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Title: Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society for the Year 1867
Author: Hill, A. J. (Alfred James), Pond, G. H., Mayo, Charles E., Rice, H. M.
Language: English
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                                 OF THE
                      Minnesota Historical Society,
                           FOR THE YEAR 1867.

                               Saint Paul:
                        PIONEER PRINTING COMPANY.



    Major General H. H. SIBLEY.

_Vice Presidents_:






_Executive Council_:

    REV. S. Y. MCMASTERS, D.D., LL. D.
    HON. H. M. RICE,
    HON. J. D. LUDDEN,
    W. H. KELLEY,
    C. E. MAYO,
    A. J. HILL,
    R. O. SWEENEY,
    W. B. DEAN,
    J. P. POND,


    ARTICLE.                                                PAGE.

      I. Annual Report of the Secretary,                       3

     II. Mineral Regions of Lake Superior,                     8

    III. Constantine Beltrami,                                13

     IV. Historical Notes of the United States Land Office,   21

      V. The Geography of Perrot,                             22

     VI. Dakota Superstitions,                                32

Report of the Committee of Publication.

_Hon. H. H. Sibley, President of the Minnesota Historical Society_:

Your Committee of Publication, acting under instruction of the Executive
Council, beg leave to lay before you the accompanying annual.

The limited means of the Society have compelled brevity; and most of the
articles selected are of local, rather than of general interest.

The article on the “Mineral Regions of Minnesota” may be a matter of some
general interest; but its chief interest will be with the people of our

The “Life of Constantine Beltrami” will be interesting to all readers;
though his connection with Minnesota and the North-west will cause it to
be read with peculiar interest by our own people.

The article on the “Dakota Superstitions,” coming from one most
thoroughly acquainted with those children of the forest, must awaken
the interest of all who care to enter into the study of the aboriginal

The brief sketch of the “History of the United States Land Office”
contains facts well worth preserving.

The article on the “Geography of Perrot,” notwithstanding the world-wide
reputation of Perrot, is rather of local, than of any general interest.
Your committee would express their regret that the want of French type
has compelled them to print the original in such style as to do great
injustice to the author. They would fain have omitted the French, and
printed only the translation, but for the earnest wish of Mr. Hill, that
the fidelity of his translation might be apparent by comparison with the

                                          S. Y. McMASTERS, } _Committee_.
                                          JOHN MATTOCKS,   }


Read at the Annual Meeting, Jan. 21, 1867.


The contributions to the society since the last annual report, February
22, 1866, have been as follows:

    O. E. GARRISON, Esq., St. Cloud.—Map of Stearns county.

    AMERICAN ANTIQUARIAN SOCIETY, Worcester Mass.—Their proceedings
    at their annual meeting, Oct., 21, 1865.

    D. W. INGERSOLL, Esq., St. Paul.—A Chart, illustrating the
    operations of the U. S. Sanitary Commission.

    Hon. D. A. ROBERTSON, St. Paul.—Thirty-four Pamphlets, relating
    to the city of St. Paul, and State of Minnesota—and one volume,
    Voyages from Asia to America, London, 1761.

    Rev. EDWARD D. NEILL, Washington, D. C.—An original paper
    compiled from Nicholas Perrot’s memoir. An original paper on
    the northern boundaries of Minnesota—and a Map of Minnesota,
    showing a part of the international boundary in the vicinity of
    the Lake of the Woods.

    ESSEX INSTITUTE.—Historical notice of their society and their
    Collections for 1866.

    CHAS. M. WETHERELL, Esq., Philadelphia.—Four Pamphlets on
    scientific subjects.

    R. O. SWEENY, Esq., St. Paul, Minn.—Two “River Sturgeon” for
    the Department of Natural History.

    H. B. DAWSON, Esq., Morrisania, N. Y.—Diary of David How, a
    private in the army of the American Revolution.

    Maj. Gen. J. WATTS DE PEYSTER, Tivoli, N. Y.—Documentary
    Testimonials of the meritorious conduct of his three sons in
    the service of the United States, during the late war,—and
    forty bound Volumes and twenty-five Pamphlets.

    Maj. ROBERT H. HALL, of 10th U. S. Infantry.—Photograph of
    Major Lawrence Taliaferro.

    Prof. BACHE, Washington, D. C.—Report of Coast Survey for 1863.

    W. H. GETCHELL, Esq., Afton, Minn.—A Continental Bill.

    JOHN M. CARR, Esq., St. Paul.—Charleston, S. C., Newspaper of

    Rev. C. D. BRADLEY, Boston.—Two Pamphlets, one Broadside and
    Autographs of public men.

    Address of Dr. Winslow Lewis.

    HENRY J. MORGAN, Esq., Ottawa, C. W.—One Pamphlet, “The place
    British Americans have won in history.”

    HORACE THOMPSON, Esq., St. Paul.—A Rebel Commutation Document
    from Georgia.

    SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTE.—Several Packages of Shells.

    Rev. S. Y. MCMASTERS, St. Paul.—An old copy of Webster’s
    Spelling Book.

    Rev. Dr. CRAIK, of Louisville, Ky.—“Divine Life,” and “The New

    DAKOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY.—One Pamphlet, “History and Resources
    of Dakota, Montana, and Idaho.”

    A. J. HILL, Esq., St. Paul.—“Lewis and Clark’s Journal,”
    London, 1809. Map of Vermilion Lake, and alphabetical list of
    members of the Minnesota Historical Society, from 1849 to 1862.

    INCREASE A. LAPHAM, LL. D., Milwaukee, Wis.—His Map of
    Wisconsin, showing influence of the lakes on temperature.

    J. W. MCCLUNG, Esq., St. Paul.—Statistical Directory of St.
    Paul, for 1866.

    C. P. V. LULL, Esq., St. Paul.—A copy of the Bible printed in
    Edinburgh, A. D. 1766.

    H. WEDELSTAEDT, M. D., St. Paul.—Photograph of H. G. Blasdell,
    governor of Nevada.

    CHAS. T. BRYANT, Esq., of St. Peter.—His History of the Sioux

    R. B. NAY, Esq., Le Sueur, Minn.—Copies of “El Nicaragensi,” a
    paper published in Nicaraugua during the administration of Wm.

    CHAS. H. HART, Esq., Philadelphia.—One Pamphlet, “The three
    days’ battle of Chattanooga,” and a Map of the battle field.

    Hon. HENRY WILSON, Natick, Mass.—One Pamphlet, “Military
    Measures of the U. S. Congress—1861-1865.”

    C. DE MONTREVILLE, M. D., St. Paul.—A copy of the Blue Laws of

    Hon. I. DONNELLY, Nininger, Minn.—Three Coast Survey Charts.

    Messrs. CORNMAN & STICKNEY, Stillwater, Minn. A Stone Axe,
    found near Stillwater.


    STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY of Iowa.—The Annals of Iowa, 11 vols.

    September, 1866.

    PUBLISHERS HAMILTON (Ohio) TELEGRAPH.—Their paper containing
    obituary notice of C. K. Smith, Esq., first Secretary of the
    Territory of Minnesota, and the first Secretary of this Society.

    GEO. E. LOWRY, Esq., 13th Indiana Infantry.—Piece of a Rebel
    Standard, captured at Fort Fisher.

    and Report of Adjutant General, 1865, 2 vols.

    CONGRESSIONAL LIBRARY, Washington, D. C.—Writings of James
    Madison, four volumes.

    F. R. DELANO, Esq., St. Paul.—Photograph of the first
    Locomotive Engine placed upon a Railroad in this State.

    W. H. MITCHELL, Esq., Rochester, Minn.—Geographical and
    Statistical History of the County of Olmsted, three copies.

    B. W. BRUNSON, Esq., St. Paul, Minn.—Two old Deeds.

    CHARLES MCINTYRE, Esq., St. Paul.—The Guard Book of the 1st
    Regiment, Minn. Vols.

    ISAAC VAN ETTEN, Esq., St. Paul.—The original Seal of the
    Adjutant General of the Territory of Minnesota, and the
    original Receipt Book, Check Book, and Book of Records of the
    “Board of Commissioners of Public Buildings,” of the Territory
    of Minnesota.

    S. T. RAGUET, Esq., St. Paul.—An autograph letter from Sir
    Wm. Pepperell, dated January 17, 1731, and a copy of “The
    First Minnesota,” a paper published by the members of the 1st
    Regiment, Minn. Vols., at Berryville, Va., March 11, 1862.

    Dr. J. C. RHOADES, Stillwater.—Specimens of Sulphate of Lime,
    from west bank of Red River, at Fort Abercrombie.

    Rev. GIDEON H. POND, Bloomington, Minn.—The Bag used by a Sioux

Several works on the Sioux massacre of 1862, have been added by gift
and purchase, and twenty-two volumes of Doddsley’s Annual Register,
(comprising the whole set with the exception of two volumes,) a journal
of the times from 1751 to 1780, published in London, have been purchased
and placed in our library.

Gen. H. S. Sanford, U. S. Minister at Belgium, an honorary member of
the society, and Hon. A. Goodrich, Secretary of Legation at the Belgian
capital and an old member of this society, were appointed delegates to
the International Archæological Congress to have been held at Antwerp in
August last, but which was postponed in consequence of the prevalence of
the cholera in that city. Both gentlemen signified their acceptance,
presented their credentials and agreed to represent this society at the
adjourned meeting of the Congress which is to be held during this year.

