In this case, about one-third of them were mounted on horseback - the others were on foot - and the first intimation we had of their approach, was their shouts and yells as they came over the plains, from the Cheyure village. They came as a war party; their horses were painted in the most approved style - their manes and tails in various colors; and on the hips and shoulders the rider had painted his "coos."
This "coos" is a history of the feats which the Indian has performed. Every scalp he may have taken, or enemy the has slain, is represented by a hand or some other symbol, painted on his horse. Stealing horses is a great feat, and every horse that he has stolen is marked by an emblem somewhat resembling a horse's hoof.
All the Indians were painted in their war costume, and dressed in the best possible manner, armed, som with guns, some with lances, and others with bows and arrows. Their horsemen and footmen apparently mingled in confused mass, but it could be seen that there was order in all their movements. They would fire their guns, shoot their arrows, give a shout, make a charge, and then the horsemen from the center would rush out around and through the footmen, indicating the manner of protecting their men when too closely pressed. These exhibitions of the wild and savage mode of warfare was exciting beyond description, and when the Indian enters into it - when there are a number of them together - the whoops and yells seem to stir up every element of his wild nature. Nothing in the trappings and excitement of war among civilized men, is more enlivening than the peculiar whoop and yell of savage warfare. There followed in the distance a crowd of squaws and children, contributing to the wildness of the scene by their sons and wailings.
This company came thundering down the plain, dashing through the lines of military sentinels, and brought up in the enclosure prepared for the Council. Here they went through various maneuvers, and I must say that they performed their drill with the most soldier like precision. How they ever ran through such a series of twistings and turnings, and avoided being trampled on by the horses, and by each other, I could scarcely understand, although looking on all the time. At intervals we had dances and songs, and then the counting of the "coos." Counting "coos" is common with all the tribes. After a dance and a song, the Indians form in a semicircle; and Indian, who has "coos" to count, goes into the center, and tells all the feats he has done. He commences with his first act, and goes through, giving the time and the circumstances under which he did it, and with what nation. Told in this public manner, he is liable to exposure if he tells an untruth, and being detected in a lie when counting "coos," would forever disgrace him and his own and all other tribes. For each "coo" the drummers give one rap on their drum, and thus on until the Indian repeats his whole history. On this occasion some counted from twenty-five to thirty "coos."
In the evening the Sioux had a dog feast, which made some of the whites who participated in it quite sick, possibly from excess of eating.
In front rode the two principal chiefs, each carrying a highly ornamental pipe; behind them the remainder of the party with their arms, and in the grass a few squaws. Neither these men, nor any of their tribe, had ever before been so far East of their own grounds, and they were now in the midst of their enemies - those tribes with whom they had been at war for unknown years. Their coming was expected, and had called out the Indians from all the surrounding villages. The whole plain seemed alive with the moving masses of red-skins. Amidst it all, the Crows seemed not the least disturbed or alarmed. Col. Mitchell met them; the chiefs dismounted, made a short speech in reply to the Colonel, smoked all around, and then he assigned them a camp ground near his own, and invited the chiefs and principal men to attend the Council that morning. The young men now took charge of the horses and the preparations of the camp.
Colonel Mitchell then informed them, through the interpreters, that he had submitted to them all the propositions he had to make, and he was no prepared to hear what they thought of them - if they had talked and smoked the matter over among themselves. He would first hear from the Sioux.
Terre Blue Brules, an old but very good chief, after selecting his interpreters, address the commissioners:
"Father, you and the whites have a great deal of sense, and you and our Grand Father have put yourselves to a great deal of trouble to come out here to see us. But we are all glad in our hearts that you have come. We know you want to do us good, to make us be at peace with each other and the whites, and we want to be at peace. I and my band, the Brules, have heard all you have said, and we have talked together about it. Some things you propose are very well, but in some things we don't agree with you. We are a large band, and we claim half of all the country; but we don't care for that, for we can hunt anywhere. But we have decided differently from you, Father, about this chief for the nation. We want a chief for each band, it will be much better for you and the whites. Then we will make soldiers of the young men, and we will make them good men to the whites and other Indians. But, Father, we can't make one chief. We are a poor people, and want very much to see the presents you told us was coming".
Big Yancton, another Sioux, who is very much like some of our fussy, meddlesome, every day orators, followed. He never lets an opportunity escape him to make a speech, and seldom speaks much to the point.
"Father, you tell us to behave ourselves on the roads and make peace. I am willing to shake hands and make peace with all the whites and the Indians. Your white people travel the roads, and they have destroyed the grass. Why do you not give them grass of their own? They have destroyed our grass and timber, and we can't hunt where we used to do; we used to own all this country and went where we pleased; now, we are surrounded by other Indians, and the whites pass through our country. The game is going away, and I should like to see the time when you will give us horses, cattle and fowls, as the white men have."
