of Blackbird Hill, showing Lake Wa-kon-da-gi Pe-ghi. Photograph
by William Henry Jackson, 1868-69. Glass Negatives of Indians,
from Blackbird Hill. Photograph by William Henry Jackson, 1868-69.
Glass Negatives of Indians, 4037-a-3
September 23, 1881
A glowing sky greeted me as I came out of the tent into the
damp morning air - it was not yet six a.m. After performing
some portion of my civilized toilet, the kettle of soup was
brought in and placed on the ashes of last nights fire and we
sat on one rolled up comforter, each where he slept and ate
with a relish. Suddenly the recollection of my usual life came
over me and I burst out laughing, startling the tent in the
midst of the somewhat serious matter appeasing out door appetites.
I was forced to explain but I did not tell all. "Aye keep
something to yourself" Mr. T. said, "Its enough
to kill a fellow to live as you do east. Two hours at dinner!".
"Thats pleasant", I suggested. "No strong
man could stand that thing, all of the men are thin, pale, miserable
chaps. I could whip half a dozen of them". After a minute
he added, "theres Mr. F. and Mr. --, look at em!
They do a great amount of brain work, theres more than
one sort of strength, you know". "Yes, but they all
eat raw meat east". S. translated to Wajapa who looked
at me and laughed. I cast an incredulous glance toward Mr. T.
Indians are great meat eaters, but eat it very well done, care
little for fruit.
As we crossed the bridge and turned up the main street of Ponca
City Wajapa stopped our team and looked at a span of horses
pulling a heavy load. He then said, "See that nigh horse,
it was stolen from the Omahas, Louis Sansousi owned it".
S. said, "Just think of it, as we travel we see our horses
which have been stolen from us, and we cant get them back,
for an Indian has no redress by law. The horse which matched
my cream color mare (the nigh horse of our team, a fine animal),
a man in the Iowa bottom has him and Father cant get him
back". One feels so proud to belong to the dominant race
seeing and hearing these things. Such conduct is not creditable
to an eastern, well bred person - Alas.
Started at 9.45, waiting on rain and thunder and heavy sky.
It looks like clear hot day.
We all take names - Wajapa names me, Ma-she-ha-the. It means,
The motion of eagle as he sweeps high in the air. He gives me
the name of his family and band. He belongs to the eagle family.
Ma-she means high, ha-the means eagle. So ha-the give the eagle
Susette, The western princess - Mr. T. Oo-nuz-zhe-coo-ta, Grey
coat - Had one on when he released Standing Bear.
Notice several Spanish words brought to the western vernacular,
"Jah hoop" a worthless fellow.
Bridges a feature of this country, generally holes, shake,
planks jump up - One was built like a peaked house. Mr. T. said,
"Some architect was trying experiments". He fled,
I suppose, to the wilderness but "a chit has come taken
Wajapa belonged to the Indian Police, but, perhaps because
he was too intelligent he was removed by the agent. He was a
carpenter, built houses for government, paid $10.00 per month.
Agent promised to give him more. He worked two months at the
time agent had said he would pay more - went on for another
month, then he asked the agent if he remembered his promise
and if he would not then give him more pay. Agent dismissed
Indian trails skirt round in between hills and avoid taxing
the horses. There are a series of ruts irregularly distanced
- some deep, some not. Indians keep the trails because if they
go out into the grass the snakes may bite the horses.
Susette says, it is difficult for her to write poetry as she
was driving, Mr. T. on the load behind us, we passed a herd
of cows on the low bottom land. Susette said, "Thou sleek
and meek cow". There add another line and it will be poetry.
"No it wont" says Mr. T. "Why not".
"It isnt poetry anyway". Just here the horses
suddenly stopped. Susette said, meditatively, "Composing
poetry stops the horses!" "I should think they would
stop at such poetry. Id lie down!" responded Mr.
T. "The line lacks a foot anyway" he added. Susette
said at once, "Thou sleek and meek Ka-ow", which we
laughingly agreed met the dilemma, and I record the triumph.
