Col. A.B.Welch’s Unfinished Manuscripts (Three Unfinished Manuscripts of Sioux & Mandan Customs, based upon their “Oral History”)


Three Unfinished Manuscripts of Sioux & Mandan Customs

Based upon “Oral History” told to Major A.B.Welch, between 1910 and 1930, by his adoptive father, Chief John Grass, and other old-time warrior friends.

Story No. 1 Black Cloud’s ostracism

 A tale of tribal discipline and heroism of the ostracized warrior, roughly based in the 1850’s

Story No. 2 A Short Story of the Mandans

A tale of bravery in the face of overwhelming odds and the grieving of his widow, probably based in the 1850’s

Story No. 3A Story rich in the customs of the Sioux on the trail in 1833/34

A tale of following the buffalo to a winter’s camp, discipline during the march and the tribe’s return to their summer home….and…

A sub-story of the Romance of Good Voice Woman and Black Cloud and preparations for their wedding


Story No. 1 … Black Cloud’s ostracism

 A tale of tribal discipline and heroism of the ostracized warrior, roughly based in the 1850’s

“Synopsis of a Story…Black Cloud’s Ostracism”

An unfinished manuscript most likely based on recollections of his adopted Father, Chief John Grass, and corroborations of other Old Time Warrior friends


The long line of travois and individuals of the camp column neared its goal  – led by the Indian Scout, Iron Road.  They were the tribe of Teton, known as the Sihasapa (Blackfeet), under the elder Chief Grass, or as he was better-known, Wahacankatapi (Uses Him as a Shield), and were returning from a winter camp on the Tongue River.  The buffalo had, for some unknown reason, withdrawn from the Missouri River Country the fall before, and this caused the Blackfeet to trek to, and make winter camp, on the western river.  Now, in the spring, the country was spotted with buffalo herds and the camp started back to its beloved territory between the Moreau and the Cannon Ball, and once again they would assume the responsibility of acting as a buffer between the Sioux tribes to the south and the enemy tribes north of the Cannon Ball  – Mandans, Gros Ventre (Hidatsi), Arikara (Sanish), Assiniboine (Hohe, a Dakotah people) and Montana Blackfeet (Piegan).

The camp had crossed the Mandan Territory between the Tongue and the Little Missouri Rivers with little probability of contact or conflict, as these people were still living in their villages on the Knife River (Branching River) country, and were now busy tending their corn fields and other garden crops before starting out on their summer hunt.

Coming into their own undisputed range, the Blackfeet became more happy and carefree; horses were not herded so closely at night; pleasant fires might be maintained at night and the caution of the warrior societies was more relaxed.  When they, at last, camped under the white cliffs of the Rainy Hills, which marked the headwaters of the Cannon Ball River (Iyan Wakan Gapi Wakpe), they felt safe from sudden raids at night and extreme caution by day.  Ceremonies for “Home They Own” took several days and they made a successful meat hunt and cured the meat, in preparation of a lengthy stay when they finally reached the broad valley between the high hills on the west and the darkly-flowing Missouri.


However, at the lodge of Grey Whirlwind (Tateiyumnihota) there were signs of mourning; a pole was standing without a shield upon it  – bare and slim; a feather, with a notch cut in it, laid upon the ground with a stone to hold it from the wind.  A figure sat nearby shrouded in a blanket to the eyes  – Good Voice Woman (Howastewin), the daughter of Fears no Horses (Sunkaka Kokapapisni); she sung a song of death as she sat there gloomingly brooding.  For her lover, who had given many horses to her father for her, and who had carried a stick through the camp, indicating that he had been accepted for the hand of Good Voice Woman, was absent.


The action which had caused his absence had happened when the camp was in the valley of the Beaver (Chappa Wakpe) which was in the territory of their enemies, the Mandans; the warrior, Black Cloud (Mahpiya Sapa), had broken an edict of the Chief.  He had followed a buffalo through the Bad Lands to a distant place beyond the scouts who ranged along the high points on the flank of the moving camp; he had killed the animal with a rifle, report of which traveled far, to possible enemy camps or scouts.  By this action he had placed the entire Blackfeet camp in danger, had aroused the ire of the White Horse Riders.  That society of warriors was in charge during the return to the Missouri; were the guardians of the people and the actual agency whereby the orders of the Chief and Ruling Class were executed at such times.

Black Cloud skinned out the animal with the aid of his pony; cut up the meat in chunks, choice pieces of which he placed upon his pony to take into camp.  A scout, having been attracted by the report of the rifle, was quickly on the spot, trailed Black Cloud into camp, where he had been seized and roughly handled by the White Horse Riders because he was armed and in possession of fresh meat.  They had dragged him into the great solitary “Soldier’s Lodge (Wahkpiya)” which was pitched within the circle of lodges and a short distance in front of Chief Grass’ lodge (tipi).  Here they sat waiting the pleasure of the five old, honorable men who composed the Chief’s advisers, who were called the Eagle Parents (Wambdi Hunka).

These old men now sat within the tipi, silently smoking; when they were ready they would listen to what the leader of the White Horse Riders had to say; they would then decide what to do with a young man who had broken so strict a custom and rule of the moving camp.  The sun moved the distance of sixteen fingers to the west before they spoke.  Then the herald (camp crier) came from the lodge, walked to a certain point in front and there placed a stick in the ground; “Place him there,” he said.

Black Cloud’s guards rushed him to the upright stick, where he stood, waiting, while the warriors retired and sat down among the circle of people which had gathered to watch the proceedings.

The youth did not deny that he had killed game outside of the line of scouts, with a rifle.  He stolidly waited for the sentence to be pronounced. The Riders withdrew into the lodge to talk the matter over.  Good Voice Woman went to them and made a plea  – which was unusual  – saying that Black Cloud had killed the meat for the poor people of the camp, for the widows of warriors, for those who had no one to hunt for them.  Black Cloud was arrogant, would not affirm nor deny the statement.  He was sentenced to leave the camp and remain alone at a distance of a “horse’s run.”  When cherries were ripe he might return.

