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

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Striking costume of Elk Horn the herald.—Fine dress of the Kisapa (Hair Parters).—Figures of the dance.—Black Weasel, an efficient dance leader.—Dance of little Nokoa.—Speech of Running Crane to the dancers.—Mountain Chief urges generous gifts to the Sioux.—Return of a victorious war expedition.—Warriors re-enacting former battles.—An exciting horse race.—Parade of the Sioux warriors.—They dance at Ahkiona's lodge.—The great camp at night.—Riding songs.—Travelling song of the Sioux.—Celebration songs.—Sepe-nama and his wife mounted on the same horse sing a Night song of remarkable beauty.—Originality of Blackfeet music.—Importance of its preservation.

ON the morning of the second day of the Sun-dance, Elk Horn, the herald, rode through camp, announcing with his powerful voice that the Kisapa (Hair Parters, a social organisation composed of young men) were preparing for a dance and invited everyone to be present. In his left hand he carried a long spear. At regular intervals along its staff, eagle feathers were attached, falling free and fluttering in the wind. Coyote tails, representing his medicine animal, were fastened to his stirrups. He wore a buckskin shirt and a blue beaded necklace of many strands. About his waist was draped a red blanket decorated with a band of white beads. His leggings and moccasins were ornamented with porcupine quills, and large pieces of cottonwood punk were fastened to his blanket for their sweet perfume. When the young men, coming from different

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parts of the camp, assembled for the dance, they were dressed in their gayest and finest clothes. They wore war-bonnets of eagle feathers tipped with coloured horsehair, and ornamented with beads and porcupine quills, and caps made by winding otter and mink skins around their heads, the tails hanging down behind. Some were stripped and their faces and bodies were painted; others had war-shirts and leggings of soft-tanned deer
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skin heavily beaded, or decorated with coloured porcupine quills and trimmed with ermine along the shoulders and leggings. They wore necklaces variously made of beads, small bones, elk-teeth, shells and grizzly bear claws. They also had dog-skin ankle-bands with bells attached and arm-bands of deer skin and brass, with pendants of grouse and woodpecker feathers. They carried shields, spears, bows and arrows, tomahawks and rattles made of deer and elk-hoofs tied together in bunches.

All sat down in a semi-circle, and when forty or fifty had arrived, the singers began, accompanied by the drums.

First came the dance of the warriors, in which everyone who took part had been in battle. A prominent chief had eight parallel black lines on his leggings, representing the number of chiefs, or medicine men he

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had killed; another had a war-shirt covered with marks representing picket pins with short lariats attached. These signified the number of horses, picketed close to the lodge of the enemy, he had cut loose, with great risk of being captured. This was followed by the dance of those who had been wounded. Wolf Eagle, a fine looking fellow,
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whose arm had been shot off by the enemy, entered into the dance with great energy, carrying in his single hand the feather-decorated bone of his missing arm. One dancer, named "Behind-the-ear," continually aimed his rifle, as if in the act of shooting. He had received his name from shooting an enemy behind the ear, and was now going through the motions which recalled the deed. Another warrior, who had been a noted stealer of horses from the enemy, carried a horse carved out of wood. Others had tomahawks, spears, arrows, feathered shields and war-bonnets. Every movement of the dance and the distinguishing marks of the dancers had a significance, which it is impossible for an outsider to understand.

When an eagle feather fell from Sepe-nama's war-bonnet, he selected Bear Chief, a noted warrior, to pick

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it up, because it would bring him bad luck to do it himself. With Bear Chief as their leader, they danced in single file three times around the feather. When passing it the fourth time, Bear Chief picked it up and they returned to their seats.

The leader was Black Weasel, a tall and handsome
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Indian, whose seat in the surrounding circle was marked by a feathered wand driven into the ground. He wore a large war-bonnet of selected eagles’ feathers, and a soft-tanned buckskin suit trimmed with ermine tails. It was decorated across the shoulders and along the arms and legs with coloured porcupine quills, beautifully laid. When it was time to commence a figure, he moved about the circle, wand in hand, hustling the dancers out and giving sharp raps to those who lagged behind. He was as considerate, however, as he was energetic, in enforcing discipline, for he devoted part of his efforts to seeing that visiting Indians were comfortably seated, and that the women and children were supplied with drinking water.