Passed Newcastle at 1l.45 - 11 miles from Ponca, a Roman Catholic
settlement, a little white church with its cross, a well painted
porch, house with its piazza, a little further up the hill below
on the level land a few houses, a store containing P.O., blacksmith
and every sort of thing. Not a thrifty place. Hear this populace
The pitches of the road are peculiar, like going over a peaked
roof. Often the roads have to be abandoned and then the new
would be by its side, the old one with its high middle lies
like a grave.
Barbed wire fences - cattle.
Rode to a house buried in cottonwood trees. Mr. T. went there,
deserted. No water, no wood, over desolate hills, moors, S.
admires them, thinks the landscape beautiful. Mr. T. thinks
that out here there is room to turn round. To me it is desolation,
no trees, only yellow billowy land, miles on miles and miles
again. Seems to have no beginning or end, to come from nowhere
and to go no whither. Weary, weary, weary.
Up another billow and there was the wreck of another house,
its gaping windows knowing no home light, like the scene. Up
another and round a curve, then we came to a creek running through
a break in one of the level places. Here we stopped and the
horses were led or made their way to the water, running through
the black mud. One horse sank belly deep and pulled up on the
opposite side. Wajapa was equal to the occasion and ran down
the break and leaped to the other side, headed off the horse
and soon he was with his mates eating corn and rolling on the
ground. We sat in the shade of the wagon, while Wajapa made
a fire out of bits of wood and dried weeds, off on the side
of the creek. We had our meat warmed up, drank our coffee and
ate our bread. While the rest were harnessing and packing up
I went on and made a call at the log house. It was clean inside,
through the spaces between the boards of the floor I could see
the dirt floor. Daylight decorated the walls or rather ribbed
sides of the house. Three beds were at one end of the room -
made of two posts nailed to the floor, cross pieces fitted to
the walls, and then the slats laid across. Two high beds and
between these one lower one. There were four children, and mother
ancient. The stove was blacked, the shelves had a clean curtain
hung before them. Beds had white spreads, thrift was on every
Yellow asters by the way, blue gentians, watermelon! Stealing?
Her name was Hugho. Her parents were from New York state. Emigrated
to Michigan, then Iowa, then here. Had been here one year. Pasturing
herds was impossible The country was so thickly settled! We
rode miles without seeing house, a smart, lively young woman
was there waiting. I note that everybody is blue-eyed, have
hardly seen a pair of dark eyes. She talked well, both used
Young woman told me how to cleanse water. Make lye out of wood
ashes by boiling it in an ample kettle of water. This lye is
put into the hard water and it is then ready for use. As she
was talking of cleansing water I asked, "What is cleansing
water?" "Ha, ha!" She keyed out, "Dont
you know what that is? I thought everybody knew that" "Well
I suppose they dont do such things where you came from.
Ma has often told me how awfully green she was when she first
came west". Then, after looking at me, "I dare
say youd find lots of inconvenience living out here".
"I should probably find things different", I replied.
"How do you like this place?" asked the elder, "How
do you like it, better than where you came from?" I hesitated
and then replied, "It is very unlike where I came from.
It seems desolate to be void of trees" - "and houses"
put in the elder. "Well, no, I dont care for houses
but I do miss trees and streams", "Well, so
do I" chimed in both. "I was awful lonesome at first",
said the elder. "Ive been here seven years"
said the younger, "and I told Jen yesterday we must have
trees, I couldnt stand it any longer." "Do you
have prairie fires here?" "Ha, ha! dont we,
every spring and summer, burn us out if we didnt fight
them". "Fight them?" I interrogated. "Of
course, dont you know how to make fire breaks, I suppose
not". She then explained. "What wood do you burn?"
"Oh, we get it from the river" "How far?"
"Nigh twenty miles" "Should think youd
plant cotton trees" "We will soon, I hope. It takes
a long time to get wood" "Long" put in the younger,
"Why, one can go in the morning and get back in the afternoon,
I dont think that long - Land! think of what people have
to do further north - fifty miles for wood and burn corn cobs
and all sorts of things besides, land! it isnt hard here".