Black Cloud went directly to the lodge of Fears no Horses where he said farewell to Good Voice Woman and presented his best horse to Fears no Horses;  Good Voice Woman told him that she will wait for him, that she will take food and weapons for him that night and leave them on a certain hilltop.  He would find them there.  In breechcloth and moccasins, Black Cloud walks through the camp, disappears in the evening haze.  Ostracized.

This was a terrible punishment and was meted out for the gravest crimes only.  Black Cloud sensed the justice of it though, entertained no bitterness for the men of the White Horse Riders Society.  No one ever mentioned the name of a man under this sentence, he was generally mourned as dead.  To be cast out, unarmed and afoot to a distance of about five miles from the camp, meant that such a one would often be in danger from prowling enemies or war parties; starvation, exposure, wild animals, often illness from which such exiles died.  If they survived through the time, they might return to the camp, where they were received without excitement, took up their life once more, where they had left off, as though they had not been away.  This was the general manner of expiating for the crimes of rape and murder.

Black Cloud went directly to the hill, awaits for night and his sweetheart.  She brings him his horse, a bow, arrow carrier full of arrows, two pairs of moccasins , a prized piece of steel, from the rim of a wagon wheel, for making fire, a bag of wasna (pemmican). As she returns toward camp, he watches her as long as her form shows in the moonlight, leads his horse down into the other valley, camps deep within a plum thicket out of sight.

Time passes.  The home camp moves to other sites.  He watches the tiny points of light from their campfires from the distance.  During the daytime he avoids the scouts as they range.  No one sees him but every night Good Voice Woman builds four small fires in a row where they burn brightly.  They are extinguished one after the other, the one at the north dies first; the last one to die out flares up suddenly as though a handful of dry grass or bark had been thrown upon it.  These signs were answered from his heart.  “Mia mitawa,” he would say…”My Woman” became a fetish in his exile.

Incident to a horse-stealing expedition during the winter just passed, the Sioux had slain a Crow warrior of considerable influence.  The Crows decided to obtain revenge for this loss of life.  They organized a war party and started to the Sihasapa camps along the Missouri.  Black Cloud discovered this party while riding a ridge north of Black Butte (Paha Sapa), far up the Cannon Ball, watched them until he was certain of their destination and purpose.

He withdrew, hurried toward the camp of Blackfeet Sioux.  Rode circles on the hillside within sight of camp  – “enemies approaching.”  Placed sticks on the ground showing direction of enemy, other sticks indicating the direction he intended to take and his plan of decoying the enemy through a narrow gorge or pass.  Sioux scouts read the signs, reported same to Chief Fears No Horses.  Excitement and preparation  – the ambush set.

Meanwhile Black Cloud rode toward the approaching Crows (Kangi Wicasa); exposed himself to view; drew the Crows onward toward the ambush location.  The Crows meet the Blackfeet  – the fight is on.

During the fight several Crow scouts ride into the Blackfeet camp, while the warriors are away, steal Good Voice Woman.  Discovered by Black Cloud; scouts disperse; he rescues Good Voice Woman after a terrific two-man fight. (The two ride toward each other; Crow has no ammunition and throws away his rifle;  Black Cloud does the same; both shoot arrows until Black Cloud has no more, holds up his bow, throws it away; Crow does the same; the Crow’s horse steps into a badger hole, throwing the Crow and his is afoot; Black Cloud dismounts then, slaps his horse on flank and is also afoot.  Fight still on equal terms.  Both draw knives, close in; Crow killed by Black Cloud, scalps him, catches both horses; rescues Good Voice Woman, who had witnessed the knightly combat).  Both ride toward Blackfeet camp; at the distance of a “horse’s run,” he remains, she rides his own horse into camp; displays Crow scalp.  The Council decides to remit the remaining time of the exile’s punishment.

Entire camp goes in search of Black Cloud.  Finds him sitting silently on a hill, the horse of the slain Crow held by a rope, both guns by his side.  Entreat him to return.  He accepts.  The cavalcade enters the village, escorting Black Cloud.  Dances of ceremonial import; a new name is  given to Black Cloud, the youth.  Henceforth his name shall be Two Guns (Mazaka Nopa); established as a warrior hero now.  Wedding ceremony of Two Guns and Good Voice Woman.


Good Voice Woman is seen approaching a newly, erected lodge with a bundle of dry sticks in her arms.  Soon a thin line of smoke spirals upward from this new lodge among the Sihasapa.  Two Guns, the warrior, lifts the flap, enters, sits down in the place of honor across the fire with his wife.

Outside, seven White Horse Riders sing a song of honor:

“Through sorrow have I come, but brave.

Brothers, whatever hardships threaten,

I’ll befriend thee, if Thou call me.

Two Guns says this.

Mazaka Nopa  – Hee  – hee  – hee  -e.”

(end of synopsis)


Story No. 2 … A Short Story of the Mandans

A tale of bravery in the face of overwhelming odds and the grieving of his widow, probably based in the 1850’s.

“Synopsis of a Story…Scar Face”…An unfinished manuscript most likely based on family history recollections of an old time friend, Arthur Mandan

The facts…. Mandan, a Mandan-Gros Ventre Indian, was born after his father had gone to war against the Northern Indians, his name was Scar Face and he was married to Swift Flying Woman.  He never returned.  Outnumbered, the party was killed by the Assiniboins. Scar Face charged them alone, rode twice along their front  – was killed.  However, the Assiniboins did not mutilate the body of so brave a man, but left three horses tied to a bush “to cover the body.” Two men of the Mandan war party were allowed to live to tell the Mandans of the death of Scar Face.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Story

Late in the afternoon the war party, under the leadership of Two Lances, rode slowly away from the earth lodges of the village of Fish Hook; at sunset the villagers saw the warriors pass over the sharp crest of the hills and vanish into the west.

The sun threw aloft long spears of light which banded the sky like ribbons and quivered against the gold of the far horizon; across the face of the sun hung a ragged, black spot of cloud.  Old Black Bear, the Medicine Man, full of wrinkles and wisdom, told the people that this small cloud was a menace and presuaged (sp.) something ominous and fearful.

