Camping With the Sioux: Fieldwork Diary of Alice Cunningham Fletcher

Sitting Bull and Travoriet, his Wife. Photograph by Bailey, Dix, and Mead. Fort Randall, South Dakota, 1882. Photo Lot 24, Inv. 00502300.

 

 

 

Sitting Bull wearing blanket, near tipis. Fort Randall, South Dakota. Bailey, Dix, and Mead, 1882. Photo Lot 24, BAE 4454 00524300.

 

 

 

Sitting Bull's first camp, Fort Randall, 1881.

 

 

 

 

October 27-29, 1881

Thursday, Col. and Mrs. A. start for Chicago, at 5.45. We all breakfast together.

Went to Sitting Bull’s camp - had a talk with him, very interesting in many ways. He asks sympathy for his women and children and for teachers &c. Gave him my address. He makes queer motions after it. Promised to help him about the licentious interpreter. Told Capt. Quimby and agreed to tell Sitting Bull that Capt. Quimby would befriend him.

Read an article, Oct. 27, by Lieut. Thomas M. Wooduff, 5th Infantry, on "Our Indian Question", in Journal of the Military Service Institution of the U.S. Nearly 270,000 Indians in the U.S. exclusive of Alaska, greatest number in Terr. and California, Nebraska, Nevada and Oregon.

The camp of Sitting Bull when we first came was on a terrace or plateau back or west of the Post, tents in a circle. There are 168 persons, men, women and children. These are counted every morning by the officer of the day and once a month by the Col. at the month. The people paint properly but not variedly. The children all painted even to the infants. The women are some tattooed, but only with the chief’s mark or the two lines under the lower lip. Large full busts, Men’s hands are slender. There are some good looking men. I dislike the constant use of "bucks" for mature men. It smacks of superiority.

Called on Sitting Bull Oct. 27, 1881, about 12.30 P.M. He received me with much state, sitting at the left of his tent, an inner tent covering being between him and the outside tent cover. Some 13 of his men came in, several old ones. He spoke in a low tone with much deliberation. He was apparently quite in earnest. The tone of his speech has been, I think, affected by the conversation of Buffalo- chip and Wajapa. He gave me his autograph. Sitting Bull and 12 or 13 names.

There are two parties, one old chiefs, one to adopt civilization. Sitting Bull has thrown away the old ways and desires to make his way toward civilization. He knows how he came from the [ ? ] and took root from the [ ? ] Wants for the sake of the women, to turn away. The game gone, wants to walk in the way of work. For themselves, they can’t change but for their children and the future they want to change their life.

They want to go to work but have nothing to go to work with - want cattle, chickens, hogs to raise as on a farm. They have nothing - they want to go to work, &c. &c.

When Sitting Bull’s camp is counted, the women and children form a ring in the center of the enclosure, the men sitting by the tent door. Sitting Bull remained in his tent.

In the moving of the camp the women did all the work. The old men sat in a line in the center of circle, and were the last to move, that is, walk to the new camp. Sitting Bull came the very last, wearing his goggles.

A little child came in, a blue necklace on his neck, a very brief little cotton shirt, barely reaching his thigh. It was raining. There was one young Indian with large flashing eyes, one with wavy hair - have seen several.

The Inspector General, Maj. Saunders from St. Paul, arrived on Thursday, P.M. All day Friday it rained and I read and wrote. In the P.M. Mr. Tibbles called and they tried to get over but failed. So as the Inspector General asked me to go with him as far as Yankton Agency, on Sat. Oct. 29, 1881. Mr. T. and all the party left and drove down on this side the river, and I started with the Inspector General at 10 A.M.

A north wind was blowing and when we reached the river the flat boat with the ambulance was in the middle of the stream with the prospect of being some time before it could reach the opposite bank.

After waiting some time, returned to Col. Andrews’ to await news of the arrival of the ambulance on the other side of the Missouri river. Man to come in a skiff, a sort of dug out. Had an interesting interview with Sitting Bull.

Had barely seated myself at dinner when the Inspector called and had to start at once. Went down, got on board the flatboat, which had been towed up the river and we started four soldiers to row. We soon got on a sandbar and there we struggled, the Inspector pulling away with the soldiers and half breeds. We had a funny experience, the ferry-man had on rubber boots and pants and waded only up to his knees sometimes less water. Hours passed and no headway gained. At last the boat was got to shore, two horses landed and the boat towed up along the sand bars. The boatman went ahead and sounded the channel as he walked. After many struggles we got off at last and struck the main channel, then all hands pulled and rowed for dear life. The wind had gone down, the sun was golden and the river placid as a lake. Our hours of struggle seemed incredible. We landed safely and after consultation took the skiff back. Just after I arrived Col. A.’s Bishop Hare arrived on his return from Deadwood, Rosebud &c.



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