The society in May last caused two of the mounds on Dayton’s Bluff to
be opened. The work was superintended by Mr. W. H. Kelley, who made an
able and elaborate report to the society, which proved the mounds to
be of very great antiquity. It is contemplated to continue the work of
excavation still farther, and it is hoped that discoveries may be made
which may throw additional light on the “Mound Builders,”—a race whose
history is shrouded in the deepest mystery and oblivion.

A vast deal may be accomplished for the furtherance of the objects of the
society, which will otherwise remain undone, by standing committees who
should be appointed by the council from its members.

Biographies, narratives and reminiscences of the early missionaries,
fur-traders, voyageurs, government agents, explorers and old settlers,
might now, with organized and well directed effort, be easily obtained
(while the opportunities for such work are rapidly diminishing,) and
would be of incalculable interest to the future historian and antiquary.

Although much has been written on the subject of the Indian tribes who
have lived within the limits of the state, yet it is a fruitful field
that is by no means exhausted.

Much remains to be done in the department of geology and mineralogy, in
collecting specimens and properly classifying and arranging them.

The Natural History Department might become an interesting feature of
the society if we had the means to enable us to employ a suitable person
to procure and prepare specimens of the beasts and birds found within
the borders of our state. This will soon become a labor attended with
great difficulty and expense as the advance of settlements and the
exterminating policy of the hunter and trapper will speedily cause many
of the fur-bearing animals and rarer varieties of birds to disappear.

A very fine collection of the birds of Minnesota was not long since taken
east and sold, which would have been secured for our society but for the
lack of means.

Our sphere of usefulness is circumscribed by our poverty. If the
legislature could be induced to increase the annual appropriation, we
might publish our “Collections” annually, as we have an accumulation of
interesting matter in manuscript, which we desire to put in more enduring
and available form, and we are continually receiving favors from sister
societies which we would be glad to reciprocate. We would like also to
bind some of the newspapers which have been accumulating on our hands, to
purchase books for the library, and to extend historical research into
departments yet unfathomed.

All of which is respectfully submitted,

                                            CHARLES E. MAYO, _Secretary_.



One hundred and twenty-one years ago there were found, north Lake of
Superior, several “large lumps of the finest virgin copper.” The finder
wrote: “In the honest exultation of my heart at so important a discovery,
I directly showed it to the Company, (Hudson’s Bay Company) but the
thanks I met with may be easily judged from the system of their conduct.
The fact, without any inquiry into the reality of it, was treated as a
chimerical illusion, and a stop arbitrarily put to all farther search
into the matter, by the absolute lords of the soil.”

The first attempt made to obtain copper from the Lake Superior region
was by a company of adventurers from England, soon after the conquest of
Canada, “but the distracted state of affairs in America obliged them to
relinquish their scheme.” The next effort was made in 1771, by a company
who petitioned for, and obtained, a charter from the British Government.
The partners, in England, were His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester,
Mr. Secretary Townsend, Sir Samuel Tutchet, Baronet; Mr. Baxter, Consul
of the Empress of Russia, and Mr. Cruickshank; in America, Sir William
Johnson, Baronet, Mr. Bostwick, Mr. Baxter and Alexander Henry.

“In 1770 (says Henry,) Mr. Baxter, who had sailed for England, returned,
bringing with him papers by which, with Mr. Bostwick and himself, I
was constituted a joint agent and partner, in, and for, a company of
adventurers for working the mines of Lake Superior. We passed the winter
together at the Sault de Sainte Marie, and built a barge, fit for the
navigation of the lake; at the same time laying the keel of a sloop of
forty tons. Early in May, 1771, the lake becoming navigable, we departed
from Point aux Pius, our ship yard, at which there is a safe harbour,
and of which the distance from the Sault is three leagues. We sailed for
the Island of Yellow Sands, promising ourselves to make our fortunes,
in defiance of its serpents.” After coasting about for five days, they
returned to Point aux Pius, where they erected an air-furnace. The
assayer made a report on the ores which had been collected, stating that
the lead ore contained silver in the proportion of forty ounces to a
ton, “but the copper ore, only in very small proportions indeed.” Facts
developed by recent explorations go far to show, that the day is not far
distant when the silver mines of Lake Superior will rank among the most
prolific in the world.

Soon after testing the ores at Point aux Pius, the expedition coasted
westward for the mouth of the Ontouagon river. Henry says: “Proposing
to ourselves to make a trial on the hill, till we were better able
to go to work upon the solid rock, we built a house, and sent to the
Sault de Sainte Marie for provisions. At the spot pitched upon for the
commencement of our preparations, a green-colored water which tinged iron
of a copper color, issued from the hill, and this the miners called a
leader. Having arranged everything for the miners during the winter, we
returned to the Sault. Early in the spring of 1772, we sent a boat load
of provisions; but it came back on the 20th day of June, bringing with
it, to our surprise, the whole establishment of miners. They reported,
that in the course of the winter, they had penetrated forty feet into the
hill; but, that on the arrival of the thaw, the clay on which, on account
of its stiffness, they relied, and neglected to secure it by supporters,
had fallen in;—that to recommence their search would be attended with
much labor and cost;—that from the detached masses of metal which, to
the last, had daily presented themselves, they supposed there might be,
ultimately, reached some body of the same, but could form no conjecture
of its distance.” They concluded that the work would require more men
than could be fed, and their operations in that quarter ended.

A little over eighty-two years ago, the independence of the United States
was acknowledged by Great Britain, in a treaty concluded at Paris, in
which the boundaries were agreed upon. By reference to that instrument,
it will be observed that the northern line, after striking the River St.
Lawrence, follows up that stream to the great lakes, thence through the
middle of the same, and their connecting rivers, to Lake Superior; thence
through Lake Superior, _northward_ of the Isles Royal and Philippean,
to the Long Lake, now known as Pigeon River; thus securing to what is
now Minnesota, about one hundred and fifty miles of the north shore
of that inland sea, and believed to contain the richest copper and
silver deposits known in the world. Benjamin Franklin was one of the
commissioners to the treaty. It is supposed that he obtained information
in France of the richness of that region; and, to his great foresight, we
are mostly indebted for that valuable acquisition. In fact, he wrote that
the time would come when the American people would consider the part he
took in securing that vast mineral region to them as one of the greatest
acts of his life. Seventy-five years after the death of that great and
good man, the people of Minnesota are about to realize the importance of
the vast interests secured by that far-seeing statesman.

On the 5th day of August, 1826, Lewis Cass and Thomas L. McKenney,
commissioners on the part of the United States, made and concluded a
treaty with the Chippewa Indians at Fond du Lac, Lake Superior, by
which the Chippewas granted to the United States the right to search
for, and carry away, any metals or minerals from any part of their
country. No efforts under this grant were ever made; but from that
period (and even before,) explorations, from time to time, were made by
individuals; and many indications of rich mines, (now within the limits
of Minnesota,) were discovered. Licenses to trade with the Indians were
obtained,—buildings for the ostensible purpose of trade were erected,
and possession maintained for many years, in hopes the Government would
extinguish the Indian title to the land, so that individual titles might
be acquired. Time and expense caused the abandonment of most of these
points, and a consequent dissipation of the bright visions raised by the
knowledge of the wealth which was beyond the reach of the discoverers.

Under the old permit system, many locations, three miles square, were
made on Lake Superior;—several on and near the Montreal river—some on Bad
River, south of La Pointe—three on the main land, opposite La Pointe—two
or three were made near Superior City, on the Nemadji, or Left Hand
river, and one settler’s claim about twenty miles north of Superior.
Several locations were made in the valley of the St. Croix river;
explorations, to a limited extent, and recent developments, give great
hopes that the Falls of the St. Croix may, at no distant day, compete
with some of the towns of Lake Superior in the shipment of copper. Two
of the mines south of Superior are being worked, both giving assurances
that success will amply reward those engaged in the work. Last year,
a New York company was formed for the purpose of working one of the
locations on Bad River. The work was commenced, and has been vigorously
prosecuted with flattering prospects. On the 30th of September, 1854, the
Chippewa Indians, by a treaty made at La Pointe, ceded all their lands
on the north shore of Lake Superior to the United States; thus removing
all obstructions to the development of the rich mines within the limits
of Minnesota. In the same year, an association was formed by gentlemen
residing in this state and Ohio for the purpose of securing a title to
several well known locations within the country ceded, which purpose they
accomplished some four or five years afterwards. The association was
known under the name of R. B. Carlton & Co. On the 28th day of September,
1858, a meeting of the persons composing the association was held in the
city of Cleveland, Ohio, and, among others, the following actions were

    WHEREAS, on the 25th day of September, 1854, a portion of
    the undersigned entered into an agreement for the purpose of
    obtaining Mineral Locations and Lands in what is now the State
    of Minnesota, which Association was known by the name of R. B.
    Carlton & Co.: _and whereas_ certain lands and locations have
    been secured under said agreement, the legal and equitable
    titles of which are held in the individual name or names of
    some of the undersigned, or some other person or persons, but
    in trust for the said Association: _and whereas_, the title
    to other lands is in process of being secured, which, when
    secured, will be in the individual name or names of some of
    the undersigned, or some other person, but for the use of the
    undersigned: _and whereas_, it is contemplated that other
    Lands and Mines maybe procured or required: _and whereas_,
    the interests of the parties to said original agreement have
    been by assignment transferred with the assent of all the
    parties thereto and hereto, so that all the Lands, Mines, and
    benefits, secured or attempted to be secured, under and by
    virtue of original agreement.

