RED PIPE STONE QUARRY, COTEAU DES PRAIRIES.
The reader who would follow me from the, place where my last epistle was written, to where I now am, must needs start, as I did, from St. Louis, and cross the Alleghanny mountains, to my own native state; where I left my wife with my parents, and wended my way to Buffalo, on Lake Erie, where I deposited my Collection; and from thence trace, as I did, the zigzag course of the Lakes, from Buffalo to Detroit -- to the Sault de St. Marys -- to Mackinaw -- to Green Bay, and thence the tortuous windings of the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers, to Prairie du Chien; and then the mighty Mississippi for the second time), to the Fall of St. Anthony -- then the sluggish, yet decorated and beautiful St. Peters, towards its source; and thence again (on horseback) the gradually and gracefully rising terraces of the shorn, yet green and carpeted plains, denominated the "Coteau des Prairies'' (being the high and dividing ridge between the St. Peters and the Missouri Rivers), where I am bivouacked, at the "Red Pipe Stone Quarry". The distance of such a Tour would take the reader 4,000 miles; but Save him the trouble by bringing him, in a moment, on the spot.
This journey has afforded me the opportunity of seeing, on my way, Mackinaw -- the Sault de St. Marys, and Green Bay -- points which I had not before visited; and also of seeing many distinguished Indians among the Chippeways, Menomonies and Winnebagoes, whom I had not before painted or seen.
I can put the people of the East at rest, as to the hostile aspect of this part of the country, as I have just passed through the midst of these tribes, as well as of the Sioux, in whose country I now am, and can, without contradiction, assert, that, as far as can be known, they are generally well-disposed, and have been so, towards the whites.
There have been two companies of United States dragoons, ordered and marched to Green Bay, where I saw them; and three companies of infantry from Prairie du Chien to Fort Winnebago, in anticipation of difficulties; but in all probability, without any real cause or necessity, for the Winnebago chief answered the officer, who asked him if they wanted to fight, "that they could not, had they been so disposed; for", said he, "we have no guns, no ammunition, nor anything to eat; and, what is worst of all, one half of our men are dying with the small-pox. If you will give us guns and ammunition, and pork, and flour, and feed and take care of our squaws and children, we will fight you; nevertheless, we will fry to fight if you want us to, as it is."
There is, to appearance (and there is no doubt of the truth of it), the most humble poverty and absolute necessity for peace among these people at present, that can possibly be imagined. And, amidst their poverty and wretchedness, the only war that suggests itself to the eye of the traveller through their country, is the war of sympathy and pity, which wages in the breast of a feeling, thinking man.
The small-pox, whose ravages have now pretty nearly subsided, has taken off a great many of the Winnebagoes and Sioux. The famous Wa-be-sha, of the Sioux, and more than half of his band, have fallen victims to it within a few weeks, and the remainder of. them, blackened with its frightful distortions, look as if they had just emerged from the sulphurous regions below. At Prairie du Chien, a considerable number of the half-breeds, and French also, suffered death by this baneful disease; and at that place I learned one fact, which may be of service to science, which was this: that in all cases of vaccination, which had been given several years ago, it was an efficient protection; but in those cases where the vaccine had been recent (and there were many of them), it had not the effect to protect, and in almost every instance of such, death ensued.
At the Sault de St. Marys on Lake Superior, I saw a considerable number of Chippeways, living entirely on fish, which they catch with great ease ;It that place.
I need not detain the reader a moment with a description of St. Marys, or of the inimitable summer's paradise, which can always be seen at Mackinaw; and which, like the other, has been an hundred times described. I shall probably have the chance of seeing about 3,000 Chippeways at the latter place on my return home, who are to receive their annuities at that time through the hands of Mr. Schoolcraft, their agent.
In a drawing, I have given a distant view of Mackinaw, as seen approaching it from the East; and in another portrait a view of the Sault de St. Marys, taken from the Canada shore, near the missionary-house, which is seen in the fore-ground of the picture, and in distance, the United States Garrison, and the Rapids; and beyond them the Capes at the outlet of Lake Superior.
I mentioned that the Chippeways living in the vicinity of the Sault, live entirely on fish; and it is almost literally true also, that the French and English, and Americans, who reside about there live on fish, which are caught in the greatest abundance in the rapids at that place, and are, perhaps, one of the greatest luxuries of the world. The white fish, which is in appearance much like a salmon, though smaller, is the luxury I am speaking of, and is caught in immense quantities by the scoop-nets of the Indians and Frenchmen, amongst the foaming and dashing water of the rapids, where it gains strength and flavour not to be found in the same fish in any other place. This unequalled fishery has long been one of vast importance to the immense numbers of Indians, who have always assembled about it; hut of late, has been found by money-making men, to be too valuable a spot for the exclusive occupancy of the savage, like hundreds of others, and has at last been filled up with adventurers, who have dipped their nets till the poor Indian is styled an intruder; and his timid bark is seen dodging about in the coves for a scanty subsistence, whilst he scans and envies insatiable white man filling his barrels and boats, and sending them to market to be converted into money.
In one drawing is seen one of their favourite amusements at this place, which I was lucky enough to witness a few miles below the Sault, when high bettings had been made, and a great concourse of Indians had assembled to witness an Indian regatta or canoe race, which went off with great excitement, firing of guns, yelping, &c. The Indians in this vicinity are all Chippeways, and their canoes all made of birch bark, and chiefly of one model; they are exceedingly light, as I have before described, and propelled with wonderful velocity.
Whilst I stopped at the Sault, I made excursions on Lake Superior, and through other parts of the country, both on the Canada and United States sides, and painted a number of Chippeways; amongst whom were On-dauf (The Crow), a young man of distinction, in an extravagant and beautiful costume; and Gitch-ee-gaw-ga-osh (The Point That Remains For Ever), an old and respected chief. And besides these, Gaw-zaw-que-dung (He Who Hallows); Kay-ee- qua-da-ku m-ee -gish-kum (He Who Tries The Ground With His Foot); and I-an-be-wa-dick (The Male Carabou.)
From Mackinaw I proceeded to Green Bay, which is a flourishing beginning of a town, in the heart of a rich country, and the head-quarters of land speculators.
From thence, I embarked in a large bark canoe, with five French voyageurs at the oars, where happened to be grouped and messed together, five "jolly companions" of us, bound for Fort Winnebago and the Mississippi. All our stores and culinary articles were catered for by, and bill rendered to, mine host, Mr. C. Jennings (quondam of the city hotel in New York), who was one of our party, and whom we soon elected "Major" of the expedition; and shortly after, promoted to "Colonel" -- from the philosophical dignity and patience with which he met the difficulties and exposure which we had to encounter, as well as for his extraordinary skill and taste displayed in the culinary art Mr. Irving, a relative of W. Irving, Esq., and Mr. Robert Serril Wood, an Englishman (both travellers of European realms, with fund inexhaustible for amusement and entertainment); Lieutenant Reed, of the army, and myself forming the rest of the party. The many amusing little incidents which enlivened our transit up the sinuous windings of the Fox river, amid its rapids, its banks of loveliest prairies and "oak openings", and its boundless shores of wild rice, with the thrilling notes of Mr. Wood's guitar, and "chansons pour rire", from our tawny boatmen, &c. were too good to be thrown away, and have been registered, perhaps for a future occasion. Suffice it for the present, that our fragile bark brought us in good time to Fort Winnebago, with impressions engraven on our hearts which can never be erased, of this sweet and beautiful little river: and of the fun and fellowship which kept us awake! during the nights, almost as well as during the days. At this post, after remaining a day, our other companions took a different route, leaving Mr. Wood and myself to cater anew, and to buy a light bark canoe for our voyage down the Ouisconsin, to Prairie du Chien; in which we embarked the next day, with Paddles in hand, and hearts as light as the zephyrs, amid which we propelled our little canoe.
Three days' paddling, embracing two nights' encampment, brought us to the end of our voyage. We entered the mighty Mississippi, and mutually acknowledged ourselves paid for our labours, by the inimitable scenes of beauty and romance, through which we had passed, and on which our untiring eyes had been riveted during the whole way.
The Ouisconsin, which the French most appropriately denominate "La belie riviere," may certainly vie with any other on the Continent or in the world, for its beautifully skirted banks and prairie bluffs. It may justly be said to be equal to the Mississippi about the Prairie du Chien in point of sweetness and beauty, but not on quite so grand a scale.