The most interested of the large circle of spectators seemed to be Nokoa, the small son of Wolverine. He

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was seated beside his mother, watching with filial admiration every movement of his father, who was taking part in the dance. Nokoa wore a beaded necklace of many strands and a fringed buckskin suit. His

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bright eyes fairly danced with excitement, when his father led him out before the company. He stepped forward fearlessly, swaying his small body to and fro, aiming his stick as if it were a gun, while his little moccasined feet kept perfect time with the beating of the drums.

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While they were feasting, Running Crane addressed the people:

"I am now glad in my heart to see you gathered together. The young men are dressed in their beautiful clothes, and they dance well. It is not often that we have such a good time,—only once a year. Lawless shooting has all been stopped, and we have ceased to count coups, yet we are all happy. I hope that the Great Father (the President) will not stop our coming together, for it

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does not last long. Let the old people restrain the young men, so that we may break camp and return to our homes without having any disturbance. I have now finished. My name is Seco-mo-muckon (Running Crane)."

Nena-es-toko (Mountain Chief) then arose to tell of the old days and how he used to dance. He urged the people to be generous and give many horses to the Sioux, because they were visitors, and had come on a long journey from the far east. He held a small stick,

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which represented a horse, and, when he had finished speaking, stepped across the circle and handed the stick to a Sioux Indian. From the crowd of spectators there came the voice of another old chief singing, "Good man, giving away your horse so generously."

A band of Indians, under Chief Little Plume, appeared on a high ridge to the north, representing a victorious war party returning to the tribal camp with spoils. Their faces and horses were decorated with paint, and they were dressed in beaded buckskin clothes

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and war-bonnets. They rode rapidly across the plain in single file, and entered camp at a gallop with war whoops and piercing yells. Then, forming into line, with Little Plume in the lead, they marched slowly around the camp circle, with rifles in the position of firing, holding aloft the sacred Spear and singing their song of victory. 1 The warriors then gathered together in the large open space in the centre of the camp, where they gave exhibitions, before the tribe, of sham battles,

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both on horseback and on foot, re-enacting their victories of former days.

I also witnessed some exciting horse races. The course lay over a level stretch and along a low ridge, where crowds of Indian spectators were seated. On one side was the tribal camp of picturesque lodges. The surrounding prairies were dressed in the living green of spring, embroidered with wild flowers. The distant snow-covered peaks of the Rocky Mountains furnished a magnificent background, at the head of the course. The young riders were completely stripped. They were excellent horsemen, riding fearlessly the wildest bronchos, using no saddle, and, for a bridle, only a rope passed through the horse's mouth. I secured an excellent view of the most exciting race of the day, by standing near the finish, where a large crowd of Indians had gathered, wagering, instead of money, horses, cattle, robes, blankets, and even provisions upon the result. At the start, the horses could be seen rearing and plunging, until a loud shout was heard, and we realised that they were off. As they passed us in a cloud of dust, the riders, excited by the shrill war whoops of the spectators, shouted in turn to their horses for greater speed, lying low upon their backs and beating them with raw-hide quirts. They finished amid intense excitement and rejoicing by the Indians, who bet on Bull Shoe, their horse, which won by a narrow margin.

While eating our evening meal, Strikes-on-both-sides suddenly opened the door, exclaiming, "Come quickly A-pe-ech-eken, and see the Pena-pes-ena Warriors (Below People or Sioux)." I was just in time to photograph them passing in a long line. They were led by Lone Dog as chief, and riding beside him were Red Boy, Bear Paw, and White Eagle. They were dressed in beaded

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clothes of bright colours, with horned head-dresses and feathered shields on their backs. Many tinkling bells were attached to their horses, which were also painted and otherwise decorated. They marched slowly through camp, holding their spears and feathered ensigns aloft

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and singing in unison a striking Celebration song 1 with the words:

"Oh, Blackfeet! we have heard you boast in the past that you were becoming like white men. We now behold you taking part in these ceremonials, poorly dressed, and with few of your Indian clothes left."