    And this agreement shall be divided into eighty Shares or
    Parts, and are now owned and held as follows: to-wit,

        John S. Watrous, two shares, equal to 2-80ths.
        Reuben B. Carlton, eight shares, equal to 8-80ths.
        Josiah Tallmadge, four shares, equal to 4-80ths.
        Joseph W. Lynde, six shares, equal to 6-80ths.
        George E. Nettleton, four shares, equal to 4-80ths.
        William H. Newton, four shares, equal to 4-80ths.
        Edwin A. C. Hatch, eight shares, equal to 8-80ths.
        John T. Newton, two shares, equal to 2-80ths.
        Henry B. Payne, three shares, equal to 3-80ths.
        H. J. Jewett, six shares, equal to 6-80ths.
        Paine & Wade, three shares, equal to 3-80ths.
        Julien A. H. Hasbrouck, six shares, equal to 6-80ths.
        James B. Beck, four shares, equal to 4-80ths.
        Charles E. Rittenhouse, four shares, equal to 4-80ths.
        Joel D. Cruttenden, four shares, equal to 4-80ths.
        Nathan Myrick, four shares, equal to 4-80ths.

    Trustees herein mentioned for the uses and purposes herein
    expressed, eight shares, equal to 8-80ths.

    Now, it is agreed and stipulated by all the parties hereto, as
    follows, to-wit: that all the lands, mineral localities and
    property of every kind and description, which has already been,
    and all which shall hereafter be secured, under or in pursuance
    of said first mentioned agreement, and this agreement shall be
    conveyed to Henry B. Payne, Robert F. Payne, and Edwin A. C.
    Hatch, to be held by them, the survivor and survivors of them,
    who shall hold the legal title of the same, in trust for the
    uses and purposes, and upon the terms and conditions herein
    expressed, and for no other purposes, conditions or terms,
    and with all the powers, authorities and privileges herein

Hon. Henry B. Payne, of Cleveland, was appointed President, and Jas.
Wade, jr., Secretary. Certificates of stock were issued. The next
meeting of the stockholders was called by the trustees, and held at
Bayfield, Wisconsin, July 27, 1863, which meeting adjourned to Du Luth,
Minnesota, where it convened, July 31, 1863; and on the 3d of the next
month, August, on motion of B. F. Paine, it was unanimously resolved,
that they proceed to organize two companies under the laws of Minnesota.
Hon. Geo. L. Becker presented drafts of articles of associations for a
corporation to be known as the North Shore Mining Company; and, also,
another corporation to be known as the French River Mining Company,
which were approved, acknowledged by the corporators, and ordered to be
placed on record as required by law. The capital stock in each company
was $100,000, divided in 2,000 shares of $50 each. The first meeting of
the corporators and stockholders of each of said new companies was held
in Cleveland, Ohio, November 2, 1863, at which meeting the “French River
Mining Company” and the “North Shore Mining Company” were organized by
the election of boards of five directors each—three, residents of Ohio,
one of the city of New York, and one of the State of Minnesota. The
directors organized by appointing Hon. Henry B. Payne, president, and
James Wade, jr., secretary and treasurer. The trustees of the Carlton
& Co. association conveyed to the “French River Mining Company” the
south-west quarter, and lots Nos. 3 and 4 of section No. 17, in town 51
north of range 12, west, in Saint Louis county, Minnesota, containing
165 16-100 acres. The trustees conveyed to the “North Shore Mining
Company” the south-east quarter of section 25, town 52, range 12, west,
in same county. During the year 1864, a shaft was sunk, by the North
Shore Company, to the depth of 20 feet, and by French River Company, 40
feet—both giving indications of valuable results.

At a meeting of the stockholders, held on the 6th of July, 1864, Gen. A.
S. Sanford, of Cleveland, was chosen president, in place of H. B. Payne,
resigned, but who still remains as one of the directors. The French River
Company sent up men, tools, and supplies sufficient to prosecute the
work, day and night, during the winter. The work is in charge of Frank
Salisbury, who is sinking a shaft one hundred and fifty feet from the
old one, with the intention of drifting from one to the other. I have,
perhaps, gone too much into detail; but if the anticipations of those
who have given this subject much attention shall be realized, the silent
operations and large expenditures that have been made, will, hereafter,
render any facts, connected with the first developments of the mineral
wealth of Minnesota, interesting in the future. But a few years ago,
those engaged in developing the copper mines on Lake Superior, within
the state of Michigan, were looked upon as visionary speculators. The
completion of the Sault St. Mary canal gave such facilities as enabled
them to draw capital from all parts of the United States and to convince
the most skeptical that the basin of that vast inland sea contained
untold wealth. Of the many mines in successful operation, a single
one—the Quincy, yielded, the past season, 3,102,532 pounds, or 1,551
tons, 532 pounds of copper, worth one million five hundred thousand
dollars. When we have communication by railroad to the head of lake
navigation, the most skeptical cannot over rate the mineral wealth that
will be developed, nor the commercial advantages that will inure to the
state—enriching and infusing new life into every city, town and hamlet.


[By A. J. Hill, of St. Paul; at the request of the Minnesota Historical


Though narratives of the fortunes of early explorers of a country cannot,
in general, throw any light upon its history, apart from their travels
in the region itself, yet such recitals or biographies may still be
useful in enabling us to form juster opinions of the accounts given by
the travelers of their discoveries, from the knowledge afforded as to
character, attainments and position.

Of the subject of this article, till within a few years, nothing was
known to us, Minnesotians, beyond the little to be gleaned from his
own books of travel and from the narrative of the expedition of Major
Long; and even these works are so out of date that the name of Beltrami
is unfamiliar to our ears. His life is like the bridge in the vision
of Mirza—we see but the middle of it—the beginning and end are hid in
obscurity. The recent publication, in Italy, of biographical notices
of this traveler, has furnished the means of supplying the deficiency
of information concerning him; and at the request of the Historical
Society of Minnesota, the present memoir has been compiled, as a fitting
contribution to its “Collections.”


No doubt, at the time our traveler visited the United States, more or
less was said concerning him in the journals of the day; and that he
was violently assailed by writers of that time is shown in his own
books; but such accounts, appearing in fleeting papers, are now entirely
inaccessible, and indeed would be of but little interest or value if they
could be found.

Hitherto, therefore, our knowledge of Beltrami was derived from three
books only, which were:

1. A work, published by himself at New Orleans in 1824, entitled “La
Decouverte des Sources du Mississippi et de la Riviere Sanglante,” one
vol., 8vo pp. 328. 2. “Keating’s Narrative of Long’s Expedition to the
Sources of the St. Peter’s River, &c.,” Philadelphia, 1824; and 3. “A
Pilgrimage in Europe and America, leading to the Discovery of the Sources
of the Mississippi and Bloody River, with a description of the whole
course of the former, and of the Ohio. By J. C. Beltrami, Esq., formerly
judge of a royal court in the ex-kingdom of Italy.” London, 1828; 2
volumes. 8vo., pp. 1093.

The first of these is a narrative simply of his tour in the west,
from Pittsburg to the head waters of the Mississippi, and thence to
New Orleans, written in French, and in the form of letters addressed
to a friend, the Countess _Compagnoni_ born _Passeri_. Major Long’s
book contains but one or two references to Beltrami, and those of a
depreciating character. The exact nature of the disagreement between the
two gentlemen is not known, nor would it be right to exhume and display
it, if it could be done. All familiar with the history of “expeditions”
must have noticed how often coolness or rupture have occurred between
leading men of such parties, arising from arrogance, jealousy, or
incompatibility of temper. The “Pilgrimage” of Beltrami gives an account
of his European travels previous to his coming to the United States, and
then embodies his former work which he seems merely to have translated
into English, without other alterations than a few verbal changes.

A synopsis of the personal history found in the above works is as follows:

He had been an official of the ex-kingdom of Italy, and was sent into
exile without trial—traveled in France, Germany, and England, in
1821-2—went to the United States in 1823, and descended the Ohio river
to its mouth; thence, in company with Major Taliaferro, embarked for
the Upper Mississippi—reached Fort St. Anthony (Snelling) May 20, 1823,
whence he had expected to accompany Major T. up the river St Peter—at
that time unexplored—with the intention of proceeding further, toward
the sources of the Mississippi, also unknown. But circumstances did not
admit of that, and he was on the point of changing his direction for the
south, by traversing by land, the wild tracts lying between the Fort and
Council Bluffs, when Major Long and his party unexpectedly arrived. He
accompanied this expedition, which left the Fort on the 7th of July, as
far as Pembina, where he quitted it, on the 9th of August, and with a
_bois brule_ and the two Chippewas only, for companions, plunged into the
wilderness lying to the south east, and struck “Robber’s” (Thief) river
near its confluence with Red Lake River (which he calls “Bloody River,”
and insists that it is the true Red River.) He then followed the course
of the latter stream to Red Lake, whence, after visiting its south shore,
he ascended the river of the Grand Portage to its sources at a small lake
on a hill where he arrived on the 28th, and which, on “the theory of the
ancient geographers, that the sources of a river which are most in a
right line with its mouth, should be considered as its principal sources,
and particularly when they issue from a Cardinal point and flow to the
one directly opposite,” he maintained to be the head of the Red River of
the North. This lake he also described as supplying the most northern
sources of the Mississippi; and on that ground, and also that they had
been previously unknown, rested his claims as a geographical discoverer.
He named the lake “Julia,” from a dear friend of his, deceased, [Moroni
says, “after the woman of his heart;”] and the stream issuing southwardly
from it, the “Julian sources of the Mississippi.” The present Itasca
Lake he referred to as called by the Indians “Bitch Lake,” (Lac la
Biche—“Elk” Lake,) and as being most probably the “western sources of
the Mississippi[1].” After ascending Leech Lake River, and visiting the
lake itself, he returned by the Mississippi to the Fort, (Fort Snelling)
arriving there the 30th of September, and thence descended to New
Orleans, where, in the spring of 1824, he published the French account of
his travels.

