Tribal History Notes on the Hidatsa (Gros Ventre) as told to Col. A. B. Welch

 

How They came to live on the West Side of the Missouri (1925)       

How the Gros Ventre were split into two bands and the Crows formed (1925)           

Gros Ventre Scouts and Soldiers (July 1923 letter to Welch)     

Gros Ventre in the A.E.F. (WWI in France)  

Hairy Chin’s version of the split and formation of Crows (1921)            

Joe Packineau’s version of the split and formation of Crows (1923)

The Gros Ventre ambush the Chippewas story (Packineau, 1923)

Meaning of Hidatsa (Packineau, 1923)

Ceremonies of the Hidatsa, Sanish, N.D., Aug. 4-6, 1927

Hidatsaati Village (1928 notes)

Chief Four Bears great trip in 1851 (Drags Wolf and Bears Arm talk, 1933)

Burial Ground at Crying Hill (1933 Mandan Daily Pioneer article)

Travels of the Gros Ventre (Drags Wolf and Bears Arm talk, 1934)

Chief of Hidatsa at time they appeared on east side of Missouri (Crow Ghost, 1924)

The story of Last Hill Village (Joe Packineau, 1923)

The Lost Band of Double Ditch Villagers (Packineau, 1923)

 

 

How They came to live on the West Side of the Missouri (1925)      

(Welch article, quoting an unnamed old timer, Feb. 24, 1925)

Strange Indians appeared to the Mandans upon the opposite shores of the Missouri, across from the Mandan Village of Lop-sided Lodges, and made preparations to cross to the west side.  The Mandan villagers took measures to repulse this attempt to cross into their country and, tradition has it, the strangers cried out: “Manitari  – Manitari,” which, in their language, referred to their desire to cross the water.

The Mandans, thinking that they were calling their own name have, ever since that time, called that people by the name “Manitari,” and thus their name appears in most of the journals of the early explorers and fur hunters, although the name given to them by the early French, Gros Ventre, is the commonly-used name for that people today.

After some deliberation, the Mandans gave the strangers to understand that they might cross to the west side after the passing of a period of time, which was “Four,” but whether they meant four days or four months or four years we do not know, but it transpired that it actually was four years before they were finally permitted to cross in force.

During this period, the Gros Ventre lived in the vicinity of the present Bismarck and, probably, built the villages upon the east, including the one called The Village of the Double Ditch, all of which were afterwards called Mandan villages, and which we do not doubt were occupied for a time by the Mandans.

During this four year probationary period the Gros Ventre most likely fraternized with the Mandans for, after the final crossing, they lived with them in peace and harmony, supposedly at the Village of the Lop-Sided Lodges and, perhaps, other villages as well.  But, at last, whether sensing discord or fearing that the village was becoming too badly crowded, the principal chief called the Gros Ventre into council.  According to tradition, as told by the old people now living, he then recited to the council a revelation which had been given to him through the medium of a dream.

Advice from the Animal Nations

“An old man had appeared to him while he had been fasting for four days upon the high point of a hill.  This little man had commanded that he follow him, and he had done so.  They had traveled far and, at last, had come to a mountainous country and they had followed a deep gorge and then climbed the cliffs to the highest peak.  There they had found all the animal nations gathered in a great council and awaiting them.”

“The Fox People claimed to have the most beautiful tails of any; the Antelope contended that they were the fleetest nation; the Eagle told of the beautiful scenes spread out below him as he sailed on broad wings above all the rest; the Buffalo called attention to his great usefulness to the “Men People;”  the White Bear, however, who was the craftiest and had the most strength and wisdom and bravery of any of the animal nations, was finally acknowledged to be the proper one to talk to the Chief and to give him instructions regarding those things which they knew more about than the Man People did. The Chief now discovered that the old man, who had acted as guide, was the White Bear who proceeded to tell him certain things.”

