalo
that he and his party should kill, loudly protested and declared that
we should see no sport if we went with the rest of the Indians.
Followed by Raymond I pursued the main body of hunters, while Reynal
in a great rage whipped his horse over the hill after his ragamuffin
relatives. The Indians, still about a hundred in number, rode in a
dense body at some distance in advance. They galloped forward, and a
cloud of dust was flying in the wind behind them. I could not
overtake them until they had stopped on the side of the hill where
the scouts were standing. Here, each hunter sprang in haste from the
tired animal which he had ridden, and leaped upon the fresh horse
that he had brought with him. There was not a saddle or a bridle in
the whole party. A piece of buffalo robe girthed over the horse's
back served in the place of the one, and a cord of twisted hair
lashed firmly round his lower jaw answered for the other. Eagle
feathers were dangling from every mane and tail, as insignia of
courage and speed. As for the rider, he wore no other clothing than
a light cincture at his waist, and a pair of moccasins. He had a
heavy whip, with a handle of solid elk-horn, and a lash of knotted
bull-hide, fastened to his wrist by an ornamental band. His bow was
in his hand, and his quiver of otter or panther skin hung at his
shoulder. Thus equipped, some thirty of the hunters galloped away
toward the left, in order to make a circuit under cover of the hills,
that the buffalo might be assailed on both sides at once. The rest
impatiently waited until time enough had elapsed for their companions
to reach the required position. Then riding upward in a body, we
gained the ridge of the hill, and for the first time came in sight of
the buffalo on the plain beyond.

They were a band of cows, four or five hundred in number, who were
crowded together near the bank of a wide stream that was soaking
across the sand-beds of the valley. This was a large circular basin,
sun-scorched and broken, scantily covered with herbage and
encompassed with high barren hills, from an opening in which we could
see our allies galloping out upon the plain. The wind blew from that
direction. The buffalo were aware of their approach, and had begun
to move, though very slowly and in a compact mass. I have no further
recollection of seeing the game until we were in the midst of them,
for as we descended the hill other objects engrossed my attention.
Numerous old bulls were scattered over the plain, and ungallantly
deserting their charge at our approach, began to wade and plunge
through the treacherous quick-sands or the stream, and gallop away
toward the hills. One old veteran was struggling behind all the rest
with one of his forelegs, which had been broken by some accident,
dangling about uselessly at his side. His appearance, as he went
shambling along on three legs, was so ludicrous that I could not help
pausing for a moment to look at him. As I came near, he would try to
rush upon me, nearly throwing himself down at every awkward attempt.
Looking up, I saw the whole body of Indians full a hundred yards in
advance. I lashed Pauline in pursuit and reached them just in time,
for as we mingled among them, each hunter, as if by a common impulse,
violently struck his horse, each horse sprang forward convulsively,
and scattering in the charge in order to assail the entire herd at
once, we all rushed headlong upon the buffalo. We were among them in
an instant. Amid the trampling and the yells I could see their dark
figures running hither and thither through clouds of dust, and the
horsemen darting in pursuit. While we were charging on one side, our
companions had attacked the bewildered and panic-stricken herd on the
other. The uproar and confusion lasted but for a moment. The dust
cleared away, and the buffalo could be seen scattering as from a
common center, flying over the plain singly, or in long files and
small compact bodies, while behind each followed the Indians, lashing
their horses to furious speed, forcing them close upon their prey,
and yelling as they launched arrow after arrow into their sides. The
large black carcasses were strewn thickly over the ground. Here and
there wounded buffalo were standing, their bleeding sides feathered
with arrows; and as I rode past them their eyes would glare, they
would bristle like gigantic cats, and feebly attempt to rush up and
gore my horse.

I left camp that morning with a philosophic resolution. Neither I
nor my horse were at that time fit for such sport, and I had
determined to remain a quiet spectator; but amid the rush of horses
and buffalo, the uproar and the dust, I found it impossible to sit
still; and as four or five buffalo ran past me in a line, I drove
Pauline in pursuit. We went plunging close at their heels through
the water and the quick-sands, and clambering the bank, chased them
through the wild-sage bushes that covered the rising ground beyond.
But neither her native spirit nor the blows of the knotted bull-hide
could supply the place of poor Pauline's exhausted strength. We
could not gain an inch upon the poor fugitives. At last, however,
they came full upon a ravine too wide to leap over; and as this
compelled them to turn abruptly to the left, I contrived to get
within ten or twelve yards of the hindmost. At this she faced about,
bristled angrily, and made a show of charging. I shot at her with a
large holster pistol, and hit her somewhere in the neck. Down she
tumbled into the ravine, whither her companions had descended before
her. I saw their dark backs appearing and disappearing as they
galloped along the bottom; then, one by one, they came scrambling out
on the other side and ran off as before, the wounded animal following
with unabated speed.

Turning back, I saw Raymond coming on his black mule to meet me; and
as we rode over the field together, we counted dozens of carcasses
lying on the plain, in the ravines and on the sandy bed of the
stream. Far away in the distance, horses and buffalo were still
scouring along, with little clouds of dust rising behind them; and
over the sides of the hills we could see long files of the frightened
animals rapidly ascending. The hunters began to return. The boys,
who had held the horses behind the hill, made their appearance, and
the work of flaying and cutting up began in earnest all over the
field. I noticed my host Kongra-Tonga beyond the stream, just
alighting by the side of a cow which he had killed. Riding up to him
I found him in the act of drawing out an arrow, which, with the
exception of the notch at the end, had entirely disappeared in the
animal. I asked him to give it to me, and I still retain it as a
proof, though by no means the most striking one that could be
offered, of the force and dexterity with which the Indians discharge
their arrows.