He now disappears from our view.

    [1] See hydrographical discussion by Col. Whittlesey, appended
    to this memoir.


Gabriele Rosa, of Bergamo, Lombardy, an author of note, furnished to the
_Review_ of Venice, (Revista Veneta) a couple of papers on this traveler,
which appeared April 20 and 27, 1856, and were reprinted, at Bergamo, in
1861, under the title, “Of the Life and Writings of Constantine Beltrami
of Bergamo, Discoverer of the Sources of the Mississippi;” (Della vita
e degli scritti di Costantino Beltrami da Bergamo, scopritore delle
fonti del Mississippi)—a pamphlet of 34 pages octavo. On being applied
to, through the post, the author courteously sent several copies of his
little work to the United States—to the writer of this paper—besides
furnishing, in his letters, information in reply to inquiries.

In consequence of this correspondence, which took place in 1863-4,
the municipality of the same city formed the plan of publishing, and
dedicating to the Historical Society of Minnesota, a work which should
be a proper memorial of him who was their countryman and so deserving of
honor. This book was brought out in the beginning of 1865 and is entitled
“Costantino Beltrami da Bergamo—Notizie e lettere pubblicate per cura
del municipio di Bergamo e dedicate alla societa storica di Minnesota.”
It is a small but handsome quarto of 134 pages and contains: 1. As a
frontispiece, a photograph from the full length portrait of Beltrami,
painted by Professor Enrico Scuri, and presented to the public. 2. An
elegant dedicatory preface, addressed to the Society, and signed by
the members of the city council. 3. The papers of Signore Rosa, before
mentioned. 4. A lecture on the same subject as the preceding, delivered
by Count Pietro Moroni, in 1856, before the Athenæum of Bergamo, and 5.
Letters from Chateaubriand and other eminent men, addressed to him, also
one from his own pen.

From these sources, our knowledge of Beltrami has been perfected, and the
facts so obtained are now given—mostly in the form of a close translation.

J. C. Beltrami (Giacomo Costantino B.) was born at Bergamo, in 1779,
his parents being Giambattista Beltrami of that city, and Catterina
Carozzi of Pontita. His father was a man of fine presence, and of note
from his position as custom-house officer of the Venetian republic,
and also by reason of his courteous manners. There were ten children,
of whom our hero, Constantine, was the youngest. It appears that there
was a tradition in the family of its being derived from _Beltrand des
Goths_, who fled from Paris at the time of St. Bartholomew in 1572,
and took refuge at Bergamo under the sheltering wing of the Venetian
republic—model in those times of political and religions toleration.
Constantine was bred to the law; and although he possessed a restless
spirit, desirous of adventure, and that when he was just ten years
old the great public commotions that afterwards shook all Europe were
beginning, yet his natural talent prompted him to the acquisition of the
Latin and Greek literature, to which afterwards, from his experience
in public affairs, was added a rich store of geographical knowledge,
and, finally, a familiarity with the modern languages. The courage and
adventurous will that shone in him at forty-four impelled him, in his
youthful vigor, to abandon the paternal house for military affairs;
and being brought to the notice of men high in office, friends of the
family, and shortly opening the way by his own abilities, he became
vice-inspector of the armies; but, disgusted with occupations so far
below his higher aspirations, he returned to civil pursuits. At the age
of twenty-eight, in 1807, he became chancellor of the French departments
of the Stura and the Tanaro, and soon after judge of the court at
Udine. There, by his fine intellect and untiring zeal, he gained the
praises of his superiors who testified to him their high satisfaction,
as appears by many of their letters. Such expressions of approval were
confirmed by his appointment as judge of the civil and criminal court
of Macerata. In 1812, being afflicted with a severe disease, and having
received permission, he left his post for a time, and visited Florence,
where he formed relations with the Duke of Monteleone, and with the
Countess of Albany—the friend of Alfieri and Foscolo—who afterwards, in
time of danger, protected him by her counsels and influence. For the
extraordinary activity shown by him in certain important matters the
supreme judge, minister of justice, in a letter addressed to him in 1813,
praised his zeal and acquirements, prophesying his promotion to the chair
of the president of the court of Forli, for which the prince viceroy had
proposed him for the imperial sanction of France. However, the cloud
that shortly rose and darkened the political horizon of the Empire, and
of the Italian kingdom, hindered any further transmission of names.
From Florence he was hurriedly recalled by Poerio—at that time minister
extraordinary of the King of the Two Sicilies, for the southern Italian
departments. When the Austrians occupied the Marches, he retired to his
estates at Filotrano, not far from Macerata, whence, from 1816 to 1819,
he made excursions to Naples, Rome, and Florence. It appears that in some
way he became involved in carbonarism; for in 1821, although sick, and
hardly able to stand upon his feet, he had to leave the Romagna and go
into exile.

Immediately after his travels in the region of the Upper Mississippi, he
embarked at New Orleans, in 1824, for Mexico, and traversed that country
from ocean to ocean. He returned from the United States to London in
1826 or 1827. The revolution of July called him to Paris, where we soon
find him in amicable epistolary relations with the Count D’Apony, the
Austrian embassador, to whom, in a letter written on the 10th of August,
1830, a few days after the revolution, he offered his services towards
ameliorating the condition of his native country. At the same time, he
carried on a correspondence with Benjamin Constant, with Lafayette and
Lafitte. He participated in the theories of the Napoleonists of his time,
and aspired for the elevation of the nations, and especially for that of
Italy. In 1834, the Scientific Congress at Stuttgard being in session,
Beltrami was sent to it to represent the Historical Institute of France,
accredited therefore by the perpetual secretary, Mons. de Monglave, who
did not hesitate to style him one of the most honorable and distinguished
of that scientific association. Shortly after, he went to Heidelberg,
where he acquired a small landed estate which he lived on for two years.
In 1837 we find him at Vienna; then, shortly, at Home, and so—now here,
now there—he lived till 1850, when, finding himself bowed down by the
weight of years, he returned to his property at Filotrano, where, amongst
his early friends, he placidly passed the remainder of life, and where,
in February, 1855, he died, having completed his seventy-fifth year.

Beltrami was a man of frank and sincere soul—an enemy of all flattery,
and capable of unparalleled self denial. In proof of the latter, it is
related that although he suspected that the cases of articles sent by him
from America had been opened and plundered on their arrival at Florence,
yet, to avoid the bitterness of certainty of such fact, he would never
consent to their being examined during his lifetime, desiring that it
should only be done by his heirs,—as so happened.

In the desire to be more generally read, he wrote everything in foreign
languages, for which indeed he can hardly be blamed, having to print
his works out of Italy. A complete list of his published writings is as

    1. _Deux mots sur des promenades de Paris et Liverpool._
    Philad’a., 1823.

    2. _La Decouverte des Sources du Mississippi, &c._ New Orleans,
    1824. (Previously mentioned).

    3. _A Pilgrimage in Europe and America, &c._ London, 1828.
    (Previously mentioned).

    4. _Le Mexique._ 2 vols. 8vo. Paris, 1830.

    5. _L’Italie et L’Europe._ Paris, 1834.

    6. _Letter to the Secretary of the Historical Institute of
    France_, (in French). Heidelberg, 1836. (Reprinted in the
    Bergamo city memorial).

The Indian curiosities and other articles brought by Beltrami to his
native country from the region of our present Minnesota, together with
his MS. papers &c., were presented by his heir, a nephew, shortly after
his death, to the library of Bergamo, the municipality of which city
caused them to be properly displayed in the vestibule of the building.
Signore Rosa, his chief eulogist, says, in a private letter, that there
is no genuine portrait of him extant;—the one by Professor Scuri being
drawn from the engraving in the “Pilgrimage,” and from tradition.


Major Lawrence Taliaferro, of Beaufort, Penn., a soldier of 1812, who
from the year 1819 to 1840, acted as Agent for Indian Affairs for the
tribes of the north-west, and who yet lives in the memories of the Sioux,
to whom he was known as _Mahza Bakah_ or Iron Cutter, furnished, under
date of the 4th of April, 1866, the following information concerning his
friend Beltrami:

“I was in Washington in 1823 relative to my official connection with the
north-western tribes of Minnesota; whilst on my return, in March, to my
post, I found a note, or card, at a hotel in Pittsburg, from Beltrami,
asking permission to bear me company to the Falls of St. Anthony. When
I saw him, his presence and manner at once obtained my confidence, and
leave was granted to do so. We passed together down the Ohio, and up the
Mississippi to Fort Snelling. I divided my quarters with him; and Col.
Snelling and lady invited him to take his meals at their hospitable table.

