Life on the Plains in the 1800’s (“In-Laws” thru “Quills, Paints, Dyes”) as told to Col A. B. Welch

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



In-Laws    It is considered the thing for men to be ashamed of his relatives on his wife’s side of the family

Keeping the Ghost    September 10th, 1915, Crow Ghost talks

Law & Order    I am convinced that (white) people do not know the true status of the manner in which laws were made and how the affairs of the Indian community were conducted.

Marriage    1921 notes…Fifty years ago it was the honorable and common thing among the Dakotah to buy wives

Medicine    Medicine Stones, Medicine Man tricks, Worms in the head, Coffee’s snake medicine….etc….

Mourning    Sioux Ceremony at Cannon Ball, July 28th, 1933, etc.

Par Fleshe Boxes    made of a single piece of rawhide.

Peace    Story of Northern Cheyenne and Dakotah Peace, about 1917, maybe with John Grass

Pipe Ceremony    Drag’s Wolf performs the Pipe Ceremony, Feb. 10, 1934.

Quills, Paints, Dyes    Mrs. Grass tells Mrs. Welch of ancient dyestuffs, May 5th, 1921




Welch notes, undated:

It is considered the thing for men to be ashamed of his relatives on his wife’s side of the family, especially of the females.  Likewise, it is all right for a woman to be ashamed of her husband’s relatives, especially the males.  They are not supposed to have much to do with these named and not to look them in the face or in any way show them attention or mention their names.

Introductions, First Meeting & Recognition, Welch notes, undated:

An Indian has no set form of social introduction of one to another.  It is not thought discourteous when strangers meet, to ask each other their names, where they came from and where they are going, and many times when I have met an Indian for the first time, he or she has asked my age within a few minutes.

Many times, while walking with Indians, we have passed an Indian, especially in the streets of a city like Bismarck, and not a sign of recognition passes between the Indians.  When asked why they did not speak or if they knew of the other Indian, they have often said, “He is a Hidatsa.  I do not know him,” or “He is another people.”

One time, while taking Chief Grass and a party through the North Dakota Penitentiary at Bismarck, the Chief pointed out an Indian convict who was working at one of the twine machines.  He was a young man without any striking difference of features noticeable to me.  Grass said, “He is Hahatomwan (Chippewa).  This young man was named Rising Sun.  As the Chippewa is hereditary enemy of the Dakotah, Grass passed with no sign of attention to him, although the interpreter, Thomas Ashley, talked with him for a few minutes.

It seems that an old Indian can tell the tribe to which a stranger belongs quite readily, just as we can tell a German or a Jew or a Scandinavian.  The Dakotah is a splendid reader of human character and they form their likes and dislikes very quickly.  These impressions are very hard to correct and the idea first formed is seldom changed.  If you are liked by a Dakotah, mere talk by another white man against you does not suffice to change his affection for you.  In your Indian friend’s mind he says, “White man nearly all lie.  They always want to get ahead when they talk.”

Stephan R. Riggs, who lived much among the Dakotah, mentions the fact that the people went through the motions of wiping the face of another in salutation.



Keeping the Ghost

Audience of sixteen old Dakotah men, September 10th, 1915, Crow Ghost talks, interpreter Leo Cadotte (Black Hawk):

Crow Ghostbiog71-crow-ghost-photo

“When a man has a daughter he loves and she dies, he keeps some of her hair sometimes and ties it up in a buckskin bag he carries then.  He loves her so well that he does not want to lose her.  In this way her spirit stays around. He feeds everyone who wants to eat as long as he has anything left.  Everyone is welcome to come and eat and smoke then.  He honors the spirit that way.  It is very good and makes the man famous.

For this he can carry the pipe and tobacco pouch after that.  It was this way in old times but now it is somewhat different and some men carry them now who have not the right to do so.  This thing is called ‘Keeping the Ghost.’”



Law & Order

Background by Welch, 1924 notes (reads like a lecture) ;

From questions asked me frequently, I am convinced that (white) people do not know the true status of the manner in which laws were made and how the affairs of the Indian community were conducted.

Indians lived in communities which might be large or small as occasion demanded from a small number of  families to a camp of the entire tribe or tribes. I am told by a daughter of old chief White Swan of the Minniconjou that seven tribes mourned for him at his death and, that the camp was as great as from Mandan to old Fort Lincoln place  – or, six miles.  These camps were not a hit and miss affair.  Each tribe had its own place in the rough circle, so that it was always easy to locate any one if his tribe was known.  Not only that, but also, the system prevented jealousy and hard feeling by reason of some one tribe having a better camping ground than some other.

A large camp was ruled over by a group of men, of experience and wisdom, and this group of advisors to the principal chief were sometimes called “The Eagle Parents.”  They are commonly called by the express, “The Ruling Class,” and my Winter Count of the year 1830-31 is the story of the elevation of a man to the ruling class.

I understand that a party accused of crime might ask for and receive a review of the circumstances by this Ruling Class and that a hearing might be had before either a woman’s court or a man’s court.

The welfare of the people in the camp or on the march was looked after by certain so-called Soldier’s Societies.  Especially famous among the Sioux was the Soldier’s Society known as the Riders of the White Horse, whose members were carefully selected men of bravery and judgment.  Some members of this organization were on duty at all times and they carried out the orders of the chief or the ruling class.  Their duty was to see that the common customs were carried out and also any special requirement which might be announced pertaining to any special occasion or circumstances they were responsible for.

The discipline of the camp and march, at all times, was a matter of great importance, especially if the party was in the country of the enemy or disputed hunting grounds.  The desires of the Chief were given to the camp by the herald, who rode completely around and cried out the programmed for the day or for a future event.  He might announce that the camp would move the next morning at sunrise; that all should move at one time in a compact body, or it might be that they would be allowed to form a column;  that they should not forget anything; they should not leave any children or old people behind; that they would camp at evening on a stream of water and fires might be built and meat cooked; they should not make any smoke, but keep a bright flame fire; the fires would be quenched as dark came; there would be no hunting on the march and no guns would be fired; the horses would be kept close at night and the dogs must not bark; the young soldiers would be far in front and scout out the country on the flanks during the march; the older warriors would ride before the people and some would be in the rear; they would all travel at the same speed and no one should fall behind.

The observances of these rules was compelled by the White Horse Riders.  If any man hunted or fired his gun against the orders, the Riders might burn his lodge and blankets, kill his horses and destroy his store of provisions. They might even break his bones if they thought it necessary and if he resisted they might even kill him and receive no censure.

It was always a great honor to be selected to be a member of this important society, and the organization is still an active part of the community life of the Cannon Ball Indians on the Standing Rock.  They still carry out the old ceremonies of visiting the sick and distressed and looking after the homeless, the aged, destitute and orphans and of taking charge of the burials of brave men who die.  I have had the bodies of two Sioux soldiers, killed in action in France, returned home, and they both were buried under full ceremonies of the White Horse Riders.

Punishment for a Crime

Crow Man talks to Welch, 1921;

“In the old times a murderer is sent out of the camp for about four months.  He stays quite a distance off from the people all that time.  Maybe he makes himself a shade of boughs.  Some people might take him something to eat.  They place it on the ground quite a ways from him and go away.  He goes and gets the food.  Then he comes back after the time he has been sent away for, the people do not like him or treat him very well for a long time.  He has his own things to eat out of.  No one eats out of his dishes.  They don’t want to do that because he killed someone.”

Punishment for a Crime, Camp Soldiers

Crow Man talks to Welch, 1921;

“The soldiers are selected and serve as that for as long as they are told to.  They wear black paint on their faces, make black crosses.  They do what the law is.  They punish a man very hard sometime.  If he does things like scare the buffalo away or something like that, they can slash up his tent or burn his things or kill his horses or break his arms and if he resists any, they can kill him and that is all right.  They pound him up bad sometimes.  These soldiers walk together during that time and act very important for they see that the laws made by the chief or the head are carried out all right in the camp, trail or hunt.  It is great honor to be selected to be a soldier for a great chief in a big camp and nobody wants to displease them any.”

Herbert Hawk Shield Welsh, Sihasapa Tintonwanna, talks with Welch at Mandan, N.D., March 5, 1920;

Welch:  Tell me about your laws for punishment for crime.

Hawk Shield:  We did not have any regular laws.  It might be different punishment at different times for the same crime.  If a man committed murder, the relatives of the man murdered were asked to be present and asked what should be done with him.  Generally, he was driven out of the camp by the Akicita (camp soldier regulators) and he wandered all alone in the wilderness for four days and four nights.  He had to provide his own living.  Then he could come back, but every one passed him by like they were afraid of him and they did not touch him.  They just let him alone and he was ostracized.  They shunned him.

If people committed adultery, I know of one tribe (he evaded me and did not say what division it was) of the Dakotah who did cut off the soft part of the women’s noses for that thing.  These people would not allow their women to even look at a strange man.  There was no such thing as ‘age of consent.’

A bastard was shunned and was looked down upon by even the poorest of people.  We called them ‘has no father’ and they were the worst of all people and no one like them and had nothing to do with them.

If a man made false reports about game or the enemy, or disobeyed in the hunting season, or stole or did other bad things, the Akicita would whip them or slash up their tipis or drive the man out of camp.  The Akicita would do almost anything to such a man and it was all right.

If a man painted a lie on a tipi everyone made fun of him and held him up for derision.  And if he refused to fulfill a vow made or was a coward, they made fun of him and he was not thought to be much of a man by anybody.


Judge Ben B. Lindsey of Denver, Colorado, April 1925;

“I one had a conversation with John Grass, the successor of Sitting Bull as Chief of the Sioux Indians.  In the course of our talk I asked him, “Do Indian boys ever steal?”

“No,” he replied, “They never steal.”

“This was an entire surprise to me.  I had had another impression.  Moreover, I was a bit chagrined because I knew I couldn’t say the same for white boys.  “Why don’t they steal?’ I asked.

“Ugh, nothing to steal,” said John Grass, and though his face was as impassive as a block of wood when he said it, I could have sworn he was laughing.  Indians have a keen sense of  humor which they usually are at pains to conceal in their dealing with Americans less aboriginal than themselves.

