Indian Boyhood, by [OHIYESA] Charles Eastman
Part 3 out of 4
short rib bones in his mouth. Apparently he did
not care to risk those delicacies.
"There," exclaimed Uncheedah, "you still in-
sist upon bringing in some sort of bone!" but I
begged her to let him gnaw them inside because it
was so cold. Having been granted this privilege,
he settled himself at my back and I became ab-
sorbed in some specially nice arrows that uncle was
"O, uncle, you must put on three feathers to
all of them so that they can fly straight," I sug-
"Yes, but if there are only two feathers, they
will fly faster," he answered.
"Woow!" Wabeda uttered his suspicions.
"Woow!" he said again, and rushed for the
entrance of the teepee. He kicked me over as he
went and scattered the burning embers.
"En na he na!" Uncheedah exclaimed, but he
was already outside.
"Wow, wow, wow! Wow, Wow, wow!"
A deep guttural voice answered him.
Out I rushed with my bow and arrows in my
"Come, uncle, come! A big cinnamon bear!" I
shouted as I emerged from the teepee.
Uncle sprang out and in a moment he had sent
a swift arrow through the bear's heart. The ani-
mal fell dead. He had just begun to dig up
Wabeda's bone, when the dog's quick ear had
heard the sound.
"Ah, uncle, Wabeda and I ought to have at
least a little eaglet's feather for this. I too sent my
small arrow into the bear before he fell," I ex-
claimed. "But I thought all bears ought to be in
their lodges in the winter time. What was this one
doing at this time of the year and night?"
"Well," said my uncle, "I will tell you. Among
the tribes, some are naturally lazy. The cinnamon
bear is the lazy one of his tribe. He alone sleeps
out of doors in the winter and because he has not
a warm bed, he is soon hungry. Sometimes he
lives in the hollow trunk of a tree, where he has
made a bed of dry grass; but when the night is
very cold, like to-night, he has to move about to
keep himself from freezing and as he prowls
around, he gets hungry."
We dragged the huge carcass within our lodge.
"O, what nice claws he has, uncle!" I exclaimed
eagerly. "Can I have them for my necklace?"
"It is only the old medicine men who wear
them regularly. The son of a great warrior who
has killed a grizzly may wear them upon a pub-
lic occasion," he explained.
"And you are just like my father and are con-
sidered the best hunter among the Santees and Sis-
setons. You have killed many grizzlies so that
no one can object to my bear's-claws necklace," I
White Foot-print smiled. "My boy, you
shall have them," he said, "but it is always bet-
ter to earn them yourself." He cut the claws off
carefully for my use.
"Tell me, uncle, whether you could wear these
claws all the time?" I asked.
"Yes,I am entitled to wear them, but they are
so heavy and uncomfortable," he replied, with a
At last the bear had been skinned and dressed
and we all resumed our usual places. Uncheedah
was particularly pleased to have some more fat
for her cooking.
"Now, grandmother, tell me the story of the
bear's fat. I shall be so happy if you will," I
"It is a good story and it is true. You should
know it by heart and gain a lesson from it," she
replied. "It was in the forests of Minnesota, in
the country that now belongs to the Ojibways.
From the Bedawakanton Sioux village a young
married couple went into the woods to get fresh
venison. The snow was deep; the ice was thick.
Far away in the woods they pitched their lonely
teepee. The young man was a well-known hunter
and his wife a good maiden of the village.
"He hunted entirely on snow-shoes, because
the snow was very deep. His wife had to wear
snow-shoes too, to get to the spot where they
pitched their tent. It was thawing the day they
went out, so their path was distinct after the freeze
"The young man killed many deer and bears.
His wife was very busy curing the meat and try-
ing out the fat while he was away hunting each
day. In the evenings she kept on trying the fat.
He sat on one side of the teepee and she on the
"One evening, she had just lowered a kettle of
fat to cool, and as she looked into the hot fat she
saw the face of an Ojibway scout looking down at
them through the smoke-hole. She said nothing,
nor did she betray herself in any way.
"After a little she said to her husband in a nat-
ural voice: 'Marpeetopah, some one is looking
at us through the smoke hole, and I think it is an
"Then Marpeetopah (Four-skies) took up his
bow and arrows and began to straighten and dry
them for the next day's hunt, talking and laugh-
ing meanwhile. Suddenly he turned and sent an
arrow upward, killing the Ojibway, who fell dead
at their door.
"'Quick, Wadutah!' he exclaimed; 'you
must hurry home upon our trail. I will stay
here. When this scout does not return, the war-
party may come in a body or send another scout.
If only one comes, I can soon dispatch him and
then I will follow you. If I do not do that, they
will overtake us in our flight.'
"Wadutah (Scarlet) protested and begged to be
allowed to stay with her husband, but at last she
came away to get reinforcements.
"Then Marpeetopah (Four-skies) put more
sticks on the fire so that the teepee might be bright-
ly lit and show him the way. He then took the
scalp of the enemy and proceeded on his track,
until he came to the upturned root of a great tree.
There he spread out his arrows and laid out his
"Soon two more scouts were sent by the Ojib-
way war-party to see what was the trouble and
why the first one failed to come back. He heard
them as they approached. They were on snow-
shoes. When they came close to him, he shot an
arrow into the foremost. As for the other, in his
effort to turn quickly his snow-shoes stuck in the
deep snow and detained him, so Marpeetopah
killed them both.
"Quickly he took the scalps and followed Wa-
dutah. He ran hard. But the Ojibways sus-
pected something wrong and came to the lonely
teepee, to find all their scouts had been killed.
They followed the path of Marpeetopah and Wa-
dutah to the main village, and there a great battle
was fought on the ice. Many were killed on both
sides. It was after this that the Sioux moved to
the Mississippi river."
I was sleepy by this time and I rolled myself
up in my buffalo robe and fell asleep.
II: Adventures of My Uncle
IT was a beautiful fall day--'a
gopher's last look back,' as we
used to say of the last warm
days of the late autumn. We
were encamped beside a wild rice
lake, where two months before
we had harvested our watery fields of grain, and
where we had now returned for the duck-hunting.
All was well with us. Ducks were killed in count-
less numbers, and in the evenings the men hunted
deer in canoes by torchlight along the shores of the
lake. But alas! life is made up of good times
and bad times, and it is when we are perfectly
happy that we should expect some overwhelming
"So it was that upon this peaceful and still morn-
ing, all of a sudden a harsh and terrible war-cry
was heard! Your father was then quite a young
man, and a very ambitious warrior, so that I was
always frightened on his account whenever there
was a chance of fighting. But I did not think of
your uncle, Mysterious Medicine, for he was not
over fifteen at the time; besides, he had never
shown any taste for the field.
"Our camp was thrown into great excitement;
and as the warriors advanced to meet the enemy,
I was almost overcome by the sight of your uncle
among them! It was of no use for me to call
him back--I think I prayed in that moment to
the Great Mystery to bring my boy safely home.
"I shall never forget, as long as I live, the events
of that day. Many brave men were killed;
among them two of your uncle's intimate friends.
But when the battle was over, my boy came back;
only his face was blackened in mourning for his
friends, and he bore several wounds in his body.
I knew that he had proved himself a true warrior.
"This was the beginning of your uncle's career,
He has surpassed your father and your grand-
father; yes, all his ancestors except Jingling Thun-
der, in daring and skill."
Such was my grandmother's account of the
maiden battle of her third son, Mysterious Med-
icine. He achieved many other names; among
them Big Hunter, Long Rifle and White Foot-
print. He had a favorite Kentucky rifle which
he carried for many years. The stock was several
times broken, but he always made another. With
this gun he excelled most of his contemporaries in
accuracy of aim. He used to call the weapon
Ishtahbopopa--a literal translation would be
My uncle, who was a father to me for ten
years of my life, was almost a giant in his propor-
tions, very symmetrical and "straight as an arrow."
His face was not at all handsome. He had very
quiet and reserved manners and was a man of
action rather than of unnecessary words. Behind
the veil of Indian reticence he had an inexhausti-
ble fund of wit and humor; but this part of his
character only appeared before his family and very
intimate friends. Few men know nature more
thoroughly than he. Nothing irritated him more
than to hear some natural fact misrepresented. I
have often thought that with education he might
have made a Darwin or an Agassiz.