“Beltrami was six feet high, of commanding appearance and some forty-five
years of age; proud of bearing, and quick of temper, high spirited, but
always the gentleman. He expressed an earnest wish to explore the sources
of the Mississippi. I gave him a passport to go where he pleased, and
instructed the Chippewas of Otter Tail, and other lakes, to see him
safely through their country, should he seek assistance. Shortly after
this desire, Major Long, of the Topographical Engineers, with his corps,
arrived. Beltrami was introduced to Major L. and permission granted Mr.
B. to accompany the party to Pembina. At Pembina, a difficulty occurred
between Major Long and Beltrami, when the latter sold his horse (my
horse) and equipments, and in company with a half breed, passed near the
line of 49° to the sources of the Mississippi. His sufferings were of no
agreeable nature. Here, near Leech Lake, he fell in with a sub-chief,
the ‘Cloudy Weather,’ most fortunately, who knew Mr. B., having seen
him in one of my councils at the agency. This old man was given, by
signs, to know that white man wanted to descend the river. The chief
took our Italian friend in his canoe, and turned down stream. Indians
are proverbially slow, hunting and fishing on the way; Beltrami lost all
patience,—abused his Indian crew,—made many menaces, &c. The ‘Cloud’
tapped him on the hat with his pipe stem, as much as to say, ‘I will take
you to my father safe if you will be still.’ The old chief told of this
temper of my friend, but Mr. B. never made allusion to it, but was very
grateful to his kind Pillager friends.

“Beltrami had been in the military service;—was judge of a court.
I touched him at times with the appellation of Count; ‘Who is your
dear Countess to whom you address many affectionate letters?’—‘Not my
wife,’ said he; ‘but a lovely woman; and if you would replace the G in
your name, [Tagliaferro] and come with me to Italy—the home of your
ancestors—I would make you happy in her company.’

“That the tour of Mr. B. was not altogether abortive, I have full
reason to believe. He explained by his notes to me his whole route,
put the discovery of the true sources correctly, as others have since
done,—including the distinguished Nicollet. To learn the habits of the
Indian tribes was almost a mania with him. He had every facility;—his
greatest anxiety was, before he left Italy, as he stated to me, to
explore the wildest portion of the continent, north and west,—to see as
many of the noble North American Indians as possible. He seemed fond of
adventure. I saw he was dispirited for the lack of means;—he did not deny
it when questioned delicately on this point.

“In conversing of Italy and Italian affairs, he hesitated not to speak
very broadly about the highest ecclesiastical dignitary, touching whom he
often lost his patience. Beltrami was a patriot, and undoubtedly of note,
and had suffered persecution.”


No further direct information concerning Beltrami, personally, can be
added to the preceding; and enough undoubtedly has been said to fill the
blank hitherto existing, and to place him properly before the people of
Minnesota, to the majority of whom his name is totally unknown. There
remains, however, to supplement this monograph, one more task to be
performed, at some future time, when the territory he independently
explored shall have been surveyed and mapped by the deputies of the
General Land Office, and that is the examination and verification of the
route traveled by him, and of the lakes and rivers he visited, in order
to restore and bring into popular use, so far as practicable, the names
he gave to many places; though he named only certain lakes, streams and
islands, hitherto undistinguished.

The Legislature, last winter, at the instance of the Historical Society,
and in conformity with the custom of naming some of the counties of a
territory or state after its early explorers, established a county by
the name of Beltrami; which extends from the first “range line” below
the mouth of Turtle River, on the east, to the line between ranges 38
and 39 on the west, and from the line between townships 154 and 155 on
the north to the north line of Beecher county, and to the Mississippi
on the south. This county comprehends the region of the head of “Bloody
River,” &c., and is in area about 4,000 square miles—subject to reduction
and modification of boundary it is true; but, it is to be hoped, always
to retain the same name, and to include the “Julian Sources of the
Mississippi” within its limits. Of this act of legislation, his friend,
Major Taliaferro says, “It is a high compliment;—one well deserved, and
creditable to the movers and State;” and all lovers of justice who read
Beltrami’s own words will rejoice that his claims have at last been
officially recognized.

In reference to the opportunity he had of perpetuating his own name in
the Indian territory by giving it an archipelago, as he terms it, of the
Mississippi—the present “Thousand Islands,” situated a mile or two below
St. Cloud—he wrote, “After my death, men will dispose of my name as God
will of my soul, according as I shall have well or ill deserved during my
life; and I leave to my friends, and to those who have had opportunities
of becoming acquainted with my heart, the charge of defending my memory,
should it ever be attacked by injustice or prejudice.”



In reference to the question as to which stream we should look to for the
right source of the Mississippi, the following article has been prepared
by Col. Charles Whittlesey—a man well known to the reading public, not
only by his explorations and contributions to the stock of knowledge
concerning the geology and physical geography of the North West, but
by his writings on the earthworks and other relics of the aboriginal
inhabitants of the same region:

                                    “CLEVELAND, O., March 28, 1866.

    “Turtle Lake, at the head of Turtle River, which discharges
    into Cass Lake, is the most northerly of the waters of the
    Mississippi. Mr. Schoolcraft claims that Itasca Lake and its
    tributaries constitute the true source of the Great River,
    because these streams are further from the mouth than any
    other. Whether this, if true, is a correct mode of fixing the
    head waters of rivers, I must be allowed to doubt. It seems to
    me that the _largest_ branch forms the river, and the heads of
    that branch constitute the sources.

    “When I was on the upper waters of the Mississippi, in
    September 1848, I compared the quantity of water flowing
    from Lake Winnibigoshish with that from Leech Lake, as far
    as observations without gauging enabled me to do it. At that
    time I judged the discharge from the Leech Lake branch to be
    three times as much as from Lake Winnibigoshish, and one of
    our voyageurs, who was raised in the region, said it generally
    discharged twice as much. The distance from the junction of the
    Leech Lake branch, below Winnibigoshish, to the most distant
    sources of the various branches, does not appear to me to be
    materially different. Among the hundreds of small streams
    converging into, and passing through nearly as many lakes,
    there cannot be said to be a main or separate river above this
    junction. From this point, the Mississippi assumes its proper
    characteristics, as one stream, to the gulf of Mexico; but
    above it, the branches are excessively numerous. Below the
    junction, it is two chains wide, with a broad regular current,
    having the same imposing features which it retains to its
    mouth. The furthest streams that discharge into Leech Lake rise
    to the south, interlocking with the waters of Pine River; but,
    if we can rely upon our maps—of a region as yet unsurveyed—the
    development of these branches, including the lakes through
    which they pass, equals in length the Itasca branch.

    “Our missionaries at Cass Lake said the Turtle River discharged
    more water than Bemidji River, which enters Cass Lake from
    Itasca Lake.”


[By Hon. H. M. Rice, of St. Paul.]

On the 26th day of January, 1796, when the American Congress was in
session in Philadelphia, a Bill was reported for establishing land
offices for the sale of lands in the North-western Territory. It
was under discussion until April of the same year in the House of
Representatives. A great diversity of opinion existed; some were in favor
of selling in small tracts of fifty acres—others contended that none
should be surveyed or sold in less than township tracts. Some favored
a Bill that would retain the lands for actual settlers, others were
for disposing of as much of the public domain as possible, and at the
highest price, for the purpose of paying the public debt. For a long
time, they could not agree upon the price. Mr. Williams, of New York,
said “it was as necessary that the country should be settled as that the
land should be sold. Or shall it be said that the honest, industrious
settlers shall make roads, bridges, and other improvements, whilst the
rich holders keep their lands in hand until these improvements are made,
in order to increase the value of them?” Mr. Williams, undoubtedly,
took a correct view of the case. The Bill, as finally agreed upon,
established the office of Surveyor General, under the following title:
“_An Act providing for the sale of the Lands of the United States, in the
Territory North-west of the river Ohio, and above the mouth of Kentucky
river_.” On the 18th of May, 1796, the Bill was approved by receiving the
signature of George Washington. The office was first opened at Marietta,
Ohio, under Rufus Putnam, Surveyor General. In 1804 it was removed to
Vincennes;—in 1805 to Cincinnati;—in 1814 to Chillicothe;—in 1829 it
was removed back to Cincinnati, where it remained until 1845, when it
was removed to Detroit. In May, 1857, the office was again, and for the
last time, removed to St. Paul. It now has in its custody the original
correspondence for its establishment in 1796, which, undoubtedly,
contains many important facts and reminiscences that would not only
fully pay for their perusal, but might furnish historical points of
great value. Through it, the past and present are connected. There can
be found the workings under the original act under which no lands could
be surveyed in tracts of less than 640 acres, nor sold for less than two
dollars per acre; and out of this has grown our admirable system, which
places within the reach of every man a home, be he rich, or be he poor.


[Prepared by A. J. Hill, of St. Paul, and accepted for publication by the
Minnesota Historical Society.]


Nicolas Perrot, whose name is already well known to the readers of the
early history of Minnesota, was born in 1644, and repaired, at an early
age, to New France, where he resided, almost habitually, from 1665 to
1689, amongst the diverse races of its most distant part—the extremity
of the angle formed by the valleys of the St. Lawrence and of the
Mississippi. “At first simple _coureur du bois_ by trade (1665-1684),
and interpreter incidentally (1671-1701), he was at last, under the
successive governments of M. M. de la Barre, Denonville and Frontenac
(1684-1699), charged with a command analogous to that of our chiefs of
Arab bureaux in Algeria.” In his capacity of interpreter, he was present
at the convocation of the tribes at _Sainte-Marie-du-Sault_, where, on
the 14th of June, 1671, the French government assumed the sovereignty
of the regions beyond the Great Lakes. Nearly eighteen years later,
on the 8th of May, 1689, he himself, acting as principal agent, took
formal possession, in the name of the King of France, of all the country
visited by him, or that might be visited, from Green Bay to the regions
beyond the St. Croix and St. Peter. Subsequent to 1718, no information
concerning him can be obtained.

