Pictures and Illustrations.
Various letters, etc., describing the character and present condition of the Sioux, Potawatomi, and Winnebago tribes; written for this work by missionaries and others who know these peoples well.
From a mass of correspondence incident to the preparation of the present work, the editor has selected the following extracts from letters, etc., written by persons who know from actual observation and experience the facts regarding what they state, and who are reliable and competent observers. Rev. Henry I. Westropp is a Jesuit missionary among the (Oglala) Sioux at Pine Ridge Agency, S. Dak. Franklin W. Calkins is the author of various books and magazine stories of Indian and frontier life; he has seen much of the Indians, and at one time lived among some of the Sioux and was adopted into their tribe. Rev. William Metzdorf (a secular priest), of St. Francis, Wis., was formerly a missionary among the Potawatomi of Kansas. Rev. J. Stucki is a Protestant missionary among the Winnebago of Wisconsin, at Black River Falls, Wis.; and Thomas R. Roddy is (as mentioned on page 281). These letters are used here, to give some idea of the character and present condition or status of the above tribes. -- ED.
The Sioux have always been a religious-minded people, and it seems that even before the advent of the white men they believed in one God, whom they called the "Great Holy One" -- great, as compared to a numerous band of other "holy ones" that they had. With such fruitful soil to work in, it was easy for the Christian missionary to sow the seed of the gospel. Their ideas of morality had always been strict, and these ideas still remain today. The Indian maidens are exceedingly bashful; they will run at the approach of a stranger, or, if that is impossible, hide their faces in their shawls; they dare not speak to any one in public, and at times refuse to answer even necessary questions. None of the Indians, as a rule, manifest their feelings in the way that white people do. Usually the Indian does not thank you for any benefit; he cannot blush, or if he does no one can see it; his code of honor is the contrary of the white man's, and his etiquette is very simple. This has led many to believe that he is taciturn, impassive, and unemotional;
285and yet nothing is more false. Conversation, social dinners, and smokes are the Indian's life. Two never talk at once; each one has his turn. Their inclination to curiosity may be estimated by the fact that they will recognize any one passing their house, a mile away, and perhaps tell him a year afterward what kind of a horse he was riding -- something that they certainly could not do unless they were accustomed to scrutinize everything most curiously. When any one of their kindred is sick, they must travel miles and miles to show their sympathy; and if he dies, this event (as also his burial) is the occasion for all kinds of expressions of their sympathy and regret. To indicate this, they often cut their hair and dress in black for a year or more. Often they give away, at the death of a dear relative, all they possess -- calico, food, blankets, ponies; and even the house is torn down. This idea of giving away everything, of doing "the big thing," is doubtless a beautiful trait, but it prevents progress. On the occasion of an Omaha dance or a Fourth of July celebration, the generous Sioux will stand up and give away anything and everything. An Indian can exercise no self-control in this respect; if he feels sad, he would give away the globe, if he owned it. In all his dealings he presents the figure of a grown-up child; and yet there is scarcely a white man who will not cheat this child wherever he can. It is a mistaken policy to treat them as grown-up persons. They have land, cattle, and everything imaginable issued to them; but as long as there is not an overseer with them to hold them down, and teach them how to use the land and implements they get, these are useless. Like a set of boys, when tired of work they run off and play; they cast everything aside, cattle, family, and all; they join a Buffalo Bill show, go off to another tribe on a visit, and so on. If one man gets a good start, there will be so many visitors around that he is scarcely to be envied. They are great visitors; that is their principal occupation. Their horses are run down to skin and bone, their places neglected, and everything thrown to the wind, so that they may go and visit their relatives, or other tribes. The weekly dance, the semi-monthly trip for rations, and trips to the store and the railroad, leave them but little remaining time for work. Under these circumstances, acquiring wealth or even supporting themselves is out of the question. Their miserable huts are hotbeds of disease; dirty clothes and blankets, ditto. Food of all and any kind, or none at all; carelessness in wet and cold seasons; lack of knowledge how to take care of themselves; lack of medical attendance -- all these are working frightful havoc among them. Although
286they are scattered over so immense a territory, the missionary is doing what he can to teach them, and urging them to work and stay at home. He helps them out of his own pocketbook, tries to secure by foresight their seed in time, and procures for them the means to aid themselves; but this work is nothing to what it could be, since we so greatly lack the necessary means, ourselves living on charity. There is no reason why this great and noble tribe should not be saved, if we had the means. The missionary has great influence over them, and so has the religion which they embrace. The tribe ought to double its numbers every few years, for their fertility is great. The number of twins born among them surpasses belief, and every Indian woman gives birth to eight or ten children. Where are they? you ask; go find them in the graveyard.
