Life on the Plains in the 1800’s. Items R thru W (“Red Man’s Welcome” thru “Women’s Life”) as told to Col. A. B. Welch

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


Red Man’s Welcome    speech made by Iron Bull, chief of the Crow Indians

Relationships    All Yellow and Emeron White talk to Welch

Religion     Jaw prays to his totem, the Wolf…Crow Ghost speaks of Wakan Things

Robes    “All Chief’s Robe” painted by No Two Horns

Sign Language    Names of Tribes in sign language  – authority, Crow Ghost

Songs    Chief John Grass’ song, sung by Shoots First, Hunkpapa, etc,

Superstition    Beaver’s Blood, The Rainbow, Sneezing, Counting Stars, Breaking Vow, etc.

Symbolism    Turtle Totem, Dream Stories, Great Coat & Coup Stick, Visiting Sticks, Flags, etc.

Tears    They weep at funerals and at the side of their sick babies; a pathetic story will cause them to shed tears.

Tipi    Welch receives his tipi for ceremonial use

Traveling    These journeys often were over fifteen hundred miles in a single spring, summer and fall trip.

Treatment of Enemy    some vicious stuff

War Women    Amanda Grass tells her story

Weights and Measures    Conversation with Herbert Hawk Shield Welsh, Sihasapa Tintonwanna

Weapons    Red Fish and Amanda Grass discuss

Winter Counts    Blue Thunder and his Pictogrqaphic Winter Count 1784-1913

Women’s Life    The idea that Indian women were slaves and drudges in erroneous…..



Red Man’s Welcome

Washburn Times, October 25, 1883;

One of the most touching incidents of the driving of the last spike of the Northern Pacific was the welcoming speech made by Iron Bull, chief of the Crow Indians:

This is the last of it  – this is the last thing for me to do.  I am glad to see you are here, and hope my people of the Crow Nation are glad to see you, too.  There is a meaning in my part of the ceremony and I understand it.  The end of our lives is near at hand.  The days of my people are almost numbered.  Already they are dropping off like the rays of sunlight in the western sky.  Of our one powerful nation, there are now but a few left  – just a little handful and we, too, will soon be gone.  After the savage, though, has given way to civilization, the white will come.  They will enjoy the same bright skies, the same glad sunshine, the beauteous mountains, lakes and rills where once we delighted to roam.  They will probably live in it, populate it with the flower of their race, but will they forever remain in possession of the grand domain?  Who knows but that some race at present unknown, will make its appearance and over-power and take the land away from the, too?  Then, as the last chief of the pale-faced nation stands before the conqueror, will he bid him welcome to his all, to his home, to his life, to his very soul, with more earnestness and with as much sincerity as his red brother welcomes him now?  I am glad to see you here.”




All Yellow talks to Welch, August 8th, 1922;

Your father’s brother’s son and daughter are your brother and sister, the same as your father’s son and daughter.

Your father’s sister’s son and daughter are your cousins, not your brothers and sisters, like your father’s brother’s son and daughters are.

A son with the same father but different mother, we do not speak much about.  They are not counted much as a relation.

Emeron White, educated Dakotah, talks to Welch at Fort Yates, August 17, 1922;

It is very bad for children to run around in front of a chief man or other important person.

It is not right for you to take any notice of your sister-in-law.  You should not speak to her or even see her or walk in front of her.  Some people treat their mother-in-law the same way as that.

When you have a brother-in-law, you treat him just the same as your brother.  You walk around with him and talk with him.  If you have a good horse, or anything he wants, you must give it to him if he asks you for it.  You must always treat your brother-in-law very nicely.




Jaw prays to his totem, the Wolf, 1915 notes;

Jaw (Oehupa), a Hunkpapa, Standing Rock Reservation.  Childhood name was Maza ho Waste (Good Voice Iron or Loud Sounding Metal).  At the age of 17 he received the name of His Battle (Okicize Tawa).  His mother was of the band of Hunkpapa known as Giglilaska and his father was Sans Arc (Teton).  63 years old in 1915, born the year he said was “Winter that Turtle Catcher died.”  He Said:

“Before any great undertaking I always call upon Wakantonka and smoke a pipe in a ceremonial way  – Wakantonka, hear me, behold this pipe, behold it.  I ask you to smoke it.  I do not want to kill anybody, I only want to get good horses.  I ask you to help me.  This is why I speak to you with this pipe.”

Then, holding the stem in his left hand and the bowl in his right, he pointed the stem toward the left shoulder and said:

“Wolf, now, behold this pipe.  Smoke it and bring me many horses.”

Then, with his right hand on the stem and his left on the bowl, stem upward and bowl level with his face, he said:

“Wakantonka, behold this pipe.  I ask you to smoke it.  I am holding it for you.  Look also at me.”

Then he touched to his lips the unlighted stem and prayed:

“Wakantonka, I will now smoke this pipe in your honor.  I ask that no bullet may harm me when I am in battle, I ask that I may get many horses.”

He lit the pipe and smoked it, and then said:

“Wakantonka, behold this pipe and behold me.  I have let my breast be pierced (in the Sun Dance).  I have shed much blood.  I ask you to protect me from shedding more blood and give me long life.”

After this he lit and smoked his ordinary pipe and talked, saying:

“I always did it that way and my blood was never shed after I took the Sun Dance.  This is why I always ask Wakantonka to protect me.”

Lone Man’s Prayers, undated notes;

Lone Man (Isnala wico), Sihasapa Teton, made the following prayer before singing into a phonograph for a record of a “Dream Song” call “The Horseman in the Cloud:”

“Great Grandfather, again one of your songs I will sing, listen to me.  These you required me to sing each day and now, this day.  I shall recall one.”

Lone Man also sung a song to “My Horse,” but after singing, he bowed his head and very reverently said:”

“Makatankan wicasa wan wicohan wan awahiyaya tko hona on onsimala yo, tuwa wankatankan initancan he cina.”

Translation:  “A man from the earth am I, I have sung concerning an event from which have compassion on me, whoever from above, you (who are) the supreme ruler.”

Bear with White Paws prays to his totem, the Bear;

Bear with White Paws (Mato napo aka), Standing Rock Reservation, is a medicine man and practices with herbs and he dreamed of a bear which, he says, “has a soul like ours and he talks to me in my sleep and tells me what to do (in medicine).  He is very truthful.”   Before singing his medicine song he made a prayer, or supplication to his totem, the Bear,  which follows:

“My friend, I am poor and needy.  Listen well to me.  This day I have something in my mind, and I wish to tell you.  All these medicines you have made known to me, and you have commanded me to perform certain things in order to attend to certain sicknesses, and you have told me that these medicines I have certain powers in them.  Now I wish to use them with effect.  These sicknesses, I want them to go away.”

The Sweat Bath, Dakotah, April 1923 notes;

Contrary to general belief among white people, the sweat bath of the Plains Tribes was not, in itself, a therapeutic measure.  That such an effect was obtained was recognized, but, per se, the bath was a religious rite performed for the purification of the soul as well as of the body, and when partaken of in this sense, it was done most often in fulfillment of some vow made or assumed, and was preparatory to some further act of piety, expiation or ritualistic, ceremonial participation.  This may be to take part in the “Sun Dance”  – to act in the capacity of a holy man in a ceremony  – to mourn for a number of days  – or, as a preparation to some deed of bravery, premeditated  – or to perform acts for or in hopes of pleasing the owner’s “medicine.”

Today, however, these forms for the bath are very commonly seen in the vicinity of a house or camp, especially among the Indians of the Fort Berthold Reservation, and the baths are taken for their medicinal qualifications.  A few older people, still do take the severe treatment, with the old idea in view.

Spread of the Piute Religious influence, Thomas Rogers (Charges Alone), Arikara, January 11th, 1927;


Crow Ghost speaks of Wakan Things to Welch, Oct. 18, 1915:


“I have talked with the spirits of my brothers and fathers.  I go into the hills alone and go to sleep.  When I sleep so hard that no one can wake me up, my spirit goes all around and talks with the people who have been dead a long time ago.  I am not there at all when I am asleep.  They shake me.  I do not care.  I am not awake.  I go long ways and talk with many people then.”