“He had told him that the Hidatsa, who lived with them at their village, must go away from that place.  It were better so.  There would be a great light in the sky at night.  It would be seen from the village.  When that light appeared, the Hidatsa must follow it, when it traveled.  They would march with it until it stopped.  Then the Hidatsa would stop, also.  When it appeared again, the Hidatsa must once more take the march with it and halt when it did.  If the light went toward the north the Hidatsa could follow it as far as the Knife, but must not build on the other side.  If they did no, there would always be trouble with those people who lived there.  The Chief was told to tell the Hidatsa and they must be prepared to follow it without delay, when it appeared.”

“And the warriors in far places on the trail, and the hunters in the hills and on the plains; the loungers upon the house-tops and the women in the fields, all watched and waited for the light which was to appear.  And, at last, it did appear  – a great flaming beacon, unlike anything ever seen before, high in the heavens above the hills, and the people were disturbed and frightened, and the camp dogs howled with dread and no game was to be found; men had strange dreams and the women cut off their hair and slashed their arms as when mourning; a part of the village slid off into the river and the waters of the muddy Missouri were higher than ever before and, at last, the chiefs and headmen decided that the Hidatsa must go.”

“They were prepared and quickly packed their travois and departed, following the light as it traveled toward the north, where it finally came to a stop directly over the stone at the Village of the Crying Hill on the north side of the Heart.  Here among their old friends of that village, the Hidatsa waited for the light to move again, but instead of that, it disappeared entirely for a season.  But it came again and when the Hidatsa once more followed its lead, with still bore into the north.  As far as the Knife river, it led them and, at that place, it went out and the spirit which carried it has never been seen again.  The place they were then in was a good place to be; game once more darkened the prairie and browsed in the wooded valleys; the clouds drifted away and the sun was pleasant; the strange noises in the hills ceased; the wailing of the women became a joy song and the bravery of the men returned to them.”

Here they built three villages close together.  The one toward the south was called “Rough Earth,” and the band of Anahaway lived there.  Lewis and Clark called it after that band in their journals.

The next village to the north and on the right bank of the Knife river was called Hidatsa, and is the “Maniture” of LePaye; the “Mahnon” of David Thompson in 1797, and the present city of Stanton is built upon its ruins.

Some of the Hidatsa however, disregarded the warning not to build north of the Knife river, and settled on the left banks and built a large village, called by the old Hidatsa, now living, “Hidatsaati.”  This is the village called “Maniturunitihats ch” by LePaye and “Manitari” by many of the earlier travelers.  True to the predictions made by the Animal Nations in the Chief’s dream, or vision, the people who took up their abode there were in continual discord with the people of the others villages and, especially, with the Mandans, who followed them into that locality years after, and settled in two villages near the present Fort Clark, where they were discovered by Lewis and Clark 121 years ago.

 

 

 

How the Gros Ventre were split into two bands and the Crows formed (1925) 

(Welch article, Feb. 24, 1925)

The Gros Ventre were divided into two bands, and each of these bands followed their own chiefs.  One starving winter-time they were reduced, by the absence of game and the failure, or destruction, of their crops, to eating the red seed pods of the wild rose bushes.

But, at last, through the prayers of a holy man among them, one lone, rogue buffalo bull, lean and staggering, wandered close to the village.  He was chased and fell in the exact middle of the Heart River.  Upon being dragged to the shore, it was decided that the meat should be divided in two equal portions, each band obtain the same amount of meat, bone and hide.  When the division was made, one band was aggrieved and claimed that the other party had obtained the fatty portion of the stomach, while they had only the lean part.

The aggrieved band then decided that they would leave the other and go into a country which they would discover, and where they would be their own hunters and use their kill as they saw fit to do.  Consequently this band did leave, traveled southwest into the country west of the Black Hills and east of the Big Horn Range, which territory they secured and where they have maintained themselves ever since that day.

These are the people known today as the Crows.  They frequently come to visit the Gros Ventre; speak the same language and accept each other as cousins or relatives, but the real Gros Ventre call the crows the “Jealousy People,” on account of the separation, long ago.

