Life on The Plains in the 1800’s. Subjects from A thru C (“Adoption” thru “Cooking”) as told to Col. A. B. Welch

This is the first section of a lengthy list of subjects of Welch interviews between 1900 and 1930’s with “Old-Timers” of the Indian Nations


Adoption    Adoption of an Enemy to replace Relative Lost, etc.        

Adultery    John Grass:  “When you feel like you want another man’s woman,” he said, “go down into the timber where the little trees grow.  Cut a nice little one, and then switch it a while and it will not be so anxious to go.”        

Arrow & Spear Making    Mrs. Grey Bull told me today that “the spider made the stone arrow points.”        

Bragging    War honors and oratory are two of the greatest things in the estimation of the Dakotah.        

Burial    John Grass: We buried where a person died if we could.  We tied him in a tree.        

Calendars, Names of Months    January:  Napa ouspa Wi  (Hold hands month. Probably on account of cold)….etc.        

Camping    The old method of forming camp was as follows, for the Sioux.        

Cannibalism    Red Tomahawk’s story of Cannibalism, told about 1915.        

Ceremonies    “in fact, nearly every undertaking of any importance was attended with ceremonies more or less complicated…..”        

Character     Welch writes: “…And now what of the Indians of today?”    

Chieftancy, Hereditary Rights    How Chiefs were made and lines maintained    

Clothing    Mrs. Grass: “In the old days we all wore buckskin clothes.  Only those who were much honored had cloth”    

Children (Birth Control)    “It was considered disgraceful to have more or less than four children.    

Comparison of old and present times    Conversation with Enemy Heart, full blooded Mandan, December 1920    

Cooking     Boiling Meat in old times    




Adoption of a Brave Enemy

Story by Coffee (“Tall Mandan”) – old U.S.Vol. Scout at Fort Berthold.

Interpreter—Huber, educated Mandan.

Place—Crows Heart of the Mandans, Little Missouri river.


“One time Hollow Horn Bear, a Sioux, came with many men to fight us at the village at Berthold.  They came close to town.  Our young men were anxious to fight.  There was one Sioux killed close to a lodge.  We fought so fiercely that they could not carry him away.  They did not want any of us to make “coup” on him.  We drove them away from him.  Many men tried to count war honor on this man laying there dead.  No one could strike him.  They could not get close enough.  But one young man named Moves Slowly was very brave.  He said he would count coup or die then.  He wrapped a blanket around his arm and rushed out among them.  He went on.  He got close.  He went on.  He was there.  He struck the enemy.  He came back.  The Sioux carried the dead man away.  He was brave.  He had made coup on them.  He walked among their lodges that night.  He sat down among them.  He ate their meat.  Then Sitting White Buffalo, a Sioux, adopted Moves Slowly.  Because he was a brave man.  He gave him his own name then.  We also gave him a new name.  We called him after that, Ie-he-na-wi-i (Adopted).

Adoption of an Enemy to replace Relative Lost

Welch notes, undated:  “…It was the custom among the Sioux, with whom I am more familiar, to sometimes adopt some prisoners which had been overtaken, as one of the family of the Captor, to take the place of someone of his family, who had been slain, or who had died a natural death.  In this connection, I call your attention to a particularly famous prisoner known to us and mentioned in historical documents as Sakakawea, who was a young woman of the Shoshone, who was taken by a war party of Mandans and Gros Ventre who were villagers along the Missouri river in the immediate vicinity of the present Mandan, N.D.  This woman was adopted by her captor as one of his own family and was kindly treated even as his own child.”

Adoption—Long Form

Welch notes, December 1926:  “About 130 years ago, the Sioux had an adoption ceremony in full form.  They adopted the entire Cheyenne Tribe at that time.  They were an offshoot from the eastern Algonquians and in some unknown manner had penetrated as far west as the big game country west of the Missouri.  They were given the choice of death or adoption.  Since that time, but one adoption with full ceremonies had been attempted, and that was of the adoption of the writer in 1912.”

Adoption Signs

Welch notes, undated: When a child is adopted or any one becomes in a way a parent to them, they are permitted to wear a red stripe across their foreheads and down their cheeks.  This denotes them to be “Hunka” or adopted and the mark is known to the people as a badge.

Adoption—Short Form (Giving of a name)

Queen Marie adoption ceremony November 1926:  “In this short form of adoption, time for proper preparation is lacking.  A ‘group council’ is held and a name is selected, generally that of an honored man or woman.  The adopted one is then given this name and is called brother or sister as the case may be.  A gift is generally given to the one who gave the name—however, that formality is not strictly necessary, as it is understood that the honored party may not be familiar with the customs of the Indians.”




 Two Indian men and one woman were in the penitentiary at Bismarck;  one of the man for horse stealing and the other, and the woman, for adultery.  After we had gone through the pen and were again at the office, John Grass sent for the Indian inmates and the Warden had them brought into his office.


Grass gave them a good lot of advice.  In his talking to them he told them that, “there were two things which the Dakotah people should be careful about.  They were the two worst evils of all; Running off with another man’s wife and whiskey.  If a man did not drink whiskey, he probably would not run off with another man’s wife, so drinking is perhaps the worst evil of the two.”

“When you feel like you want another man’s woman,” he said, “go down into the timber where the little trees grow.  Cut a nice little one, and then switch it a while and it will not be so anxious to go.”




Arrow & Spear Making

Interview, about 1917— person unknown:

Question:       How were arrow points made in olden times?

Answer:         It was done by flecking one bit of arrow stone with another.  Every man liked to make his own, but some could not make them, so they would ask another arrow maker to make them some and pay them for it by making them a present or something.

Interview, Mandan, N.D., October 6th, 1923:

Mrs. Grey Bull told me today that “the spider made the stone arrow points.  We had iron for a long time and made them.  The Dakotah never made them.  We saw many of these stone rings and pictures on the ground on the high hills.  Some one made them.  I do not know who these people were.  They were not our people.  They were waken.”   This woman is an Indian of the old buffalo days and knows the stories and traditions of her people.

Arrow & Spear Making (Crow Ghost speaks)

Crow Ghost explains some things to me, Sept. 27th, 1923:

Crow Ghost is a Dakotah of the old school. I asked him regarding the “rock rings,” found so frequently everywhere in this prairie country.  He said; “My father and his father have told me about them.  I have seen many of them.  We did not make them.  The Palani did not make them.  (This is a general term applied to the Mandan and Gros Ventre as well as to the Arikara).  My grandfather said that they were made by people who lived here a long time ago.  Before we came here, they were here.  They made them.”  (He called them “Iyan Tipi” (Stone Lodge).  He said, “the stories say that whey were very strong people and very tall.  They must have been drowned when the water (Flood—biblical) came.  They are gone now.  They made the stone arrow heads.”


I asked him if the Sioux or other Indians made arrow heads of stone and he answered;  “No.  We never made stone arrows.  We found them and picked them up.  Sometimes a man would find three or five together.  Sometimes only one.  But there was always enough for us.  The children always had a few around their necks on a string.  Some though that the Spider Nation made them.  My grandfather was a Wicasa Wakan (Holy Man) and he said that they did not make them.  He said the people of the Iyan Tipi made them.  Yes, I have seen Dakotah make them.  They could not do it good.  They chipped them with another rock.  They were not good.  They would not fly straight.  They were too heavy and big.  The Dakotah made good spears sometimes.  They made them of the bones from a buffalo tail.  The Palani made spears of stone.  They picked the stone up somewhere already made.”  He used both “lilla tehan” and “hecton and ehanna (first syllable prolonged)” as words to describe the time when the “Iyan Tipi” people inhabited this country.

Shown a small club head of stone, picked up on the Young Man’s Village site (Mandan) he said, “This is not for war.  It is not for pounding bone or cherries.  When a man is old he has but few teeth.  Then he uses a stone like this with a short handle.  He pounds the meat easy with it.  He does not have to chew it then.  I have seen these small stones used that way.”

Shown a six inch bone, a split rib, with rounded ends, taken from Slant village site (Mandan) he said, “this is not a needle or a punch.  It is not for making marks around a pot.  It is used by the women.  They make it hot in the fire.  They spit on it.  They rub the quills of the porcupine with it then.  That makes the quills flat and does not break the sides.  They used it sometimes to flatten seams where the sinew was dried hard in clothes or moccasins.  These bones are small and split.  Those ice stick bones are not split.  This bone is not a hide scraper.  It is a skinning bone.  It is horse, I think.  The buffalo bone was not so deep on the back side.  It was more round. (speaking of the bone I thought was a scraper).  This arrow straightener or smoother is a rib of the buffalo.  It is sharp on the edges.  Horse ribs are smaller and not so strong.

Arrow Making (Chasing Fly speaks)

Conversation with Chasing Fly, Teton, about 70 years of age.

September 25th, 1923.  Mandan, N.D.

Interpreter, Young Bears, Teton school boy, age about 25.

I asked about how these stone points were made.


He said, “We get a point.  We make the shaft very carefully.  We make it the same size all over.  It is smoothed by a hole in a bone.  Some men do it with their teeth.  We make some marks (grooves) on the shaft.  They will not fall out of the wound then. We boil a buffalo head and make some glue to use.  We put on some and wrap it with sinew.  For a hunting arrow, we make the head fast.  But a war arrow is not tied, but the sinew will come unwrapped when wet with hot blood.  If the arrow is pulled out of the wound then, the head stays in.  So a man who is wounded must push the arrow on through.  That hurts him some more.”

“I have made many arrows.  I am a good arrow maker.  We put three feathers on.  A man’s arrow must be as long as his arm is.  The end of the shaft begins at his elbow.  It goes to his middle finger.  Then it turns over on the back of his hand to his wrist.  That is the proper length of a man’s arrow.  It pulls just right then.  I always put my own mark on  mine.  I could tell which buffalo was mine then.  A buffalo will sometimes stand a long time after shot.  He goes off alone.  He stands and hangs his head.  He bleeds at the mouth and nose.  He get on his knees.  He bellows loud.  He dies then.  One arrow in a good place is enough.  I shot a buffalo one time.  I was short of arrows.  I ran my pony in and pushed the arrow with my hand.  It went in a long ways.  The buffalo was mine.”