A Ghost Story … Mr. Underhill, trader of Cannon Ball, tells the following;

While I was running the store at the Parkins Ranch place we saw an old man steal things several times.  We fixed it up to scare him.  The next time he came it was after dark.  He secreted several things under his blanket and started home.  When he got down in the heavy timber near the Mulhern Ford a man jumped out at him and he started to run.  The man chased him across the ford and he dropped the pilfered goods and got away.  But he did not come again for a long time and was broken of the habit.  He told the people that a ghost got after him and screeched and yelled at him.  He was brave but decided to get away so he would not have to injure the spirit.  It rode through the air just above him.  He ran faster than he ever did but the ghost kept even with him easily.  He rant past the old Arikara mound on top of the him and when he passed that place, the ghost went into the mound and stayed there.  (Note  – this is the mound into which Dr. McBeede and Dr. Gilmore of the N.D.Historical Society dug).

John Grass loses faith in white man’s religion …  John Grass, dying as told by Dr. A. McG. Beede, July 11th, 1920;

“During the last three months of the chief’s life I called upon the old gentleman every day or two at his brick house near the Government Hospital at Fort Yates.  I noticed a great mental or, rather, spiritual change in him during that time, and he reverted to almost savagery toward the last.  He said that he had been mistreated and misled by the white and was disappointed in everything.  He looked at times like he would like to go on the warpath against them and was quite bitter.  He said that he was aware that he had been misinterpreted many times and his words misconstrued and turned against his people and himself.”

“He told me that he had lost faith in the Catholic religion and that he wished he could get back to the old time Dakotah worship.  He said that that was real religion of spirits and that the spirit of a man simply lived in a man.  After the body died the spirit liked to stay around for a time with those it loved and live in the body with the spirit of another person.  But he said he was not able to quite grasp it (the old-time religion) now that he was so weak.”

“His funeral was unfortunate.  He had a sore on his body which broke during the burial ceremony and the blood ran out upon the floor from the box.  This was taken as an omen of misfortune among the old Dakotah.  Father Bernard had anointed his feet with oil and had performed the other rites of the last Sacrament, and he was laid to rest in the ground of the Catholic Cemetery at Fort Yates  – a great man among men of any color or degree of education, respected by diplomatic men at Washington and well-beloved by his own people, but, at the end. He was disappointed, heartsick and sore because of the treatment of his people and he died as he was born….an Indian.”

Religion in Olden times  … from many conversations with Mrs. John Grass and others;

The old time Dakotah prayed to Wakantonka or God.  This old time God was the same one they pray to at the present time.  They believed that water, wind, trees, animals, in fact all living things, as well as abstract things such as stones, cold, etc., had spirits.  These spirits were often in evidence to different ones who were favored.  Those thus favored were honored among them.  This evidence often was oral or visual.  There were good and bad spirits and they never heard or conceived of a Devil or Chief of Evil Spirits.  Spirits often took up their abode in a stone or water.  Such as Miniwankan and the stone on the Cannon Ball river.  Spirits knew their friends and enemies after this life.  They also made friends with living people, often those they did not know in life.  They influenced them for good or bad; they often protected them in war and made them wise or foolish as they pleased or as the living one allowed them to.  They made offerings of valuable cloth, tobacco, etc., to Wakantonka in answer to prayer.  They prayed for success in war, for long life and health and honesty.

Spirit Guide …. Taku-skan-akan, literally “Moving Relative.”  A spirit supposed to be personally one’s own.  What modern spiritualists might call ‘Guide.’

Water Spirit … Un-kte-hi, a water God or spirit.  A fabled monster of the waters.  Probably because large bones of prehistoric animals are found in the Bad Lands of North Dakota.

Wakan … meaning holy, spiritual, not understood, sacred, etc.  This is also said of women during menstrual periods.  They are to be shunned, not as being dangerous, but because of not being fully understood, or Wakan.

Northland Spirit … Wa-zi-ya, the Frost Spirit.  This is a spirit who is a large, gigantic man, and he lives in the north country where it is cold all the time.  When winter comes here, it is Waziya coming close and blowing icy breath over the land.  In the summertime he goes away.  He does many funny things with the frost and ice and often punishes people by freezing them…but is it considered that he is a kind spirit after all, even if he does like to perform pranks.  Very similar to our Jack Frost.

Scare Spirit … Ho-hno-go-ca, a household spirit of the Dakotahs.  A spirit with which mothers frequently scare their children into silence in the night time or when they are naughty.

Spirit of the Forests … Can-p-ti-dan, this spirit is like some misformed animal and is said to resemble a man.  Like Hohnogoca above, mothers scare their children by talking about this spirit.  Not so well-known as the Inktomi (the spider).  Sort of a ‘bad man will get you if you don’t watch out’ spirit.

Spirit Land … Crow Man, Hunkpapa, Fort Yates, N.D., July 12, 1921…”Where the spirit goes to after a man dies.  I think it is to the east.  Everything has a spirit and does not die but goes there.”

Chief Grass talks of his first meeting with Father DeSmit, 1841;

“One spring when we were still in winter damp, about ‘They wear snow shoes winter,’ we were on Palani Wakpe (Grand River).  I was a small child then.  One morning there was a great excitement.  The people were all running to one side of the camp.  A man came walking. Another came with him, an Indian (note  – interpreter).  I was very ‘scare.’  It was the first time I had ever seen a man who was white.  I had heard about them and was afraid.  My grandfather was head chief and he treated him very well and slept him on soft robes in a separate tipi.  He was a ‘black robe’ man.”

“The next morning he called all the children of the camp together and poured water upon them.  I did not know then just what this thing meant, but we thought he wanted to make ceremony.  I do know now.  It was what we call baptized.  I was a Catholic now.  He was a very good man.  He stayed with us only a day or two and then walked away somewhere.  His name was Smith.”

Corn Priests, undated notes;

Mrs. Holding Eagle (Scattered Corn) is the daughter of Moves Slowly (Ihedami) of the Mandans.  His son is James Holding Eagle.  Both of Elbowoods, N.D.  Moves Slowly was the last Corn Priest of the Mandans.  He died in 1904, and was the last of a line of 34 priests or the same number of generations.  This record of priests is kept, and the average age of them was 60 to 70 years.

Twin Buttes, Chief Drags Wolf & Bears Arm talk, Feb. 10, 1934;

Bears Arm, 1934biog8-bears-arm-photo

“When the creator made the Heart River and the world, he had two handsfull of mud left.  So he made those two hills west of Mandan.  We call them Twin Buttes.”





“All Chief’s Robe” painted by No Two Horns, July 1924customs235-all-chiefs-robe

Commencing at upper left hand corner, read each line of figures from left to right:

1. Sitting Bull, Gall, Long Dog, Burns Medicine Bag.


2. White Horse, Scabby Head (Grass?), Shot in the Head, His War.


3. Eagle Bear, Old Bones, Eagle Catching, Running Horse.



Sign Language

Names of Tribes in sign language  – authority, Crow Ghost, Sioux, August 18th, 1927;

Hunkpapa  – Draw a circle like a horseshoe, with the finger and emphatically place end of forefinger at the farthest point of the horseshoe.  “The first end of the circle of the camp.”

Arikara  – With the points of the fingers and thumb reach toward the grass and close the fingers with an upward motion.  “They plant tobacco.”

Hidatsa  – Extend left arm fully with hand closed and right arm, bent, extended back, as in act of shooting with bow and arrows.  “Their bows are long.”

Numakaki (Mandans)  – Pick the face from the chin to forehead and back to chin, with first two fingers and thumb of right hand.  “They had small pox.”

Crow Indians  – (a detached unit of the above Hidatsa, or Gros Ventre)  Hands as high as shoulders, elbows flexed, hands turned outward to either side and flapping.  “One Crow.”

Sheyenne (Shaheyelo in Sioux)  – With forefinger of left hand make cutting motion across the left forearm between elbow and wrist.  “Sha-red. He-bone, yelo  – it is said.”  Consequently it means “Red Bone, so it is said.”  (this is the true meaning of that word, and perhaps, not “They speak a different tongue,”  the commonly accepted interpretation).

Minniconjou (a Sioux tribe)  – With the left hand make a sweeping horizontal motion away from a point down by the feet  – at the same time close the fingers of the right hand toward the thumb, and pull up from inside the left hand.  “They planted corn by the water.”

Where are you from? When an Indian is asked where he is from, he will turn his face toward the place and, holding up his hand, palm up, to the level of his lips, blow sharply across the hand.

How far is it from one place to another?  When asked how far one place is from another, a young woman told me that “it is a day’s travel in the summer time.”  This meant that, with fair weather and continuous travel, the place could be reached in one day with a team.

Joy!  ….and the women make the very peculiar sound of joy (Ho ho he e e) covering the mouth with palm of their hand in the sign of wonder and astonishment.

Priest … the sign language for a priest, or black robe man, is for the first two fingers of the hand to be carried to the lips and the fingers worked rapidly back and forth in and to the front of the lips at an angle of about 45 degrees.

