Camping With the Sioux: Fieldwork Diary of Alice Cunningham Fletcher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 10, 1881

In this A.M. Mrs. Montgomery took me to the store, I saw the trader. Capt. Montgomery had the carriage mended gratis and gave an order to the commissary. We laid in supplies.

Mrs. Montgomery very droll. She said, as we met the chaplain first and after our visit to the commissary "He gives our canned meat of religion, yes, opens his cans once a week. His one religious commissary". He would feed the children, however.

We went only laughing. Meet a young Lieutenant first from West Point, his cavalry cloak very yellow lining, making me think of brilliant Indian boy’s dress. At 2 P.M. a few of the officers came to call on Bright Eyes at Mrs. T.’s suggestion. It was all quite funny and odd. The new one was a Boston young man and he was very homesick. At 3 P.M. we started, Capt. Montgomery and wife speeding us, I promising if I ever had a home to claim the privilege of returning her hospitality.

We were to have a Sioux scout, "The Eagle", for these are marauding Indians, who are dangerous. Capt. Montgomery told me if I saw a barefooted Indian alone with his hair out, and scant clothing, to speed away as fast as possible for he would be dangerous. "If his heart was bad toward a white person he would kill, and if toward an Indian he would kill my companions".

We forded the Niobrara and on over prairies for six miles rain and thunder and lightning. At 5.30 we reached the Minnecadosa and camped just in time to escape a violent storm. Everything was brought in and we prepared for a night of it. The interpreter was sent after us to tell us to take wood, for there was none after we left the creek.

The night was fearful - the lightning incessant, the thunder pounded and roared. Mr. T. rose to be ready to keep the tent down. I made ready to help. The Indians slept soundly.

Wajapa got angry with me when I essayed a little jest and will not speak. I asked a question and he failed to answer. Am much disappointed that he is such baby.

The day turned to rain and we must stay the day here. The Sioux and his wife arrived at 10.30. She with red painted part of hair and over twenty-five brass bracelets on each arm. The Sioux women wear a dress with flowing sleeves like the buckskin dresses but now in calico.

Folktale

Buffalo-chip tells a story about a Gegahooge, a little animal two feet high which eats grapes, has a long tail: A little grey fox lived with some cranes. The Gegahooge said to the cranes, "Let us eat". They were in a little house or lodge together. The Gegahooge invited the crane to come to dinner. He put the food in a flat place - the little animal ate well out of the plate, but the crane with its long bill could get almost nothing. The Gegahooge would say to the crane, "Are you satisfied, are you getting enough?" and although the crane got little, he would say, "Oh, yes, I am doing very nicely".

Then the crane invited the Gegahooge to dinner for the next day. The crane had his food in a long pouch, and he said, "Come friend, let us eat together".

It was rice at the bottom of the pouch, and as the crane put in his long bill, he ate but the little animal could not get his nose in. The crane would say, "Friend, are you getting enough, are you satisfied?" "Oh, yes friend, I am doing nicely".

Buffalo-chip said the story was told by his father’s father and it has come down from the old time. Queer!

Folktale

One day the crane went out walking with the crow. They were great friends. One day as they walked a blizzard came out. The crow was used to the cold, the crane not. The crow said, as he shivered and chattered his teeth "Oh, friend, I am so cold", (this making believe). The crow made believe that he was going to die. The crane consoled him and said, "Brother, don’t despair, you’re alive yet". It grew colder and colder. The crow would say to the crane, "Are you alive yet, friend?" "Yes, what is there to kill me?" Then it grew colder and colder and the crow said, "Are you alive yet, friend?" "Yes, what is there that will kill me?" It grew colder and still more cold, and again the crow asked of the crane how he fared, but the crane made no answer. The crow looked at the crane and lo! he was dead. "Ah!" said the crow, "I can eat him" and he ate him up and then flew off, unmindful of his friend or the cold.

Buffalo-chip says there are many such stories. A Frenchman told stories to the Indians and they were like stories the Indians had.

Story.

Folktale

Once there was a little monkey going along and he came to a creek and found a beaver and thinking he was dead he tied his feet together and packed him on his back. Bye and bye he came to a stream where there was a dam full of sticks. The monkey began to pull out the sticks to make a fire and as he worked he saw a beaver slipping in and out of the logs and he said, "Oh, if I could but add this beaver to the one I have". He looked at the place where he had laid the beaver, but he was gone, and it was his own beaver he had seen among the logs. The beaver carried off the strings with which he was tied into deep water and the monkey couldn’t get it. Then the monkey went on and he met a bear. The monkey put mud on his face and chin and made himself as pitiful as possible and the monkey said to the bear, "Friend, how are you now, are you getting along? I am so very glad to see you". The bear answered, "Yea, old man, I am doing very well, I am going on a message to a far country, I am very well". The monkey said, "Grandson I am so glad to see you, I am very weary and hungry, give me something to eat, see how cracked and parched my mouth is." "Yes, old man, I see, but I’m in a great hurry going on my message to a far country". "Oh, Grandson, it is early spring and I am so hungry, let me have some tenderloin, you’re so fat you wont miss it, I am so lean and weary - let me have a little of the fat on your side, do grandson, I am so very, very, hungry and worn". "Well", said the bear, "You may have a little". So, the monkey took his knife and out into the bear and the bear groaned. "I've only scratched a little", said the monkey, then he out again and the bear groaned and the monkey said, "I’ve only a little bit of a piece". The bear groaned again, and yet again as the monkey cut. Then as he got deep into the bear he stabbed and killed him.