Self-Government: Letter to Welch from the Commissioner of Indian Affairs


Welch responds to Commissioner of Indian Affairs, February 5, 1935;


Mr. John Collier,                                                                    Mandan, North Dakota,

Hon. Com. Of Indian Affairs,                                        February 5, 1935

Department of Interior,

Washington, D.C.

Dear Mr. Collier:

You have been courteous to consult me with regard to the policy of the proper manner of handling liquor in the tribes; respecting the keeping, changing or abolishment of the present liquor laws.

This is a big order for it is my observation that a considerable degree of trouble of a local nature among Indians is clearly traceable to liquor.  Of course, that is not news to you.  Under the present plan, Indians get liquor whenever they come to town   – once in a while local Police or Peace Officers manage to secure the names of some men from where the Indians obtained it, but nearly always the Indian has forgotten or otherwise shields the men from whom it was obtained.  Often the local authorities do not prosecute the seller, but throw the Indian in jail over night and turn him loose in the morning.  That is the usual manner in these western communities.  When the sale of beer was not legalized it was always possible for the Indian to obtain home brew or home-made alcohol from settlers living among them.  ( I am speaking of the conditions on the Standing rock Reservation).  This was vile stuff, crude and raw.  After this State legalized the sale of beer the inclination is to drink it, but that takes money of which the Indian has not so much.  He, therefore, continues to drink what alcohol he may get through the old channels of trade.  I do not believe the legalizing of beer has improved conditions so far as the Indian is concerned and liquor continues to be the question.

Now I come to some personal observations among Indians along that line.  This might give us a key with which to work; at least it is a sincere observation upon my part, and one with which the Commissioner may not have had so much experience and one which I believe may very well arrest his attention for some serious thought.  I refer to that quality in the make-up of an Indian which impels him to carry out orders given to him while in the performance of duty under proper authority.

As a Captain of Infantry and Field Artillery during 1916-1919 inclusive, I had many Indians in my command during service on the Mexican Border, in camp during mobilizing for overseas, and in both France and Germany in bivouac and combat.  I observed a most decided effort on his part to carry out orders when properly understood, no matter how dangerous or personally distasteful to them.  In the accomplishment of orders from one who they knew to be an authority they apparently would go the limit to gain the objective sought. A commendable trait of character, we say, but let us go a little further back in history and study the actions of the U.S.Indian Police on one occasion.  When Sitting Bull was arrested and a fight between the police and hostile ghost-dancers was precipitated, the police carried out their orders although many of them were friendly with Sitting Bull and were related to the hostiles by ties of blood and family connection.  I could recite many instances in which arrests have been made by the Police and blood shed between the Police and relatives or close friends while so doing.  I am inclined to believe that the Indian in the performance of his duty as a duly appointed Peace Officer is not so ‘approachable’ as white officers often are when in a similar situation.  This trait in them I believe to be almost universal and might well be taken advantage of in the line of a meritorious effort for ‘Indian Self-Government.’

Providing that these plans of ‘Self-Government’ for the tribe are put into final active experiment, I am inclined to believe that the drinking question among them will be handled better than under the present actual enforcement conditions.  If repeal is sought, it is my opinion that local option among the local tribes will be a very acceptable and smooth working manner of handling the matter.  I understand that in this the Indian would be guided in his original set-up of legal option and that it will be the intention to have the enforcement of the provisions carried out by local Indian authorities.

Charles Dickens once said in ‘The Noble Savage’ that “I call a Savage something highly desirable to be civilized off the face of the earth…”  I cannot subscribe to that view and your plan of Self-Government has my support.

Very cordially yours,



Lt. Col.,F.A.Res.

“Soldier Killed” Immunity

Interview with some Sihasapa concerning Chief John Grass’ immunity from being “Soldier Killed.”

At the home of Mr. & Mrs. John Cadotte, Wakpapa, S.D., May 5/6, 1941.


Present:  John and Leo Cadotte, High Reach (Abraham Buckley), Kills in the Water (Isadore Waters), White Cloud (sometimes called End of the Cloud, his father’s name), Drag’s Down the Enemy Woman (Mrs. Theresa Cross), Mrs. John Cadotte, Mrs. Hohner, Colonel A. B. Welch and Angela Boleyn (Canadian-born writer researching John Grass for a novel about his life).  Leo Cadotte, Interpreter.


Question:  We have heard that John Grass could not be ‘Soldier Killed.’  If this is true, will you tell us about it?  We would like to know more about this thing; many people are not aware there is such a custom; why was Chief Grass immune from the punishment for breaking the law of the camp or march or hunt?

Answer:  There were several Societies or Soldier Organizations.  Cante Tinza or Brave Hearts (sometimes called Strong Hearts  – but literally Genuine Hearts or True Hearts).

These societies were in charge of the camp and during movement across country, and often slashed an offender’s lodge or gave away his horses, burned his provisions or killed his dogs.  This thing which placed Grass above this soldier punishment was this:

Swift Bird was an Oohenopa (Two Kettle Teton).  He lead a war party away out west.  They followed the Hekaka Wakpe (Elk River, the old Indian name for the Yellowstone River  – W.).  They came to the mountains beyond there.  The party was made up of 16 men from Oohenopa and Sihasapa (Blackfeet Tetons), Sicola (Barefoot), John Grass, Fire Heart, Two Packs, Circling Eagle and Stops the Bear were Sihasapa.  No Heart, Four Bears and Spotted Horse were there besides Swift Bird.  Seldom did anyone who entered a Shoshone camp return alive.  Those people always killed them.  The Sioux discovered a camp of Shoshones; there were thirty enemy.  The Dakotah had made a promise (vow) not to retreat; they tied their horses in the timber.  One horse was tied to a log which would take four men to carry; another tied his horse to a cherry tree which was about four inches thick.  When they were ready, the Dakotah entered the camp, but the Shoshones wanted to fight.  John Grass did something very brave then; he whipped the head man of the Shoshones by whipping his with his horse whip (quirt  – really a dangerous weapon  –  W.).  There was a bad fight.  No Dakotah were killed, but most of them made coup upon the enemy.  There was much excitement; the Dakotah came close to where they had tied their horses; one was so excited that he broke the hammer of his gun as he cocked it; one carried away the big log to which he had his horse tied and yet another one broke the big cherry tree and carried that with him.  When the party returned home and the story of Grass’ bravery became known  – it was then that he attained such honor that he was not subject to the ‘Soldier’s Punishment’ as other people were; he became above the law of the camp or trail and could not be ‘soldier killed.’  That winter is on the Winter Count  – and it is call “The Sihasapa and Oohenopa Chiefs carried the logs winter.”

“Fool Soldiers” Vow

Welch notes, 1919;

Lewis & Clark Expedition, August 30, 1804 entry by Clark;

“I will here remark a SOCIETY which I have never before this day heard was in any nation of Indians, four of which is at this time present and all who remain of this Band.  Those who become Members of this Society must be brave, active young men who take a Vow never to go back let the danger be what it may, in War parties they always go forward without screening themselves behind trees or anything else to this Vow they strictly adhier during their Lives.  An instance which happended not long sence, on a party in Crossing the R Missourie on the ice, a hole was in the ice immediately in their Course which might easily have been avoided by going around, the foremost man went on and was lost the others wer dragged around by the party…..”

The story about the hole in the ice is still told (1919) by the people on the Standing Rock Reservation and I have heard it several times.  It is told in connection with the “Fool Soldiers Band,” which band I am told by Mrs. Van Solen of Cannon Ball, never had more than 13 members.  These men were bound by strong vows, to deeds of bravery and “to never turn aside from anything at all.”  I understand that it was very ancient and was founded in consequence of a dream and was also a secret society.  Densmore Bull 61, Bur of Amer Eth, 1918 does not mention this Society.  This seems strange as it was always a famous band of AKICITA, and many songs and stories are based upon its operations.  With the passing of wars among the Sioux and their Indian enemies, this Society was allowed to become extinct, but relatives of any past members of it are very proud of the fact and speak of it often.  I think this was the most famous of all the societies among the Sioux.  It is said that if a butte was in their way or a lake was in their line of march they never turned aside but went over or through.

Other societies of Akicita or Soldiers among the Sioux are, the Foxes, Badgers, Crow Owners, and the Cante-tinza.  The guards and soldiers of the camp, hunt and march were nearly always selected from these society members, and had great power as police or marshals.  They also often marched a regular beat around a large camp at night, and sung softly as they walked around, as a sentry duty, often this duty was self-imposed.  They had their own songs and dances.

Dakotah Societies, Indoctrination

(Angela Boleyn’s interpretation of White Cloud’s story)

White Cloud talks to Angela Boleyn, Oak Creek, S.D., May 6, 1941, at the home of Mr. &  Mrs. John Cadotte;

“In 1885 I worked at the St. Elizabeth Mission with Owns Spotted (son of John Grass).  We took the Seminary course.  We were to be sent to Philadelphia for two years to complete the course.  After that, there was to be two more years in Springfield, Ohio.  Both having been baptized Catholics, we could not take the Episcopal course to become preachers.  We both went in strong for stock and had many horses and cattle.”


At this point Leo Cadotte said that White Cloud was quite a lady’s man and everyone laughed.  White Cloud played a Thank You song on his wooden flute.  This was now the property of Col. Welch, who had purchased it from him.  White Cloud continued:

“Owns Spotted and I were once ordered to join the Bear Society.  We took a steam bath and were purified.  We paraded around the great camp circle, each with a knife in our hands.  No one got in our way.”

“We both belonged to the Horse Society.  We danced in that.  Aunty Cross was one of the singers.  We would go to the end of the camp and make a dash across camp.  This was training young men to count coup, or ’kill the enemy.’  In one of these ’games,’ White Cloud counted second coup.  For not being there first, his father, End of the Cloud, punished me by giving me an endurance test.  He sent me to the top of a hill where there were many graves.  I had to stay there all night, that I might learn to be brave.”

“I was afraid and started home when it was quite dark, but heard an owl hooting near by and as it came closer, I went back up the hill.  Each time I tried to go down, the owl hooted again and followed me to the top.  I spent the night among the graves.”