The hides and meat were piled upon the horses, and the hunters began
to leave the ground. Raymond and I, too, getting tired of the scene,
set out for the village, riding straight across the intervening
desert. There was no path, and as far as I could see, no landmarks
sufficient to guide us; but Raymond seemed to have an instinctive
perception of the point on the horizon toward which we ought to
direct our course. Antelope were bounding on all sides, and as is
always the case in the presence of buffalo, they seemed to have lost
their natural shyness and timidity. Bands of them would run lightly
up the rocky declivities, and stand gazing down upon us from the
summit. At length we could distinguish the tall white rocks and the
old pine trees that, as we well remembered, were just above the site
of the encampment. Still, we could see nothing of the village itself
until, ascending a grassy hill, we found the circle of lodges, dingy
with storms and smoke, standing on the plain at our very feet.

I entered the lodge of my host. His squaw instantly brought me food
and water, and spread a buffalo robe for me to lie upon; and being
much fatigued, I lay down and fell asleep. In about an hour the
entrance of Kongra-Tonga, with his arms smeared with blood to the
elbows, awoke me. He sat down in his usual seat on the left side of
the lodge. His squaw gave him a vessel of water for washing, set
before him a bowl of boiled meat, and as he was eating pulled off his
bloody moccasins and placed fresh ones on his feet; then
outstretching his limbs, my host composed himself to sleep.

And now the hunters, two or three at a time, began to come rapidly
in, and each, consigning his horses to the squaws, entered his lodge
with the air of a man whose day's work was done. The squaws flung
down the load from the burdened horses, and vast piles of meat and
hides were soon accumulated before every lodge. By this time it was
darkening fast, and the whole village was illumined by the glare of
fires blazing all around. All the squaws and children were gathered
about the piles of meat, exploring them in search of the daintiest
portions. Some of these they roasted on sticks before the fires, but
often they dispensed with this superfluous operation. Late into the
night the fires were still glowing upon the groups of feasters
engaged in this savage banquet around them.

Several hunters sat down by the fire in Kongra-Tonga's lodge to talk
over the day's exploits. Among the rest, Mene-Seela came in. Though
he must have seen full eighty winters, he had taken an active share
in the day's sport. He boasted that he had killed two cows that
morning, and would have killed a third if the dust had not blinded
him so that he had to drop his bow and arrows and press both hands
against his eyes to stop the pain. The firelight fell upon his
wrinkled face and shriveled figure as he sat telling his story with
such inimitable gesticulation that every man in the lodge broke into
a laugh.

Old Mene-Seela was one of the few Indians in the village with whom I
would have trusted myself alone without suspicion, and the only one
from whom I would have received a gift or a service without the
certainty that it proceeded from an interested motive. He was a
great friend to the whites. He liked to be in their society, and was
very vain of the favors he had received from them. He told me one
afternoon, as we were sitting together in his son's lodge, that he
considered the beaver and the whites the wisest people on earth;
indeed, he was convinced they were the same; and an incident which
had happened to him long before had assured him of this. So he began
the following story, and as the pipe passed in turn to him, Reynal
availed himself of these interruptions to translate what had
preceded. But the old man accompanied his words with such admirable
pantomime that translation was hardly necessary.

He said that when he was very young, and had never yet seen a white
man, he and three or four of his companions were out on a beaver
hunt, and he crawled into a large beaver lodge, to examine what was
there. Sometimes he was creeping on his hands and knees, sometimes
he was obliged to swim, and sometimes to lie flat on his face and
drag himself along. In this way he crawled a great distance
underground. It was very dark, cold and close, so that at last he
was almost suffocated, and fell into a swoon. When he began to
recover, he could just distinguish the voices of his companions
outside, who had given him up for lost, and were singing his death
song. At first he could see nothing, but soon he discerned something
white before him, and at length plainly distinguished three people,
entirely white; one man and two women, sitting at the edge of a black
pool of water. He became alarmed and thought it high time to
retreat. Having succeeded, after great trouble, in reaching daylight
again, he went straight to the spot directly above the pool of water
where he had seen the three mysterious beings. Here he beat a hole
with his war club in the ground, and sat down to watch. In a moment
the nose of an old male beaver appeared at the opening. Mene-Seela
instantly seized him and dragged him up, when two other beavers, both
females, thrust out their heads, and these he served in the same way.
"These," continued the old man, "must have been the three white
people whom I saw sitting at the edge of the water."

Mene-Seela was the grand depository of the legends and traditions of
the village. I succeeded, however, in getting from him only a few
fragments. Like all Indians, he was excessively superstitious, and
continually saw some reason for withholding his stories. "It is a
bad thing," he would say, "to tell the tales in summer. Stay with us
till next winter, and I will tell you everything I know; but now our
war parties are going out, and our young men will be killed if I sit
down to tell stories before the frost begins."

But to leave this digression. We remained encamped on this spot five
days, during three of which the hunters were at work incessantly, and
immense quantities of meat and hides were brought in. Great alarm,
however, prevailed in the village. All were on the alert. The young
men were ranging through the country as scouts, and the old men paid
careful attention to omens and prodigies, and especially to their
dreams. In order to convey to the enemy (who, if they were in the
neighborhood, must inevitably have known of our presence) the
impression that we were constantly on the watch, piles of sticks and
stones were erected on all the surrounding hills, in such a manner as
to appear at a distance like sentinels. Often, even to this hour,
that scene will rise before my mind like a visible reality: the tall
white rocks; the old pine trees on their summits; the sandy stream
that ran along their bases and half encircled the village; and the
wild-sage bushes, with their dull green hue and their medicinal odor,
that covered all the neighboring declivities. Hour after hour the
squaws would pass and repass with their vessels of water between the
stream and the lodges. For the most part no one was to be seen in
the camp but women and children, two or three super-annuated old men,
and a few lazy and worthless young ones. These, together with the
dogs, now grown fat and good-natured with the abundance in the camp,
were its only tenants. Still it presented a busy and bustling scene.
In all quarters the meat, hung on cords of hide, was drying in the
sun, and around the lodges the squaws, young and old, were laboring
on the fresh hides that were stretched upon the ground, scraping the
hair from one side and the still adhering flesh from the other, and
rubbing into them the brains of the buffalo, in order to render them
soft and pliant.