At dark, the woman of Scar Face, a member of the war party, sent a young man on a fast horse to warn him to return to camp.  In the darkness, the rider followed the trail in the prairie grass and into the bottom of a deep, dark gully which led into the timber of the sullen Missouri, where he lost it in confused paths where buffalo had come down into the timber to spend the night.  At sunrise he searched again but filed to find any signs of horses or men and returned to the village.

The woman, whose name was Swift Flying Woman, watched him enter the village palisade and knew that he had not found Scar Face.  She felt the child of the young warrior move within her as though nervous, and to calm her fears she stood in front of his lodge during the entire hot day and sung of victory.

When evening came she secretly burned three twists of sweet grass and stared into the quickly, dying ashes to read whatever signs she might discover.  She was dismayed at the shapes the writhing embers assumed, and the other women of the village heard her sing a death song and, Indian-woman-like, sympathized silently.

So many warriors had gone away that summer and had not returned.  Even Black Bear, of the great wisdom, could not explain why this was so.  Someone might come upon their bones after the fall burnings swept across the prairies, then they would know how they had died.  The dead warrior’s woman would then give away his ceremonial costumes and head dress  – there would be wailing and many feasts for the dead and brave men would honor them during the dances, by shouting their names and making presents.

End of short story


Story No. 3 … A Story rich in the customs of the Sioux on the trail in 1833/34

A tale of following the buffalo to a winter’s camp, discipline during the march and the tribe’s return to their summer home….and…

A sub-story of the Romance of Good Voice Woman and Black Cloud and preparations for their wedding

An unfinished Story rich in the customs of the Sioux of 1833/34

Iron Road, the Sioux trail scout, tied his grey horse to a stout buck brush clump just below the crest of the ridge, broke a branch to hold before his face, crawled to the top and peered into the broad valley which lay below.  This valley extended about ten miles to the north and south, was four miles wide at the broadest place and was roughly the shape of a half circle, the Missouri river forming the eastern straight line.


This flat, horseshoe-shaped stretch of lower land lay between the hills which shut it in on the north, south and west to the Missouri river to the east;  a sharp line of hills, about six miles distant from where Iron Road was watching,  closed the valley to the north, the dark wooded area along Porcupine Creek nestling at its base; other smaller streams cut through the bench land toward the great river which flowed three hundred feet below the crests of the encircling hills, and between these, the gently rolling country was covered with a billowy growth of grass, made green by the late spring rains.

Almost in the center of this half circle of valley, close to the shore line, one single steep-sided butte raised its flat head, Iron Road remembered the fine spring which gushed out of its side and he easily picked out the site of the last summer’s camp where his people had stayed while the game was plenty.  He could distinguish the disordered array of scaffolds upon which they had placed their dead; at each place where a lodge had stood, there was now a round spot of brighter green than that which surrounded it; his gaze scanned the heavily-timbered first bench of the river bank, searching for lodge smoke or evidences of horse herds.

There were many small herds of buffalo and other game feeding in drowsy fashion; below him one herd of fifty head of the animals were slowly proceeding in single file, toward a small stream which flowed along the base of the southern line of boundary hills; eastward across the green river, the level land, with its occasional butte in the north and south parts of it, lost itself in the haze of the heat waves which arose, shimmering, from the rich, hot earth.  Everything seemed to be peaceful and serene to Iron Road as he watched from his high vantage point, and it was not until after the sun had dropped below the horizon line that he mounted his horse, turned his head toward the direction where his people camped, two days hard riding toward the westward.

The scout followed a well-defined travois trail coming into the valley from the west.  The deep, parallel lines made by the dragging lodge poles were so deep that, at places, he had to hold up his moccasined feet to keep from crushing them between his horse and the sides of the ruts.  It entered the valley through a deep gorge which was spotted with occasional thickets of plum and cherry trees; in many places sudden rains had washed out the trail until the tracks were too deep for travel and the heavy buffalo, which also followed this easy trail to the valley, had selected other and easier grades around the hills and these led toward the higher plateaus of the upland prairie country.  Over this upland the trails crisscrossed in a winding course, running generally east and west.

Iron Road kept to the plain Indian trail until he came to a place where it branched in several directions.  This place was known as the Bird Track.  Here two large streams flowed together, one from the northwest and another from the southwest, and from that point to where the river flowed into the Missouri, it was known to the Sioux as Holy Idol Stone River (Iyan Wakan Gapi Wakpe), but know to the white hunters, explorers and fur traders from St. Louis, as the Cannon Ball.  The Indian name originated from the fact that, close to the northwest branch, there was a large, flat, glacier-polished stone upon the surface of which there were strange criss-crossing lines, tracks of birds and beasts  – spirit messages; whispering and sibilant tones issued from this Holy Stone, and from these ancient pecked carvings, the bell like tones caused by the expansion and contraction were interpreted by the old wise men who would then foretell the destinies of their tribal adventures and the success or failure of individuals.

The scout arrived at the Bird Track fording place early in the morning.  Here he slept and allowed his horse to graze the length of its rawhide rope, which Iron Road tied about his wrist.  He managed to knock down a small brush rabbit for food, which he cooked over a small fire.  In the middle of the afternoon he mounted, forded the river, proceeded along the trail which led west along the low watershed which separated the forks of the stream.  This trail finally became a mere track and finally was lost altogether except at crossings of small streams where he was able to pick out travois ruts where hunting parties were accustomed to select low banks for fording, or, at other places he noted tall piles of sandstone, where other scouts had placed monuments upon the high buttes for identification and guidance.  His horse maintained a steady, swinging gait without apparent fatigue.  Iron Road permitted him to graze and drink at every water-crossing but, after sunset, he swung him directly toward the south at a swift pace for several miles until, at a place in the bottom of a wide, even valley with high buttes on either hand, he again turned westward, pursued the general direction of the valley for several miles.