He was always modest and unconscious of self
in relating his adventures. "I have often been
forced to realize my danger," he used to say, "but
not in such a way as to overwhelm me. Only
twice in my life have I been really frightened, and
for an instant lost my presence of mind.
"Once I was in full pursuit of a large buck deer
that I had wounded. It was winter, and there
was a very heavy fall of fresh snow upon the
ground. All at once I came upon the body of
the deer lying dead on the snow. I began to
make a hasty examination, but before I had made
any discoveries, I spied the tips of two ears peep-
ing just above the surface of the snow about
twenty feet from me. I made a feint of not see-
ing anything at all, but moved quickly in the
direction of my gun, which was leaning against a
tree. Feeling, somehow, that I was about to be
taken advantage of, I snatched at the same mo-
ment my knife from my belt.
"The panther (for such it was) made a sudden
and desperate spring. I tried to dodge, but he
was too quick for me. He caught me by the
shoulder with his great paw, and threw me down.
Somehow, he did not retain his hold, but made an-
other leap and again concealed himself in the snow.
Evidently he was preparing to make a fresh attack.
"I was partially stunned and greatly confused
by the blow; therefore I should have been an easy
prey for him at the moment. But when he left
me, I came to my senses; and I had been thrown
near my gun! I arose and aimed between the tips
of his ears--all that was visible of him--and
fired. I saw the fresh snow fly from the spot. The
panther leaped about six feet straight up into the
air, and fell motionless. I gave two good war-
whoops, because I had conquered a very formid-
able enemy. I sat down on the dead body to rest,
and my heart beat as if it would knock out all my
ribs. I had not been expecting any danger, and
that was why I was so taken by surprise.
"The other time was on the plains, in summer.
I was accustomed to hunting in the woods, and
never before had hunted buffalo on horseback. Be-
ing a young man, of course I was eager to do what-
ever other men did. Therefore I saddled my pony
for the hunt. I had a swift pony and a good gun,
but on this occasion I preferred a bow and arrows.
"It was the time of year when the buffalo go
in large herds and the bulls are vicious. But this
did not trouble me at all; indeed, I thought of
nothing but the excitement and honor of the
"A vast plain near the Souris river was literally
covered with an immense herd. The day was fair,
and we came up with them very easily. I had a
quiver full of arrows, with a sinew-backed bow.
"My pony carried me in far ahead of all the oth-
ers. I found myself in the midst of the bulls first,
for they are slow. They threw toward me vicious
glances, so I hastened my pony on to the cows.
Soon I was enveloped in a thick cloud of dust, and
completely surrounded by the herd, who were by
this time in the act of fleeing, their hoofs making
a noise like thunder.
"I could not think of anything but my own sit-
uation, which confused me for the moment. It
seemed to me to be a desperate one. If my pony,
which was going at full speed, should step into a
badger hole, I should be thrown to the ground
and trampled under foot in an instant. If I were
to stop, they would knock me over, pony and all.
Again, it seemed as if my horse must fall from
sheer exhaustion; and then what would become
"At last I awoke to a calm realization of my own
power. I uttered a yell and began to shoot right
and left. Very soon there were only a few old bulls
who remained near me. The herd had scattered,
and I was miles away from my companions.
"It is when we think of our personal danger that
we are apt to be at a loss to do the best thing un-
der the circumstances. One should be unconscious
of self in order to do his duty. We are very apt
to think ourselves brave, when we are most timid.
I have discovered that half our young men give
the war-whoop when they are frightened, because
they fear lest their silence may betray their state of
mind. I think we are really bravest when most
calm and slow to action."
I urged my uncle to tell me more of his adven-
"Once," said he, "I had a somewhat peculiar
experience, which I think I never related to you
before. It was at the time of the fall hunt. One
afternoon when I was alone I discovered that I was
too far away to reach the camp before dark, so I
looked about for a good place to spend the night.
This was on the Upper Missouri, before there were
any white people there, and when we were in con-
stant danger from wild beasts as well as from hos-
tile Indians. It was necessary to use every pre-
caution and the utmost vigilance.
"I selected a spot which appeared to be well
adapted to defense. I had killed two deer, and
I hung up pieces of the meat at certain distances
in various directions. I knew that any wolf would
stop for the meat, A grizzly bear would some-
times stop, but not a mountain lion or a panther.
Therefore I made a fire. Such an animal would
be apt to attack a solitary fire. There was a full
moon that night, which was much in my favor.
"Having cooked and eaten some of the venison,
I rolled myself in my blanket and lay down by the
fire, taking my Ishtahbopopa for a bed fellow. I
hugged it very closely, for I felt that I should
need it during the night. I had scarcely settled
myself when I heard what seemed to be ten or
twelve coyotes set up such a howling that I was
quite sure of a visit from them. Immediately after-.
ward I heard another sound, which was like the
screaming of a small child. This was a porcupine,
which had doubtless smelled the meat.
"I watched until a coyote appeared upon a flat
rock fifty yards away. He sniffed the air in every
direction; then, sitting partly upon his haunches,
swung round in a circle with his hind legs sawing
the air, and howled and barked in many different
keys. It was a great feat! I could not help won-
dering whether I should be able to imitate him.
What had seemed to be the voices of many coy-
otes was in reality only one animal. His mate soon
appeared and then they both seemed satisfied, and
showed no signs of a wish to invite another to
join them. Presently they both suddenly and
"At this moment a slight noise attracted my at-
tention, and I saw that the porcupine had arrived.
He had climbed up to the piece of meat nearest
me, and was helping himself without any cere-
mony. I thought it was fortunate that he came,
for he would make a good watch dog for me.
Very soon, in fact, he interrupted his meal, and
caused all his quills to stand out in defiance. I
glanced about me and saw the two coyotes slyly
approaching my open camp from two different di-
"I took the part of the porcupine! I rose in a
sitting posture, and sent a swift arrow to each of
my unwelcome visitors. They both ran away with
howls of surprise and pain.
"The porcupine saw the whole from his perch,
but his meal was not at all disturbed, for he began
eating again with apparent relish. Indeed, I was
soon furnished with another of these unconscious
protectors. This one came from the opposite di-
rection to a point where I had hung a splendid
ham of venison. He cared to go no further, but
seated himself at once on a convenient branch and
began his supper.
"The canon above me was full of rocks and trees.
From this direction came a startling noise, which
caused me more concern than anything I had thus
far heard. It sounded much like a huge animal
stretching himself, and giving a great yawn which
ended in a scream. I knew this for the voice of a
mountain lion, and it decided me to perch upon a
limb for the rest of the night.
"I got up and climbed into the nearest large tree,
taking my weapons with me; but first I rolled a
short log of wood in my blanket and laid it in my
place by the fire.
"As I got up, the two porcupines began to de-
scend, but I paid no attention to them, and they
soon returned to their former positions. Very
soon I heard a hissing sound from one of them,
and knew that an intruder was near. Two grey
"I had hung the hams by the ham strings, and
they were fully eight feet from the ground. At
first the wolves came boldly forward, but the warn-
ing of the porcupines caused them to stop, and
hesitate to jump for the meat. However, they were
hungry, and began to leap savagely for the hams,
although evidently they proved good targets for
the quills of the prickly ones, for occasionally
one of them would squeal and rub his nose des-
perately against the tree.
"At last one of the wolves buried his teeth too
deeply in a tough portion of the flesh, and having
jumped to reach it, his own weight made it im-
possible for him to loosen his upper jaw. There
the grey wolf dangled, kicking and yelping, until
the tendon of the ham gave way, and both fell
heavily to the ground. From my hiding-place I
sent two arrows into his body, which ended his
life. The other one ran away to a little distance
and remained there a long time, as if waiting
for her mate.
"I was now very weary, but I had seen many
grizzly bears' tracks in the vicinity, and besides, I
had not forgotten the dreadful scream of the
mountain lion. I determined to continue my
"As I had half expected, there came presently a
sudden heavy fall, and at the same time the burn-
ing embers were scattered about and the fire almost
extinguished. My blanket with the log in it was
rolled over several times, amid snarls and growls.