My excellent and esteemed fellow-traveller, like a true Englishman, has untiringly stuck by me through all difficulties, passing the countries abovementioned, and also the Upper Mississippi, the St. Peters, and the overland route to our Present encampment on this splendid plateau of the Western world. Thus far have I strolled, within the space of a few weeks, For the purpose of reaching classic ground.
Be not amazed if I have sought, in this distant realm, the Indian Muse, for here she dwells, and here she must be invoked -- nor be offended if my narratives from this moment should savour of poetry or appear like romance.
If I can catch the inspiration, I may sing (or yell) a few epistles from this famed ground before I leave it; or at least I will prose a few of its leading characteristics and mysterious legends. This place is great (not in history, for there is none of it, but) in traditions, and stories, of which this Western world is full and rich.
"Here (according to their traditions), happened the mysterious birth of the red pipe, which has blown its fumes of peace and war to the remotest corners of the Continent ; which has visited every warrior, and passed through its reddened stem the irrevocable oath of war and desolation. And there also, the peace-breathing calumet was born, and fringed with the eagle's quills, which has shed its thrilling fumes over the land, and soothed the fury of the relentless savage.
The Great Spirit at an ancient period, here called the Indian nations together, and standing on the precipice of the red pipe stone rock, broke from its wall a piece, and made a huge pipe by turning it in his hand, which he smoked over them, and to the North, the South, the East, and the West, and told them that this stone was red -- that it was their flesh -- that they must use it for their pipes of peace -- that it belonged to them all, and that the war-club and scalping knife must not be raised on its ground. At the last whiff of his pipe his head went into a great cloud, and the whole surface of the rock for several miles was melted and glazed; two great ovens were opened beneath, and two women (guardian spirits of the place), entered them in a blaze of fire; and they are heard there Set (Tso-mec-cos-tee, and Tso-m e-cos-te-won-dee), answering to the invocations of the high priests or medicine-men, who consult them when they are visitors to this sacred place.''
Near this spot, also, on a high mound, is the "Thunder's nest" (Nid-du-Tonnere), where "a very small bird sits upon her eggs dunng fair weather, and the skies are rent with bolts of thunder at the approach of a storm, which is occasioned by the hatching of her brood!"
"This bird is eternal, and incapable of reproducing her own species: she has often been seen by the medicine-men, and is about as large as the end of the little finger ! Her mate is a serpent, whose fiery tongue destroys the young ones as they. are hatched, and the fiery noise darts through the skies."
Such are a few of the stories of this famed land, which of itself, in its beauty and loveliness, without the aid of traditionary fame, would be appropriately denominated a paradise. Whether it has been an Indian Eden or not, or whether the thunderbolts of Indian Jupiter are actually forged here, it is nevertheless a place renowned in Indian heraldry and tradition, which I hope I may be able to fathom and chronicle, as explanatory of many of my anecdotes and traditionary superstitions of Indian history, which I have given, and am giving, to the world.
With my excellent companion, I am encamped on, and writing from, the very rock where "the Great Spirit stood when he consecrated the pipe of peace, by moulding it from the rock, and smoking it over the congregated nations that were assembled about him."
Lifted up on this stately mound, whose top is fanned with air as light to breathe as nitrous oxide gas -- and bivouacked on its very ridge, (where nought on earth is seen in distance save the thousand treeless, bushless, weedless hills of grass and vivid green which all around me vanish into an infinity of blue and azure), stretched on our bears' skins, my fellow-traveller, Mr. Wood, and myself, have laid and contemplated the splendid orrery of the heavens. With sad delight, that shook me with a terror, have I watched the swollen sun shoving down (too fast for time) upon the mystic horizon; whose line was lost except as it was marked in blue across his blood-red disk. Thus have we laid night after night (two congenial spirits who could draw pleasure from sublime contemplation), and descanted on our own insignificance; we have closely drawn our buffalo robes about us, talked of the ills of life -- of friends we had lost -- of projects that had failed -- and of the painful steps we had to retrace to reach our own dear native lands again. We have sighed in the melancholy of twilight, when the busy winds were breathing their last, the chill of sable night was hovering around us, and nought of noise was heard but the silvery tones of the howling wolf, and the subterraneous whistle of the busy gophers that were ploughing and vaulting the earth beneath us. Thus have we seen wheeled down in the West, the glories of day; and at the next moment, in the East. beheld her silver majesty jutting up above the horizon, with splendour in her face that seemed again to fill the world with joy and gladness. We have seen here too, in all its sublimity, the blackening thunderstorm -- the lightning's glare, and stood amidst the: jarring thunder-bolts, that tore and broke in awful rage about us, as they rolled over the smooth surface, with nought but empty air to vent their vengeance on. There is a sublime grandeur in these scenes as they are presented here, which must be seen and felt, to be understood. There is a majesty in the very ground that we tread upon, that inspires with awe and reverence; and he must have the soul of a brute, who could gallop his horse for a whole day over swells and terraces of green that rise continually a-head, and tantalize (where hills peep over), and nips on Alps arise), without feeling his bosom swell with awe and admiration, and himself as well as his thoughts, lifted up in sublimity when he rises the last terrace, and sweeps his eye over the wide spread, blue and pictured infinity that lies around and beneath him.
Man feels here, and startles at the thrilling sensation, the force of illimifable freedom -- his body and his mind both seem to have entered a new element -- the former as free as the very wind it inhales, and the other as expanded and infinite as the boundless imagery that is spread in distance around him. Such is (and it is feebly told) the Coteau du Prairie. The rock on which I sit to write, is the summit of a precipice thirty feet high, extending two miles in length and much of the way polished, as if a liquid glazing had been poured over its surface. Not far from us, in the solid rock, are the deep impressed" Footsteps of the Great Spirit (in the form of a track of a large bird), where he formerly stood when the blood of the buffaloes that he was devouring, ran into the rocks and turned them red." At a few yards from us, leaps a beautiful little stream, from the top of the precipice, into a deep basin below. Here. amid racks of the loveliest hues, but wildest contour, is seen the poor Indian performing ablution: and al a little distance beyond, on the plain, at the Base of five huge granite boulders, he is humbly propitiating the guardian spirits of the place, by sacrifices of tobacco, entreating for permission to take away a small piece of the red stone for a pipe. Farther along, and over an extended plain are seen, like gophir hills, their excavations, ancient and recent, and on the surface of the rocks, various marks and their sculptured hieroglyphics -- their wakens, totems and medicines-subjects numerous and interesting for the antiquary or the merely curious. Graves, mounds, and ancient fortifications that lie in sight -- the pyramid or leaping-rock and its legends; together with traditions, novel and numerous, and a description, graphical and geological, of this strange place, have all been subjects that have passed rapidly through my contemplation, and will be given in future epistles.
On our way to this place, my English companion and myself were arrested by a rascally band of the Sioux, and held in durance vile, for having dared to approach the sacred fountain of the pipe! While we had halted at the trading-hut of "Le Blanc," at a place called Traverse des Sioux, on the St. Peters river, and about 150 miles from the Red Pipe, a murky cloud of dark-visaged warriors and braves commenced gathering around the house, closing and cramming all its avenues, when one began his agitated and insulting harangue to us, announcing to us in the preamble, that we were prisoners, and could not go ahead. About twenty of them spoke in turn; and we were doomed to sit nearly the whole afternoon, without being allowed to speak a word in our behalf, until they had all got through. We were compelled to keep our seats like culprits, and hold our tongues, till all had brandished their fists in our faces, and vented all the threats and invective which could flow from Indian malice, grounded on the presumption that we had come to trespass on their dearest privilege -- their religion.
There was some allowance to be made, and some excuse, surely, for the rashness of these poor fellows, and we felt disposed to pity, rather than resent, though their unpardonable stubbornness excited us almost to desperation. Their superstition was sensibly touched, for we n-ere persisting, in the most peremptory terms, in the determination to visit this, their greatest medicine (mystery) place; where it seems, they had often resolved no white man should ever be allowed to go. They took us to be "officers sent by Government to see what this place was worth,"&c. As "this red stone was a part of their flesh, it would be sacrilegious for white man to touch or take it away" -- "a hole would be made in their flesh, and the blood could never be made to stop running." MY companion and myself mere here in a fix, one that demanded the use of every energy we had about us; astounded at so unexpected a rebuff, and more than ever excited to go ahead, and see what was to be seen at this strange place; in this emergency, we mutually agreed to go forward, even if it should be at the hazard of our lives; we heard all they had to say, and then made our own speeches -- and at length had our horses brought, which we mounted and rode off without further molestation; and having arrived upon this interesting ground, have found it quite equal in interest and beauty to our sanguine expectations, abundantly repaying us fur all our trouble in traveling to it.