There seems to be an impression in many quarters that the Indian is a liar and a thief; but nothing is farther from the truth. Indians are, like children, very unreliable, and I never take them too seriously. They are liable to say anything that comes into their heads, and their language is full of exaggerations. If they mean to say that a man laughed, or was frightened, or hungry, they will say that he died of laughter, or fright, or hunger. Burglary is unknown among them. When one of them leaves his tent, he puts a stick of wood in front of the flap, and no one will enter while he is gone. Knocking a man on the head for the sake of his money is unknown. If the Indian steals from the white man, he is practically taking back what belongs to him; and if, when at times he feels the gnawing pangs of hunger, he goes out and kills whatever cattle he may find, what wonder is it? Wilful murder is also very, very uncommon; and when Indians are brought before the courts their troubles are usually caused by drink, the worst enemy of these people. Drink is certainly the king of all the evils existing out here. The Indian will pawn his last shirt for a drink of "holy water," as he calls it. The Indians here (at Pine Ridge) being far removed from the railroad, liquor has not wrought such ravages here as among some other tribes; but unless the government takes strong measures against whisky -- sellers the evil will be the same here as on other reservations -- for the Indians are nothing else but children, and cannot resist a seducer. -- REVEREND HENRY I. WESTROPP, S. J., Pine Ridge, S. Dak.
You will find in my latest book, The Wooing of Tokala, a clear statement of my impressions regarding Indian character. Although
287this book is in the form of a novel, or story, it is primarily expository. In its dealings with Siouan sociology and, I may boldly add, psychology, it is endorsed by all educated Sioux, and by all its readers who have known the Sioux tongue and tribal life. It is in fact an intimate study of the Indians at first hand, and in it I have given conscientiously my best studies of the Dakota people. In the character of Tokala may be seen the chaste Sioux maiden -- not at her best, because I haven't the ability to present her at her best; nor do I know of any one who is able to set forth fully the subtle nuances of Indian character. But I have in that book dealt as amply as I could with the moral character of the Dakota. Their standards of morality are very high, and their children are trained in accordance with these. When I lived among them there were only a very few disorderly or bad characters in the entire tribe; and these were regarded in precisely the same light as such persons are in any moral and well-regulated community of white people. -- FRANKLIN WELLES CALKINS, Maine, Minn.
Out on the bare prairies of Kansas I lived with the Pottawatomi Indians for four years, and became as one of their tribe; and what I here relate is based mostly on my own observations, or on traditions preserved in the tribe and told to me by the Indians. When the Pottawatomis first came into contact with the whites they occupied lands in southern Michigan and Wisconsin; about the time of the Revolutionary War they gradually left Michigan entirely and settled on their Wisconsin lands. About 1850 most of them went across the Mississippi, following the trail of the buffalo, and dispersed over the great western plains; a smaller number remained in the Wisconsin woods. Later, the government gave those of the plains a reservation on the Kansas River; but part of these lands were sold, and now the remnant of the tribe, about 1,200 in number, are living on their reservation in the northeastern corner of Kansas -- besides a band who settled on the Pottawatomie reservation in Oklahoma, and those who now live on reservations in the northern part of Wisconsin. At times the latter Indians receive visits from their tribesmen in the south, who like to revisit their old Wisconsin home, which some of them still remember.
