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Exploration of the Red Cedar or Follavoine Valley of the Chippewa River

Native American Nations | Thirty Years with the Indians
 

WAR-DANCE.--This ceremony, together with what is called striking the post, was performed during our stay. The warriors, arrayed for war, danced in a circle to the music of their drum and rattles. After making a fixed number of revolutions, they stopped simultaneously and uttered the sharp war yell. A man then stepped out, and, raising his club and striking a pole in the centre, related a personal exploit in war. The dance was then resumed, and terminated in like manner by yells, when another warrior related his exploits. This was repeated as long as there were exploits to tell. One of the warriors had seven feathers in his head, denoting that he had marched seven times against the enemy. Another had two. One of the young men asked for Lieut. Clary's sword, and danced with it in the circle.

An old woman, sitting in a ring of women on the left, when the dancing and drumming had reached its height, could not restrain her feelings. She rose up, and, seizing a war-club which one of the young men gallantly offered, joined the dance. As soon as they paused, and gave the war-whoop, she stepped forward and shook her club towards the Sioux lines, and related that a war party of Chippewas had gone to the Warwater River, and killed a Sioux, and when they returned they threw the scalp at her feet. A very old, deaf, and gray-headed man, tottering with age, also stepped out to tell the exploits of his youth, on the war path.

Among the dancers, I noticed a man with a British medal. It was the medal of the late Chief Peesh-a-Peevely, and had probably been given him while the British held the supremacy in the country. I explained to him that it, was a symbol of nationality, which it was now improper to display as such. That I would recognize the personal authority of it, by exchanging for it an American silver medal of equal size.

ORNITHOLOGY.--While at Rice Lake, I heard, for the first time, the meadow-lark, and should judge it a favorite place for birds obtaining their food. The thirteen striped squirrel is also common. A quantity of the fresh-water shells of the lake were, at my request, brought in by the Indian girls. There was very little variety. Most of them were unios of a small size.

I found the entire population to be one hundred and forty-two souls, of whom eleven were absent.

One of the last acts of Neenaba was to present a pipe and speech, to be forwarded to the President, to request him to use his power to prevent the Sioux from crossing the lines. Having now finished repairing my canoes, I embarked on the ninth, at three o'clock in the afternoon, and went down the river four hours and a half, probably about eighteen miles, and encamped. Encountered four Indians, from whom we obtained some pieces of venison. During the night wolves set up their howls near our camp, a sure sign that we were in a deer country.

A PRAIRIE COUNTRY.--The next morning (10th Aug.) we embarked at five, and remained in our canoes till ten A.M., when we landed for breakfast. We had now entered a prairie country, of a pleasing and picturesque aspect. We observed a red deer during the morning; we passed many hunting encampments of the Indians, and the horns and bones of slaughtered deers, and other evidences of our being in a valuable game country. These signs continued and increased after breakfast. The river had now increased in volume, so as to allow a free navigation, and the men could venture to put out their strength in following down a current, always strong, and often rapid. We were passing a country of sylvan attractions, of great fertility, and abounding in deer, elk, and other animals. We also saw a mink, and a flock of brant. Mr. Clary shot a turkey-buzzard, the first intimation that we had reached within the range of that bird. As evening approached we saw a raccoon on a fallen bank. We came at nightfall to the Kakabika Falls, carried our baggage across the portage, and encamped at the western end, ready to embark in the morning, having descended the river, by estimation, seventy miles. These falls are over sandstone, a rock which has shown itself at all the rapids below Rice Lake.

SAW MILLS.--The next morning (11th) we embarked at six o'clock, and, after descending strong and rapid waters for a distance of about fifteen miles, reached the site of a saw mill. A Mr. Wallace, who with ten men was in charge of it, and was engaged in reconstructing a dam that had been carried off by the last spring freshet, represented Messrs. Rolette and Lockwood of Prairie du Chien. Another mill, he said, was constructed on a creek just below, and out of sight.

I asked Mr. Wallace where the lines between the Sioux and Chippewas crossed. He said above. He had no doubt, however, but that the land belonged to the Chippewas. He said that no Sioux had been here for seven years. At that time a mill was built here, and Sioux came and encamped at it, but they were attacked by the Chippewas and several killed, since which they have not appeared. He told us that this stream is called the FOLLEAVOINE.

The country near the mills is not, in fact, occupied by either Chippewa or Sioux, in consequence of which game is abundant on it. We saw a wolf, on turning a dense point of woods, in the morning. The animal stood a moment, and then turned and fled into the forest. After passing the mills we saw groups of two, five and four deer, and of two wolves at separate points. Mr. Johnston shot at a flight of brant, and brought down one. The exclamations, indeed, of "un loup! un chevreuil!" were continually in the men's mouths.