“At daybreak, I saw an object approaching.  It proved to be my father.  He had done the hooting to keep me there.”

“My father took me on another high hill  – that was to get my vision.  What I wanted was to come up in years as an old man.  I have attained that.  I am 72 years old.  (born 1862).”

“I kept my vigil in a circle made by four stakes put in the ground, one for each wind.  While keeping that vigil, I sacrificed, wailed and called for help.  A horse came.  My father made 50 cuts in his arms, above the elbows.  I took 25 of those cuts.  Pieces of skin cut off and thrown away.  That is all.”

White Cloud also told us:  Good Bear, who is Carrier’s brother, makes Medicine for nervous diseases.  He is also called by his medicine name, Shaking Nerves.

Dakotah Societies, Indoctrination

(Welch’s direct interpretation from Kills in the Water of White Cloud’s story)

White Cloud talks to A. B. Welch Oak Creek, S.D., May 6, 1941, at the home of Mr. &  Mrs. John Cadotte;

White Cloud joins a Society:  “Owns Spotted and I were ordered to join the Bear Society.  We were each given a knife and told to kill anything which crossed our trail.  So we rode around the camp circle.  If anything crossed us we were to kill it and eat it raw.  But nothing crossed us.  We were afraid that some of our relatives would cross the trail and we would have to kill them  – but they did not.  We were glad about that.”

“After we had made the circuit of the camp we were ordered to take a bath.  After that they made a play; we were mounted; taken to one edge of the circle and turned around facing the other side; then a certain lodge was pointed out and we were to race across and try to be the first one to strike the tipi.  This was called a coup.”

“Because I did not make the first strike, my father punished me.  He made me spend a night upon the top of a hill where there were graves of people.  I feared to go there.  I was afraid of Wanagi (Ghosts  – W.)  but I went with him there.  He placed four sticks in the ground, one at each corners (Directions  – W.).  I prayed to Wakantonka to protect me.  I stayed there some time; noises had ceased in the camp; I started down the bluff; after I had gone some distance I heard ‘Shoo-oo’ ‘Shoo-oo’ – then I ran back.  After a while I tried to leave again, but again I heard this unearthly sound and ran back.  I lay down between the sticks my father had placed in the ground; it was the safest place. “

“About daylight, my father came.  He told me that he had made the owl sounds to drive me back.  He wanted me to be brave.  At daybreak, I saw a horse coming.  That was what my vision was.  Then my father cut himself on the arms with a knife; he took fifty ‘bleeds,’ and I took 25 of them.  The flesh was held up with an awl, then cut off with a knife; held up to the people to see the bleed, and thrown away then.  That was a blood sacrifice.  Ho-minniktepe he yelo (Kills in the Water says this  – W).”




Josephine Waggoner talks to Welch, Sept. 7, 1942:

“My mother was given to a trader for a wife.  One time a steamboat came up the river  – that was in 1872.  There was a Priest on it.  They landed at a place for wood.  My mother and the trader (wood cutter) went to him and he married them on the bank right at the mouth of Blackfoot Creek (the site of old Fort Manuel)  – W.).  After that my mother married a white soldier  – his name was Arnold (this is Ben Arnold Conner, who is the hero of a volume entitled “Rekindling Camp Fires,” Lewis F. Crawford, 1926, Bismarck Tribune.).”biog43-auntie-cross“John Grass sold his sisters so they would live a long time.  Sold Drags Down the Enemy Woman to Cross Bear who was a medicine man.”

“Used as a Shield (Grass’ father) had eight wives.”

Welch notes, dated 1921:

Fifty years ago it was the honorable and common thing among the Dakotah to buy wives.  The usual price was equivalent to about $40.00….a horse, four or five guns and some blankets.

Mrs. John Grass talks about her love affairs to Welch, May 1, 1921;

“My Indian name before I married Chief Grass was “Campeska Iwanipiwin” (Walking on the Shell Woman).  When I was a young girl I was good looking and had very many beaus.  I had a hundred.  Some of them were white men too.  I had one who wanted to marry me once.  I had a sister too.  John Grass went with her for seven years before he married her.  He bought her for seven horses and two guns.  They put up their own tipi then.  She was not very well.  She did not want to marry him very bad.  She wanted me to have him.  So he bought me too.  He paid seven ponies, one gun and a revolver for me.  So we were both with him then.  He was a very good man.  He never spoke a harsh word to me as long as he lived.  We had children too.  We used to dress up and go to the white dances.  We sat and watched them.  We did not know how to dance with them.  When they got through and blew out the lights we went home then.”

John Grass talks about restrictions to marriage within and between Bands, 1915 or so;

“Our young people of the same bands (Gens) could not marry.  It is too close.  But a young man from the Wajaje (Kill Eagles Band) which are Sihasapa could marry a woman from the Sihasapa qtca (Red Blackfeet Band) or the Kanxicu pegnake (Wears raven feathers in their hair band).  These bands are all members of the Sihasapa, but there are three others and they could marry into any of them, but a Wajaje must not marry a Wajaje.  There was much marrying at the Councils at the Grove of Tall Oaks.  It was a good place to meet each other and the Tetons often went there for that purpose.”

John Grass talks about Marriage Customs, May 1917, John Brown, interpreter;

Welch  – I would like to know more about the way the old people selected their wives and the ceremonies of marriage in the olden times.

Q-Did the young man carry presents to the tipi of the girl?

A-Yes, but not every one, sometimes the girl marry him, but sometimes the girl don’t marry him.  Marry someone else.  But for my part I don’t believe in it. (Grass is an ardent catholic).

Q-What did she do with them if she wanted him?

A-If she wanted him or not she will keep these articles whatever it may be and the young man must not get it back even if she don’t marry him.  She must not give it back.

Q-Did he sometimes play a flute so she could hear?

A-No. Our western Sioux (Titonwanna) don’t play a flute or any other kind of instruments.  The eastern Sioux only Sioux does that.  We never saw them playing, but only heard telling of it.

Q-Did he ask her parents for her?

A-No. Our western Sioux don’t ask the girls parents for her.  This is eastern Sioux custom.

Q-Did he make presents to the parents?

A-Yes. He make presents to the girls parents.  The only class of people would give presents those who are with plenty of horses and other properties. But the poor cannot afford it to give presents.

Q-If so, what were these presents?

A-The kind presents he gives to them are such as buffalo meat, deer meats and antelope meats.  They do this when the tribes are having hard times with winter food.

Q-Could the young woman say yes or no as she liked?

A-Yes.  She will say yes and no matter how much of presents he may give it to her or to her parents, she most likely marry someone else.

Q-What was the ceremony of marriage before they had the church?

A-These isn’t any particular ceremony way of getting married. If both parties are willing to get married all they do is to go home with girl to his tipi.  Sometimes the man might have a dance and invite some people and give some presents and a feast.  Sometimes they went into a tipi and a man tied the best feathers of the eagle in the hair of each of them, and burned smoke from sweet grass to fumigate them.  Then he had a like plate thing with a small hole in the bottom, and he hold it over the heads of the two people and let the water drip out upon their heads.

Q-What made a young woman desirable for a wife?

A-A young woman desirable for a wife is by her good looking, by her neat, cleanness and industrious.

Q-What made a young man desirable for a husband?

A-A young man desirable for husband is same as above statement.

Q-Was it more honorable to marry the daughter of a chief than a poor man’s daughter?

A-Yes. It is more honorable to marry the daughter of a chief than a poor man’s daughter.

Q-Were young people engaged to be married for a long time.?

A-No. When a young couple engage to get married they marry right away.  Nowadays very much different from what it was in the old days.

Q-Who told the people about the marriage?

A-I cannot tell you who told the people about the marriage.  It is hard to tell.  I can only say that the nature tells us.  We must all have a wife.

Q-Who made them their tipi?

A-They made their own tipi.

Q-Was the kiss always known to the Indians and did they kiss upon the lips or upon the cheek?

A-The Indian does kiss.  As we know, even animals kiss.  There isn’t any particular place to kiss, sometimes upon the lips or on the check.

Q-What month of the year was the favorite one for getting married?

A-We have no particular month to get married.  Whenever we have a chance to get married, we do so.

Trading in Wives, Red Tomahawk talks, 1922 notes;

Red Tomahawk once sold his own sister to Mr. William Badger, now of Mandan, N.D., for a bottle of whiskey.  This woman lived with Badger for years across the river from Cannon Ball on the ranch.  Children were born to them but died in infancy.  Just how Badger disposed of her I do not know, but she afterward married Bird Bear and he name became Sarah Bird Bear.  She has another name, Sarah Grey Eagle, taken from another husband.  This woman now lives at Cannon Ball.

Badger also had another Indian woman to whom were born children, the picture of him ‘with big cow-lich in the hair and a certain sort of knock-kneed habit of walking.’  ‘All the Indians know that he had Indian women to live with and bought them just like any other white man did.  When the government decided that people had to be married like they did in the east, some of these men had to have a church ceremony.  But some of them run away then.  But Badger had children so he surely was husband to his women, but he got away some way.




Chasing Fly and Fire Heart talk about Medicine Stones at July 4th 1920 Celebration, Solen, N.D.;


That night I sat and talked to Chasing Fly and Fire Heart and another old man, whose name I did not know.  I had a good interpreter.  They said they wanted to tell me about some Medicine Stones.  These were small ones that they had in the olden times.  They were very holy stones.  They would build a small sweat lodge and cover it to make it dark there.  Then the man would go in with the stones and place them upon the ground where it had been fixed nice (mellowed and cleared of grass  -W).  Then, if anyone had lost a horse or a child had strayed away and been lost or they wanted to know where the enemy was, the man inside went to sleep.  The stones soon began to move and swing around the lodge.  If anyone looked in they were often struck with the stones. After a while the stones would go away, sometimes very far they thought.  Then they would come back and tell the sleeping man where the things they were hunting were, and they were always right, too.  Sometimes they would bring the thing back with them.  Once they brought a man back with them and when they looked into the lodge, he was there with the other man.  The stones would not tell anyone but the man who was asleep but he could tell the people.  They thought that the Government should have had these stones with the soldiers in Europe and then they could have captured the enemy and the Kaiser that way.

