Sioux Celebration at Cannon Ball, July 3-4, 1922, Col A. B. Welch invited. Community Celebration and Sham, World War I, Battles with Germans

I had been invited by the Committee in Charge to be present and address them on the 3rd and 4th.



Poster:  July 4th (1922) Indian Celebration at Cannon Ball


Upon my arrival I was met by a big parade of horsemen and people on foot.  We went directly to the dance place, where the singers sung my song and other Soldier Songs, or War Songs.  The Herald rode around the circle of tipis (there were 124 tipis in camp at that time) and told the people that Mato Watakpe was there and that they should all come and hear him talk.  When the people were all seated and the horsemen on horses around the outside of the brush walls of the circle, I talked for thirty minutes.  Ignatious Iron Roads was my interpreter.  I tried a few jokes in this speech and they went good, the people laughing and yelling approval.

After my address, I was taken to a large, painted tipi on the east side of the camp.  This was the Akicita Tipi, or Soldier’s Lodge, and I was told that it was my place to sleep and eat.  It was decorated with fifty black, painted stars and four gold stars and the flaps were painted as U.S.Flags; a large flag hung upon a tall pole at the entrance.  This was later changed to another spot to the front and a war bonnet pole was erected close by the entrance.  I slept here two nights.

Soon the drummers came and placed the drum by the tipi; a song was sung about Mato Watakpe, accompanied by many signs and other ceremonies.  The first song was something like this:

Mato Watakpe goes to the over the ocean battle;

The enemy aeroplanes are like birds;

His soldiers shoot them down and they fall like swans;

Mato Watakpe brings home to the women, their buttons;

Brave, brave, are the Dakotah soldiers, it is said.

 Presently there were several hundred people gathered around the tipi; old White Cow Walking produces a large bundle of sticks, peeled and painted either black or red.  These sticks are about 20 inches long.  We formed a parade with myself at the head and Tom Grey Bull with the flag, and rode around the circle of tents and tipis.  The drummers came on foot, carrying the drum and singing.  The women singers followed them closely.  As we came to the front of a tent, one of the men would go inside and place one of the sticks upright in the ground, inside the tent.  Often the owner would then come out, or appear, carrying the stick, which he would hand to White Cow Walking.  Then he would ‘make a gift,’ either a horse, a dog for the feast or money or clothing.  This gift was in honor of the soldiers with Mato Watakpe.  A black visiting stick was placed in the tent of a man who had been to war either modern or Indian wars, and a red one was place where the owner had received wounds in battle.  Where a man had been lost in war, a soldier stepped forward and fired three shots with a shot gun and the singers would sing of the soldier and his bravery.  Some very fine dance clothes, pipes, etc., were collected besides horses and other animals and about $80.00 in money.  This was all for the soldier’s feast on the Fourth of July.

White Cow Walking


After we reached my tipi, the things were auctioned off for money.  They gave a certain fine stone pipe to me, its stem is also Catlinite.  The sticks were all collected and handed to me as evidence of my friends.  Those people who were not at home when we serenaded them began to appear with their sticks and a present, which was announced by the herald amid loud yells and songs.  They all shook hands with me as they came.

In the evening the dance started with all the younger generation taking part.

Many gifts were given and the dance finally became quite a spirited affair and old-time war songs were sung.  I danced several times but, at last, the Sub-Agent stepped in and stopped it.  Everyone was mad and he refused to talk to them.  Old Chief Red Fish told him, in a great ‘mad speech,’ that he had his knives on his side and would like to cut him up.  There was quite a row on.  Reminded me of the first time I saw the Indians at Grand View, S.D., when they got sulky about not having provisions enough, and the soldiers from Fort Randall were sent for.

That night I sat in Council in the lodge of Wise Spirit, which was decorated with pictographs of 14 war bonnets twenty inches in diameter, and two long ones, one at either side of the entrance.  When I returned to my tipi, there was a great pile of quilts and blankets and pillows on the floor.  I lay, covered with a 3½ point Hudson Bay blanket that night.

Wise Spirit and Lean Warrior


During the day I had put on a sham battle with some Germans.  The Germans were old men of the Dakotah and were fine actors.  The action was a simple, flanking movement, which the Indians could all understand and they were terribly excited about it.  After the fight we feasted.  I had watched them prepare the dogs.  They killed them by swinging them around by the hind feet and dashing their heads upon a stone.  The head was dashed upon a stone.  The hair was singed off over a fire and the meat was cut up and boiled with tipsina and rice.  They, however, fed the ex-servicemen on chicken, hard bread, bananas, coffee and some fried beef.  The dog went to the older people who sat in a circle outside the lodge.  The prisoners were last, amid much glee.

A. B. Welch and Indians who fought with him during World War I, in the trenches of France, stage a Sham Battle Against the Germans


July 4th I watched a moccasin game (gambling) and many other sports, bucking horses, bull-dogging, etc.  In the PM we had another sham battle and I turned the prisoners over to the women.  They handled them roughly, throwing them to the ground, cutting off there buttons, etc.  In the evening the women put on a scalp dance with scalps of the enemy on poles.