In mercy to myself and my horse, I never went out with the hunters
after the first day. Of late, however, I had been gaining strength
rapidly, as was always the case upon every respite of my disorder. I
was soon able to walk with ease. Raymond and I would go out upon the
neighboring prairies to shoot antelope, or sometimes to assail
straggling buffalo, on foot, an attempt in which we met with rather
indifferent success. To kill a bull with a rifle-ball is a difficult
art, in the secret of which I was as yet very imperfectly initiated.
As I came out of Kongra-Tonga's lodge one morning, Reynal called to
me from the opposite side of the village, and asked me over to
breakfast. The breakfast was a substantial one. It consisted of the
rich, juicy hump-ribs of a fat cow; a repast absolutely unrivaled.
It was roasting before the fire, impaled upon a stout stick, which
Reynal took up and planted in the ground before his lodge; when he,
with Raymond and myself, taking our seats around it, unsheathed our
knives and assailed it with good will. It spite of all medical
experience, this solid fare, without bread or salt, seemed to agree
with me admirably.

"We shall have strangers here before night," said Reynal.

"How do you know that?" I asked.

"I dreamed so. I am as good at dreaming as an Indian. There is the
Hail-Storm; he dreamed the same thing, and he and his crony, the
Rabbit, have gone out on discovery."

I laughed at Reynal for his credulity, went over to my host's lodge,
took down my rifle, walked out a mile or two on the prairie, saw an
old bull standing alone, crawled up a ravine, shot him and saw him
escape. Then, quite exhausted and rather ill-humored, I walked back
to the village. By a strange coincidence, Reynal's prediction had
been verified; for the first persons whom I saw were the two
trappers, Rouleau and Saraphin, coming to meet me. These men, as the
reader may possibly recollect, had left our party about a fortnight
before. They had been trapping for a while among the Black Hills,
and were now on their way to the Rocky Mountains, intending in a day
or two to set out for the neighboring Medicine Bow. They were not
the most elegant or refined of companions, yet they made a very
welcome addition to the limited society of the village. For the rest
of that day we lay smoking and talking in Reynal's lodge. This
indeed was no better than a little hut, made of hides stretched on
poles, and entirely open in front. It was well carpeted with soft
buffalo robes, and here we remained, sheltered from the sun,
surrounded by various domestic utensils of Madame Margot's household.
All was quiet in the village. Though the hunters had not gone out
that day, they lay sleeping in their lodges, and most of the women
were silently engaged in their heavy tasks. A few young men were
playing a lazy game of ball in the center of the village; and when
they became tired, some girls supplied their place with a more
boisterous sport. At a little distance, among the lodges, some
children and half-grown squaws were playfully tossing up one of their
number in a buffalo robe, an exact counterpart of the ancient pastime
from which Sancho Panza suffered so much. Farther out on the
prairie, a host of little naked boys were roaming about, engaged in
various rough games, or pursuing birds and ground-squirrels with
their bows and arrows; and woe to the unhappy little animals that
fell into their merciless, torture-loving hands! A squaw from the
next lodge, a notable active housewife named Weah Washtay, or the
Good Woman, brought us a large bowl of wasna, and went into an
ecstasy of delight when I presented her with a green glass ring, such
as I usually wore with a view to similar occasions.

The sun went down and half the sky was growing fiery red, reflected
on the little stream as it wound away among the sagebushes. Some
young men left the village, and soon returned, driving in before them
all the horses, hundreds in number, and of every size, age, and
color. The hunters came out, and each securing those that belonged
to him, examined their condition, and tied them fast by long cords to
stakes driven in front of his lodge. It was half an hour before the
bustle subsided and tranquillity was restored again. By this time it
was nearly dark. Kettles were hung over the blazing fires, around
which the squaws were gathered with their children, laughing and
talking merrily. A circle of a different kind was formed in the
center of the village. This was composed of the old men and warriors
of repute, who with their white buffalo robes drawn close around
their shoulders, sat together, and as the pipe passed from hand to
hand, their conversation had not a particle of the gravity and
reserve usually ascribed to Indians. I sat down with them as usual.
I had in my hand half a dozen squibs and serpents, which I had made
one day when encamped upon Laramie Creek, out of gunpowder and
charcoal, and the leaves of "Fremont's Expedition," rolled round a
stout lead pencil. I waited till I contrived to get hold of the
large piece of burning BOIS DE VACHE which the Indians kept by them
on the ground for lighting their pipes. With this I lighted all the
fireworks at once, and tossed them whizzing and sputtering into the
air, over the heads of the company. They all jumped up and ran off
with yelps of astonishment and consternation. After a moment or two,
they ventured to come back one by one, and some of the boldest,
picking up the cases of burnt paper that were scattered about,
examined them with eager curiosity to discover their mysterious
secret. From that time forward I enjoyed great repute as a "fire-