Note-Mr.A.McG.Beede of Yates told me, July 11th, 1920, that he had seen some of these stones and had seen them move.  He said they have them yet, safely hidden in a place known only to a couple of old men.  He had also seen the wooden medicine bowls swing round in a circle, three feet from the ground, and unsupported by any human agency.

Crawler’s Medicine Stone, Welch notes, 1908;

Crawler was a Sihasapa or Blackfeet Teton.  His wife was named Sun Flower Face.  Crawler was born in 1830 on the Moreau river.  He was from the family of a chief, and he, himself, attained to great note and influence among the Tetons.  He was alive, but frail, in 1908.  He lives at Laughing Woods on the Grand river, some eight miles above the location of the sub-station called Bull Head, on the Standing Rock.


This is the exact place where Mrs. Frances Wiggins Kelly was bought by the Hunkpapas from Brings Plenty, who owned her at the time.  Crawler was the man who went into the tipi and offered the horses for her.  The Blackfeet got away with her and turned her over to the whites at Fort Sully in the fall of 1864.

The stone Crawler had in his possession was nothing but a small ironstone secretion or oxidation, flat and about as large as six inches in diameter.

He ascribed wonderful powers and qualities to this stone.  It was “Big Medicine.”  His story is that it had been in possession of his ancestors for over three hundred years and that it is a power for long life and health to its possessor.  It was wrapped in many coverings of cast-off buffalo hair matting.  The inside of the dish which is concave like a saucer, is covered with pictographic symbols.

He said that it came down out of the sky to an ancestor of his who was singing upon a high hill top.

Medicine Man Tricks

Bread from back of neck, Mrs. Grass, Fort Yates, May 31st, 1921;

“One time a woman was sick.  She was very sick.  A famous Dakotah Medicine Man came to cure her.  He sucked the back of her neck.  He got a whole mouthful of stuff which looked like chewed up bread.  The woman got well.  She did not eat bread any more.  The medicine man said that made her sick.  The bread went down crooked.  She always swallowed the wrong way when she ate bread.”

Worms in Head, Red Fish, Fort Yates, May 31st, 1921;

“Once I had a terrible headache.  It was very bad.  A medicine man suck the top of my head.  He got long worms out of it.  I saw them.  There were a lot of them.  They crawled around in my head.  They made tracks just like bugs make in the inner bark of a tree.  The whites do not believe these things.  I don’t care.  They are true.  I know what I say.  I was all right then after that.   Now I am old.  That medicine man left a worm in there.  He did not get them all.  I have headaches now.  I can feel the worms working around there.  That’s why I have headache now.”

Stick in eye, Red Fish, Fort Yates, May 31st, 1921, continues;

“A woman had something in her eye.  She could not see.  No one could get the thing out.  This man put his mouth over the eye.  When he opened his mouth after that, he had a big stick of wood.  That’s what he took out of her eye.  She was all right after that.  It was that long (He put his finger across his open palm to indicate a piece about two inches long).  This medicine man got very rich.  People gave him horses and valuable things for his doctoring.”

Pain in side, Mrs. Grass, April 28th, 1921;

“When I was a young girl I had a pain in my side.  It was under the ribs on the right side.  The doctor man sucked it there.  The pain was gone.  What he drew out of that place looked like the white of an egg mixed with blood.”

Cuts on top of head, Mrs. Grass, April 28th, 1921, continues;

“I had a headache.  It was bad.  The medicine man took a sharp knife.  He wrapped the blade with cotton.  The end stuck out a little bit.  Then he stuck the top of my head with the end of the blade.  He cut many places.  The blood run freely.  My pain all went away with the blood.  Another time it ached.  Goose, a medicine man, cut my scalp on the top.  He made a long cut.  The scar is there now.  My pain stopped.”


(Note: While in the hospital in Mandan, she had a bad headache and was very anxious to have the same treatment.  The physician, however, would not give her that treatment.  She was disappointed  -W.)

 Coffee’s Medicine


Welch drawing of Coffee’s medicinebiog56-coffee-article

Buffalo Medicine Pipe and Buffalo Medicine Rattle:

Dr. Rice paper “the Indian Medical Service” read , Bismarck, N.D., May 12, 1915;

“….Concerning their primitive methods, I have failed to note anything more evident than FAKERY.  Some of t he old men carry their medicine bags and tools.  I hear often that some old man drew out from the sufferer’s neck a piece of food that had been swallowed wrong.  The drawing-out being accomplished by lip-sucking through the medium of a tube and the particle of food being faked after a sufficiently imposing ceremony.  I have seen no evidence of real medicine as a part of the armamentation of a medicine man.”

How to stop an eclipse, Auntie Cross, sister of Chief John Grass, talks to Welch and Angela Boleyn, Wakpala, S.D., November 1939;

She told us also about a total eclipse of the sun in the olden days.  A band of them were out hunting for meat, she said, when the eclipse took place.  It became very dark.  The Medicine Man told them all to fire their guns at the sun or it would never awaken again and they would be lost in the darkness.  So everyone fired guns at the sun and yelled very loudly, and wailed and cried and prayed.  Finally, the sun began to get brighter and finally came to life again.  But they were all greatly frightened and the Medicine Man became quite famous over the episode, as they believed that he had awakened the sun from perpetual darkness.

Hairy Chin’s magic birds, as told by Iron Roads, Mandan, N.D., Sept. 21st, 1929;

Mrs. Iron Roads was with him when they called at our house. Her father was an Arikara by the name of Hairy Chin, whom Major McLaughlin induced to settle among the Sioux to teach them how to raise corn and other garden produce.  She said;

“My father was known as a man who could do things with sick people  He could cure them in four days.  One time at a dance, an Indian found another Indian with a woman whom he claimed.  He wore a blanket and had a bow and arrows under it.  He shot the man through the body where it is soft.  They took the wounded man to the military doctor.  He said, “He will die.  I cannot save him.”  Major McLaughlin also said it.  My father said, “I can make him live.”  They laughed at him for that.  The soldier doctor said he would pay $50.00 if he lived.  Major McLaughlin said so, too.  So they laid out the money.

My  father had a dream one time.  That was when he was a young man.  He dreamed that some birds came.  They took him with them.  They entered the water and went deep down then.  The birds lived there.  They had some eggs.  They were on two lines of feathers, where they crossed.  These holy birds told my father that he would be a great man if he did like they told him to do.  He promised.  So they told him then.  They showed him how to do it that way. He knew the roots to use.  He knew how to gather them.  He knew how to do it.  He placed some of this medicine on the man, where he was wounded.  He laid the two birds on that place.  If the birds shook then, the man would get well.  If the birds stayed there without moving, he would die.  So he laid the birds on.  They shook.  My father said, “He will walk in four days.”  He did that.  They gave my father the money for that thing.  We have the birds now.  We keep them.  They always live under the water.  No one ever sees them. They told my father how to do it.”

“The Finding Stones” … Welch witnesses a strange performance;

Performer  – Fred Ashley, full blood Sioux, Norris, S.D., Rosebud Agency

Place  – At the house of Andrew Iron Roads, southwest of Solen, N.D.

Present  – Andrew Iron Roads; his old mother; his wife; widow of Crow Ghost; J. Nickols,

(Sioux); Alphonse Bears Ghost; John Iron Roads; a Young Indian Man;

Scattered Village; Two young boys and one young girl, 16 years of age.

Informant  – Scattered Village (English name is Rolla Jones, part Mandan, his mother having been Mandan, and his father half Gros Ventre and half Arikara.  Lives at Elbowoods, and is 38 yeqrs old and talks good English.  Married to the daughter of Sitting Crow, Head Chief of the Mandans).

Date of performance February 28, 1928 (Date of this Story March 11th, 1928)

The plan of the Medicine performance (Welch’s diagram): customs198-finding-stone-tricks-p1

 Welch’s explanation of plan:


 “The Finding Stones” … Welch witnesses a strange performance (continued);

This was in the house of Iron Roads.  The people sat around the walls of the room. In front of the little girl, this visitor (Ashley) placed a pipe.  Then he took five cans and filled them half full of sand, so they would hold up a flag.

At 1, he put a white flag in the sand.

At 2, he placed a stick about 18” long.  It was one half blue and one half red.  Then in the can he also stuck three other sticks, 12” long, and he tied white feathers on them all  – under the wing feathers.  On the tall stick he put a hoop over it, about 2” across, all nice with beads.  One the center of the three he tied a small bone whistle.

On 3, he put a blue flag.

On 4, he placed a yellow flag and this stick had a 2” beaded hoop over it, too.  No. 4 had a red flag stuck in the sand.

All the sticks were half red and half blue.

The side with the three cans was in the south side of the room.  He took a piece of blue silk calico and put it on the floor in front of No. 2.  This was a small piece about a foot one way and 18” the other way.  He poured some sand on it then.

He made a face (S F) in the sand, with ears, nose and eyes, with his finger. This had horns on the face. Then he put many pinches of kinikinik and tied it in very small bags,.He put these on the cloth about the face.

He placed a bead necklace on one side of this sand picture.

He placed sage all over the floor between these cans.

To the east of the sand picture he laid down a medicine drum and on the other side he laid another one.

On the east one (O’) was the picture of a man’s face, painted, with horns on it.

The one to the west (O”) had a woman’s face painted on it, also with horns.

Then between that and No. 5 can he placed a bundle of long sage, and in the top of this bundle, he placed a red gourd rattle (G).

Then just north of that (W) he put another bundle of sage with a bone whistle in it about six inches long.

To the south of the three cans (-6-), he made a nice place of sage for his pipe and he put one there south of No. 2 can.

The lamp was over by the two boys (11) and it was lighted.

Then he told everyone to take their shoes off.  So they did that.

Then he gave everyone a long piece of sage and they put this in their hair crosswise.

Then he lit the pipe (-7-) in front of the little girl (10) and she smoked it and passed it to Mrs. Crow Ghost and that’s the way that one went around.

