November 28, 1833
28 November: In the morning, calm, beautiful, fair weather and bright sunshine.M23At seven thirty, 25°F [−3.9°C], wind
calm very weak, west hora 7 north. Early in the morning, many Indians besieged us again and sat around our fireplace. A few brought beaver pelts, which Mr. Dougherty bought. Parus atricapillus and Picus pubescens came very close to the house. All Indian youths were playing on the ice of the Missouri, half naked at that. Women [carrying loads] crossed the solidly frozen river.
I went with Charbonneau to the lodge of Yellow Bear,M24Lachpitzí-Síhrisch. in which Mr. Dougherty had lived at another time and had paid 80 to 100 dollars for these quarters. Since he Dougherty’s has his own living quarters now, Charbonneau uses the former but does not sleep there either. On the sides of the lodge stand the beds, [which are] boxes made from leather, square below with a square opening; inside [are] buffalo hides on the bottom. Around the fire [there were] seats, flat on the floor [and] made out of willow sticks. People sat on these by the fire [while] busy with different tasks. The old chief (Yellow Bear) was completely naked except for his breechcloth, sitting on a willow bench [backrest?]. He was painting a new buffalo skin with vermilion and black colors, which he had prepared in old shards [potsherds]. He dipped a sharp piece of wood in [the pigment] and drew the figures. The black and yellow colors both originate from certain types of clay in the area. They paint on their hides all [kinds of] objects and [indicate] how many [of these] they have given away as presents; they become great and respected because of such presents [given in large] numbers. One sees, for instance, many whips [depicted] (which signify horses given away), rifles, woolen blankets, etc., [all] portrayed in rows.
Today we had a long, hungry day, because there was no meat at home, and we [had] to wait for the arrival of the hunters. At noon, 43°F [6.1°C], wind west hora 7 north. In the afternoon a few Indians returned, their horses loaded with meat. not until late in the day did la Chevelure LevéeM25Bídda Chóhki is his actual name, Sparse Forest, le Bois Clair. bring some meat, and we ate late in the evening for the second time.
When it was dark, the son of a very respected chief who had recently died came into the room with two girls. Most women here continually associate with the young people and other men. As soon as there was knocking at the door, they hid, doubtlessly afraid of a search. At seven o'clock Charbonneau sent news that the women were dancing a medicine dance in another lodge. We went right away. On the left side of the wooden door screen, a fire was burning. In front of it, hides were spread out on some hay. Here, in a row, five or six men sat, one of them beating the drum with a stick of this shape: Another had the chichikué in his hand. The medicine drum was painted brown. They outdid themselves in making noise; the drum was beaten especially hard. All of them sang. Elderly women sat around the lodge, but one stood on the other side of the fire. She was the medicine woman, a tall, strong figure with a bony, broad, flat face and a bent-down nose. She was dressed in a garment of yellow leather with many fringes. It was trimmed in several places, especially on the bottom, with pieces of red and blue fabric. Her lower arms were bare, and she wore the usual bracelets of iron on her wrists. We sat to the right of the men, Charbonneau beside me, behind us children and onlookers; a young man with a stick drove the children back whenever they pressed forward. The tall and strong woman just mentioned pretended to have an ear of corn in her body, which she [intended] to drive out with her medicine and swallow again. When we arrived the ceremony was almost finished; the ear of corn had already been swallowed. But Charbonneau talked with them, and by means of a gift of ten sticks of tobacco, which we threw, the performance was repeated one more time. The ultimate purpose of the ceremony is to [make] the corn grow better in the coming year. Our tobacco was thrown on the ground beside a pile of fried buffalo ribs, all [laid] on willow branches.
The musicians now began to beat intensely. Four women began to move in [Page 3:42] a rhythm, each one by herself [and] in a different directon. They waddled like ducks (with their feet turned toward the inside, one foot just ahead of the other), took small steps, kept their bodies straight, and swayed just a little to each side. They moved with short steps in time with the rapid drumbeat, their arms hanging straight down. medicine woman danced on the other side near the fire; [sometimes] she held her hands over it, then to her face. Finally she began to shake, moving her farm forth and back, and this steadily increased. She held her head backward, and soon we saw the tip of an ear of white corn begin to fill her mouth and move outward more and more. Then her convulsions became more violent. Finally, when the ear of corn was already almost half out, she made moves as if she would collapse. Another woman behind her grasped her body and sat her on the ground. She lay backward and had convulsions. The music reached a crescendo. Soon other women grabbed branches of wormwood (sage or absinthe) and began to stroke them over her arms and her breasts, whereupon the ear [of corn] slowly slipped inside again. The woman rose and danced a little. Now another [conjurer] appeared. She repeated the same movements, and suddenly blood flowed from her mouth down her chin. She had a piece of liver in her mouth from which she pressed the blood. She, too, was awakened on the ground from her convulsions and then danced a little at the fire. After this scene seven women danced, one forward, the others backward, and the festival came to an end. We took leave quickly, the Indian way, when one rises and walks away suddenly without saying a word or looking around. The sight of that brown crown [in] the shine of the fire, of the naked men and the dancing women, dressed in brown leather, was highly interesting.
Almost all these people maintain that they have some kind of animal in their bodies, for instance, buffalo, deer, and so on. When we arrived home, la Chevelure Levée was sitting there and told us he had a buffalo calf in his left shoulder, whose kicking he felt frequently. Another one believes to have three lizards in his body, a bighord or something similar, and I have been told they really believe this. The one with the three lizards complained to Charbonneau that the animals hurt him. He was given a cup of coffee, but he asserted that the pain just became more severe. Then Charbonneau gave him a cup of tea and he was calmed. Superstitious ideas overcome the whole soul of the Indians, and their beliefs are rooted too deep to waste one word teaching or convincing them otherwise.