The writings of Perrot are as follows:

1. _Memoire sur les Outagamis, addresse au Marquis de Vaudreuil._

2. _Plusieurs memoires tant sur les guerres des Iroquois contre les
Illinois et les nations d’en haut, que sur les trahisons des sauvages, et
en particulier, des Outaouais et des Hurons._

3. _Memoire sur les moeurs, coustumes, et relligion des sauvages de
l’Amerique Septentrionale._

Of these works, the last one only, the “Memoir upon the manners, customs
and religion of the savages of Northern America,” which must have been
written some time between 1718, and 1721, has come down to us; though the
“_Plusieurs memoires_” _&c._, is supposed to have been inserted, almost
literally, by La Potherie, in the second volume of his history. It was
not composed for publication, but for the confidential information of the
Intendant of Canada, M. Begon, and remained in manuscript till 1864, when
it appeared at Leipzig and Paris, being Part Three of the Bibliotheca
Americana, edited by the Rev. Father J. Tailhan, of the Society of
Jesus, on whose authority the preceding facts are stated. “There is
only one copy of Perrot’s memoir in existence, of the last century; the
same, probably, that Father Charlevoix used, and which he received from
M. Begon, Intendant of Canada, in 1721. Our edition is a scrupulous
reproduction of it.” [T.]

Scattered through this book are accounts of the Sioux and other tribes
living in the region comprised within the limits of the present
Minnesota, and between it and Lake Michigan; and, in the same connection,
a description of the country of the former nation, and other geographical
information of more or less direct reference. As an interesting addition
to our knowledge of the _historical geography_ of this region, all
such notices have been carefully searched for, and are here given in a
collected form for the use of the Historical Society of Minnesota. The
extracts are purely in Perrot’s own words; no changes having been made,
even in the orthography. In addition, though trenching somewhat on the
domain of history, the episode of the disappearance of Father Menard is
included;—partly by reason of the new and interesting version of the
matter, and partly as showing that he should be considered as one of the
very earliest European visitors to Minnesota. Our first desideratum being
_accurate texts_, comments are best postponed; yet the notes of Father
Tailhan are so well considered that this compilation would be incomplete
without the insertion of such of them as correspond to the extracts from
the original work. The translator has also ventured upon two or three
explanatory remarks, or interpolations, of his own, distinguishable by
being inclosed within brackets; except the dates, which are the Father’s.

§ 2. _Extracts from his “Memoire sur les moeurs, &c.”_

Car le pays du nord est la terre du monde la plus ingratte, puisque, dans
quantitez d’endroits vous ne trouveriez pas un oiseau a chasser; on y
ramasse cependant des bluets dans les mois d’aout et de septembre[2]....

Les Chiripinons ou Assiniboualas sement dans leurs marais quelques folles
avoines qu’ils recueillent, mais ils n’en peuvent faire le transport chez
eux que dans le temps de la navigation(1)....

Les Kiristinons qui hantent souvent le long des bords du Lac Superieur et
des grandes rivieres, ou sont plus communement les elans(2)....

Les sauvages que l’on nomme Saulteurs [Chippewais] sont au sud du lac
Superieur ... ils ont pour voysins et amis les Scioux, sur les limites
desquels ils chassent, quand ils veulent....

Si on avance dans le nord, vers l’entree d’Ouisconching, l’hiver y est
extremement froid et long. C’est la ou les castors sont les meilleurs, et
le pays ou la chasse dure plus longtemps dans l’annee....

Ils tirent aussy l’hyver de dessous la glace dans les marests ou il y
a beaucoup de vase et peu d’eau, une certaine racine, ... mais elle
ne se trouve que dans la Louisianne, a quinze lieues plus haut que
l’entree d’Ouisconching. Les sauvages nomme en leur langue cette racine

Mais les peuples plus avancez dans le nord, jusqu’a la hauteur
d’Ouisconching, n’ont plus de ces nefles, et ceux qui sont encore plus
loin manquent de ces noix semblables a celles de France....

Car ce pays [des sauvages des prairies] n’est que plaines; il y a
seulement quelques islets ou ils ont coustume d’aller camper pour faire
secher leurs viandes....

Quand touts les Outaouas se furent repandus vers les lacs [au Mechingan
(3)], les Saulteurs et les Missisakis s’enfuirent dans le nord, et
puis a Kionconan(4) faute de chasse; et les Outaouas craignants de
n’estre pas assez forts pour soustenir les incursions des Iroquois, qui
estoient informez de l’endroit ou ils avoient fait leur establissement,
se refugierent au Micissypy, qui se nomme a present la Louisianne. Ils
monterent ce fleuve a douze lieues ou environ d’Ouisconching, ou ils
trouverent une autre riviere qui se nomme des Ayoes(5). Ils la suivirent
jusqu’a sa source et y recontrerent des nations qui les receurent
cordialement. Mais, dans toutte l’etendue de pays qu’ils parcoururent,
n’ayant pas veu de lieu propre a s’establir, a cause qu’il n’y avait
dutout point de bois, et qu’il ne paroissoit que prairies et rases
campagnes, quoyque les buffles et autres bestes y fusses en abondance,
ils reprirent leur mesme route pour retourner sur leurs pas; et, apres
avoir encore une fois aborde la Louisianne, ils monterent plus haut.

Ils n’y furent pas longtemps sans s’ecarter pour aller d’un coste et
d’autre a la chasse: je parle d’une partie seulement de leurs gens, que
les Scioux rencontierent, prirent et ammenerent a leurs villages, ... et
puis les rendirent a leurs gens.

Les Outaouas et Hurons les recurent fort bien a leur tour, sans
neantmoins leur faire de grands presents. Les Scioux estant revenus chez
eux avec quelques petites choses qu’ils avoient receues des Outaouas, en
firent part aux autres villages leurs alliez, et donnèrent aux uns des
haches et aux autres quelques cousteaux ou alaines. Touts ces villages
envoyerent des deputez chez les Outaouas(6).—— ...

Les Scioux faisoient milles caresses aux Hurons et Outaouas partout ou
ils estoient.—— ... Les Outaouas se determinerent enfin a choisir l’isle
nommee Pelee pour s’establir; ou ils furent quelquees annees en repos.
Ils y receurent souvent la visitte des Scioux....

Les Hurons, ayant assez d’audace pour s’imaginer que les Scioux estoient
incapables de leur resister sans armes de fer et a feu, conspirerent
avec les Outaouas de les entreprendre et de leur faire le guerre, afin
de les chasser de leur pays, et de se pouvoir estendre d’avantage pour
chercher leur subsistance. Les Outaouas et les Hurons se joignirent
ensemble et marcherent contre les Scioux. Ils crurent que sitost qu’ils
paroistroient, ils fuiroient; mais ils furent bien trompez; car ils
soustinrent leurs efforts, et mesme les repousserent, et s’ils ne
s’estoient retirez ils auroient estez entierement deffaits par le grand
nombre de monde, qui venoient des autres villages de leurs alliez a leur
secours. On les poursuivit jusqu’a leur establissement, ou ils furent
contraints de faire un mechant fort, qui ne laissa par d’estre capable de
faire retirer les Scioux, puisqu’ils n’oserent entreprendre de l’attaquer.

Les incursions continuelles que les Scioux faisoient sur eux les
contraignirent de fuir(7). Ils avoient eu connoissance d’une riviere
qu’on nomme la Riviere Noire; ils entrerent dedans et, estant arrivez
la ou elle prend sa source, les Hurons y trouverent un lieu propre pour
s’y fortiffier et y establir leur village. Les Outaouas pousserent plus
loin, et marcherent jusqu’au lac Superieur, et fixerent leur demeure a
Chagouamikon. Les Scioux, voyant leurs ennemis partis, demeurerent en
repos sans les suivre d’avantage; mais les Hurons n’en voulurent point
demeurer la; ils formerent quelques partys contre eux, qui firent peu
d’effect, leur attirerent de la part des Scioux de frequentes incursions,
et les obligerent de quitter leur fort pour aller joindre les Outaouas
a Chagouamikon, avec une grande perte de leurs gens. Aussytost qu’ils
furent arrivez, ils songerent a former un party de cent hommes pour aller
contre les Scioux, et s’en vanger.