Now Kola, I said, tell me just how you made the stone point:

“We did not make them.  We picked them up when we wanted them.  No one made the stone points.  The Padani picked them up like we did.  Inktomi (the Spider) nation made them.  Or some animal made them.”

“ No Dakotah ever made good ones.  Some Dakotah played at it.  There were many of them then.  The wild plums grow on trees.  The stone arrows lay on the ground.  We picked the plums.  We picked the points.  Inktomi is Wakan.  The stone points are Wakan.  The plums were placed there for us to eat.  We ate them.  The stone points were put there for us to use.  We used them in arrows.  I can not talk much about that thing. My medicine is an animal (he used the word “wakiyan,” meaning Thunder, for the word medicine.  This is an instance of “Holy Talking” or using a different word for what you mean, when speaking of Wakan things).  I can not talk of stones much.  Some other man can.  The stone arrow point is waken.  It is not my medicine.  So I could pick them up when I found them.  But I can not talk much about them.”




“………They are therefore his credentials.

Why they tell us of their personal accomplishments:  It is often supposed that Indians are very boastful and tell of their brave acts while in war, because they are proud and naturally boastful.  This is no exactly true.  War honors and oratory are two of the greatest things in the estimation of the Dakotah.  War deeds indicate a man’s courage and ability.  They are therefore his credentials.  When a man is called to any position of power or wants to introduce himself to a strange band, it is customary for him to recount his deeds of valor and tell of his coups in order to show his fitness to receive honors from other people.  They constitute his public record, besides giving him an opportunity to display his oratorical accomplishments.   (Editor’s note:  Welch often introduced himself to Indian Groups with “bragging” about his record in three wars)




Burial (Arikara Graves in Mandan, N.D.)

In November 1921, while excavating for a sewer in the east end of this city, the machine dug into several old graves, which probably were made by the Arikara of the Two-Face Village.  These graves were built in the ground, with an opening at the surface of about two feet across, some of them were four feet and two I saw were at least six feet deep, and the bottom of the excavation was much larger than the opening, making a sort of cone shaped hole with the apex off.  In these were bones and pottery.  In one there were two skeletons, both having been placed therein in a sitting position, indicating burial shortly after death and not simply a gathering of bones from underneath a body scaffold as was sometimes practiced after a full circle of seasons had passed.  The skulls in all cases were so disintegrated that they could not be saved, as they rapidly crumbled after exposure to the air.  Mr. Black, the engineer in charge, told me that he saw a piece of pottery with a handle, but I could not locate it.  These graves were on the flat slopes of the hills, in a continuation of the alley between Main St. and First St., a short distance west of the ice house in the extreme eastern part of the city as it now is built.

Burial (old time version of scaffold burial)


Photo of an oil painting by White Crow, an Arikara, showing an old time Sioux, Mandan or Gros Ventre scaffold burial.  The Arikara buried in the ground.

“A Sioux Indian ceremonial tepee about 200 years old.”

Burial (Ceremonial Indian Tipi)


©1925 The Art Foto Co.

Mandan, N.D.

By B.L.Brigham

Welch remarks:  “An old Indian Tipi burial.  Not a cache for furs of the Hudson Bay co., as told by old ranchers here.”

Burials (Welch interviews Mrs. John Grass, April 22, 1921)

Q. “Where did your father die and how was he buried?”

A. “He died of sickness on the Tongue river in Montana.  He was a famous man.  We tied him in a tree.  When it got warm we buried him in the ground.  We buried people any place which we thought was a good place.”

 Burials (Welch interviews Mrs. John Grass, April 28, 1921)


“We buried where a person died if we could.  We tied him in a tree.  We had no great burial place to take them to.  We buried many in trees below the hill at Fort Yates.  And on the hill.  John Grass’ father died.  We got ready to tie him in a tree.  The soldiers would not permit us to do it.  They took him to Wakpalla and buried him in the ground there.”

 Burials (Maximillion’s 1833 notes)

“In a wood, below the fort, we found the bodies of several Assiniboins deposited on a tree.  One of them had fallen down and been torn and devoured by the wolves.  The blankets which covered the bodies were new and partly daubed with red paint, and some of the branches and limbs of the trees were coloured the same manner.  On the inclined trunk of a tree, I saw an Assiniboin wrapped in skin; the tree itself was painted red; and on one of the boughs, hung the saddle and stirrups of the deceased.”

 Burials (Larned’s “Burial” Tree)


Larned, who was a clerk for Durfee and Peck at Berthold Village, leaving in 1869, marked a tree close to the steamboat landing on the map he made for me, and called it the Funeral or Burial Tree.  He said that the women of the village tied their dead babies upon it.  While eating dinner at the foot of the cliff, I was told that we were then right where there had been many large trees, upon which the women of the old village, after the birth of a child, tied the afterbirth to the branches, with certain ceremonies.  This is, perhaps, what Larned took to be dead bodies of infants.

Burial (Elk Teeth, John Grass talks)

Welch interviews John Grass (c. 1915) about burying Elk Teeth, etc. with the body:

“Why do you in the old times bury things like elk teeth with a dead body?

“Well, I suppose they have them and are proud of them and bury the best with them.  They belong to them and they want them in the other life, maybe.  No one else is entitled to them if they are trophies of the battle field or hunting trail.  Men do great things and wear something to show it so the other people will know it too, but no one else can wear them unless the one who owns them gives them away.  No, they would not care now, if you dug up some old people.  They have no relatives or friends now, I guess.  They used to bury on poles but now they do it in the ground.  I have heard that white men are proud of elk teeth if they have some.  Just like Indians.  I know where there is a grave and we will go there some time and I will show you the place and you can dig.  It is a relative of mine buried there.  They say there are many elk teeth in that grave.”

“When the body of Mrs. Galpin was disinterred for removal and burial to Fort Yates Catholic Cemetery, a great quantity of elk teeth were found in the grave.  There is a house nearby but no Indian will go near it.  It is haunted.  They go far around the place.”

 Burial (One man’s opinion of grief)

 Dr. Rice, one time government physician at Cannon Ball, Standing Rock Reservation, says that “the parents display very little grief or sorrow for dead children.  Their grief appears to be intense for a few days but disappears after a short time, like a dumb animal.”

Note: I give this reference not because I believe it, but as a statement from him as to his own observations among them as a physician.  Welch.

Burial (Why they buried on platforms)

Fire Heart tells Welch why they buried Indians on platforms, Mandan, October 24, 1924:

“…about a week after my woman died I was alone.  I was asleep.  It was night time.  Someone pulled by blanket off.  I looked around then.  I went to sleep again.  Someone kicked me then.  I looked around then.  I went to sleep then.  I had my ears open.  I was ready to wake quick.  I was afraid of the Wanaga.  Then someone lifted my leg.  It went up high.  Then she let it drop again.  Since then I have not been able to move that leg any.  It was Wakan.  I went to see that doctor who puts his hands on and cures you.  The best place to bury them is on a platform.  Then the earth spirits don’t get them.  If he gets them, they are restless and cruel.  I have covered her grave now.  Maybe she will let me alone.”

Burial (A War Party’s Experience)

Charles Eastman, Iyanktonnaise and Interpreter for the Indian Department.  Bismarck, N.D., January 25th, 1925:

“A war party of a few men from the Sioux were at one time going toward the north in search of adventure and enemies.  They came one night into a country where they thought that they had better secrete themselves from the enemy’s sight.  So they went into a place to stay. 

They built a small fire for cooking but put it out when night time came.  They laid down to repose, but the air was full of whisperings-whisperings, all the time.  It was uncanny and distressful to the nerves.  In the morning they found that they were camped by many human bones, where some party had been murdered sometime in the past.”

Burial (Decoration Day, 1921)

I visited the cemetery at Fort Yates, Tibbits Church; the two cemeteries from there to Cannon Ball Station and the Catholic Cemetery at the Station on the 2nd of June, 1921.

Chief Grass’ grave was decorated with oranges, flags and paper flowers.  Many other graves had oranges in neat rows and all had some cheap paper flowers, mostly made by the Indians, themselves.  Every yard was neatly kept, the graves were newly covered with new dirt and the grass had been cut all over the place.  Seen from a distance the effect was that of a sea of waving flags.

 Burial (Make Believe Graves at Fort Berthold)

Mrs. Shield Necklace and Young Buffalo, Rees (Sanish), told me that there were many soldiers graves at a certain hill near Ree, on the Fort Berthold reservation.  Upon being questioned as to who they were, I was told that they did not know, but they were graves of brave men.  I found out this: 

That the people had made mounds in the grave yard and decorated them with flags, etc.  The mounds represented “some brave soldier who was killed over there.”  If they read or heard of some soldier being killed, some one would make a mound for him, “in his honor for being killed.”

This appeared to me to be a strange custom, but it seems to be about the same as our Memorial Monuments “to heroes of the War” – memorial roads, Avenues, bridges, etc. ad Infin.

 Burial (Shell Village, May 30th, 1926)

I had been invited to speak at this Indian settlement on this date.  Upon arrival there, there was a great crowd of Indians and whites.  The Old Scouts had bought a very large circus-like tent to use.  After visiting about for a time, I asked for a Mandan-Gros Ventre interpreter and sent a crier around calling the old men together.  They sat down in a large circle and waited for me to speak.  I told them that Chase and Old Mouse, two old  War Veterans were buried upon the top of the hill at Sitting Crow’s Camp.  That their relatives did not want the bodies removed to Shell Cemetery, and that I wanted them to remain where they were.  Black Bear responded and said that my words were wise ones and agreed with me.  Then Sitting Crow, the Mandan, got up and said that as I had said they would not be taken up, that they should remain there, that they belonged to the Mandans, and he hoped that the people would not talk about the matter any more.  Birds Bill, the Gros Ventre, then agreed and said that everything was all right; that Running Bear (myself) said that he wanted them to remain on the hill and that the matter would be dropped.