Then the assailant of my camp--a panther--leaped
back into the thick underbrush, but not before
my arrow had penetrated his side. He snarled
and tried to bite off the shaft, but after a time be-
came exhausted and lay still.
"I could now distinguish the grey dawn in the
east. I was exceedingly drowsy, so I fastened
myself by a rope of raw-hide to the trunk of the
tree against which I leaned. I was seated on a
large limb, and soon fell asleep.
"I was rudely awakened by the report of a gun
directly under me. At the same time, I thought
some one was trying to shake me off the tree,
Instantly I reached for my gun. Alas! it was
gone ! At the first shake of the tree by my visi-
tor, a grizzly bear, the gun had fallen, and as it
was cocked, it went off.
"The bear picked up the weapon and threw it
violently away; then he again shook the tree with
all his strength. I shouted:
"'I have still a bow and a quiver full of arrows;
you had better let me alone.'
"He replied to this with a rough growl. I sent
an arrow into his side, and he groaned like a man
as he tried hard to pull it out. I had to give him
several more before he went a short distance away,
and died. It was now daylight, so I came down
from my perch. I was stiff, and scarcely able to
walk. I found that the bear had killed both of
my little friends, the porcupines, and eaten most
of the meat.
"Perhaps you wonder, Ohiyesa, why I did not
use my gun in the beginning; but I had learned
that if I once missed my aim with it, I had no
second chance. I have told of this particular ad-
venture, because it was an unusual experience to
see so many different animals in one night. I
have often been in similar places, and killed one or
two. Once a common black bear stole a whole
deer from me without waking me. But all this
life is fast disappearing, and the world is becoming
The End of the Bear Dance
IT was one of the superstitions of
the Santee Sioux to treat disease
from the standpoint of some ani-
mal or inanimate thing. That
person who, according to their
belief, had been commissioned to
become a medicine man or a war chief, must not
disobey the bear or other creature or thing which
gave him his commission. If he ever ventured
to do so, the offender must pay for his insubor-
dination with his life, or that of his own child or
dearest friend. It was supposed to be necessary
that the supernatural orders be carried into effect
at a particular age and a certain season of the
year. Occasionally a very young man, who ex-
cused himself on the ground of youth and mod-
esty, might be forgiven.
One of my intimate friends had been a sufferer
from what, I suppose, must have been consump-
tion. He, like myself, had a grandmother in
whom he had unlimited faith. But she was a very
ambitious and pretentious woman. Among her
many claims was that of being a great "medicine
woman," and many were deceived by it; but really
she was a fraud, for she did not give any medicine,
but "conjured" the sick exclusively.
At this time my little friend was fast losing
ground, in spite of his grandmother's great preten-
sions. At last I hinted to him that my grand-
mother was a herbalist, and a skilful one. But he
hinted back to me that 'most any old woman who
could dig roots could be a herbalist, and that with-
out a supernatural commission there was no power
that could cope with disease. I defended my ideal
on the ground that there are supernatural powers
in the herbs themselves; hence those who under-
stand them have these powers at their command.
"But," insisted my friend, "one must get his
knowledge from the Great Mystery!"
This completely silenced my argument, but
did not shake my faith in my grandmother's
Redhorn was a good boy, and I loved him. I
visited him often, and found him growing weaker
day by day.
"Ohiyesa," he said to me one day, "my grand-
mother has discovered the cause of my sickness."
I eagerly interrupted him by shouting: "And
can she cure you now, Redhorn?"
"Of course," he replied, "she cannot until I
have fulfilled the commandment. I have confessed
to her that two years ago I received my commis-
sion, and I should have made a Bear Dance
and proclaimed myself a medicine man last spring,
when I had seen thirteen winters. You see, I was
ashamed to proclaim myself a medicine man, being
so young; and for this I am punished. However,
my grandmother says it is not yet too late. But,
Ohiyesa, I am as weak now as a rheumatic old man.
I can scarcely stand up. They say that I can ap-
point some one else to act for me. He will be the
active bear--I shall have to remain in the hole.
Would you, Ohiyesa, be willing to act the bear for
me? You know he has to chase the dancers
away from his den."
"Redhorn," I replied with much embarrass-
ment," I should be happy to do anything that I
could for you, but I cannot be a bear. I feel that
I am not fit. I am not large enough; I am not
strong enough; and I don't understand the habits
of the animal well enough. I do not think you
would be pleased with me as your substitute."
Redhorn finally decided that he would engage a
larger boy to perform for him. A few days later,
it was announced by the herald that my friend
would give a Bear Dance, at which he was to be
publicly proclaimed a medicine man. It would be
the great event of his short existence, for the dis-
ease had already exhausted his strength and vital-
ity. Of course, we all understood that there would
be an active youth to exhibit the ferocious nature
of the beast after which the dance is named.
The Bear Dance was an entertainment, a relig-
ious rite, a method of treating disease--all in one.
A strange thing about it was that no woman was
allowed to participate in the orgies, unless she was
herself the bear.
The den was usually dug about two hundred
yards from the camp, on some conspicuous plain.
It was about two feet deep and six feet square and
over it was constructed an arbor of boughs with
four openings. When the bear man sang, all the
men and boys would gather and dance about the
den; and when he came out and pursued them
there was a hasty retreat. It was supposed that
whoever touched the bear without being touched
by him would overcome a foe in the field. If one
was touched, the reverse was to be expected. The
thing which caused most anxiety among the dancers
was the superstition that if one of them should
accidentally trip and fall while pursued by the
bear, a sudden death would visit him or his nearest
Boys of my age were disposed to run some risk
in this dance; they would take every opportunity
to strike at the bear man with a short switch, while
the older men shot him with powder. It may as
well be admitted that one reason for my declining
the honor offered me by my friend Redhorn was
that I was afraid of powder, and I much preferred
to be one of the dancers and take my chances of
touching the bear man without being touched.
It was a beautiful summer's day. The forest
behind our camp was sweet with the breath of
blossoming flowers. The teepees faced a large lake,
which we called Bedatanka. Its gentle waves
cooled the atmosphere. The water-fowl disported
themselves over its surface, and the birds of pass-
age overhead noisily expressed their surprise at
the excitement and confusion in our midst.
The herald, with his brassy voice, again went
the rounds, announcing the day's event and the
tardy fulfillment of the boy's commission. Then
came the bustle of preparation. The out-door
toilet of the people was performed with care. I
cannot describe just how I was attired or painted,
but I am under the impression that there was but
little of my brown skin that was not uncovered.
The others were similarly dressed in feathers, paint
and tinkling ornaments.
I soon heard the tom-tom's doleful sound from
the direction of the bear's den, and a few war-
whoops from the throats of the youthful warriors.
As I joined the motley assembly, I noticed that the
bear man's drum was going in earnest, and soon
after he began to sing. This was the invitation to
An old warrior gave the signal and we all started
for the den, very much like a group of dogs at-
tacking a stranger. Frantically we yelled and
whooped, running around the sheltering arbor in
a hop, skip and jump fashion. In spite of the
apparent confusion, however, every participant
was on the alert for the slightest movement of the
All of a sudden, a brave gave the warning, and
we scattered in an instant over the little plain be-
tween the den and our village. Everybody seemed
to be running for dear life, and I soon found my-
self some yards behind the rest. I had gone in
boldly, partly because of conversations with cer-
tain boys who proposed to participate, and whom
I usually outdistanced in foot races. But it seemed
that they had not carried out their intentions and
I was left alone. I looked back once or twice, al-
though I was pretty busy with my legs, and I im-
agined that my pursuer, the bear man, looked
twice as fearful as a real bear. He was dressed
and painted up with a view to terrify the crowd.
I did not want the others to guess that I was at
all dismayed, so I tried to give the war-whoop;
but my throat was so dry at the moment that I
am sure I must have given it very poorly.
Just as it seemed that I was about to be over-
taken, the dancers who had deserted me suddenly
slackened their speed, and entered upon the
amusement of tormenting the bear man with gun-
powder and switches, with which they touched him
far from gently upon his naked body. They now
chased him in turn, and he again retreated to his den.
We rested until we heard the tom-tom and the
song once more, and then we rushed forth with
fresh eagerness to the mimic attack. This time I
observed all necessary precautions for my own
safety. I started in my flight even before the
warning was given, for I saw the bear man gather-
ing himself up to spring upon the dancers. Thus
I had plenty of leeway to observe what occurred.
