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The Two Rivers of Lewis & Clark
Entries For September 26:
Captain Clark (current)
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Set out early. Proceeded on, and came to, by the wish of the chiefs, for to let their squaws and boys see the boat, and suffer them to treat us well. Great numbers of men, women, and children on the banks viewing us. These people show great anxiety. They appear sprightly. Generally ill-looking and not well made; their legs and arms small generally; high cheekbones, prominent eyes. They grease and black [paint] themselves with coal when they dress. The distinguished men make use of hawks' feathers [calumet feather adorned with porcupine quills and fastened to the top of the head and falls backward about their heads]. The men wear a robe, and each a polecat's skin, for to hold their bois roulé for smoking. Fond of dress and show. Badly armed with fusees, &c. The squaws are cheerful, fine-looking women, not handsome; high cheeks; dressed in skins; a petticoat and robe, which folds back over their shoulder, with long wool. Do all their laborious work, and, I may say, perfect slaves to the men, as all squaws of nations much at war, or where the women are more numerous than the men.
After coming to, Captain Lewis and 5 men went on shore with the chiefs, who appeared disposed to make up and be friendly. After Captain Lewis had been on shore about 3 hours, I became uneasy for fear of deception, and sent a sergeant to see him and know his treatment, which he reported was friendly, and they were preparing for a dance this evening. They made frequent solicitations for us to remain one night only and let them show their good disposition toward us. We determined to remain.
After the return of Captain Lewis, I went on shore. On landing, I was received on an elegant painted buffalo robe, and taken to the village by 6 men, and was not permitted to touch the ground until I was put down in the grand council house, on a white dressed robe. I saw several Maha prisoners, and spoke to the chiefs, telling them that it was necessary to give those prisoners up and become good friends with the Mahas if they wished to follow the advice of their Great Father. I was in several lodges, neatly formed, as before mentioned as to the Bois Brulé - Yankton tribe.
This house formed a 3/4 circle of skins well dressed, and sewn together, under this shelter. About 70 men sat, forming a circle. In front of the chiefs, a place of 6 feet diameter was clear, and the pipe of peace raised on forked sticks, about 6 or 8 inches from the ground, under which there was swansdown scattered. On each side of this circle, two pipes, the two flags of Spain 2 and the flag we gave them in front of the grand chief. A large fire was near, in which provisions were cooking. In the center, about 400 pounds of excellent buffalo beef as a present for us.
Soon after they set me down, the men went for Captain Lewis. Brought him in the same way, and placed him also by the chief. In a few minutes an old man rose and spoke, approving what we had done, and informing us of their situation, requesting us to take pity on them and which was answered. The great chief then rose with great state, speaking to the same purpose as far as we could learn, and then, with great solemnity, took up the pipe of peace and, after pointing it to the heavens, the four quarters of the globe and the earth, he made some dissertation [then made a speech], lit it and presented the stem to us to smoke. When the principal chief spoke with the pipe of peace, he took in one hand some of the most delicate parts of the dog which was prepared for the feast, and made a sacrifice to the flag.
After a smoke had taken place, and a short harangue to his people, we were requested to take the meal, and they put before us the dog which they had been cooking, and pemmican, and ground potato in several platters. Pemmican is buffalo meat dried or jerked, pounded, and mixed with grease, raw. Dog, Sioux think great dish, used on festivals. Ate little of dog - pemmican and potato good. We smoked for an hour, till dark, and all was cleared away. A large fire made in the center. About ten musicians playing on tambourines [made of hoops and skin, stretched], long sticks with deer and goats' hoofs tied so as to make a jingling noise, and many others of a similar kind. Those men began to sing and beat on the tambourine. The women came forward, highly decorated in their way, with the scalps and trophies of war of their fathers, husbands, brothers, or near connections, and proceeded to dance the War Dance which they did with great cheerfulness, until about twelve o'clock, when we informed the chiefs that they must be fatigued amusing us, &c.
They then retired, and we, accompanied by four chiefs, returned to our boat. They stayed with us all night. Those people have some brave men which they make use of as soldiers. Those men attend to the policing of the village; correct all errors. I saw one of them, today, whip two squaws who appeared to have fallen out. When he approached, all about appeared to flee with great terror. At night they keep 2, 3, 4, 5 men at different distances, walking around camp, singing the occurrences of the night.
All the men on board, 100 paces from shore. Wind from the S.E., moderate. One man very sick on board with a dangerous abscess on his hip. All in spirits this evening.
In this tribe, I saw 25 squaws and boys taken 13 days ago in a battle with the Mahas. In this battle, they destroyed 40 lodges, killed 75 men, and some boys and children, and took 48 prisoners - women and boys - which they promise both Captain Lewis and myself shall be delivered up to Mr. Dorion at the Bois Brulé tribe. Those are a wretched and dejected-looking people. The squaws appear low and coarse, but this is an unfavorable time to judge of them.
Reprinted by permission of the American Studies Programs at the University of Virginia.
The complete text can also be downloaded for printing from their website.