Their language is very like that of the Ojibwa, the Ottawas, and the Kickapoos; and its soft and harmonious, but brief and clear-cut, sounds tell us that we are dealing with a race of fine feeling, and manly but peaceable character. In many respects it is a beautiful language;
288it is the very embodiment of system and regularity, and is very euphonic, with no harsh, grating sounds. The general rule is, that after each consonant a vowel follows; and when two or more consonants meet they readily combine and flow together. It is a language of verbs, almost four-fifths of its words being of that class; and it abounds in inflections, every phase of being, thought, or action being expressed by some termination. In it the letters n, f, l, r, v, x, y, z are lacking, except in words of foreign origin; and every written letter is pronounced. There are nine conjugations in this language, and each one can be used affirmatively, negatively, and dubitatively; moreover, a verb can be used to express any phase of thought. There is to-day a considerable literature in the Ojibwa language, including even a newspaper, the Anishinabe Enamiad (I.e., The Catholic Indian), which is published weekly by the missionaries in Harbor Springs, Mich., and is read by many of the Pottawatomis. I began the preparation of a Pottawatomi grammar, the first attempt at such a book (and in their dialect nothing has yet been published except a prayer-book); but I was called to another field, and did not finish it.
The idea that some people have of these Indians, that they are wild, cruel savages, or a race who can not be civilized, is entirely wrong and false. On the contrary, we find that with their bad habits -- which I am sorry to say were taught to them mostly by white men -- they have many very good qualities. If they are not quite as friendly toward the whites as we could wish, we must attribute this to the fact that they have not been treated right by the whites. The side of their life that I most admire is the quiet and peaceful family life. They very seldom quarrel in their homes, and the women do their work quietly and take care of their children, whom they love with greater affection than do many of the white women. I have never seen an Indian cruel to his children, and their patience with the faults of the children is astonishing. The curse of divorce is hardly known among them; they really believe in the indissolubility of the marriage bond, and, if the married pair have differences and become angered at each other, one of the two goes to stay with some neighbor until the other asks him or her to return and promises to be good again.
They dislike water, even for mere hygienic purposes, and their passion for strong drink has become proverbial; but they know their weakness, and I had in my congregation a great many Indians who belonged to the Temperance League and never touched a drop of any intoxicant. Their dislike for hard work is a characteristic which they Pechecho (Potawattomi)
291have in common with many other races. But a peculiar feature which I often notice is hard to explain: the Indian man seems to have an abhorrence for sickness. If a member of his family is sick he usually leaves the house, goes to stay with some neighbor, and sends the neighbor's wife to his home to take care of his sick wife or child. Thus I often arrived at a sick- bed and found the poor family alone, because the neighbor had not yet come.
A very large part of the Pottawatomis are still heathens, and stick to their old religion with the same tenacity which the Christian converts show in their new faith. The former are less civilized, and never use the English language in their conversation, even when they are able to speak it. Naturally they sometimes show that they consider the Christians as renegades, and too great friends of the white men, and will not take part in any of their doings unless the whole tribe is interested in it. They believe in a Supreme Being, Kitchi Manito, the creator and benefactor of all mankind; they honor and adore him in the sun, and therefore they often call him Kisis, which means "the sun," or "month." They worship this God through their so-called dances, which are really religious ceremonies. Especially among this tribe, there are three great dances, each one lasting from two to three weeks: the first one, called the "green bean dance," is celebrated early in the summer, when the bean, one of their staple products, is ready for the table. The second, the most elaborate of all, the "green corn dance,"