The bear man again pursued the yelling and re-
treating mob, and was dealt with unmercifully by
the swift-footed. He became much excited as
he desperately chased a middle-aged man, who
occasionally turned and fired off his gun, but was
suddenly tripped by an ant-hill and fell to the
ground, with the other on top of him. The ex-
citement was intense. The bear man returned to
his companion, and the dancers gathered in little
knots to exchange whispers.
"Is it not a misfortune?" "The most sure-
footed of us all!" "Will he die?" "Must his
beautiful daughter be sacrificed?"
The man who was the subject of all this com-
ment did not speak a word. His head hung
down. Finally he raised it and said in a resolute
"We all have our time to go, and when the
Great Mystery calls us we must answer as cheer-
fully as at the call of one of our own war-chiefs
here on earth. I am not sad for myself, but my
heart is not willing that my Winona (first-born
daughter) should be called."
No one replied. Presently the last tom-tom
was heard and the dancers rallied once more.
The man who had fallen did not join them, but
turned to the council lodge, where the wise old
men were leisurely enjoying the calumet. They
beheld him enter with some surprise; but he
threw himself upon a buffalo robe, and resting his
head upon his right hand, related what had hap-
pened to him. Thereupon the aged men ex-
claimed as with one voice: "It never fails!"
After this, he spoke no more.
Meanwhile, we were hilariously engaged in
our last dance, and when the bear man finally re-
tired, we gathered about the arbor to congratulate
the sick bear man. But, to our surprise, his com-
panion did not re-enter the den. "He is dead!
Redhorn, the bear man, is dead!" We all rushed
to the spot. My poor friend, Redhorn, lay dead
in the den.
At this instant there was another commotion in
the camp. Everybody was running toward the
council lodge. A well-known medicine man was
loudly summoned thither. But, alas! the man
who fell in the dance had suddenly dropped dead.
To the people, another Indian superstition had
The Maidens' Feast
THERE were many peculiar cus-
toms among the Indians of an
earlier period, some of which
tended to strengthen the charac-
ter of the people and preserve
their purity. Perhaps the most
unique of these was the annual "feast of maidens."
The casual observer would scarcely understand
the full force and meaning of this ceremony.
The last one that I ever witnessed was given at
Fort Ellis, Manitoba, about the year 1871. Upon
the table land just back of the old trading post
and fully a thousand feet above the Assiniboine
river, surrounded by groves, there was a natural
amphitheatre. At one end stood the old fort
where since 1830 the northern tribes had come to
replenish their powder horns and lead sacks and
to dispose of their pelts.
In this spot there was a reunion of all the rene-
gade Sioux on the one hand and of the Assini-
boines and Crees, the Canadian tribes, on the
other. They were friendly. The matter was not
formally arranged, but it was usual for all the
tribes to meet here in the month of July.
The Hudson Bay Company always had a good
supply of red, blue, green and white blankets, also
cloth of brilliant dye, so that when their summer
festival occurred the Indians did not lack gayly
colored garments. Paints were bought by them
at pleasure. Short sleeves were the fashion in
their buckskin dresses, and beads and porcupine
quills were the principal decorations.
When circumstances are favorable, the Indians
are the happiest people in the world. There were
entertainments every single day, which everybody
had the fullest opportunity to see and enjoy. If
anything, the poorest profited the most by these
occasions, because a feature in each case was the
giving away of savage wealth to the needy in
honor of the event. At any public affair, involv-
ing the pride and honor of a prominent family,
there must always be a distribution of valuable
One bright summer morning, while we were
still at our meal of jerked buffalo meat, we heard
the herald of the Wahpeton band upon his calico
pony as he rode around our circle.
"White Eagle's daughter, the maiden Red Star,
invites all the maidens of all the tribes to come and
partake of her feast. It will be in the Wahpeton
camp, before the sun reaches the middle of the
sky. All pure maidens are invited. Red Star
also invites the young men to be present, to see
that no unworthy maiden should join in the feast."
The herald soon completed the rounds of the
different camps, and it was not long before the
girls began to gather in great numbers. The fort
was fully alive to the interest of these savage en-
tertainments. This particular feast was looked
upon as a semi-sacred affair. It would be dese-
cration for any to attend who was not perfectly
virtuous. Hence it was regarded as an opportune
time for the young men to satisfy themselves as to
who were the virtuous maids of the tribe.
There were apt to be surprises before the end
of the day. Any young man was permitted to
challenge any maiden whom he knew to be un-
worthy. But woe to him who could not prove his
case. It meant little short of death to the man who
endeavored to disgrace a woman without cause.
The youths had a similar feast of their own, in
which the eligibles were those who had never
spoken to a girl in the way of courtship. It was
considered ridiculous so to do before attaining
some honor as a warrior, and the novices prided
themselves greatly upon their self control.
From the various camps the girls came singly
or in groups, dressed in bright-colored calicoes or
in heavily fringed and beaded buckskin. Their
smooth cheeks and the central part of their glossy
hair was touched with vermilion. All brought
with them wooden basins to eat from. Some who
came from a considerable distance were mounted
upon ponies; a few, for company or novelty's sake,
The maidens' circle was formed about a cone-
shaped rock which stood upon its base. This was
painted red. Beside it two new arrows were lightly
stuck into the ground. This is a sort of altar, to
which each maiden comes before taking her as-
signed place in the circle, and lightly touches first
the stone and then the arrows. By this oath she
declares her purity. Whenever a girl approaches
the altar there is a stir among the spectators, and
sometimes a rude youth would call out:
"Take care! You will overturn the rock, or
pull out the arrows!"
Such a remark makes the girls nervous, and es-
pecially one who is not sure of her composure.
Immediately behind the maidens' circle is the
old women's or chaperons' circle. This second
circle is almost as interesting to look at as the in-
ner one. The old women watched every move-
ment of their respective charges with the utmost
concern, having previously instructed them how
they should conduct themselves in any event.
There was never a more gorgeous assembly of
the kind than this one. The day was perfect. The
Crees, displaying their characteristic horseman-
ship, came in groups; the Assiniboines, with their
curious pompadour well covered with red paint.
The various bands of Sioux all carefully observed
the traditional peculiarities of dress and behavior.
The attaches of the fort were fully represented at
the entertainment, and it was not unusual to see a
pale-face maiden take part in the feast.
The whole population of the region had assem-
bled, and the maidens came shyly into the circle.
The simple ceremonies observed prior to the serv-
ing of the food were in progress, when among a
group of Wahpeton Sioux young men there was a
stir of excitement. All the maidens glanced ner-
vously toward the scene of the disturbance. Soon
a tall youth emerged from the throng of spectators
and advanced toward the circle. Every one of the
chaperons glared at him as if to deter him from
his purpose. But with a steady step he passed
them by and approached the maidens' circle.
At last he stopped behind a pretty Assiniboine
maiden of good family and said:
"I am sorry, but, according to custom, you
should not be here."
The girl arose in confusion, but she soon recov-
ered her self-control.
"What do you mean?" she demanded, indig-
nantly. "Three times you have come to court
me, but each time I have refused to listen to you.
I turned my back upon you. Twice I was with
Mashtinna. She can tell the people that this is
true. The third time I had gone for water when
you intercepted me and begged me to stop and
listen. I refused because I did not know you.
My chaperon, Makatopawee, knows that I was
gone but a few minutes. I never saw you any-
The young man was unable to answer this un-
mistakable statement of facts, and it became ap-
parent that he had sought to revenge himself for
"Woo! woo! Carry him out!" was the order
of the chief of the Indian police, and the audacious
youth was hurried away into the nearest ravine to
The young woman who had thus established
her good name returned to the circle, and the feast
was served. The "maidens' song" was sung, and
four times they danced in a ring around the altar.
Each maid as she departed once more took her
oath to remain pure until she should meet her
I: A Legend of Devil's Lake
AFTER the death of Smoky Day,
old Weyuha was regarded as the
greatest story-teller among the
"Tell me, good Weyuha, a le-
gend of your father's country," I
said to him one evening, for I knew the country
which is now known as North Dakota and South-
ern Manitoba was their ancient hunting-ground.