At dark he was joined by several night riders from his own camp.  Their duty was to maintain a night watch over the sleeping camp and they rode with him until they could see the lodges which had been erected along a small creek where there was an abundance of water and pasture.  However, as the Sihaspapa were now so near to the end of their long journey and were in their own territory, not many lodges had been erected and the people slept upon the ground without cover other than buffalo robes, as the nights were pleasantly warm.

Iron Road went directly to the place where Chief Grass was camped, picketed his horse with a long, rawhide rope so the animal could graze, sat down with the Chief to make his report.  The old scout had been the trail-maker for this branch of the Tintonwanna Sioux for many seasons of wandering and following the buffalo herds.  He had studied the watersheds and streams; he could recognize and name all of the general landmarks and watersheds from the mouth of the Minnesota river to the Big Sioux; from the Mississippi, where lived their brothers the Isanti Sioux, to the Black Hills (Pahasapa) and from the rivers which emptied into the Yellowstone from the south to the Red River of the North which flowed into the Lake of the Crees in the country of the Hudson’s Bay Traders. His decision as to what route to follow was never questioned. He was sagacious and wise regarding trails, and in his youth he had acquired the name of Iron Road because of his uncanny quality of success while guiding his people, the Sihasapa (Blackfeet Sioux), through the vest territory over which they roamed.


The habitat of this branch, or tribe of the Dakotah  – that particular territory which they claimed as their own, was that region which stretched between the Moreau and the Heart Rivers and west of the Missouri river, reaching westward to, and even beyond the stream (Little Missouri) which, flowing through the Bad Lands (Terra Movais) which extended for a great distance north of the Black Hills, finally emptying into the Missouri far to the north within the undisputed territory of their enemies, the Mandans (Mowatani) and their allies the Gros Ventre (Hidatsi).

They were strange people, these Mandans and their allies the Gros Ventre.  They had formerly claimed the same country now held by the Blackfeet Sioux; the ruins of their villages, made of earth lodges surrounded by deep ditches, where to be found in many places along the west or right banks of the Missouri, throughout the present Sioux country.

When the Sioux had first come into the territory they discovered the Mandans in their villages on the Heart and, in many battles, found them to be no mean antagonists.  They had driven them, however, northward until now their villages were situated in the vicinity of the Branching River (now the Knife), some distance north of the Heart.  Yet there was still another people, a strong tribe which had come up from the south and apparently taken up its abode and built a strong village of earth lodges at the mouth of the Grand River (the Sioux called this river, Palani Wakpe or Arikara River).  The tribe had arrived many seasons before, were an offshoot from the parent Pawnee (Pani) whose ancient habitat had been along the Platte River; the Sioux despised them as a village people; the people were fierce and hostile toward the Sioux tribes, and it was not until 1823 that the Sioux obtained ascendancy over them and drove these Arikara, as they were known to the white traders and trappers, to seek refuge with their own tribal relatives far down the Missouri toward the land of the Osages. Following the emigration of the Arikara, the entire country mentioned was in undisputed possession of the Sioux Blackfeet.

The vast tract of land claimed and held by the Blackfeet Sioux was, perhaps, the best grassed and watered big country in America.  Through every valley a small stream meandered its way, gathered until itself the waters flowing swiftly and deep through the well-timbered lowlands, between the high hills and were finally lost in the great flood of the Missouri which poured onward toward the sea.  The entire area was heavily grassed and game wandered over the hills and prairies, thousands of antelope, mountain sheep, elk, deer and buffalo, knee deep in rich grainlike growth, beneath which was the velvety sweet buffalo grass.  This growth was not bunch grass, rather it covered the surface like a lawn, was a particular favorite range of buffalo.

These animals were migratory in habit and wandered with the seasons from the headwaters of the Assiniboine to the Platte.  Great numbers, however, remained for the entire winter in the deep gorges and narrow valleys of the bad lands and along the Missouri river, where there was good shelter and feed throughout the year.  Occasionally, however, there were winters when buffalo were scarce, for some unknown reason, along the Missouri and its tributaries.  This might have been the result of too late hunting or have been caused by the burning off of great tracts of grass ranges in the fall.  As the Sioux depended upon the buffalo for practically all of their needs, from clothing and tentage to sinews for sewing garments, and glue for use in feather work, and more especially, for food  – at such times it became necessary for the camps to move to be in closer contact with these animals, wherever they might have gone.

It was the general custom for the Sioux tribes to gather together at some selected spot, to make the great winter camp, which, of course, must be in the vicinity of wood, water and open range for the horses.  Generally the Missouri bottomlands were selected by the Blackfeet tribe.  There their buffalo-hide tipis were erected, snow shields of brush were built on the windy, or exposed, side, and, in comparative safety and comfort, the tribe would spend the entire winter living upon the store of sun-cured buffalo meat and marrow fat they had prepared during the fall hunting season.  Grapes, cherries and plums were gathered and dried in immense quantities to be mixed with the dried meat, and the so-called wild turnip (tipsina) was dug, braided in long strings, dried by the women to be used after being pounded into white flour.

Winter hunts for buffalo were sometimes undertaken when a herd ventured within a reasonable distance, venison was plentiful most of the times and deer were more easily secured than buffalo.  Yet, even as city water supplies, or other utilities in more civilized communities, sometimes fail  – so the condition regarding meat supplies often became an acute question to the Blackfeet Sioux.  Study and close observation of the wild animals often disclosed certain signs and impulses which might easily result in disaster to the tribe.  While, upon their annual fall buffalo hunt, signs had been observed which indicated that the buffalo might not remain during the winter in great numbers in the valleys of the Missouri within the territory of the Blackfeet.  The herds were not as numerous as in other years; the steady march southward, feeding as they went, was more rapid and there was an uneasiness among them which could mean but one thing  – they would disappear in the fall, earlier than usual, perhaps.