Then he lit the other pipe in the south (6) and gave it to the two little boys (11) first and then to Nickols (2) and he to me (note: Welch must have been sitting near Nickols as an observer, only) and that’s the way that one went around.

They passed each other at Andrew Iron Roads.

When they got through he put them back on their sage beds.

Then he shook hands with everyone and prayed to someone.

Then he said he was ready and took off all his clothes.  He had nothing on then. He put his two hands behind him, flat, and had Bears Ghost and Iron Roads tie him all up with thread which would break easily if he tried to get away.  So they tied all his fingers up.

He was hooting like an owl, a crow, a magpie bird.

Then they covered him up with a nice robe, and tied it with thread and with ropes.  Round his neck and body and feet, they tied him up.

Then they picked him up from the floor and turned him over and laid him on the floor between the cans (4 and 5), face down, with hi head to the west.

All the time he was singing and hooting, and calling to some spirits of his.

Oh, before he was tied he went around the room with some braided grass in his hand.  This was sweet grass and it was burning.  He waved it all around everywhere.  Then he told three men and one woman to sing.  So, with their own drums they sung.

Then after he was all tied he told them to put out the light.  They did that then.  He was hooting then.

After a while we sat there and little sparks came in the room.  All around they were.  Up high and on the floor and in the air.

Then the man prayed hard and I heard a rattle up in the corner of the room.  This rattle went all around all over us and all over the room.  It finally went to the girl and talked to her in Sioux.

Then it went to everyone in the room and told them things they thought about and what they did.

Then the whistle did it too.  All over it went fast.

The man got up and picked up the face drums and handed to Bears Ghost and Iron Roads and told them to sing with them.

Then we knew there were many people dancing.  The floor sagged and we could hear the pound of many feet there between the flags.  There were three people singing between the flags and the two Sioux were singing too.

There was much noise, and whistles and rattles and drums and singing and hard dancing.

Then he yelled to turn on the lamp.  They did it then.

Everything was just as it had been fixed before.  The man was still tied up in thread and rope.  They untied him then. That was after three hours of this thing.  It was very mysterious.

He said, “Do you believe me?” and they all said, “Yes.”

“Do you,” he said to me and I had never  before seen such things, so I said that maybe after I had seen it two or three times, I could say, but that now, I didn’t know much about that thing.

Then he said, ‘I do it with these holy stones.  They belonged to some holy man.”

These stones were about an inch across, and sort of yellowish, and they were flat ones.  He had five of them and he called them “Medicine Stones.”

He burned the sages and packed the other things away in his suit case.

He said, “If any of you have lost anything in the last forty years, I can fine them with these finding stones.  They can tell me where your lost things are.  For lost things, I build a little lodge with boughs and get inside.  If any man looks in there, they will strike him hard.  They will go away and when they return they will tell me where the lost things are.”

Flint Turtles

Welch notes, about 1920;

While picking around among the ruined lodge rings of the village south of Sanger, I picked up a fling-chipped turtle.  It is 1” x 10/16” in size, and is the only one I have ever seen.  No doubt it was chipped by the “arrow makers” of long ago, and was carried by some of the villagers as a good luck stone, as the turtle was always considered a very good omen by all the Plains Indian tribes.

Bull Bear, a Sioux who can talk some English, but is an old time Indian nevertheless, when shown the turtle, said; “That is a turtle.  Sometimes in the past, good boys or girls wore such things, in a bag, which was tied to their hair, for good luck.  ’Inktomi’ made it like he made all the arrow heads.  Some people have heard him at work, but could never see him.  I have, myself, heard him at work, chipping stones.  It was in a small hole south of Fort Yates where I heard him working.  He went slow, ’chip, chip.’  We got within a few feet of the hole, when he would stop and we could not fine him then.  When we went away he worked again.”   (Note: the Plains Indians did not make arrow heads, they picked them off the ground!).

Crow Ghost and Wife, when shown the turtle, said; “that is a ground lizard.  No. It is a turtle.  Inktomi made it.  He makes all such things.  The lizard comes after rain.  Before rain you can’t see him.  After rain he is all over the ground.  He is good for headache.  He is good for swelled legs, too.  Put your foot on him easy.  Don’t kill him.  He takes all the swelling away.”

“Once when I was a small boy, I had a bad thumb.  It was awful big swelled.  I hunted up a hopping animal. (Here he hopped like a toad or a frog).  I talked nice to him.  I held out my thumb toward him.  He took it in his mouth.  He sucked it.  Next morning the thumb was all right.”

Bear in the Water talks about Flint Turtle, August 3rd, 1924:

This man, when shown the flint turtle picked up in the site south of Sanger, said; “That was a Mandan village, first.  This turtle was worn with a necklace of beads or tied in a bag to the hair.  It was strong medicine.  When everybody had the small pox (1837) everybody nearly died.  Twenty  – ten lodges lost every one.  The people left the villages and went away.  There was a place for 57 miles along the Little Missouri. Everywhere there you could see a dead man or somebody along the trail.  It was bad.  Then a man took a turtle medicine.  He stopped that sickness with it.”

Pagan Altar and Old Medicine Man, Cannon Ball area, May 31, 1922;

“…The old scouts sung a song in honor of the dead and there was much wailing.  I went to the tipi of the Chief, Bird’s Bill, where I was served much bread, boiled beef, coffee and a sort of sweet bread, which took the place of cake.  After I had finished, the rest of the people were served at a great circle feast.”


I had been told of a pagan altar on the edge of a great butte overlooking the river, and upon inquiry, found that it had been maintained for many years by an old Medicine Man, named Black Bear.  Desiring to see it, I rode over to the log house of the old man and visited him, ceremonially.  He told me that he had put it there, but was afraid that some white men might carry it away or step over it, so he had removed it this spring and it was now on the top of his house.  I went out to see it. There were two old buffalo skulls with the horns on, and around them was wound cloth; seven bleached skulls of horses; some cloth pegged out in front, and an old octagonal barreled rifle before them and some small sticks stuck into the earth roof, from the top of which fluttered a few rags of red cloth.  The old man sung and danced where he stood as I examined the articles, without touching them.

He said, “I will tell you about these things.  But not now.  There are white people somewhere around here.  But a long time ago, I had a dream.  I dreamed of these animal people you see.  It was a holy dream. I went with them.  They told me what to sing after that.  Now when I talk to them, they send us rain.  I am a very important man here among these people.  There are very few people that the spirits will talk to.  That is why they send the rain here.  When I pray or smoke to them.  That is why I am very important.”

The old medicine man’s house was of logs with dirt floor and many strange medicine things hung upon the walls together with his war bonnet and dance gear.  He called me “Cousin,” because, he said, “You are a Sioux.”

“Sharp Pointed Stalk” … Mrs. Amanda Grass, Mandan, N.D., May 15th, 1921,

Vivian Gayton, Interpreter;

As she lay sick in the hotel, she said she wanted some Indian Medicine.  When asked about it she said,

“It is entitled “Hu Pestola” (stalk, sharp point) and you will find it growing along the hill tops of rocky places.  It has several sharp-pointed leaves sticking up.  From the middle of it grows a high part and a white flower will come on that.  The root is large (two inches) and you have to take a spade with it.  I want two roots of it.  Then I peel off the outside and make a tea of it (the root, itself, not the peeling).  It is very bitter.  When put on the head it will cure headache.  I cured Ed Swan when he had a broken leg bone.  Another man was cured when his ankle was turned over.  A woman had a broken shoulder blade.  This medicine cured her.  When you drink a little of the tea it keeps away cramps.  It is good for rheumatism and takes down swellings.”

“A Frenchman told us about it a long time ago.  He married a Dakota woman.  He lived with her.  She was very rich.  She gave him much money to put with the trader so it would be safe.  He did not do this.  He had another wife across the water.  He sent it all to her.  The Dakotah woman did not know this thing then.  When he sent a lot of it away, he went too.  He did not come back.  This man had a brother.  He had a Dakotah woman too.  He went back to his home to see his parents.  He came back to his Dakotah woman.  He lived for a long time down south by Eagle Butte.  He was a good man.”

We dug two stalks for her which pleased her immensely.

Note by W.  – This I think is some species of yucca plant.  It is common in some localities along rocky steep, hot slopes.  The leaves are green, thick, heavy, with a very sharp point.  From the middle grows a thick stalk with a white flower.  This grows about three feet high.

Medicine Man who could cut off arms, etc., and replace them;

Visit of Dakotah, Feb. 9th, 1923, Red Fish (Yanktonaise Chief), Basil Two Bears (grandson of Yanktonaise Chief, Two Bears), Jerome Cottonwood (son of Chief Cottonwood), all of Cannon Ball, N.D.

….Then I showed him pictures of the Arikara and Mandan villages, taken 50 years ago, he said; “These are village people.  I went with a friendly number of visitors there one time long ago.  This is their Holy Tipi.  We went into that lodge.  They had a ceremony.  It was a medicine ceremony.  A woman was covered with a white buffalo hide with horns on it.  The Medicine Man cut her arm off at the elbow with a knife and threw the arm and hand away, on a pile of old buffalo feet and legs.  He covered her again and when he took the robe off, she had her arm again, all right.  The he shot another woman through her body.  Just above her hips.  The blood shot out of the two wounds and her nose and mouth.  She died then.  He breathed into her mouth.  The blood shot out again.  She got all right then.

Medicine Lodge of the Arikara, showing sacred stone and mother cedar tree, 1872customs76-mother-cedar-tree-and-sacred-stone

He had a hot iron from a wagon.  He passed it clear through his head from one ear through the other.  It did not hurt him.  He chopped a man’s arm off against a post.  It did not hurt him.  He put it back on again.  He was a very Holy Man.  He talked with the Spirits all the time.”