I was prompted by Uncheedah to make this re-
quest, after the old man had eaten in our lodge.
"Many years ago," he began, as he passed the
pipe to uncle, "we traveled from the Otter-tail to
Minnewakan (Devil's Lake). At that time the
mound was very distinct where Chotanka lies
buried. The people of his immediate band had
taken care to preserve it.
"This mound under which lies the great medi-
cine man is upon the summit of Minnewakan
Chantay, the highest hill in all that region. It is
shaped like an animal's heart placed on its base,
with the apex upward.
"The reason why this hill is called Minnewa-
kan Chantay, or the Heart of the Mysterious
Land, I will now tell you. It has been handed
down from generation to generation, far beyond
the memory of our great-grandparents. It was
in Chotanka's line of descent that these legends
were originally kept, but when he died the stories
became everybody's, and then no one believed in
them. It was told in this way."
I sat facing him, wholly wrapped in the words
of the story-teller, and now I took a deep breath
and settled myself so that I might not disturb him
by the slightest movement while he was reciting
his tale. We were taught this courtesy to our
elders, but I was impulsive and sometimes forgot.
"A long time ago," resumed Weyuha, "the
red people were many in number, and they inhabi-
ted all the land from the coldest place to the re-
gion of perpetual summer time. It seemed that
they were all of one tongue, and all were friends.
"All the animals were considered people in those
days. The buffalo, the elk, the antelope, were
tribes of considerable importance. The bears were
a smaller band, but they obeyed the mandates of
the Great Mystery and were his favorites, and for
this reason they have always known more about
the secrets of medicine. So they were held in
much honor. The wolves, too, were highly re-
garded at one time. But the buffalo, elk, moose,
deer and antelope were the ruling people.
"These soon became conceited and considered
themselves very important, and thought no one
could withstand them. The buffalo made war up-
on the smaller tribes, and destroyed many. So one
day the Great Mystery thought it best to change
the people in form and in language.
"He made a great tent and kept it dark for ten
days. Into this tent he invited the different bands,
and when they came out they were greatly changed,
and some could not talk at all after that. How-
ever, there is a sign language given to all the ani-
mals that no man knows except some medicine
men, and they are under a heavy penalty if they
should tell it.
"The buffalo came out of the darkened tent
the clumsiest of all the animals. The elk and
moose were burdened with their heavy and many-
branched horns, while the antelope and deer were
made the most defenseless of animals, only that
they are fleet of foot. The bear and the wolf
were made to prey upon all the others.
"Man was alone then. When the change
came, the Great Mystery allowed him to keep his
own shape and language. He was king over all
the animals, but they did not obey him. From
that day, man's spirit may live with the beasts be-
fore he is born a man. He will then know the
animal language but he cannot tell it in human
speech. He always retains his sympathy with
them, and can converse with them in dreams.
"I must not forget to tell you that the Great
Mystery pitched his tent in this very region.
Some legends say that the Minnewakan Chantay
was the tent itself, which afterward became earth
and stones. Many of the animals were washed
and changed in this lake, the Minnewakan, or
Mysterious Water. It is the only inland water
we know that is salt. No animal has ever swum
in this lake and lived."
"Tell me," I eagerly asked, "is it dangerous
to man also?"
"Yes," he replied, "we think so; and no In-
dian has ever ventured in that lake to my know-
ledge. That is why the lake is called Mysterious,"
"I shall now tell you of Chotanka. He was
the greatest of medicine men. He declared that
he was a grizzly bear before he was born in human
form." Weyuha seemed to become very earnest
when he reached this point in his story. "Listen
to Chotanka's life as a grizzly bear."
"'As a bear,' he used to say, 'my home was
in sight of the Minnewakan Chantay. I lived
with my mother only one winter, and I only saw
my father when I was a baby. Then we lived a
little way from the Chantay to the north, among
scattered oak upon a hillside overlooking the
"'When I first remember anything, I was
playing outside of our home with a buffalo skull
that I had found near by. I saw something that
looked strange. It walked upon two legs, and it
carried a crooked stick, and some red willows with
feathers tied to them. It threw one of the wil-
lows at me, and I showed my teeth and retreated
within our den.
"'Just then my father and mother came home
with a buffalo calf. They threw down the dead
calf, and ran after the queer thing. He had long
hair upon a round head. His face was round, too.
He ran and climbed up into a small oak tree.
"'My father and mother shook him down, but
not before he had shot some of his red willows
into their sides. Mother was very sick, but she
dug some roots and ate them and she was well
again.' It was thus that Chotanka was first taught
the use of certain roots for curing wounds and
sickness," Weyuha added.
"'One day'"--he resumed the grizzly's story
--"'when I was out hunting with my mother--
my father had gone away and never came back
--we found a buffalo cow with her calf in a
ravine. She advised me to follow her closely,
and we crawled along on our knees. All at once
mother crouched down under the grass, and I did
the same. We saw some of those queer beings
that we called "two legs," riding upon big-tail
deer (ponies). They yelled as they rode toward us.
Mother growled terribly and rushed upon them.
She caught one, but many more came with their
dogs and drove us into a thicket. They sent the
red willows singing after us, and two of them stuck
in mother's side. When we got away at last she
tried to pull them out, but they hurt her terribly.
She pulled them both out at last, but soon after
she lay down and died.
"'I stayed in the woods alone for two days
then I went around the Minnewakan Chantay on
the south side and there made my lonely den.
There I found plenty of hazel nuts, acorns and
wild plums. Upon the plains the teepsinna were
abundant, and I saw nothing of my enemies.
"'One day I found a footprint not unlike my
own. I followed it to see who the stranger might
be. Upon the bluffs among the oak groves I dis-
covered a beautiful young female gathering acorns.
She was of a different band from mine, for she
wore a jet black dress.
"'At first she was disposed to resent my intru-
sion; but when I told her of my lonely life she
agreed to share it with me. We came back to my
home on the south side of the hill. There we
lived happy for a whole year. When the autumn
came again Woshepee, for this was her name, said
that she must make a warm nest for the winter,
and I was left alone again.'
"Now," said Weyuha, "I have come to a part
of my story that few people understand. All the
long winter Chotanka slept in his den, and with
the early spring there came a great thunder storm.
He was aroused by a frightful crash that seemed
to shake the hills; and lo! a handsome young
man stood at his door. He looked, but was not
afraid, for he saw that the stranger carried none of
those red willows with feathered tips. He was
unarmed and smiling.
"'I come,' said he, 'with a challenge to run a
race. Whoever wins will be the hero of his kind,
and the defeated must do as the winner says there-
after. This is a rare honor that I have brought
you. The whole world will see the race. The
animal world will shout for you, and the spirits
will cheer me on. You are not a coward, and
therefore you will not refuse my challenge.'
"'No,' replied Chotanka, after a short hesita-
tion. The young man was fine-looking, but
"'We shall start from the Chantay, and that will
be our goal. Come, let us go, for the universe is
waiting!' impatiently exclaimed the stranger.
"He passed on in advance, and just then an
old, old wrinkled man came to Chotanka's door.
He leaned forward upon his staff.
"'My son,' he said to him, 'I don't want to
make you a coward, but this young man is the
greatest gambler of the universe. He has pow-
erful medicine. He gambles for life; be careful!
My brothers and I are the only ones who have
ever beaten him. But he is safe, for if he is
killed he can resurrect himself--I tell you he is
"'However, I think that I can save you--lis-
ten! He will run behind you all the way until
you are within a short distance of the goal. Then
he will pass you by in a flash, for his name is Zig-
Zag Fire! (lightning). Here is my medicine.' So
speaking, he gave me a rabbit skin and the gum
of a certain plant. 'When you come near the
goal, rub yourself with the gum, and throw the
rabbit skin between you. He cannot pass you.'
"'And who are you, grandfather?' Chotanka
"'I am the medicine turtle,' the old man re-
plied. 'The gambler is a spirit from heaven, and
those whom he outruns must shortly die. You
have heard, no doubt, that all animals know be-
forehand when they are to be killed; and any man
who understands these mysteries may also know
when he is to die.'