Saying Thanks … “….My father’s name was “Haye” and it means drawing your hand over your face, touching the forehead and then down to below the chin.  This is the old way of saying thanks to anyone.  It is a good thanks and all the old people would understand it.  You say “Haye” when you do this.




Chief John Grass’ song, sung by Shoots First, Hunkpapa;


Notes from 1918 … This melody was recently composed and said to be a grass-dance tune.  During a gathering of Sioux at the Standing Rock Agency in the summer of 1912 this song was sung in honor of John Grass, one of whose native names is Mato Watakpe.  John Grass is the most prominent Sioux Chief living at the present time.  …. 1918


Oyate kin … the tribe         Wacinmayanpi … depend upon me

Canna he … thence                          Tehihiya … through difficulties

omawani elo … I have traveled

Mato Watakpe … Charging Bear    heyakeya pelo … said this.

White Horse Riders song, January 15, 1916;

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Wolf Song, January 15, 1916;


Dream Song, January 15, 1916;


Ghost Dance Song, sung to me (Welch) August 18, 1920 by Short Bull, Teton;


Short Bull, a Sicangu or Brule, born on the Niobrara river about 1845. In 1890 he was appointed a delegate to visit Wovoka, the Piute Messiah, and went to Pyramid Lake, Nevada, on that account.  One his return he represented himself to be the special vicar of Wovoka and after he had been imprisoned by the Army authorities, he said he was the Messiah, himself, on earth.  He was mush followed by the people during the Ghost Dance craze but finally fell into disrepute among them.   He was brother of Crow Ghost’s wife.

Ghost Dance song, sung by Sitting Bull’s band during the Ghost Dance Craze, sung to Welch by Short Bull, August 18, 1920;


Ghost Dance song (Mother Come Back), sung by Short Bull, August 18, 1920;


Ghost Dance Song (Feast with Dead Friends Song), sung by Short Bull, August 18, 1920;


End of Life Song, sung by Little Horse, a very old warrior, probably August 18, 1920;


 Going to War Song


Serenading, Standing Rock Reservation, July 4, 1920:

…An old crier was then sent around the circle and told the people where the visitors were camped.  That evening a crowd of singers went to that tipi and serenaded them first, after which they went clear around the circle and sang at each tent, generally receiving some gift when they had finished.  Women went along and danced also.  Two nights later the visitors did the same thing and san at each tent.  This took them until about midnight.  The singing and dancing of the northern visitors from Berthold Reservation was very much like the Dakotah singing and dancing, but I noticed some difference in the drum beats, that being generally but one strong beat where the Dakotah give one strong and one light beat, and sometimes, the beating of the drum was stopped for quite a number of measures but the singing continued.

War songs in honor of Welch … Mrs. Grass talks, May 5, 1921:


“When you were away at war I used to sing this song. (Here she sang).  Your father any myself would get up early in the morning.  It was cold.  The wind blew.  That was good.  We stood on the prairie together.  We both sung the song every day.  In the morning just when the sun came.  We sang for you to be brave and live a long time.  Then we went back into the warm house.  It was good to sing and get cold for you.”

Song of Tears, June 4, 1932;

This was a new one to me and very effective and wild.  All the singers gave the sound of crying at the end of it, and during its rendition, the wailing women in the audience or circle made it savage and real.  There were about 300 people present, and a few whites.  Returned to Mandan at 3:30 am, Saturday, June 4, 1932.

Death Song, undated, but about 1919/920;

….During the talk I mentioned the wounded and shattered dead upon the fields of France, and several old women and one young one sang the Death Song.  I have been among the Indians for a long time, but this was the first time I had heard this song to know it.  It is a weird thing and goes through one like a knife.  The cry of the old women was like that of a coyote, very high, and sliding around in a fashion most ghostly.

Song of Mato Watakpe, 1921 notes;

This is the song they always sing in my honor when I go among them.  It is called the Song of Mato Watakpe and is quite a favorite:

Mato Watakpe went to the “Cross the Ocean War.”

He chased the Germans all around.

It is told about him this way.

Welch comments on Dakotah Songs, January 15, 1916, reads like a prepared manuscript being readied for publication;

Many Dakotah songs are sacred to certain occasions or ceremonies.  No one should ask an Indian to sing a song which he holds sacred to certain times or ceremonies.  When a singer does sing such a one, it is usually preceded by a prayer to Wakantonka  – that he sings this song with reverence and prayer.  Many of the songs are traditional and of almost lost origin; as the song of the White Horse Riders.  The Dakotah are at all times prayerful and full of reverence, especially the older ones, and their songs are not to be sung without a real reason.  Sacred to them are the hours of birth; of death, and in symbol and ceremony, he tells his reverence.

Prayer is offered in many ways  – by the reverential smoking of a pipe; by the lonely vigil on some flat-topped butte; by the planting of plumed prayer sticks, with a red cloth or feathers upon it; in the telling of traditional stories; by the paint upon their faces; by the songs which they sing.  Especial is this true in the song, which is the throb of pulses, the swift beating of war horse’s feet, the sound of running water, the rush of stampeding animals, the cry of the wolf, the fierce charge of warriors.  These things show rhythm.

The melody is taken from the great organ of nature  – the wailing of the wind, the falling of leaves, the rustle of the grasses, the mating songs of birds, which finds its emotional response in man’s songs.

The harmony is sometimes lacking in the Dakotah songs.  It is the result of study of the art.  The songs of the Indian are unstudied, but through them all runs a strong unconscious sense of the element of harmonic background.  A nature symphony appears to be sensed, when the songs are heard out under the broad, open sky, amid the sweep of the wind through the grass and over the hills  – the white clouds overhead and the almost indistinguishable organ pipes of nature sounding in the twilight glow.

Indian tribes differ greatly in their music  – as they do in life matters.  But they all have greatly developed rhythm  It cannot properly be produced upon a piano  – it needs drums and the sound of the human voice.  The songs usually start with one man who with high quavering tones, gradually descends into low phrases and is then joined by the other singers, and then die away with abruptness or long sustained open-vowel syllables.

The barbaric man has passed without a recorded sound.  A broken pit of pottery; a bone awl; an elk tooth, bored with its owner’s mark; an arrow head; a grave mound; a lodge circle of stone or earth; a debris pile; a broken heating stone, scored with fire; a lots stone hammer; an uncovered fireplace; a line of stones upon some once time holy hill; these are footprints of the past peoples.  But the type of manhood preserved is splendid  – the poised, brave, eloquent, self-controlled, proud figure amid a nation of unrest and strife.

Gros Ventre “Bravery” Song

Gros Ventre and Sioux Battle about 1874, as told by Crows Heart, First Chief of the Mandans, May 31st 1923, at his camp, mouth of the Little Missouri river.  Interpreter, Joe Packineau, Gros Ventre, Elbowoods, N.D.;

“When we lived together with the Gros Ventre at the village by Fort Berthold, a scout came in with word of a large band of Sioux approaching.  Their evident purpose was to attack us there.  They were coming fast.  There were about a thousand of them.

It was in the hot month (July) forty nine years ago (1874).  Soon we saw some of them.  They came to the banks where the timber was.  They swam their horses over to the east side of the river.  They appeared close to the village and shouted and sung songs.  They asked us to come out from among the women and fight.  There were fifty of these warriors.

Many of us were very anxious to obtain war honors.  We wanted to go and fight then.  So we rode against them then.  They did not stay long.  They run away.  We followed them hard.  Our horses ate corn and were faster and stronger than their grass-fed horses.

These fifty Sioux were a trap for us.  We soon saw that.  They kept ahead of us and drew us on to an ambush place.  We refused to be caught in the hills.  We rode against both sides of the enemy then.  We changed the trap.  They were in it now.  We killed six of them. Then they run away from the place.  We did not follow very far.  We feared another trap.

But one young man of the Mandans was very brave.  He parted his hair in the middle like a Sioux..  He rode among the enemy.  He pushed to the head of the party.  When he got there he turned around and struck a Sioux.  Then he told them that he was a Mandan.  He got away all right.  He was brave.  He wears a single feather in his hair for that thing.

That song they are singing is for him,” (the drums and singers were giving a song called “See the Sioux Song”):

“See the Sioux.  He is among them.

He strikes them. They fear him.”