 

 

Gros Ventre Scouts and Soldiers (July 1923 letter to Welch)      

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Gros Ventre in the A.E.F. (WWI in France)

Following Gros Ventre were in the A.E.F. (WWI in France), undated note:

Fred Wheeler, David Packineau, John Two Crows, Martin Levins

 

 

 

Hairy Chin’s version of the split and formation of Crows (1921)   

(Welch article, Feb. 24, 1925)

The Gros Ventre were divided into two bands, and each of these bands followed their own chiefs.  One starving winter-time they were reduced, by the absence of game and the failure, or destruction, of their crops, to eating the red seed pods of the wild rose bushes.

But, at last, through the prayers of a holy man among them, one lone, rogue buffalo bull, lean and staggering, wandered close to the village.  He was chased and fell in the exact middle of the Heart River.  Upon being dragged to the shore, it was decided that the meat should be divided in two equal portions, each band obtain the same amount of meat, bone and hide.  When the division was made, one band was aggrieved and claimed that the other party had obtained the fatty portion of the stomach, while they had only the lean part.

The aggrieved band then decided that they would leave the other and go into a country which they would discover, and where they would be their own hunters and use their kill as they saw fit to do.  Consequently this band did leave, traveled southwest into the country west of the Black Hills and east of the Big Horn Range, which territory they secured and where they have maintained themselves ever since that day.

These are the people known today as the Crows.  They frequently come to visit the Gros Ventre; speak the same language and accept each other as cousins or relatives, but the real Gros Ventre call the crows the “Jealousy People,” on account of the separation, long ago.

 

 

    

Joe Packineau’s version of the split and formation of Crows (1923)

Joe Packineau, Elbowoods, N.D., talks to Welch, Dec. 3rd, 1923:

“Crow Indians are Gros Ventre.  I will tell you how it came about that they do not live together now. “That Indian village site in Mandan, we call it “Tattoo Face.”  It is not Mandan village, but Gros Ventre or Hidatsa.

“There were two brothers born in that place a long time ago. One had a tattoo mark on his face like a quarter moon.  It started on the cheek and ran down across the chin and up on the cheek on the other side of his face.  So the people called him Tattoo Face.  He became a very famous man among the Gros Ventre.  His brother was all right, and he was named Good Fur Robe.  He also became a very great man and a wise man.

“Good Fur Robe was the one who had the corn seeds first   He gave one grain to each person and told them how to plant and look after the plant.  Tattoo Face had tobacco before anyone else.

“Now the best part of a buffalo is his paunch.  It is nice to eat  One time there was one buffalo which they killed right in the river there.  He dropped dead in the middle of the Heart River when he was killed.  The people drew him out for they were hungry.  Good Fur Robe was the biggest chief, so he took the paunch when they divided the buffalo up between the two bands.

“That made Tattoo Face people mad so that band decided that they would go away. They did no, and made their home in the country west of the Black Hills after that time.

“People call that people Crows now.  But the Hidatsa do not.  We call them “The Paunch Jealousy People.”

So the place where these people separated from the Hidatsa, is the Heart River at the Crying Hill (or Tattoo Face Village) which was Gros Ventre.  The Mandan lived there too after that, I think.”

 

 

The Gros Ventre ambush the Chippewas story (Packineau, 1923)

Joe Packineau, Elbowoods, Dec. 3rd, 1923, talks to Welch:

“These Chippewas came in a great crowd to fight the Gros Ventre.  The Gros Ventres had a very great chief.  He was a good medicine man, too.  He could do somethings which showed that he was a holy man.  So he said, “We will go to meet these war people.  We will fight them.”

“So they went to meet them.  They came to a place which suited the old chief.  He said to stop there.  So he placed 200 men on one side of a draw and 100 in the trees in the middle.

“Then at night time he got out a shield.  This shield was his medicine.  He rolled it out across the gully.  He had some buffalo chips behind it and, as it rolled, this fire fell out and was seen.  He got his song all sung and then he said that no one was to cross the line of the fire he made.  So he rolled the shield and the fire fell again.

“But a brave Gros Ventre said, “Ho.  I will go. I am brave.”  But the chief told him not to do it.  But he did and was never seen again. He got lost.