292They consider their dancing-ground a sacred place. For their great dances invitations are sent out to their relatives and to neighboring tribes; and thus many strangers are present on those occasions, as well as Pottawatomis from Wisconsin -- who go to attend the ceremonies and also to draw money due them on allotments which they had received on the Kansas reservation. Catholics do not usually take part in these dances, except that some of the young fellows are drawn in when they hear the drums, and finally join in the dancing. These dancing feasts also include speeches, singing, and smoking -- the latter being done with one pipe by perhaps a hundred persons; to this practice may be traced the spread of some diseases among them. They do not like to have their pictures taken, and any attempts to photograph them at these ceremonies have usually ended in the destruction of the camera. In the center of the dancing-ground is a large red cross, at the foot of which the eatables are deposited when they have their dinner. This cross is a peculiar feature in the Indian camps. I often inquired for its meaning, but could get no further information than that this custom was as old as the Indians. I think, however, that it is an old tradition of the Christian instruction which they received from the first missionaries among them, which they did not fully understand and have adopted into their ceremonial. At these feasts they thank the sun for the crops which he has given them, and the warm weather which has enabled these to grow, and they praise Kitchi Manito. On the last day they have a special ceremony over the sacred dog, which has been killed and cooked. Its skull is placed before the cross, and the meat is distributed among the dancers; singing their songs loudly, they dance around the skull, and finally jump over it. On one occasion, toward the end of the ceremony I saw an Indian step into the middle of the ring, and confess a crime which he had committed and for which the tribe had disowned him. He received pardon from the chief, and as a sign of reconciliation he was given a cup of milk by the chief, after which they crossed the pipes of peace. Outside of their dances the non-Christian Indians show hardly any sign of religion, except at their funerals. They place their dead in a sitting posture above the ground, the back of the corpse leaning against a stone or a tree. Others deposit their dead in hollow trees, which they cut off at the top, lowering the body into this hollow amidst plaintive songs and the monotonous beating of drums. I have seen such hollow trees that were actually filled with skeletons from top to bottom. Generally the body is only partly covered with logs or stones or earth.
293They then tie a dog near the grave, to keep watch over it. If he is able to get loose before he starves to death, and goes home, it is considered a good omen, a sign that the deceased has arrived happily at the great hunting-grounds, and does not need the dog any more. Often, in passing by new graves, I made both dog and people happy, by cutting the rope.
No orphan asylums are needed among these people. If a mother loses one of her children she tries to soothe her sorrow by adopting an orphan or waif of about the same age; and all such children are well cared for. Such an adoption is a great feast for the tribe, the central figure being the adopted child; it is well dressed, and, according to the wealth of the new mother, receives many and fine presents. I always enjoyed these occasions, on account of the friendly and kind spirit which I always observed, and with which they treated me.
The Christians in this tribe were converted by the renowned Jesuit, Father Galligan, about fifty years ago; and although after his death they were left entirely to themselves, because no priest spoke their language, they adhered loyally to their adopted faith. Once or twice a week, throughout the long period of twenty-five years, groups of them met together, and said their prayers in common, and listened to the teaching of some of the older and better-instructed men. Their services consisted in reciting prayers and especially in singing the old religious songs, which had been translated for them into their language by Father Galligan and Bishop Baraga;
294day is for them a kind of feast day. Peace, unity, and a spirit of good-fellowship prevail among them, and recall to us the love-feasts of the first Christians.
Among these Pottawatomis are persons, both of pure and of mixed blood, who are some of my best friends, and their friendship I appreciate as much as that of white people; and they are in every respect equal to our white men and women. Among them is the reverend Father Negauquetl, a full-blood Indian; he pursued his studies in the Sacred Heart College in Oklahoma and later at the Propaganda in Rome, where he was ordained a priest in 1905; and he is now working among his own people and the whites in the Indian Territory. He is the first Catholic priest of his race, and speaks both English and Italian perfectly, besides the different Indian dialects. Another is a Miss Blandin (now Mrs. Graham), the daughter of an English father and a full-blooded Indian mother; she is highly accomplished, an excellent musician, and a graduate from the University of Holton, Kans. Many of these Indians are highly esteemed by their white neighbors, and move in the best society. Along the two Soldier Creeks may be seen beautiful residences, with large barns, the property of wealthy Indians. The finest cattle and horses are shipped to market by them, and the checks that they sign are honored at any bank in Kansas. They dress in style and good taste, and they and their families appear in citizen clothes; they speak the English language well, and are in every respect true Americans. There is another but poorer class of Christians on that reservation who have no land of their own, and, not being able to acquire any land on the reservation, they rent land from other