The race was announced to the world. The
buffalo, elk, wolves and all the animals came to
look on. All the spirits of the air came also to
cheer for their comrade. In the sky the trumpet
was sounded--the great medicine drum was struck.
It was the signal for a start. The course was
around the Minnewakan. (That means around
the earth or the ocean.) Everywhere the multi-
tude cheered as the two sped by.
"The young man kept behind Chotanka all the
time until they came once more in sight of the
Chantay. Then he felt a slight shock and he threw
his rabbit skin back. The stranger tripped and fell.
Chotanka rubbed himself with the gum, and ran on
until he reached the goal. There was a great shout
that echoed over the earth, but in the heavens there
was muttering and grumbling. The referee de-
clared that the winner would live to a good old age,
and Zig-Zag Fire promised to come at his call. He
was indeed great medicine," Weyuha concluded.
"But you have not told me how Chotanka be-
came a man," I said.
"One night a beautiful woman came to him in
his sleep. She enticed him into her white teepee
to see what she had there. Then she shut the
door of the teepee and Chotanka could not get
out. But the woman was kind and petted him so
that he loved to stay in the white teepee. Then
it was that he became a human born. This is a
long story, but I think, Ohiyesa, that you will re-
member it," said Weyuha, and so I did.
II: Manitoshaw's Hunting
IT was in the winter, in the Moon
of Difficulty (January). We had
eaten our venison roast for sup-
per, and the embers were burn-
ing brightly. Our teepee was es-
pecially cheerful. Uncheedah sat
near the entrance, my uncle and his wife upon
the opposite side, while I with my pets occupied
the remaining space.
Wabeda, the dog, lay near the fire in a half doze,
watching out of the corners of his eyes the tame
raccoon, which snuggled back against the walls of
the teepee, his shrewd brain, doubtless, concocting
some mischief for the hours of darkness. I had
already recited a legend of our people. All agreed
that I had done well. Having been generously
praised, I was eager to earn some more compli-
ments by learning a new one, so I begged my uncle
to tell me a story. Musingly he replied:
"I can give you a Sioux-Cree tradition," and
"Many winters ago, there were six teepees stand-
ing on the southern slope of Moose mountain in
the Moon of Wild Cherries (September). The
men to whom these teepees belonged had been at-
tacked by the Sioux while hunting buffalo, and
nearly all killed. Two or three who managed to
get home to tell their sad story were mortally
wounded, and died soon afterward. There was only
one old man and several small boys left to hunt
and provide for this unfortunate little band of
women and children.
"They lived upon teepsinna (wild turnips) and
berries for many days. They were almost famished
for meat. The old man was too feeble to hunt
successfully. One day in this desolate camp a
young Cree maiden--for such they were--declared
that she could no longer sit still and see her peo-
ple suffer. She took down her dead father's second
bow and quiver full of arrows, and begged her old
grandmother to accompany her to Lake Wana-
giska, where she knew that moose had oftentimes
been found. I forgot to tell you that her name
This Manitoshaw and her old grandmother,
Nawakewee, took each a pony and went far up into
the woods on the side of the mountain. They
pitched their wigwam just out of sight of the lake,
and hobbled their ponies. Then the old woman
said to Manitoshaw:
"'Go, my granddaughter, to the outlet of the
Wanagiska, and see if there are any moose tracks
there. When I was a young woman, I came here
with your father's father, and we pitched our tent
near this spot. In the night there came three dif-
ferent moose. Bring me leaves of the birch and
cedar twigs; I will make medicine for moose,' she
Manitoshaw obediently disappeared in the
woods. It was a grove of birch and willow, with
two good springs. Down below was a marshy place.
Nawakewee had bidden the maiden look for nib-
bled birch and willow twigs, for the moose loves
to eat them, and to have her arrow ready
upon the bow-string. I have seen this very
place many a time," added my uncle, and this
simple remark gave to the story an air of real-
"The Cree maiden went first to the spring, and
there found fresh tracks of the animal she sought.
She gathered some cedar berries and chewed them,
and rubbed some of them on her garments so that
the moose might not scent her. The sun was al-
ready set, and she felt she must return to Na-
"Just then Hinhankaga, the hooting owl, gave
his doleful night call. The girl stopped and lis-
"'I thought it was a lover's call,' she whispered
to herself. A singular challenge pealed across the
lake. She recognized the alarm call of the loon,
and fancied that the bird might have caught a
glimpse of her game.
"Soon she was within a few paces of the tem-
porary lodge of pine boughs and ferns which the
grandmother had constructed. The old woman
met her on the trail.
"'Ah, my child, you have returned none too
soon. I feared you had ventured too far away;
for the Sioux often come to this place to hunt.
You must not expose yourself carelessly on the
"As the two women lay down to sleep they
could hear the ponies munch the rich grass in an
open spot near by. Through the smoke hole of
the pine-bough wigwam Manitoshaw gazed up
into the starry sky, and dreamed of what she would
do on the morrow when she should surprise the
wily moose. Her grandmother was already sleep-
ing so noisily that it was enough to scare away the
game. At last the maiden, too, lost herself in
"Old Nawakewee awoke early. First of all
she made a fire and burned cedar and birch
so that the moose might not detect the human
smell. Then she quickly prepared a meal of wild
turnips and berries, and awoke the maiden, who
was surprised to see that the sun was already up.
She ran down to the spring and hastily splashed
handsful of the cold water in her face; then she
looked for a moment in its mirror-like surface.
There was the reflection of two moose by the open
shore and beyond them Manitoshaw seemed to
see a young man standing. In another moment
all three had disappeared.
"'What is the matter with my eyes? I am
not fully awake yet, and I imagine things. Ugh,
it is all in my eyes,' the maiden repeated to her-
self. She hastened back to Nawakewee. The
vision was so unexpected and so startling that she
could not believe in its truth, and she said noth-
ing to the old woman.
"Breakfast eaten, Manitoshaw threw off her
robe and appeared in her scantily cut gown of
buckskin with long fringes, and moccasins and
leggings trimmed with quills of the porcupine.
Her father's bow and quiver were thrown over
one shoulder, and the knife dangled from her belt
in its handsome sheath. She ran breathlessly
along the shore toward the outlet.
"Way off near the island Medoza the loon swam
with his mate, occasionally uttering a cry of joy.
Here and there the playful Hogan, the trout,
sprang gracefully out of the water, in a shower of
falling dew. As the maiden hastened along she
scared up Wadawasee, the kingfisher, who screamed
"'Stop, Wadawasee, stop--you will frighten
"At last she had reached the outlet. She saw
at once that the moose had been there during the
night. They had torn up the ground and broken
birch and willow twigs in a most disorderly
"Ah!" I exclaimed, "I wish I had been with
"Hush, my boy; never interrupt a story-
I took a stick and began to level off the ashes
in front of me, and to draw a map of the lake, the
outlet, the moose and Manitoshaw. Away off to
one side was the solitary wigwam, Nawakewee and
"Manitoshaw's heart was beating so loud that
she could not hear anything," resumed my uncle.
"She took some leaves of the wintergreen and
chewed them to calm herself. She did not forget
to throw in passing a pinch of pulverized tobacco
and paint into the spring for Manitou, the spirit.
"Among the twinkling leaves of the birch her
eye was caught by a moving form, and then an-
other. She stood motionless, grasping her heavy
bow. The moose, not suspecting any danger,
walked leisurely toward the spring. One was a
large female moose; the other a yearling.
As they passed Manitoshaw, moving so nat-
urally and looking so harmless, she almost forgot
to let fly an arrow. The mother moose seemed to
look in her direction, but did not see her. They
had fairly passed her hiding-place when she stepped
forth and sent a swift arrow into the side of the
larger moose. Both dashed into the thick woods,
but it was too late. The Cree maiden had already
loosened her second arrow. Both fell dead before
reaching the shore."
"Uncle, she must have had a splendid aim, for
in the woods the many little twigs make an arrow
bound off to one side," I interrupted in great ex-
"Yes, but you must remember she was very
near the moose."
"It seems to me, then, uncle, that they must
have scented her, for you have told me that they
possess the keenest nose of any animal," I per-
"Doubtless the wind was blowing the other
way. But, nephew, you must let me finish my
"Ovedoyed by her success, the maiden has-
tened back to Nawakawee, but she was gone!