The old men talked long and earnestly regarding the matter, and the women, whose memories reached back to times of “hunger winters,” with attendant suffering and sorrow, busily engaged themselves in drying the meat which was brought into camp, cracking the heavy bones, extracting the sweet marrow, packing the food in the stomachs of the slain animals or in the par flesch cases.  After careful consideration the old men and the Chiefs decided to send out buffalo scouts along the Missouri river in certain directions, to ascertain conditions and obtain information regarding the amount of buffalo remaining in the river country.  This was always a very serious ceremony, only men of much experience and close observers were ever selected for this important duty, and it carried with it a period of cleansing and fasting, for the fortunate ones.  The scouts were instructed to observe the number and condition of the animals, location and probable intention; direction of their migration and rate of progress, and all other items of interest regarding this important source of sustenance.  If any scout, upon his return, reported more game than was actually in the country, or otherwise made an incorrect statement, he was considered to be perjured and unfit for society, was shunned by the entire camp thereafter.

The camp had been upon the headwaters of the Cedar River (south branch of the Cannon Ball) in what is now the southwest corner of North Dakota, when the buffalo scouts had departed upon their inspection eastward, and when they returned, after riding nine days, their reports were very discouraging.  They reported that the buffalo were scarce; that they were poor in flesh, nervous and extremely wild and hard to approach  – and it was the opinion of every scout that there would be few left when winter set in, within a distance of the river equal to what a loaded pack horse could travel in seven days.

It was then decided by Chief Grass (Uses Him as a Shield) and his advisors, the Wambdi Hunku (Eagle Parents), that the tribe would not return to the timbered bottom lands of the Missouri, but would follow the moving herds to the south and westward, curing much meat as they proceeded slowly; when the winter finally forced them to camp they would select a place upon some river where there was much wood and grass and winter protection from the northwest winds.  There they would spend the winter moons. The herald then made that announcement to the entire camp; cautioned persons to not stray far away; that the camp should remain closely together, both on the move and at stopping places; unused horses should be closely herded as they were in the vicinity where parties of their enemies might be met; that moves would be made every day for some time; no sick children or old people should be left behind.

Within a week the camp was on the west side of the Bad Lands, had crossed the Little Beaver and was approaching the Powder River.  While in the vicinity considerable snow had fallen, cold had intensified and the camp had been guided to the final winter campsite on the banks of the Powder in an area of heavy timber and thick brush.  Sites were cleared of snow and brush, lodges erected, wind shields of long brush were constructed, a barricade of logs had been placed about for protection from attacks of the Crows, or any other enemy which might appear, and the Blackfeet Sioux were prepared to spend the winter in comparative idleness.

Shortly after they had made their winter camp, a group of Sioux, composed of eleven lodges of Hunkpapa under the leadership of a sub-chief named Strikes the Lodge (Tipi Opapi), appeared. This band also planned to winter on the Powder, as game had become scarce in their own hunting grounds, south of the Moreau River.  Chief Grass invited them to pitch their lodges near his own people.  They had no fear of running out of meat and, after arranging a program of defense, the people settled down to the routine of feasting by day and dancing at night.

There were a great number of white tail deer as well as black tail and mule deer along the river where they camped and many of these were secured by the hunting men.  A heard of antelope was trapped in a deep draw with overhanging snow through which the animals could not force their way;  many elk were killed for their hides alone, as the meat was tough and course and not fit for food.  These thick hides were made into tipi linings by the women.  This lining was bound by thongs to the poles of their conical lodges and reached to the height of a man.  Otter were quite common along the stream and there were also beaver in the deeper water behind their dams at a point a few miles south.  Scout riders made a complete circuit of the camp at stated intervals of time, to pick up the trail of any wandering band of hostiles, but it was a “snow shoe winter,” and the peace of the people was not disturbed during the entire winter.

There was, however, much consternation because of a sign given in the heavens; for several nights the sky had been filled with flashes and long streaks of light; hundreds of stars apparently were falling from their places, all appearing to be going the same way.  Something very important was taking place; Wahkiyan (the Thunderbird) must be greatly disturbed; the warm wind from the west had melted the snows earlier than ever before known; thunder had been heard when it was not expected; the old men could not satisfactorily explain it to the people; the medicine man sat along and pondered over the meaning of all these things, performed strange rites and ceremonies at times.  Children had died from the effects of maladies which were new to them; several old people had been taken by death without warning and their relatives tied their bodies upon platforms of sticks in the branches of trees; a trained, buffalo horse belonging to Chief Grass had starved to death and it was discovered that his teeth had grown long and sharp; many children had died at birth and their bodies, done up in pitiful little bundles, were hung in the branches of a gnarled, old oak tree in a gully.  This movement of the stars was all very mystifying and filled them with superstitious awe..


A few days after the winter camp was established a feast was given in the afternoon by a family whose head, Grey Bear (Mato Hota), had been very fortunate in securing a great amount of meat. While hunting alone up the river, Grey Bear came up over the brow of a hill and was surprised to find himself within bow shot of a small herd of buffalo, one of which he shot under the front leg as he charged them.  The others turned toward the river and swept along the gently-slopping  ground, which had steep gullies on either side.  As they approached the steep bank ahead, the leaders suddenly senses their danger and swerved away, disappeared in the gullies.  Those animals which followed, however, were not able to escape and were pushed over the rocky edge and into the broken masses at the foot of the precipice.  The fall was about fifteen feet to the bottom and several of the animals were crippled by broken limbs and by the other heavy bodies falling upon them from above.  Those which were not badly injured were lost as they scattered in the wooded valley, but Grey Bear came close to the others and killed them with arrows. In this manner he secured sixteen of them.  After cutting their throats and taking their tongues, which he tied to his elk-horn saddle, he ascended to the upland, started to camp to secure men and horses to skin the animals and pack in the meat.  The buffalo which he first shot was standing alone not far from the spot where he had received the wound, head drooping, his feet far apart, blood running from his nose and mouth.  Grey Bear knew tha the animal had received a death-wound and that it would be found not far away upon his return.  He continued toward the Blackfeet camp.