There were about 1000 people present, and at the cemetery there was a programme of songs, prayers, speeches, and decoration of the graves.  The yard looked like a rainbow after the paper flowers had been placed.  The Gros Ventre double quartette sang Nearer My God to Thee.  Then the Old Scouts sang a war song.  The words were “My body is nothing but dust, How long shall I live.”  This meant that they were willing to die for honor.

I spoke then in the big tent and was followed by L.B.Hanna.  I copied names of the Indian Scouts from their grave stones:


Chase the Enemy, One Buffalo, Tadahodo (‘Both Sides’), Bull going against the wind. Dancing Bull, Likes White Women, Bears Tail, Belt, Black Bear, Crow Feather, Wi (‘Sun’ – father of Birds Bill), Long Toe, Crow Bear, Butterfly, Little Flag, Iron Bull, Spotted Bear, Sitting Bird, Long Hat, Red Tail, Horn, Black Crow.

Important men of the Gros Ventre today were:  Old Dog, Drags Wolf, Birds Bill, Adlaide Stevenson.  Sitting Crow of the Mandans was also there with two or three of his head men.

 Burial (Ancient Dakotah Rites)

Memorial Ceremonies of the Sioux in honor of a Great Chief’s wife (Mrs. A.B. Welch), Cannon Ball Dance Hall, January 3rd, 1933:

 Mrs. Welch was stricken with a medular hemorrhage on December 3rd, 1932, which was quickly followed by two recurrences, within a few days, and this was developed into pneumonia, which was the direct cause of her death on December 11th.  This was on Sunday and services were held in the church on Monday,


without many people knowing of her death.  Consequently, no Indians were present.  I accompanied her body to Ironton, Ohio, where she now lies in the Lambert plot in Woodland Cemetery.  I arrived back home on the 20th of December.

Within a few days, John Little Crow (Kange Chiggalla) had been appointed by a committee to inform me that the Sioux would hold a rite in honor of their good friend, at the Indian Dance Hall, in the trees of the Missouri river bottoms, directly east of the government buildings which comprise the agency at Cannon Ball, N.D.  If the weather was good they were to come for me and bring me back.  I accepted and, on the morning of January 2nd I received a phone call that the care was broken down or in an accident, and I went to Cannon Ball by train, arriving after dark, and was met by several of the Indian Committee, who took me in a car to the home of a Mr. Young, a white man, where I had supper and waited for the car to return for me to go to the dance hall.

Cold Hand came for me and when we arrived at the hall, many people were waiting outside.  I was told to wait, and soon two young women, daughter of Two Bears and daughter of White Twin, came for me and took me by each arm.  We entered the hall, wherein were probably 400 Indians.  They led me to a certain place within the dancing area and an old woman ran toward me and spread her shawl upon the floor and I stood upon it. 

Cold Hand and family, c.1890’sbiog60-cold-hand-photo

The two girls withdrew then and I stood alone.  Not a sound was heard for at least a minute, then the drums started and singing, and the girls then took me by the arms again and started to lead me around the dance circle. 

Men were shouting my name (Mato Watakpe—he, Mato Watakpe—he). Women were singing the praise song (Li-li-li-li-li Li-li-li-li-li-li).  Many were wailing and a procession formed behind me.  They conducted me around the circle three times, slowly marching and the people singing behind me.  Then I was shown a rocking chair, directly across from the entrance to the hall, the place of honor, in any lodge.

The people who had been in the procession, marching with me, “helping Mato Watakpe,” each made a present to some individual or committee or visitor.  This done by the party taking the present to the floor and telling the crier what they wanted to give and to whom.  The crier then told all about the gift, etc., and that party would then come up and shake hands with the donator.  These presents ranged from 50¢ in money to a war bonnet.  Most of them were given in my name, and the ones who received the gifts then came to me and shook hands, just as though I had given the article myself.  Then they sung a new song for me.  The words were about like this: “I come through difficulties.  Troubles are, now.  I stumbled over a grave.  I call upon the people now.  Charging Bear says this thing.”  During the dance there were about 100 costumed people and everybody stood up during the first song and dance.

Then an announcement was made and all the people formed into a line and passing me as I stood by my seat, all shook hands as they passed.  Some few embraced me and wailed when they went to their places.  This ceremony took some time and singing was continued during it.  Then two girls, each holding the tin cup, presented me with a drink of water, and an old man loudly told me that this was to refresh me and make me strong again.  Then quite a while was taken in selecting seven people to mourn for me.  There were four men and three women to do this, and they were seated behind me, and every time I looked at them, they had their eyes downcast and looked very mournful indeed.  A drink was also given to them.  

Then two old women came with a tin dish full of meat.  This was the ceremonial dish of dog meat.  There was also two pieces of their “fried bread,” a mixture of wheat flour, slightly sweetened, rolled thin, cut into a strip and thrown into deep fat like a doughnut.  When cooked it is about six inches long, three wide and has two holes in it where the dough had been slit with a knife.  It is good to eat and testes something like a raised doughnut.  There was also an apple, a dried cake of wasna (pemmican) and a cigar of the nickel variety.  It was explained to me that this was for the purpose of giving me strength and fortitude.

Then old Walking Thunder (Wahkiyan Mani) prepared the pipe within sight of all—he at last got it loaded with kinikinik and afire, and standing directly in front of me, he handed it to me stem first, holding it with both of his hands.  I took the stem in both hands, he still holding it, too, and took two deep draughts of the white, biting smoke, exhaling them into the air with a hissing sound.  He then did the same, and presented the stem to the earth, the north, west, east and south, and then elevated it to the heavens in the south, as high as he could reach.  His head was bowed and, as he held it in that position for a few seconds to Wakantonka, no sound was made within the hall.  He then handed the pipe to the mourners behind me and they kept the pipe until it was empty.

A song of the Cante Tinza (Brave Heart Society, of which I was made a member at Poplar, Montana, in October, 1932) was sung  and all me who were members, danced alone.  There were six in this dance.  Another song was sung – The Riders of the White Horse, another society to which I belong, was sung, and as there are many belonging to this organization on the Standing Rock, it was a big one, and the women of the members also stood and sung or danced in small groups of two or three.  

 After each dance presents were made.  I received two horses, a two year old white face steer, an old man had been appointed to do that for me, which he did with many loud cries and mentioning of the name of the one who made the gift.  At last I got up to make a gift to them, and a woman spread her shawl for me to stand upon.  I had taken with me, three dozen loaves of bread and a box of apples, which I gave.  The committee shook hands with the old man who represented me.  I gave a horse to the committee who had built the floor in the dance lodge; another to the war Mothers, the bread to the committee who arranged the ceremony; the apples to the women and children, and $5.00 to the drummers and singers.

A symbolic grave was at a certain place upon the floor.  This was carefully avoided by the dancers.  This was about two feet long.  Upon it was a white bone picked from the prairie; a braid of sweetgrass; an orange; two small flags; several paper flowers; several sticks with cloth tied to the ends stuck into holes in the floor; a dried cake of wasna.  This was symbolic of the grave over which I had stumbled, as recited in the songs. 

Mr. & Mrs. Welch, 1932customs-mrs-welch-photo

When the selected mourners had finished the pipe, one of the men walked to this grave and spread ashes over it.  Dancing continued, and finally a “woman’s dance” was started by other singers with tom-toms, and three rings were made, alternate ones going in different directions in the circle.  Some white were invited into this dance.  It took much time and was no doubt very exhausting to the dancers, but that is an honor—to “dance until you are very tired and sweat comes.”  I noticed that the name of White Bear (Mato Ska) was mentioned in a song and, upon inquiry, found that he had been buried just a few days before this.  He was a great friend of mine, and lived upon the Porcupine river by Two Shields dance hall.

I noticed also that many of the younger dancers had a decoration attached to their rears, in the form of a round ‘sunburst.’  Probably the insignia of some society.  They were made of the long tall feathers of the recently game-planted pheasants. 

The Kange Yuha (Holds Crows Society) gave a special dance of their own rite.  Mrs. Welch was often called in the singing.  Finally the women were all marshaled into a circle and passed around the entire hall in line, shaking hands with every man.  That, I was told, was a New Years greeting. Time was taken out for serving meat, bread, apples and coffee—everyone was served. 

About one o’clock in the morning a strange figure came into the hall, dancing.  He was dressed in dilapidated costume and had a hump in his back and a wooden mask on his face. 

He tried to dance, but he was very old and rheumatic and could not keep time to the throb of the drums.  He leaned upon a stick and tried to make a speech.  He said, among other things, that the drum was the heart of the Indian—whiskey was the heart of the white people.  “Indians, stay close to the heart.”  But he didn’t make a very good speech.  In fact, it was very contradictory, like a Heyoka speech of theirs would be.  Another young man danced in—he was lively and danced furiously and finally discovered the old man.  The old fellow tried to get away without being seen, but he chased him at last and beat him with a stick, driving him from the place. I thought that this must represent the old year and the new, but was told that it was to show “sorrow, trouble, uneasiness, etc.—and the young dancer was happiness, joy, lightheartedness, etc.” and was to be a lesson for me to remember.  I was told that while the young man “Joy” wore a mask also, he was not supposed to, as Joy always had an “open face” – but he wore it so that people would not know exactly who he was.  Misfortune often comes with a mask on, so I was told.

During the dance which followed the appearance of the two symbolic figures of Misfortune and Happiness, the people all crowded about the symbolic grave.  When the dancers took their places to rest and smoke again, the grave was gone.  I was told that the Medicine Man had taken it away and “he will lose it someplace” – and so those very symbolic ceremonies were ended with the absence of the grave, and I shook hands with the mourners behind me and left the hall.

I slept in the “Priest’s house” under great piles of furs and a woman sat and tended the fire all night.  Early, another woman brought me a bowl of hot soup, and soon another came with a cup of cold water and a brush made of some inner bark fibre, “to wash your mount,” so she said.  They brought me some meat and fried bread and coffee.  I returned to Mandan on a train which left about 10 o’clock. 

