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The Old North Trail, by Walter McClintock, [1910], at

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A wonderful prairie sunset.—Distant view of the big camp at night.—Young men and women singing Riding songs.—A Love song and the rendezvous of the lovers at the river.—Ceremonial chants and Dance songs.—Wolf song and an ancient war custom.—The Kissing dance.—Visit to the lodge of a sick friend.—Scenes by the lodge fire.—A pet coyote.—Gossip of the women.—I assist a medicine man and his wife in doctoring their patient and have permission to photograph the performance.—Indian methods of doctoring.

WHEN the sun was setting, I walked through the camps of the Lone Eaters and Don't Laugh bands along the shore of the lake. The picturesque lodges, with their painted decorations and blue smoke rising from their tops, were perfectly reflected on the surface of the quiet lake. I crossed a rich meadow, very beautiful in the soft evening light, with its long waving grass and brilliant wild flowers, and climbed to the summit of a neighbouring butte, where I had an excellent view of the entire encampment. On all sides larks, thrushes, and Savannah sparrows were singing. In the surrounding meadows, large herds of horses were quietly feeding, while upon the summit of a ridge was a solitary horseman, who had left the noisy camp for quiet and meditation. He stood gazing out over the vast expanse of country towards the mountains. The sun, sinking behind the Rockies, lighted up the sombre cloud masses with a splendid colouring, while its pencilled rays, streaming to

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either side and extending to the zenith, formed a magnificent "sun-burst," with Mount Rising Wolf for its centre. Later in the deepening twilight the great cluster of Indian lodges showed a ghostly white against the darkening blue of the eastern sky. When the tipis were lighted by bright inside fires, the circular encampment looked like an enormous group of coloured

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[paragraph continues] Japanese lanterns, and the flickering lights of the man: outside fires resembled fireflies in the summer's dusk.

Young men, with their wives, or sweethearts, were making the rounds of camp on horseback singing Riding songs in unison. I heard the plaintive voice of young brave singing a Love 1 song near the lodge of hi sweetheart, begging her to come forth and meet him

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[paragraph continues] It was probable the girl alone knew for whom the song was intended. He stood waiting in the meadow and she soon joined him, both going together to the river for water, the common rendezvous of Indian lovers. The sound of beating drums came simultaneously from six different lodges, where dances and ceremonials were taking place. In Mad Wolf's sacred tipi a solemn chant, accompanied by heavy and regular beating of rattles on the ground, was being given as a preparatory ceremonial of the Sun-dance. In the clan of the Grease Melters a group of young men and women were singing and dancing round an outside fire. The Brave Dogs were assembled in their big lodge drumming and singing a society song. A group of Crazy Dogs were dancing in front of the lodge of a chief, who was under obligations to their society and from whom they expected a feast.

Beside O-mis-tai-po-kah's tipi, a band of young men were singing a Wolf 1 song together, reviving the custom of former days, when an expedition was starting upon the war path. They stood in a circle, holding a raw hide between them, upon which they beat time with sticks. They sang no words, but gave the wolf howl at regular intervals, the young women, who stood near, joining in the wolf howl. They said this song was very ancient, having been handed down through many generations. It was sung in time of danger when hunting, or upon the war path, in the belief that the wolf would inspire the singer with his cunning.

In another part of the camp a large throng was gathered about Sepenama's tipi to see the Sina-paskan (Sioux dance). 2 The men and women dancers stood in opposite lines, the women advancing towards the men.

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[paragraph continues] Each woman singled out the man of her choice and, dancing towards him, kissed him on the face. For this favour he was expected to give her a handsome present. The people always attended the Sioux dance in great numbers, because of their curiosity to see who would be chosen. The story was told of a woman who became so infatuated with the Sina-paskan that she danced every afternoon and evening. Her husband becoming tired of her neglect of their tipi, and jealous of her favours to an old rival, appeared unexpectedly one night at the door of the dance-lodge and killed her before the assembled people. After this tragedy, the Sina-paskan was discontinued for several years.

When I descended from the butte, and again entered the camp circle, twilight had faded into darkness. The bright inside fires revealed upon the canvas of the tipis their weird decorations and the moving shadows of those within. But I soon became confused in my wanderings and lost my way. In the darkness, the tipis all looked alike. There were no streets nor paths, nor any landmarks on the plains, by which I could identify my lodge. Fortunately I met Awunna, the medicine man, with Ekitowaki, his wife. He was carrying his drum, while she bore her medicine sacks of herbs and paints. I joined them, for they were on their way to doctor Stuyimi, whose tipi was close to mine. He was the father of Menake, who, with her family and Kionama, her husband, shared my lodge. Stuyimi had been sick for many months. He had grown steadily worse, and his robes and horses were rapidly dwindling to pay the Indian doctors. We found him looking very weak and sick, with sunken eyes and emaciated body. He was an old friend and, when I entered, looked up with a smile of welcome. Awunna

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the medicine man seated himself at the back. He was a large man with a pleasing personality, and yet with an air of self-confidence and importance. He held his head erect, and his long thick hair fell loosely upon his shoulders, like the mane of a lion. Fresh wood was thrown upon the fire, the brightening flame showing many women present—Stuyimi's mother, his wife,

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[paragraph continues] Akoan, and their two daughters; also Menake and her daughter Sinopa.

