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
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
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.
This site includes some historical
materials that may imply negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language
of a particular period or place. These items are presented as part of the
historical record and should not be interpreted to mean that the WebMasters in
any way endorse the stereotypes implied.
Personal Memoirs of a Residence of Thirty Years with the
Indian Tribes on the American Frontiers, 1851
Previous | Thirty
Years with the Indians