I was told by one of the old men who made me a speech, that “these ceremonies are for Chiefs.  Women never get them, but you are a big Chief and this woman was your woman, and we loved her.  So we do this for her now.  Gall did not have it.  Sitting Bull did not have it.  Grass had it.  His son, you, you have it for your woman who is dead.”

This was a very old rite and one of the most symbolic of any ceremony I have seen among the Indians of the Northwest—in fact, it takes one with knowledge of a Mason, to compare it with other symbolic rites, and to understand it correctly.    Welch.

Burial (Gros Ventre Burial Place)

Place—Three miles west of Shell Village, Berthold Reservation.

Time—May 29th, 1923

Present—Mr. La Rock, Van Hook, N.D., Birds Bill, Jr., Shell Village.

After I addressed the people at Shell Village on this date, we drove to the high hills to the west.  The summits of these hills are about 250 feet above the valley of the Shell and Missouri rivers, and we were compelled to leave the auto at the foot of the range.  We climbed the steep grass crown slopes to the top.  This proved to be a narrow knife-like ridge jutting out into the valley.  At intervals, outcroppings of sandstone appeared.  These were broken


and weathered into many shallow caves and overhanging ledges.  There were many Indian graves (Gros Ventre) along the ridge which we followed for perhaps a half mile.  We counted over fifty graves where shallow excavations had been made to receive the bodies of the dead, and where the remains could be seen, wrapped in blankets or duck tenting.  These graves are not filled with earth, but rude roofs of poles and grass had been constructed after the body had been maid in the grave.  These roofs had fallen in after a season or two and made a rather gruesome burial place of the hill tops.  The older graves were filled in and covered with loosely thrown stones, in some instances.  There appeared to have been no idea of selection of location, as they were placed closely together in some localities and far apart in others, but most of these ground burials indicated an east and west grave. With the head placed towards the west.  In some of the shallow caverns two or more bodies lay and the entrances, low and narrow, were blocked in a rough manner, with stones.  Human bones and pieces of blankets and rotted clothing lay scattered around over the ground.  I saw no indication of paint or offerings of cloth, tobacco, arms, artificial flowers or real fruit in any place.

Twenty seven bodies, presumably of children, were in cheap trunks, placed simply upon the surface of the ground or wedged in rocky places with stones placed upon the lids, in order that the strong winds could not blow the trunk and its contents into the valley below the cliffs.  We lifted the lids of several (some were locked), and found the bodies in them to be wrapped roughly with old blankets or shawls.  At the extreme point of our examination there were many graves, one recently made.  Upon later inquiry, we learned that that burial had been made the same day, and to have been that of a nephew of Black Bear, the Rain Maker Medicine Man of the Gros Ventres.

Man other surface burials could be seen from this point, as practically all the high points in the vicinity were utilized in that manner.  Apparently little concern is shown in the careless disposal of the Gros Ventre dead, and the absence of any well-defined trails leading to the high places, indicated few visitors.  One body, upon which a few stones had been thrown at burial, within a month, had not been recovered by those who must have passed in the Black Bear party, but lay scattered around by the wolves in a most gruesome way.

These Gros Ventre formerly buried in trees or on scaffolds, and the Government has been endeavoring to stop the custom, but in this out of the way burial ground, is evidence that little progress is being made along this line and the customs of ancient times still continue along the banks of the Missouri, in the country of the Gros Ventre.

 Mandan Infant’s Grave





 James McLaughlin, U.S.Indian Agent, Devils Lake Agency, reports

 to Commissioner of Indian Affairs on his efforts to change ‘ancient’ burial practices.  Letter Dated July 31st, 1877:

In accordance with instructions contained in office circular of the 23rd of June last, requiring a special report upon the ancient and modern modes of burial and disposition of the Indian dead.  I have the honor to state, that the funeral ceremonies of the Dakota or Sioux Indians, have as far back as I can trace been the same as practiced at the time of my coming among them six years ago, and which was as follows.

As soon as any person died, a few of the friends came and laid out the body, painting the face, chest, arms, etc., and preparing the deceased for a long journey, they then wrapped the body in pieces of cloth, blankets or robe, as the case might be, and placed it upon a scaffold, several feet high, this scaffold is usually erected upon the highest point of land in the immediate neighborhood, and is made by sinking four crotched posts into the ground and placing small poles upon them, several bodies are some times placed upon one scaffold, but each family usually erects a scaffold when any member dies.  After death the body is allowed to remain but a short time as possible in the lodge, simply to pain and wrap up, and then carried out.  The bodies are usually allowed to remain on the scaffold from two to three years, or until the flesh has all disappeared and there remains nothing but the dry bones.  These are then taken and buried in the ground, usually about two feet deep.  At the burial of the bones there is seldom any ceremony, but immediately after death, when the body is placed upon the scaffold, if a male, his favorite horse is led under the scaffold and killed, the lariat placed into the dead man’s hand, so that the spirit of the horse may accompany his master into the happy hunting grounds, so that he may not be obliged to go on foot.  They always furnish the dead with some extra pairs of moccasins, so that they may be provided with these from some time in the strange country.  Everything belonging to the family is taken possession of by others, and the families left entirely destitute of food and clothing, that they may be the more miserable so as to mourn in poverty.

The female portion of the family scarify themselves, cut off their hair, and neither wash nor comb, but go in rags and filth, during the whole time of mourning which is usually one year.

The male relatives scarify their flesh throw away nearly all clothing and daub their whole person with clay and mud, and usually go on a journey to the enemy’s country, taking with them some weapon belonging to the dead relative, so that they can leave it there.

The weapon, whatever it may be, is always given to the ablest and bravest of the party, so that it will be made good use of, in securing a scalp.  This often leads to sudden attacks upon neighboring Indians, and these mourning parties, “when in this state of mind,” from their tradition and training, have always been the most to be feared, when their hearts are bad (as they express it) from the loss of a friend, for they are then dangerous persons to meet, as they are not very particular who they send to accompany their relation to the happy hunting ground, besides if they succeed in their journey without loss to themselves, they can then lay aside their mourning, and comb their hair, without a breach of decorum.

All of the above customs were practiced by the Sioux of Devils Lake upon my arrival among them six years ago, but there has been a slow but gradual change for the better since that tine,  and is very perceptible by a retrospective view, especially of the last three years, since the missionaries have located among them.  Whilst many of the old customs are still adhered to by some, others have adopted the more civilized forms of burial and mourning, and now about one third bury and mourn  as practiced by whites, whilst the more barbarous customs are almost entirely abolished.

We have upon this reservation a cemetery where the Indians who die Christians are buried, and I have talked with most of the principal Indians of the reservation within the past few weeks, for the purpose of ascertaining their feelings in regard to having a cemetery at each of the four principal settlements, and compel all to bury their dead immediately after death, and I have not found one objecting person.

I intend having all the dead of the reservation gathered from the scaffolds, and buried before winter sets in.  This will show the different feeling that exists among them, and the wonderful change that has been wrought upon them within the past few years, and that the prospect of a brighter future for the Indian is at least dawning.

I have the honor to be, Sir,

Very respectfully your obt servt,


James McLaughlin




Calendars, Names of Months

By Bear Paw, Cannon Ball, N.D., April 23, 1923.

Ihanktowanna Names of months

January           Napa ouspa Wi  (Hold hands month. Probably on account of cold).

February        Onpetu nopa osni Wi   (Two cold days month).

March             Ista Yaza Wi   (Sore eyes month).

April                Pezi To Wi   (Really green grass month).

May                 Wachkcha Edide Wi   (Flowers bloom month).

June                Onjinjantkan Wi   (Rosebud month).

July                 Doke Choka Wi   (Middle of the year month).

August            Pezi Cashada Wi   (Hay cutting month)

September     Ptietu Wi   (Mating month).

October          Chawapi Asna Wi   (Month of Falling leaves).

November      Zizi Cha Tapi Wi   (Turkey eating month).

December       Waniatu Choka Wi  (The middle of winter month).


Mandan names of months

January         Month of the seven cold days.

February        Pairing month.

March             Sore Eyes month.

April               Game Month, Wild Geese Month, Month of the breaking up of the ice.

May                Maize is sown.  Month of flowers.

June               Month of ripe service berries.

July                Month of ripe cherries.

August          Month of ripe plums.

September   Month of ripe maize.

October        Month of falling leaves.

November   Month in which the rivers freeze.

December    Month of slight frost.


Arikara Names for Months

January         Month of seven cold nights.

February       Month which kills or carries off men.

March           Wild Geese return month.

April              Month in which vegetation appears.

May-Sep      Warm Weather.

October       Month of falling leaves.

November  Month of the nose of the little serpent.

December  Month of the nose of the great serpent




Camping (old method for the Sioux)

The old method of forming camp was as follows, for the Sioux:

After the site had been selected (chosen on account of location and as near as possible to wood, pasturage and water, and well concealed from wandering enemies, and in good hunting grounds) the Hunkpapas, if any were present, pitched the first lodge.  Then the other tribes of the Nation made their camp, each in its old time-honored position with relations of the others in order.  The camp formed a complete circle if carefully built, except in the east, where there was an opening in the circle.  This opening was always there.  The last in the circle were the Hunkpati division.

A large camp was often a mile across the circle, unless it was located along the banks of a stream in a narrow valley.  The horses were herded by young boys during the day time and brought close up within the circle of tipis at night, for greater safety from sudden and dangerous stampede by an enemy or storm, as well as to guard against straying too far away.  If in the enemy country or if the enemy were in the vicinity, guards were selected, who took up position of vantage to guard against surprise.  Scouts sometimes went long distances from camp and hung upon an enemy’s flanks for days at a time.

When asked why the opening in the rough horse-shoe shaped camp was always toward the west (Masonic), Chief Grass said, “We have forgotten.  It was always so.  Our fathers did it that way.”

From their position at the end of the circle, the people who occupied that position were known as the Hunkpapa (“Those at the head end of the circle”).  The last in the circle were known as the Hunkpatina or “They camped at the other end of the circle.”