In accordance with a time-honoured Indian custom, it was expected that those before whose lodges they stopped and sang would give them presents. If the Blackfeet were not generous, they could not expect many gifts, when the return visit to the Sioux would be

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made. After completing the circle they dismounted at the lodge of Ahkiona, where they gave a ceremonial. When Ahkiona had visited the Sioux they presented him with a Medicine Pipe. On this occasion the Pipe was to be returned to its former owners.

Exhausted by the excitement and heat of the day, I returned to my lodge and was soon asleep in spite of the singing and drumming of the dancing Sioux. But it was not long before I was rudely awakened by the fierce snarling and yelping of a vicious dog-fight near by. The fight of this single pair quickly roused other dogs and they rushed together to engage in a mass fight. Soon hundreds of dogs in all parts of the camp, excited by the uproar, united in a great deep-throated mournful howl, such as is only heard in a large Indian village, and resembles the howling of an enormous pack of wolves.

When their dismal chorus had finally died away, I stepped outside the lodge. The full moon was rising from the plains, flooding the camp with its light. The lodges with their crowns of tapering poles stood out in sharp relief against the burnished eastern sky. To the west were the dim outlines of the rugged Rockies, behind which a large planet was slowly sinking. The constellation of the Northern Crown (called "The Camp," by the Blackfeet, because of the suggestiveness of its outlines) had passed over into the west, while, in the east, the sparkling Pleiades (Lost Children) were rising above the plains. Although it was late, the camp was still so throbbing with life that sleep was made impossible. Many young men were on horseback, singing Riding songs 1 as they rode around the circle of the encampment. The dance at Ahkiona's

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lodge was finished, and the Sioux were returning to their quarters, singing a Travelling song in their own tongue. When they had finished, the answering notes of a Night song 1 were heard from a small band of Blackfeet, sitting on the shore of the lake. A large company of men and women on horseback, having learned a Celebration song 2 from the visiting Sioux, rode slowly through the camp singing it at intervals. Red Fox and his young wife, riding the same horse, made circuits of the camp, singing a Night song of remarkable beauty. I saw them very distinctly, when they passed, their strongly coloured Indian clothes showing in the bright moonlight. The woman rode in front, wearing a magnificent bonnet of eagle feathers, belonging to her husband, and a buckskin dress heavily beaded across the shoulders. Red Fox wore a band of weasel skin around his head, with an eagle feather erect in his back hair. A beautifully tanned elk-skin robe, decorated with red stripes of porcupine quills, extended in graceful folds from his shoulders backward over the horse's tail. He carried a string of bells, which he used in marking time for their singing. Their song had a very pronounced rhythm, which was in perfect time with the slow trot of their horse. They continued their striking duet at intervals through the night, not stopping until day began to dawn.

When I first heard the Blackfeet singing together in unison, with untrained voices, the women's an octave higher than the men's, my impressions were not pleasing. But, having learned several of their airs, and mastered the peculiar intervals and difficult voice vibrations, so that I could join in their singing, the wild beauty of their music dawned upon me. Their music seemed so

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thoroughly original in its conception, and so unique in the method of expression, that I became filled with the desire to do something for its preservation. It strongly appealed to me, that its development through past ages had been independent of all sources of inspiration or colouring, other than those of their natural environment of mountains, forests and plains, their wild life of hunting and warfare, their Sun-worship, and those emotions and passions which are common to the human heart the world over.

I also felt that the beautiful motives of their sacred hymns, war-songs, love and night songs, springing from these aboriginal sources, like pure water from a mountain spring, were so entirely original and thoroughly American, that they ought to be rescued from oblivion and permanently preserved. 1

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277:1 Song 4. See page 514.

280:1 Song 5. See page 514.

281:1 Song 6. See page 514.

282:1 Song 7. See page 515.

282:2 See page 514, footnote.

283:1 See Appendix, pp. 513-15.

Next: Chapter XXI. Ceremonial of the Sun-Dance