Camping With the Sioux: Fieldwork Diary of Alice Cunningham Fletcher

Portrait of Sitting Bull, his mother, and his daughter holding child. Photograph by Miller, n.d. Photo Lot 24, Inv. 00500700.

 

 

 

View from Mrs. Andrew's parlor, Fort Randall.

 

October 30, 1881

Left Fort Randall, Sunday, A.M., taking breakfast at 6.15. Started 6.30. I rowed across the river. The Inspector Gen. too impatient to wait for the ambulance to come walked on till the vehicle overtook us, then over the river before sunrise. Saw a mist or steam - supposed it was the usual mist but it was hot springs. Had to wait at the stage office, a wide room, a log house. Here the men lodgers of the hotel - a series of log houses across the muddy way, came to wash their faces. It was a queer sight, blowing noses, spitting and washing in a tin basin.

We were off and the negro driver was quite chatty to his horses. "What ye about, Kaiser", "Step up little one, come, come, Walk round children &c."

A pleasant talk with Insp. Gen. about Sitting Bull and Ethnography. The "dug-way" a road out in the side of the bluff, clay above, mud below and a precipice at one side, was rather a striking piece of road. The turns were sharp and the driver called out lustily to learn whether any one was in advance, for passing was impossible. We swung around, the four horses and ambulance made a long line to sweep. After five miles of dug way we got out of gumbo but got in again. After many miles we rose upon the upper prairie going by the usual steep hills upward. Then on, on, on, over the endless desolate parry. Tepees here and there. At last a number of hay stacks and then the Mission farm, and again that down, down to where the Agency and Mission buildings are located.

Folktale

Once there were four brothers living together. While they were out hunting, one of them, the youngest, got a sharp stick in his foot and it swelled so he could not go out hunting with his brothers. While his brothers were gone he worked to get the splinter out and wrapped it in a piece of buffalo hair and after he got it out he was thirsty and went to get a cup of water for himself to drink. As he came back near to the tent, he heard the cry of a child and he stood still and wondered and wondered what it was. When he went in he found the stick had turned into a child and it lay wrapped in the buffalo hair, and it was a little girl. When his brothers came back he told them about it and they were all very glad and said, "What shall she be to us? Let us call her our Mother", but they concluded that would not do. Then aunt was suggested but that did not suit them - Then cousin, but that failed, then the youngest said, "We haven’t any sister, let us call her our sister". So it was agreed to call her sister. Then the older brother said, "I wish my little sister would grow up so she could run about and bring us water". She grew up in an instant and was able to run about and fetch water for her brothers. Next one said, "I wish my little sister would grow up and be able to cook and dress skins and make moccasins for us", and in an instant she grew larger and was able to do those things. The third brother said … The fourth said, "I wish my sister would be able to call to us all the animals that are used for food", and in an instant she was able to make her voice heard all over and the animals to obey. Then her brothers asked her to call the game in, and she asked them to comb her hair and paint the parting of her hair red, and then she made them make a scaffold, and then on that they put her and they all stood ready to shoot, and they stood in a door. She called the game in. Three times she called and then they saw the dust in the air the animals made by running, coming toward them. The fourth time she called they were in sight, the brothers began to shoot, buffalo, elk, deer, antelope, bear, raccoon. All came making dust like smoke, floating in the air. The brothers keep shooting until it began to get dark. They had killed a great many of them.

She did this several times, and one day the brothers were about to go out and they advised her not to speak to any one during their absence whoever it might be and she promised not to do so. When they were gone she saw the monkey coming along, carrying a bow made of willow and rush arrows. He had a bag full and came and asked her to call the animals for him to shoot, but she would not even look at him or speak to him. He kept begging and begging her to do so finally she consented. She asked him to comb her hair and paint the parting red and place her on the scaffold. She called and at the third time she saw the dust raised by the animals slowly rise in the air and she said, "Pity me and for my sake exert yourself and kill the strongest ones". And the monkey said, "I will, I’ll be sure to do so", and she said, "If you don’t I’ll be carried off". The first that came was a big buffalo and the monkey shot with his rush arrows but they wouldn’t go straight and the arrows did not touch him so he passed on and the animals kept passing and passing but he could kill none. Every time he missed he would say, "Hei, hei," a cry of despair, and then the girl began to cry as she saw be killed none.

The animals began to come in crowds. Last came a big elk with antlers and came rushing on, straight for the scaffold. The monkey shot but nothing was touched, but the elk came on straight for the scaffold, pushed it down and carried the young maiden off tangled in his horns.

The monkey went off. The brothers came home and saw the scaffold turned down and no one in the tent. When they saw their sister had been carried off they cried and cried and put clay on their heads and cut their robes in two. They searched for her everywhere, but could find no trace.

The youngest brother went out and went on the top of a hill and sat and cried and cried until he was so hoarse and tired that he stopped crying and fell asleep. When he woke up he heard the voice of a woman crying and he got up on his hands and knees and listened, and it was not in the air and the voice was not on the top of the earth. He couldn’t make out where it was.

The voice kept on calling, "Brothers come and help me!" He turned his head on one side and held his ear toward the earth, then he knew the voice of his sister crying in the earth and right under him. He did not know what to do, so he went back and told his brothers he had found his sister but how to get her back again he did not know, Then all the brothers went to the place and did not know what to do. All listened and was sure the voice came from beneath, under the ground. The youngest said to the eldest, "Were you never made holy? Have you never had dreams of animals that would give you power?" He said, "Yes, I dreamed of an animal which told me that when in trouble to remember him and do this," at the same time he took his war club and struck the ground. He made a crack in it but not very large and the big hill began to open a little. The next brother did the same and made the crack larger. The third did the same. When the youngest one’s turn came he gave the earth a tremendous blow and split the hill in two; and there inside they saw their sister tied by the arms over the doorway and as every animal went through the doorway they gave her a push with their horns and pass out and she would swing back again. They kept killing the animals, saving a male and female of each kind and naming them at the same time. To the Elk, they said, "Go, you shall, be called Elk", same to buffalo until they had named all of them.

Then they took their sister and made a sweat house for her, and made her go in alone, and she came out cured of her hurts.

[End of Diary]


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