“Then came the enemy.  They could see the 100 men in the trees and went in after them.  Then the chief rolled his shield again and the fire fell.

“No one will be killed but that one rash young man,” he said.  And it was so.  The Chippewas were defeated and many killed; women, children and horses were taken by the Gros Ventres and no one was killed on our side except that brave, foolish young man, who dared the medicine of the chief.”

 

 

Meaning of Hidatsa (1923)

Joe Packineau, Elbowoods, December 2nd, 1923, talks to Welch:

When I asked this well-known interpreter the meaning of Hidatsa, he said that it meant “The People of the Willows.”  It is an old word, he said, and he could not exactly “Tear it to pieces and tell what each part of it meant, but that it meant the Willow People, because they lived for four years in the willows across from the Mandans at Fort Lincoln place, before they went over to the west side.

 

 

Ceremonies of the Hidatsa, Sanish, N.D., Aug. 4-6, 1927

Dedication of Verendrye Bridge, Sanish, N.D., Aug. 4-6, 1927

Crow Fly Hill in backgroundtribe17-crow-fly-hill

The Indian camp was made at the foot of Crow Fly Hill and there were, perhaps, forty lodges, and six Wakeye (Soldier’s Lodges, old-fashioned tipi shape and painted, etc.).  There were, perhaps, 250 Indians present, mostly Gros Ventre, under the First and Second Chiefs, Drags Wolf and Bulls Eye.

I called at the camp site in the evening of the first day and stood alone in the middle of the circle of tents.  Soon Drags Wolf saw me and, walking over, shook hands with me and went back to his tipi; Bulls Eye also came then and, after that, the Crier yelled that Charging Bear was in the camp, and many men and women came rapidly and shook hands with me.  I then walked back to the Pullmans where I was to sleep.

Later in the evening, I went to the camp again in company with a party of Soo Railroad officials, and found the old men sitting upon the top of a small, steep hill, smoking and conversing.  I shook hands with all and introduced the other white men.  The white men made several presents to them and I asked the Indians to have a short moccasin game for tobacco as the prize.  They had much fun during the progress of the game and the winners told me that the Medicine of the losers was hungry and weak, while their own was strong.

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The next afternoon I went to the camp again and the men were painting and getting ready for their parade and the Crier was calling out that “all the young men should let liquor alone and not take any.”  When the horses were ready, one was led up to me and I mounted and started the parade with Drags Wolf on the right and Bulls Eye on my left, the warriors coming behind in two files.

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They sung a “war bonnet” song as we entered the town, and I led them to the depot where they were photographed by the railroad people and introduced to Mr. Jaffrey (Pres. Of the Sault Saint Marie R.R.) and Governor Sorlie.

We then swung into line and started toward the speaker’s stand at the east end of the bridge, where they circled the stand, sitting upon their horses, and listened to my address, in which I extolled them for always having been friends of the white people, and an influence in the civilizing of the country  – and my speech was responded to by Second Chief Bulls Eye.  Interpreter was Stanley Dean, who allowed Bulls Eye to finish before he read the remarks from a prepared paper.  He also took credit for being partly responsible for the erection of the bridge. After many photos the Indians returned to their camp.

tribe13-welch-bulls-eye-dean-photo

Address given by Chief Bulls Eye in response to an address by Major A.B.Welch:

“My Friends:  – It is indeed a great pleasure for me to be invited to make a response to an address given by Major Welch.  This is especially true at this time and on this occasion for the reason that our people feel that they have had considerable to do with making it possible for this bridge to be constructed.

“Some 75 years ago our Chief Four Bears signed the Laramie Treaty which gave our people all the land in this section of the State of North Dakota.  Some of this land was later taken away from us and we are making claim to it at this time.  The band of Hidatsa to which I belonged lived in the Yellowstone country and was moved to a point over on the flat, a few miles, some 33 years ago.  We lived there for ten years, curing which time we became very familiar with the country and it really seems like home to us.  We were then moved to our present home to what is known as Shell Creek.  Some 15 or 20 years ago we agreed to sell a portion of our country at a price which would enable settlers to come in, and through this sale, this bridge was made possible.

