Sioux White Horse Riders Society (“Help the Poor” Society), Twin Buttes, ND, Dec. 10, 1923, Col. A. B. Welch invited

Returning to the Cannon Ball one evening, Dec. 10th, 1923, from Fort Yates in an auto, we passed the dance hall by Twin Buttes and saw lights and many tipis around the hall.


We entered to get warm and have a cup of coffee.  As I went in, I found the hall full of people who looked at me but did not recognize me at first.  When I had taken off my storm cap they saw it was Mato Watakpe and many came to me and shook hands.

The Principle Rider of the White Horse Riders Society led me to a seat.  Behind me hung a large U.S.flag, and he said, “We sit here now by this flag.  This is a dance for the Riders of the White Horse. You are one of us so you sit here.”

Tom Mentz was the Principle Rider (President).  After the usual honors were paid me by the dancers and others, a flag was placed in my hands and I started to circle the drummer’s seat. Behind me the Riders fell in and any others who cared to do so, it being understood that they would later make presents for the Riders.  Crow Ghost was the Announcer and many articles were given after I stopped the circling of the place.

I gave 1.00 each for Albert Grass and Blue Earth.  The songs sung were the old time White Horse Riders Songs, and there was much shouting as the presents were made.  One man gave a quarter of beef; another a three year old horse; a box of apples; a woman gave three little puppies for soup; a beaded vest; a shawl; an eagle bonnet; another $10.00  – $5.00  – fifty cents, etc.  These wearing things were put up for auction later in the evening.  The money all going into the treasury of the White Horse Riders.

There were a great number of costumed dancers, both women and men, and I danced in a couple of Grass Dances with the women; and took part in a White Horse Dance and a couple of old time war dances.

It was a very happy throng and men were making speeches and women singing all at the same time.  One old man said, “I am old.  I am not afraid to die.  My mother is sitting right over there (She had been dead for many years).  She knows that I was always good to her.  I treated her right.  I was a White Horse Soldier then.”

We had hot soup in cups, coffee and pilot bread to eat and a piece of meat and an apple.  Crow Ghost told them all about the old time White Horse Riders; that they looked after the poor people; they could ask a man for food for such people; they might confiscate it if necessary.  They could have an “Ask Meat Feast,” when those who came had to bring their own food.

I paid my 1.00 years dues, as I am a member.  Then there was a “Wounded Man’s Dance,” and, as I got close to the door, I passed out into the cold night and autoed to the van Solen ranch, where I spent the night.

Marcellus Red Tomahawk, talks to Welch, Cannon Ball, N.D., Feb. 25th, 1921, with Miss Lucille Van Solen as interpreter:

“This is a society of the younger warriors and is a very honorable one to belong to. About forty years ago it was allowed to die out, as the Government was doing certain things and they were not needed so much.

“These riders were under the principal chiefs and carried out their orders.  They had no heraldric device by which they were known, but they had the best buckskin jackets and were always well-dressed.  Besides that everyone knew if a man belonged to this Soldier’s Society.  They joined it after they had become warriors after some brave act in battle.  They rode white horses and carried out the orders of the chiefs, whatever those were.  They looked after the entire camp in a general way and reported anything which was not right.

“We have been trying to get it started again for about four years, and night before last they brought it to life again, and appointed Tom Mentz Principal Rider, to receive the body of Albert Grass when it arrives from over the ocean.  They made you a member of it and you are now a Rider of the White Horse.”

Yellow Horse, Hunkpati, 75 years old  – same date, same interpreter:

“I was born where Jamestown is now.  We called that Itazepa Okaksi because we cut bow wood there along that river.  Not on any branch which flows into the river, but along the river itself.  I was not a White Horse Rider, but I know much about them.  They sung this song (Here, the old man sung the song.  It appeared to be without words and was characteristic Dakotah music).  The name of this song is Nighe tankan Odowan (the correct translation was difficult, finally deciding upon “Big Stomach Song.”  The old man did not know to what it referred, but said it did not relate in any way to the horses or riders). 

“The Riders were aides to the Chiefs and were the older warriors among the people.  They helped the old people who did not have anyone to hunt for them and they would get food for the poor people.  They wore very beautiful clothes and rode white horses, and now you are a member and must ride a white horse. 

“The last time they had the society was about the time when White Beard (note: McLaughlin?) held the Indians for the Council with him at Maka Tipi (Chamberlain, S.D….Maka Tipi means “Cellar Town”).  They have it again now on account of the body of Albert Grass coming home from the place where he was killed in battle.  When White Beard had that Council he gave medals and a bugle to the White Horse Riders and, after that when the Riders were called together, they blew that bugle four times.  When the people heard it they knew the Riders were coming together.”