We pushed on over moors and rolling prairie. As we passed mile
on miles and no house, we wondered how the place was so thickly
settled. As we rode on this a.m., Wajapa spied a patch of watermelons,
and as we rode up he pointed to it and shouted in well toned
English "Watermelon". We shouted, Hurra to him for
his proficiency. After riding for some hours we plunged through
a gully, a twisted descent and steep ascent and came upon a
patch of watermelon and garden produce. We hailed the sight
and Mr. T. sprang over the fence and secured one, soon we reached
the house and paid the woman and enquired the way. Up and down
"breaks" for a way further, having struck Bow creek
or Ta-wa-ne Village creek, S. and I got out and walked while
Mr. T. drove the wagon over a sidling road round one of the
hills, the vehicle leaned at an angle that boded no good to
axles &c. We passed a big bull snake resting after a hearty
meal in the grass. He lifted his head as soon as I gave him
a wide berth. After a half mile or more, we got in. Soon Wajapa
came galloping up bareheaded, his hat in his hand, he had gathered
plums and presented them in a courtly way to S. and to me. It
is Indian breeding to take and never share with the giver, so
we did the correct thing. On we went and then struck a beautiful
bottom land. The creek was broad and clear, the bushes and trees
by its banks green. A wide plain on which the Omahas used to
come, lay near this creek, such a lovely site.
We went over the bridge, met a stupid man who was not sure
he could sell us corn but might sell enough to feed the horses.
Thought to stop on a level just beyond the bridge but the mosquitoes
were dense, pushed on past a log house where "a widder
woman lived", to another space when Mr. T. said he would
camp anyhow. The sun had set in a glory. A heavy curtain of
dove colored clouds was drawn up from the horizon became a clear
stretch of sky which was like limpid gold. Turbulent clouds
were all about the horizon, their great bubbling forms glorious
in white and gold and dun. All was a soft greenish gray when
we drew up near to a dwelling fenced in with a cottonwood grove
just beyond the paling. The fire was started, the horses lariated
just over the bridge on the other side of the stream where the
pasture was fine.
A supper of fried potatoes, hard boiled eggs and black coffee
and biscuit partaken of with a relish made us feel fine.
The wagon had been drawn up near the fence and the tent spread
over it, and the intervening space made available by putting
poles from the wagon to the top board, we had a comfortable,
low, studded bedroom. The harness, dishes &c. were packed
under the wagon and while supper was preparing I made my bed
and combed and braided my hair. Wajapa said we would have rain.
All about the horizon the lightning played, forked in some
places. We sat by our camp fire. Wajapa told of when the Omahas
had smallpox, lost many people when they were very sick, went
to the Poncas for help, were refused, angry - and the well ones
fought the Poncas. Then the Omahas became restless and roam,
couldnt bear to go in tents, the empty places made them
heartsick. Wajapa traveled five years since to Indian Territory.
It was the time of the last hunt of the Omahas. He dropped off
from the tribe when near the Territory. He spent two months
among the different tribes. Fearing the time would come when
the Omahas would be moved he wanted to see what sort of country.
On this trip he had in his mind to look at the land of the northern
tribes for, as he dislikes the Indian Territory he will try
and flee to the north if the Omahas are removed.
Talked of a white farmer who thought all Indians thieves, told
him some white men were not good, said he had but one white
man for a friend - Mr. Dorsey - and he thought as much of me
as of Mr. D.
As we sat by the camp fire the lightning played around us.
Off to the right a line of fire, like a line of battle was advancing
over the distant prairie, above the stars shone clear.
At 9 P.M. we turned in. In less than a half hour the thunder
began to roll, lightning to flash and the rain to fall. It poured.
Soon Mr. T. had to rise and do his best to close up bolts for
a hole let a stream in on him. That was fixed but Mr.
T. crept in under the wagon. The showers came and went all night.
Occasionally Mr. T. or Wajapa would tip up the baggy places
in the tent cover and the water ran off in streams. The candle
was a great blessing and gave a friendly light from the step
of the buggy.