The ponies were gone, too, and the wigwam of
branches had been demolished. While Manito-
shaw stood there, frightened and undecided what
to do, a soft voice came from behind a neighbor-
"'Manitoshaw! Manitoshaw! I am here!'
She at once recognized, the voice and found
it to be Nawakeewee, who told a strange story.
That morning a canoe had crossed the Wanagiska
carrying two men. They were Sioux. The old
grandmother had seen them coming, and to de-
ceive them she at once pulled down her temporary
wigwam, and drove the ponies off toward home.
Then she hid herself in the bushes near by,
for she knew that Manitoshaw must return
"'Come, my granddaughter, we must hasten
home by another way,' cried the old woman.
"But the maiden said, 'No, let us go first to
my two moose that I killed this morning and take
some meat with us.'
"'No, no, my child; the Sioux are cruel.
They have killed many of our people. If we
stay here they will find us. I fear, I fear them,
"At last the brave maid convinced her grand-
mother, and the more easily as she too was hun-
gry for meat. They went to where the big game
lay among the bushes, and began to dress the
"I think, if I were they, I would hide all day.
I would wait until the Sioux had gone; then I
would go back to my moose," I interrupted for
the third time.
"I will finish the story first; then you may tell
us what you would do," said my uncle reprov-
"The two Sioux were father and son. They
too had come to the lake for moose; but as the
game usually retreated to the island, Chatansapa
had landed his son Kangiska to hunt them on the
shore while he returned in his canoe to intercept
their flight. The young man sped along the
sandy beach and soon discovered their tracks. He
followed them up and found blood on the trail.
This astonished him. Cautiously he followed on
until he found them both lying dead. He exam-
ined them and found that in each moose there
was a single Cree arrow. Wishing to surprise
the hunter if possible, Kangiska lay hidden in the
"After a little while the two women returned to
the spot. They passed him as close as the moose
had passed the maiden in the morning. He saw
at once that the maiden had arrows in her quiver
like those that had slain the big moose. He lay
"Kangiska looked upon the beautiful Cree
maiden and loved her. Finally he forgot himself
and made a slight motion. Manitoshaw's quick
eye caught the little stir among the bushes, but
she immediately looked the other way and Kan-
giska believed that she had not seen anything,
At last her eyes met his, and something told both
that all was well. Then the maiden smiled, and
the young man could not remain still any longer.
He arose suddenly and the old woman nearly
fainted from fright. But Manitoshaw said:
"'Fear not, grandmother; we are two and he is
"While the two women continued to cut up
the meat, Kangiska made a fire by rubbing cedar
chips together, and they all ate of the moose
meat. Then the old woman finished her work,
while the young people sat down upon a log in
the shade, and told each other all their minds.
"Kangiska declared by signs that he would go
home with Manitoshaw to the Cree camp, for he
loved her. They went home, and the young
man hunted for the unfortunate Cree band during
the rest of his life.
"His father waited a long time on the island
and afterward searched the shore, but never saw
him again. He supposed that those footprints he
saw were made by Crees who had killed his son."
"Is that story true, uncle?" I asked eagerly.
"'Yes, the facts are well known. There are
some Sioux mixed bloods among the Crees to this
day who are descendants of Kangiska."
Indian Life and Adventure
I: Life in the Woods
THE month of September recalls
to every Indian's mind the season
of the fall hunt. I remember one
such expedition which is typical
of many. Our party appeared on
the northwestern side of Turtle
mountain; for we had been hunting buffaloes all
summer, in the region of the Mouse river, between
that mountain and the upper Missouri.
As our cone-shaped teepees rose in clusters
along the outskirts of the heavy forest that clothes
the sloping side of the mountain, the scene below
was gratifying to a savage eye. The rolling yellow
plains were checkered with herds of buffaloes.
Along the banks of the streams that ran down from
the mountains were also many elk, which usually
appear at morning and evening, and disappear into
the forest during the warmer part of the day.
Deer, too, were plenty, and the brooks were alive
with trout. Here and there the streams were
dammed by the industrious beaver.
In the interior of the forest there were lakes with
many islands, where moose, elk, deer and bears
were abundant. The water-fowl were wont to
gather here in great numbers, among them the
crane, the swan, the loon, and many of the smaller
kinds. The forest also was filled with a great va-
riety of birds. Here the partridge drummed his
loudest, while the whippoorwill sang with spirit,
and the hooting owl reigned in the night.
To me, as a boy, this wilderness was a paradise. It
was a land of plenty. To be sure, we did not have
any of the luxuries of civilization, but we had every
convenience and opportunity and luxury of
Nature. We had also the gift of enjoying
our good fortune, whatever dangers might lurk
about us; and the truth is that we lived in
blessed ignorance of any life that was better than
As soon as hunting in the woods began, the
customs regulating it were established. The coun-
cil teepee no longer existed. A hunting bonfire
was kindled every morning at day-break, at which
each brave must appear and report. The man who
failed to do this before the party set out on the
day's hunt was harassed by ridicule. As a rule,
the hunters started before sunrise, and the brave
who was announced throughout the camp as the
first one to return with a deer on his back, was a
man to be envied.
The legend-teller, old Smoky Day, was chosen
herald of the camp, and it was he who made the
announcements. After supper was ended, we heard
his powerful voice resound among the teepees in
the forest. He would then name a man to kindle
the bonfire the next morning. His suit of fringed
buckskin set off his splendid physique to advan-
Scarcely had the men disappeared in the woods
each morning than all the boys sallied forth, ap-
parently engrossed in their games and sports, but
in reality competing actively with one another in
quickness of observation. As the day advanced,
they all kept the sharpest possible lookout. Sud-
denly there would come the shrill "Woo-coo-
hoo!" at the top of a boy's voice, announcing the
bringing in of a deer. Immediately all the other
boys took up the cry, each one bent on getting
ahead of the rest. Now we all saw the brave Wa-
coota fairly bent over by his burden, a large deer
which he carried on his shoulders. His fringed
buckskin shirt was besprinkled with blood. He
threw down the deer at the door of his wife's
mother's home, according to custom, and then
walked proudly to his own. At the door of his
father's teepee he stood for a moment straight as a
pine-tree, and then entered.
When a bear was brought in, a hundred or
more of these urchins were wont to make the woods
resound with their voices: "Wah! wah! wah!
Wah! wah! wah! The brave White Rabbit
brings a bear! Wah! wah ! wah!"
All day these sing-song cheers were kept up, as
the game was brought in. At last, toward the close
of the afternoon, all the hunters had returned, and
happiness and contentment reigned absolute, in a
fashion which I have never observed among the
white people, even in the best of circumstances.
The men were lounging and smoking; the women
actively engaged in the preparation of the evening
meal, and the care of the meat. The choicest of
the game was cooked and offered to the Great
Mystery, with all the accompanying ceremonies.
This we called the "medicine feast." Even the
women, as they lowered the boiling pot, or the
fragrant roast of venison ready to serve, would first
whisper: "Great Mystery, do thou partake of this
venison, and still be gracious!" This was the
commonly said "grace."
Everything went smoothly with us, on this oc-
casion, when we first entered the woods. Noth-
ing was wanting to our old way of living. The
killing of deer and elk and moose had to be
stopped for a time, since meat was so abundant
that we had no use for them any longer. Only
the hunting for pelts, such as those of the bear,
beaver, marten, and otter was continued. But
whenever we lived in blessed abundance, our
braves were wont to turn their thoughts to other
occupations--especially the hot-blooded youths
whose ambition it was to do something note-
At just such moments as this there are always a
number of priests in readiness, whose vocation it
is to see into the future, and each of whom con-
sults his particular interpreter of the Great Mys-
tery. (This ceremony is called by the white people
"making medicine.") To the priests the youth-
ful braves hint their impatience for the war-path.
Soon comes the desired dream or prophecy or
vision to favor their departure.
Our young men presently received their sign,
and for a few days all was hurry and excitement.
On the appointed morning we heard the songs of
the warriors and the wailing of the women, by which
they bade adieu to each other, and the eligible
braves, headed by an experienced man--old Ho-
tanka or Loud-Voiced Raven--set out for the
Gros Ventre country.