Pointed Bear, a Yancton, next spoke, but seemed to speak in derision. He said:
"Father, this is the third time I have met the whites. We don't understand their manners nor their words. We know it is all very good and for our good, but we don't understand it at all. We suppose the half breeds understand it, and we leave them to speak for us."
Several other Sioux Indians spoke, but all of them were of the same import mere begging speeches. They were all very poor, very hungry, and hoped the goods would soon be here.
Col Mitchell then called upon the Cheyenne, and Bark, or the Bear's Feather said:
"Grand Father and Father: I am glad to see so many Indians and whites meeting in peace. It makes my heart glad, and I shall be more happy at home. I am glad you have taken pity on us, and come to see us. The buffalo used to be plenty in our country, but it is getting scarce. We got enough to come here and keep us a while, but our meat will not last long. As the sun looks down upon us - as the great Spirit sees me, I am willing, grand-father, to do as you tell me to do. I know you will tell me right, and that it will be good for me and my people. We regard this as a great medicine day when our pipes and water shall be one, and we shall be at peace. Our young men, grand-father, whom you want to go with you to the States, are ready, and they shall go. I shall look for their return when the grass begins to grow again.. If all the nations here were as willing to do what they say, as we are, then we could sleep in peace; and we should not have to watch our horses or our lodges in the night."
Here the proceedings were interrupted by a chief of the Sioux, one of the Blackfeet band, who insisted on making a speech.
"Grand-Father, you called me here from the Missouri River. I am here; my people are very poor and hungry - we have little to eat. We have heard all you have said; your words are very good but we think we should have a hundred loads of goods every year, and more buffalo. We don't want the horses - we have plenty of horses. We want to see the goods."
Beka-chebetha, or Cut Nose, an Arapahoe, next addressed the Commissioners.
"Grand-Father, I thank the Great Spirit, the Sun and the Moon, for putting us on this earth. It is a good earth, and I hope there will be no more fighting on it - that the grass will grow, and the water fall, and plenty of buffalo. You Grand-Father are doing well for your children, in coming so far, and taking so much trouble about them. I think you will do us much good; I will go home satisfied. I will sleep sound, and not have to watch my horses i the night, or be afraid for my squaws and children. We have to live on these streams and in the hills, and I would be glad if the whites would pick out a place for themselves and not come into our grounds; but if they must come through our country they should give us game for what they drive off. There have been some dogs on the roads; they have committed depredations, and they have been charged upon us; but now they will have to hang their heads and hide themselves. We have chosen our chief as you requested us to do, Father. Whatever he does we will support him in it, and we expect that the whites will support him."
An old, grey-bearded Arapahoe chief Anthon-ishiah, next harangued his tribe, rather than addressed the Commissioners. He said:
"Fathers and children, we give you all up to our white brethren, and now we shall have peace - the pleasantest thing in the world. The whites are friends to us, and they will be good to us if we don't lie to them. The Great Spirit is over us and sees us all. We don't want any fools or bad men's counsel. The whites want to be good to us - let us not be fools and refuse what they ask. We have but one heart, and what we say is truth. Let our ears be open to the advice of our Great Father, and no lies in our hearts is what we promise him."
Col. Mitchell then informed the other tribes that he desired them to talk over what he said to them, and when he met them again to be prepared to present him with a chief of the nation, if they agreed to his propositions; if not, to present their objections. The Council then adjourned to the next day.
The visit to the President was not accompanied with any set speech making, but consisted merely in introductions. We hear, however, that the result was very satisfactory to these poor untutored sons of the wilderness, for, prior to personally visiting their Great Father, they were under much mental solicitude and constraint, lest in his august greatness he might not be gracious unto them.
On returning to their lodgins after the interview, the depression they had before exhibited was seen to have left htem, and was succedded by a freedom and joyousness of manner much in contrast with their prior uneasy posture of mind, for where they apprehended ecnountering the stern eye and perhaps harsh tones of an exacting authority, they found a friendly greeting, and met with a kidness and condescension which, with their strong native perception, they felt to be unmistakeable genuine.
Having learnt incidentally through their interpreter that Mrs. Lea, had expressed a wish to see them, they gallantly responsed to the invitation, and in the evening marched to the Commissioner's residence, near the General Post Office, literally in full feather. Here, equally amused, and amusing Col. Lea's household and a crowd of visitors, they remained about an hour, behaving with great propriety of demeanor.
These Indians are some of those who met Col. D. D. Mitchell this Fall at Fort Laramie, and are representatives of the Arrapoes, Cheyannes, Ottoes, and most westerly Sioux. There are two or three Iowa with them, but these last are rather interlopers.
In the course of a couple of weeks there will be a grand talk or council, when we shall be probably afforded an opportunity to give some idea of the oratorical powers of these children of nature. There might, perhaps, be also a war dance.
(Note: Some thought went into deciding if the above articles should be posted. Obviously, I decided to post them, or you would not be reading them. If you are a Native American, read them and hold your head high with the pride you so rightly and richly deserve. If you are from a foreign-American family, at least think about what we did.)