August 30, 1833
30 August: Very hot early; at 7:30, 77°F [20°C]. The expedition to the Kutnehäs, or Kootenais, left at 7:30. It consisted of Doucette [and] Isidor Sandoval (both speak the Blackfoot language), in addition to Carpentier, Desnoyers, Crouteau, Marchand, Isidor’s Piegan wife, and two Kootenai Indians, as well as nine packhorses with goods and bedding. For about a day or two they will follow the Teton River and then go straight up toward the mountains in a northerly direction. If the Kootenais are in their usual territory, [the expedition] can get there in twelve days, but perhaps will have to search for [the Kootenais]. [The leaders of the expedition] believe they will not return until winter. They were also given instructions to bring back pelts of the white mountain goat.
Mr. Mitchell let it be known to the Piegans at their campsite that they should move close to the fort if trade was to begin. They are expected today or tomorrow. The chiefs will then make their ceremonial entry and receive whiskey. Last year, when the entire Blackfoot nation was assembled here, there were only chiefs in the fort. Other Indians were not allowed in at all, but there were fifty-four [chiefs] altogether. At nine o’ clock I went out of the fort and saw the Piegans in large number approach across the prairie. This morning only two [tipis] were still standing by the fort. Even the severely wounded Natáh-Otann had been taken away. Before the fort we saw a large number of Indians riding up who gazed at us in an odd way; they had not been here before.
Toward noon very many Indians arrived on horseback, and many [tipis] were pitched. Several of their principal men came into the fort and asked when they could have whiskey. Mr. Mitchell was indisposed [and so] told them he could not begin trading today; they would not be admitted until tomorrow. Various rumors were circulating among them; therefore, they came here to ascertain the truth and Mr. Mitchell’s intentions.[Page 2:249] All the Indians approached in beautiful attire. Several of them quickly went out to inform their people of the true state of affairs. Today only a few Indians were allowed into the fort, yet there were always ten to twelve inside; and outside at the gate, there was always a mob of Indians. They annoyed us not a little. Everyone wanted to smoke, and they held out their pipes to anyone nearby to have their pipes lighted. Even though the kitchen was quite close, no one went in himself for fire. Now nobody was willing to go outside the fort, because one could not trust the young Indians. Someone could easily be insulted.
Dreidoppel had made an excursion and had shot several blackbirds (Quiscalus versicolor) as well as the goldwing (Picus auratus), all of them now molting. Here on the upper Missouri, this woodpecker, as it seems, has reddish orange parts, where the same bird in the United States is yellow—whether species, variety, or young specimen, I cannot yet decide. Dreidoppel had gone down along the river. Nothing interesting had happened to him; he had not met any Indians at all.
In the afternoon Mr. Bodmer drew several Indians, including an old man with a very aquiline nose, who wore a round felt hat with colorful plumes on his head. They had him remove this hat, and a superb likeness was drawn. His name was HomachséhKakatóhs (la Grande Étoile) [Big Star]. M44Big Star, a Piegan. [marginal note] When he was drawn and had received some tobacco, he stood up, stationed himself in the courtyard of the fort, and with nobility and dignity delivered a long speech, wherein, among other things, he stated that the chief from down below (Mr. Mc Kenzie) had his children [here] and recommended that [the traders] should now treat them well, bring them good meat, so that they would not cry but be happy, so that they would have a full belly, etc.
At four o’ clock a black thunderstorm arose in the southwest; there was already thunder in the distance. The pointed conical dome on the right bank above the fort was brightly lighted by the sun and looked splendid against the dark, stormy sky, as [did] the hills opposite. The thunder came closer; suddenly, some rain [and a] severe high wind that blew the sand into the air. The thunderstorm soon passed, and the ground was scarcely moistened. The quadrangle of the fort had been swept clean for the following day; the cannon stood ready for the reception of the chiefs, and everyone had fled into the buildings. This provided the bears an inducement for very amusing games. They romped about in the most comical fashion and, when they were quite breathless, lay flat on their bellies and turned their hind paws upward. The press of the Indians against the fort’s gate was strong. One often had to struggle to keep them back, but today just a very few were let in.
Toward evening a few chiefs came into the fort, including old Middle Bull and also the Blackfoot Ihkas-kinne. Several of them smoked at our place. The chiefs went to Mr. Mitchell; seven or eight principal men arrived and received whiskey. People talked about this and that. Finally, in a rather long speech, Ihkas-kinne, with a beautiful, manly expression, said that the French must not have a good heart for them. Otherwise they would surely have given the Piegans, or at least the chiefs, something to drink on the evening of the battle, although he was not speaking for himself at all. They had come into the fort hungry and thirsty, and this was also how they left again, because they were still exhausted and had fought together for the whites. He [said he] did not have anything here to trade. He had just returned from an expedition against the Crows, where they had lost two men. Without shoes, and with great exertion and deprivation, they had had to cross vast stretches of prairie. Their feet were sore, but he had nevertheless taken part in the battle, and nobody had received anything. Mr. Mitchell responded that tomorrow he would give the chiefs whiskey. He felt [that] he had done enough, since he had distributed so much powder and bullets and had taken the harried people into the fort. Although it was true that the whites owned many medicines that they could use for the ruin of the Indians, this [had] never entered his mind. But he wanted to show them one of these [powers]: he [would have] a cannon fired in the fort; let them pay heed. Early tomorrow the flag [would] be raised after breakfast time.[Page 2:250] Then a cannon shot [would] be the signal that they could make their entry.
One of the chiefs had remarked earlier [that] if all of them came in their best attire, why did the chiefs of the whites not also appear in their finery? [The Indians] had not seen [the whites’] fine clothes at all. When the chiefs had left, the fort was cleaned from the stay of Indians, and Mr. Mitchell got several rockets ready. He ordered a cannon and then a rocket fired. This was repeated once, and by chance the rockets rose very nicely. The jubilation in the Indian camp was great. They had already danced and sung to the beat of the drum in front of the fort. Now they shouted with joy and withdrew to their [tipis]. The evening was very bright from the light of the moon, calm and beautiful.