A beautiful little coyote puppy, with long sharp nose and bright sparkling eyes, suddenly emerged from the blankets, where I had taken my seat. I put out my hand to feel its soft, fluffy coat, but drew back quickly, when it turned and snapped at me, opening and closing its jaws like a steel trap. It resented my intrusion, snarling and threatening me with its shining fangs,

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until one of the little girls called to it by name (Apis), when it hopped across to her on three legs, dragging its tail, after the manner of coyotes, and went to sleep in her arms. They also had a dog named Sa-sak-si (Freckle Face), which seemed to understand the Blackfeet tongue, for, when Stuyimi, his master, called "ha-im-mit" (laugh), he lifted his upper lip, as if smiling, and, at the same time, wagged his tail. When he said "iks-skat-sit" (watch the door), the dog took his seat by the entrance, to defend it against any corner. The Blackfeet make pets of all kinds of birds and wild animals. In former days they tamed and kept in their tipis cranes, hawks, eagles, beavers, wolves, antelopes, and even grizzly bears.

The women were earnestly discussing the runaway match of young Mountain Chief and the sixteen-year-old daughter of a visiting chief from the north. She had been last seen with a party of children gathering berries. Her mother and father opposed the match, because they did not consider the young man able to provide for their daughter. But, as is often the case in civilised society the world over, the young people decided the question for themselves by a runaway match, and went to live in a remote spot in the mountains. Awunna sat in silence, taking no interest in the gossip about the elopement. The pose of his head and the expression of his countenance indicated unmistakably his impatience for the women to finish, yet he was too dignified to interrupt their conversation. Meanwhile Ekitowaki had placed four round stones in the fire to be used in the doctoring. While waiting for them to become heated, Akoan passed around a small parfleche containing sarvis berries for refreshment. When Ekitowaki pronounced the stones sufficiently hot,

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[paragraph continues] Awunna removed the cover from his medicine drum and warmed it over the fire. Its head was painted yellow to represent a clear sky, with a red ball in the centre for the sun. Beating the drum was believed to bring him power in doctoring the sick.

The Blackfeet have a superstition that a doctor should not relate his dreams (sources of inspiration),

DOCTORING THE SICK.<br> Ekitowaki taking herbs from medicine sack.
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Ekitowaki taking herbs from medicine sack.

nor reveal his methods, nor hand them down to others. On the other hand, leaders of religious ceremonials were expected to teach their rituals to anyone who made a vow to purchase them. Sometimes a doctor was a specialist, his power being confined, by the command received in his dream, to a certain form of sickness.

Because the presence of spectators is believed to weaken the doctor's power, even the patient's family

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are ordinarily excluded from the ceremony. As I had never been permitted to witness a medicine man's methods of doctoring, I fully expected to be asked to withdraw. To my surprise, Awunna called upon me to assist in the incantations, saying that if I would join in the chants it would give him greater power in his doctoring. I consented, but asked for permission to photograph the ceremonial during his visit on the following morning. Awunna hesitated and Ekitowaki, his wife, at once raised objections, but it was decided in my favour by the patient himself, who requested that the pictures be taken, so that I could explain to the white people the Blackfeet methods of doctoring.

Stuyimi's shirt and blanket being removed, he lay upon the bed stripped to the waist. Awunna then signed to his wife to begin. She took some herbs from her medicine sack and threw them into a pot, which she placed on the fire to brew into a hot drink. Removing a coal from the fire, she placed dried sweet pine upon it, and holding her hands in the smoke, prayed to the Spirit of the buffalo that she might be endowed with power to discover the place where the disease lay. Kneeling by his side, she placed her hands upon his body, feeling gently with the tips of her fingers until she announced that the trouble lay in the breast and was worse on the left side. She took a hot stone from the fire and placed it in a kettle of water. As the steam arose, she dropped roots into it, one by one, and prayed:

"Hear us, Great Spirit in the Sun! Pity us and help us! Listen and grant us life! Look down in pity on this sick man! Grant us power to drive out the Evil Spirit and give him health!"

At this point, Awunna raised his drum and signed to me that we should begin the chant. With eyes closed

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and head thrown back, he started the chant (in which I joined), accompanying it with his drum. Ekitowaki brought from her sack a small disc of buffalo raw hide. She held it towards Stuyimi, with many mysterious motions in imitation of the buffalo, breathing upon it, swaying her body, keeping time with the drum and also joining in the chant. She laid the disc upon the hot

DOCTORING THE SICK.<br> Awunna drumming.
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Awunna drumming.

stone and placed it quickly upon his breast on the left side. She wet both hands in the root medicine and laying the tips of her fingers upon a stone, so hot that I heard them sizzle, she then placed them, with a quick movement, upon the body of the patient. In this way, she used three hot stones, one after the other, and then, turning Stuyimi over, proceeded to make hot applications to his back in the same manner. When Ekitowaki

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retired, Awunna knelt beside the patient, beating rhythmically upon his medicine drum, while I united with him in his chant, praying for power from the eagle. Taking yellow paint from a small sack, he sprayed it through his medicine whistle over Stuyimi's breast, arms and back. Grasping a large eagle wing, he imitated the motions of an eagle flying, and beat the

DOCTORING THE SICK.<br> Awunna spraying patient with yellow paint.
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Awunna spraying patient with yellow paint.

wing against the patient's body. When the doctoring was finished, and I was taking leave of Stuyimi, he suggested that I should accompany his clan on the third day of the Sun-dance, when they went to the river valley to secure their share of the branches and poles for the building of the Sun lodge, explaining that, as he was sick, he desired me to go as his substitute.


242:1 Song 1. See page 283.

243:1 Song 2. See page 513.

243:2 Song 3. See page 514.

Next: Chapter XVIII. An Initiation Into the Medicine Pipe Society