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Journeys Through Bookland by Charles H. Sylvester

Part 8 out of 8

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cheered by the men, women, and children, collected as usual on the tops
of the lodges, and were exhorted by the Nestors of the village to be
generous in their dealings with the white men.

The evening was spent in feasting and rejoicing among the relations of
the successful warriors; but sounds of grief and wailing were heard
from the hills adjacent to the village: the lamentations of women who
had lost some relative in the foray.

An Indian village is subject to continual agitations and excitements.
The next day arrived a deputation of braves from the Cheyenne or
Shienne nation; a broken tribe, cut up, like the Arickaras, by wars
with the Sioux, and driven to take refuge among the Black Hills, near
the sources of the Cheyenne River, from which they derive their name.
One of these deputies was magnificently arrayed in a buffalo robe, on
which various figures were fancifully embroidered with split quills
dyed red and yellow; and the whole was fringed with the slender hoofs
of young fawns, and rattled as he walked.

The arrival of this deputation was the signal for another of those
ceremonies which occupy so much of Indian life; for no being is more
courtly and punctilious, and more observing of etiquette and
formality than an American savage.

The object of the deputation was to give notice of an intended visit of
the Shienne (or Cheyenne) tribe to the Arickara village in the course
of fifteen days. To this visit Mr. Hunt looked forward, to procure
additional horses for his journey; all his bargaining being ineffectual
in obtaining a sufficient supply from the Arickaras. Indeed nothing
could prevail upon the latter to part with their prime horses, which
had been trained to buffalo hunting.

On the 9th of July, just before daybreak, a great noise and
vociferation was heard in the village. This being the usual Indian hour
of attack and surprise, and the Sioux being known to be in the
neighborhood, the camp was instantly on the alert. As the day broke
Indians were descried in considerable numbers on the bluffs, three or
four miles down the river. The noise and agitation in the village
continued. The tops of the lodges were crowded with the inhabitants,
all earnestly looking toward the hills, and keeping up a vehement
chattering. Presently an Indian warrior galloped past the camp toward
the village, and in a little while the legions began to pour forth.

The truth of the matter was now ascertained. The Indians upon the
distant hills were three hundred Arickara braves returning from a
foray. They had met the war party of Sioux who had been so long
hovering about the neighborhood, had fought them the day before, killed
several, and defeated the rest with the loss of but two or three of
their own men and about a dozen wounded; and they were now halting at a
distance until their comrades in the village should come forth to meet
them, and swell the parade of their triumphal entry. The warrior who
had galloped past the camp was the leader of the party hastening home
to give tidings of his victory.

Preparations were now made for this great martial ceremony. All the
finery and equipments of the warriors were sent forth to them, that
they might appear to the greatest advantage. Those, too, who had
remained at home, tasked their wardrobes and toilets to do honor to the
procession.

The Arickaras generally go naked, but, like all savages, they have
their gala dress, of which they are not a little vain. This usually
consists of a gray surcoat and leggins of the dressed skin of the
antelope, resembling chamois leather, and embroidered with porcupine
quills brilliantly dyed. A buffalo robe is thrown over the right
shoulder, and across the left is slung a quiver of arrows. They wear
gay coronets of plumes, particularly those of the swan; but the
feathers of the black eagle are considered the most worthy, being a
sacred bird among the Indian warriors. He who has killed an enemy in
his own land is entitled to drag at his heels a fox-skin attached to
each moccasin; and he who has slain a grizzly bear wears a necklace of
his claws, the most glorious trophy that a hunter can exhibit.

An Indian toilet is an operation of some toil and trouble; the warrior
often has to paint himself from head to foot, and is extremely
capricious and difficult to please, as to the hideous distribution of
streaks and colors. A great part of the morning, therefore, passed away
before there were any signs of the distant pageant. In the mean time a
profound stillness reigned over the village. Most of the inhabitants
had gone forth; others remained in mute expectation. All sports and
occupations were suspended, excepting that in the lodges the
painstaking squaws were silently busied in preparing the repasts for
the warriors.

It was near noon that a mingled sound of voices and rude music, faintly
heard from a distance, gave notice that the procession was on the
march. The old men and such of the squaws as could leave their
employments hastened forth to meet it. In a little while it emerged
from behind a hill, and had a wild and picturesque appearance as it
came moving over the summit in measured step, and to the cadence of
songs and savage instruments; the warlike standards and trophies
flaunting aloft, and the feathers, and paint, and silver ornaments of
the warriors glaring and glittering in the sunshine.

[Illustration: RETURN OF THE WARRIORS]

The pageant had really something chivalrous in its arrangement. The
Arickaras are divided into several bands, each bearing the name of some
animal or bird, as the buffalo, the bear, the dog, the pheasant. The
present party consisted of four of these bands, one of which was the
dog, the most esteemed in war, being composed of young men under
thirty, and noted for prowess. It is engaged on the most desperate
occasions. The bands marched in separate bodies under their several
leaders. The warriors on foot came first, in platoons of ten or twelve
abreast; then the horsemen. Each band bore as an ensign a spear or bow
decorated with beads, porcupine quills and painted feathers. Each bore
its trophies of scalps, elevated on poles, their long black locks
streaming in the wind. Each was accompanied by its rude music and
minstrelsy. In this way the procession extended nearly a quarter of a
mile. The warriors were variously armed, some few with guns, others
with bows and arrows, and war clubs; all had shields of buffalo hide, a
kind of defence generally used by the Indians of the open prairies, who
have not the covert of trees and forests to protect them. They were
painted in the most savage style. Some had the stamp of a red hand
across their mouths, a sign that they had drunk the life-blood of a
foe!

As they drew near to the village the old men and the women began to
meet them, and now a scene ensued that proved the fallacy of the old
fable of Indian apathy and stoicism. Parents and children, husbands and
wives, brothers and sisters met with the most rapturous expressions of
joy; while wailings and lamentations were heard from the relatives of
the killed and wounded. The procession, however, continued on with slow
and measured step, in cadence to the solemn chant, and the warriors
maintained their fixed and stern demeanor.

Between two of the principal chiefs rode a young warrior who had
distinguished himself in the battle. He was severely wounded, so as
with difficulty to keep on his horse; but he preserved a serene and
steadfast countenance, as if perfectly unharmed. His mother had heard
of his condition. She broke through the throng, and rushing up, threw
her arms around him and wept aloud. He kept up the spirit and demeanor
of a warrior to the last, but expired shortly after he had reached his
home.

The village was now a scene of the utmost festivity and triumph. The
banners, and trophies, and scalps, and painted shields were elevated on
poles near the lodges. There were war-feasts and scalp-dances, with
warlike songs and savage music; all the inhabitants were arrayed in
their festal dresses; while the old heralds went round from lodge to
lodge, promulgating with loud voices the events of the battle and the
exploits of the various warriors.

Such was the boisterous revelry of the village; but sounds of another
kind were heard on the surrounding hills; piteous wailings of the
women, who had retired thither to mourn in darkness and solitude for
those who had fallen in battle. There the poor mother of the youthful
warrior who had returned home in triumph but to die, gave full vent to
the anguish of a mother's heart. How much does this custom among the
Indian women of repairing to the hill tops in the night, and pouring
forth their wailings for the dead, call to mind the beautiful and
affecting passage of Scripture, "In Rama was there a voice heard,
lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her
children, and would not be comforted, because they are not."

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