Il est a remarquer que le pays ou ils sont [les Sioux] n’est autre chose
que lacs et marests remplis de folles avoines, separes les uns des autres
par de petites langues de terre qui n’ont tout au plus d’un lac a l’autre
que trente a quarante pas, et d’autres cinq a six ou un peu plus. Ces
lacs ou marests contiennent cinquante lieues et d’avantage en carre, et
ne sont separes par aucune riviere que par celle de la Louisianne, qui a
son lit dans le milieu, ou une partie de leurs eaux viennent se degorger.
D’autres tombent dans la riviere de Sainte Croix, qui est situee a leur
egard au nord-est, et qui les range de pres. Enfin les autres marests
et lacs situez a l’ouest de la riviere de Saint Pierre s’y vont jetter
pareillement; si bien que les Scioux sont inaccessibles dans un pays si
marecageaux, et ne peuvent y estre detruits que par des ennemis ayant des
cannots comme eux pour les poursuivre; parceque dans ces endroits il n’y
a que cinq ou six familles ensemble, qui forment comme un gros, ou une
espece de petit village, et tous les autres sont de mesme eloignez a une
certaine distance, afin d’estre a portee de se pouvoir prester la main a
la premiere alarme. Si quelqu’une de ces petites bourgades est attaquee,
l’ennemy n’en peut deffaire que tres peu, parceque tous les voysins se
trouvent assemblez tout d’un coup, et donnent un prompt secours ou il est
besoin. La methode qu’ils ont pour naviguer dans ces sortes de lacs est
de couper dedans leur semences, avec leurs cannots, et, les portant de
lac en lac ils obligent l’ennemy qui veut fuir a tourner autour; qui vont
tousjours d’un lac a un autre, jusqu’a ce qu’ils les ayent tous passez,
et qu’ils soient arrivez a la grand terre.

Les cent hommes Hurons s’engagerent dans le milieu de ces marests, sans
cannots, ou ils furent decouverts par quelques Scioux, qui accoururent
pour donner l’alarme par tout. Cette nation estoit nombreuse, dispersee
dans toutte la circonference des marests, ou l’on recueilloit quantite
de folles avoines, qui est le grain de cette nation, dont le goust est
meilleur que celuy du riz.

Plus de trois mil Scioux se rendirent de touts costez, et investirent les
Hurons, ... de tout ce party, il n’en echapa qu’un(8).


Les Hurons, se voyant fort peu de monde, prirent le party de ne pas
songer a se venger et de vivre paisiblement a Chagouamikon pendant
plusieurs annees. Pendant tout ce temps la, ils ne furent point insultez
des Scioux, qui ne s’appliquerent uniquement qu’a faire la guerre aux
Kiristinons, aux Assiniboules et a toutes les nations du nord, qu’ils ont
detruits et desquels ils se sont aussy faits detruire respectivement....

Le Pere Mesnard qu’on avoit donne pour missionnaire aux Outaouas
[1660], accompagne de quelques Francois qui alloient commercer chez
cette nation, fust abandonne de touts ceux qu’il avoit avec luy, a la
reserve d’un qui luy rendit jusqu’a la mort touts les services et les
secours qu’il en pouvoit esperer. Ce Pere suivit les Outaouas au lac
des Illinoets, et dans leur fuitte dans la Louisianne jusqu’au-dessus
de la Riviere Noire. Ce fut la qu’il n’y eust qu’un seul Francois qui
tint compagnie a ce missionnaire et que tous les autres le quitterent.
Ce Francois dis je suivoit attentivement la route et faisoit son portage
dans les mesmes endroits que les Outaouas; ne s’ecartant jamais de la
mesme riviere qu’eux. Il se trouva, un jour [Aout 1661], dans un rapide
qui l’entrainoit dans son cannot; le Pere pour le soulager debarqua du
sien, et ne prit pas le bon chemin pour venir a luy; il s’engagea dans
celuy qui estoit battu des animaux, et voulant retomber dans le bon, il
s’embarrassa dans un labyrinthe d’arbres et s’egara. Ce Francois apres
avoir surmonte ce rapide avec bien de la peine, attendit ce bon Pere, et
comme il ne venoit point, resolut de l’aller chercher. Il l’appella dans
les bois de touttes ses forces, pendant plusieurs jours, esperant de le
decouvrir, mais inutilement. Cependant il fit rencontre en chemin d’un
Sakis qui portoit la chaudiere du missionnaire; qui luy aprist de ses
nouvelles. Il l’asseura qu’il avoit trouve sa piste bien avant dans les
terres, mais qu’il n’avoit pas vue le Pere. Il luy dit qu’il avoit aussy
trouve la trace de plusieurs autres qui alloient vers les Scioux. Il luy
declara mesme qu’il s’imaginoit que les Scioux l’auroient pu tuer ou
qu’il en auroit este pris. En effet, on trouva, plusieurs annees apres,
chez cette nation, son breviaire et sa soutanne, qu’ils exposoient dans
les festins en y vouant leurs mets, ... chasser du costez des Scioux, car
Chagouamikon n’en est eloigne, coupant par les terres en ligne direct,
que de cinquante a soixante lieues, ...

... on luy donna pour second M. de Lude [du Lhut] qu’il envoya avertir
[1684] a Kamalastigouia, au fond du lac Superieur, ou estoit son

Je fus envoye a cette baye [des Puans, poste de Saint Francois Xavier],
charge d’une commission pour y commander en chef et dans les pays plus
eloignes du coste du ouest, et de ceux mesme que je pourrois decouvrir

Je ne fus pas plustot arrive dans les endroits ou je devois commander,
que je recus ordre de M. Denonville de revenir avec tous les Francois que
j’avois ... Je me trouvais en ce temps-la dans le pays des Scioux ou la
gelee avoit brise tous nos cannots; je fus contraint d’y passer l’este

Je fus pas terre chez les Miamis qui estoient a soixante lieues environ
de mon poste [dans le pays des Scioux], et m’ens revins par terre de
mesme que j’y estoit alle....

Quelques jours apres je m’en fus a travers les terres a la Baye avec deux
Francois. J’en rencontroit a tout moment qui m’enseignoient le meilleur
chemin et me regaloient fort bien(10)....

    [2] _Au lecteur._ Dans ces extraits, le text que donne le
    Pere T. a ete implicitement suivi; mais quant aux accents
    grammatiques, on doit pardonner leur absence, puis ce qu’il n’y
    a pas encore de type Francais dans les imprimeries de St. Paul. H.


    For the country of the north is the most ungrateful country in
    the world, since, in many places, you would not find a bird to
    hunt; still, blueberries are gathered there in the months of
    August and September....

    The Chiripinons, or Assiniboines, sow wild rice in their
    marshes, which they afterwards gather, but they can only
    transport it home during the period of navigation(1)....

    The Kiristinons, who often frequent the shores of Lake Superior
    and of the great rivers, where the elk are most commonly to be

    The savages, called Sauteurs, [Chippewas] are on the south of
    Lake Superior....

    They have for neighbors and friends the Sioux, upon whose
    limits they hunt, when they wish....

    Advancing to the north, towards the entry of the Wisconsin, the
    winter is extremely cold and long. It is there that the beavers
    are the best, and the country where hunting lasts the longest
    during the year....

    They take, also, in winter, from under the ice, in marshes
    where there is much mud and little water, a certain root; ...
    but it is only found in _Louisianne_, fifteen leagues [4½
    miles] above the entry of the Wisconsin. The savages name this
    root, in their language, Pokekoretch....

    But the tribes the furthest advanced in the north, as far as
    the latitude of the Wisconsin, do not have these medlars, and
    those who are yet further, want also the nuts similar to the
    ones of France....

    For this country [of the savages of the prairies] is entirely
    plains; there are only some islands [oases] where it is their
    custom to camp to dry their meat....

    When the Ottowas had scattered towards the lakes [to
    Mechingan(3)], the Sauteurs and the Missisakis fled to the
    north, and then to _Kionconan_(4), for want of hunting; and
    the Ottowas, fearing they were not strong enough to resist the
    incursions of the Iroquois, who were informed of the place
    where they had made their establishment, took refuse on the
    Mississippi, called at present the _Louisianne_. They ascended
    this river to twelve leagues, or about [33 miles] from the
    Wisconsin, where they found another river that is called
    [river] of the Ioways(5). They followed it to its source, and
    there met nations who received them cordially. But, in all the
    extent of country which they overran, having seen no place
    proper to establish themselves, by reason that there was no
    wood there at all, and that prairies and level plains were all
    that appeared, although buffaloes and other animals were there
    in abundance, they returned upon their steps by the same route;
    and, after having once more reached the _Louisianne_, they
    ascended higher.

    They were not there long without scattering, going from one
    side to another for hunting: I speak of a portion, only, of
    their people, whom the Sioux met and led to their villages, ...
    and then returned them to the rest.

    The Ottowas and Hurons received them very well in their turn,
    without, however, making them any great presents. The Sioux
    having arrived at home with some little matters that they had
    received from the Ottowas, divided portions of them with the
    other villages, their allies, and gave to the ones, hatchets,
    and to others, knives or awls. All these villages sent deputies
    to the Ottowas(6)....

    The Sioux received the Ottowas and Hurons in the best manner,
    wherever they went.... The Ottowas at last resolved to choose
    the island called Bald, [_Pelee_] to settle on; where they were
    several years in repose. They often received there the visit of
    the Sioux....

    The Hurons, having so much audacity that they imagined the
    Sioux were incapable of resisting them without fire-arms
    and weapons of iron, conspired with the Ottowas to make war
    upon them, in order to drive them from their country, so as
    to be able to spread themselves more, to procure means of
    subsistence. The Ottowas and the Hurons joined together and
    marched against the Sioux. They believed that as soon as
    they would appear, the others would fly; but they were much
    deceived, for their attacks were sustained, and they were
    even repulsed; and if they had not retreated, would have been
    entirely defeated by the great number of people who came from
    the other allied villages to the assistance of the Sioux. They
    were pursued to their settlement, where they were obliged to
    make a hasty fort, which, however, was sufficient to cause the
    Sioux to retire;—not daring to storm it.