The camp was filled with the low hum of cheerful voices. There were
other sounds, however, of a very different kind, for from a large
lodge, lighted up like a gigantic lantern by the blazing fire within,
came a chorus of dismal cries and wailings, long drawn out, like the
howling of wolves, and a woman, almost naked, was crouching close
outside, crying violently, and gashing her legs with a knife till
they were covered with blood. Just a year before, a young man
belonging to this family had gone out with a war party and had been
slain by the enemy, and his relatives were thus lamenting his loss.
Still other sounds might be heard; loud earnest cries often repeated
from amid the gloom, at a distance beyond the village. They
proceeded from some young men who, being about to set out in a few
days on a warlike expedition, were standing at the top of a hill,
calling on the Great Spirit to aid them in their enterprise. While I
was listening, Rouleau, with a laugh on his careless face, called to
me and directed my attention to another quarter. In front of the
lodge where Weah Washtay lived another squaw was standing, angrily
scolding an old yellow dog, who lay on the ground with his nose
resting between his paws, and his eyes turned sleepily up to her
face, as if he were pretending to give respectful attention, but
resolved to fall asleep as soon as it was all over.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself!" said the old woman. "I have
fed you well, and taken care of you ever since you were small and
blind, and could only crawl about and squeal a little, instead of
howling as you do now. When you grew old, I said you were a good
dog. You were strong and gentle when the load was put on your back,
and you never ran among the feet of the horses when we were all
traveling together over the prairie. But you had a bad heart!
Whenever a rabbit jumped out of the bushes, you were always the first
to run after him and lead away all the other dogs behind you. You
ought to have known that it was very dangerous to act so. When you
had got far out on the prairie, and no one was near to help you,
perhaps a wolf would jump out of the ravine; and then what could you
do? You would certainly have been killed, for no dog can fight well
with a load on his back. Only three days ago you ran off in that
way, and turned over the bag of wooden pins with which I used to
fasten up the front of the lodge. Look up there, and you will see
that it is all flapping open. And now to-night you have stolen a
great piece of fat meat which was roasting before the fire for my
children. I tell you, you have a bad heart, and you must die!"

So saying, the squaw went into the lodge, and coming out with a large
stone mallet, killed the unfortunate dog at one blow. This speech is
worthy of notice as illustrating a curious characteristic of the
Indians: the ascribing intelligence and a power of understanding
speech to the inferior animals, to whom, indeed, according to many of
their traditions, they are linked in close affinity, and they even
claim the honor of a lineal descent from bears, wolves, deer, or

As it grew late, and the crowded population began to disappear, I too
walked across the village to the lodge of my host, Kongra-Tonga. As
I entered I saw him, by the flickering blaze of the fire in the
center, reclining half asleep in his usual place. His couch was by
no means an uncomfortable one. It consisted of soft buffalo robes
laid together on the ground, and a pillow made of whitened deerskin
stuffed with feathers and ornamented with beads. At his back was a
light framework of poles and slender reeds, against which he could
lean with ease when in a sitting posture; and at the top of it, just
above his head, his bow and quiver were hanging. His squaw, a
laughing, broad-faced woman, apparently had not yet completed her
domestic arrangements, for she was bustling about the lodge, pulling
over the utensils and the bales of dried meats that were ranged
carefully round it. Unhappily, she and her partner were not the only
tenants of the dwelling, for half a dozen children were scattered
about, sleeping in every imaginable posture. My saddle was in its
place at the head of the lodge and a buffalo robe was spread on the
ground before it. Wrapping myself in my blanket I lay down, but had
I not been extremely fatigued the noise in the next lodge would have
prevented my sleeping. There was the monotonous thumping of the
Indian drum, mixed with occasional sharp yells, and a chorus chanted
by twenty voices. A grand scene of gambling was going forward with
all the appropriate formalities. The players were staking on the
chance issue of the game their ornaments, their horses, and as the
excitement rose, their garments, and even their weapons, for
desperate gambling is not confined to the hells of Paris. The men of
the plains and the forests no less resort to it as a violent but
grateful relief to the tedious monotony of their lives, which
alternate between fierce excitement and listless inaction. I fell
asleep with the dull notes of the drum still sounding on my ear, but
these furious orgies lasted without intermission till daylight. I
was soon awakened by one of the children crawling over me, while
another larger one was tugging at my blanket and nestling himself in
a very disagreeable proximity. I immediately repelled these advances
by punching the heads of these miniature savages with a short stick
which I always kept by me for the purpose; and as sleeping half the
day and eating much more than is good for them makes them extremely
restless, this operation usually had to be repeated four or five
times in the course of the night. My host himself was the author of
another most formidable annoyance. All these Indians, and he among
the rest, think themselves bound to the constant performance of
certain acts as the condition on which their success in life depends,
whether in war, love, hunting, or any other employment. These
"medicines," as they are called in that country, which are usually
communicated in dreams, are often absurd enough. Some Indians will
strike the butt of the pipe against the ground every time they smoke;
others will insist that everything they say shall be interpreted by
contraries; and Shaw once met an old man who conceived that all would
be lost unless he compelled every white man he met to drink a bowl of
cold water. My host was particularly unfortunate in his allotment.
The Great Spirit had told him in a dream that he must sing a certain
song in the middle of every night; and regularly at about twelve
o'clock his dismal monotonous chanting would awaken me, and I would
see him seated bolt upright on his couch, going through his dolorous
performances with a most business-like air. There were other voices
of the night still more inharmonious. Twice or thrice, between
sunset and dawn, all the dogs in the village, and there were hundreds
of them, would bay and yelp in chorus; a most horrible clamor,
resembling no sound that I have ever heard, except perhaps the
frightful howling of wolves that we used sometimes to hear long
afterward when descending the Arkansas on the trail of General
Kearny's army. The canine uproar is, if possible, more discordant
than that of the wolves. Heard at a distance, slowly rising on the
night, it has a strange unearthly effect, and would fearfully haunt
the dreams of a nervous man; but when you are sleeping in the midst
of it the din is outrageous. One long loud howl from the next lodge
perhaps begins it, and voice after voice takes up the sound till it
passes around the whole circumference of the village, and the air is
filled with confused and discordant cries, at once fierce and
mournful. It lasts but for a moment and then dies away into silence.

