Camping With the Sioux: Fieldwork Diary of Alice Cunningham Fletcher

Portrait of Asanpi (Milk), n.d. Photo Lot 24, BAE 3225-a.

 

 

 

View of camp of Spotted Tail's band. Brule #1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asanpi's house. Reception teepee and son's log house.

October 11, 1881

Rose at daybreak after a bitter cold night and determined if possible, to push on.

Reached Spotted Tail camp at 3.30. As we drove over the hills the scout went ahead and Buffalo-chip along side our wagon and said we were to go the Band of Asanpi. A large tent 30 feet in diameter was placed at our disposal. A young woman came and made a fire. Tent covers were put in around to keep off the wind - hay was brought and we were made at home. The horses were taken off our hands. The scout has gone ahead to spread the news of our arrival.

Buffalo-chip went ahead and soon we were driven up to the large tent set aside for guests, owned by Asanpi, the Chief of Ogallala [sic] Indians, one of the bands of the group a fine, comely, cordial man. His wife came in and welcomed us and after a little space, we were heralded to his house near by, to supper.

Meanwhile, hay had been spread on the floor for our beds and an extra stretch of ducking to the windward of our tent. The meat was of dried buffalo meat and bread and coffee. The coffee was sweetened before served, this not always done. The host, Asanpi, and his comely wife, sat by the stove and her husband and the scout. On the walls were sheets of newspaper and some pictures cut from the papers.

Our meals served on a piece of canvas spread on the floor between the two beds, our coffee in tin dishes. We sat on the floor. Our host said, "I am afraid you will find it hard to eat without knives and forks". Buffalo-chip’s wife said, she would get ours and that quite relieved Asanpi. So we ate his viands with our own knives and forks. Ga-ha, Buffalo-chip’s wife, saw that I was making but little headway with the pile of meat on my plate and she, without attracting any one’s notice, sent word round to me that she would take what I could not eat. Could any one be more thoughtful and courteous?

What we did not eat Ga-ha took away with her. When the dishes are emptied they are piled up and placed at the edge of the cloth. Our host ate sitting beside his wife.

Later, we were called to supper at Asanpi’s son’s. Here again we found buffalo meat and bread. The log house was neatly furnished inside - a clock on the wall and again some newspaper prints for decoration, several bits of bead work hung up and the packs made of buffalo hide.

The stove was clean, and again we sat on the floor. Beside the stove was the young mother and little girl, a year and a half old, playing in her lap, or running or hanging about her father. It had earrings, necklaces and the brass bangles on her wrists. Its mother was plump and comely. She was dressed in the same way.

The little boy had his side braids bound in strips of beaver skin and his scalp lock braided and the end fastened with a tassel of beads. When we reached the son’s house, the father was there to welcome us. He talked to us through a half-breed interpreter.

We had had four invitations to supper. Buffalo-chip, his wife and Wajapa went to three places and excused us. A plate of pounded buffalo meat mixed with choke cherries was sent to me. Woman’s work, I shall take it home.

When it became evident that we were through our supper, Asanpi left suddenly and silently as all Indians come and go, and when we reached our tent there he sat with a bright fire blazing to welcome us.

He gave me his picture and that of his son at Utica. His wife came in during the afternoon and told us of Spotted-Tail’s death - of how distressed and excited the people were. It was a glimpse of the old clan feeling, for to kill a chief was a desperate thing when done in the times of peace. She sat on the queer rough bedstead with a straw bed on it, swaying her body and leaning her head in her comely hands and arms decorated with the numerous bracelets. Her feet were crossed - small pretty feet, in pretty moccasins. It was a strangely interesting sight. Buffalo-chip translated her words into Omaha, and Susette, in low tones, into English, we all looking very solemn and expressing interest and sympathy by manner rather than words for it would not do to commit ourselves to one party here.

I heard the drum going and tried to make friends with the little Miss, but one must not address a child when with its father, particularly a woman, to address or go near a man.

A very cordial welcome is extended to me - for I have come alone, and the Indians see I trust them and they meet me more than half way.

The wife of Asanpi said that I reminded her of a teacher that was here once. She came to see the Indians in their tents and talked with them and she looked like me. To Indians all white people appear alike. The daughters of Asanpi are large, handsome women. The eldest is married to a half-breed and lives like a white woman, they said; the two youngest, 16 and 14 are at home. The son, 26, is married. When we took supper, the one 18, at Utica, I saw; one or two younger ones. He said he was 45, his wife 44 - a very, very noble couple.

A young man with a belt, with cartridges and pistol, bracelets and armlets over his jacket, a mosaic pin on his front, a pair of goggles on his hat band - on his beaver soft brand was written, James Small Cloth. When Asanpi visited Carlisle, some of the little Indian scholars wrote his name in English translation, Milk in his hat.

He is a tall fine fellow and high minded. As the interpreter was telling us what was said, and when Asanpi enumerated his children, I remarked that, "Among us a man was accounted rich who had children". The interpreter did not evidently understand me, for Asanpi returned answer, that the chief was poor, he had to give away much - that he gave away to the Poncas some 20 horses last year. I hastened to explain, that I meant it was his having children that made him rich.

Whether he fully understood on account of the slimness of intellect on the part of the interpreter, I do not know.

Asanpi has borrowed chairs and put them in our tent for us to sit upon, then with the carriage seat and two boxes make us very comfortable.



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