September 7, 1833
7 September: In the morning at daybreak, thunder and heavy rain, which did not last long; later, warm sun. Already early they were working on the ribs of our mackinaw boat. At 7:30, 63°F [17.2°C]. Some of the men were put to work again at cutting wood with the saw.
At ten o’ clock we saw several Indians over on the high bank. They soon came down to the river, and we discovered that they were Gros Ventres des Prairies: six men, several women, boys, and girls. They announced that fifty [tipis] of their people would be arriving soon. An hour later several more of these people, whose teeth were chattering from the cold, arrived; they were, to be sure, very lightly dressed.
The weather was cool and windy, the ground wet, the sky overcast. They were working diligently on our boat; it is to be ready in a week. Meanwhile we attended to the packing of various objects we had bartered for and collected. At twelve o’ clock, 69°F [20.6°C]. Many of the recently arrived Gros Ventres had thick mouths, that is, a very prominent upper lip; narrow, elongated eyes; prominent cheekbones; [and] a very slightly protruding nose, often bent gently downward. My walk that afternoon on the prairie behind the fort, where a powerful, rather raw wind was blowing, revealed grasshoppers (Gryllus) in large number sitting on the small brush, especially young cottonwoods, but also on other plants, and gnawing off their leaves. Crows flew about in flocks in the parched prairie, the sign of autumn. Blackbirds and several other small birds in the sage (Artemisia) bushes.
At four o’ clock the Gros Ventres were announced in the fort. We went out. About sixty men formed a company and approached abreast. About twenty of them were on horseback. Three hundred paces from the fort, they halted, dismounted, and gathered in front of their horses. Mr. Mitchell and the interpreter Berger went toward them and received a large, bony sorrel with only one eye as a present. In their poor traveling apparel, they followed us toward the fort, where the chiefs, about four or five in number, were admitted and welcomed with a cannon shot. The warriors remained at the gate. The chiefs smoked their pipes in the mess hall. Among them was the chief and medicine man Mexkemáuastan, sketched by Mr. Bodmer on the keelboat and later in the fort, and another one with a calpack cap decorated with red cloth, which he had received as a gift somewhere. This man, whose name is Sun,M53Eh-Siss. is said to be one of the best Indians, and his face is most characteristic.
The fort was filling up with Indians, many of whom immediately asked for tobacco. They wanted to return today to their not-very-distant [tipis], which were to be pitched tomorrow near the fort. Several of the men on hand were sick; they immediately implored us to give them medicine. One had a severe venereal disease, another’ s eyes were severely inflamed, and both were most importunate, kissing and embracing us. When Mr. Culbertson washed the eyes of one of them with lead acetate, he immediately presented [the clerk] with a pair of leggins. Toward evening most of them returned to their camp. Several women spent the night in the fort. In the evening it was somewhat cool and dark.