 Victory Song for Welch




Killing White Weasel or Ermine, Andrew Iron Roads, about 65 yrs old, April 29th, 1936;

This man called to tell me that his wife was sick.  During the winter of 1935-36, one of my men at Metigosha Camp had trapped several white weasels or ermine.  Two of them were very small, about 8 inches long, but apparently mature specimens.  Iron Roads said that he had heard of these smaller species but had never seen them before.  Concerning ermine, he had this to say: “We Indians are afraid to kill these animals.  If a man does kill one, he immediately singes off its long whiskers on the nose.  That makes it all right.  Some men have some medicine, a root, which they burn at the hole of these animals  – the white animal then comes out and falls dead right there.  That way of killing them is all right too.  Then if one gets into a trap and is killed  – the trap is to blame for killing him, so that is all right too.  If you kill it with a stick, you should burn the stick or bury it right away.  It is wakan sica (bad medicine).  Then there is something about the beaver too and you have to be careful with ……

customs113-andrew-iron-roadsBeaver’s Blood, Andrew Iron Roads continues:

Beaver’s blood is very bad for women when they are unclean (Menses period).  If a woman that way, steps across any beaver blood, she bleeds very much and dies.  I have seen this too.  We always dress the dead beaver in the water if we can.  The blood flows away then and girls cannot step over it.  I have always told my girls to be very careful about that thing.  We eat the flesh but always dress it away from camp place.  You have to be careful all through life time.”

The Rainbow, Mrs. Amanda Grass, Mandan, N.D., May 15th, 1921;

“…When a rainbow comes every one looks at it.  But no one points at it.  If you point at it you will suffer then.  Your finger will grow very large.  It gets big.  It is bad to point at the rainbow.  A man I knew had a dream.  He dreamed about the rainbow.  For that thing he painted a rainbow on each side of the entrance to his tipi.  It was lucky for him.”

Mrs. Amanda Grass on Sneezing, same date;

“When a Dakotah sneezes it is said of him that ‘someone is speaking about him.’  Especially is this said of young people who are separated from each other, lover or great friends.  Then, as they remember the happiness they have had when together, the one who sneezes says ‘Han, Han;’ and give a long sigh.  It is considered a good omen and the absent one is supposed to be speaking the name of the friends at the time he sneezes.

Counting Stars, Cannon Ball, Nov. 12, 1928 

… an old woman told me that one should never attempt to count the stars, not even to count as far as three, for, if once started, and not finished, that person would surely die of an accident or be killed by a horse.

Muscles Twitch, same old woman;

When one has a nervous twitching of the muscles or a sensation in the breast, it is said that “you have a feeling for an absent friend” and is supposed to be a premonition of something which will happen to that friend.

Breaking a vow;

This is a serious matter to the old-time Dakotah.  He may expect to suffer some misfortune and, if such does overtake him after having failed to take his vow, like the Sun Dance, it is proof to them that he did break the vow and is suffering for it.

Evil of Whiskey, Chief John Grass once told me…

When a man drank whiskey they thought that the spirit left him and went away for a time, and evil spirits took their places in him as long as he was under the influence of drink.

Taboo (Wohdece);

When anyone takes a vow to hold anything sacred or “wohdece,” he is not supposed to eat of it until he kills an enemy which then removes the taboo.  It is considered sacred and includes the vow, itself.  He might vow that he would not eat meat or dance with the people until he had done some brave deed.  On account of the things forbidden to be done after one partakes of the Lord’s Supper, that is considered the same and same name is applied to ‘Supper’ and ‘Baptism’ alike.


When a Dakotah has the hiccups it is said that the person will surely get meat before the day is done.  I once carried some kidney fat to old lady Yellow Horse.  She thanked me and said she knew she would have meat that day.  I asked her how she knew and she told me the above and said it never failed to be.

Moon on the Wane, Mrs. Amanda Grass told me…

When the moon is on the wane, it is said that a large mouse with a pointed nose is nibbling at the moon.




Turtle totem;

Red Fish once wore the skin of a turtle’s tail on his hat.  When I asked him why, he did this he said, “that is a good thing for luck.  I make my medicine bag with the foot of a turtle.  It is sacred to me.”

Welch talks to Mrs. John Grass, May 1, 1921, about his Dream Story of a Bear;

A man had a dream.  He was somewhere.  He was among the trees.  There were high hills there, too. He heard a voice.  It said, “Come with me.”  He looked.  A silver-colored bear was there.  It had a white face.  The man followed it.  It went among the trees.  It went very fast.  It nearly flew.  The man went too.  Where the bear went, the man went.  They finally came to the top of the mountain.  They came out on a great step of stone.  Down below it looked like the birds see things. It was very deep.  There was a bird flying there.  He came and sat on a stone shelf.  He had long wings and a long tail like a swallow.  Then a fox came and sat down there.  The bear said, “I am the strongest one of you.”  The fox said, “I have the longest tail of all,” and the bird said that he could fly the fastest and had the best wings.  The bear saw the man get out a smoke.  He asked for it.  The man only had one smoke but he gave it to the bear.  Then the bear said that the man was the best because he was charitable and gave away all he had.  Then the man talked to the animal people there and finally he want to sleep.  When he woke up he had a little black stone in his mouth.  The animals were all gone.  This black stone was a holy stone.  (Welch note:  My own dream).

Later, Mrs. Grass made the following remarks about this dream;

“This was a good dream.  To dream of a bear is always the best.  They are the strongest and the bravest.  If the man had kept the black stone he could have conquered the whole world by it.  If a man is in danger, the bear would have kept him safe and made him brave.  It is good to dream of talking animals.  The spirit of the bear would keep him.  Many people have had such dreams and made songs about it.  Sometimes the dreams had the song in it.  That was very good.  The man could wear something of the bear on his clothes then.  Everyone knew then that the bear was his luck medicine (totem).

Great Coat (or Big Robe) and Coup Stick…Leo Cadotte interprets for council held in his home at Wakpala, S.D., April 6, 1941.  His name is Kasakami (Never Whipped Horse);

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


At the ceremony of Alowanpi (Adoption) of myself in 1912, one of the gifts presented to me then, was the hair-fringed shirt of John Grass.  Perhaps the significance of this gift was not realized at that time by me and it may have been that Grass, thinking that I did fully realize it, though, made no special reference to it.  But the Sioux always have said that I was a Chief  – “taking my father’s place,” and the people have always called me Chief  – but I know of no other white man (adopted as I was) who had that distinction.  Whenever I have pitched my tent or my tipi in the circle of a camp  – disputes and other troubles have been brought to my attention and, at times, I have decided disputed questions among them; said whether or not there would be a dance, and decided the locations of such when two bands wanted it in their owns particular part of the camp; in councils and visiting groups I have been given the place of honor opposite the door or entrance and the pipe has first been smoked by me, and in many other ways I have sensed the distinction accorded to a Chief.  Especially did I notice this wile engaged in selecting a war part from among a large camp, in 1917 (this was selecting about 75 Sioux to enlist and go against the Germans in France).

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

but that the most important symbol of a Chief was the ‘coup stick,’

There was considerable talk among the old men about this, and my impression was that the ‘shirt’ or ‘jacket’ of a Chief bore the marks of his deeds, but that the most important symbol of a Chief was the ‘coup stick,’ which they described as a staff of wood about eight feet tall and crooked at the ends (as a Shepherd’s crook).  This was squared for a part way and painted red on two sides and white on the other sides; a blue band painted about midway, about as wide as one’s hand.  At the end of the crook hung eagle’s feathers, either notched or shaved, denoting the owner’s coups, besides red feathers for wounds.  There was also a star hanging, or tied, to the crook  – being a fine-pointed star, representing the arms, the legs and the mead of a man.  High Reach said that red was honor (of which bravery was a necessary part); white stands for purity (note  – at least ‘of purpose’); blue denoted the sky or heavens above, which is everlasting.  He stated that the coup stick was often stuck in the ground in front of the Chief’s lodge at times of council or to designate the place of council.

Emblematic Tipi, undated notes, but seems to be around 1910;


At a great feast and gift-giving ceremony on the flats west of Fort Yates, I noticed a tipi in the middle of the circle of seated men and women.  It was made of the regular tipi poles but with no covering. Thinking that the covering might been given away, I inquired into the matter and the following information was given to me by Rev. McG.Beede, a missionary.

“The tipi is built that way and is emblematical.  It represents ‘Universal Friendship’ because the tipi was the home place.  The sun was the Mother of the Earth and, as such, was now able to shine down into every part of the naked tipi.  The Earth, as Mother of men, and the tipi being naked, the influence of the Sun and Earth can pass freely back and forth, with nothing to hinder; also all the good influences of the world, from every point of the compass, can pass to and fro in and through it.  It is, therefore, intended to represent a House of Friendship.  All the Indians know what it means.”