The monkey said, "Ah! now I’ll have a feast," so he skinned the bear and cut him up and made a great fire and prepared for riches and plenty. The monkey was very arrogant and as he sat there he heard a noise. A tree grew near the place where he sat and it waved and bent in the wind and screeched and creaked, and the monkey said, "What do you mean by all this talk? I'll punish you for troubling me". But the tree bent and bent and almost touched the pots of meat. Then the monkey in great wrath rose up and jumped upon the tree and tore at its bark and rent its leaves but the branches held him fast and when he found he was caught, he cried - "Oh, friend, release me and I’ll give you some meat" but the tree held him fast - then he looked over the plain and there he saw a pack of wolves coming, and he cried out, "Oh, wolves, go another way, don’t come here, I’ve all my provisions and you might eat them". The leader of the wolves said, "What is that voice I hear, it sounds like the Old Man". Then all the wolves stopped to listen and the monkey cried out in his agony the same thing. The wolves heard him and they said, "He is the old man and all his provisions," and all ran and tumbled and ate and crunched all the meat and sat on it and devoured both cooked and raw, and the monkey watched them, wailing. Bye and bye all was gone but a little piece caught in the bushes and after a time an old, old, gray wolf came along. He saw the piece of meat in the water and jumped and jumped for it but failed. The tree released the monkey who by this time was very angry and he took the bit of meat from the bush and threw it in the face of the wolf and said, "There take it".

A Story.

Folktale

There was a town. A party from it went out on the war path. They were ten in number, with six leaders. The leaders were: The man, the rabbit, the buffalo, the turtle, the elk. The others were: The bladder pouch, beaver, owl and sandstone-sharpener. They started out early in the morning, the path was full of bushes and undergrowth. The bladder got torn to pieces and it died.

They came to a creek with beautiful willows and hollow oaks. It was a beautiful place. The owl gave out and didn’t want to go further, because the place was so lovely, so many charming places to go to sleep in that the owl felt that he could go no further and he gave out. Eight only were left. They went on and in the night they came to a camping place. The scenery was lovely, the creek beautiful and so well adapted to dams that the beaver fell so in love with the place that he felt he could go no further, as the leaders went out to look over the country, the beaver did not go on - so three were lost.

They went on. At the next camping place there was fine grass and feeding grounds and the Elk felt ill. He fell so in love with the land that he felt sure he could never go on and must stay behind, and he stayed. The rest went on. The next level place was on a level plain full of the short buffalo grass and the grey weed with seeds where the buffalo wallow and the buffalo felt that here he must remain. The land was too delightful to leave - so he stayed.

Then the rest went on. At their next camping place there were plum trees full of red shining fruit and as the Rabbit looked up at them he felt that here he could be happy and he lost all heart at the idea of going on - so he stayed.

The remaining four went on and the party went till they came to a tent and there was a beautiful woman, and the man looked at her and he could go no further and he left the party.

All that were left were the owl, the turtle and the sandstone and they came to a village. When they came to this tribe the sandstone went to the door of a tent and lay there and the owl to the door of another tent and lay there, while the turtle found its way to a bank and lay there for people to pass.

At the door where the owl lay a woman crept out of the door and as she crept the owl stuck in her hand and she exclaimed, "Ah! I’ve found an owl, see where it is stuck in my hand". So the owl found an owner.

The sandstone tripped up the woman who came out the tent where it lay and she cried out, "Ah! I’ve a sandstone for my own". So the sandstone had an owner.

A man passing by the water saw the turtle and captured him and the old men all cried out: "A turtle that has come on the war path was captured", and all the people gathered about and some said, "Kill him", and others said, "No, No, put him in a kettle of water and then put him on the fire".

The turtle made answer, "If you put me in the fire all the children will die, if you put me in the water all the children will die".

Then the people were afraid to put him into the pot or in the water and they said, "We will put him in a deep lake". Then the turtle showed great fear and plead and plead that they would not put him in the deep water, so the people thinking he dreaded it, they threw him in. He pretended agony - they threw him in again, he pretended death - Bye and bye he laughed out and sank to the bottom.

One day the children were in swimming and there was the turtle and they came home and told the people that the turtle was not dead but living in the water.



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