Camping (Winter camping)

Cloud Bear (c. 1920’s) on winter camping customs of the Sioux:

“They selected places where there was much wood for the winter place.  It was not in the same place every year.  For instance, the Sihasapa would camp here; the Hunkpapa would have a camp perhaps as far or as near as two or four miles away; and maybe the Miniconjou would camp across the river on the other side.”

“Then the men would go away for buffalo, maybe as far as four days or fine.  They had many ponies and they would cut the meat and take it to camp.  The women prepared the meat and skins and did most of the work around camp.  When the man came home, he would lay down in the tipi and she would take off his clothes and rub his feet and attend to him like that.  Then he sat around and smoked and talked about what he wanted to do and ate a good deal.”

Camping (moving camp customs)

Moving camp customs of the Sioux as told by Mrs. Grass, April 27, 1921:


“If my father wanted the camp to move, it moved.  It went any place he said.  He would send word by a herald to the people of the camp.  When the time came, the men went after the horses.  The women took down the tipis and they tied things up; they got all ready.  When the horses were in the camp the women tied the poles on them with cross pieces (travois).  The children rode on the poles.  In the winter we had a skin covering for it.  Sometimes we went all day time.  When there was snow we scraped it off with a horn hoe and put the tipis.  We did not have miles like now.  We went until we got to the place the Chief said to camp.  Our soldiers traveled with us.  No one was mad.  We went from one river valley to another.  Where the game was.  When it was all gone we moved, too.  Buffalo always traveled with the wind.  The Chief always said when to move and when to camp.  We had no Wamble Hunka (eagle parents) in the Miniconjou camps.  The Chief did all those things.”

Wife of Chief John Grass; one of three plural wives; all sisters.  This lady is Kampeska Emanipe Win (Walking on the Shell Woman).  Her father was White Swan, a great chief of the Miniconjou (They plant by the water) one of the seven tribes of the Tetonawanna (People of the Prairie) Dakota or Sioux Nation.  Ancient habitat was south of the Black Hills along the Minnitonka (Big Water) or the Niobrara river.  Close allies of the Oglala Dakota.  Born in 1852.  This picture taken in the Mandan Hospital porch in 1920.  She died at Eagle Butte, S.D. soon after.

This is the woman known to Major Welch as Ina (Mother) – she was a pleasant soul and known to the Dakota as the greatest woman historian among them.  This is the woman who stood in the Dakota winter winds and cold so that the Major might be warm; who hungered in order that he might be satisfied with food; who forced herself to sleepless nights that he might have sleep and rest while he was in the World War battlefields of France.

Camping (The Camp Herald)

This man (i-e-yan-pa-ha) walks or rides around the camp and cries with a loud voice, telling the people the decisions of the Chief or Headmen.  When the camp will be moved and directions for the march and suggestions as to water, wood, etc., while on the march.  His words are accepted as the will of the Chief and are acted on accordingly.  He also announces the names of famous visitors and where and when the dance will be held.

Camping (Discipline)

John Brown, 1917:

In the middle of the village there was a big tipi always.  In this place sat three or four old honored men, always.  They would give the orders when to move, in what direction and in what order; whether close together or not; they had soldiers who walked or rode ahead and at the sides and no one could go beyond them.  If they did they were punished awful sometimes.  If a man was told to do something and got mad about it or fought, these soldiers could kill them and it was all right.  If any trouble arose in camp or there was any excitement, some one would run right to this center tipi and tell the old men and their word was law about it then.  Sometimes these old men would have the camp herald tell the people to make no noise when they were changing camping places for they would be going through enemy country or where some enemy party had been seen.

 Camping Circle of old times (How Tetonawa Tribes were named)

Fast Horse talks to Welch, April 1928:

Now I am going to tell you a story.  It is a good story.  It was told to me by the old people.  My grandmother and the old people.  It is what they call the “people of the camping place.”

The Hunkpati is the first people to make camp.  That means “First camp it.”

Then comes the Hunkpapaya.  That means the Tetonwan.  In that Tetonwan place it is a big one.  It takes a lot of the camp place.

The next is the people called Sihasapa.  That is because there was a big fire. And a woman went along there.  She had no moccasins on.  Her feet became covered with ashes and black.  So that is what we call it, those people.  One time they were Hunkpapas.

Then the next one to camp, it was Miniconjou.  They got some corn and placed it in a hole in the low land where the water was.  Corn came up at that place.  So that is what we call them.

There was a boy, whose father and mother were both dead.  He had a grandmother.  So he said: They kill a buffalo over there.  If I ask them, they will give me come meat.  What kind  shall I get, my grandmother?  She said: My son, get some of that nice flank meat.  So he got that kind.  It is “cooks twice kind.”  i.e. Oohenopa (Two Kettles).

Then there were two men who had but one eye each.  They were always quarreling.  So after one time, they mixed ashes up and threw into both eyes.  So that is that.  i.e. Oglala.

Some Indians were fighting.  Indian peoples.  They went out with no bows and arrows.  Just clubs they had that time.  So they are called that, too, “Without Bows.”  i.e. Itazipecos.

Some people were standing in two places. Maybe it was a big game.  I don’t know.  A big fire came and burned the legs of some of them.  Just along one side it was.  So we call them “Burnt Thighs.”  i.e. Sicangu.

After these Tetonwan the next camp was Ihanktonwan.  Then the Isanti camped.  After that came the end, called the Ihanktonawanna.  The Hohe were between the Ihanktonwanna and the Isanti then. They made it big, the camp.  Always there was the entrance just at a little hill.  The entrance was toward the north always.

Draw it the way I tell you and I will show you something about buffalo.

Drawing shows locations of tribes in camp and the proportion they occupied. 

Also shows buffalo surround and approach.


Camping Circle (Buffalo Surround & Preservation of Meat)

Fast Horse talks to Welch, April 1928, describing the surround from Welch’s sketch:

This shows a big camp, maybe three miles across.  The lodges are set up very close together.  At the north is a little hill.  From the camp of the Hunkpati and Ihanktonawanna, men stand in a row.  Way out they stand in a line there, each way.  Every one has built a big corral where you mark it.  It is very strong.  Make of it logs and cant break out.  Two fences we make it then.  Big timbers too.  Then after that, we wait.

A medicine man he pray and sing a long time he sing.  Then he go out.  He ask the grandfather buffalos to come in.  They come too.  Always they come then.  The men stand and they come in between.  When the buffalo come to the hill, the men, they make a circle behind them.  The buffalo go in the entrance then.  They stay in the middle always.  The lodges keep them there.  They go inside the two fences then too.  And they get in the corral.

Then we kill them in the corral.  Before we have guns we do it that way.  We kill them with clubs and spears and arrows.  We eat it all up.  Nothing is thrown away.  That is for winter time meat we make it then.  The meat is dry and we make holes in the earth.  Big holes.  We place skins inside the hole.  We place the dried meat in and cover it up with grass and brush then.  No mice will go in there.  No animals will go in there.  There is new dirt with human smell on it.  The animals are afraid.  Stay away from that new dirt.

We know where the meat is, we get it when we want it.  It is not good to waste meat.  If we waste meat, the buffalo they will not come again to us.  So that is my story.




A. McG. Beede’s story, 1923:

In the winter of 1827 (very hard winter) a camp of 30 Sisseton ate human flesh, near Lac qui Parle.

Red Tomahawk’s story of Cannibalism, told about 1915:

A long time ago several Dakotah went walking a long ways.  They went west.  Only one came back.  They were fighting and were captured by some Indian people in the west direction.  I don’t know whether those Indians live yet, or not.

Red Tomahawk, 1915lb40-red-tomahawk-photo

They lived on the shores of a very large river which was out by the big water (i.e. Columbia river, undoubtedly).  They put these men, there were two of them left, in a fence with some wild pigs.  They were good to them and fed them all they would eat for a long time.  One of them ate right along.

The other thought that it was strange that they fed them so well, and pretended to have lonesome sickness, and so he did not eat very much, but got poorer all the time.  The other one, when he was fat, they killed him with some pigs and ate him at a feast time.  The other poor one, jumped into the large river and escaped and came home and told the people about it.  That is how we know.  It is an old story, we tell it.




Article written by  A. B. Welch, December 1934:

The Indians of the four tribes of the upper Missouri river have many ceremonies; in fact, nearly every undertaking of any importance was attended with ceremonies more or less complicated.  These forms of action frequently bore deep religious significance, while others simply gave expression to enthusiasm and individual emotion.

Ceremony attended the giving of a name to an infant and, also, when the infant, grown to manhood, was honored by another name, called his warrior’s name.  In the first instance, the ceremony was the usual manner of naming a child and was of minor importance, often the child not being name for years after birth.  But the giving of a warrior’s name was another matter and the usual rites carried with it honor toward the warrior for bravery displayed during some specific, special and well-authenticated affair of the war trail or hunting camp.

When a young man was permitted to put on paint for the first time, the ceremony carried with it the privilege for the young man to make presents of horses.  Every heraldic device which a man might wear bore with it an accepted significance; every feather or other article of such nature was selected with great care and ceremony, and the wearer’s record was readily known by the significance of such decoration.  A man seldom wore a feather or other such mark of honor if he were not entitled to its display.  If he did so, he was laughed at and scoffed and might even be struck by the camp soldiers at the direction of the Chief.

However, the right to wear a mark of honor was not to be disputed or questioned by every one.  A horse’s tail tied underneath the horse’s bridle bit, signified that the rider had “made first coup,” or honor, upon the enemy; a red hand painted upon the horse’s flank or upon the wearer’s body or shield indicated that the wearer had struck another horseman or had shaken hands with the enemy.  No one had the right to question the wearer concerning these different marks of honor unless he, himself, was entitled to wear similar decorations.


The important ceremonies of these tribes are, with few exceptions, accompanied by the dance, and these dances are performed with due respect to ancient and honorable customs.  The dances all bear significance; The Corn Dances of the Arikara; The Buffalo Dance of the Mandans; The Grass Dances of the Gros Ventre; The Ghost Dance of the Sioux—all refer to certain events or circumstances which now, or did in the past, exert influence upon the daily lives of the tribes, either in an economical, social or spiritual sense.