There was much excitement when he told of his kill and several men and horses started out to assist him in caring for the meat and hides before it would be torn by wolves or become frozen solid.  It was past midday when they arrived at the foot of the bank over which the herd had been forced in its headlong flight.  Each buffalo was hauled free from among the jagged sandstone rocks and into the timber of the river valley, skinning was begun at once.  By nightfall the hides had been removed, the meat cut into pieces convenient for packing upon the horses, the tired hunters rested about a small fire, cooking tempting morsels of the intestines with its overlaying lace-like veins of fat.

They ate immense quantities of meat, for such was the custom of all hunters, spent the night in the timber.  When daylight came the men were astir packing and a group went to cut up the one which had been killed on the prairie.  When the horses were unloaded at the lodge of Grey Bear, the women immediately busied themselves in the work of cutting the meat into thin strips and sheet-like pieces and hanging these without cooking, over poles, about five feet from the ground.  It was not too cold and, in this climate, the meat cured rapidly and remained fit for food for indefinite periods until prepared for eating.

The woman of Grey Bear was of the Hunkpapa, a typical strong-faced woman of the Sioux, whose pleasant face was seamed and lined by the sun and windy storms of Dakota.  She was practical and skillful in the handling and curing of meat.  In this task she was assisted by the daughter of Grey Whirlwind (Tateiymni Hota), whose name was Good Voice Woman (Howastewin), about seventeen years of age.  Many old men as well as younger hunters and warriors had made presents to the father in the hopes that they might carry her off to their own lodges, but in none of these men had the attractive young woman shown interest.

Today, however, she was attracted by a young man of twenty-two winters, who appeared, leading an old, blind man, causing him to sit to one side, to await the usual present of meat which was given to poor people who came near at such times.  The name of this young man was Black Cloud (Mahpiya Sapa), of the Blackfeet and the son of Chase Walking (Wakuwa Mani).

The girl noticed that he wore two white feathers in his hair, indicating that he had taken part in two campaigns or expeditions into enemy territory.  She heard him say, “Sit there Grandfather, the woman will give you meat;”  his voice was firm thought kindly, and she watched him covertly as he turned and walked away, decided that his step was that of a man of much strength and ability.  She hoped that he would be present at the dance which was to be given by Grey Bear and his family.  “If that man brings horses and ties them near my father’s lodge, I hope he does not turn them loose,” was her thought as she watched the young man disappear among the tipis.

The attention of the older women, who were assisting with the meat, was attracted by the young woman’s abstraction, their keen eyes snapped with amusement and their talk was thinly-veiled as they spoke of the virtues and faults of Black Cloud, the young Blackfeet hunter and warrior.  Good Voice Woman withheld her own thoughts, appeared to be unconcerned, but a strong emotion had been stirred within her.  She left the other women when the meat had been sliced and hung across the poles to cure, going directly to her father’s lodge where she took out a par flesch from the pile of hides and furs which covered it, and from it drew her unfinished white doeskin dance costume and, with her bone awl and sinew, began to work upon its completion.  Bright tin, cut from a can, had been secured at the trader’s store, and she wound these about the ends of buckskin thongs which, in ancient fashion, hung from the dress; small beads of blue, red and yellow, white, were sewn on in the regular geometrical designs of the prairie Sioux, the same motif to be seen upon her moccasins and leggings.  She was very proud of this new costume, because it differed from those of the other women of the camp, who had no costly beads and used coloured porcupine quills for decorations.

In the evening, the pounding of the drums at a lodge across the camp circle indicated that a dance was taking place there.  Many of the men and women from the lodges in the vicinity of Grey Whirlwind’s wandered over toward the circle of dancers, but Good Voice Woman remained at her father’s tipi.  Standing alone at the entrance, she became aware that a man leading a loaded horse, was approaching, she slipped within the dark lodge, waited to see what would happen.  The young man came directly to the lodge, tied the horse to a tent pin, withdrew a short distance without a word, but she soon heard the soft voice-like tones from an eagle-bone flute coming from the direction where the young man stood and, though she gave no answering sign and sat perfectly still, her heart emotions were stirred and within the soul of her she knew that the flute was being playing by the young Black Cloud.  The music ceased and the player who had thus declared his love, walked away in the darkness with no other sign of interest.

When Grey Whirlwind returned from the dance he examined the horse carefully; unloaded the well-tanned buffalo hide which was decorated with lines of porcupine quills and, sitting down before his lodge, remained long in solemn thought before he finally untied the horse and picketed him close by to permit him to feed upon the fresh grass.  Good Voice Woman was busily engaged upon the completion of her costume when he threw open the flap and entered. He straightened himself upon the robes and smoked the sweet kinikinik.  After awhile the young woman said: “My Father, that is a good horse, I think. Someone has treated him very well and valued him much.” Grey Whirlwind remained silent.

The next morning Grey Whirlwind led the horse to water, passing through the camp where all might see, and again in the evening.  A blanketed figure sat a short distance from the lodge, playing on the flute, silently stalked away.  Good Voice Woman remained within her father’s tipi.  At midday following, the parents of Black Cloud visited Grey Whirlwind; they brought many presents and Grey Whirlwind gave them food.

The two men sat apart and talked together.  Chase Walking requested that Grey Whirlwind’s daughter be permitted to become the woman of Black Cloud; six horses would be given to run in the herd of Grey Whirlwind; a feast would be made and many other presents exchanged.

And so the arrangements were made between the two men.  Chase Walking and his woman left for their own lodge.  Almost immediately the visit was returned by Grey Whirlwind and his family, bearing presents for Chase Walking.  The daughter, Good Voice Woman, sat demurely beside her mother during this ceremonious visit and, although Black Cloud was not present, she did not life her eyes from the ground and silently returned with her parents when they left.

Arriving at their own lodge, Grey Whirlwind said to her, “Daughter it is good for young people to listen to their parents and do as they are instructed.  They are older and wiser than young people.  The son of Chase Walking is a good hunter.  He has already obtained two honors from the enemy beyond the Lodge Pole Hills (another name for the Black Hills).  He is a man, now, the people respect him.  I have decided that you will make a new lodge for him.  You may stand and talk with him when he comes.”

