Indian death scene.
October 18, 1881
Rode over to Standing Elks camp. As we drove down the
barren hills, saw over on the plateau, several tepees and log
houses. About one of the tepees, crowds were gathered. Buffalo-chip,
who was in advance with Standing Elk, rode back and said, some
one was dying or about to die in the tepee.
An Indian Death Scene.
This man, Kiek, was at the beef issue. He went home and worked
hauling some logs. He felt a sort of click in his chest and
became weak and lay down, grew weaker and weaker and died at
daybreak. The nearest of kin goes out of the tent door and calls,
a fore runner has gone to the spirit land, come and meet him.
His horse, the last one, is shot as soon as possible. The wives
open their packs and empty their store, calico, bead work, &c..
These are thrown on the railing beside the tent.
This man held the Drum of the Fox Club and carried the pipe
of peace, in battle. If, in the midst of conflict, this pipe
was held in a certain manner - hostility must cease, and if
the opposing party touch the stem, the peace must follow. He
belonged also to the Omaha Club.
His horse lay dead, as in the sketch - The row of heads were
the Omaha Club. These chanted long and slow the death song.
His dog came out these men shot it. It turned and cried piteously,
was shot three times and then fled on, on up the hill at the
rear of the tent and there lay down and died. Bye and bye one
of the women went up to where it lay and with wailing dragged
it down and it lay as in the sketch. The tent was open as in
the sketch - people went about it, women wailing. There was
some sort of feather ornament hanging over his head - sketch
- This was his war bonnet. The women wailed the gay colored
calico fluttered, and the bright bead work, contrasting strangely.
Bye and bye, a man came and called this was the giving away
of the dead mans horses. Then the wife and mother came
out wailing. The dog was dragged toward the Omaha Club. This
was a gift for a dog feast. They carried two bunches of the
calico and threw them before the Club. Then they passed down
the line laying their hands on the head of each man, wailing
as they passed. Bead work and calico were given to the women.
The women cut their hair as soon as the death is known and
put it on the body. This is buried with the person.
I saw all the household utensils being carried away, boiler,
iron pots and the like. Nothing will be left in the tent, not
even a meal. The relatives too, must give away, so that the
widow and orphans will be without anything. A family are ridiculed
who retain things. The wife &c., will stay with one friend
and another - this divides property but makes all beggars. Missionaries
preach against it. Just before the man called out the gift of
horses, I noticed a man clad in a light blanket, leaned over
the dead man and painted his face red and yellow. When this
was done he called out the horses given away. Several women
went into the tent after the giving away, the Omahas went in.
The women seemed to keep to the left side of the tent. The man
lay on the right as you enter. Women kept to that side as well
as inside. While the Omahas went in, a group of men gathered
at the left side and began to smoke.
The man was buried in the afternoon. His knife, pistol, drum
and horse put with him. The men, with mouth and chin and end
of nose, a sort of triangle, painted black signifiers one who
had been wounded and bled. Red stripes indicated horses given
away in pipe dance. Yanktons affect yellow and red, sometimes,
striped, some times, spotted, red or yellow - I dont recollect,
yellow or red. Red mostly used and black by the others.
Saw rations - One tin cup of green coffee
for a family of two and four. Less than 1/2 lb. of sugar. A
strip of bacon about an inch to 1 1/2 wide and from 18 to 30
inches long, and 5 to 3 inches wide for 11 in family. Bacon
thrown into flour bag.