The dances often to be seen at Mandan, N.D., by tourists on the great transcontinental trails of the Northern Pacific Railway, are generally a form of the Grass Dance.  In these dances, the musicians sing of the bravery of certain warriors or soldiers of the lat World War, and mention the name of the honored soldier.  Sweet Grass and wild sage, both of which are sacred growths to the Indians, are held in the hands and these symbols of veneration and good thoughts are extended toward the tipi or the grave of the man these dancers strive to honor.  During the war it was no uncommon thing for the night traveler through the reservation to hear the wild, weird strains of an Indian song coming from the summit of some flat-topped, wind-swept butte where the old mother or father of an Indian soldier, “somewhere in France,” sung to their boy to be brave and to strike the enemy and to return with honor or be buried in “enemy ground.”  It was especially effective, it was thought, if these songs were given at night, when the intense cold and blasts of the winter caused actual suffering to the singer, and instances are known when actual force was needed to bring back the singers from possible death from exposure, for by accepting suffering it was thought that the privations of the soldiers, themselves, would be mitigated.  Well wishes as well as the attribute of bravery were though to be “sent” to the soldier in a similar manner as that of thought transference of certain students of the occult.

Among the Arikara Indians, who call themselves the Sanish, a very pretty ceremony, and one quite touching in its significance, has been performed every spring for generations.  It is not possible to give the entire ceremony, which occupies some extended time, in this short paper.  This ceremony relates to this tribe having come from “far away,” in times of the dim past.  These people came from the southwest.  The first time they were found was in 1541 by the Spanish Expedition led by Coronado which was searching for the Seven Golden Cities (Quivara).  This early Spanish force reached the Republican river near the present boundary between Kansas and Nebraska and it was here that they first saw these Indians now know as the Arikara.

The conclusion of the interesting ceremony referred to in the preceding paragraph is when the tribe follows their old men, “makes of the ceremony,” to the banks of the Missouri.  The ceremonial men carry a cedar tree, gaily decorated with ribbons; behind them come the people of the tribe with songs and wailings; the women who have lost children during the year, bearing with them the tiny, worn-out moccasins of the departed little ones.  These sorrowful reminders are tied to the green branches of the tree by the mothers and then the “Medicine Man’ wades out into the stream, which is full of floating ice from the spring break-up, and gently deposits the tree, bearing its pitiful, yet hopeful, story of the survival of this people, upon the swollen current of the great river which flows to the south, in the hopes that someone of their lost “Mother People” away in the south will bring the strange message to the shore and, reading the peculiar decorations upon the little moccasins, will know that this tribe, which has traveled so far away into the north, is still alive and sends a message “Home.”


The Gros Ventre tribe, “who came up from the waters of Devils Lake a long time ago,”  traveled to the eastern or left bank of the Missouri river at a point just south of Mandan, N.D., where they were accepted as friends and allies of the strong Mandan Nation, whose principal village occupied the ground at the foot of the first high hill on the west, which may be seen as the Northern Pacific trains cross the Bismarck-Mandan bridge.  This village was an aged ruin even in 1804, when the Lewis and Clark Expedition camped in the immediate vicinity, on its history-making journey to the mouth of the Columbia.  The Mandans and their allies, the Gros Ventre, had been forced to new locations a few miles up the river by their hard-fighting enemies, the Sioux.

These two tribes united in strange ceremonies, which took place around a sacred object which was set up in the middle of the Mandan Village.  This has been called by various writers “The Ark,” “The Big Canoe,” “Memorial to the Flood,” and other names descriptive of the tradition of the flood, which it commemorates.  This memorial is still in existence and has been seen by the writer.

Around the “altar” of this, the strangest Indian tribe north of the Rio Grande, were performed the bloody ceremonies of the dance which Geo. Catlin, who witnessed it in 1832, calls the “Buffalo Dance.”  This was in reality the Mandan form of the Sun Dance of the Plains Indians.  The Mandans carried the cruel rites to an extent of voluntary suffering far beyond that of any other tribe.  It was the custom to “try out” the young men who presented themselves as candidates for service as warriors by passing them through this ceremony.

After much preparation, a knife or a pointed stick was pass through the muscles of the candidate’s breasts; skewers were then thrust through the holes and securely tied to rawhide ropes and the candidate was drawn up until his feet were free of the ground.  While suspended, he was swung and turned by rough hands and his friends sometimes even clung to him and jerked in order that the strong muscles might be torn loose.  Failing in this, other slits were made in his arms and back and buffalo skulls weighing often forty pounds were suspended there from.  While suspended, the young aspirant prayed to the “Lord of Life” for strength and fortitude.  After a time, he would be cut down and taken out to the “Memorial of the Flood” where he was compelled to run until the buffalo skulls had been torn loose.  According to his stoicism and strength he was then given rank among the warriors of the tribe.

The government has long since stopped the cruel ceremonies of the Sun Dance and the religious rites of the Ghost Dance.  Many old men, however, among the tribes, are proud of the terrible scares which they bear upon their bronze breasts and arms, which indicate the torture through which they voluntarily passed in order “to become a man.”  With the death of the  Medicine Man, Sitting Bull, the Ghost Dance ceased to be performed, but most of the other strange rites and ceremonies of the olden times of the tribes along the upper Missouri river, are still practiced in a more or less modified manner upon the sun-drenched prairies of deep badlands along the Missouri.          ABW, December-1934




Welch’s  opinion of the Indian; paper written in 1924:

And now what of the Indians of today?  Not long since I passed along a wire fence beyond which the stubble of a North Dakota wheat field appeared above the light fall of snow.  In the wire enclosure and within a few feet of the melancholy stubble, was to be seen a board at the end of a mound of earth and, upon this board, burnt with a hot iron was “Sitting Bull  – Indian.”

And I passed the Standing Rock which, according to tradition, was once a woman, and our machine came to a stop in front of the trader’s store.  On the wooden porch were a number of old men:  old Blue Thunder, the Herald, who was the messenger sent for help by that influential Indian woman, Wambdi Autapawin, who by her action, saved the whites of the Grand river post from a raging horde of excited Sioux warriors;  here was Fire Heart, the Sihasapa, to whose ancestors the spirit woman in white gave the first seed of the corn plant; and No Two Horns, the historian; Red Fish, who risked his life to rescue a comrade in battle of unprinted history;  Charging Thunder, who received his name on account of having charged a brass cannon alone;  His Holy Road, who performed a vow;  the Warriors Shoot Holy, Feather Necklace, Crow Ghost and Chase Flying.  All old men of the buffalo days.  And Red Tomahawk, the dignified, who was a sergt. Of Indian Police in 1890 and whose bullets ended the life of that last, powerful, irreconcilable, whose grave I had just passed among the wheat, weedy stubble, on the other side of the rusty wire fence.


And I will confess to you that a feeling of sadness comes over me whenever I sit down and smoke with a group of these noble, kind-hearted men of the olden times, and listen to their tales of war party and hunting trail, and I wish that it were within my power to correct the many misconceptions and the ridiculous ideas which have been formed in regard to the Indian.  I am informed that the Chicago Historical Society is actively engaged in an endeavor to correct these mistaken notions and place the American Indian in his true light before the students of our country and I congratulate them.

I read much about the Indian and it appears to me that one of the greatest errors of  authors is to make of the Indian, a mystic.  They endeavor to make him a sort of a mysterious creature, surrounded by hazy myths, strange and heathen customs and taboos.  This applies as well to some whose writings are sponsored and given wide circulation by the Smithsonian and other Societies, as to those who spend a day or a month among the Indians and then go home and write a book.

I remember such a one in which a party watched an old Sioux Indian scraping a piece of hide supposed to have been a human scalp.  A long paper was written and printed regarding each and every movement made by the old man as he ceremoniously handled this hide.  It was a very grave affair and surrounded with religious ceremony and heathen rite  –  very mysterious indeed.  Now, the fact is that the Sioux did not save scalps after the scalp dance of the women, and I believe that one could not now be found in a year’s search among them.  It is well known fact that an Indian gets much pleasure and enjoys to the utmost, in telling stories and instances of his own personal bravery and prowess  –  especially if he knows what the listener desires to know.  He will say yes to a question, and if he sees that that is not the answer desired, he will change adroitly to no.  So, I can imagine this old Indian going through a lot of useless motions and ceremonies because he knew that he was being watched.  When the watcher departed, he probably threw the old piece of horse’s mane away and he and his good wife had a hearty laugh.  The author became known, the Society printed the paper which was read by the old couple’s son off at school, who also chuckled, and no one was fooled except the real student of Indians who depends upon such writings for his information.

I have been among some of the strange and little known aborigines of the world and have taken close observations of the native Kanaka, and other south sea People and many tribes of the Filipine Archipelago, including the Igrotte and Negoita and other hill tribes, and to a limited extent, with native African Negroes from the French and Belgian Congo.  In comparison with these other native people, I find that the Indian is a person of excellent intelligence.  He is not supposititious like the negro or the Igrotte, who have been known to run away from things new to them like a steam engine, a telephone or a clock.  As an instance of this, I might mention the eagerness with which that wonderful chief, Gall of the Hunkpapa Sioux, endeavored to find out all about a cannon, upon hearing its reports and seeing the effects of its fire for the first time.  He took the first opportunity presented, to enter the stockade at Fort rice and examine one of the pieces there.  To him it presented nothing of the supernatural, but he marveled at the mechanism and when he returned to his waiting people, he was able to tell them that is was nothing but a piece of machinery and not Wakan.


Speaking of Chief Gall, he went together with Chief John Grass to ask the Commanding Officer of this post to keep his men within certain bounds and he would do the same with his warriors, thereby preventing clashes between the soldiers and the Indians.  As these two old chiefs were leaving the fort after an unsatisfactory conference, with soldiers at their heels, the guards persisted in pricking their legs with the points of their bayonets.  Grass told Gall not to jump as the soldiers wanted an opportunity to shoot them both.  However, as a soldier became too rough, Gall gently took the bayonet in his hand.  This hostile act of Gall was his undoing, for the soldier drew back and pierced Gall in the chest.  Grass told me that the bayonet extended clean through his body the length of two hands, or about six inches.  Standing upon the prostrate body of the noble old chief, the soldier withdrew the three-cornered bayonet and Grass picked up the body and carried it to his horse which was tied in a clump of trees in the draw close by.