Morning came, and Kongra-Tonga, mounting his horse, rode out with the
hunters. It may not be amiss to glance at him for an instant in his
domestic character of husband and father. Both he and his squaw,
like most other Indians, were very fond of their children, whom they
indulged to excess, and never punished, except in extreme cases when
they would throw a bowl of cold water over them. Their offspring
became sufficiently undutiful and disobedient under this system of
education, which tends not a little to foster that wild idea of
liberty and utter intolerance of restraint which lie at the very
foundation of the Indian character. It would be hard to find a
fonder father than Kongra-Tonga. There was one urchin in particular,
rather less than two feet high, to whom he was exceedingly attached;
and sometimes spreading a buffalo robe in the lodge, he would seat
himself upon it, place his small favorite upright before him, and
chant in a low tone some of the words used as an accompaniment to the
war dance. The little fellow, who could just manage to balance
himself by stretching out both arms, would lift his feet and turn
slowly round and round in time to his father's music, while my host
would laugh with delight, and look smiling up into my face to see if
I were admiring this precocious performance of his offspring. In his
capacity of husband he was somewhat less exemplary. The squaw who
lived in the lodge with him had been his partner for many years. She
took good care of his children and his household concerns. He liked
her well enough, and as far as I could see they never quarreled; but
all his warmer affections were reserved for younger and more recent
favorites. Of these he had at present only one, who lived in a lodge
apart from his own. One day while in his camp he became displeased
with her, pushed her out, threw after her her ornaments, dresses, and
everything she had, and told her to go home to her father. Having
consummated this summary divorce, for which he could show good
reasons, he came back, seated himself in his usual place, and began
to smoke with an air of utmost tranquillity and self-satisfaction.

I was sitting in the lodge with him on that very afternoon, when I
felt some curiosity to learn the history of the numerous scars that
appeared on his naked body. Of some of them, however, I did not
venture to inquire, for I already understood their origin. Each of
his arms was marked as if deeply gashed with a knife at regular
intervals, and there were other scars also, of a different character,
on his back and on either breast. They were the traces of those
formidable tortures which these Indians, in common with a few other
tribes, inflict upon themselves at certain seasons; in part, it may
be, to gain the glory of courage and endurance, but chiefly as an act
of self-sacrifice to secure the favor of the Great Spirit. The scars
upon the breast and back were produced by running through the flesh
strong splints of wood, to which ponderous buffalo-skulls are
fastened by cords of hide, and the wretch runs forward with all his
strength, assisted by two companions, who take hold of each arm,
until the flesh tears apart and the heavy loads are left behind.
Others of Kongra-Tonga's scars were the result of accidents; but he
had many which he received in war. He was one of the most noted
warriors in the village. In the course of his life he had slain as
he boasted to me, fourteen men, and though, like other Indians, he
was a great braggart and utterly regardless of truth, yet in this
statement common report bore him out. Being much flattered by my
inquiries he told me tale after tale, true or false, of his warlike
exploits; and there was one among the rest illustrating the worst
features of the Indian character too well for me to omit. Pointing
out of the opening of the lodge toward the Medicine-Bow Mountain, not
manv miles distant he said that he was there a few summers ago with a
war party of his young men. Here they found two Snake Indians,
hunting. They shot one of them with arrows and chased the other up
the side of the mountain till they surrounded him on a level place,
and Kongra-Tonga himself, jumping forward among the trees, seized him
by the arm. Two of his young men then ran up and held him fast while
he scalped him alive. Then they built a great fire, and cutting the
tendons of their captive's wrists and feet, threw him in, and held
him down with long poles until he was burnt to death. He garnished
his story with a great many descriptive particulars much too
revolting to mention. His features were remarkably mild and open,
without the fierceness of expression common among these Indians; and
as he detailed these devilish cruelties, he looked up into my face
with the same air of earnest simplicity which a little child would
wear in relating to its mother some anecdote of its youthful

Old Mene-Seela's lodge could offer another illustration of the
ferocity of Indian warfare. A bright-eyed, active little boy was
living there. He had belonged to a village of the Gros-Ventre
Blackfeet, a small but bloody and treacherous band, in close alliance
with the Arapahoes. About a year before, Kongra-Tonga and a party of
warriors had found about twenty lodges of these Indians upon the
plains a little to the eastward of our present camp; and surrounding
them in the night, they butchered men, women, and children without
mercy, preserving only this little boy alive. He was adopted into
the old man's family, and was now fast becoming identified with the
Ogallalla children, among whom he mingled on equal terms. There was
also a Crow warrior in the village, a man of gigantic stature and
most symmetrical proportions. Having been taken prisoner many years
before and adopted by a squaw in place of a son whom she had lost, he
had forgotten his old national antipathies, and was now both in act
and inclination an Ogallalla.

It will be remembered that the scheme of the grand warlike
combination against the Snake and Crow Indians originated in this
village; and though this plan had fallen to the ground, the embers of
the martial ardor continued to glow brightly. Eleven young men had
prepared themselves to go out against the enemy. The fourth day of
our stay in this camp was fixed upon for their departure. At the
head of this party was a well-built active little Indian, called the
White Shield, whom I had always noticed for the great neatness of his
dress and appearance. His lodge too, though not a large one, was the
best in the village, his squaw was one of the prettiest girls, and
altogether his dwelling presented a complete model of an Ogallalla
domestic establishment. I was often a visitor there, for the White
Shield being rather partial to white men, used to invite me to
continual feasts at all hours of the day. Once when the substantial
part of the entertainment was concluded, and he and I were seated
cross-legged on a buffalo robe smoking together very amicably, he
took down his warlike equipments, which were hanging around the
lodge, and displayed them with great pride and self-importance.
Among the rest was a most superb headdress of feathers. Taking this
from its case, he put it on and stood before me, as if conscious of
the gallant air which it gave to his dark face and his vigorous,
graceful figure. He told me that upon it were the feathers of three
war-eagles, equal in value to the same number of good horses. He
took up also a shield gayly painted and hung with feathers. The
effect of these barbaric ornaments was admirable, for they were
arranged with no little skill and taste. His quiver was made of the
spotted skin of a small panther, such as are common among the Black
Hills, from which the tail and distended claws were still allowed to
hang. The White Shield concluded his entertainment in a manner
characteristic of an Indian. He begged of me a little powder and
ball, for he had a gun as well as bow and arrows; but this I was
obliged to refuse, because I had scarcely enough for my own use.
Making him, however, a parting present of a paper of vermilion, I
left him apparently quite contented.

