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She is a Puller

 Native American Nations | Among the Arrapaho                    

 

“She’s a puller."
“A puller?"--inquiringly.
“Yes, a puller."
I ride on in silence, not wishing to betray undue curiosity; but presently I ask, "Friday, what is a puller?"
     "A squaw that pulls hair."
     Friday is an Arrapaho Indian. Lost when eleven years old, he was found by a party of returning emigrants, taken to St. Louis, and there educated. At twenty-one he returned to his people, over whom, by his unusual attainments and civilization, he soon exercised great influence. At fifty he had relapsed into barbarism. He had forgotten how to read and write, possessed as many squaws as fingers, and was a pander of the vilest description. His knowledge of English facilitated the practice of this vocation at the agency and military posts, and procured him employment as official interpreter, in which capacity he accompanies me. Like his cannibal yet scarcely more savage prototype, Robinson Crusoe's man, his discovery, fortunate albeit on Friday, caused him to be named after that unluckiest day of the week. The subject of our conversation is one of his numerous wives, whom a jealous disposition and irascible temper make an unruly help mate. Because of her small eyes, she is called The-one-who-sleeps.

     These arc two of my compagnous de voyage. Black Coal is chief. He is remarkably intelligent. Ordinarily he dresses in a semi-civilized garb, comprising a white shirt, a vest, and the conventional blanket and breech-clout of the Indian; but upon especial occasions these are discarded for a broadcloth suit presented him by the Secretary of the Interior when in Washington. A watch and chain, and a white felt hat, to the crown of which is attached his eagle feather, complete his attire. His hair in worn in a scalp-lock and two braids, the latter being wrapped in fur. To one these, and in convenient proximity to his nose, is attached a little buckskin. sack that exhales the pungent odor of the musk-rat. His tipi (lodge) is the largest in the village, and is adorned with embroidered bead circles, from the centers of which dangle human scalps. Black Coal says they were taken in battle from the Ute. Several years ago he surprised their principal village, which he despoiled

and burned. In commemoration of this victory he stripped and wallowed naked in the hot ashes and cinders until he was black as as coal, from which circumstance he derived his name. The third and little fingers of his right hand were shot off in the combat, and Black Coal avers that the wound was miraculously healed by this means, which at least was well adapted to hasten its cure. In camp he is usually attended by an aged and crippled Indian, who, ascending any convenient eminence, cries, out the instructions of the chief  to the village.  Meals and the hour and order of march, are thus announced.
     The squaws are first astir; and in the early morning they cut and collect huge bundles of fire-wood, which are strapped to and carried on their backs. Breakfast is soon cooked, and now the buck makes his appearance. He is a veritable monarch, although a dirty and an exceedingly ill-bred one. He will do nothing to assist his wife or wives, and those charming amenities which the very name of woman suggests to, and that are distinctive of, civilized man, rarely animate his soul.  Among the Arrapaho there is not even the semblance of a marriage ceremony. A squaw is bought, and becomes the absolute property-the slave--of her purchaser. If he tires of her, he may cast her off; if she is unfaithful, he may kill her, but oftener he cruelly disfigures her by cutting off her nose. For the squaw there is no relief.
     On the march, after breakfast, she saddles his pony, and he is away like the wind. In summer, grass, in winter, the cottonwood bough thrown across the saddle, furnishes amble food for wiry little mount. The tipi is then " struck" and packed. The poles are utilized as shafts, and for this purpose are equally divided on either side of and attached to a pony, the heavier ends dragging. Joining these, and as near the animal as practicable, is frequently constructed basket or wicker seat, upon which ride the children, perhaps an old squaw, and not infrequently a litter of puppies. If she has a nursing infant, the mother carries it in her arms or on her back. Mean while she rides one, leads several, a I drives many more ponies, that are often, unmercifully packed. When camp is reached they are immediately freed from their burdens, and herded a mile to wind ward, by which means they fed toward it, reserving the grass in the vicinity for the night.  They are wonderful little beasts, full of pluck and endurance.  The best, or properly the war ponies, are marked by ugly slits in the ear, thus enabling the owner to readily distinguish them in the dark.


Black Coal

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