He was nursed back to health, and took a vow of vengeance.

How well he kept that vow may be imagined when I tell you that Gall was recognized “First Soldier” or commanding officer, as we call it, of all the allied tribes, on that hot day in June, 1876, when the wild, hard-fighting warriors of the Sioux suddenly turned their horses heads toward the center of the circle, swept in as far as possible, leapt to the ground, and killed with stone clubs the remnant of brave Custer’s immediate command.

ABW  (Note:  This stabbing incident occurred during the winter of 1865-66 at Fort Rice according to “Blue Thunder’s Winter Count.)

Undated notes,  but prior to John Grass’ death in 1918:

It is generally supposed that the Indian is a person of very grave and forbidding demeanor; a picture is drawn of him and of Indian Life in popular stories and magazines, depicting him stern and haughty.  It is said that he never smiles or laughs; that he is very disdainful; a creature lacking in mirth and the joy of life, generally.  These erroneous ideas have been taught so long that they are quite widely believed and accepted.


I have found the Indian to be quite different;  it is true that among the whites he is uncommunicative  –  for he does not speak English well, perhaps; then again, he is a great sign artist, and the close observance he gives to everything is not the result of fear, but he often is able to know what the white man is talking about by the signs the speaker makes with his hands as well as his facial expressions.

Often Indians who are able to talk English allow the impression to be made that they cannot do so.  They then refuse to talk, but can understand everything which is said.  In this manner they frequently hear strange and astonishing things said regarding themselves.  At such time they are capable of great immobility of countenance;  they appear to be indifferent, whilst in reality they are closely watching and listening.  I have heard them talking of certain conversations they had heard and heartily laughing over them, and telling how they had got ahead of the white man.

In their general camp life, and around the home, they are happy and gay.  The young children run and play like any other healthy child does who is full of pure air and the joy of living;  young girls and boys yell and laugh at their work and play;  in the camp at evening the young men and women carry on their love affairs with just as much zest as their white brothers and sisters;  the women of the tipis sit together and work and talk and laugh loud and heartily at some story or joke;  the men folk appear to be more sedate as they sit together and talk in low voices.  The general air of happiness and contentment has struck me forcibly.

When I meet an Indian and shake hands with him, his joy is unmistakable if he knows me.  Old Chief Grass’ grand old face lights up all over;  his eyes fairly talk and he smiles and talks;  if there is a crowd they all come to shake hands;  the men talk and the women make very peculiar sounds of joy (“Ho Ho He e e”), covering the mouth with the palm of their hand in the sign of wonder and astonishment;  if I am not known to them when I speak, I tell them who I am, and they know at once and crowd around to shake hands.

When I am alone with them they talk very easily with smiles and laughter;  but when a white person comes up and joins the circle, most conversation stops at once.  They other party is the intruder.

Remarks from Col. Steen (1919) and Crow Ghost:

Col. Steen talks about honesty:

“They were very religious in the old days.  The old men did not lie often.  In hearings, I always put them on their honor to tell the truth, never under the white man’s oath.  The older ones were very honest with their own people, but the young ones, after having been sent east to school, were the bad ones.”

Col. Steen talks about religious beliefs (a delightful story):

Welch, in full regalia, and A.McG.Beede, 1932customs59-mcbeede-photo

“They were having an Episcopal Church meeting once down there (Fort Yates) and Beede had gone around through the village and told the people to come to communion but to first think of all their wicked deeds and repent of them.  Well, the Bishop attended to three tables and then, after all was over, a woman came to the altar and asked to partake of communion.  She was asked why she had not come with the rest and she said that you told me to think of all my bad deeds and I tied a knot in a string for every one.  Then, I repented of each one and untied a knot in a string when I repented.  There were so many that I could not get them all untied in time to partake with the rest.”

Col. Steen talks about candid remarks:

“I kicked an old man out of the office one day.  He certainly had been exasperating and I lost my temper altogether and went after the old fellow pretty roughly, I guess.  He taught me a lesson I have never forgotten.  He turned to me and said:  “You came here to govern us.  How do you expect to govern others when you can not govern yourself.””

Crow Ghost on revenge:

“….if a man has a son killed by the enemy he can raise a war party like I told you.”



 How Chiefs were made and lines maintained

  Leo Cadotte, Grand River Country, Standing Rock Reservation, talks to Welch at Mandan on September 6, 1943:

“Neither Black Moon nor Tall Mandan were Chiefs.  That came about this way:  In the Laramie Treaty of 1851 Tall Mandan was delegated powers to act and speak for the Sihasapa there  –  you would call that Power of Attorney.  So he went with the party to Laramie and spoke for the Sihasapa.  The old people tell me this thing, and Auntie Cross agrees that that was so.  Sicolahun went also, but he was Chief and sat still because Tall Mandan spoke for the Sihasapa.   Now the archives get things wrong often because he was “delegated” by the Sihasapa to do so, and the treaty Commissioners would then always say that he was a Chief, when in reality he was Attorney in fact as you say.  Both Black Moon and Tall Mandan were “Commanding Officers” of the Soldiers Societies to which they belonged.  I think that both of them were officers in the Cante Tinze (Brave Hearts) Society.  Soldiers always called any of the various societies who kept order in the camps, “Dog Soldiers.”  They were both powerful influences, but not Chiefs.  Real Chiefs often married the daughters of other Chiefs and so many Chiefs of various divisions of the Tetons were related to each other.  They called these relationships of the Chiefs of various Teton tribes  –  The Ruling Class.  I have heard that the sons of kings in Europe marry the daughters of other kings.  It is the same.”

Chieftainship  –  Hereditary Rights

 John Gayton, Cannon Ball, August 7, 1915, talks to Welch:

“They fully recognize chieftainship by hereditary rights, but this was not always followed. But the son of a chief had the first right to the position if he could fill the bill.  So, in some cases, it has been set aside as so much depended upon the individual to make good his right to claim the place.  He must show marked ability as a leader of men.

“Delegation of power to make treaties and represent the people at any council was generally given to the chief, but sometimes another man was selected to “speak for the people.” (Welch Note:  see the treaties where Chief John Grass was representing the tribes.  Chieftainship came more by gradual growth of influence than by appointment or specific election or request by the people.) “All men invited to a council have a right to speak.  Everyone, however, is not invited, only influential men.  This invitation is made by the chief and his advisors.  When a decision was once made during a council, it was final and was adopted as the policy of the entire people represented there.  A chief signed treaties for his people and there was no recourse after it was done.  They had told him in council, before that, what to do.”

Observations regarding Chieftainship, especially the “Great Coat” or “Great Robe:”

May 5th and 6th, 1941 at the home of John Cadotte, Sr. on Oak Creek, Wakpala, S.D.

Present  –  John Cadotte, Sr., and wife, Leo Cadotte, High Reach (Abraham Buckley), Kills in the Water (Isadore Waters), White Cloud (sometimes called End of the Cloud), which was his father’s name, Drags Down (the enemy), Woman who is Mrs. Theresa Cross (Auntie), Mrs. Honer, an Indian Woman, Col. A.B.Welch and Angela Boleyn of Fargo, N.D.

Purpose of meeting  –  An arranged meeting with the Sihasapa to secure data for the history of Chief John Grass.

Interpreters  –  Leo Cadotte, Mrs. Cadotte, Sr., and Mrs. Honer.  All Indians present were “old people” and accepted by the people as “knowing all the stories of the Sihasapa.”

After questioning the old people as to the reason why Chief Grass “could not be soldier killed” by the members of whatever Soldier Society was in charge at any particular time, the question was asked:

Q  –  What are the requirements for Chieftainship?

A  –  There are many requirements.  It was very difficult to be brave enough to become a Chief, even if the tribe or band wanted him.  But they wanted only the bravest man.  Only a Chief can wear the GREAT COAT or THE BIG ROBE……

We endeavored to obtain knowledge as to this “Great Coat or Big Robe,” but the answers were not satisfactory and we came away without knowing whether it was really a robe, a ‘shirt’ or a ‘Medicine.’

However, we do find reference to such a Robe or Shirt in a volume by Vestal  –  “Warpath”  –  Houghton, Mifflin Company, 1934, which possibly throws some light upon the subject.  This is a story of the life of a Minniconjou Teton, Chief Joseph White Bull (Pte san Hunka), son of Makes Room, who was a Minniconjou Chief and had married Good Feather, who was the sister of the notorious Sitting Bull.

Quoting from WARPATH, Chapter XXIII  –  “White Bull Becomes a Chief”

“In 1881, White Bull’s 32nd winter, the head men of the Minniconjou Sioux called a council to appoint new Chiefs.  At the time, only three of the six head chiefs, or Scalp Shirt Men, were living.  The head men decided to appoint five more Chiefs and hold a Sun Dance.  Chieftaincy among the Minniconjou was hereditary in theory, but in practice only an able man could step into his father’s moccasins…….”

One Bull, on left, White Bull, on right, 1934lb29-one-bull-and-white-bull-photo“White Bull….sitting on his pony… they took him by the hand and led him into the center of the circle.  Thus he was appointed in place of his father, Makes Room, and thereafter had the privilege of wearing the buckskin shirt decorated with fringes of human hair.  Big Crow was named second, Touch the Cloud, third, White Swan, fourth, Touch the Bear, fifth…”

Note( the new chief, White Swan (Waga Ska) was the father of Chief John Grass’ last living wife, Walking on the Shell Woman—the woman I called Mother (Ina) – Welch).

The story, as told by White Bull to Stanley Vestal, mentions a ‘shirt decorated with fringes of human hair’ as a privilege of the Chiefs.  In the council held at the Cadotte log-house on Oak Creek at Wakpapa, mention was made of a Great Coat or Big Rob as the privilege of Chiefs only, and it was stated that Grass was given this honor.  There appears to be similarity between the story of White Bull and Grass  –  each being Chiefs and permitted to wear a shirt fringed with human hair.