“I address you as friends for the reason that we three tribes, living on the Fort Berthold Reservation, have always been friendly to the whites and we are not expecting too much to feel that you are our friend, however, I must say that, at times, we are sadly mistaken, but many of you are our friends and we ask that you assist us, not in the administration of our affairs, as they are receiving very good attention and we are being taken care of  – but we would ask that you assist in protecting our young men from the liquor gang and grafters.  These things we are troubled with and it should have the attention of our best citizens.

“As you know, we have always tried to support ourselves and history will show that we have always raised corn, squash, beans, etc., and some of our country’s best Seedhouses take pride in stating that they have see derived from our original stock.

“I am a chief among our people for the reason that the leadership was  handed down to me through my nephew, Long Bear, who was honored by having been made a Chief through Crow Flies High.  I stated that we have always been friendly with the whites and, if you will look up the records, you will find that we bought Liberty Bonds, donated freely to the Red Cross and other organizations, and sent many of our boys across to fight for our country.  Major Welch took many of our boys across with him and we are indebted to him for laving done his best in looking after them, and for this we are grateful and consider him one of our  loyal friends.

“If our country ever needs our help, it will only be necessary to let us know and, I assure you, we will do anything in our power to assist, and we will hope that the leaders will be as able and as kind to our boys as Major Welch.  I thank you.”

(Welch note:  Bulls Eye died March 20th, 1928, at Shell Village, on the Elbowoods Reservation.  Heart trouble).

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In the evening I took the Governor’s party to the camp to attend a dance.  About forty men took part and about the same number of women.

It was practically the same as the Grass Dance of the Sioux; drummers in the middle, dancing men in the circle, but with the addition of four men who stood apart and sung with hand drums.  These men were Drags Wolf, Bulls Eye and two others, and when the dance was ended and the drummers were resting, this group sung. I approached the dancers, I was met by Stanley Dean, who said that they were waiting for me.  Twenty women belonging to the woman’s society, called Fox Imitators, were dancing together at one side.  They were formed in two lines facing each other and wore curious decorations upon their heads  – insignia of their society  – of a beaded, headband and feathers sticking out on either side. They danced toward each other and then back and, at last, one woman, whom I took to be the Head of the Organization, danced through the middle and back to her station at one end.  One man was standing alone at one place by the men singers and, at last, he walked toward me and took off the trailing headdress he wore and handed it to me.  Drags Wolf explained that the headdress had been intended for Hon. J.H.Sinclair (U.S.Senator), but as he was not present, it was mine now.  I shook hands with the man who had worn it for the donor and told them that I would see that Mr. Sinclair received the bonnet.

Then the four men sung a song and a woman came over and asked to wear the bonnet and I took it off my head and allowed her to dance with it, with the Fox Imitators, after which she brought it back.

Then a woman came slipping rapidly through the grass and spread out a beautiful Oregon City Blanket on the ground before me, as a present.  I took it up and, after giving a few presents of tobacco, I gave the blanket to Mrs. Good Bear, but she did not come for it, so I then gave it to the oldest man of the Gros Ventre who sat close by.  Then Mrs. Coffee gave me fifty cents and another woman gave me a dollar, both coins I gave away  – one to the signers and one to the old men.

There were more dances and songs, and then an old man named Bear in the Water, came forward and said that he wanted to give me something which I would always keep, and handed me a tobacco bag made of the skin of a very young deer, nicely tanned and a red-stone pipe with a twisted, carved stem, and bowl inlaid with silver and black stone.  Decidedly a Gros Ventre pipe in decoration and form.  When I was ready to leave, they danced a Farewell Dance and the crowd dispersed quickly into their tipis.

I noticed a very decided social form at this dance and much dignified ceremony at all times, especially in the way of giving presents and in the demeanor and grave courtesy of the men and women toward me.  There were several buckskin coast among the men decorated all over with yellow and this color appears to be a favorite with that tribe, and the costumes were very gaudy, indeed, and many had daubs of yellow clay, make like buttons in the strands of their unbraided hair.  Those with no headdress which hid their head, wore the hair parted in two places, one above each ear, and the middle part, thrown up in a high, stiffly-greased  pompadour which fell over toward the back of the head.  A very enjoyable ceremonial dance in my honor.

