our prettiest camp
Up at daybreak - Sketched our pretty camp. Wajapa threw away
his old moccasins. He has mended and mended them, linen thread
amounts to nothing, only sinew holds. My work basket furnished
none. He called us to witness that those moccasins were to be
our fore runners. They would tell all the news. Then
Buffalo-chip came and stood at the door of the tent and sang
a song, improvising as he went on, of which the moccasins would
tell. First they would reach the Poncas and tell how the bad
water made us sick and couldnt eat or sleep - then how
the horses got sore, and so on, and so on. Each refrain ending
with Heigh ho! in a queer little shout and turn.
My sketch of the place gave great pleasure. Wah-ta-oo-da were
said by all. Ga-ha gave me a friendly tap.
To name the camp which has no name was next in order and so
Buffalo-chip said it should be called the place where Wajapa
threw away his moccasins.
Near here an Indian girl committed suicide, hanging herself
with a rawhide around her neck and to a tree and throwing herself
over a gulch. Orphan, lived with aunt and uncle. Buffalo-chip
was in her tent when the aunt scolded the girl (15 years old).
She was to fix the cord by which they hang kettles, she did
all she was told and then ended her life.
Men and women among the Indians commit suicide, one man, who
loved his wife, because she scolded him. The woman who became
blind after her husbands death. They are resourceless.
S. is always afraid in the dark and I think the Indians are
timid from our standpoint.
Soapweed they use for matches, carry whole bunches of the sticks
and then rubbing them to make fire, has long pods.
Yesterday a wolf crossed the path we had gone round to head
Mud Creek. Wajapa went through, the horse sank to his belly.
Wajapa said, that only that, only that. I laughed so at his
story of the Fox but the wolf I met yesterday would have done
the same thing doubtless. He told me this story:
Once the Fox said to the Coon, "Friend, how is it that
you are so fat and glossy?" "Why, it is this way,
when a band are going along to war I get in their way, then
when they are passing I lie down as if I were dead, and, the
warriors seeing me say, "See what a fat coon, let us take
him along, he will make a good supper". So they take me
up and put me on the teepee where all their corn is carried,
and then while I lie there, I eat all I want. Then I have my
fill, then I drop out on the trail and away I go till the next
"That is a clever thing to do, I will try it". "Do",
said the coon. One day a band went by and the fox bethought
him of the Coons plan of getting a hearty meal, so he
lay down on the path and the warriors said, "How! See this
fox, let us take him along". So they lifted him, after
first binding his legs and put him on the teepee, and the men
pushed on. The fox was very uncomfortable, he could neither
eat or move and he lay there on his side lamenting, "Oh!
when will they untie me, when will they untie me". He did
not dare to move, but bye and bye he ached so hard that thinking
no one was near he wiggled his little feet to rest himself but
a warrior saw him and cried, "How, hes alive"
and he killed the fox. The coon watched all this from afar and
he wagged his head and said, "Forever and forever he can
never pay me back for this trick."
Wajapa told another story:
One day he was passing along thinking very hard. He went on
by a pool of clear placid water that lay at the foot of some
plum trees. Without lifting his head he said, as the beautiful
red plums caught his eye, "Ugh! plums, Ill stop thinking
and eat." So he put down his head to nip off the plums,
but water filled his mouth and nose. He retreated and sneezed
and sneezed, then he advanced again, yes, there were the plums,
so he made another dive still he sneezed and sneezed but he
went back again and again, till he was so tired and lay down
and fell asleep. As he slept some ants came along and thinking
he was dead, ate out his eye. When he awakened he could not
see the plums for the ants had eat out the eye on the side next
to the plum trees. "That is queer" said the fox, "I'll
go and find those plums". So he traveled on and on, and
then he saw some plums. This time he was looking up. "Ough!"
said he, " but I'll have those", and he pulled out
his one eye and threw it up to knock down the plums. As he lay
there helpless and [?] the ants came up and got into the sockets
of his eyes and killed him, and the fox died.
In these tales Wajapa, Buffalo-chip and his wife are as interested
as possible, putting in little touches and reminding the speaker.
The bracelets of Ga-ha gleamed in the firelight as she rests
her face on her hand. She looks very odd mixing bread in her
bracelets and rings. She laughs a great deal. All their teeth
are regular and short like those in skulls taken from graves.
All the A.M. for 3 1/2 hours over boundless prairie, suddenly
at the top of a little rise, saw a peculiar stretch of land,
sharp outlines, deep gullies with pine timber scattered over
it. On over rises and deserts till we sighted the Niobrara,
green and rapid below bluffs of pale, cream colored clay banks
with pine, cotton wood and elm trees fringing the border, contrast
of dark green and yellow against the bluff and blue sky, very
Fearful hills - S. and I got out, struck the road that leads
to the ford and bridge, but Mr. T. thought we were wrong. He
and Buffalo-chip had gone on another road. Wajapa came back
for us as we must cross lot over grass and gullies and
around draws. Mr. T. mounted the horse and went to the bridge
to inquire and we concluded to go that way as the fords were
deep and we fear Buffalo-chips wagon will stick. So we
cross to the tune of $1.75. I told the man he must make a great
deal of money. Had very little travel he said, very little travel.