Visiting Sticks, undated notes;


In the tipi of Thomas Frosted, whose Dakotah name is Mato Ska, he is Captain of Indian Police on the Standing Rock, and is Hunkpapa.

I opened the skin covering of his tipi and went in.  Frosted and his wife and some others were there.  I sat down and said, “Hao, Kola.”  Response was made by Frosted.  His wife hunted around and soon found a stick about eighteen inches long and marked with bands of red and black.  The black had been made with charcoal and the red with paint.  Frosted planted it in the ground straight up in front of where we sat.  All the other visitors showed approval.


Afterward I asked him what it meant.  He said, “In the old times we had these sticks.  The red shows how many times I have been wounded in battle.  The black how many coups I made upon the enemy.  We used them to show if we wanted a visitor to stay or go.  If it is straight up you can stay as long as you wish.  If it leans a little but not clear over, it means you can stay to a meal.  If it leans over half way (flat on ground), it is not to stay at all, but to go out and go away.  Maybe we have not enough to feed them and maybe we do not like them and want them to go away from us and let us alone.  It is an old custom.  The young people do not know about it.  The old people do know about it.  The way it is in the ground for you, is good and you can stay a long time with us and eat and sleep.”

The stick I saw was made of willow and peeled.

Description of pictograph on tobacco bag presented to A. B. Welch by John Grass;


“Once I was out to hunt.  I was out in the country of the Mandans, north of here.  It was by the Knife river.  A Mandan Indian shot at me and hit me in the foot.  It made me pretty mad.  I shot four bullets with blood.  I killed the Mandan in the head.  I killed his two horses.  Then I went home into the Cannon Ball country with his things.  S now I have the right to wear this picture on my tobacco bag.”

Welch comments;

The picture of the Indian’s head is that of a Mandan.  The pompadour, alone, would indicate a Crow Indian, but, with the colored sticks or clay in his braids, it means a Mandan, as they wore their hair that way.  He is ‘killed in the head.’  The half circles indicate two horse tracks.  The four dark spots are ‘bullets’ and the red streaks indicate ‘running blood.’  In other words, Grass made four hits.

Designs and colors;

Black is the color of war and red is the color which relates to bravery or wounds.

Eagle in Seven Fires Council Flag;

Grass says … the eagle is black.  He said the pipe was held in the left foot, because that was the weaker foot.  The strong one, the right, holds the weapons of war.

The color red; Shoots Well says … Red on a feather or stick or paint is color of honor.  It denotes a coup.

Symbols on Leggings given to Welch;

Wave lengths denote strength.  Three circles in beads denote I have taken three captives.  Two crosses with equal arms denote that I have shaken hands with the enemy.  Two red circles with pictograph representing three red feathers indicate my coups.  Eight horse’s hoof prints on one, and seven on the other, denote that I have taken the enemy’s horses.

Eagle under-wing feathers;

The Dakotah wear the downy, fluffy feathers of the eagle’s under-wing coat to represent the spirits  – as a good luck medium, as it were.

Ashes in kerchiefs at dance following Welch’s adoption ceremony;

…At this dance I noticed that many of the women were wearing the silk hander kerchiefs that I had given away at my adoption, hanging down at the back of their necks.  Each had a knot tied in it, and in it was some of the ashes from the sacred fire which had burned that day.  This was good medicine.  I was told that it was to honor me and my gifts to them.

Thunderbird described by Crow Ghost, Bismarck, September 29th, 1915;


Crow Ghost told me that the ‘Thunder Bird,’ or ‘Thunder Hawk,’ was in reality a very large black eagle.  He said it was the picture of that bird upon the ‘Seven Fires’ flag, and that the white people also put the picture of this bird upon their flags, because it was a powerful friend and foe.  He said that if I could make him a flag like his grandfather used to carry he would hold it high in the air when there was a war and sing for me if I was ever in danger in the battle field.

Pottery designs, Bear in the Water (Adelaide Stevenson), August 3rd, 1924;

Talking about the difference in pottery design, this Gros Ventre said that the Mandan was always black and the Gros Ventre was very similar.  The Arikara was lighter, while the Assiniboine was the white kind.  He also identified those fragments with herring-bone decorations as Cheyenne.  The place where the Mandans got their clay for pots was on the Cannon Ball by Crow Ghost’s place (West of Solen).




Welch notes, undated, but probably 1920’s;


I once saw Marcellus Red Tomahawk at the trial of his nephew, the younger Cold Hand, for unlawful cohabitation, before the Federal Court at Bismarck.  Cold Hand drew thirty days and a fine of $100.00.  While he was in the Marshall’s office, waiting to be taken to jail to begin serving his sentence, old man Tomahawk stood and looked at his nephew.  Not a movement of his face muscles took place, but great tears rolled down his cheeks and he, afterward, told me that that made him feel awful bad.

They weep at funerals and at the side of their sick babies; a pathetic story will cause them to shed tears.

At my adoption ceremonies, I mentioned that the old men were dying rapidly, and several old women, sitting together outside the circle and the sun shade boughs enclosure, wept, and their bodies moved backward and forward in a motion of grief and sorrow.



Tipi presented to Welch






Welch notes, undated;

In talking with old Indians, I am often surprised at the apparent great distances they covered in the olden days, in a single season.  They frequently speak of having been on the Tongue river for the winter camp; the same season they mention having been down visiting the Oglalas or Miniconjou, along the Niobrara river; then, perhaps, up in the Standing Rock country or along the Cannon Ball, or mention a fight at a Mandan or Gros Ventre village; later on in the fall they were on a hunt down by the Black Hills, coming back into the valley of the Missouri river for the winter camp.

During these journeys they took their entire camp and equipment, together with their women, children and old people, horses, dogs and provisions.  The latter did not bother them much, however, for they relied upon the hunt for food, and seldom were they without plenty.  These journeys often were over fifteen hundred miles in a single spring, summer and fall trip.  During this time, if a war party was formed, the men alone went on the expedition, often several hundred miles, leaving their camp and women, children and old people far in the rear in some location which was supposed to be a safe place for them

In the case of Fanny Kelly, the white woman owned by Chief Grass, and who was a captive some six months, she mentions having crossed the Yellowstone river; she was in the Black Hills; at the fight with Gen. Sully at Kildeer Mountains; an effort was made to give her up to the American soldiers at the battle of the Corral in the southwestern part of N.D.; she was on the Grande river and, finally, was delivered up to the U.S. Troops at Fort Sully.  The division of the Tetons with whom she traveled must have covered over fifteen hundred miles during her captivity.  Mr. Crawford of Sentinel Butte, N.D., a profound student, told me that he had figured the distance from the locations spoken of in her book, and it was over 15 miles a day, average distance.

This will explain, in a certain degree, why the Dakotah were not attacked so hard by the fatal sicknesses which swept over the Indian country west of the Missouri river valley, as were the villager Indians of the Mandans, Gros Ventres and Arikara.  In one year of their winter count, when the villagers were great sufferers, they say it was “sickness for the children, only, winter.”

Red Tomahawk talks to Welch, October 9, 1915;

“Chief Joseph was a personal friend of Chief John Grass and myself.  Old men have been away to the southwest of here as far as the great mountains out there.  They also knew the people who make blankets (Navajos).”



Treatment of Enemy

Sunday, July 29th, 1928.   Today, motored to Ft. Yates in company with Dr. Shutter of Minneapolis, Minn., Capt. A.W.Shutter, F.A. U.S.A. and Capt. Bates Inf., U.S.A.  Talked about the “fight by the roadside’ marked by the corner stone of the old Fort Lincoln reservation.

During the return via Solen, we talked with William (Bill) Zahn there, and he volunteered the following information:

“You know that fight there by Lincoln when the Sioux killed a Ree Scout?  He was killed there by a bunch of Sioux on the war path.

They cut off his hand, ear, penis and testicles, and brought them to Fort Yates.  I saw them, myself, dance the scalp dance then.  The penis and testicles were tied about a horse’s neck; the hand and ear were tied to two coup sticks.

The Sioux women are indecent when they talk.  They talk worse than men do.  They would strike his hand and say, ‘You will not feel any more cunts.’  Then they would strike the ear and say, ‘You did not listen.  If you had, you might be living now.’  Then, after they struck his testicles and penis, they would yell, ’Ho, you, you will not fuck any more women or girls.  Your fun is ended.  You are dead, Palani.’”