I had long ago heard many curious descriptions of this spot given by the Indians, and had contracted the most impatient desire to visit it." It will be seen by some of the traditions inserted in this Letter from my notes taken on the Upper Missouri four years since, that those tribes have visited this place freely in former times; and that it has once been held and owned in common, as neutral ground, amongst the different tribes who met here to renew their pipes, under some superstition which stayed the tomahawk of natural foes, always raised in deadly hate and vengeance in other places. It will be seen also, that within a few years past (and that, probably, by the instigation of the whites, who have told them that by keeping off other tribes, and manufacturing the pipes themselves, and trading them to other adjoining nations, they can acquire much influence and wealth), the Sioux have laid entire claim to this quarry; and as it is in the centre of their country, and they are more powerful than any other tribes, they are able successfully to prevent any access to it.
That this place should have been visited for centuries past by all the neighboring tribes, who have hidden the war-club as they approached it, and stayed the cruelties of the scalping-knife, under the fear of the vengeance of the Great Spirit, who overlooks it, will not seem strange or unnatural, when their religion and superstitions are known.
That such has been the custom, there is not a shadow of doubt; and that even so recently as to have been witnessed by hundreds and thousands of Indians of different tribes, now living, and from many of whom I have personally drawn the information, some of which will be set forth in the following traditions ; and as an additional (and still more conclusive) evidence of the above position, here are to be seen (and will continue to be seen for ages to come), the totems and arms of the different tribes, who have visited this place for ages past, deeply engraved on the quartz rocks, where they are to be recognized in a moment (and not to be denied) by the passing traveller, who has been among these tribes, and acquired even but a partial knowledge of them and their respective modes.
The thousands of inscriptions and paintings on the rocks at this place, as well as the ancient diggings for the pipe-stone, will afford amusement for the world who will visit it, without. furnishing the least data, I should think, of the time at which these excavations commenced, or of the period at which the Sioux assumed the exclusive right to it.
Among the many traditions which I have drawn personally from the different tribes, and which go to support the opinion above advanced, is the following one, which was related to me by a distinguished Knisteneaux, on the Upper Missouri, four years since, on occasion of presenting to me a handsome red stone pipe. After telling me that he had been to this place -- and after describing it in all its features, he proceeded to say:
"That in the time of a great freshet, which took Place many centuries ago, and destroyed all the nations of the earth, all the tribes of the red men assembled on the Coteau du Prairie, to get out of the way of the waters. After they had all gathered here from all parts, the water continued to rise, until at length it covered them all in a mass, and their flesh was converted into red pipe stone. Therefore it has always been considered neutral ground -- it belonged to all tribes alike, and all were allowed to get it and smoke it together.
"While they were all drowning in a mass, a young woman, K-wap-tah-w (A Virgin), caught hold of the foot of a very large bird that was flying over, and was carried to the top of a high cliff, not far off, that was above the water. Here she had twins, and their father was the war-eagle, and their children have since peopled the earth.
"The pipe stone, which is the flesh of their ancestors, is smoked by them as the symbol of peace, and the eagle's quill decorates the head of the brave.''
Tradition of the Sioux--
"Before the creation of man, the Great Spirit (whose tracks are yet to be seen on the stones, at the Red Pipe, in form of the tracks of a large bird) used to slay the buffaloes and eat them on the ledge of the Red necks, on the top of the Coteau des Prairies, and their blood running on to the rocks, turned them red. One day when a large snake had crawled into the nest of the bird to eat his eggs, one of the eggs hatched out in a clay of thunder and the Great Spirit catching hold of a piece of the pipe stone to throw at the snake, moulded it into a man. This man's feet grew fasten the ground where he stood for many ages, like a great tree, and therefore he grew very old; he was older than an hundred men at the present day; and at last another tree grew up by the side of him, when a large snake ate them both off at the roots, and they wandered off together; from these have sprung all the people that now inhabit the earth."
The above tradition I found amongst the Upper Missouri Sioux, but which, when I related to that part of the great tribe of Sioux who inhabit the Upper Mississippi, they seemed to know nothing about it. The reason for this may have been, perhaps, as is often the case, owing to the fraud or excessive ignorance of the interpreter, on whom we are often entirely dependent in this country; or it is more probably owing to the very vague and numerous fables which may often be found, cherished and told by different bands or families in the same tribe, and relative to the same event.
I shall on a future occasion, give you a Letter on traditions of this kind, which will be found to be very strange and amusing; establishing the fact at the same time, that theories respecting their origin, creation of the world, &c. &c., are by ne means uniform throughout the different tribes, nor even through an individual tribe; and that very many of these theories are but the vagaries, or the ingenious systems of their medicine or mystery-men, conjured up and taught to their own respective parts of a tribe, for the purpose of gaining an extraordinary influence over the minds and actions of the remainder of the tribe, whose superstitious minds, under the supernatural control and dread of these self-made magicians, are held in a stale of mysterious vassalage.
Amongst the Sioux of the Mississippi, and who live in the region of the Red Pipe Stone quarry, I found the following and not less strange tradition on the same subject. Many ages after the red men were made, when all the different tribes were at war, the Great Spirit sent runners and called them all together at the 'Red Pipe.' -- He stood on the top of the rocks, and the red people were assembled in infinite numbers on the plains below. He took out of the rock a piece of the red stone, and made a large pipe; he smoked it over them all; told them that it was part of their flesh; that though they were at war, they must meet at this place as friends; that it belonged to them all; that they must make their calumets from it and smoke them to him whenever they wished to appease him or get his good-will -- the smoke from his big pipe rolled over them all, and he disappeared in its cloud; at the last whiff of his pipe a blaze of fire rolled over the rocks, and melted their surface -- at that moment two squaws went in a blaze of fire under the two medicine rocks, where they remain to this day, and must be consulted and propitiated whenever the pipe stone is to be taken away."
The following speech of a Mandan, which was made to me in the Mandan village four years since, after I had painted his picture, I have copied from my note-book as corroborative of the same facts :
"My brother -- You have made my picture and I like it much. My friends tell me they can see the eyes move, and it must be very good -- it must be partly alive. I am glad it is done-though many of my people are afraid. I am a young man, but my heart is strong. I have jumped on to the medicine-rock I have placed my arrow on it and no Mandan can take it away.**** [NOTE]
The red stone is slippery, but my foot was true--it did not slip. My brother, this pipe which I give to you, I brought from a high mountain, it is toward the rising sun -- many were the pipes that we brought from there -- and we brought them away in peace. We left our totems or marks on the rocks-we cut them deep in the stones, and they are there now. The Great Spirit told all nations to meet there in peace, and all nations hid the war-club and the tomahawk. The Dah-co-tahs, who are our enemies, are very strong-they have taken up the tomahawk, and the blood of our warriors has run on the rocks. My friend, we want to visit our medicines -- our pipes are old and worn out. My friend, I wish you to speak to our Great Father about this." The chief of the Puncahs, on the Upper Missouri, also made the following allusion to this place, in a speech which he made to me on the occasion of presenting me a very handsome pipe about four years since:--
"My friend, this pipe, which I wish you to accept, was dug from the ground, and cut and polished as you now see It, by my hands. I wish you to keep it, and when you smoke through it, recollect that this red stone is a part of our flesh. This is one of the last things we can ever give away. Our enemies the Sioux, have raised the red flag of blood over the Pipe Stone Quarry, and our medicines there are trodden under foot by them. The Sioux are many, and we cannot go to the mountain of the red pipe. We hare seen all nations smoking together at that place--but, my brother, it is not so now."-
[[[**** The medicine (or leaping) rock is a part of the precipice which has become severed from the main part, standing about seven or eight feet from the wall, just equal in height, and about seven fee: in diameter.
