Camping With the Sioux: Fieldwork Diary of Alice Cunningham Fletcher

 

October 7, 1881

Gumbo called by Indians, mud that chaps, as with the hands. Pretty stones. Buffalo wallows. Buffalo berries. Different songs. Wajapa and Buffalo-chip, minor and hard. Butter. New-don-e-ga. Wajapa poorest, no horse, no wagon, no tent, nothing. Wajapa dips and rises as he rides on ahead over the prairie. Stirrup breaks. Abandoned dug outs. Flocks of wild geese like a fluttering ribbon. Wolf jumps up side of road.

Just as we started and had forded one branch of the Niobrara river, Buffalo-chip stopped for his wife who had delayed and then the wagon got stuck in the quicksand and had to hire oxen to pull it out. The Indians have little forethought or provision.

At the bridge had to pay $1.25 toll and 50 cents for oxen to pull out the teams. Told the woman it was exorbitant. [?] and the woman. I was sorry that she must bear the brunt of all that was said, but it was the penalty of being in bad company. The three bridges, one of which was broken, and it was on that account that the wagon stuck, are owned by one Dr. Elsey Reeves and he charges 50 cents horse, 10 cents for passengers -One of the bridges had been torn down by the incensed people. The post office is on the other side, stores on the other.

After an hours delay we were once more together. Meantime as we waited on the hill, I sketched a green rocky peak in the midst at these sandy and alluvial hills.

There were a few houses and two stores. No one would know the latter but that they have more windows &c.

Then on and on over broad prairie for ten miles. The sun set in a pearly and golden splendor, the moon, full, rose in the midst of rippling clouds that seemed like the streams we had passed thrown up on the broad heavens. I was very weary in mind and body and my ear distressed with the out of tune singing of Moody and Sanky &c. How hopeless seemed the effort of living as far as my life is concerned but one can't die, and work maybe done. Darkness fell and then I drove, Mr. T. being tired and S. not wishing to. Bye and bye a steep descent; at the foot we saw the remains of a camp. We pulled up. Wajapa started in search of wood and water and we at length settled on the place. We ate our supper out of doors, had a little fire in the tent to take off chill. Buffalo-chip had brought on some hay and that helped.

October 7, 1881.

Rose at daylight, fog hung on the highlands. We breakfasted, Buffalo-chip going out for his morning song, Wajapa for his fun. At 9 - we were off. Standing Bear’s horse, which had been harnessed to Buffalo-chip's team, as his mare with the colt has become galled by the collar, balked. Nothing would induce her to go, so the mare was harnessed and we pushed on. Standing Bear’s horse is less in Wajapa's favor than ever - he is [?] and revenges his master by all manner of uncanny actions. I call him, "The Avenger." He is getting quite a character in our party. This sort of journeying makes men and horses stand out and form part of the dramatis personae, and I’m not sure but that the wagons and bundles come in for their share. We lost our way. About noon sighted a house. Mr. T. mounted the Avenger and found we were quite off, to get back we had to cross a creek, when all dismounted and Wajapa went through. It was an acute angle, deep water at the bottom. Wajapa called out for Mr. T. to hold on to the at the back as it went down. Nothing broke fortunately.

We crossed on logs and over the hill too upon the wagon. We start for Livingston Ranch - Reached there at 1 P.M. Buffalo-chip tried to shoot geese - failed. Women came and visited us. See notes on preceding page - We lost our way and at last were fortunate enough to hit on the only camping place for miles, by our own misfortune.

Went down the gulch to our tent and helped carry wood. When we reached this place the camp fire showed people camped, but the water was nowhere to be seen. Mr. T., Buffalo-chip and Wajapa started, returned and started again. It last Buffalo-chip hallooed and Wajapa returned on the gallop. "Nee, nee, nee", he shouted so we camped. The full moon shone over the prairie. I walked out alone beyond where the horses were lariatted. It is the prettiest camp we have had. Miles miles of prairie, behind the deep gulch the banks, here and there broken, shining yellow clay. The tall cedars showed only their tops, here and there. An empty log house in the gulch, wood choppers. S. afraid after dark, thinks the place haunted. Buffalo-chip broke out in a war song. Wajapa stopped him, lest travelers or Sioux hear us and come out and steal our horses.



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