Victory Ceremonies, Cannon Ball, Nov. 13, 1919. Welcoming Col A. B. Welch back from France after World War I.

This was to have been on Nov. 11th, Armistice Day, but was postponed on account of the new dance hall not yet being completed.  Basil Two Bears had told me that the dance was to be in my honor and that the Committee invited me to be present.

Accordingly I went down to the Cannon Ball, arriving there about 5 pm on the 13th.  Went to the Trader’s, Underhill, where I had supper and engaged bed for the night.  While at supper, an Indian came and said he had been sent to take me out to the dance. I finished eating and then started in a ‘bob’ sled with the box full of hay behind a span of fast, half-wild horses for the dance hall.  The snow was splendid and we made some speed, the bells jingling merrily.  As we swung up to the entrance of the new hall (built by the Indians, octagonal in shape, and about 50 feet in dia.), I could hear the drums and the yells of the dancers and crawled out of the hay into the crisp, cold air.

I had a sword, bayonets, and two helmets and a gas mask (German souvenirs) and when I entered the hall, lighted by two lanterns, there was a wild yell of “Mato Watakpe,” and the singers started up a welcome dance, in which there were at least 100 women and many men, both old and young.

After this dance everyone crowded around to shake hands, and many of the old women kissed me on the cheek and some of the very old men did also.  During this handshaking, the musicians sung a song about “Mato Watakpe,” and old people, who did not dance, stood where they stood and swayed their bodies to the drums.  I was the only white person present.

Then the dance called “Mato Watakpe wounded man’s dance,” was started by the drummers and, as usual, they all waited for me to start it, or lead off first.  About a dozen old warriors entered the dance and, at least three young men, wounded in France, also took part for the first time.  Later in the evening these young men were told that they were entitled to enter this dance at any time or place, but they must first prove that they had been wounded in action.

Crow Ghost then said that I was his brother and, in honor of me, he would give $5.00 toward the cost of the dance hall.  Everyone came and shook me by the hand, just as if I had given the money myself.

There were two large stoves and it was warm and comfortable, although there is no floor.  We danced until 11:30 pm, all Indian dances.  During the celebration I showed my things brought from France and Germany, and, as each was held up, someone would walk over and take them.  After dancing with them for a time they returned them and each Indian who carried one, paid something toward the building, for the honor of having danced with the enemy’s gear.

The woman who carried a German sword gave $50.00 on that account, and a man who wore a silver officer’s helmet, gave a horse.  I had a pocket-full of German uniform buttons, and gave them to the women, who were terribly pleased with them.. It is an old custom for the warriors to bring back from the field of battle something for the women, and they frequently gave the scalps of their enemies.

I made them a speech with Ignasius Iron Roads acting as interpreter.  Once in a while during the speech, some old man would spring up and dance a short time, and when I finished there were cries and yells, and much hand clapping. During one of the dances an old woman fell down and went through all sorts of contortions.  This was to represent the death of a German enemy.

At this time Claude Kill-Spotted gave a talk.  He told the young soldiers that they had learned much about discipline and the value of obedience.  They must not forget these lessons, but must be better men and show good examples to the other people who had to stay at home.

     Photo of White Cow Walking

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Then old Pte-san-Mani (White Cow Walking) made a speech.  He said that he was dressed in beautiful costume of buckskin and bead-work; that he was an old warrior and had been wounded and had also taken the sun-dance when a young man.  He wanted to do great honor to Mato Watakpe (Welch) and he would present his clothes to me;  he had expected to wear this costume as his burial robes, but he noticed now that the white people wrapped a sheet around a dead man and placed a pillow under his head, so when his grey head (he is actually slightly grey-headed) was carried to the holy ground, he guessed that would be good enough; the feathers he wore, he wore for the tribe and they were intended for Mato Watakpe; “he would give them now.”  So he stripped off his beautiful beaded shirt of fringed buckskin and laid it on the ground at his feet, and took off the two eagle’s feather from his head.  One of these feathers is the natural feather and the other is colored red, both joined together with both quills wound with red flannel.  The red feather is for first coup in Sioux heraldry and is the highest war honor.  He said that I now had the right to wear these feathers and should put them in my hat for the dance.  He juggled his speech in such a fashion that no one knew who he was going to give them to until the very last, and when he named me, everyone yelled and the women sang a song about his generosity and my bravery.

I took the clothing and shook hands with him, carried them to my place and sat down with them by my side without looking at them too carefully, as is the correct custom (Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth applies among them as well as the whites).

Then an old woman said (through the official crier) that at the next dance when I was present, she would furnish two puppies for the feast (I hope they are not too young as I hate to eat dog if they are too young).  Then a man said that he would promise to bring two jack rabbits also.  Mrs. Two Bears gave $5.00 in honor of her son, Albert Grass, who was killed in action at Soissons, France.

The last dance was finished by everyone taking hold of someone else’s hands and facing each other, gave a sort of two-step.  I rode to the Agency in the sled of Two Bears and, after he had unloaded his family, he took me on to the trader’s house.

On the way home I talked with the Rev. Welsh, whose Indian name is Mahkpiye Mato (Cloud Bear) whose mother was a sister to Chief Grass’ father, so they were cousins.  He also is Sihasapa, and talks English very well.  He lives somewhere near McLaughlin.  He said that he considered Chief Grass to have been the greatest man in the Dakotah Nation.

 

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