It stands like an immense column of thirty-five feet high, and highly polished] on its top and sides. It requires a daring effort to leap on to its top from the main wall, and back again, and many a heart has sighed for the honor of the feat without daring to make the attempt. Some few have tried it with success, and left their arrows standing in its crevice, several of which are seen there at this time ; others have leapt the chasm and fallen from the slippery surface on which they could not hold, and suffered instant death upon the draggy rocks below. Every young man in the nation is ambitious to perform this feat; and those who hare successfully done it are allowed to boast of it all their lives. In tire sketch already exhibited, there will be seen, a view of the "leaping rock"; and in the middle of the picture, a mound, of a conical form, of ten feet height, which was erected over the body of a distinguished young man who was killed by making this daring effort, about two years before I was there, and whoso sad fate was related to me by a Sioux chief, who was father of the young man, and was visiting the Red Pipe Stone Quarry, with thirty others of his tribe, when we were there, and died over the grave, as he related the story to Mr. Wood and myself, of his son's death.
On my return from the Pipe Stone Quarry, one of the old chiefs of the Sacs, on seeing some specimens of the stone which I brought with me from that place, observed as follows :-
"My friend, when I was young, I used to go with our Young men to the mountain of the Red Pipe, and dig out pieces for our pipes. We do not go now ; and our led pipes as you see, are few. The Dah-co-tah's have spilled the blood of red men on that place, and the Great Spirit is offended. The white traders have told them to draw their bows upon us when we go there; and they have offered us many of the pipes for sale, but Re do not want to smoke them, for we know that the Great Spirit is offended. My mark is on the rocks in many places, but I shall never see them again. They lie where the Great Spirit sees them, for his eye is over that place, and La sees everything that is here."
Ke-o-kuck chief of the Sacs and Foxes, when I asked him whether he had ever been there, replied--
"No, I have never seen it; it is in our enemies' country,--I wish it was in ours-I would sell it to the whites for a great many boxes of money."****]]]
<<<<<END OF NOTE>>>>>
Such are a few of the stories relating to this curious place, and many others might be given which I have procured, though they amount to nearly the same thing, with equal contradictions and equal absurdities.
The position of the Pipe Stone Quarry, is in a direction nearly West from the Fall or St. Anthony, at a distance of three hundred miles, on the summit of the dividing ridge between the St. Peters and the Missouri rivers, being about equil distant from either. This dividing ridge is denominated by the French, the "Coteau des Prairies", and the "Pipe Stone Quarry" is situated near its southern extremity, and consequently not exactly on its highest elevation, as its general course is north and south, and its southern extremity terminates in a gradual slope.
Our approach to it was from the East, and the ascent, for the distance of fifty miles, over a continued succession of slopes and terraces, almost imperceptibly rising one above another, that seemed to lift us to a great height. The singular character of this majestic mound, continues on the West side, in its descent toward the Missouri. There is not a tree or bush to be seen from the highest summit of the ridge, though the eye may range East and West, almost to a boundless extent, over a surface covered with short grass, that is green at one's feet, and about him, but changing to blue in distance, like nothing but the blue and vastness of the ocean.
The whole surface of this immense tract of country is hard and smooth, almost without stone or gravel, and coated with a green turf of grass of three or four inches only in height. Over this the wheels of a carriage would run as easily, for hundreds of miles, as they could on a Macadamized road, and its graceful gradations would in all parts, admit of a horse to gallop, with ease to himself and his rider.
The full extent and true character of these vast prairies are but imperfectly understood by the world yet; who will agree with me that they are a subject truly sublime, for contemplation, when I assure them, that "a coach and four" might be driven with ease, (with the exception of rivers and ravines, which are in many places impassable), over unceasing fields of green, from the Fall of St. Anthony to Lord Selkirk's Establishment on the Red River, at the North; from that to the mouth of Yellow Stone on the Missouri---thence to the Platte--to tie Arkansas, and Red Rivers of the south, and through Texas to the Gulf of Mexico, a distance of more than three thousand miles.
I mentioned in a former Letter, that we had been arrested by the Sioux, on our approach to this place, at the trading-post of Le Blanc, on the banks of the St. Peters; and I herein insert the most important part of the speeches made, and talks held on that momentous occasion, as near as my friend and I could restore them, from partial notes and recollection. After these copper-visaged advocates of their country's rights had assembled about is, and filled up every avenue of the cabin, the grave council was opened in the following manner:
Te-o-kun-hko (The Swift Man), first rose and said--
"My friends, I am not a chief, but the son of a chief -- I am the son of my father he is a chief and when he is gone away, it is my duty to speak for him -- he is not here -- but what I say is the talk of his mouth. We have been told that you are going to the Pipe Stone Quarry. We come now to ask for what purpose you are going, and what business you have to go there." ('How! how!' vociferated all of them, thereby approving what was said, giving assent by the word how, which is their word for yes). "Brothers -- I am a brave, but not a chief -- my arrow stands in the top of the leaping-rock; all can see it, and all know that Te-o-kun-hko's foot has
been there. ('How! how!')
"Brothers -- We look at you and we see that you are Che-mo-ke-mon captains (White Men Officers): we know that you have been sent by your Government, to see what that place is worth, and we think the white people want to buy it. ('How, how').
"Brothers -- We have seen always that the white people, when they seek anything in our country that they want, send officers to value it, and then if they can't buy it, they will get it some other way. ('How! how!')
"Brothers -- I speak strong, my heart is strong, and I speak fast; this red pipe was given to the red men by the Great Spirit -- it is a part of our flesh, and therefore is great medicine. ('How! how!')
"Brothers -- We know that the whites are like a great cloud that rises in the East: and will cover the whole country. We know that they will have all our lands; but, if ever they get our Red Pipe Quarry they will have to pay very dear for it. (How! how! how!)
"Brothers -- We know that no while man has ever been to the Pipe Stone Quarry, and our chiefs have often decided in council that no white man shall ever go to it. ('How! how!')
"Brothers -- You have heard what I have to say, and you can go no further, but you must turn about and go back. ('How! how! how!')
"Brothers -- You see that the sweat runs from my face, for I am troubled." Then I commenced to reply in the following manner:--
"My friends, I am sorry that you have mistaken us so much, and the object of our visit to your country. We are not officers -- we are not sent by any one -- we are two poor men travelling to see the Sioux and shake hands with them, and examine what is curious or interesting in their country. This man who is with me is my friend; he is a Sa-ga-nosh (an Englishman). (How! how! how!)
(All rising and shaking hands with him, and a number of them taking out and showing British medals which were carried in their bosoms.)
"We have heard that the Red Pipe Quarry was a great curiosity, and we have started to go to it, and we will not be stopped." (Here I was interrupted by a grim and black-visaged fellow, who shook his long shaggy locks as he rose, with his sunken eyes fixed in direst hatred on me, and his fist brandished within an inch of my face.)
''Pale faces! you cannot speak till we have all done; you are our prisoners -- our young men (our soldiers) are about the house, and you must listen to what we have to say. What has been said to you is true, you must go back. ('How! how!')
"We heard the word Saganosh, and it makes our hearts glad; we shook hand with our brother -- his father is our father -- he is our Great Father -- he lives across the big lake -- his son is here, and we are glad -- we wear our Great Father the sag-a-nosh on our bosoms, and we keep his face bright****((NOTE)) -- we shake hands, but no white man has been to the red pipe and none shall go. ('How!')
[[[[****Many and strong are the recollections of the Siour and other tribes, of their nlliance with the British in the last and revolutionary wars, of which I have met many curious instances, one of which was correctly reported in the London Globe, from my Lectures, and I here insert it.--
THE GLOBE AND TRAVELLER.
"Indian Knowledge of English Affairs -- Mr. Catlin, in one of his Lectures on the manners and customs of the North American Indian, during the last week, related a very curious occurrence, which excited a great deal of surprise and some considerable mirth amongst his highly respectable and numerous audience. Whilst speaking of tbs great and warlike tribe of Sioux or Dehcotas, of 40,000 or 50,000, he stated that many of this tribe, RS Well as of several others, although living entirely in the territory of the United States, and several hundred miles south of her Majesty's possessions, were found cherishing a lasting friendship for the English, whom they denominate Saganosh. And in very many instances they are to be seen wearing about their necks are silver medals, with the portrait of George III. in bold relief upon them. These medals were given to them as badges of merit during the last war with the United States, when these warriors were employed in the British service.