Indians. These are thrifty farmers, save their money, and are the best of Catholics. I wish that I could speak as highly of those who are non-Christians; their progress in civilization is slow, and most of them, at least the women, do not know the English language at all. They have struck a compromise in clothing, and appear only partly in citizen's dress; clinging to the blanket as if it were a part of their religion. Many years will be needed to civilize them fully, and it is to be feared that not many of them will be left for that; for every year diseases, especially consumption, erysipelas, and smallpox, carry many of them to the grave. The government makes great efforts to be just to the Indians, but even this fact is, I think, an explanation of their slow advance. Every Pottawatomi man, woman, and child receives from the government one hundred and sixty acres of land, and sometimes much more; as this is good hay land, it is rented, through the O-Chek-Ka (Winnebago)
297agent, for two dollars an acre, to white people, for cutting the hay. This secures to an Indian family -- for instance, the father and mother, and five children -- an income of about two thousand dollars, which is sufficient for them to live on without doing a stroke of work. If the Indian does not work, we cannot expect him to become a useful citizen; he needs both a teacher and a taskmaster, who will teach him at once the principles of Christianity and the love of labor, and show him that it is a blessing. Injustice, bloody persecutions, and wars of extermination did much to make the Indian that crafty and bloodthirsty savage whom we so often meet in story and history; but such is not his real nature. And now when truthful and sympathetic historians are looking up the records of the Indians, and studying their history, character, customs, and beliefs, we must deeply regret that in the past they were not given more sympathy and greater opportunities, and that the unfortunate conditions which tend to cause their extermination still continue. -- Rev. WILLIAM METZDORF, St. Francis, Wis. (from an unpublished lecture given by him in Milwaukee, Jan. 21, 1907).
As a rule, these Indians are very sociable among themselves, and with outsiders whom they have proved to be their friends. Toward strangers they are very reserved, and this may especially be said of the women. Very seldom a family lives alone; usually two or more families live close together. They are peaceable except when under the influence of liquor. They are hospitable even to excess. As a rule, diligence and cleanliness are not their strongest points; but their way of living (in tents), and their land being unfit for cultivation, will to some extent account for both. Their morals are not all one could wish, especially among the younger generation. "Firewater" is the great enemy of these Indians, and there are always unscrupulous whites who for the sake of gain will furnish it to them. Some of the Indians are bad, but there are also some who are highly deserving of respect, who might be pointed out as examples for others to follow. The greatest drawback to the elevation of these people is the poor soil on which they are located; they can not make their living on it, and are consequently compelled to scatter in all directions, in order to seek work by which to make a living; and thus they often come into contact with a class of whites whose influence is anything but edifying. The "new religion" (the use of the "mescal button") when first brought to these Indians found quite a number of adherents; but it
298seems to have lost ground gradually, and many of the Indians were very much opposed to it. -- REV. J. STUCKI, Black River Falls, Wis.
The Wisconsin Winnebagoes have very poor sandy lands, and are not far advanced in farming, especially as they receive but little encouragement from the government or its employees. The Winnebagoes are naturally bright, intelligent people, more so than the average of Indian tribes; they are more intelligent than the ordinary white people, or the corn-eating natives of Nebraska. Those who live in Wisconsin earn their living by hunting and trapping, berry-picking, gathering ginseng, husking corn, digging potatoes, cutting wood, etc. Under the present methods, they waste considerable time waiting for the payment of the government annuities. I look for great advancement among the several tribes when the trust funds are paid, and the Indians are made to mingle more with the whites, and go out into the world to do the best they can; they will then reach the top of the ladder. Good education is all right for them if only they have something to do when their school days are over; but at the present day there is nothing for them except to go back to the wigwam. A Winnebago from Nebraska has recently won high honors in oratory at Yale University. In regard to the "mescal eating" among the Winnebagoes, those in Nebraska sent (in the summer of 1908) a delegation of about one hundred persons to Wisconsin, to introduce the new religion among their brothers there. They held three or four meetings, and made fifteen or twenty converts; but there was so much opposition to the movement that most persons held back from joining it. -- THOMAS R. RODDY, Black River Falls, Wis.