Unhappily on the next morning the White Shield took cold and was
attacked with a violent inflammation of the throat. Immediately he
seemed to lose all spirit, and though before no warrior in the
village had borne himself more proudly, he now moped about from lodge
to lodge with a forlorn and dejected air. At length he came and sat
down, close wrapped in his robe, before the lodge of Reynal, but when
he found that neither he nor I knew how to relieve him, he arose and
stalked over to one of the medicine-men of the village. This old
imposter thumped him for some time with both fists, howled and yelped
over him, and beat a drum close to his ear to expel the evil spirit
that had taken possession of him. This vigorous treatment failing of
the desired effect, the White Shield withdrew to his own lodge, where
he lay disconsolate for some hours. Making his appearance once more
in the afternoon, he again took his seat on the ground before
Reynal's lodge, holding his throat with his hand. For some time he
sat perfectly silent with his eyes fixed mournfully on the ground.
At last he began to speak in a low tone:

"I am a brave man," he said; "all the young men think me a great
warrior, and ten of them are ready to go with me to the war. I will
go and show them the enemy. Last summer the Snakes killed my
brother. I cannot live unless I revenge his death. To-morrow we
will set out and I will take their scalps."

The White Shield, as he expressed this resolution, seemed to have
lost all the accustomed fire and spirit of his look, and hung his
head as if in a fit of despondency.

As I was sitting that evening at one of the fires, I saw him arrayed
in his splendid war dress, his cheeks painted with vermilion, leading
his favorite war horse to the front of his lodge. He mounted and
rode round the village, singing his war song in a loud hoarse voice
amid the shrill acclamations of the women. Then dismounting, he
remained for some minutes prostrate upon the ground, as if in an act
of supplication. On the following morning I looked in vain for the
departure of the warriors. All was quiet in the village until late
in the forenoon, when the White Shield, issuing from his lodge, came
and seated himself in his old place before us. Reynal asked him why
he had not gone out to find the enemy.

"I cannot go," answered the White Shield in a dejected voice. "I
have given my war arrows to the Meneaska."

"You have only given him two of your arrows," said Reynal. "If you
ask him, he will give them back again."

For some time the White Shield said nothing. At last he spoke in a
gloomy tone:

"One of my young men has had bad dreams. The spirits of the dead
came and threw stones at him in his sleep."

If such a dream had actually taken place it might have broken up this
or any other war party, but both Reynal and I were convinced at the
time that it was a mere fabrication to excuse his remaining at home.

The White Shield was a warrior of noted prowess. Very probably, he
would have received a mortal wound without a show of pain, and
endured without flinching the worst tortures that an enemy could
inflict upon him. The whole power of an Indian's nature would be
summoned to encounter such a trial; every influence of his education
from childhood would have prepared him for it; the cause of his
suffering would have been visibly and palpably before him, and his
spirit would rise to set his enemy at defiance, and gain the highest
glory of a warrior by meeting death with fortitude. But when he
feels himself attacked by a mysterious evil, before whose insidious
assaults his manhood is wasted, and his strength drained away, when
he can see no enemy to resist and defy, the boldest warrior falls
prostrate at once. He believes that a bad spirit has taken
possession of him, or that he is the victim of some charm. When
suffering from a protracted disorder, an Indian will often abandon
himself to his supposed destiny, pine away and die, the victim of his
own imagination. The same effect will often follow from a series of
calamities, or a long run of ill success, and the sufferer has been
known to ride into the midst of an enemy's camp, or attack a grizzly
bear single-handed, to get rid of a life which he supposed to lie
under the doom of misfortune.

Thus after all his fasting, dreaming, and calling upon the Great
Spirit, the White Shield's war party was pitifully broken up.



In speaking of the Indians, I have almost forgotten two bold
adventurers of another race, the trappers Rouleau and Saraphin.
These men were bent on a most hazardous enterprise. A day's journey
to the westward was the country over which the Arapahoes are
accustomed to range, and for which the two trappers were on the point
of setting out. These Arapahoes, of whom Shaw and I afterward fell
in with a large village, are ferocious barbarians, of a most brutal
and wolfish aspect, and of late they had declared themselves enemies
to the whites, and threatened death to the first who should venture
within their territory. The occasion of the declaration was as

In the previous spring, 1845, Colonel Kearny left Fort Leavenworth
with several companies of dragoons, and marching with extraordinary
celerity reached Fort Laramie, whence he passed along the foot of the
mountains to Bent's Fort and then, turning eastward again, returned
to the point from whence he set out. While at Fort Larantie, he sent
a part of his command as far westward as Sweetwater, while he himself
remained at the fort, and dispatched messages to the surrounding
Indians to meet him there in council. Then for the first time the
tribes of that vicinity saw the white warriors, and, as might have
been expected, they were lost in astonishment at their regular order,
their gay attire, the completeness of their martial equipment, and
the great size and power of their horses. Among the rest, the
Arapahoes came in considerable numbers to the fort. They had lately
committed numerous acts of outrage, and Colonel Kearny threatened
that if they killed any more white men he would turn loose his
dragoons upon them, and annihilate their whole nation. In the
evening, to add effect to his speech, he ordered a howitzer to be
fired and a rocket to be thrown up. Many of the Arapahoes fell
prostrate on the ground, while others ran screaming with amazement
and terror. On the following day they withdrew to their mountains,
confounded with awe at the appearance of the dragoons, at their big
gun which went off twice at one shot, and the fiery messenger which
they had sent up to the Great Spirit. For many months they remained
quiet, and did no further mischief. At length, just before we came
into the country, one of them, by an act of the basest treachery,
killed two white men, Boot and May, who were trapping among the
mountains. For this act it was impossible to discover a motive. It
seemed to spring from one of those inexplicable impulses which often
actuate Indians and appear no better than the mere outbreaks of
native ferocity. No sooner was the murder committed than the whole
tribe were in extreme consternation. They expected every day that
the avenging dragoons would arrive, little thinking that a desert of
nine hundred miles in extent lay between the latter and their
mountain fastnesses. A large deputation of them came to Fort
Laramie, bringing a valuable present of horses, in compensation for
the lives of the murdered men. These Bordeaux refused to accept.
They then asked him if he would be satisfied with their delivering up
the murderer himself; but he declined this offer also. The Arapahoes
went back more terrified than ever. Weeks passed away, and still no
dragoons appeared. A result followed which all those best acquainted
with Indians had predicted. They conceived that fear had prevented
Bordeaux from accepting their gifts, and that they had nothing to
apprehend from the vengeance of the whites. From terror they rose to
the height of insolence and presumption. They called the white men
cowards and old women; and a friendly Dakota came to Fort Laramie and
reported that they were determined to kill the first of the white
dogs whom they could lay hands on.