War Women

Auntie Cross’ story, November 1939, Wakpala, S.D.;

She was extremely reluctant to tell about ever having been to war with the men.  Strange stories have been told of War Women by Joe Taylor in his ‘Frontier and Indian Life’ and by the negro Chief among the Crows, Beckworth, by whom they are pictured as especially barbaric and cruel.  We had asked her before about the tales of her having been a war woman, but she ‘could not remember.’  Later, she told a mixed white and Indian woman, named Mrs. Schonhut of Fort Yates, that she could remember and would tell us about her experiences.  Her name originally was Drags Down Woman and the story is that she had pulled an enemy from his horse and killed him while in a fight with others, in the Crow Country.  From many sources in Taylor’s work, mentioned above, but she could not be brought to the point of telling about it.  However, she did tell us of ‘making coup’ upon two enemies, and this is the tale she told us:


“My brother (Chief John Grass) lived then on Grass Creek (south of Fort Yates).  Many Sihasapa lived there.  A party of Mandan-Gros Ventres came to visit (they were still enemies).  Another girl and I were in a lodge.  We did not go outside.  Two Gros Ventres wanted us and were watching us there then.  My mother (Wawapilakiyewin  – Many Thank You Woman) called to us to come out because the two men wanted us.  So, of course, we went outside then.  The other girl had a club with her.  She told me to get one too.  I took a stone-headed club. The two men wore buffalo robes.  We each had several strands of beads around our necks.  They were our dance beads.  The two men wanted to trade us their robes for the beads.  They wanted us to walk into the timber with them.  I struck them both then.  One fell down there.  The other girls stuck them, too.  Maybe one of them died then.  We did not permit them to touch us,  My mother had to make many presents for that thing we did.”

Before she worked herself into a state of confidence enough to tell the story, she admitted that she had killed any enemy at that time.  She was young then, and this might have started her upon her career of War Woman, for there isn’t any doubt that she was one.  She said that her mother was one, and rode with the men to make war.



Weights and Measures

Conversation with Herbert Hawk Shield Welsh, Sihasapa Tintonwanna, Mandan, N.D., March 5th, 1920;

Question by Welch:  What measurements did you have in the old times?

Answer:  I have read your questions and have talked with four or five old men of our people about them.  What I say they say also.  We had no inches or such things in the old times. When we wanted to dig holes for the poles of a tipi a stake was set for the middle and then a rope was tied to it.  This rope was always the same length for the same sized tipi.  Where it hit the ground was the place to place the ends of the poles.

Question:  What length did different sized men use for arrows?

Answer:  They used the distance on the left arm, from the elbow to the end of the middle finger and then over the finger and on to the knuckle.  That was the right length for an arrow.  So you see my arrows would be long ones.

The bow was made this way:  The hand grasped the wood where the middle was to be, then the first two fingers were put alongside the hand, and from this point five times the width of the hand as it grasped the wood would be the end of the bow from the middle.

In shooting the arrow, the cord was taken between the thumb and first finger and the cord was drawn back, never the bow shoved forward as some Indian tribes did.

Welch comment:  My own arrow and bow measurements were than taken and found to be, for the arrow 21 inches and for the bow, 48 inches.

Marten See Walker, a farmer and assistant Preacher in the Episcopalian Church at Cannon Ball, N.D., in 1920’s talks to Welch.

His father, Ista Peta (Fire Eye) was a brother of Two bears, a famous Sihasapa Chief.  His mother was a member of Little Crow of Kaposias’ band of Isantee Sioux.  See Walker was born, he says, in ’Whiskey barrel find winter.’ or ’Take the horses winter;

Question:  In the old times did the Dakotah have a measure of length?

Answer:  Well, my father told me that we did not have inches or yards or anything like that way of measuring.  We would say ‘one span or two spans,’ which was the distance between the ends of the thumb and middle finger when the hand was spread out.  Some people used from the point of the elbow to the end of their finger and some others would show on a rope just how long something was or should be.

Question:  How would you measure land or distance on the ground?

Answer:  Well, a man would say that it was as far as a horse would gallop or walk to midday or until the sun set, or it might be that it would be as far as a man would walk in that time.  We did not have a mile in the old times.

Question:  How did you measure beans, corn or beads or water?

Answer:  They carried water in the stomach of a buffalo then.  It was kind of round and they would put their hands on the sides of the pouch to show how much it would be in a trade.  These stomachs were all about the same size and it was all right that way.  If a man was to get so many beans or beads, they used to say ’napaokana’ (one handful ) or two hands full.  If he was to get tipsina (wild turnip) it would be a ‘braid’ of twenty or four of what he wanted.

Question:  How would you tell another man that your horse weighed 1200 pounds?

Answer:  Horses were three sizes  – a little horse, good horses and American horses.  1200 pounds would be an American horse, and that was understood.  We said he was so high (hands of the horseman) and showed where it would come on our bodies.  That way every one knew how big the horse ought to be.

Question:  How did a woman tell how large her tipi was?

Answer:  Tipis were made in three sizes too  – small, middle and large ones.  This was according to how many skins were used in it.  If only 5 or 6 were used, it was a small one;  10 skins made a middle one, while a big tipi often took from 10 to 18 or more of them to make.  We used to say ‘a 5 or 10 or 13 skin tipi.’  Then everyone understood how big it was.

Question:  How did you count skins, porcupine quills, sinew, etc. for clothing?

Answer:  If a man traded beaver hides, he said it was so high and held his hand open over the ground, palm down at a height above the ground.  Then we knew that his beaver hides were laid flat and piled one on the other to that height.  We did not have the dozen as you have now.  Quills were tied up in bundles and they showed how big the bundle was by making a circle with the thumb and first finger of both hands together.

Question:  How could you bargain for meat if you had no scales to weigh it upon?

Answer:  Buffalo and other animals are cut up in a certain manner.  In the fore shoulder there is four kinds of meat, and a man got a certain kind of it or half of it.  We called these kinds of meats on an animal by their names and a man would get that if he bargained for it.  It might be smaller in some than in other but we said, small, middle or large animal, so he got what he wanted.  We did not have pounds like now, in the old times.  It was better than, you got more.

Question:  What measures of time did you have, like minutes and hours?

Answer:  We did not have that division of time like we have now.  We used sunrise, mid-day and sunset and the night time.  We would look at the sun and point to where the sun would be when a certain things was to be done (making an angle from mid-day to the time meant).  Then we watched the moons and counted them, so we did know when spring came and summer.  This month, December, we call the ‘cracking moon,’ because it often get so cold that it splits the water and lakes and sometime, the trees split open this month too.  We call it ‘Ohanapopa.’

Question:  Did your old wise men know when spring commenced or summer ended and how did they tell it and why?

Answer:  Well, the old men used to watch the sun and moon very closely.  They know how the warm weather came by the moon.  And the sun also they watched, and did it with a stick. This stick was always the same length above the ground and they measured the shadow which it threw at different times of the year.  They knew someway just when spring started by the length of the shadow.  And they knew when winter and summer and fall started, too, the same way.  My father said that the sun was high up in the air in the summer time and lowest in the winter and the shadows of the stick told when the sun started up or down, and these times were when the seasons started to change.. So I think they knew it all right.

Question:  Could you measure how far it was across a stream of water and show it on the ground?

Answer:  Yes we could. I have seen that done.  They selected a place at the water side where the stream ran straight.  Then they put up stakes in a straight line on the same side of the river and laid a rope along this line of stakes.  Then  a man would look across as he stood at the end of the stake.  He looked straight from the stake and would set another stake as he looked. (Making a right angle).  Then he took half way between that stake and the rope and put another pin there.  Then he looked from the corner stake over the half way place to the edge of the water on the other side and saw a stone or stick.  Then he walked along the rope until he was right across straight from this stone.  Then he said that a double rope from where he stood to the first stake was the distance across the river and he was most always right and there was some rope left at the end to tie with.  Another thing I want to say.  If there was any dispute regarding any of these things we have talked about, both parties went to my father, who was ‘Itancan,’ and he listened to them and they did what he said was the right thing to do then and that ended the matter.






Winter Counts

Thomas Ashley, May 11th, 1915;

“Blue Thunder is getting to be an old man now.  He is 79 years.  He is blind.  He gave me his winter count stories.  So, I have it now.  I went to S.D. once and got the Hunkpatina count.  I have the Hunkpapa count.  So I have them all.  I have them written in English language.  I will give them to you some day.  You can write them in a book so I can tell the people who come to me all the time about these year stories and to find out about the time, to go to you and you can tell them just what they want to know.  The Hunkpatina is the oldest of them all.  It goes far back.  But the one Blue Thunder has kept is not all Hunkpatina  – it is different in some places in it.  I can draw Indian pictures.  I will make you these counts in drawings.”