Our older heads, to be sure, had expressed some
disapproval of the undertaking, for the country in
which we were roaming was not our own, and we
were likely at any time to be taken to task by its
rightful owners. The plain truth of the matter
was that we were intruders. Hence the more
thoughtful among us preferred to be at home, and
to achieve what renown they could get by defend-
ing their homes and families. The young men,
however, were so eager for action and excitement
that they must needs go off in search of it.
From the early morning when these braves left
us, led by the old war-priest, Loud-Voiced Raven,
the anxious mothers, sisters and sweethearts
counted the days. Old Smoky Day would occa-
sionally get up early in the morning, and sing a
"strong-heart" song for his absent grandson. I
still seem to hear the hoarse, cracked voice of the
ancient singer as it resounded among the woods.
For a long time our roving community enjoyed
unbroken peace, and we were spared any trouble or
disturbance. Our hunters often brought in a deer
or elk or bear for fresh meat. The beautiful
lakes furnished us with fish and wild-fowl for
variety. Their placid waters, as the autumn ad-
vanced, reflected the variegated colors of the
It is my recollection that we were at this time
encamped in the vicinity of the "Turtle Moun-
tain's Heart." It is to the highest cone-shaped
peak that the Indians aptly give this appellation.
Our camping-ground for two months was within a
short distance of the peak, and the men made it a
point to often send one of their number to the
top. It was understood between them and the
war party that we were to remain near this spot;
and on their return trip the latter were to give the
"smoke sign," which we would answer from the
top of the hill.
One day, as we were camping on the shore of a
large lake with several islands, signs of moose
were discovered, and the men went off to them on
rafts, carrying their flint-lock guns in anticipation
of finding two or three of the animals. We little
fellows, as usual, were playing down by the sandy
shore, when we spied what seemed like the root
of a great tree floating toward us. But on a closer
scrutiny we discovered our error. It was the head
of a huge moose, swimming for his life! Fortun-
ately for him, none of the men had remained at
According to our habit, we little urchins disap-
peared in an instant, like young prairie chickens,
in the long grass. I was not more than eight
years old, yet I tested the strength of my bow-
string and adjusted my sharpest and best arrow for
immediate service. My heart leaped violently as
the homely but imposing animal neared the shore.
I was undecided for a moment whether I would
not leave my hiding-place and give a war-whoop
as soon as he touched the sand. Then I thought
I would keep still and let him have my boy weap-
on; and the only regret that I had was that he
would, in all probability, take it with him, and I
should be minus one good arrow.
"Still," I thought, "I shall claim to be the
smallest boy whose arrow was ever carried away
by a moose." That was enough. I gathered
myself into a bunch, all ready to spring. As the
long-legged beast pulled himself dripping out of
the water, and shook off the drops from his long
hair, I sprang to my feet. I felt some of the
water in my face! I gave him my sharpest arrow
with all the force I could master, right among
the floating ribs. Then I uttered my war-
The moose did not seem to mind the miniature
weapon, but he was very much frightened by our
shrill yelling. He took to his long legs, and in a
minute was out of sight.
The leaves had now begun to fall, and the heavy
frosts made the nights very cold. We were forced
to realize that the short summer of that region
had said adieu! Still we were gay and light-
hearted, for we had plenty of provisions, and
no misfortune had yet overtaken us in our
wanderings over the country for nearly three
One day old Smoky Day returned from the
daily hunt with an alarm. He had seen a sign--
a "smoke sign." This had not appeared in the
quarter that they were anxiously watching--it
came from the east. After a long consultation
among the men, it was concluded from the nature
and duration of the smoke that it proceeded from
an accidental fire. It was further surmised that
the fire was not made by Sioux, since it was out
of their country, but by a war-party of Ojibways,
who were accustomed to use matches when lighting
their pipes, and to throw them carelessly away.
It was thought that a little time had been spent in
an attempt to put it out.
The council decreed that a strict look-out should
be established in behalf of our party. Every day
a scout was appointed to reconnoitre in the direc-
tion of the smoke. It was agreed that no gun
should be fired for twelve days. All our signals
were freshly rehearsed among the men. The
women and old men went so far as to dig little
convenient holes around their lodges, for defense
in case of a sudden attack. And yet an Ojibway
scout would not have suspected, from the ordinary
appearance of the camp, that the Sioux had be-
come aware of their neighborhood! Scouts were
stationed just outside of the village at night. They
had been so trained as to rival an owl or a cat in
their ability to see in the dark.
The twelve days passed by, however, without
bringing any evidence of the nearness of the sup-
posed Ojibway war-party, and the "lookout"
established for purposes of protection was aband-
oned. Soon after this, one morning at dawn, we
were aroused by the sound of the unwelcome war-
whoop. Although only a child, I sprang up and
was about to rush out, as I had been taught to
do; but my good grandmother pulled me down,
and gave me a sign to lay flat on the ground. I
sharpened my ears and lay still.
All was quiet in camp, but at some little distance
from us there was a lively encounter. I could
distinctly hear the old herald, shouting and yell-
ing in exasperation. "Whoo! whoo!" was the
signal of distress, and I could almost hear the
pulse of my own blood-vessels.
Closer and closer the struggle came, and still
the women appeared to grow more and more calm.
At last a tremendous charge by the Sioux put the
enemy to flight; there was a burst of yelling;
alas! my friend and teacher, old Smoky Day, was
silent. He had been pierced to the heart by an
arrow from the Ojibways.
Although successful, we had lost two of our
men, Smoky Day and White Crane, and this inci-
dent, although hardly unexpected, darkened our
peaceful sky. The camp was filled with songs of
victory, mingled with the wailing of the relatives
of the slain. The mothers of the youths who
were absent on the war-path could no longer con-
ceal their anxiety.
One frosty morning--for it was then near the
end of October--the weird song of a solitary brave
was heard. In an instant the camp was thrown
into indescribable confusion. The meaning of
this was clear as day to everybody--all of our
war-party were killed, save the one whose mourn-
ful song announced the fate of his companions.
The lonely warrior was Bald Eagle.
The village was convulsed with grief; for in
sorrow, as in joy, every Indian shares with all the
others. The old women stood still, wherever
they might be, and wailed dismally, at intervals
chanting the praises of the departed warriors. The
wives went a little way from their teepees and
there audibly mourned; but the young maidens
wandered further away from the camp, where
no one could witness their grief. The old men
joined in the crying and singing. To all ap-
pearances the most unmoved of all were the war-
riors, whose tears must be poured forth in the
country of the enemy to embitter their venge-
ance. These sat silently within their lodges,
and strove to conceal their feelings behind a
stoical countenance; but they would probably
have failed had not the soothing weed come to
The first sad shock over, then came the change
of habiliments. In savage usage, the outward
expression of mourning surpasses that of civiliza-
tion. The Indian mourner gives up all his good
clothing, and contents himself with scanty and
miserable garments. Blankets are cut in two, and
the hair is cropped short. Often a devoted
mother would scarify her arms or legs; a sister or
a young wife would cut off all her beautiful hair
and disfigure herself by undergoing hardships.
Fathers and brothers blackened their faces, and
wore only the shabbiest garments. Such was the
spectacle that our people presented when the
bright autumn was gone and the cold shadow of
winter and misfortune had fallen upon us. "We
must suffer," said they--"the Great Mystery is
II: A Winter Camp
WHEN I was about twelve years
old we wintered upon the Mouse
river, west of Turtle mountain.
It was one of the coldest win-
ters I ever knew, and was so re-
garded by the old men of the tribe.
The summer before there had been plenty of
buffalo upon that side of the Missouri, and our
people had made many packs of dried buffalo
meat and cached them in different places, so that
they could get them in case of need. There were
many black-tailed deer and elk along the river,
and grizzlies were to be found in the open coun-
try. Apparently there was no danger of starva-
tion, so our people thought to winter there; but
it proved to be a hard winter.
There was a great snow-fall, and the cold was
intense. The snow was too deep for hunting, and
the main body of the buffalo had crossed the
Missouri, where it was too far to go after them.
But there were some smaller herds of the animals
scattered about in our vicinity, therefore there was
still fresh meat to be had, but it was not secured
without a great deal of difficulty.
No ponies could be used. The men hunted
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