"The Lecturer said, that whenever the word Saganosh was used, it seemed to rouse them at once; that on several occasions when Englishmen had been in his company as fellow travellers, they had marked attentions paid them by these Indians as Saganoshes. And on one occasion, in one of his last rambles in that country, where he had painted several portraits in a small village of Dahcotas, the chief of the band positively refused to sit; alleging as his objection that the pale faces, who were not to be trusted, might do some injury to his portrait, and his health or his life might be affected by it. The painter, as he was about to saddle his horse for his departure, told the Indian that he was a Saganosh, and was going across the Big Salt Lake, and Res very sorry that he could not carry the picture of so distinguished a man. At this intelligence the Indian advanced, and after a hearty grip of the hand, very carefully and deliberately withdrew from his bosom, and next to his naked breast, a large silver medal, and turning his face to the painter, pronounced with great vehemence and emphasis the word Sag-a-nosh! The artist, supposing that he had thus gained his point with the Indian Sagamore, was malting preparation to proceed with his work, when the Indian still firmly denied him the privilege -- holding up the face of his Majesty (which had got a superlative brightness by ]raving been worn for years against his naked breast), he made this singular and significant speech:--' When you cross the Big Salt Lake, tell my Great Father that you saw his face, and it was bright!' To this the painter replied,'I can never see your Great Father, he is dead !' The poor Indian recoiled in silence, and returned his medal to his bosom, entered his wigwam, at a fen- paces distant, where he seated himself amidst his family around his fire, and deliberately lighting his pipe, passed it around in silence.
"When it was smoked out he told them the news he had heard, and in a few moments returned to the traveller again, who was preparing with his party to mount their horses, and enquired whether the Saganoshes Lad no chief. The artist replied in the affirmative, saving that the present chief of the Saganoshes is a young and very beautiful woman. The Sagamore expressed great surprise and some incredulity at this unaccountable information; and being fully assured by the companions of the artist that his assertion was true, the Indian returned again quite hastily to his wigwam, called his own and the neighboring families into his presence, lit and smoked another pipe, and then communicated the intelligence to them, to their great surprise and amusement; after which he walked out to the party about to start off, and advancing to the painter (or Great Medicine 98 they called him), with a sarcastic smile on his face, in due form, and with much grace and effect, he carefully withdrew again from his bosom the polished silver medal, and turning the face to the painter, said,'Tell my Great Mother, that you saw our Great Father, and that we keep his face bright!'
<<<<<END OF NOTE>>>>>
"You see (holding a red pipe to the side of his naked arm) that this pipe is a part of our flesh. The red men are a part of the red stone. ('How, how!')
"If the white men take away a piece of the red pipe stone, it is a hole made in our flesh, and the blood will always run. We cannot stop the blood from running. ('How, how!')
"The Great Spirit has told us that the red stone is only to be used for pipes, and through them we are to smoke to him. ('How!')
"Why do the white men want to get there? You have no good object in view; we know you have none, and the sooner you go back, the better." (How, how!)
Muz-za (The Iron) spoke next.
"My friends, we do not wish to harm you; you have heard the words of our chief men, and you now see that you must go back. (How, how!)
"Tchan-dee-pah-sha-kah-free (The Red Pipe Stone) was given to us by the Great Spirit, and no one need ask the price of it, for it is medicine. ('How, how!')
"My friends, I believe what you have told us; I think your intentions are good; but our chiefs have always told us, that no white man was allowed to go there -- and you cannot go." (How, how!)
"My friends, you see I am a young man: you see on my war-club two scalps from my enemies' heads; my hands have been dipped in blood, but I am a good man. I am a friend to the whites, to the traders; and they are your friends. I bring them 3000 muskrat skins every year, which I catch in my own traps. ('How, how!')
"We love to go to the Pipe Stone, and get a piece for our pipes; but we ask the Great Spirit first. If the white men go to it, they will take it out, and not fill up the holes again, and the Great Spirit will be offended." (How, how, how!)
"My friends, listen to me! what I am to say will be the truth. --(How!)
"I brought a large piece of the pipe stone, and gave it to a white man to make a pipe; he was our trader, and I wished him to have a good pipe. The next time I went to his store, I was unhappy when I saw that stone made into a dish! ('Eugh!')
"This is the way the white men would use the red pipe stone, if they could get it. Such conduct would offend the Great Spirit, and make a red man's heart sick. (How, how!')
"Brothers, we do not wish to harm you -- if you turn about and go back, you will be well, both you and your horses -- you cannot go forward. (How, how!)
"We know that if you go to the pipe stone, the Great Spirit looks upon yell--the white people do not think of that. (How, how!)
"I have no more to say."
These, and a dozen other speeches to the same effect, having been pronounced, I replied in the following manner:
"My fiends, you have entirely mistaken us; we are no officers, nor are we sent by any one -- the white men do not want the red pipe -- it is not worth their carrying home so far, if you were to give it all to them. Another thing, they don't use pipes -- they don't know how to smoke them. How, how!
"My friends, I think as you do, that the Great Spirit has given that place to the red men for their pipes. How, how, how!
"I give you great credit for the course you are taking to preserve and protect it; and I will do as much as any man to keep white men from taking it away from you. How, how!
"But we have started to go and see it; and we cannot think of being stopped."
Another rose (interrupting me)
"White men! your words are very smooth; you have some object in view or you would not be so determined to go -- you have no good design, and the quicker you turn back the better; there is no use of talking any more about it -- if you think best to go, try it; that's all I have to say." (How, how!)
During this scene, the son of Monsr. Le Blanc was standing by, and seeing this man threatening me so hard by putting his fist near my face: he several times stepped up to him, and told him to stand back at a respectful distance, or that he would knock him down. After their speaking was done, I made a few remarks, stating that we should go ahead, which we did the next morning, by saddling our horses and riding off through the midst of them, as I have before described.
Le Blanc told us, that these were the most disorderly and treacherous part of the Sioux nation, that they had repeatedly threatened his life, and that he expected they would take it. He advised us to go back as they ordered; but we heeded not his advice.
On our way we were notified at several of their villages which we passed, that we must go back; but we proceeded on, and over a beautiful prairie country, of one hundred miles or more, when our Indian guide brought us to the trading-house of an old acquaintance of mine, Monsieur La Fromboise, who lives very comfortably, and in the employment of the American Fur Company, near the base of the Coteau, and forty or fifty miles from the Pipe Stone Quarry.
We rode up unexpectedly and at full gallop, to his door, when he met us and addressed us as follows:--
"Ha! Monsr. how do you do? -- Quoi! ha, est ce vous, Monsr. Cataline -- est il possible? Oui, oui, vraiment le meme-mon arni, Cataline-comment se va-t-il? et combien (pardon me though, for I can speak English). How have you been since I saw you last season? And how under Heaven, have you wandered into this wild region, so far from civilization? Dismount, dismount, gentlemen, and you are welcome to the comforts, such as they are, of my little cabin."
"Monsr. La Fromboise, allow me to introduce to your acquaintance, my friend, and travelling companion, Mr. Wood, of England."
"Monsr. Wood, I am happy to see you, and I hope you will make allowance for the rudeness of my cabin, and the humble manner in which I shall entertain you." "I assure you, my dear sir, that no apology is necessary; for your house looks as delightful as a palace, to Mr. Catlin and myself, who have so long been tenants of the open air."
" Gentlemen, walk in; we are surrounded with red folks here, and you will be looked upon by them with great surprise."
"That's what we want to see exactly. Catlin! that's fine-oh! how lucky we are."
" Well, gentlemen, walk into the other room; you see I have two rooms to my house (or rather cabin), but they are small and unhandy. Such as I have shall be at your service heartily; and I assure you, gentlemen, that this is the happiest moment of my life. I cannot give you feather-beds to sleep on: but I have a plenty of new robes, and you, at all events, Monsr. Catline, know by this time how to make a bed of them. We can give you plenty of buffalo meat, buffalo tongues, wild geese, ducks, prairie hens, venison, trout, young swan, beaver tails, pigeons, plums, grapes, young bear, some green corn, squash, onions, water-melons, and pommes des terres, some coffee and some tea."
"My good friend, one-half or one-third of these things (which are all luxuries to us) would render us happy; put yourself to no trouble on our account, and we shall be perfectly happy under your roof.''
" I am very sorry, gentlemen, that I cannot treat you as I would be glad to do; but you must make up for these things if you are fond of sporting, for there are plenty of buffaloes about; at a little distance the prairies are speckled with them; and our prairies and lakes abound with myriads of prairie hens, ducks geese and swan. You shall make me a long visit, gentlemen, and we will have sport in abundance. I assure you, that I shall be perfectly happy whilst you are with me. Pardon me a little, while I order you some dinner, and attend to some Indians who are in my store, trading, and taking their fall credits."
"That's a fine fellow I'll engage you," said my companion."