CHIPPEWA RIVER.--At twelve o'clock precisely we came to the confluence of this fork with the main stream. The Chippewa is a noble mass of water, flowing with a wide sweeping majesty to the Mississippi. It excites the idea of magnitude. Wide plains, and the most sylvan and picturesque hills bound the view. We abandoned our smallest canoe at this point, and, pushing into the central channel of the grand current, pursued for six hours our way to its mouth, where we encamped on a long spit of naked sand, which marked its entrance into the Mississippi.

SNAKE.--The only thing that opposed our passage was a large serpent in the centre of the channel, whose liberty being impinged, coiled himself up, and raised his head in defiance. Its colors were greenish-yellow and brownish. It appeared to be of the thickness at the maximum of a man's wrist. The bowsman struck it with a pole, not without some trepidation at his proximity to the reptile, but it made off, apparently unhurt, or not disabled.

MONT LE GARDE.--The picturesque and grass-clad elevation called Le Garde by the canoe-men, attracted our notice. It is a high hill, the top of which commands a view of the whole length of Lake Pepin, where Chippewa war parties look out for their enemies. It was from this elevation that Kewaynokwut's party spied poor Finley and his men in 1824, and there could have been no reason whatever for mistaking their character, for he had a linen tent and other unmistakeable insignia of a trader.

The Chippewa enters the Mississippi by several channels, which at this stage of the water, are formed by long sand bars, which are but a few inches above the water. The tracks of deer and elk were abundant on these bars. We had found something of this kind on a bar of the Folleavoine below the mills, where we landed to dry the doctor's herbarium and press, which had been knocked overboard in a rapid. The tracks of elk at that spot were as numerous as those of cattle in a barn yard. There are high hills on the west banks of the Mississippi opposite the entrance, and an enchanting view is had of the foot of Lake Pepin and its beautiful shores.

Deer appear to come on to these sand bars at night, to avoid the mosquitoes. Wolves follow them. We estimate our distance at forty miles, inclusive of the stop at the mill. We had the brant roasted on a stick for supper.

DESCENT OF THE MISSISSIPPI.--We embarked on our descent at four o'clock A.M. We passed three canoes of Sioux men with their families. The canoes were wooden. We stopped alongside, and gave them tobacco. The women club their hair like the Chippewas, and wear short gowns of cloth. Soon afterwards we overtook four Sioux of Wabashaw's band, in a canoe. We stopped for breakfast at nine o'clock, under a high shore on the west bank. Found fine unios of a large size, very abundant on a little sandy bay. I found the unio alatus, overtus, rugosus and gibbosus, also some anadontas. The Sioux came up, and gave us to understand that a murder had been committed by the Menomonies in the mine country. Some of my voyageurs laughed outright to hear the Sioux language spoken, the sound of its frequent palatals falling very flat on men's ears accustomed only to the Algonquin.

SIOUX VILLAGE.--About two o'clock, having taken a right-hand fork of the river, we unexpectedly came to a Sioux village, consisting of a part of Wabashaw's band, under Wah-koo-ta. Landed and found a Sioux who could speak Chippewa, and serve as interpreter. I informed them of my route and the object of my visit, and of my having communicated a message with wampum and tobacco to Wabashaw. They told us that the Menomonies had killed twenty-five Foxes at Prairie du Chien a few days ago, having first made them drunk, and then cut their throats and scalped them. We encamped, at seven o'clock in the evening, under high cliffs on the west shore, having been fifteen hours in our canoes. Found mint among the high grass, where our tent poles were put. On the next morning we set off at half-past four o'clock, and went until ten to breakfast. At a low point of land of the shore, we had a view of a red fox, who scampered away gayly. He had been probably gleaning among the shell-fish along shore.

At a subsequent point we met a boat laden with Indian goods, bound to St. Peters, and manned by Canadians. The person in charge of it informed us that it was Menomonies and not Foxes who had, to the number of twenty-six, been recently murdered.

GENERAL IMPRESSION OF THE MISSISSIPPI.--The engrossing idea, in passing down the Mississippi, is the power of its waters during the spring flood. Trees carried from above are piled on the heads of islands, and also lie, like vast stranded rocks, on its sand bars and lower shores. Generally the butt ends and roots are elevated in the air, and remain like gibbeted men by the roadside, to tell the traveler of the POWER once exerted there.

We traveled till near ten o'clock (13th) in the morning, when we reached and encamped at Prairie du Chien.


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Personal Memoirs of a Residence of Thirty Years with the Indian Tribes on the American Frontiers, 1851

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