« FöregåendeFortsätt »
waited for them in vain till after midsummer, and then, as the season was too far advanced for longer delay, they hired two Mandans to conduct them to their customary haunts.
They set out on horseback, their scanty baggage and their stock of presents being no doubt carried by pack-animals. Their general course was west-southwest, with the Black Hills at a distance on their left, and the upper Missouri on their right. The country was a rolling prairie, well covered for the most part with grass, and watered by small alkaline streams creeping towards the Missouri with an opaque, whitish current. Except along the watercourses, there was little or no wood. “I noticed,” says the Chevalier de la Vérendrye, “earths of different colors, blue, green, red, or black, white as chalk, or yellowish like ochre.” This was probably in the “bad lands” of the Little Missouri, where these colored earths form a conspicuous feature in the bare and barren bluffs, carved into fantastic shapes by the storms. 1
For twenty days the travellers saw no human being, so scanty was the population of these plains. Game, however, was abundant. Deer sprang from the tall, reedy grass of the river bottoms; buffalo
ture that the northern division of this brave and warlike people were the Horse Indians of La Vérendrye; though an Indian tradi. tion, unless backed by well-established facts, can never be accepted as substantial evidence.
1 A similar phenomenon occurs farther west on the face of the perpendicular bluffs that, in one place, border the valley of the river Rosebud.
tramped by in ponderous columns, or dotted the swells of the distant prairie with their grazing thousands; antelope approached, with the curiosity of their species, to gaze at the passing horsemen, then fled like the wind; and as they neared the broken uplands towards the Yellowstone, they saw troops of elk and flocks of mountain-sheep. Sometimes, for miles together, the dry plain was studded thick with the earthen mounds that marked the burrows of the curious marmots, called prairie-dogs, from their squeaking bark. Wolves, white and gray, howled about the camp at night, and their cousin, the coyote, seated in the dusk of evening upright on the grass, with nose turned to the sky, saluted them with a complication of yelpings, as if a score of petulant voices were pouring together from the throat of one small beast.
On the eleventh of August, after a march of about three weeks, the brothers reached a hill, or group of hills, apparently west of the Little Missouri, and perhaps a part of the Powder River Range. It was here that they hoped to find the Horse Indians, but nobody was to be seen. Arming themselves with patience, they built a hut, made fires to attract by the smoke any Indians roaming near, and went every day to the tops of the hills to reconnoitre. At length, on the fourteenth of September, they descried a spire of smoke on the distant prairie.
One of their Mandan guides had left them and gone back to his village. The other, with one of the Frenchmen, went towards the smoke, and found a camp of Indians, whom the journal calls Les Beaux Hommes, and who were probably Crows, or Apsaroka, a tribe remarkable for stature and symmetry, who long claimed that region as their own. They treated the visitors well, and sent for the other Frenchmen to come to their lodges, where they were received with great rejoicing. The remaining Mandan, however, became frightened, — for the Beaux Hommes were enemies of his tribe, — and he soon followed his companion on his solitary march homeward.
The brothers remained twenty-one days in the camp of the Beaux Hommes, much perplexed for want of an interpreter. The tribes of the plains have in common a system of signs by which they communicate with each other, and it is likely that the brothers had learned it from the Sioux or Assiniboins, with whom they had been in familiar intercourse. By this or some other means they made their hosts understand that they wished to find the Horse Indians; and the Beaux Hommes, being soothed by presents, offered some of their young men as guides. They set out on the ninth of October, following a south-southwest course. 1
In two days they met a band of Indians, called by
1 Journal du Voyage fait par le Chevalier de la Vérendrye en 1742. The copy before me is from the original in the Dépôt des Cartes de la Marine. A duplicate, in the Archives des Affaires Etrangères, is printed by Margry. It gives the above date as November 9 instead of October 9. The context shows the letter to be correct.
them the Little Foxes, and on the fifteenth and seventeenth two villages of another unrecognizable horde, named Pioya. From La Vérendrye's time to our own, this name “villages" has always been given to the encampments of the wandering people of the plains. All these nomadic communities joined them, and they moved together southward, till they reached at last the lodges of the long-sought Horse Indians. They found them in the extremity of distress and terror. Their camp resounded with howls and wailings; and not without cause, for the Snakes, or Shoshones, - a formidable people living farther westward, — had lately destroyed most of their tribe. The Snakes were the terror of that country. The brothers were told that the year before they had destroyed seventeen villages, killing the warriors and old women, and carrying off the young women and children as slaves.
None of the Horse Indians had ever seen the Pacific; but they knew a people called Gens de l'Arc, or Bow Indians, who, as they said, had traded not far from it. To the Bow Indians, therefore, the brothers resolved to go, and by dint of gifts and promises they persuaded their hosts to show them the way. After marching southwestward for several days, they saw the distant prairie covered with the pointed buffalo-skin lodges of a great Indian camp. It was that of the Bow Indians, who may have been one of the bands of the western Sioux, — the predominant race in this region. Few or none of them
could ever have seen a white man, and we may imagine their amazement at the arrival of the strangers, who, followed by staring crowds, were conducted to the lodge of the chief. “Thus far,” says La Vérendrye, "we had been well received in all the villages we had passed; but this was nothing compared with the courteous manners of the great chief of the Bow Indians, who, unlike the others, was not selfinterested in the least, and who took excellent care of everything belonging to us."
The first inquiry of the travellers was for the Pacific; but neither the chief nor his tribesmen knew anything of it, except what they had heard from Snake prisoners taken in war. The Frenchmen were surprised at the extent of the camp, which consisted of many separate bands. The chief explained that they had been summoned from far and near for a grand war-party against that common foe of all, — the Snakes.In fact, the camp resounded with warsongs and war-dances. “Come with us,” said their host; “we are going towards the mountains, where you can see the great water that you are looking for.”
At length the camp broke up. The squaws took down the lodges, and the march began over prairies
1 The enmity between the Sioux and the Snakes lasted to our own time. When the writer lived among the western Sioux, one of their chiefs organized a war-party against the Snakes, and nu. merous bands came to join the expedition from a distance in some cases of three hundred miles. Quarrels broke out among them and the scheme was ruined.