 

Hidatsaati Village (1928 notes)

May 30, 1928 notes by Welch …. We went to find the village of the Gros Ventre, north of the Knife.  This was THE VILLAGE OF LA BORGNE  – THE “ONE EYE.” (#35 on map)

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It is quite extensive and not much of it has been disturbed.  The lodge sites are distinct and the centers are deep.  It is built on the second bench, above the floodwaters of the Missouri and out of the way of a sudden raise of water in the Knife, in the usual manner of Mandan and Gros Ventre villages of 125 years ago.  It is called Hidatsaati by present Gros Ventre.

We were on this site for about thirty minutes and did not satisfy myself as to the center dancing place or location of the Medicine Lodge. On the northeast, is a well-defined ditch with a few lodge sites outside of it.  Lodge sites are very close together and commonly about thirty feet in diameter, tho some are smaller and several have been much larger.  The entrances are very plainly to be seen.  Saw some broken pottery of the same decorations, etc., as upon the Heart River sites, but not nearly so much of it.  Chips of flint  are plentiful, and I found two copper earrings or decorations.  Also picked up three large pieces of pumice stone which had been used for polishing or sharpening, and from a boy who appeared from somewhere, I bought the heavy blade of an old iron tomahawk.  The eye part was broken off and the iron had evidently been used as a wedge as it was curled over from the blows, but it is a genuine blade, with the outside straight and the inside curved.  He also had a long, slim arrow point which he had found there, flint, but attached too much value to it to sell.

We did not locate the debris piles or the cemetery, but, as this village was not inhabited by the Arikara as far as known, there will probably be few remains discovered in the ground, as the Gros Ventre buried in trees or upon platforms, as did the Mandans.

This is the final village site of the Gros Ventre, when they followed “the great light” from the Mandan villages on Heart River and, according to my studies, was founded about 1760, and evacuated in 1840, when they moved to the Fish Hook Village, afterward called Fort Berthold by the traders.  The lower stratas of debris should show no iron or beads or other trader’s articles, but the last forty years, or more, will be full of such things, as this was one of the friendly villages of the early trader’s journals and had fur company forts in the vicinity.  This village most probably was directly on the banks of the Missouri when found by Lewis and Clark.  However, the stream is over a mile to the east now.

 

 

Chief Four Bears great trip in 1851 (Drags Wolf and Bears Arm talk, 1933)

August 9th, 1933.  Present:

Arthur Mandan, Interpreter

Drags Wolf, son of Crow Flies High, Chief of Gros Ventre.

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Bears Arm, Chief of Gros Ventre band.

One Other, Gros Ventre

All a committee to select monument to be unveiled at the dedication of the Four Bear Bridge across the Missouri at Elbowoods, to be held Sept. 8th, 1933.

The visit today was very ceremonious.  Yesterday the committee had appeared during the naming of the Exalted Ruler of the Elks, and I was too busy to more than talk with them.  However, after above rites, I met them at the marble works and assisted them in selection of a monument.

Today, after a slow smoke, Drags Wolf arose and shook hands with me and made a speech.  It was very complimentary to me and ended with an invitation to be one of the speakers at the dedication.  He then shook hands and sat down.  Then Bears Arm did the same thing.

Information received thru the speeches:

“None of us were born then.  We were all born in the Berthold Village.  When Four Bears, the Chief of the Hidatsa, took this journey, it was a wild country and full of dangers.  War parties sometimes went as far as south of the Black Hills at that time, but we do not know if they knew the way to Fort Laramie.  They took their bravest men on that trip.  They all made a vow that, if anything happened to their Chief, they would die there with him.  They finally reached the fort.  There were many people there.  They represented many tribes.  They signed the treaty (1851).  They returned to our village.  The Gros Ventre had lived at that new village seven winters then (Berthold Village).  Four Bears left in the summertime.  The Mandans had lived there with us for three winters.  The Sanish (Arikara) still lived in the old villages at Fort Clark and by the Knife river (the present Fort Clark and Stanton).  The Hidatsa always were peaceful toward the white people.  We served in the armies, too.