Blue Thunder, 1925biog30-blue-thunder

Welch comments on Ashley’s presentation;

The Dakotah do not designate their years by “After Christ,” but by Waniyetu Wowope (or pictorial history).  In this they decide what is the most important event for the cycle of the summer and the winter, and the years then becomes known as, for instance, “the Big Storm Winter,” or “When Two Bears went to Washington Winter,” or otherwise as indicated by the important event selected.  These records were kept upon hides and remained in possession of the official historian.  At this time, in 1915, the following is translated from that in possession of Blue Thunder, who is the historian.  He is nearly blind and is said to be 79 years of age.

This count was copied and given to the North Dakota State Historical Society at Bismarck, N.D.  It is drawn upon canvas and is a copy of the drawings upon Blue Thunder’s skins.

The council also ordered one copied for the writer and these two are the only copies known to have been made.  The history is perhaps the best record kept by any tribe of the Dakotah and starts in 1785, ten years after American Horse’s record of the Oglalas and which runs to 1876-1879.  Blue Thunder’s Count runs to 1913-1914, which was the year in which I was adopted by the Dakotah.  The record in the possession of the State does not show the last named year, by my Count does.

Translations were made by Thomas Ashley, a full blood Dakotah, educated.  He is authority for the statement that this count is Hunkpati, but they lived in the close vicinity of the Tetons for many years and it, therefore, becomes history for both the Hunkpati and those divisions of the Tetons who lived in the Grand river and Cannon Ball countries.    Welch.

The count is read from the upper right hand corner of the canvas, reading from right to left and around the edge to place of beginning and then following the roughly indicated circle of pictographs to the end.

1)     1784-1785     Some Dakotah saw a white woman dressed in white, near the mouth of the Missouri river, near the ocean (note: similar stories in nearly all of the Dakotah tribes).

2) 1785-1786 Had a battle with the Gros Ventres where the Sisseton reservation is.

3) 1786-1787 Dakotah who had a long nose was killed in a battle with Chippewas.

4) 1787-1788 “Long Hair” killed by an Omaha Indian.

5) 1788-1789 Dakotah woman going for water in the night time was killed by Omaha.

6) 1789-1790 Sioux Indian killed in battle.  Wopohi Sioux.  (Note  – Wopohi is an expression not understood by me.  Probably is the name for some band.)

7) 1790-1791 A one-eyed man, a Blackfoot, killed by the French.  (Note  – Blackfoot probably means a Sihasapa Dakotah).

8) 1791-1792 A Chippewa woman, dressed in ______, killed by Dakotah.

9) 1792-1793 Dakotah camping.  The Gros Ventres and Rees battle in the night time and shot on leg.  On Cheyenne river.  Indians jumping.

10) 1793-1794 Gros Ventre went to Dakotah camp.  Saw man with a flute and a mile from camp, killed from Gros Ventres on Crow Creek.

11) 1794-1795 Gros Ventres and Rees in battle. Nearly all got shot on arm.  Used shells for knife.  West of Crow Creek.

12) 1795-1796 Saw a ship coming across the ocean (Lake Superior?) in winter time. Camping by ocean.  First ship they saw.

13)  1796-1797 Dakotah killed three Omaha Indians on river in canoes.

14)  1797-1798 Dakotah going to battle camped in night time.  Saw big white horse with arrow on and killed it.

15)  1798-1799 Winter time.  No water.  Found beaver holes to get water.

16)  1799-1800 Small pox sickness.  Many die.  Ota-ota (Many, many).

17)  1800-1801 Wild horses caught on the prairie.  First horses they had.

18)  1801-1802 Found a curley horse.

19)  1802-1803 Saw a lot of horses with shoes on, way down south.

20)  1803-1804 Winter camp at a place called “Many Horses Tails.”


21)  1804-1895 Eight Tetons killed by Crows.

22)  1805-1806 Blackfeet Dakotah went out in hills.  Crow Indian attacked and killed him.

23)  1806-1807 Crow Indian with red coat killed by Dakotah.

24)  1807-1808 “First who got brass rings” went out in hills and got killed at Ft Pierre place.

25)  1808-1809 Blue feathers found in winter time near ocean.  Got from birds.

26)  1809-1810 Two Dakotah fighting each other with arrows.  Row in camp.

27)  1818-1811 Found white horse with horse shoes on.  Montana found it.  Northwest of Black Hills.

28)  1811-1812 “Little Bear,” a Tetonwanna, killed by the Gros Ventres.

29)   1812-1813     The Tetons going to war found Crows and killed three on each side.  Call it     “Got six Winter.”

30)   1813-1814     Teton and Gros Ventre go to battle.  Gros Ventres attacked and Teton got  hit in the jaw.

31)   1814-1815     A Crow came to battle with the Dakotah.  A Dakotah knocked two Crows down with a club.

32)  1815-1816 White buffalo found and killed Montana winter time.  Stampede.

33)  1816-1817 Near ocean on mouth of Missouri river, found lost birds.  Blue feathers and red heads.

34)  1817-1818 Big small pox just for children, way out west near Bears Butte is.

35)  1818-1819 Saw first soldiers, in winter time.  A white man called “Choze” (Joseph?) built a log house.  Soldiers on lower Grande river.  Left one, stayed.  Choze built a house, lower Grande river.  Called Choze because he keep warm.  Come for trader.  Two Bears and another chief allowed him to build a house store. (Note  – This man might have been “The Flame.”   Welch).

36)  1819-1820 Going to camp in winter time on Cherry creek.  Many crow birds flew around tipis and died, lean and starved.

37)  1820-1821 In Montana.  Three Buttes place going for winter.  Saw big star making big noise.

38)  1821-1822 Three Gros Ventres going on canoe on the river.  Tetons attacked and kill all.  Where Fort Yates is now.

39)  1822-1823 Found a lot of corn dry toward the Omaha country.  Found it in field.  White people stole it from Teton.  The Dakotah raised corn before this.  Chief Fire Heart started to plant corn ninety years ago.  A man taught Fire Heart to plant it.

40)  1823-1824 Corral pasture fence.  Went out north of here (Bismarck).  Attacked Chippewa and found fence.  Tore it all down, gave them hell.  Corn hills.  This fence was on a creek there, this side of Turtle Mountains.

41) 1824-1825 Wintering near Gayton’s place and came a great flood nearly all drowned.  There were Wicyela.  Dead Horsehead Point.

42) 1825-1826 “Corn Feather” going to war alone.  Omaha attacked and he killed many.  Staff emblem of victory.  He had the scalps.

43) 1826-1827 Winter time and Santee starving.  They killed each other and eat each other.  In Sisseton, Nebraska place.  Two men killed, boiled in kettle and eaten up.

44)   1827-1828     White man, Moreau river camping in winter.  White man built house.    Called “Red Breast” or “Red Shirt.”

45)   1828-1829     Ree killed by Dakotah, Standing Rock place.  Had hat of willows and red   shirt.

46)   1829-1830     “Wo-na-re” made one of the ruling class.

47)  1830-1831 Below Fort Yates above Grande river, Mandan, Gros Ventre and Ree had village, a double one there.  Soldiers and Dakotah attacked village.  Eight Dakotah killed.  Soldier French and Dakotah.  (Leavenworth’s attack).

48)  1831-1832 Called “Broken Leg” found whiskey, drank all and died.  Below Totten.

49)  1832-1833 Camping for winter across river.  Many stars with great noise. Ota-ota.  Stars flew around like birds.

50) 1833-1834 Wintering on Heart river.  Found bear wintering there, too.  Call it “Wintered with wild bear place winter.”

51)  1834-1835 Below Mandan on flat, Ree and Mandan village, Sioux, Teton and Black feet.  Many got shot on both sides.  None killed.

52)  1835-1836 Grande river winter camp.  Nothing special, peaceful winter. Made many feather hats winter time.

53)  1836-1837 Had big small pox.  No one die.

54)  1837-1838 Found white buffalo.  Killed by Poeya.”

55)  1838-1839 Across where Fort Yates.  Attacked he was a chief with spectacles.  Man from far away.  Suspicious of him. “He comes attacking.”  Went out in night, got killed.  Don’t know who did it.  (Note  – Red Fish born this year.  Welch).

56)  1839-1840 Going to battle and found Ree Indian, “His Knife Broad,” at mouth of Cannon Ball river.  Killed him.

57)  1840-1841 At Grand river in winter but late snow.  Couldn’t use horses, made snow shoes.  Killed lots buffalo.  Call that “They make snow shoes winter.”

