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disgust, and so strong was the rivalry that it often seemed as if blood must flow to settle the disputes. Thirty-six years ago the Nebraska Indian was a much more primitive creature than now; his contact with the Mi-e-tonga, other than French traders, had been limited. He had never seen so much money in the world before, he had never had so much as his share of the forty thousand dollars amounted to, in all his long or short life. Surrounded by traders, whose tents glittered with the things he had not, but wanted, and thought he needed, do you wonder that in three days his money was all gone, and he again lived on credit until next payment? Shemokeman of the present day are frequently no wiser. For three days and nights we never took our clothes off nor slept, except standing cat-naps by turns, and at the end of that time there was but little money left among the Omahas, and but few goods on the shelves of the traders. Blankets, strouding for petticoats, butcher knives, guns, powder, lead, sugar, coffee, tabac, hatchets, beads, looking glasses, flints, paints for the person or to color robes, vermillion being the favorite, flour and bacon, were among the principal articles sold. As a curiosity I mention that at that time the Indians were perfectly crazy for fresh beef, "tesca;" the outside traders always brought in a lot of cattle on the hoof, some tough ones too, but they were all sold by the time payment was over, and the Indians literally gorged themselves on it. Fresh venison was nowhere by the side of white man's beef. Another fallacy: learned men tell us salt is essential to human health and happiness; it is a fact, these Indians would not eat salt, they would spew and sputter and cry “Peacha, peacha, scha-ha!" (bad, very bad), if by chance they got any in their mouths.
During payment time these traders, and everybody else about the place were wide awake and sober as a judge; but after it was all over, the Indians gone back to their reserve, the money disposed of, they were apt to take a big spree to make up for the days and nights of work and anxiety. One of their frolics was like this: Sarpy, Lambert, and a Council Bluffs trader stripped to the buff, took a bolt of calico each from the store, and winding it around them like a breech cloth, Indian fashion, they mounted their ponies, with fifteen or twenty yards of calico streaming behind for a banner, and with a new broom for a gun, they galloped the town over, took a drink at the one saloon, and ran races until the calico gave out, from the horses stepping on it and contact with the weeds. There has been a great change amongst the Indians since then in dress. The males generally wore a breech cloth and blanket in summer, or a buffalo robe in winter, confined by a belt or cord at the waist. When this was dropped off the shoulders to use the arms, they were naked from the waist up--moccasins and leggings, of course. The squaws mostly wore a short calico shirt, and a stroud, that is, a narrow, straight petticoat, short, of a heavy, very wearable, blue or red cloth, with a bright selvedge around it, made expressly for the Indian trade, and at present practically out of market. Now nearly all the tribe are dressed in civilized fashion, and would feel badly if clothed otherwise. Language, too, has changed; I have used two words above for white man; Mietonga , big, or long knife, from the swords of the officers, the Indians first saw; and Shemokeman, white, or pale face; the first was used as much as, if not more than, the last in 1857, while probably no Omaha would speak of a white man as Mietonga to-day. This spelling is my own. Every now and then Congressman Dorsey or some other, would send me
a big book from Washington, with Indian history in, and the spelling is fearfully and wonderfully put together. No human tongue can pronounce it “thata-way,” not even Garner's anthropoids. The Indian for pony is Shonga-I spell it S-h-o-n-g-a. What is the use of putting in consonants like an ex-Secretary of State until the word looks like this: T-z-s-c-h-o-n-g-a-a-h.
When so much is said about what is money, and its
real value, it seems queer to me to look back and think that I took part in such a trade by barter, for in the interval between payments a large part of our business was in furs, robes and skins. We got a great many buffalo robes, yet, and beaver, mink, otter, fox, and now and then a bear skin or a silver grey wolf. Antelope, deer and elk skins were plenty, and each had its barter price in flour, sugar, coffee, meat or what Mr. Indian wanted. We verified the old saying that a "pint's a pound the world round,” for the trade price of many skins was a pint tin cup full of such and such goods. Towards spring half the place would be piled to the ceiling with peltries, and you could smell that old log cabin for miles down the bottom, when the door was open and the wind right.. Nice place to sleep, eh? but that is nothing when you get used to it.
