Old Custer Scouts Society Meeting, Memorial Day at Fort Berthold, 1928, with Col. A. B. Welch invited.

 This society is made up of Custer’s Scouts, who took part in the battle of the Little Big Horn, June, 1876, of whom there are four left.

 

Arrangements had been made some weeks ahead, for me to speak to the people there (Arikara) under the management of the members of the Old Scouts Society.  This society is made up of Custer’s Scouts, who took part in the battle of the Little Big Horn, June, 1876, of whom there are four left.  Each one has the right to invite another old Government Scout, as an honorary member of the Old Scouts Society.

I left Mandan in auto, with Thomas Rogers, whose Indian name is Charges Alone, in the afternoon of the 29th, and we took the valley trail from Underwood, passing the old site of Garrison (the buildings were afterwards removed to the present site on the railroad) and Fort Stevenson.  Arrived at the home of Myron Wilde, an Arikara, at 2:30 A.M. on the 30th, and went to bed.

Drove over to the Indian camp at Fort Berthold site, early in the morning.  Inspection found the graves of the 117 Custer Scouts all well taken care of and the mounds decorated with flags and paper flowers, which are made by the women.  The yard is enclosed by a very nice woven wire fence with an ornate entrance and a large flag had been run up half mast.  At the foot of the pole a large circle of old men had sat down and were talking.

I met my interpreter, Peter Beauchamp, and we walked slowly toward this group.  Upon our approach being noticed, the men all rose and shook hands gravely with me, and the Chief invited me to a seat upon the grass in the middle of the circle, where we talked and smoked.

Directly in front of the staff, was the grave of my volunteer soldier of the World War, Young Hawk, and the grave of his father, Young Hawk, and that of his grandfather, Yellow Wolf (a Custer Scout) were in the front row of government headstones.

Yellow Wolf, left, Fort Berthold, 1872

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At the extreme north of the front row were also the headstones of Bloody Knife (Chief of Arikara Scouts); Little Brave and Bob Tail Bull  – all of whom had been killed by the Sioux during Reno’s fight on the Little Big Horn, and whose bodies where never recovered.

A large cement monument has been erected over some grave to the northeast of the graveyard, and at several other places outside the fence other graves had been decorated.  The whole section of prairie to the east and north is full of bodies who were buried while the village was inhabited.  Some of these graves have as many as a dozen bodies in them, buried in haste during small pox epidemics in early days.  These old graves are mostly of Arikaras, who buried in the ground.

At last it was called out that I would speak, and I spoke through Beauchamp.  Then the old scouts took a flag and marched around the cemetery, singing for the dead soldiers there.  I marched with them.  As they came to the entrance the second time, they went out and kept on for the camp, and that was the signal that the formal ceremonies were ended, and the crowd dispersed for dinner.  I ate down on the flat in the trees with Beauchamps and others.  Then the crier on the hill, called out that a warrior wanted to speak to me, so I went up the steep bank and listened to an Indian oration.

Then we ate again, and all went to a ball game over at Dead Grass Hall, and to dance all night.  It rained all night and we danced till daylight.   Then…….

Dead Grass Society Meeting,

Picking a Dance Whipper

 It appears that one man held two offices, that of “Dance Whipper” and “The Keeper of the Drums,” and he wanted to be relieved of one of them.

So it was announced that two men would select the man to accept “Whipper.”  Two members of the Dead Grass Society then dressed in the feather hip pieces of the Lodge, and started to dance about.  They passed the members and would glare at them, and then dance on.  After they had danced three times around the circle, they took a young dancer by the wrists and led him to a place, where he sat down upon the floor.  Women then presented him with a bright shawl, a headdress and many years of new cloth.  A man came and handed him a stick, the symbol of his new office.

The old whipper then gave him presents of beads and cloth, and the new officer got up and took his seat among the dancers.

His mother then went in and picked up the presents and took them away.  The dance then started and the new officer went about striking at the feet of men who got up instantly and danced.  His duties are to see that all the dancers perform and do not shirk.

 

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