I thought he would at such rates. Asked what the bridges cost.
$150.00 - Good per cent on his investment.
Mr. T. said it was a low gambling place. It is six miles from
the Fort on the Sioux Reservation. No state of military rule
can touch them, they are under the Interior Department.
A soldier and a woman on horseback came down there. She has
green habit, wears braids down her back.
Buffalo-chips wife gathered gum. Sandy roads nearly all
the way. Passed many wolf holes near which lay withered bones.
Mr. T. says that wolves throw out the dirt on one side. Prairie
dogs all round. Passed a village of these dogs. When they bark
they accentuate with their tails like toys children have - Prairie
chickens fly. Larks sing and rise or hop along over path. Geese
ribbon their way high in the air, and flocks of crane, "craik,
craik", call from the blue sky where they career.
About 5.15 P.M., I noticed Wajapa standing silhouetted against
the sky, this time not on a high hill, which he usually gallops
up to view the country round, but on the brink of a descent.
I felt sure we were near the fort. When we arrived at his standpoint,
there lay on the broad plateau the rectangular buildings of
the Fort. We descended the sand hill, down, down till we reached
the level plain. Far to the left stretched the prairie, the
horizon bounded by the rolling elevation. Toward the front lay
the bluff of the Niobrara, capped with pines, below the yellow
clay bare of vegetation; Then bushes and trees. These were crowned
by the line of plateau which is some 15 or 20 feet or more about
At the foot of the hill saw a creek as they are called. This
supplies the Fort with water - a windmill carrying the water
to the houses. We stopped our wagons just before we reached
the Parade and Mr. T. and I, with my letters, made our way to
the officers quarters, and enquired for Capt Montgomery,
the Commandant of the Post. His was the last house on the officers
row. All the houses and buildings are built of sun burnt brick,
interspersed with burnt brick. Piazzas in front of all the houses.
Opposite the officers quarters, on the other side of the
Parade, was the soldiers quarters. There are several buildings
I have not placed at the upper end of the square - two if I
remember correctly. The new headquarters contain the officers
and a hall with a platform where the post will have all sorts
of good times in the future.
Capt. Montgomery received me kindly. I presented my letters.
He asked what he could do for me. I requested to be allowed
to camp within the Fort. He requested me to stay while he went
out with Mr. T. Some tea and bread were sent in to me on a pretty
chinese salver, blue china. I ate the food with relish, it was
so good to touch daintily served food once more. Bye and bye
Capt. Montgomery returned. As we sat talking his dinner was
announced. I rose to go, he begged me to stay, and soon Mrs.
Montgomery came in, an ample, genial Washington lady. She bade
me take off my things, apologized for not coming in sooner -
she had been asleep. Mr. and Mrs. T. came in from the tent,
a dinner was served us - very pleasant indeed to sit at table.
The evening passed pleasantly. Wajapa came and brought my bags.
Mrs. Montgomery sang, looked at photos, heard camp and Indian
stories. I stayed all night.
The house is ample - wide hall, the parlor opening off to the
left; then the bedroom from that. A back passage way through
a bath room, led into another large room, where I slept. Two
Army Hospital beds put together, making a wide bed. Back of
the hall a large room, from that pass into the dining room.
The parlor comfortably furnished, not elaborately. Steinway
upright piano, lounge, easy chairs &c. Many photos, on the
door hung an Indian head-dress belonging to two-horns, a Bannock
chief, Wyoming. Two horns ornamented with some sort of fancy
carving. The horns, I was told, had been soaked in hot water
and pressed flat. A cap depended, made of picked wool, it looked
like. A sort of chin ornament, first of wool, then loops of
gold cord from the epaulettes of the old fashion of officers.
From this looped fringe hung some 50 ermine tails, from the
horn behind fell a long strip of red flannel, some two feet
wide and five feet or more long. A brilliant savage thing. On
a table in the hall was a buckskin coat made with beads, fringes
of ermine tails, and the fore and back collars decorated with
scalps, so it looked; the scalp skin twisted and the hair hanging.
In the front, the scalps were braided into two braids. I did
not count the dire things. The coat had never been used. I did
not like it very well, or think it really valuable, save in
a fancy way.
Mrs. Montgomery said she could not have many things as they
never knew when they would be forced to move, at a days
notice. Had never been more than two years at a Post. She has
no children. Smoking by the Captain and Mr. T
When alone with Mrs. Montgomery, I said that, "When Mrs.
T. had asked me what I wanted most from the Government, I answered,
that I dared tell her the exact truth, it would be a place to
take a bath". She said, "You shall have one".
So after dinner, before I retired, I took a warm bath. It was
so good to be clean once more, and to put on a night dress,
and to be alone!
I did not sleep very well being tired out in mind and body.
The strain of being day and night with a different race, always
alert, ever trying to keep the peace and not offend is very
wearing, particularly added to the very hard and trying mode
of life - The respite most grateful.