October 24, 1881
I started off alone and walked up the hill. Boundless prairie
met my view. Prairie chickens rose at the sound of my steps
- saw footprints. One can easily see how these people notice
them so well, there is a sort of companionship in them and in
the midst of the wonderful solitude.
Burnt prairie - Can see the many Indian trails, a sort of flat
smeared streak over the tufted buffalo grass. Debris of white
men over the trail, old clothes, tin cans &c.
Wajapa said that as we rose to start early the first one who
wakened was to wake the others. As usual, I wakened first, but
I couldnt start the fire and it was very cold -everything
frozen and my robe wet with my breath. Soon Mr. T. roused and
stirred up the embers, pushed up the logs and we had a blaze,
after much blowing. I rose at once and when nearly dressed,
suggested that I waken the Indians. He agreed.
Wajapa had said that a white horse should be given him at Fort
Randall. A white horse is a lucky gift. This he said the night
of the Cinderella story, so I sang out, "De-ga-ba, shong-ga
skar". He laughed and bye and bye after many shouts arose.
Buffalo-chip and his wife were really troubled yesterday because
S. threw salt on the fire. "It would surely bring bad weather".
Many little birds are homeless on the burnt prairie. As we
rode hundreds, if not thousands of buffalo birds flew over the
prairie, flying not more than three or four feet from the ground,
their wings flashing in the sunlight and looking like a flurry
of driving snow. It was wonderful to watch them against the
This A.M., I started ahead to block out the sketch of the camp
and "The Mothers Ford", as I want the place
called. I waited long and then saw that the buggy and team had
started on, so I pushed on to the next hill. Here I waited
long. At last the team rounded the top of the hill and S. was
driving and Ga-ha in my usual place. Mr. T. had Buffalo-chips
wagon. We all changed and then I heard the usual wonderful stories.
Wajapas horses back had been lanced, to the marvel
of every body, &c. &c.
As we passed on we presented an odd appearance for everything
and body straggled. It was 2.30 when we reached the camping
place. Wajapa coming in late, leading the horse he had been
riding and was used up.
Our fire was made in a hole, the wind blowing, and I ate bread
and apricots, sour and horrid - and drank wretched coffee. The
management of food is being poor in many ways. Things are getting
so disagreeable that I hardly know how to get on at all.
Soldiers have camped here. We see the stakes where they lariated
their horses and the square where their tents were placed and
A boundless prairie where the buttes just peering over the
southern horizon, on the north, a deep irregular folding ravine
where there is wood and water - a queer place in the opening.
I see the opposite bluffs of the Missouri. Nobody knows when
we shall reach Fort Randall.
The summer camping place fraught with unpleasant association.
It was rather hard with the Buttes in sight, which had been
guiding the toiling captive mother back to her home, to learn
that on this site, which soldiers frequent a party of them once
surprised a number of women digging the wild turnip. The Indian
women were surrounded as men surround game and the soldiers
shot at them, aiming at their foreheads as game are aimed at.
Many of these women were killed. The Poncas rose to avenge their
death but were with difficulty prevailed upon to let the insult
Another time some soldiers decoyed and betrayed some Indians
they had induced to travel with them. At this point the soldiers
turned on the Indians and killed them all.
Our dinner was cooked in the fire made in a hole that the wind
might not scatter it over the prairie. Ga-ha put up the tent
cover to shield us from the wind, sinking the pole and tying
the center of the tent cover to it and spreading out the ends
as wings. Just there were the marks of soldiers tents,
some five of them square, the earth thrown up a little so as
to bank the tents. The stakes where the horses were tied were
So with the records written in the earth, treasured in the
memory, I sat there a stranger, yet at home.
At a little after 3 P.M., we went on. Buffalo-chip said that
beyond where we saw two rounded hills, the road forked, left
road led to Fort Randall, the right to Ponca Reservation. It
was long past dark when we reached the forks. The sunset clear
and the silver crescent of the moon, jeweled the golden rims
- stars came out.
At dinner we noticed a prairie fire that seemed to have started
just after we had left the long prairie. Buffalo-chip and Wajapa
thought the Yanktons had let their camp "fire get out".
The smoke formed a circle about the heavens and burnt grass
cinders fell all about us, brought forward by the wind. At night
the clouds were lowering and the line of fire at their base
made a strange contrast to the quiet of the sky. About 9 P.M.
we camped. Buffalo chip thinking Wajapa, who was behind with
his horse and one of Buffalo-chips colts, might be lost,
so Mr. T. and Buffalo-chip went off to hunt wood and water.
Some water was found in a rut in the road, but no wood.
I had a can of corned beef opened in spite of sulky remarks
and ate my first meat with a bit of dry bread, but drank no
water and then to bed as quickly as possible. I slept tolerably
after I got warm. My cold is very bad and I suffer for lack
of opportunity to wash.
In the morning Buffalo-chip and Wajapa went to hunt wood and
found it was near by but in the night we could not find it.
As I near the hope of letters I more and more wonder what of
Am pleased with Ga-ha, but I notice that teasing and practical
joking is the general rule. Our rudenesses are the holdovers
of barbarous life.
I told S. to tell Buffalo-chip that I was going to try and
have the ford at the Ponca river, the only real ford after Turtle
Creek, named, The Mothers Ford. Susette thought a moment
and then said, "I cant put that into Indian, for
I cant say Mother without saying your mother or his mother
or her mother &c." I tell them if it were called, "His
Mothers Ford, it means nothing to them". So the touch
of poetry cant be conveyed.