Welch’s “Medicine”

I had received a card from the daughter of One Bull, the only present living nephew of Sitting Bull.  The information was to the effect that One Bull had met with a serious accident and was calling for me to come to him.  So I had McKendry go with me and we started for a visit with One Bull, July 28th, 1933:

One Bull, 1939biog219-one-bull-1939

We drove to Selfridge, N.D., and then to McLaughlin, S.D., on the Standing Rock Reservation.  There after inquiries as to where he was, I picked up a Doctor who knew his place and also wanted to examine the old man.  We autoed to his house, which is on the left bank of the Grand River very near where his great uncle, Sitting Bull, was captured and killed, 1890.  However, he was at another house some distance down stream, and we forded the Grand some distance down stream.  Passed the site of the school house where Carrignan taught school and from which he sent the letter to Major McLaughlin advising him to arrest the old medicine leader as he was fitting up his horses to go to Pine Ridge, where God was to appear.  The arrest took place the next morning.

We found the old 80 year old warrior at his daughter’s house.  There was a great commotion when they recognized me.  He knew me and was very happy that I had come.  I gave him some meat and bread.  He said that he was going to die the next day and had moved close to the church for that purpose.  I told him many things about himself and he was always surprised at my statements and would ask, “How do you know that?”  I always replied, “Charging Bear’s medicine is wonderful.”  I dinned that into  his mind, and finally told him that he wasn’t going to die the next day, because my medicine was powerful and wonderful.

When I left he told me that he would not die, “that he was going to get well and walk about some more.”  His old wife gave me a pair of beaded moccasins and he gave me a war club with a loose stone head, saying that that was the same kind that he used on the soldiers at the Custer fight.  He also gave me his sun-dance eagle-bone whistle and showed me his “marks.”  These were 25 marks on each shoulder and forearm, where the flesh had been pricked up with a needle and pieces of flesh cut off with a butcher knife, as large as peas or beans  – as sacrifice to Wakantonka.  He also showed me four scars on each knee and explained that they were similar wounds.  His wife was very proud of those scars.  The old man had been chasing a team of horses which had got away from him, and fell down and struck a rock on the prairie.  He was a very sick man.





Sioux Ceremony at Cannon Ball, July 28th, 1933, Welch with Fred McKendry;

Several Sioux came in to see me the other day.  They invited me to a ceremony at the round dance hall in the timber at Cannon Ball.  Some people had lost a woman by death in Montana and relatives lived at the Cannon Ball District, and were in mourning according to the old Sioux custom.  These were Walking Thunder, and wife and Yellow Hawk and wife.  During mourning time, which generally lasted a year or more, mourners wore dirty white sheets or canvas, permitted their hair to become matted and uncombed, stayed apart from all other Indians, did not wash themselves, often became hungry and thirsty and took no part in the rites and ceremonies of their people, wailed and often cut themselves and were object of filth and unhappiness.  Walking Thunder was head of the drummers and therefore could not take any part in dances, and a dance had been announced and had fallen through, on account of his being the head of the drummers.  They were not permitted to use the drums without his consent and he would not give it.  I was to give them a “talk” and endeavor to have them end the season of mourning so that the rest could dance and not have him removed from his official position and authority, by which action he would have “lost his face.”

The usual crowd of dancers and singers and women and children were gathered in the dance hall after dark.  I was given the place of honor.  There was some singing.  Then some women spread shawls and robes on the floor just at my feet, and the mourners were led in and seated themselves upon them.  They were very dirty and had dirty white canvas for shawls and dirty rags over their hair.  They did not look up.  Several Indians spoke short “talks.”  Then I was accompanied to the floor and made my talk.  I reviewed their old time mourning customs  – told them that they had mourned long enough  – and, in effect, to take their places among the people again and end the period of grief and sacrifice.  Then some women went to them  – took the white canvas off their shoulders and the rags from the women’s heads  – washed their hands and then combed out their tangled matted hair and braided it neatly.  Old Elk came with a small boy and lighted the pipe and smoked with them.  They each took three whiffs then some women gave them some water in a cup, which they drank.  Some others came with much meat and cold coffee and other things dear to an Indian’s palate and they ate all of it.  By allowing this ceremony to be, they had ended their mourning period and the dance started as usual.  Many yards of cloth and other things were given to them and new shawls were thrown about the women’s shoulders.  I was told that my talk had brought it about, that they were pleased to receive such good advice from one in whom they had faith and trust and respected his judgment in all things.  The mourners shook hands with me and then we drove back to Mandan.

Expression of Sorrow or Grief, 1923 notes;

“He-he-he,” sliding, dropping inflection at end.  Meaning this:  This expression is often heard at a funeral or when anyone is in distress.  It may be translated freely as “Many sorrows.”  A white man says, “A thousand pardons or a thousands thanks.”  The Indian says, “A thousand sorrows,” by the expression written above.

White Cow Walking visits Welch, October 23rd, 1927, Mandan, N.D.;

White Cow Walking called at the residence today, coming in with his head hanging and his gaze upon the floor, in sorrow for his old wife who died recently.  After telling me all about it and how all the people were very sad with him, he said, “I was sitting in my house.  I was heavy hearted then.  My wife was dead now.  Then she came into the house.  She stood there.  She looked at me then.  She said, ‘You must travel now.  Go away.  Go to talk with Mato Watakpe.  He will talk to you.’  So then I caught up my horses.  I put the harness on them.  I got in the wagon.  I came without sleep then.  All day and night have I come along.  Now I am here.  I am glad.”

So I gave the old warrior some clothes and filled his water cask in the wagon, and we smoked and talked.  He went away to make a camp someplace.  The older Indians are very superstitious and are inclined to get away from their homes at a death and go most anywhere.  They have a fear of ghosts or shades of the departed relatives.

Mourning customs of the Crows;

Several Crow women came into the store. (1920?) They were dressed as usual for the Crow, with the high cut dress to the middle of the calf, black tight leggings and high moccasins.  They all wore white sheets over their regular shawls or blankets, and all had black veils over their heads.  Asked about this costume, they told me that the old man with them had lost a nephew by death and they were in mourning for him, so they wore black head-dresses and white shawls.

Mourning customs of the Dakotah women;

….It was the custom for Dakotah women to go off into the forest or wilderness and strangle themselves with a cloth when they were very unhappy.

Amputated finger .. Sign of mourning;

I noticed that Mrs. Coffee, a Mandan, had the first joint of her little finger on left hand, missing.  I asked her how she lost this member, and she replied that ‘she had cut it off when her little daughter died, many years ago, and that this was a custom of the people of the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes, in the past.


When the news of Albert Grass’ death in action in France was made known to the Indians they were at the Mandan Fair in Sept. 1919.

Mrs. Two Bearsbiog332-mrs-two-bears-photo

Mrs. Basil Two Bears, his mother, grabbed a knife and cut off her hair and slashed her arms and everyone was terribly excited and sang songs and the women wailed.  When I gave her a little pocket memo book which he carried in his pocket at his death, all the people felt of the book as she held it in her hand.  They said it was the same as shaking hands with the dead man.




Sam Halsey talks to Welch, May 1915;

“Some time when a baby come, something is happen then.  They call baby that thing.  Sometime a man will give parents some presents and give his name to the child, so it is called that way then.  Sometime the child has a name and the father has another different one.  Nick-name you call him.  When a boy does some great thing, they give him another name then.  It is his war name, his man’s name, because he did something big and brave.”

The Lone Bear Upon the Prairie talks to Welch, July 1920;

In July 19230 an old Mandan Indian called at the store to call upon Mato Watakpe the Dakotah.  He said that he had met me ten years before at Bismarck and that he had someone sick in his lodge and that I had sent him some food for the sick person, and he had given me his photograph.

He could talk Sioux and while we were talking Acy Little Crow came in and acted as interpreter.  He told me that his name was The Lone Bear Upon the Prairie and that he was given that name by his people, because once a long time ago when he was young and strong and a fighting man, he was alone hunting.  He was surrounded by a force of Sioux who tried to kill him but they could not do it.  Alone and single-handed, he fought them off.  Like a bear surrounded by a pack of wolves or dogs, he fought them for his life and would not be taken or killed.  At last, not being able to injure him, or force him to surrender, the Sioux withdrew and left him alone, victorious.

This had made him a big man among his people and they had decided to name him after his great battle and gave him a name which was hard to translate into English, but the idea is that he was a solitary man alone upon the prairie.  The Bear relates to his courage and the idea of prairie means he was unprotected, caught out as it were, alone, and had to fight.

Red Tomahawk explains the importance of the name given to Welch at his adoption;

When the name of Mato Watakpe was given me in a speech delivered the day of my adoption, Red Tomahawk said, “In the old times a young warrior would give all he possessed to get such an honorable name.  All his skins and many horses.  He would give a great feast and make presents to everybody.  The next fight he got into he would expose himself to great danger to show his bravery and to be worthy of such a great name.”

Marashal Foch Ceremony, 1921;

The evening before, we had a council in the hotel and decided what we would do.  The songs were sung over and the name to be given him was decided to be Wahkia Watakpe (Charging Thunder).

Plenty Coups with Marshal Foch, 1921biog234-plenty-coups-with-marshal-foch

Red Tomahawk thought that name was all right.  He said they had to ways of giving a name to a brave man.  One was the name of some old man or the man’s grandfather or uncle or other relative.  The other way was to name him after someone who was still alive and who had done something like the man who was to receive the new name.  He said that at a time when the Dakotah were attacking the palisade at Fort Berthold that the traders or soldiers had a cannon pointed at the Dakotah, and that Wahkia Watakpe, who is still alive at Fort Yates, ran up to the gun and stood against it, saying, “Shoot me, but do not shoot my people with this.”  So he made peace that time, that way and he was a brave man.  So this great soldier made peace with the world and they are alike and the name then is all right.  The Indian man is honorable and will be glad to give his name away to this great soldier.

So that name was decided and they practiced their songs with that name.  We also went through the Pipe Ceremony, going through the motions and gestures, etc., and telling what they meant.



Par Fleshe Boxes





Story of Northern Cheyenne and Dakotah Peace, Welch interview, about 1917, possibly with Chief Grass;

Tell me about diplomatic relations between tribes.  Did you send ambassadors to an enemy?  Did you respect a flag or other emblem of truce?  Did you declare war or make treaties of peace?

