Sioux Celebrate Armistice Day at Cannon Ball and The “Dog Dance,” ND, Nov. 11, 1925 with Col. A. B. Welch invited.

I had been invited to be present at the ceremonies of the Sioux at Cannon Ball Dance hall, and make and address on that day.

 

Mrs. Welch and myself started with a Ford auto, but were compelled to return to Mandan on account of punctures and blowouts.  I then took the passenger train at 3 P.M., but as it was an hour late, it was after dark when I arrived at Cannon Ball Station.  There were a few Indians around and I caught a ride to the hall with Little Chief , his wife, Miss Lucille Van Solen and a white man.  They were dancing when I entered the hall, which was lighted with lanterns hung about from the beams.  The Master of Ceremonies met me and took me across directly from the entrance and gave me a seat upon a bench covered with a steer hide.  Many old men came at once and shook hands and then women came and did the same.  It was not long before they sung the song of Charging Bear, and I got up and started the dance.  After the dance, in which about 50 men in costume took part, I gave a present of $1.00 to the White Horse Riders Society, who were handling the festivities that day, and others gave me many presents.  There were dances by individuals, both men and women.  After a while, it was announced that the Dog Dance would be put on, and I was selected by a committee to be First Soldier in its performance, and the Master of Ceremonies instructed me in it.

A cooked dog’s head was placed upon the ground by the drummers and singers who were in the middle of the circle; the head represented the enemy.  Three young soldiers, besides myself, and four old warriors were also selected to take part.  I was told to dance three times around the circle; the young soldiers followed and behind them were the old warriors, with coup sticks  –  all following in a string behind me.

After the third time around, I was supposed to discover the enemy and to dance back and indicate it to my party.  This I did, and then we charged toward the dog’s head and I struck the enemy.

There was a great commotion and much yelling and the women sang the ‘joy song or victory song.’  The people than all joined in the dance and I picked up the cooked head of the dog and carried it in my hand.

At the close of the drumming and singing, I was instructed to tell the story of some ‘coup’ made by myself upon the enemy.  I told the story of a battle just south of Cunel in the Argonne.  There was much yelling.  Then I handed the head to the next soldier and he told of his coup someplace.  Thus is passed from hand to hand to my ‘war party’ and each told of one of his coups.  We then took our seats.  Many presents were then given in honor of these men who told of their coups.

While preparations were being made for the next scene of this Dog Dance, there was a dance for the prize man dancer of the night.  It was won by a man who had just been turned loose from Leavenworth, where he had been for three years for the murder of his comrade while drunk at Ft. Peck, Montana.

Meanwhile, the dog’s head had been placed in a bucket, which stood upon the floor in front of me.  The Master of Ceremonies took a long, pointed, decorated stick, which was wrapped with porcupine quills.  This stick was about 30 inches long and the upper end terminated in a wide fork.  The Master of Ceremonies speared the head with the stick and held it up high for all to look at.  Then an old warrior, named Bear’s Heart, was selected to ‘bite the enemy.’  He could not use his hands, and the head was held so high that he was compelled to stand on his tip-toes to reach it with his mouth.  He bit it and tore loose a piece of meat, which he carried about the circle in his mouth, after which he took his seat and ate the meat.

Everything in this dance, which took an hour to complete and was more in the nature of a dance story or play than anything else, was done in a series of three.  Three times around the ring; three advances toward the enemy; three strikes; three attempts to eat the head before being successful; three attempts to spear the meat in the pail; etc., etc.  It was a new dance to me and I do not know the correct story of it, but it was very interesting and caused much excitement and merriment.”

During the actual dances connected with this ceremony, when there was a great many dancers upon the ground, the drums stopped suddenly several times, and the music of the singers became very faint.  All dancers stopped instantly when this occurred and endeavored to hold their posture or position.  No fine or other penalty was paid by any one who was not prepared to become statuary, but they were laughed at by the spectators.  Some of the postures would necessarily be very hard to maintain.  The cessation of the drums was for but a few moments, and then the dance continued.  During this dance, the policeman at the door allowed no one to come in or go out.

During the evening, one man, a visitor from Fort Pack, received so many presents that I asked him about it.  He told me that they were giving them to the members of his Society there, and he must give them to the proper people when he returned to his own reservation.  He was one of Standing Buffalo’s Sisseton Sioux.

 

 

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