At the ceremony of Alowanpi (Adoption) of myself in 1912, one of the gifts presented to me then, was the hair-fringed shirt of John Grass.  Perhaps the significance of this gift was not realized at that time by me and it may have been that Grass, thinking that I did not fully realize it, made no special reference to it.  But the Sioux always have said that I was a Chief  –  “taking my father’s place,”  and the people have always called me Chief  –  but I know of no other white men (adopted as I was) who had that distinction.

Whenever I have pitched my tent or my tipi in the circle of a camp   –  disputes and other troubles have been brought to my attention and, at times, I have decided disputed questions among them; said whether or not there would be a dance, and decided the locations of such when two bands wanted in in their own particular part of the camp; in councils and visiting groups I have been given the place of honor opposite the door or entrance and the pipe has first been smoked by me, and in many other ways I have sensed the distinction accorded to a Chief.  Especially did I notice this while engaged in selecting a war party from among a large camp in 1917 (This was selecting about 75 Sioux to enlist and go against the Germans in France)

It appears to me that the statements of the meeting with the Sihasapa at Cadotte’s log house on the Oak Creek (down “Mowbridge way”  –  a nice little city by the way) was corroborated by that of White Bull’s statement to Vestal  –  and that the Great Coat or Big Robe might well be the “buckskin shirt decorated with fringes of human hair”  The shirt given to me by Chief Grass, is still in good condition and among my prized possessions.

Making of Chief Ceremony

Welch notes (c 1925)  –  Thomas Walker of Hekton, N.D. (now Cannon Ball) on the Standing Rock, whose father (Crazy Walking, who died in 1879) was a full-blooded Yanktonai is eligible to chieftainship of that tribe of the Dakota.  This through descent by his father.  I asked him what ceremony they had and he said:

“Delegates from all bands are selected and sent to a certain spot for council.  The council is called and we go into a tipi.  The head man  makes a speech and tells of the claims of this man for chieftainship.  Then he takes the pipe and fills it.  He then holds the pipe stem toward the candidate and he takes two puffs.  The pipe is then passed around to every one, who smoke it.  Then another man gets up and makes talk and lights the pipe and the same thing is done again.  It takes a long time and while it is in progress, the women circle the tipi and sing songs about this new chief.  Food is brought in and eaten by the men in the tipi.  After every man present at the council has made a speech a dance is held in the evening and a great feast is given by the relatives of the new chief, and a Herald goes through the camp who tells the people that a new chief is selected and to obey his authority and listen to his wisdom.”

How Two Bears became Yanktonai Chief

Yellow Horse tells a story to Welch, Feb 25th, 1921:

Miss Van Solen, interpreter.

“When White Beard asked us at that council at Chamberlain who the chief was so he could talk to him, the men got together and named Two Bears because he was a fine upstanding fellow and a warrior and was dressed well, too.  So he talked for us and White Beard said that he would make him chief, too.  So afterward he got some papers from Washington which said that Two Bears was chief.  He was a great man after that and that is the way he got to be chief.”

Welch notes:  Bone Necklace was the man who made the speech to White Beard about Two Bears being the chief.

Blue Thunder’s Winter Count for winter of  1854-55 …. “White Man called “White Beard” called council at Fort Pierre with Indians.  Made a treaty with him.  Kept him all winter.”

Blue Thunder’s Winter Count  for winter 1871-72 …. “Two Bears went to Washington.  Come Back. Went to War.”




First Cloth … Mrs. John Grass, April 28, 1921, talks to Welch:

“In the old days we all wore buckskin clothes.  Only those who were much honored had cloth.  Some wore beads on the clothes, too.  I had an aunt who married a white man.  He gave her much cloth.  She gave us a lot.  We had cloth dresses then.  The most valuable thing any one had in the old days was a gun.  We had many horses but a gun was very valuable.”

Mrs. Crow Ghost, Welch, Crow Ghost, c,1924customs41-mr-and-mrs-crow-ghost

Crow Ghost talks to Welch (c. 1920’s):


“….I make you a present of this old time buckskin coat.  It took four men to make the hair on it.”  (i.e. FOUR SCALPS!)

Andrew Iron Roads talks to Welch, 1915:

“In old times when a woman wore a bonnet it was to give it away as a present to some one.  Now, some women wear bonnets in parades and not give away and the Indians laugh at them, now.”

Clothing  –  Buckskin Dress used in Ghost Dances





Children (Birth Control)

A.McG.Beede talks to Welch, 1923:

“The mother instinct and the right to bear children was acknowledged by the old time Dakotah, as the greatest influence and it was thought best to bear four, and only four, children.

“So you will notice that they had names for but four girls and four boys, Winona, etc., for the girls and Chaska, etc., for the boys.

“It was considered disgraceful to have more or less than four children.  They figured out that one of these four would die in infancy; one as a young warrior or woman; and the other two would be expected to live and propagate the race.

“Old medicine men have told me that they gave the women medicine which did not harm them, but, by its use, they could conceive but once a year.”

Welch note:  He was surprised that I had never heard about that thing.  But I will confess that it is new to me.



Comparison of old and present times

Conversation with Enemy Heart, full blooded Mandan, December 1920:


I am a young man.  You are very old.  You are a chief and so you always tell the truth.  You know many things which I do not know.  You were a young man before the white man’s laws came here.  You were a warrior then.  Now you walk around without fear of death from anybody.  I ask you a question  –  Which was the best and happiest time…then or now?

Enemy Heart:

They tell me that you, too, are a warrior and have been in many hard battles where death was.   Yet you talk as though death was to be feared.  I can not believe that.  If you die in battle and are brave then, you die well and the people sing about you.  They dance for you and offer a feast.  That is good and what we want.  We do not want to be forgotten.  If we are not brave and run away from danger of the enemy, then we are forgotten..

In the old times we did not have any law.  If we wanted to, we went out and hunted the enemy.  Maybe we killed him and maybe we let him go.  We thought it was all right to kill him if we wanted to.  That was the way God did with us then.  No one came after us to make up trouble about that.  They did not put us in jail to keep us for a long time.  If we were hungry we went after game and took it where we found it.  We were healthy then.  We did not live in houses.  Then we began to live in houses we began to die from a sickness.  We died from the spotted sickness before, but this was a new one (i.e. WWI Flu Epidemic?).  Our children die from it now and many cough now and sweat at night time.  When the sun was hot in the summer time we liked that.  When the winter time came with the ice and cold, we liked that.  We did not want many clothes.  We did not need them.  The houses of dirt had a big hole in the top.  We were happy then.  I think it was better than for us.  I do not find fault with God for this thing.  Only I do not quite understand.

I have seen your store with all its things.  I think you have worked hard for that.  Our young men worked just as hard for other things.  Our young men can talk English and go among the white people.  One thing bothers me:  I never saw an Indian have a store like yours is.  He works hard but he can not do like you do.  I think you must have worked just as hard to get all those good things as I did to get war honor when I was a young man.  I think God is pleased that I worked hard for that.  I think he is pleased for you to work hard for what you are after.  Honor and food was all we wanted.  Now you want honor and food and many things for the comfort and needs of the people.  Maybe we were both right.

Now I will answer your question …. I think the olden times were best for the Indian and the present time is the best for the white man.  Hao!



Cooking (Boiling Meat in old times)

High Reach (Abraham Buckley) talks to Welch, May 6, 1941, Oak Creek, S.D.:

“Since 1832 it has been the same.  The Catholics, Episcopals and Congregationalists came among us and told us that the way to make adjustments was to join a church and promote civilization.  That things would be accomplished through churches and Christianity.  Still it is the same.  Only we are poorer now.  Things are much worse.

In the early years we have stock and farms.  And the agents had the Indians run those farms.  During that time the Indians were more self-supporting.  Perhaps it was the good supervision and disciplining.  But we lived much better.  We had an average of eight cows to a family, and many horses.

Now we have senators and representatives who were from other countries and I do not think they understand this country or the Indians.  We have nothing.  I am 75 years old.”

Mrs. Circling Hawk, seated, 84 years old, about 1925, Little Eagle, S.D.  

The wife of a great warrior who rode a giant black horse in the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

Mrs. Circling Hawk, seated, 1925


Boiling meat in olden times:

At a camp of 175 lodges on the Cannon Ball river, July 6-7-8, 1915, where I went to make a fourth of July speech to the Indians, several old men showed me how they cooked meat before they had pots or kettles of iron or earthenware.  Hundreds of Indians sat around and watched the proceedings.  Mrs. Welch and Dr. & Mrs. Rice of Cannon Ball were also present, besides other whites.

A hole was dug in the ground, about 18 x 24 inches and 18 inches deep.  A pile of stones the size of one’s two fists was collected, a fire was built and the stones placed thereon with fire under and around them to heat them.

A hunter soon appeared with fresh meat in imitation of buffalo meat, and he also brought the stomach of the animal.  This was opened and pegged over the hole in the ground with six inch sticks about two inches apart; a cold rock was placed in the middle of the stomach to make it sag; about a bucket of water was then poured in.  The meat was cut into strips eight or ten inches long.

The rocks were picked out of the fire when hot, with a racquet of green willows, the ashes were blown off and then the hot rock was dropped into the water, which boiled very quickly and violently.  The meat strips were then dropped into the hot water, which was so hot that the outside was seared and held the juices within.  In a few minutes it was ready to be eaten and I found it to be exceedingly good to eat.  As the stones cooled in the water they were removed and replaced upon the fire to use again, if needed.

The stomach was finally cut into little strips and eaten.  I paid twenty five cents for some of the meat and handed it to Chief Grass.  He ate it all with great relish without offering any of it to any one else.  It appeared proper to eat all of a present himself.

Maximillion, 1833 notes:

“Another turnip-like root called by the Canadiens, racine a tabac, is buried in the earth with hot stones, and becomes black when fit to eat; it has a sweetish taste like parsnip.”





 How Chiefs were made and lines maintained