During the days following, Black Cloud came and talked with Good Voice Woman in front of the lodge.  A genuine attachment sprung up between them as they talked of their future plans.  Several women made presents of buffalo hides suitable for making the conical skin tipi, which, at that time was the habitual dwelling and custom of the Sioux.  When there were nine hides on hand, the mother of Good Voice Woman would begin to make it.  Women relatives and friends would gather at her tipi and, with much laughter and happiness, the task of sewing together of the hides with sinew and cementing the seams made from certain parts of the animals, would be began.  Food for them would be furnished by another woman, as they worked, and old women, whose teeth had been worn down to the gums and who had had much experience in constructing skin lodges, would give sage advice and lay out the plans. When completed and laid out upon the ground, the covering of the tipi would be in the form of a half circle, 40 or more feet across the straight edge; the wind flaps would also be sewed on, poles would be either cut or presented by someone who had a spare set, and the lodge would be secretly erected to see just how it appeared. It would then be taken down and laid to one side until after the feast which always accompanied the declaration that a new fireplace was being made.  At that ceremony the completed tipi would be presented to the woman of the new household and thereafter would remain her own personal property.

The household of Grey Bear was a busy place as preparations were under way for the great feast.  For days the women had been shredding and pounding the cured buffalo meat; wild cherries and plums had been dried in the sun earlier in the fall and were now pounded into a savory, juicy mass to be mixed with the shredded meat and fresh marrow fat in wide shallow raw hide bowls.  When well-mixed it was formed into small round cakes, again dried in the sun, and was a favorite and strong food of the plains Indians tribes.  Warriors on the trail carried it, subsisting upon it for weeks at a time when they did not deem it wise to hunt, and it was often served around the circle of dancers.  Meat thus prepared was called “Wasna” by the Sioux tribes and “Pemmican” by more northern tribes.

Grey Bear’s woman had an immense supply for the dance which they intended to give; also much fresh meat for boiling, and bones to cook for the marrow and soup.  Grey Bear had some young men bring in long, lithe saplings from the lowlands, and the butts of these were placed into the earth, bent over and laced together and thus a sort of fence was built, within which the dancers would sit and the other ceremonies would take place.  Several holes were dug, about two feet square, and over these, the stomachs of the slain animals were stretched.  At each hole was a pile of small stones, the size of a man’s fist; these stones would be heated and the meat cooked by dropping them into the water contained within the sagging stomachs.  This was the ancient manner of boiling before the Indians obtained pots and kettles of metal. The water would boil violently when the stones were placed in the stomach containing the thin slices and strips of fresh meat; sealing tightly the natural juices, however tough the meat might become by the treatment.

A few days after Grey Bear had made his remarkable hunt, an old man went about the camp carrying a bundle of sticks, about two feet long, each peeled and painted red and black.  These were “invitation sticks” and the old man who had been invited to carry them around, stood outside the lodges of those who had been selected as guests and sung songs of praise in their honor.  He then stuck the stick in the ground and passed on about his business.  Those who received such a stick were supposed, by the social customs, to bring a gift with them to the feast.  If it were not possible for them to be present at the feast, they must return the stick and bring the gift during the ceremonies, or have someone do so for them.  During the evening of the day before, a mounted messenger rode about the camp, calling out in a loud voice that Grey Bear would give a feast the next day, that everybody should come except men who were quarrelsome or women who were in disgrace; there would be soup for the old people and much meat for everybody; good singers would be there; there would be dancing and presents and much joy. “Ho  – those who had received sticks would first come and then the others might appear at the lodge of Grey Bear the Blackfeet.”

At Grey Bear’s lodge the interlaced enclosure was about 100 feet across.  Two large buffalo tipis had been placed together in such a manner that an extensive semi-circular area was screened from the wind and became the main entrance to the dancing ground.  In the center of the dancing place there was a large, shallow, single-headed drum, made of rawhide and held from the ground by four curved and notched sticks which were decorated with coloured porcupine quills.  Eight or ten young men sat about this drum, pounding with sticks which had one end wrapped with buckskin and filled with buffalo hair.  They were beating softly and singing in low voices as though in rehearsal or preparation.

After midday men in twos and threes and women in small groups were seen to be walking slowly and deliberately toward the enclosure.  The men sat under the shelter, the women gathered in noisy groups under the boughs which formed the fence.  Old men approaching, stopped at some distance from the dance place and sung with loud voices of the generosity and bravery of Grey Bear.  Tales of the war trail and hunting expeditions were the subjects of conversation among the old men, and younger dancers who were dancing, spoke of other things nearer to the heart.  Many of these young men had their bodies and faces shrouded to the eyes in well-tanned buffalo robes, and one or two beaux carried bundles of sticks which indicated the numbers of their amours.  Young women came shyly, slipping between the boughs and sat down with the other women.

By mid-afternoon nearly every adult person had gathered at the camp and a circle was formed as they awaited the feast.  The men sat on one side and the women on the other, the food being collected in a pile in the center.  Some carried dishes made of wood or rawhide, and some had large ladle-like spoons made from the horns of mountain-sheep or buffalo, able to hold a pint or more of soup.  When served, the meat was laid upon the grass in front of each person.  At small fires close to the holes where the meat had been boiled, many very old men and women gathered, eagerly cracked the heavy hot bones with heavy, short-handled stone hammers, extracted the rich, marrow-fat with bone slivers; drank the soup in which the dried intestines and bones had been cooked, and roasted pieces of this over the fire, twisted about a small, green stick, until it steamed.  Six or eight women helped Grey Bear’s woman to carry the containers, which held soup, about the circle; meat was also carried around and each person helped themselves to such portions as they desired.

