Formation of a War Party, Cannon Ball, July 4, 1917. Col. A. B. Welch and the young warriors who had also volunteered for service were given “an old time” send-off to France.

On July 4th, 1917 I motored to Cannon Ball to a celebration of the Indians.  About 2000 were present from many parts of the country.  Devils Lake, Fort Peck Montana and other places sent representatives.  I was in the uniform of a Captain North Dakota National Guard, on account of the war with Germany and, as I entered the ceremonial enclosure, the musicians started up the Song of Mato Watakpe (Charging Bull, my Indian name).

A. B. Welch, early 1918

I always expected to start the dance when this is sung, and did so at once.  Several old warriors joined in.  These men had all been wounded in battle.  After another grass dance or two, my song was started again and I started the dance a second time.

In a few minutes I was joined by many young men who danced to the finish of the dance and then all shook hands with me.  Red Tomahawk told me that that was the old way of raising a war party and enlisting.  When a man wanted to raise a war party he sometimes gave a dance and feast and those who danced with him became his soldiers and went to war with him.

After this dance a woman, the wife of Two Bulls, went to the center of the ring and presented me with a red-stone pipe, saying:

“In the olden times the leader of a war party always carried a pipe along with him.  I give you this pipe in honor of my two sons who have danced with you today and will go with you across the Great Water.  I want you to always carry it with you and we will sings songs for you while you are away.”  Accepted.

I learned that it was an old custom to tie something to the tipi of those who were enlisting for war.  This was done in this camp today.  In this instance they tied a piece of the U.S.Flag to the lodge of each man who had danced with me.  In the morning, just at sunrise, the old herald shouted that they were getting ready and to all come to the center of the great camping circle and to bring his horse.  They then gathered in the center, rode to the eastern entrance and completely around the camp circle, singing of the leader of war, his bravery, skill, honors, etc.  Women wept and cried and sung songs and gave the tremolo victory note of joy always repeating it at least two times, as they stood by the lodges or followed the parade on foot.  The war party then swept out of sight behind the hills.  After a short time they returned and were met by the camp in the “Return Ceremonies.”

Interpreters were Red Tomahawk, Acy Little Crow and Thomas Ashley, all Dakotah.

Spectators were Mrs. A.B.Welch, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Pierson of Mandan, Mrs. Van Solen and daughter, Lucille, and many others.

 

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