Had a military officer, intrusted with suitable powers, been
stationed at Fort Laramie, and having accepted the offer of the
Arapahoes to deliver up the murderer, had ordered him to be
immediately led out and shot, in presence of his tribe, they would
have been awed into tranquillity, and much danger and calamity
averted; but now the neighborhood of the Medicine-Bow Mountain and
the region beyond it was a scene of extreme peril. Old Mene-Seela, a
true friend of the whites, and many other of the Indians gathered
about the two trappers, and vainly endeavored to turn them from their
purpose; but Rouleau and Saraphin only laughed at the danger. On the
morning preceding that on which they were to leave the camp, we could
all discern faint white columns of smoke rising against the dark base
of the Medicine-Bow. Scouts were out immediately, and reported that
these proceeded from an Arapahoe camp, abandoned only a few hours
before. Still the two trappers continued their preparations for

Saraphin was a tall, powerful fellow, with a sullen and sinister
countenance. His rifle had very probably drawn other blood than that
of buffalo or even Indians. Rouleau had a broad ruddy face marked
with as few traces of thought or care as a child's. His figure was
remarkably square and strong, but the first joints of both his feet
were frozen off, and his horse had lately thrown and trampled upon
him, by which he had been severely injured in the chest. But nothing
could check his inveterate propensity for laughter and gayety. He
went all day rolling about the camp on his stumps of feet, talking
and singing and frolicking with the Indian women, as they were
engaged at their work. In fact Rouleau had an unlucky partiality for
squaws. He always had one whom he must needs bedizen with beads,
ribbons, and all the finery of an Indian wardrobe; and though he was
of course obliged to leave her behind him during his expeditions, yet
this hazardous necessity did not at all trouble him, for his
disposition was the very reverse of jealous. If at any time he had
not lavished the whole of the precarious profits of his vocation upon
his dark favorite, he always devoted the rest to feasting his
comrades. If liquor was not to be had--and this was usually the
case--strong coffee was substituted. As the men of that region are
by no means remarkable for providence or self-restraint, whatever was
set before them on these occasions, however extravagant in price, or
enormous in quantity, was sure to be disposed of at one sitting.
Like other trappers, Rouleau's life was one of contrast and variety.
It was only at certain seasons, and for a limited time, that he was
absent on his expeditions. For the rest of the year he would be
lounging about the fort, or encamped with his friends in its
vicinity, lazily hunting or enjoying all the luxury of inaction; but
when once in pursnit of beaver, he was involved in extreme privations
and desperate perils. When in the midst of his game and his enemies,
hand and foot, eye and ear, are incessantly active. Frequently he
must content himself with devouring his evening meal uncooked, lest
the light of his fire should attract the eyes of some wandering
Indian; and sometimes having made his rude repast, he must leave his
fire still blazing, and withdraw to a distance under cover of the
darkness, that his disappointed enemy, drawn thither by the light,
may find his victim gone, and be unable to trace his footsteps in the
gloom. This is the life led by scores of men in the Rocky Mountains
and their vicinity. I once met a trapper whose breast was marked
with the scars of six bullets and arrows, one of his arms broken by a
shot and one of his knees shattered; yet still, with the undaunted
mettle of New England, from which part of the country he had come, he
continued to follow his perilous occupation. To some of the children
of cities it may seem strange that men with no object in view should
continue to follow a life of such hardship and desperate adventure;
yet there is a mysterious, restless charm in the basilisk eye of
danger, and few men perhaps remain long in that wild region without
learning to love peril for its own sake, and to laugh carelessly in
the face of death.

On the last day of our stay in this camp, the trappers were ready for
departure. When in the Black Hills they had caught seven beaver, and
they now left their skins in charge of Reynal, to be kept until their
return. Their strong, gaunt horses were equipped with rusty Spanish
bits and rude Mexican saddles, to which wooden stirrups were
attached, while a buffalo robe was rolled up behind them, and a
bundle of beaver traps slung at the pommel. These, together with
their rifles, their knives, their powder-horns and bullet-pouches,
flint and steel and a tincup, composed their whole traveling
equipment. They shook hands with us and rode away; Saraphin with his
grim countenance, like a surly bulldog's, was in advance; but
Rouleau, clambering gayly into his seat, kicked his horse's sides,
flourished his whip in the air, and trotted briskly over the prairie,
trolling forth a Canadian song at the top of his lungs. Reynal
looked after them with his face of brutal selfishness.

"Well," he said, "if they are killed, I shall have the beaver.
They'll fetch me fifty dollars at the fort, anyhow."

This was the last I saw of them.

We had been for five days in the hunting camp, and the meat, which
all this time had hung drying in the sun, was now fit for
transportation. Buffalo hides also had been procured in sufficient
quantities for making the next season's lodges; but it remained to
provide the long slender poles on which they were to be supported.
These were only to be had among the tall pine woods of the Black
Hills, and in that direction therefore our next move was to be made.
It is worthy of notice that amid the general abundance which during
this time had prevailed in the camp there were no instances of
individual privation; for although the hide and the tongue of the
buffalo belong by exclusive right to the hunter who has killed it,
yet anyone else is equally entitled to help himself from the rest of
the carcass. Thus, the weak, the aged, and even the indolent come in
for a share of the spoils, and many a helpless old woman, who would
otherwise perish from starvation, is sustained in profuse abundance.