We always were careful not to kill whites unless they stepped over our pipes. Some bad white men might do something bad, but we were always careful.

As this is an affair with us (the bridge dedication) and as we were always good to the soldiers, we would like for you to come in full uniform that day…..”

They asked me to use my medal as a model for the stone and to ascertain who signed the treaty.

 

 

Burial Ground at Crying Hill (1933 Mandan Daily Pioneer article)

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Travels of the Gros Ventre (Drags Wolf and Bears Arm talk, 1934)

Chiefs Drags Wolf and Bears Arm talk to Welch, Feb. 10, 1934:

“When we left Devils Lake (note: where the tribe rose up from the waters of the lake), we went south and finally settled for several years at a lake which is now called Spirit Woods lake.  We lived there until the game was all gone away and then moved on.

We went toward the Missouri river then.  Our scouts had discovered that river.  When we got to the east bank of that river we discovered the Mandans Indians living at a village.  That was at the east foot of a great hill.  This hill has always been known to us as “The Birds Bill (or Beak) Hill.”  (Welch Note:  this is the village I always call the south village.  Lewis and Clark do not mention it as they, perhaps, did not see it, the river not flowing close to that bank then).

So we finally made friends with them.  We crossed over the river and were the first to build the village you call Leaning Lodges.  Sometimes we call it Slant Village.  It was on sloping ground.  Some think that it was a Mandan Village.  But it was Hidatsa.  We lived there many generations of children.

At last we moved north because Good Fur Robe told us to do so.  He was not a Mandan but a Hidatsa.  A very wise man.  There were only five villages at the north of the Heart River.  Leaning Lodges was one of them.  It was the first one we built.  We had other villages which we erected every fall.  Down in the timber places.  We would live there in the winter times.  Then the spring floods would destroy them.”

Knife River Villages

“There were five villages in that vicinity.  Three were Hidatsa and two were Mandan.  One was north of the Knife; one on the ridge where Stanton, N.D. now is situated, and one south of that.  The Mandan villages were between that place and the present Fort Clark.  The one where Stanton now is was called Awahaway because it looked like a picture on the sky, as it was higher than the immediate surrounding terrain.  Any other village sites found there now, were winter quarters.  Awahaway means Sharp Earth.”

 

 

Chief of Hidatsa at time they appeared on east side of Missouri (Crow Ghost, 1924)

Crow Ghost, July 24, 1924, told me:

that the name of the Chief of the Hidatsa at the time when the people appeared across the river from the Mandans and asked to be permitted to cross the Missouri was Mahkpiya Tonka (Big Cloud), and he said the Chief possessed a stick which, when he planted it in the ground, became “very strong.”  Just what this phrase meant, I do not know.  It might refer to “Medicine.”

 

 

The story of Last Hill Village (Joe Packineau, 1923)

Joe Packineau  – Gros Ventre (his grandfather was French) and storekeeper, as authority

Place  – About three miles south of the mouth of the Little Missouri river on the west banks of the Missouri.

Date  – May 31st and June 1st, 1923

tribe22-last-hill-village

We crossed the river at this point and the butte was pointed out to me.  It is close to the shore.  On June 1st, I climbed it to the summit and made an examination. The summit is about 300 feet above the river; sides very steep and a stiff climb; the almost flat top is triangular  – base about three hundred feet, and the shorter leg about 100 feet.  At the northern end, where the base meets the hypotenuse, it ends in a very narrow knife-bladed hogs-back.  Across this narrow place could be seen a ditch with embankments on the upper side.  This was Indian construction.  On the summit, the site of the village was plainly marked by the ruins of the circular lodges, and some square lines of stones.  Several eagle-trap holes were dug along the edge of the cliffs.  Some of the lodge sites were half toppled off into the valley below, and I counted nine lodge sites not obliterated by time.  The story told me by Packineau and Sitting Crow, a Mandan, follows:

“About 200 years ago there was a village of Gros Ventre upon that hill there.  Some of the lodges have slid into the valley now.  There were about twelve dirt lodges then.  Some hunters from that village were up in the Killdeer country.  The Sioux attacked them.  One man got away and rode hard to tell the Chief of the village about it.  The others stayed and led the Sioux around after them to keep them from the village.  Every night the Gros Ventre Chief knew just where the Sioux were.  He had scouts report them to him.  The Chief had holes dug.  Over there he had the people place fresh buffalo hides and he made the people pour water in them until he had a lot of water.  He had much meat.  The Chief told the people to not use the water for anything but to drink:  to cook their meat on sticks over the fire so not to use water in cooking.  When he was all ready he sent his hunters word to come back.  The Sioux followed them and attacked the village.  There was only one way to reach the top.  But

but this way was steep and narrow. The Gros Ventre cut this place and made some earth mounds there to fight behind.  They made it strong with logs and rocks.  They fought there.  Many Sioux were killed.  They fought there for eleven days.  The Sioux could not get them.  They went away then.  But the Gros Ventre Chief moved the village from the hill then.  He was afraid of being caught with no water or meat sometimes.  That was the last village which was built upon a hill, so we call it “The Last Hill Village.”

Stone with date “1823” scratched upon it.

While I was on the top of the hill, I picked up a white stone, with writing scratched upon it, and brought it home with me.  At one place it plainly reads “Year 1823,” and is framed in a rude scratched boxing.  There are several letters to be seen, also, and, in one place, “1823” appears.  This rock was, no doubt, a soft fragment of white clay at the time the writing was made, and, with age, it has become very hard.  I do not believe it is a fake of any sort, as the site is out of the way and, being a ruined village as well as a high place for a lookout, it is quite probable that some man climbed up there a century ago and made his mark.

Who know but that Joe Bridger, Hugh Glass, Colter, Gen. Ashley, Joshua Pilcher, Jebediah Smith, Andrew Henry, Joseph Renville, James Kipp, Kenneth McKenzie or some others of these solitary adventurers and trail-makers, made these scratches upon this white stone with a point of a knife, as they sat upon the grassed, flat-toped butte and scanned the miles of tumbled bad lands here at the mouth of the Little Missouri river and gazed across the wooded bench-lands to the north, across the swiftly-flowing Missouri.

 

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The Lost Band of Double Ditch Villagers (Packineau, 1923)

Told to me at home of Joe Packineau, near Elbowoods, December 2nd, 1923:

“When my mother was a girl (she was born in 1843) she often heard of a band of our people who went away and never have been found anywhere yet.  This people lived where the old village is about six miles north of Burnt Creek on the east side of the river.  That village was Hidatsa.  But the Mandans claim everything they can and they tell people like Mr. Gilmore (former Curator of N.D.Hist.Soc.) that it was a Mandan village.  We all know it was Hidatsa and they built it first and lived there a long time on that hill just north of the last timber on the river.  Some white people call it “Double Ditch,” but we call it Lost Village, for those people went away and got lot.  They never came back anymore.

“It is not the “Lost Sinew Hunters Band” that the Arikara talk about.  That was another people and another time.  The Sinew Hunters were Pawnee and not Hidatsa.

“A Piegan Indian told our people that he was away up north in the big woods one time.  He came to a people and asked to stay there for a few days for rest.  He understood Hidatsa language and was surprised to know that he could understand them well.

“We think these people are out lost band of Hidatsa from this village.  I would like to go and hunt them out.  I would ask the chief to call them together.  I would listen.  Then I would get up and say,

“I am glad to be here now.  I speak like you.  I think I know you now.  I am one of you.  You got lost one time.  I am here to find you now.  You went away from home.  You did not come back.  I want you to go back with me now.  I thank Him for letting me find you out, where you live.”

“Then they would all be crying.  They would ask me.  I can tell them, what they would ask me.  They would know then that they belonged to us.  Yes, that village was lost in the time of my grandfather, the Frenchman.”

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