58)  1841-1842 Man, “Holy Tracks Buffalo” die.  Bury him in striped tipi.  A big man but not a chief man.

59)  1842-1843 Above Fort Rice place camping winter.  Almost starving.  These Hunkpati man have a tipi with red door.  Made a prayer, asking buffalo to come.  They come.  Called “Man living in red door winter.” or, “Buffalo come with free will winter.”  Firs time they had red as cloth.

60)  1843-1844 All the people all over they got measles.  No one die.

61)  1844-1845 Across Heart river, “Red Leaf,” Ree shot in knee.

62)  1845-1846 Next year nothing much.  “Buffalo Head,” sleeping died. (Note  – White Cow Walking born  – Welch).

63)  1846-1847 West of Cedar Creek camping.  White man camping, lived with him. “Bad after women.”

64)  1847-1848 Two attack each other,  Ree and Wiceyelo.

65)  1848-1849 Wiceyelo living in log house, die without sickness.  “Has Thunder” his name.  (Note  – Wiceyelo = Hunkpati.  Welch).

66) 1849-1850      Canoeing below Mandan camped winter.  Saw a white man come to trade.                Wiceyelo shot him by an arrow.  Not die but killed Wiceyelo.  Chief “Two      Bears” told Indians to kill murderer.

67)   1850-1851     Ree Indian “Red Elk” across Washburn came with Dakotah wintered.  Camp called “Wintered Red Elk.”

68)  1851-1852 East of Berthold they wintered there on Corn Hill.  That winter lots snow.  Had to wear snow shoes.  Buffalo ota-ota-ota!

69)  1852-1853 Out in Montana, Powder creek, committed suicide. Only one Crow came attacking Dakotah, one got killed. Attacked alone. (note  – Crow Ghost born.  Four Horns killed.  – Welch)

70)  1853-1854 Above Berthold, White Earth creek, battled there with Wiceyelo and Hohe.  Killed one Sioux.  (Note  – Hohe = Assiniboine, an offshoot of the Sihasapa Dakotah.)

71)  1854-1855 Fort Pierre in winter time.  White man called “White Beard” called council with Indians.  Made a treaty with him.  Kept him all winter.

72)  1855-1856 Hohe Indian fight Wiceyelo.  Hohe got killed called “Yellow Bucket.”

73)  1856-1857 Ree, Gros Ventre and Mandan got attacked by Wiceyelo.  Six Wiceyelo got killed at Fort Berthold.

74)  1857-1858 Next winter going to camp someplace,  Crow Indians attack.  None killed.  “Eagle Nest” die without sickness.  Father of “Sitting Bull” named “Jumping Bull” he die too.

75)  1859-1860 “Feather Body” a Wiceyelo, died.  Froze to death.

76)  1860-1861 Hohe stole a lot of horses from Wiceyelo on Heart river.

77)  1861-1862 Heart river.  Hohe attack Sioux.  Twenty killed of Hohe. Call it “Twenty Hohe got killed winter.”

78)  1862-1863 “Big Head was prisoner by soldiers.  Let him go die when he got home.

79)  1863-1864 Soldier came to make treaty with Wiceyelo, but they run off and got three prisoners. “True Word,” three prisoner, but “True Word” was at head.  “True Word,” father of “Two Bears,” prisoner at Fort Rice.

80)  1864-1865 Big Bend country.  Wiceyelo camped at Turtle Head got killed by man with a knife  – murdered.

81)  1865-1866 “Pizi” tried to make a treaty but soldier tried to stab him at Fort Rice.  Tried to kill him.  He had not done anything bad. (Note  – Pizi (Gall) was a great chief among the Dakotah and was the head soldier at the Custer fight in Montana.  In this case, had had been to talk with the soldiers and one of them ran his bayonet into his breast.  “It stuck out three inches in the back,” so Chief Grass tells me, and he was with him, and carried him away from the scene.  This atrocity made the Dakotah very angry, and later when Gall was in supreme command of the fighting forces of the allied Dakotah at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Custer met his last defeat, for he had been defeated before this fight.  Who can describe Gall’s exultation then.  Welch).

83) 1866-1867     Nothing winter.  Hard winter too.  Call “Take the wood winter.”  Two boys  froze to death then.

84)   1867-1868    Catholic Priest, Father DeSmit, or Marty, tried to make a treaty with the   Tetonwanna.  Blue Thunder drive twenty Tetons home to take.  Sitting  Bull had good men sent with them Gall to see what to terms make a treaty.  Were their envoys when got there Gall made prisoner.  Gave word that they were going to hang them too.  Two Bears protested.  They took off his shirt and slashed and beat him.  Then let him go.  Tetons very angry, no peace, no trust.

85)  1868-1869 Wiceyelo went up and attacked Ree.  A man with a knife Wiceyelo saw them and killed them both.

86)  1869-1870 Wintered at First Grande river and ota horses die, drowned.  (Note  – First Grande river probably meant the first bench, which overflowed and drowned many horses tied to the trees in shelter.   Welch)

87)  1870-1871 White man got killed by Dakotah.  “Brain” killed him.

88)  1871-1872 “Two Bears” went to Washington.  Come back.  Went to war.  “Standing Bull” got killed by another Wiceyelo.  Clash over policy to whites.


89)  1872-1873 Boy soldier, “Bad Bird”  – Sioux scout got killed by white man at Fort Rice.

90)  1873-1874 “Rain in the Face” and Big Bear or Tom Hannan in prison at Fort Abra ham Lincoln.  Rain the Face not known much before this time.

91)  1874-1875 Found keg of whiskey at Fort Rice near the shore.  Made a council and drank it all up.  Many drunk.  (Note  – this is corroborated by white men.  Welch).

92)     1875-1876   Took all ponies from Dakotah by soldiers at Fort Yates.

93)      1876-1877   “Lean Bear” died in log house.

94)      1877-1878   Old “Two Bears” died.

95)      1878-1879   “Crazy Walker” sick.  Carried in blanket and sick to another tipi and got  well again.

96)  1879-1880 “Broken Head” made big feast in winter time.

97)  1880-1881 “Red Bow” mother die.

98)  1881-1882 “Little Bird” die suddenly.

99)  1882-1883 “Red Bull” die suddenly.

100)   1883-1884 Old man “Red Hail” daughter die.

101)   1884-1885 “No Two Horn” made big feast in winter time.

102)  1885-1886 “Three Thigh” die.  Brother of “Two Bear.”

103)  1886-1887 “Fool Bear” living in dance hall.  (Note  – very unusual to live in such a place.  Ghost totems there.  Welch).

104)  1887-1888 “Frosted Red Fish” prisoner by soldiers at Fort Yates.

105)  1888-1889 “Cotton Wood” chief died.

106)  1889-1890 “Sitting Bull” got killed.

107)  1890-1891 Drew money first time, $3.00 each person.

108)  1891-1892 Drew money second time, $40.00 each one, for ponies taken away.

109)  1892-1893 Boy dragged by horse and got killed. (Note  – name “Money”, 12 yrs old)

110)  1893-1894 “Carry Tent on Back” died.

111)  1894-1895 E.S.Parkin died.  (Note  – Owner of the Parkin Ranch on the Cannon Ball.  He left this ranch to his niece, Lucille Van Solen.  His wife and the daughter of M. Honore Picotte and “Eagle Woman that all Look at.”

112)  1895-1896 Son of Chief “Big Head” die.

113)  1896-1897 “Holy Soul” die.

114)  1897-1898 “Louse Bear” hung himself.

115)  1898-1899 “Gray Bear,” playing shinny, drops dead at Mandan.

116)  1899-1900 “Worth Hat” got burned in bed.

117)  1900-1901 “Hat,” a policeman, dies suddenly.

118)  1901-1902 “Grey Bear” got hurt, broke leg, cut off leg, died.

119)  1902-1903 “Little Dog” die.

120)  1903-1904 “White Eagle” died at Berthold, visiting.

121)  1904-1905 “Black Bear,” policeman, killed by Asst. Farmer, Bristow.

122)  1905-1906 “Joe Tomahawk,” son of “Red Tomahawk,” shot himself, suicide.

123)  1906-1907 “Earth,” mother of “Frosted Red Fish,” die.

124)  1908-1909 “Two Bears” mother die.

125)  1908-1909 “Fly Cloud” prisoner at Fort Yates.

126)  1909-1910 “High Bear,” chief, die.

127)  1910-1911 “Half Body Bear” died.

128)  1911-1912 “Red Dogs” wife died.

129)  1912-1913 This year call him “When the soldier was adopted winter.” (Note  – Welch’s adoption).





Women’s Life