On the 25th of July, late in the afternoon, the camp broke up, with
the usual tumult and confusion, and we were all moving once more, on
horseback and on foot, over the plains. We advanced, however, but a
few miles. The old men, who during the whole march had been stoutly
striding along on foot in front of the people, now seated themselves
in a circle on the ground, while all the families, erecting their
lodges in the prescribed order around them, formed the usual great
circle of the camp; meanwhile these village patriarchs sat smoking
and talking. I threw my bridle to Raymond, and sat down as usual
along with them. There was none of that reserve and apparent dignity
which an Indian always assumes when in council, or in the presence of
white men whom he distrusts. The party, on the contrary, was an
extremely merry one; and as in a social circle of a quite different
character, "if there was not much wit, there was at least a great
deal of laughter."

When the first pipe was smoked out, I rose and withdrew to the lodge
of my host. Here I was stooping, in the act of taking off my powder-
horn and bullet-pouch, when suddenly, and close at hand, pealing loud
and shrill, and in right good earnest, came the terrific yell of the
war-whoop. Kongra-Tonga's squaw snatched up her youngest child, and
ran out of the lodge. I followed, and found the whole village in
confusion, resounding with cries and yells. The circle of old men in
the center had vanished. The warriors with glittering eyes came
darting, their weapons in their hands, out of the low opening of the
lodges, and running with wild yells toward the farther end of the
village. Advancing a few rods in that direction, I saw a crowd in
furious agitation, while others ran up on every side to add to the
confusion. Just then I distinguished the voices of Raymond and
Reynal, shouting to me from a distance, and looking back, I saw the
latter with his rifle in his hand, standing on the farther bank of a
little stream that ran along the outskirts of the camp. He was
calling to Raymond and myself to come over and join him, and Raymond,
with his usual deliberate gait and stolid countenance, was already
moving in that direction.

This was clearly the wisest course, unless we wished to involve
ourselves in the fray; so I turned to go, but just then a pair of
eyes, gleaming like a snake's, and an aged familiar countenance was
thrust from the opening of a neighboring lodge, and out bolted old
Mene-Seela, full of fight, clutching his bow and arrows in one hand
and his knife in the other. At that instant he tripped and fell
sprawling on his face, while his weapons flew scattering away in
every direction. The women with loud screams were hurrying with
their children in their arms to place them out of danger, and I
observed some hastening to prevent mischief, by carrying away all the
weapons they could lay hands on. On a rising ground close to the
camp stood a line of old women singing a medicine song to allay the
tumult. As I approached the side of the brook I heard gun-shots
behind me, and turning back, I saw that the crowd had separated into
two lines of naked warriors confronting each other at a respectful
distance, and yelling and jumping about to dodge the shot of their
adversaries, while they discharged bullets and arrows against each
other. At the same time certain sharp, humming sounds in the air
over my head, like the flight of beetles on a summer evening, warned
me that the danger was not wholly confined to the immediate scene of
the fray. So wading through the brook, I joined Reynal and Raymond,
and we sat down on the grass, in the posture of an armed neutrality,
to watch the result.

Happily it may be for ourselves, though quite contrary to our
expectation, the disturbance was quelled almost as soon as it had
commenced. When I looked again, the combatants were once more
mingled together in a mass. Though yells sounded, occasionally from
the throng, the firing had entirely ceased, and I observed five or
six persons moving busily about, as if acting the part of
peacemakers. One of the village heralds or criers proclaimed in a
loud voice something which my two companions were too much engrossed
in their own observations to translate for me. The crowd began to
disperse, though many a deep-set black eye still glittered with an
unnatural luster, as the warriors slowly withdrew to their lodges.
This fortunate suppression of the disturbance was owing to a few of
the old men, less pugnacious than Mene-Seela, who boldly ran in
between the combatants and aided by some of the "soldiers," or Indian
police, succeeded in effecting their object.

It seemed very strange to me that although many arrows and bullets
were discharged, no one was mortally hurt, and I could only account
for this by the fact that both the marksman and the object of his aim
were leaping about incessantly during the whole time. By far the
greater part of the villagers had joined in the fray, for although
there were not more than a dozen guns in the whole camp, I heard at
least eight or ten shots fired.

In a quarter of an hour all was comparatively quiet. A large circle
of warriors were again seated in the center of the village, but this
time I did not venture to join them, because I could see that the
pipe, contrary to the usual order, was passing from the left hand to
the right around the circle, a sure sign that a "medicine-smoke" of
reconciliation was going forward, and that a white man would be an
unwelcome intruder. When I again entered the still agitated camp it
was nearly dark, and mournful cries, howls and wailings resounded
from many female voices. Whether these had any connection with the
late disturbance, or were merely lamentations for relatives slain in
some former war expeditions, I could not distinctly ascertain.

To inquire too closely into the cause of the quarrel was by no means
prudent, and it was not until some time after that I discovered what
had given rise to it. Among the Dakota there are many associations,
or fraternities, connected with the purposes of their superstitions,
their warfare, or their social life. There was one called "The
Arrow-Breakers," now in a great measure disbanded and dispersed. In
the village there were, however, four men belonging to it,
distinguished by the peculiar arrangement of their hair, which rose
in a high bristling mass above their foreheads, adding greatly to
their apparent height, and giving them a most ferocious appearance.
The principal among them was the Mad Wolf, a warrior of remarkable
size and strength, great courage, and the fierceness of a demon. I
had always looked upon him as the most dangerous man in the village;
and though he often invited me to feasts, I never entered his lodge

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