" Yes, he is all that. I have known him before; he is a gentleman, and a polished one too, every ounce of him. You see in this instance how durable and lasting are the manners of a true gentleman, and how little a life-time of immersion in the wilderness, amid the reckless customs of savage life, will extinguish or efface them. I could name you a number of such, whose surface seems covered with a dress, which once rubbed of, shows a polish brighter than ever."
We spent a day or two very pleasantly with this fine and hospitable fellow, until we. had rested from the fatigue of our journey; when he very kindly joined us with fresh horses, and piloted us to the Pipe Stone Quarry, where he is now encamped with us, a jolly companionable man, and familiar with most of the events and traditions of this strange place, which he has visited on former occasions.*
La Fromboise has some good Indian blood in his veins, and from his modes of life, as well as from a natural passion that seems to belong to the French adventurers in these wild regions, he has a great relish for songs and stories, of which he gives us many, and much pleasure; and furnishes us one of the most amusing and gentlemanly companions that could possibly be found. My friend Wood sings delightfully, also, and as I cannot sing, but can tell. now and then, a story, with tolerable effect, we manage to pass away. This gentleman, the summer previous to this, while I was in company with him at Prairie du Chien, gave me 8 very graphic account of the Red Pipe Stone Quarry, and made for me, From recollection, a chart of it, which I yet possess, and which was drawn with great accuracy.
Our evenings, in our humble bivouac, over our buffalo meat and prairie hens, with much fun and amusement. In these nocturnal amusements, I have done my part, by relating anecdotes of my travels on the Missouri, and other parts of the Indian country which I have been over; and occasionally reading from my note-book some of the amusing entries I had formerly made in it, but never have had time to transcribe for the world.
As I can't write music, and can (in my own way) write a story, the readers will acquit me of egotism or partiality, in reporting only my own part of the entertainments; which was generally the mere reading a story or two from my notes which I have with me, or relating some of the incidents of life which my old travelling companion Ba'tiste and I had witnessed in former years.
Of these, I read one last evening, that pleased my good friend La Fromboise so exceedingly, that I am constrained to copy it into my Letter and send it home.
This amusing story is one that my man Ba'tiste used to tell to Bogard, and others with great zest; describing his adventure one night, in endeavoring to procure a medicine-bag, which I had employed him to obtain for me on the Upper Missouri ; and he used to prelude it thus :-
" Dam your commence, (said Bogard), tell it in English--"
" Pardon, Monsieur, en Americaine--"
" Well, American then, if you please; anything but your darned 'parlez vous'."
" Bien, excusez -- now Monsieur Bogard, vou must know first place, de Medicine-Bags' is mere humbug, he is no medicine in him--no pills; he is something mysterieux. Some witchcraft, suppose. You must know que tons les sauvages have such tings about him, pour for good luck. Ce n'est que (pardon) it is only hocus pocus, to keep off witch, suppose. You must know ces articles can nevare be sold, of course you see dey cannot be buy. So my friend here, Monsieur Cataline, who have collect all de curiosites des pays sauvages, avait made strong applique to me pour for to get one of dese medicine-bags for his Collection curieux, et I had, pour moimeme, le curiosite extreme pour for to see des quelques choses ces etranges looking tings was composi.
" I had learn much of dese strange custom, and I know wen de Ingin die, his medicine-bags is buried wis him.
" Oui, Monsieur, so it never can be got by any boday. Bien. I hap to
tink one day wen we was live in de mous of Yellow Stone, now is time, and I avait said to Monsieur Cataline, que pensez vous? Kon-te-wonda (un des chefs du) (pardon, one of de chiefs, of de Knisteneux) has die to-day. Il avait une medicine-bag magnifique, et extremement curieux; il est compose d'un, it is made (pardon, si vous plait) of de wite wolf skin, ornement et stuff wid tousand tings wich we shall see, ha? Good luck! Suppose Monsieur Cataline, I have seen him just now. I av see de medicine-bag laid on his breast avec his hands crossed ovare it. Oui pensez vous? I call get him to-night, ha? If you will keep him, if you shall not tell, ha? 'Tis no harm -- 'tis no steal -- he is dead, ha? Well, you shall see. But, would you not be afraid, Ba'tiste, (said Monsieur Cataline), to take from dis poor fellow his medicines (or mysteries) on which he has rest all his hopes in dis world, and de world to come? Pardon, je n'ai pas peur; non, Monsieur, ne rien de peur. I nevare saw ghost -- I have not fear, mais, soppose, it is not right, exact; but I have grand disposition pour for to oblige my friend, et le curiosus moimeme, pour to see wat it is made of; suppose tbnight I shall go, ha? 'Well, Ba'tiste, I have no objection (said Monsieur Cataline) if your heart does not failyou, for I will be very glads to get him, and will make you a handsome present for it, but I think it will be a cold and gloomy kind of business. 'Nevare mind, Monsieur Cataline (I said) provide he is well dead, perfect dead! Well, I had see les Knisteneux when dey ave bury de chap -- I ave watch close, and I ave see how de medicine-bags was put. It was fix pretty tight by some cord around his bellay, and den some skins was wrap many times ground him -- he was put down in de hole dug for him, and some hat stones and some little dirt was laid on him, only till next day, wen some grand ceremonays was to be perform ovare him, and den de hole was to be fill up; now was de only time possibe for de medicine-bag, ha? I ave very pretty little wife at dat times, Assinneboin squaw, and we sleep in one of de stores inside of de Fort, de Trade-house, you know, ha?
"So you may suppose I was all de day perplex to know how I should go, somebody may watch -- soppose, he may not be dead! not quite dead, ha? nevare mind--le jour was bien long, et le nuit dismal, dismal!! oh by gar it was dismal! plien, plien (pardon) full of apprehension, mais sans peur, je n'avais pas peur! So some time aftere midnights, wen it was bout right time pour go, I made start, very light, so my wife must not wake. Oh diable l'imagination! quel solitude! well, I have go very well yet, I am pass de door, and I am pass de gate, and I am at lengts arrive at de grave! suppose 'now Ba'tiste, courage, courage! now is de times come. 'Well, suppose, I am not fraid of dead man, mais, perhaps, dese medicine-bag is give by de Grande Esprit to de Ingin for someting? possibe! I will let him keep it. I shall go back! No, Monsieur Cataline will laughs at me. I must have him, ma foi, mon courage! so I climb down very careful into de grave, mais, as I descend, my heart rise up into my mouse! Oh mon Dieu! courage Ba'tiste, courage! ce n'est pas I'homme dat I fear, mais ie medicine, le medicine. So den I ave lift out de large stones, I ave put out my head in de dark, and I ave look all de contre round; ne personne, ne personne-no bodk in sight! Well, I ave got softly down on my knees ovare him, (oh, courage! courage! oui) and wen I ave unwrap de robe, lave all de time say, I pardon, courage! pardon, courage! Untill I ad got de skins all off de bodk ; I ave den take hold of de cord to untie, nrais!! (dans l'inetant) two cold hands seize me by de wrists! and I was just dead -- I was petrifact in one instant. Oh St. EsprIt! I could just see in de dark two eyes glaring like fire sur upon me! and den, (oh, eugh!) it spoke to me, 'Who are you?' (Sacre, vengeance! it will not do to deceive him, no,) I am Ba'tiate, poor Ba'tiste! 'Then thou art surely mine, (as he clenched both arms tight around my boday) lie still Ba'tiste. 'Oh, holy Vierge! St. Esprit! 0 mon Dieu! I could not breathe! miserable! je sui perdu! oh pourquoi have I been such fool to get into dese cold, cold arms! 'Ba'tiste? (drawing me some tighter and tighterl) do you not belong to me, Ba'tiste? Yes, suppose! oh diable! belong? Oui, oui, je suis certainment perdu, lost, lost, for evare! Oh I can you not possibe let me go? 'No, Ba'tiste, we must never part.' Grand Dieu! c'est finis, finis, finis avec moi! "Then you do not love me any more, Ba'tiste?" Quel! quoi! what!! est ce vous, Wee-ne-on-ka? 'Yes, Ba'tiste, it is the Bending Willow who holds you, she that loves you and will not let you go? Are you dreaming Ba'tiste?
"Well, Ba'tiste, that's a very good story, and very well told; I presume you never tried again to get a medicine-bag?"
"Non, Monsieur Bogard, je vous assure, I was satisfy wis de mistakes dat night, pour for je cro;s qu'il fut l'Esprit, le Grand Esprit."