Among other curious incidents that summer I took part in an Indian funeral; one of the chiefs died, and it seems he had made Decatur promise to bury him just like a white man, and the old Commodore tried his best as you will see. A pine coffin was made by the town carpenter, stained black and put in a lumber wagon. Several of us went along to see how things would go, and to make it look like a white man's procession. We drove up on the reserve, and found the "tepee' where the chief lay, easily enough by the howling, and entered. Evidently there was a division in the family about the manner of celebrating the obsequies; after the ground was strewn with gutterals, ugh's, and the Commodore had emphasized his opinion with words, that are in the prayer-book, but not in the way he used them, they motioned us to go ahead. We laid the corpse in the coffin face up, but that wouldn't do; the squaw's turned him over face down. We tried to nail the lid on, and that wouldn't do. We picked it
up and carried it to the grave as much like white men as we could. The grave was dug down about three feet, much wider than the coffin, then an offset, and a place the size of the coffin was dug some three feet deeper. We lowered the body, the coffin still open; and his family insisted on putting in a number of his personal belongings on top and about the body. It is so many years ago I will not attempt to give them accurately, but a bow and arrows, food, tobacco, a knife, and a medicine bag were among the lot. The lid would not go down, of course, and was left on top of the debris, and some dirt thrown over it. Decatur then read the Episcopal burial service, and we all joined in when possible. This part seemed to please the Indians very much. They afterwards set up pieces of wood like rasters from the offset, about three feet above the ground to the point, and then covered that with brush and dirt, making a mound that can be seen a long way off. Much might be and has been written of the American Indian, of his council fires, his medicine dances, etc., and much of it latterly is trash. A man or woman comes out here from Washington or the east, stays a summer on a reservation, goes back and writes a book on the Indians, a good deal of which is utterly worthless as history. It is harder every day to write intelligently of the real Indian.. There is so much that is veneered on to him, now, by residence with the white man that the original timber is almost unrecognizable. I shall never regret that I had the chance to see and associate with this race while they were much nearer real aborigines than at present. The human mind works pretty much the same way in the savage and the civilized; the motives are very similar the world over. You would hardly find an Omaha today that would stand in front of the agent or interpreter, and beat his breasts and say, “Big Injun, me, four squaw, heap scalp, plenty horses, me chief Omaha.” And yet I have heard just that, and in a council each one would arise, walk round the circle, and recite his standing and record in the tribe. It is not the custom now, with Indians. At a white man's pow-wow here in Lincoln just after the election, I observed that our young chiefs, our Webster and our Estabrook and others, did not beat their breasts; they did not walk around the circle and step before the head man; but according to a printed program they all in turn arose, bowed to the chairman, and then set forth in the best American they knew, what each one had done for his country, his city, and his tribe; and before they got through you unavoidably had the idea that they must be pretty big fellows at home. And each and every one announced in a loud voice the name of his tribe,-it was “Republican." Wherein does this differ materially in motive or machinery from an ancient wigwam conclave?
The Indians have been divided respectively into the fishing and hunting tribes and the corn or crop-growing tribes, or by another authority the canoe and boat Indians of the east, and the horse or riding Indians of the plains. Just now when we are hearing so much of the Sandwich Islanders, their early customs and morality, it may be remembered that of all savage races, the North American Indian worshipped one great invisible God, the Great Spirit over all. He never bowed down to idols; and all history bears testimony that they, naturally were a brave and virtuous race, wherever uncorrupted by the Mietonga. For the rest, they were just like whites, some very remarkable characters, and some very worthless Indians; some exceedingly truthful, proud of their name and character, and some too mean to despise.
We trusted many for hundreds of dollars six months or a year--even after the right to go to the pay-table and collect was interdicted--and seldom was an account lost or denied. There are good Indians alive, or there were when I knew them. I hope the experiment of making them soldiers will not be abandoned without the fullest trial. Slaves you can never make of them, but soldiers you may, and it is in harmony with their race, their conditions, and former surroundings.
"HARK BACK." And now to our little colony a few moments again and I