The people ate an amazing amount of meat and the feasting and speech-making continued until late in the afternoon, when the circle of feasters abruptly left their places and went to their own lodges, each carrying that portion of the feast which they had not been able to eat. Riding horses were watered; guards and night-riders drove the camp herd to a better grazing place along the stream; all other work could wait until a more convenient time.  Both men and women sat within their tipis and prepared for the night’s dance.  Much time and care was taken by the men with feather bonnets and what few articles of clothing were used at such time, for moccasins and breechcloth were about all they wore, no matter what time of the year it might be.  The men covered their costumes with a buffalo robe, discarding it to use as a cushion when not dancing. The women were more completely costumed, being robed in buckskin or doeskin dresses trimmed with elk teeth or bright ornaments, which they had obtained by trading furs at the several establishments maintained along the Missouri by rival white-officered companies from St. Louis.

Men painted their bodies with red, yellow, black and blue earth pigments, which were to be found in many places in the country along the Little Missouri river Bad Lands.  The painting was not done in any haphazard manner, as each color, or motif, had  its own heraldric significance.  No man would be guilty of wearing any device or paint in any manner to which he was not entitled, for that would bring immediate inquiry from someone “who had the right” to wear a similar one, and he would then be held up to ridicule and scorn. The women were more sparing in the use of paint, using dots and circles or other simple marks, and always wore a streak of red paint upon their scalp, at the parting of the hair.  The war coups or honors of the men could easily be read by the markings upon their bodies or the manner of wearing feathers, whether in the bonnets or single feathers worn in the hair.  These might be curled or shaved, notched or painted, according to the exploit to which the wearer desired to call attention.

While there was a small body of dancers at the dancing enclosure in front of Grey Bear’s lodge all afternoon, the real business of dancing began after dark, and the throbbing of the drums and tom-toms sounded a more earnest appeal as the people began to gather and the singers and drummers warmed up to their accomplishments.

(ed note:  this ends the story of Good Voice Woman and Black Cloud, just before the wedding ceremony, which Welch inserted at the bottom of page 11..and now his manuscript returns to the tribe’s story of 1833/34)

However, the long winter passed, March snows melted, long lines of geese and other waterfowl came up from the south and settled upon the waterholes; the night was full of noises, calls which drifted down from the migrating feathered flocks;  the “Old Man with Whiskers,” as the Indians called the Crocus, pushed its head from the cured grasses of the fall before, and the booming of prairie chickens was heard.  No great calamity had befallen them by reason of the flaming stars and the medicine men then reminded them that they had told them not to fear, that their medicine was strong and would eventually save them and permit them to live.  It was decided to call this date “The Stars Changed Places Winter” and, in order to preserve the history of the tribe, the historians were ordered to make the proper drawing, or pictograph, upon the “Winter Count,” and that year is still known by that name (This is 1833/34).

With the coming of the wildfowl in the spring, came also an urge in the minds of the people  – they wanted to roam; the women packed their par flasch cases and otherwise prepared to move without delay when the order should be given.. They would have been absent from their own beloved hills and valleys nearly a year ere they again would be able to make camp on the banks of the Minnisose (Roily Water  – Missouri River).  With the coming of the grass the age- call of the nomadic peoples was upon them and they impatiently awaited the order to move, to be made by the wise men.

It was a happy party which finally led out from their old winter camping place and proceeded toward the east, with the intention of arriving at a point on the Missouri from which it would be convenient to travel to the mouth of the Beaver Creek, where a white man appeared every spring to trade for their winter fur catch, and at which place he awaited the brigade from the white man’s fort at the mouth of the Yellowstone (Hehaka Wakpe  – Elk River) and when that  brigade arrived, the furs were taken aboard the flat-bottomed boats and sent down the river to St. Louis.

There was much joy, loud talking and much jesting during the first few days of the march, but, when at least each band found its place, the appearance of the camp in motion was imposing.  There were about six hundred people in the line and, together with the dozen lodges of Hunkpapa, there were about 100 lodges.  When the main body reached the uplands and the river woodlands were cleared, the scattered people were assembled and placed in the form in which the Sioux always marched or traveled when properly organized for the march.  Those who were late on account of having been slow in packing or by reason of having had trouble with their horses, soon caught up with the main group.

If the Crier had stated to the people that there should be no fires with smoke during the daytime, none at all after dark; that the dogs should be muzzled so they could not bark; that the horses should be close-herded or corralled during the night; that there should be no singing or drum-beating; that no one should straggle behind or wander from the camp columns; that no hunting should be undertaken by anyone or personal quarrels indulged in or any other order which the Chief and his advisors deemed it well to give  — it was the duty of the White Horse Riders to compel obedience thereto by any individual who might not consider it necessary to comply.  Their power to enforce these orders was seldom disputed.  If their authority was questioned by anyone to whom they applied for aid or by one who had disobeyed any of the precautionary measures, the Riders were empowered to destroy that person’s lodge, robes and other possessions, even to slaying his horses.  This might be done by a simple knife slash across the lodge, or it might be that the Society would present the guilty persons possession to others and it then ceased to be his property.  If physical resistance was made to their actions, they were at liberty then to break the clavicle of the party in question or, if serious combat was precipitated, it has been known that the quarrelsome party was even put to death.  In other words, the authority of the particular Society in charge, to maintain the orders of the Chiefs and Headmen and the means by which this was to be accomplished, was almost absolute and rested directly upon the members, who acted according to their own code of rules and regulations and precedent.

By the middle part of April the camp had arrived at the White Butte (Pahaska).  This was a high, prominent landmark on the headwaters of the Cannon Ball (see Map on Page 8). Its top was flat and extended to an area of about 100 acres, thickly carpeted with sprawling plants of a variety of cedar; a strata of sandstone, twelve feet thick, cropped out just below the top and below this the strata were white and brown for at least 200 feet.  Nothing grew upon the steep sides of this clay except a few starved and twisted cedar shrubs, but below that, the prairie grasses flourished among the tumbled sandstone masses which had fallen from the ledges above.

Among Sioux it is generally supposed that this rock cedar, or juniper, is sacred and much in favor with the Thunderbird (Wahkiyan); the medicine men gathered a quantity of the sweet-smelling plant, hung it upon a pole in the middle of the camp; placed some of it upon their own lodges in order to prevent lightning from causing damage among the skin tipis.

(ed note:  end of unfinished manuscript)