After this, my entertaining companions sung several amusing songs, and then called upon me for another story. Which Mr. Wood had already heard me tell several times, and which he particularly called for; as
"THE STORY OF THE DOG,"
and which I began as follows:--
"Well, some time ago, when I was drifting down the mighty Missouri, in a little canoe, with two hired men, Bogard and Ba'tiste, (and in this manner did we glide along) amid all the pretty scenes and ugly, that decked the banks of that river, from the mouth of the Yellow Stone, to St. Louis, a distance of only two thousand miles; Bogard and Ba'tiste plied their paddles and I steered, amid snag and sand-bar-amongst drift logs and herds of swimming buffaloes -- our beds were uniformly on the grass, or upon some barren beach, which we often chose, to avoid the suffocating clouds of musquiros; our fire was (by the way we had none at night) kindled at sundown, under some towering bluff -- our supper cooked and eaten, and we off again, floating some four or five miles after nightfall, when our canoe was landed at random, on some unknown shore. In whispering silence and darkness our buffalo robes were drawn out and spread upon the grass, and our bodies stretched upon them; our pistols were belted to our sides, and our rifles always slept in our arms. In this way we were encamped, and another robe drawn over us, head and foot, under which our iron slumbers were secure from the tread of all foes, saving that of the sneaking gangs of wolves, who were nightly serenading us with their harmonics, and often quarrelling for the privilege of chewing off the corners of the robe, which served us as a blanket. 'Caleb' (the grizzly bear) was often there too, leaving the print of his deep impressed footsteps where he had perambulated, reconnoitering, though not disturbing us. Our food was simply buffalo meat from day to day, and from morning till night, for coffee and bread we had not. The fleece (hump) of a fat cow, was the luxury of luxuries; and for it we would step ashore, or as often level our rifles upon the 'slickest' of the herds from our canoe, as they were grazing upon the banks. Sometimes the antelope, the mountain sheep, and so the stately elk contributed the choicest cuts for our little larder; and at others, while in the vicinity of war-parties, where we dared not to fire our guns, our boat was silently steered into some little cove or eddy, our hook and line dipped, and we trusted to the bite of a catfish for our suppers: if we got him, he was sometimes too large and tough; and if we got him not, we would swear, (not at all) and go to bed.
''Our meals were generally cooked and eaten on piles of driftwood, where our fire was easily kindled, and a peeled log (which we generally straddled) did admirably well for a seat, and a table to eat from.
"In this manner did we glide away from day to day, with anecdote and fun to shorten the time, and just enough of the spice of danger to give vigour to our stomachs, and keenness to our appetites -- making and meeting accident and incident sufficient for a 'book'. Two hundred miles from the mouth of Yellow Stone brought us to the village of the kind and gentlemanly Mandans. With them I lived for some time -- was welcomed -- taken gracefully by the arm, by their plumed dignitaries, and feasted in their hospitable lodges. Much have I already said of these people, and more of them, a great deal, I may say at a future day; but now, to our story. As preamble, however, having launched our light canoe al the Mandan village, shook hands with the chiefs and braves, and took the everlasting farewell glance at those models, which I wept to turn from; we dipped our paddles, and were again gliding off upon the mighty water, on our way to St. Louis. We travelled fast, and just as the village of the Mandans, and the bold promontory on which it stands, were changing to blue, and 'dwindling into nothing', we heard the startling yells, and saw in distance behind us, the troop that was gaining upon us! their red shoulders were bounding over the grassy bluffs -- their hands extended, and robes waving with signals for us to stop! In a few moments they were opposite to us on the bank, and I steered my boat to the shore. They were arranged for my reception, with amazement and orders imperative stamped on every brow. Mi-neek-e-sunk-te-ka (the mink), they exclaimed,'is dying! the picture which you made of her is too much like her -- you put so much of her into it, that when your boat took it away from our village, it drew a part of her life away with it -- she is bleeding from her mouth -- she is puking up all her blood; by taking that away, you are drawing the strings out of her heart, and they will soon break; we must take her picture back, and then she will get well -- your medicine is great, it is too great; but we wish you well." Mr. Kipp, their Trader, came with the party, and interpreted as above. I unrolled my bundle of portraits, and though I was unwilling to part with it (for she was a beautiful girl), yet I placed it in their hands, telling them that I wished her well and I was exceedingly glad to get my boat peaceably under way again, and into the current, having taken another and everlasting shake of the hands. They rode back at full speed with the portrait; but intelligence which I have since received from there, informs me that the girl died; and that I am for ever to be considered as the cause of her misfortunes. This is not the story, however, but I will tell it as soon as I can come to it. We dropped off, and down the rolling current again, from day to day, until at length the curling smoke of the Riccarees announced their village in view before us!
"We trembled and quaked, for all boats not stoutly armed, steal by them in the dead of night. We muffled our paddles, and instantly dropped under some willows, where we listened to the yelping, barking rabble, until sable night had drawn her curtain around (though it was not sable, for the moon arose, to our great mortification and alarm, in full splendor and brightness), when, at eleven o'clock, we put out to the middle of the stream -- silenced our paddles, and trusted to the current to waft us by them. We lay close in our boat with a pile of peen bushes over us, making us nothing in the world but a floating tree-top. On the bank, in front of the village, was enacting at that moment, a scene of the most frightful and thrilling nature. An hundred torches were swung about in all directions, giving us a full view of the group that were assembled, and some fresh scalps were hung on poles, and were then going through the nightly ceremony that is performed about them for a certain number of nights, composed of the frightful and appalling shrieks, and yells, and gesticulations of the scalp-dance.
"In addition to this multitude of demons (as they looked), there were some hundreds of cackling women and girls bathing in the river on the edge of a sand-bar, at the lower end of the village; at which place the stream drifted our small craft in, close to the shore, till the moon lit their shoulders, their foreheads, chins, noses! and they stood, half-merged, like mermaids, and gazed upon us! singing 'Chee-no-see-nun, chee-na-see-nun ke-mon-shoo Kee-ne-he-na, ha-way-tah? shee-sha, shee-sha; 'How do you do, how do you do? where are you going, old tree? Come here, come here.' Lah-kee-hoon! lah-kee-hoon! natoh, catogh!' ('A canoe, a canoe! see the paddle!' In a moment the songs were stopped! the lights were out -- the village in an instant was in darkness, and dogs were muzzled I and nimbly did- oar paddles ply the water, till spy-glass told us at morning's dawn, that the bank and boundless prairies of grass and green that were all around us, were free from following footsteps of friend or foe. A sleepless night had passed, and lightly tripped our bark, and swift, over the swimming tide during that day; which was one, not of pleasure, but of trembling excitement; while our eyes were continually scanning the distant scenes that were behind us, and our muscles throwing us forward with tireless energy.
Night came upon us again, and we landed at the foot of a towering bluff, where the mosquitoes met us with ten thousand kicks and cuffs, and importunities, until we were choked and strangled into almost irrevocable despair and madness.
"A 'snaggy bend' announced its vicinity just below us by its roaring; and hovering night told us, that we could not with safety 'undertake it.'
"The only direful alternative was now in full possession of us, (I am not going to tell the 'story' yet), for just below us was a stately bluff of 200 feet in height, rising out of the water, at an angle of forty-fine degrees, entirely denuded in Front, and constituted of clay. 'Montons, montons!' said Ba'tiste, as he hastily clambered up its steep inclined plane on his hands and feet, over its parched surface, which had been dried in the sun, 'essayez vous, essayez! ce'n'est pas difficile Monsr. Cataline,' exclaimed he, from an elevation of about 100 feet from the water, where he had found a level platform, of some ten or fifteen feet in diameter, and stood at its brink, waving his hand over the twilight landscape that lay in partial obscurity beneath him.
"Nous avons ici une belle place pour for to get some slips, some coot slips, vare de dam Riccaree et de dam muskeet shall nevare get si haut, by Gar! montez, montez en haut.'