“No, we did not send agents to any enemy.  We went to war with them and fought until we got through.  Sometimes a man would ride out in front and shout to them, but they would kill him if they caught him and so would we.  I never knew of any peace being made but once.  This was between the Sioux and the Cheyennes (northern) a very long time ago and this is the story which is a true one:“

“A long time ago, a Dakotah warrior and his friend were out hunting for the enemy, which were the Cheyennes.  They finally found some of them and attacked at once.  The horse of the friend was killed, and he was put afoot.  He ran to the horse of the enemy but could not get any to ride.  When he went toward his friend, who would not let him mount his horse double as he was a coward, and drove him off.  So the friend was made prisoner by the Cheyennes and taken to camp.

The other Dakotah reached his own camp and said his friend had been killed.  The friend had a wife in the Dakotah camp, who was very unhappy and she finally disappeared.  It was the custom for Dakotah women to go off into the forest or wilderness and strangle themselves with a cloth when they were very unhappy, so the people searched everywhere, but could not find the woman.

But the woman was alive.  She had gone away in search of the enemy’s camp and after a long time, she found it and stayed in the woods until dark.  The enemy were dancing and singing in the middle of the tipis.  She crawled up behind a tipi and saw two poles stuck into the ground about three feet apart.  About eight feet up from the ground, with his legs and hands tied to the poles, was a man, and there was a fire underneath him.  But she was not sure it was her husband so she laid there until late and all the people but six old men had gone to bed, and the old men snored too.

Then she crawled up close and whispered “Is this my husband,” and he said “Yes, cut me down soon.”  She had a knife and cut the sinews which bound him, but he was very heavy and his feet dragged upon the ground when she carried him away to a place in the woods where she made a bed for him in a hollow log with the soft inner bard of trees.  Then she went back and stole some dried meat and blankets, which she took back with her to her husband.  She took care of him there for many days until he could be moved for his legs were burnt by the fire.  Then she went to the camp again and stole two horses.  She made a travois and put him on it and started for her own camp.  After a few days he could ride and so they came to their own camp at last.

Then the man told about the cowardice of his old friend and the old men asked him to name justice and say what should be done to the cowardly, lying warrior, who had left him afoot in a battle.  He said to send for him and when he came and wanted to shake hands, he refused to call him friend or shake hands.  His judgment was that the man should to into the enemy’s camp and get a wife there.  When he did that he would call him friend.

So they drove the cowardly warrior out into the country places alone.  He thought he would steal and woman and redeem himself so went toward the camp of the enemy.  When he reached there he his himself and watched from the shelter of the woods.  After a while he saw a woman which he thought was the most beautiful he ever had seen and he had a great desire for her.

He was satisfied to die if he could only be alone with this woman.  So that night he watched until all the fires were low and the people were in bed and crept into the tipi of the beautiful woman.  He lifted up the blankets of her bed and got in with her.  After a while she got awake and cried out.  Her father, who was chief, threw some dry grass upon the embers of the fire so they could see, and so they caught this man in bed with the chief’s daughter.

He told his captors how he had been fighting them a few days before and about the death of his friend’s horse and the sentence which had been pronounced against him.  He said that he had “finished that thing” with the woman in whose bed they had found him and would not be willing to die, but that if they let him live he would marry the woman.  So they were married and the man lived there for about a year.

He was a good hunter and fighter and the people soon came to show him great respect, but in a year his heart called for his father .  He wanted to see his own people, and he told his wife about it and they decided to visit among the Dakotah.

The old chief and nearly every family gave him a horse until he had over a hundred.  They started and the chief sent two young men to help drive the animals.  When they reached the Dakotah camp, the people made many presents of horses to the young men who driven the other’s horses and so they returned to the enemy’s country with praise for the Dakotah.

There was peace from that time on to the present between the Northern Cheyennes and Dakotah.

This is the only time I know of when peace was made between two Indian tribes, unless the fighting was enough on both sides.”



Pipe Ceremony

Drag’s Wolf performs the Pipe Ceremony, Feb. 10, 1934;

I asked Drags Wolf, First Hidatsa Chief, if he would perform the pipe ceremony in place of the usual invocation at the Agricultural College at Fargo, N.D., upon the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the found of the Little Theatre Movement. He said, “Everyone can not do this thing.  It is a sacred ceremony.  But I am the only one here who may do this. I will do that for you.  I have the right.”  So I gave my pipe into his keeping and that evening, before several hundred people in the Little Theatre, he performed the rite.  After my introduction of the old Chief, he stepped forward and …….


Holding the unlighted pipe in both hands, the left toward the mouthpiece  – his right grasping the red stone bowl, he held it pointed up at an angle of about 45 degrees, toward the south, then this motion and elevation of the pipe was made toward the west; then the same movement to the northern sky and also toward the east, with his hands reversed in the last motion toward the east.

Then he faced the north (where the audience sat) and held it up to the Great Mystery for a second or two, and then pointed the stem toward the earth.

He then held the pipe across his body with the stem pointed across his left shoulder, and with closed eyes, he chanted the sacred song which accompanies the ceremony.

All this was done slowly and deliberately, with a pronounced reverential expression, and the entire rite was very dignified and impressive.

He explained to me that he called upon all the people and good influences in each part of the world to witness the action, when he held the pipe to the four quarters of the world; that he presented the pipe with all his prayers to God; that the motion toward the earth was meant to call upon all the good influences of Mother Earth to be present, and that, if there had been earth there instead of a wooden floor, he would have washed his hands in earth before the ceremony began; that the song was an ancient one which he always sung when he performed the ceremony and that there were no words in the song.

The Hidatsa interpreter, Good Bird, told me that he had never seen the ceremony performed before that time, and that he was 24 years old.  However, he understood that it was a common rite among his people, as it is among the other plains tribes, and that it was a sacred thing to do.

Red Tomahawk, Crow Ghost, et al, fully describe the ceremony, November 1921;

….Then the old men showed how it should be done.  Crow Ghost showed how he had seen it done.  “The pipe was a sacred thing, “ he said, “and should always be done like this;”…

He pointed the stem or mouth piece toward the ground with a strong, bayonet-like thrust, facing the west at the time;

Then he turned facing north and held the pipe, stem first to the east, arms length at an angle of about 45°;

Then turned to the left, facing south and presented the pipe in same manner to the west;

Then turned to the left, facing east amd [resemted the pipe in like manner to the south;

Then turned to right facing west and did the same to the north,

After which he turned to left facing south and, with both hands at pipe bowl, presented it almost straight up, to the sky.  While he held the pipe in this position he prayed and I heard t he name of Wakantonka (God).

The pipe was lighted before and the smoke going well before he held up the pipe to the four quarters and God.

It was smoked with the ceremonial two hissing puffs, presented to me, who did the same, and then presented to Red Tomahawk, who, likewise, took the two puffs.

All the time it was held in the hands of Crow Ghost.

The all agreed that that was the proper way to do and explained it to me as follows:

The earth is the Mother of Men  – so the pipe is presented to it.  Also, there are many evil influences proceeding from the earth and this was to them too, to beware.  Then the four points of the world as the winds came from all points and many spirits were all around us in every direction, both good and bad ones, and the, too, it called upon all the people to witness that this things was being done.  To the south especially as the sun was the mother of the earth and most good came from her and good influences also of all kinds.  They always looked to the four corners of the earth they said, when they prayed, or at any rate “that is right to do that way.  Sometimes we forget it, but we mean it and the spirits know about that.”  Then, holding it up to the sky means “that Wakantonka is there.  One God above everything else, so we do that and pray to live long that way.”

At this point they asked an Arikara, who had asked to be allowed to sit with us, how his people did it.  He went through the same motions and explained it much the same and said his people had always done it that way.  He thought it was the right way.

At this time, while the pipe was the basis of discussion, I asked Tomahawk to tell me all he knew about the pipe, its meaning, etc.

He said: “The principal part of the pipe is the stem.  The bowl is of red stone which comes from the Indian ground and is sacred stone. It has always been of red stone if we could get it.

But the stem is the real part.  For it is made of the best seasoned hardwood.  It is ash wood, which last the longest time.  It is always made of good straight wood with no defects in it.  It is made flat like a man’s hand spread out, without any weapon in it.  It is a long piece of wood.  The hole through it is long and straight.  The smoke goes straight, like friendship does.  It is not crooked.

As the smoke is drawn in through the stem, it makes friendship or an agreement as strong as iron or as a stone.  No one should break any agreement entered into through this covenant.  It would mean very bad luck.

The duck feathers upon the mouth piece meant that the good influences of the air above were to be with the people who smoked it in an agreement or promise.

The red horse hairs tied under it were from the earth and were horse hairs because that animal was swift and strong and the best dumb friend of mankind.

The quill work or red, blue and white means something, too.  The red is the honor color of the Dakotah, and war honor feathers and pictures are made of red paint for that reason, It means blood, too.  For men have died for their friends and lodges and red blood flowed then.  So it is an honor for us.

The white is for being straight and right with men, especially with your friends who smoke with you.

The blue is for sky where the sun is and many spirits of good.

Then it is presented to you to smoke,  you must take it strong with both hands and draw the smoke strong and willingly.  When you take your hands off the pipe you must draw them all along the stem from the bowl to the mouthpiece, but do not touch it.  This draws all the bad influences off the pipe stem and makes it ready for the other people to smoke.

You are head chief so you must take all the bad from the pipe stem.  Long time ago that was the way to say thank you to a friend who gave you something.  Only the motion was made with the hands drawn down across the face three times and not touching.

While this explanation was being made, the other Indians paid close attention to what he was saying and expressed their approbation of it.  The Arikara also said it was practically the same way he had heard it explained among his own people.

Welch speech at Mandan Shrine Adoption ceremony at Winnipeg, 1931 (excerpts);

Since time immemorial, it has been the custom of the American Indian tribes to use tobacco in ceremonial manner.  At Councils of tribes assembled; at treaties with white people, hunters, trappers, man of the great fur companies, explorers, adventurers, surveyors, soldiers, cattle men and settlers  – all became accustomed to this smoking ceremony, in the histories of our countries.  It being true then, that tobacco had its place in the rites and ceremonies of the Plains Tribes, tobacco became a sacred symbol as well as a social procedure.

Especially was this true with the great Dakotah Nation, which occupied a vast region extending from the Mississippi river to the Big Horn east and west, and roughly from the Mandan villages which lay upon the banks of the Missouri in the Knife river valley, to the Niobrara north and south  – which territory embraced the fabulously rich Black Hills and the greatest buffalo and game country in North America.  When Captains Lewis and Clark undertook the task of exploring the vast territory which the United States obtained from the First Napoleon and which, is called the Louisiana Purchase, the expedition spent the winter of 1804-05 at the Mandan Villages, the tribe of villager Indians after which the home town of this uniformed organization (Mandan Indian Shrine) is named.  At this place the Captains found trappers and traders sent out from the advance post of the Hudson’s Bay Fur Company, Fort Gerry, where we now sit and where a beautiful and important has been built, and which is known to the Faithful as the Oasis of Khartum.  There they became accustomed to the use of tobacco and learned many traditions of tobacco, the red stone bowl and its decorations and esoteric meanings.

In the Winter Count (pictographic history of the Dakota) of the Dakota, it is shown that a ‘woman in white’ (spirit) visited them at a very early date and explained the ceremonial use of the pipe and the smoke.

In a southwest country of Minnesota, upon the Big Sioux River, there is a deposit of Catlinite, and this deposit is red in color.  The same stone may be found in widely scattered places, brown, black, white and green, and all the colors between, but in one place, only, is it to be found in red.  This quarry belongs to the Yanktonaise tribe of the Dakota or Sioux Nation; legends extend back to the time of the flood and to when the Gods lived among men.  And while it is not material what the bowl of the pipe is composed of, for it may be of wood, stone or other material, it became the custom to use the red Catlinite for the bowl of pipes.  Therefore, the red Catlinite became a valued article of trade, and now may be found from Labrador to Mexico city and from the farthest point in northern Alaska to the Everglades of Florida.

Contrary to the general idea, which is that the pipe is a peace pipe only, it was also a war pipe and was used as such when a war party was raised.  Vows made upon the pipe were considered to be inviolable and must be carried out whether as a friendly gesture or as a war measure.  But while, as I have stated, the red stone bowl was important, the principal part of the pipe was, and still is, embraced in the stem itself.  This stem is made of ash, an extremely resistant wood structure, and the quest for a perfect specimen often took much time and, when found, the wood was subjected to certain ceremonial rites.  Not every man had the privilege or the right to make a stem and its preparation was accompanied by fasting and purification of the maker.

This pipe, which I hold in my hands and which we shall request that each of you smoke, belonged to a great Teton Chief of the Sihasapa or Blackfeet tribe.  His dynastic or family name was Grass while his warrior’s name was Mato Watakpe or Charging Bear; six generations of this family have smoked this pipe and Charging Bear carried it to Washington in the Sixties and our noble President, Abraham Lincoln, has smoked it as well as other Presidents and other famous soldiers.  It has been carried by Grass to every tribe of the Great Plains country, from Winnipeg to the Texas Trail and from the Great Lakes to the crest of the Rocky Mountains, and by him presented either in peace and war.  Assiniboine and Cree of the north; Montana Blackfeet and Crow and Nez Perce on the west; Arapahoe, Pawnee and Omaha in the south; the Pottowatami and other Lake tribes; Mandan, Hidatsi, Sanish and Cheyenne in the central areas  – all have taken this pipe in their hands or felt the baleful influence of its power.  And now, it has once again been returned to this place  – here in Winnipeg, within sight of the old historic monument of Fort Garry  – we sit down as friendly people from different political divisions of society, under the flag of which it is said the sun never sets, and which by Grace of God and the determined will of all liberty-loving peoples, shall never be trampled in the dust by any despot nor tied to the chariot wheels of a modern, usurping Caesar.

The theology of the central North American tribes embraced a One-God idea.  This was represented by the name Wakantonka, which may be translated as the Great Mystery, but it better known to us by the interpretation as given by Longfellow in his epic poem, Hiawatha, and this was the Great Spirit.  However, there were innumerable lesser spirits or ghosts, some of which were able to take any form of man or beast, bird or reptile, or even inanimate objects.  Often some of these spirit forms exerted a very bad influence, and active means were taken to prevent catastrophe by them.  The Indian is a very religious person, so preventative measures were necessary to keep these bad influences afar off.  This was done by making a rapid gesture toward the earth to frighten all earthbound spiritual mischief-makers and, as the sun is the Mother of the Earth and the Earth is the Mother of men, to permit the radiations of Mother Earth to reach to reach the souls of men. The stem was then pointed toward the four corners of the earth, which was to call upon those peoples living there to witness what they were about to do, and to invite all happy spirits therein to draw near to the Council.  The last gesture was to present the stem to Wakantonka and to spread the sweet smoke to the air to penetrate to every part of the world, as a sacrificial element.

Star takes the pipe at a Corn Dance, undated;

“ … After all are in position, the ceremony opened by a wise and fearless and good man (Star), taking the pipe from its resting place and lighting it.  The white smoke was blown to the four corners of the earth and to the heavens and then to the ground.  The sacred objects were covered with the sacred smoke from the pipe and then Star handed it to the men, each taking three puffs and drawing their hands, with fingers extended, down the stem as it was withdrawn from them to present to another man.”

Spoon Man takes the pipe at Feast of the Dogs Dance, undated;

“…In the Feast of the Dogs Dance, the Spoon man went through the pipe ceremony;  Before he took up the meat on the forked stick, he danced with the pipe and offered it in this manner…first, he presented it to the earth  – then to the west  – to the east, south and north in order named, and they to the heavens and Wakantonka.  All stem first, with arms extended full and in slow, solemn motion and thoughtful mien.  Then, handing the pipe to another dancer, he took up the meat as previously described…”

Crow Ghost speaks to Welch about raising a War Party, undated;


“ … He carried the pipe around once and raised a war party against the Crows.  He takes the pipe to the man he wants and if anyone he goes to does not smoke it, he cannot raise the party.  No one can object who is not asked to go to war and to smoke.  They killed many Crows.  In one war they killed all those men of the enemy.”  (He named nearly all the branches of the Tetons as having been in that expedition.  I think he meant the Little Big Horn fighting).

Old Indian will not smoke pipe with worst enemy, undated;

His name is Ka-be-na-gwe-wis in Chippewa.  English not known.  While spending some time in Minneapolis, a certain old Chippewa was visiting the city.  He claimed to be 128 years old and his face was wrinkled like a turtle’s shell.  It was arranged that he was to visit me, so I sent to Bismarck to get my peace pipe.  He knew that I was an adopted Sioux, the Chippewa’s worst enemy.  He looked at the pipe and when asked to smoke it he said that “He would not smoke a Sioux pipe. Those people were enemies of his.  He had been in many fights against them.  By smoking the pipe he would pledge his people to peace with the Sioux.  He had not been delegated to do that.  He liked me personally but could not smoke the peace pipe.”  He did, however, take a cigar with no such feeling of pledging his people.  It was simply a smoke of tobacco, not a peach pipe decorated with the traditional emblems of the Sioux.

John Cadotte talks to Welch, May 5-6, 1941;

Q: What was Sicola’s pipe like … how was the stem decorated? (ed note: Sicola was John Grass’ grandfather)

A: It was decorated with porcupine quills. Red horse hair was for the first son.  The eagle feathers were symbolic of the ten points or coups having been taken.

  How Chiefs are Made.  Newspaper Article page 1 (probably written by Welch)customs225-how-chiefs-are-made-p1



Shoot Holy (Okute Wakan) conducts the Pipe Ceremony with Welch, Cannon Ball, N.D., November 13, 1928;

 Shoot Holy prepares for the Ceremonycustoms215-shoot-holy-at-the-pipe-ceremony

Supplication Dance at Pipe Ceremonycustoms215-pipe-ceremony-p2

Seven Progression Photos of Pipe Ceremonycustoms215-pipe-ceremony-p3






Quills, Paints, Dyes

Mrs. Grass tells Mrs. Welch of ancient dyestuffs, May 5th, 1921;

“I never made the dye out of grass or twigs or leaves.  The old people used to do that.  When I was a girl we got dye from the traders among us.  We traded one buffalo hide for one small piece.  This was as large as a five cent piece.  The People a long time ago before traders came, did this way.  They knew certain trees.  They got the leaves of these trees.  They wrapped porcupine quills in the leaves.  They put them in water.  When they took them out of the water, some were r4ed and some were yellow.  I do not know what certain trees they used that way.”

Welch notes, undated;

Chasing Fly told me that a young man often paints his face in the same manner at all times.  It is quite customary.  When a young man first puts on paint, his father gives a feast and the young man has the right to give away a horse to someone he desires to honor.  Generally, this is his particular friend or a great friend of his father’s.  After that he always paints his face in that one particular way or design.

Mrs. Red Star, Ree, N.D., an educated Arikara, Jan 10th, 1922;

“My father has said that in the olden times he went to some butte or high hill and got some earth or clay there.  This was a sort of red and yellow clay.  He ground it up with a stone hammer and burned it in the fire.  Then he got some greasy, oily stuff from the water of a spring (note  – This was probably a seepage of crude oils)  and mixed the paint in it.  The red became very dark red and the yellow was a good yellow.  With this he painted his trunks and robes before they got dyes from traders.  The old women also made their pots red and yellow with it but I do not know how it was done.  When they dyed porcupine quills they always boiled them in the paint.  I do porcupine work now and I always boil them in salt and vinegar to set the dye.  Now we boil indelible blues.

“A quill is not long   – about two inches or a little more.  We used to put them in our mouths to make them pliable but they tell us not to do that now on account of the bad dyes  – we might be poisoned some way.  Now we moisten some ground and stick them in there to make them soft.  Then we flatten them out with the nail of our thumb at the end of the finger.  We turn under a little of the end and take a stick with a needle there on the line. Then on the other line we turn it again and take a very little stitch in it to hold it  – when we get to the end of the quill we turn in under the end and start another quill.  We follow the lines we draw that way and work out the designs.  Putting in colors of different hues to make the work pretty.”