"Bogard and I took our buffalo robes and our rides, and with difficulty hung and clung along in the crevices with fingers and toes, until we reached the spot. We found ourselves about half-way up the precipice, which continued almost perpendicular above us; and within a few yards of us, on each side, it was one unbroken slope from the bottom to the top. In this snug little nook were we most appropriately fixed, as we thought, for a warm summer's night, out of the reach entirely of musquitoes, and all other earthly obstacles, as we supposed, to the approaching gratification, for which the toils and fatigues of the preceding day and night, had so admirably prepared us. We spread one of our robes, and having ranged ourselves side by side upon it, and drawn the other one over us, we commenced, without further delay, upon the pleasurable forgetfulness of toils and dangers which had agitated us for the past day and night. Wehad got jut about to that stage of our enjoyment which is almost resistless, and nearly bidding defiance to every worldly obstrusive obstacle, when the pattering of rain on our buffalo robes opened our eyes to the dismal scene that was getting up about us! lM?/ head was out, and on the watch; but the other two skulls were sat upon the ground, and there chained by the unyielding links of iron slumber. The blackest of all clouds that ever swept hill tops of grasst of clay, or towering rock, was hanging about us -- its lightning's glare was incessantly flashing us to blindness; and the giddy elevation on which we were perched, seemed to tremble with the roar and jar of distant, and the instant bolts and cracks of present thunder! The rain poured and fellin torrents (its not enough); it seemed poating around and above us in waves succeeding waves, which burst upon the sides of the immense avalanche of clay that was above, and slid in sheets, upon us! Heavens! what a scene was here. The river beneath us and in distance, with windings infinite, whitening into silver, and trees, to deathlike paleness, at the lightning's flash! All about us was drenched in rain and mud. At this juncture, poor Ba'tiste was making an effort to raise his head and shoulders -- he was in agony! he had slept himself, and sli;pt himself partly from the robe, and his elbows were fastened in the mud.
"Oh sacre, 'tis too bad by Gar! we can get some slips nevare.
"Ugh! (replied Yankee Bogard) we shall get 'slips' enough directly, by darn, for we are all afloat, and shall go into the the river by and by, in the twinkling of a goat's eye, if we don't look out.'
"We were nearly afloat, sure enough, and our condition growing more and more dreary every moment, and our only alternative was, to fold up our nether robe and sit upod it; hanging the other one over our heads, which formed a roof, and shielded the rain from us. To give compactness to the trio, and bring us into such shape as would enable the robe to Protect us all, we were obliged to put our backs and occiputs together, and keep our heads from nodding. In this way we were enabled to divide equally the robe that we sat upon, as well as receive mutual benefit from the one that was above us. We thus managed to protect ourselves in the most important points, leaving our feet and legs (from necessity) to the mercy of mud.
"Thus we were re-encamped 'A Pretty mess' (said I), we look like the three graces'; -- 'de tree grace, by Gar!' said Ba'tiste. 'Grace! (whispered Bogard) yes, it's all grace here; and I believe we'll all be buried in grace in less than an hour.
"Monsr. Cataline! excusez my back, si vous plait. Bogard ! comment, comment ?-bonne nuit, Messieurs. Oh! mon Dieu, mon Dieu! Je vous rends grace -- je vous prie pour for me sauver ce nuit -- delivrez nous! delivrez grace! pour for de m'avoir conserve from de dam Riccree et de diable muskeet. Eh bien! eh bien!
''In this miserable and despairing mood poor Ba'tiste dropped off gradually into a most tremendous sleep, whilst Bogard and I were holding on to our corners of the robe -- recounting over the dangers and excitements of the day and night past, as well as other scenes of our adventurous lives, whilst we laid (or rather sat) looking at the lightning, with our eyes shut. Ba'tiste snored louder and louder, until sleep had got her strongest grip upon him ; and his specific gravity became so great, that he pitched forward, pulling our corners of the robe nearly off from our heads, reducing us to the necessity of drawing upon them till we brought the back of his head in contact with ours, again, and his body in an erect posture, when he suddenly exclaimed.
"Bon jour, Monsr. Bogard: bon jour, Monsr. Cataline; n'est ce pas morning, pretty near ?'
"No, its about midnight.'
"Quel temps ?'
"Why it rains as hard as ever.
"Oh diable, I wish I was 16 hell.
"You may be there yet before morning, by darn.'
"Pardon! pardon, Monsr Bogard -- I shall not go to night, not to night, I was joke -- mais! dis is not joke, suppose -- oh vengeance! I am slip down considerable -- mais I shall not go to hell quite -- I am slip off de seat! What! you are sitting in the mud?"
"Oui, Bogard, in de muds! mais, I am content, my head is not in de mud. You see Bogard, I avait been sleep, et I raisee my head pretty suddain, and keepee my e back e straight, et I am slip off of de seat. Now, Monsr. Bogard you shall keepee you head straight and moove ------ leet, at de bottom?----------remercie, Bogard, remercie,------eh bien, -----ah well------------ha-ha-h a -- by Gar, Bogard, I have a de good joke. Monsr. Cataline will painter: my likeness as I am now look -- he will paint us all -- I am tink he will make putty coot view? ha-ha-ha-a ---- we should see very putty land eescape aboutee delegs, ha? Ha--ha--ha Ha."
"Oh, Ba'tiste, for Heaven's sake stop your laughing and go to sleep; we'll talk and laugh about this all day to-marrow.
"Pardbn, Monsr. Cataline, (excusez) have you got some slips?'
"No, Ba'tiste, I have not been asleep. Bogard has been entertaining me these two hours whilst you was asleep, with a description of a buffiloo hunt, which took place at the mouth of Yellow Stone, about a year ago. It must have been altogether a most splendid and thrilling scene, and I have been paying the strictest attention to it, for I intend to write it down and send it to New York for the cite to read."
"Like's dat much, Monsr. Cataline, and I shall take much plaisir pour vc? us donner to give descript of something, provide you will write him down, ha?'
"Well Ba'tiste, go on, I am endeavoring to learn everything that's curious and entertaining, belonging to this country.
"Well Monst. Cataline, I shall tell you something very much entertain, mais, but, you will nevare tell somebody how we hare been fix to night? ha?
"No, Ba'tiste, most assuredly I shall never mention it nor make painting of it.
"Well, je commence, -- diable Bogard! you shall keep your back straight you must sit up, ou il n'est pas possile for to keep de robe ovare all. Je commence, Mons. Cataline, to describe some Dog Feast, which I attend among de dam Pieds noirs. I shall describe some grande, magnifiqne ceremonay, and you will write him down?'
"Yes, I'II put it on paper.
"Pardon, pardon, I am get most to slip, I shall tell him to-marrow, perhaps I shall- eh bien; -- but you will nevare tell how we look, ha!
"No Ba'tiste, I'II never mention it.
"Eh bien bon nuit.'
"In this condition we sat, and in this manner we nodded away the night, as far as I recollect of it, catching the broken bits of sleep, (that were even painful to us when we got them),until the morning's rays at length gave us a view of the scene that was around us!! Oh, all ye brick-makers, ye plasterers, and soft-soap manufacturers! put all your imaginations in a ferment together, and see if ye can invent a scene like this! Here was a 'fix' to be sure. The sun arose in splendor and in full, upon this everlasting and boundless scene of 'soft soap' and grease, which admitted us not to move.
The whole hill was constituted entirely of tough clay and on each side and above us there was no possibility of escape; and one single step over the bank of the place where we had ascended, would inevitably have launched us into the river below, the distance of an hundred feet ! Here, looking like hogs just risen from a mud puddle, or a buffalo bull in his wallow, we sat, (and had to sit,) admiring the wide-spread and beautiful landscape that lay steeping and smoking before us, and our little boat, that looked like a nutshell beneath us, hanging at the shore; telling stories and filling up the while with nonsensical garrulity, until the sun s warming rays had licked up the mud, and its dried surface, about eleven o'clock, gave us foot hold, when we cautiously, but safely descended to the bottom; and then, at the last jump, which brought his feet to terra firma, Ba'tiste exclaimed, 'Well, we have cheatee de dam muskeet, ha !' "
And this, reader, is not L the story,' but one of the little incidents which stood exactly in the way, and could not well be got over without a slight notice, being absolutely necessary, as a key, or kind of glossary, for the proper understanding of the tale that is to be told. There is blood and butchery in the story that is now to be related; and it should be read by every one who would form a correct notion of the force of Indian superstitions.
Three mighty warriors, proud and valiant, licked the dust, and all in consequence of one of the portraits I painted, and as my brush was the prime mover of all these misfortunes, and my life was sought to heal the wound, I must be supposed to be knowing to and familiar with the whole circumstances, which were as -- (I was going to say, as follow) but my want of time and your want of patience, compel me to break off here, and I promise to go right on with tire story of the Dog in my next Letter, and I advise the reader not to neglect or overlook it.