    The continual inroads that the Sioux made upon them constrained
    them to fly(7). They had known of a river called the Black
    River. This they entered; and, having arrived where it takes
    its source, the Hurons found there a place fit to fortify
    themselves in, and to establish their village. The Ottowas,
    however, pushed beyond, and reached Lake Superior, where they
    fixed their home at _Chagouamikon_. The Sioux, seeing their
    enemies fled, remained in peace, without following them any
    more. But the Hurons were not content to stop there; they
    sent some parties against them, which, however, making little
    impression, drew frequent incursions on the part of the Sioux,
    and caused them to quit their fort to join the Ottowas at
    _Chagouamikon_, with a great loss of their people. So soon as
    they arrived there, they thought of forming a war party of one
    hundred men to go against the Sioux, and to revenge themselves
    for their former defeats.

    It is to be remarked that the country where they are [the
    Sioux] is nothing but lakes and marshes, filled with wild
    rice, separated, the ones from the others, by little tongues
    of land, which, at the most, from one lake to the other, are
    but thirty to forty steps, and, in many cases, only five to
    six or a little more. These lakes, or marshes, contain fifty
    or more leagues square, [19 or 20,000 square miles] and are
    divided by no river but the _Louisianne_, which has its
    bed in the middle, and into which a part of their waters is
    emptied. Others fall into the river of _Sainte Croix_, which is
    situated, in respect to them, to the north-east, and flows near
    them. Finally, the other marshes and lakes, situated to the
    west of the river of Saint Peter, throw themselves similarly
    into it. Thus, the Sioux are inaccessible in that marshy
    country, and cannot be destroyed there, but by enemies having
    canoes, like themselves, to follow them; for, in these places,
    there are only five or six families together, which form a
    hamlet, or a kind of small village; and all the others are in
    the same way, at a certain distance, in order to be ready to
    help each other at the first alarm. If any one of these little
    villages is attacked, the enemy can hurt it but slightly; for
    all the neighbors assemble at once, and give prompt assistance
    where it is needed. The way they have of navigating these lakes
    is to strike into their [rice] fields with their canoes, and,
    carrying them from lake to lake, they force the flying enemy to
    turn round. Thus, they can go from one to another, till they
    have passed them all, and have arrived at the main land.

    The hundred Hurons became entangled in the middle of these
    marshes, without canoes, where they were discovered by some
    Sioux, who hastened to give a general alarm. This nation [the
    Sioux] was numerous, scattered through all the extent of the
    marshes where they were gathering wild rice which is the grain
    of this people, and tastes better than rice.

    More than three thousand Sioux approached, from all sides, and
    invested the Hurons, ... of all this party but one escaped(8).


    The Hurons, seeing that they were so weak in numbers, concluded
    not to seek for revenge any more, but lived peaceably at
    Chagouamikon for many years. During all this time, they were
    not molested by the Sioux, who only applied themselves to
    making war on the Kiristinons, the Assiniboines, and all the
    other nations of the north, whom they have much injured, and by
    whom they have, on their part, been decimated....

    Father Menard, who had been appointed missionary to the
    Ottowas, [in 1660, and who went to them], accompanied by some
    Frenchmen that were going to traffic with that nation, was
    abandoned by all who were with him, except one, who rendered
    to him, to the last, all the services and assistance that he
    stood in need of. The Father followed the Ottawas to the lake
    of the Illinois, and in their flight to _Louisianne_, as far
    as to above the Black River. There it was that this missionary
    had but one Frenchman for companion, and where all the rest
    had left him. This Frenchman, I say, followed carefully the
    route of the Ottawas, and made his portages in the same places
    that they had;—never leaving the same river that they were on.
    He found himself, one day [August, 1661], in a rapid that was
    carrying him away in his canoe. The Father, to relieve him,
    disembarked from his own, but did not take the proper road to
    come to him; he entered one that had been made by animals; and
    desiring to return to the right one, became embarrassed in a
    labyrinth of trees and was lost. The Frenchman, after having
    ascended the rapid, with a great deal of trouble, waited for
    the good Father, and as he did not come, concluded to search
    for him. He called his name in the woods with all his strength,
    for several days, but in vain. However, he met, in the way, a
    Sauk who was carrying the camp kettle of the missionary; and
    who told him news of him. He informed him that he had found his
    track a long way on, in the woods, but that he had not seen the
    Father himself. He told him, too, that he had found the traces
    of several others going towards the Sioux. He even said that he
    thought the Sioux might have killed him, or taken him prisoner.
    Indeed, several years afterwards, there were found amongst this
    nation his breviary and cassock, which they exposed at their
    ceremonies, making offerings to them of their food....

    ... to hunt in the direction of the Sioux; for _Chagouamikon_
    is only fifty to sixty leagues [138 to 166 miles] distant from
    them, going across the country in a direct line....

    ... They gave him, for second. M. du Lhut, whom he sent word
    to [1684] at _Kamalastiguoia_, at the further side of Lake
    Superior, where was his post(9)....

    I was sent to this bay [Green Bay, post of St. Francois
    Xavier], charged with the commission to have chief command
    there, and in the most distant countries on the side of the
    west, and even in any that I might discover [1685]....

    I had no sooner arrived in the places where I was to command,
    than I received orders from M. Denonville to return, with all
    the Frenchmen that were with me.

    ... At that time, I was in the country of the Sioux, where the
    freezing [of the streams] had broken all our canoes; I was
    compelled to stay there during the summer [1686]....

    I went by land to the Miamis, who were about sixty leagues
    [165½ miles] from my post [in the country of the Sioux], and
    returned from them the same way that I had gone....

    Some days after, I went across the country to the Bay [Green]
    with two Frenchmen. I met, continually, with those who showed
    me the best road, and treated me very well(10).

§ 3. Extracts from the notes to the “Memoire sur les moeurs &c.”

(1) “Assinipoualaks, or _warriors of the rock_, now Assiniboines, a Sioux
tribe, which, towards the commencement of the seventeenth century, having
quarrelled with the rest of the nation, was obliged to secede, and took
refuge amongst the rocks (assin) of the Lake of the Woods.”

(2) “The Kilistinons lived upon the banks of Lake Alimbegong, between
Lake Superior and Hudson’s Bay.”

(3) “_Mechingan_—eastern Wisconsin and north-western Michigan.”

(4) “_Kionconan_—Kewenaw of the American maps.“ [Pronounced by the modern
Chippewas It is like _Ke-wa-yo-nahn-ing_.—E. F. Ely.]

(5) “The Iowas, neighbors and allies of the Sioux, dwelt between the
44th and 45th degrees of north latitude, twelve days’ journey beyond
the Mississippi: that they very likely belonged to the latter nation,
is shown by the name of _Nadouessioux Maskoutens_, or _Nadouessioux
of the prairies_, that the Algonquins had given them; for _Maskoute_,
[Mush-ku-day,] the root of _Maskoutens_, signifies _land destitute of
trees_, or _prairie_.”

(6) “We know indeed that two Frenchmen visited, in 1659, the forty Sioux
villages without crossing, or even seeing, the Mississippi, of which they
have only spoken from hearsay, and from the descriptions that the Hurons
of Black River gave them of it. The villages belonged, then, all to the
eastern portion of the Sioux territory, situated on this side of the
river; that is to say, in the half of the country really occupied by this
nation. It may, however, be that in the infant Mississippi, disguised,
too, under a Sioux name, our two travelers did not recognize the large
and powerful river that the Hurons told them of under its Algonquin
title. In this case, they must have been, though without their knowledge,
the first to see again in the seventeenth century, the Mississippi,
discovered in the sixteenth by Ferdinand de Soto.” ... “One of these
travelers was called Des Groseillers, and lived many months with the
Sioux. This we gather from the following passage of the M. S. Journal
of the Jesuits of Quebec, (Aug., 1660).... “The Ottowas arrived on the
19th.... There were three hundred of them. Des Groseillers was in their
company; he had gone to them the year before.... Des Groseillers has
wintered with the nation of the Ox [_nation du boeuf_], which he makes to
be 4,000 men. They are the sedentary Nadouesserons’ (Sioux of the East).”

(7) “From the commencement of 1660, the Ottowas inhabited Chegoimegon
Point [Shah-gah-wah-mik-ong—Ely], as well as the islands adjacent to it
on the southern shore of Lake Superior. The Hurons, at that time, were
in hiding near the sources of the Black River, at six days distance (40
or 50 leagues), from the same lake, and at seven or eight from Green
Bay. The two peoples were visited, in 1659, by two French traders, who,
penetrating beyond, made alliance with the Sioux. It is then between
the years 1657 [at which time the Hurons and Ottowas were living in
Mechingan,] and 1660, that the events described by Perrot must have taken
place; that is, from the flight of these tribes to the Mississippi,
up to their first troubles with the Sioux, which were followed by a
new migration—that was not their last one.” ... “In reckoning at forty
or fifty leagues the six days journey that separated the residence of
the Hurons from Lake Superior, I have only applied the rule given in
the _Relation_ of 1658 by Father Dreuillettes; ‘You will see also,’
he writes, ‘the new roads to go to the sea of the north, ... with the
distance of the places, according to the days travel that the savages
have made, which I put at fifteen leagues a day in descending, on
account of the rapidity of the waters, and at seven or eight leagues in
ascending.’” [The common league of France is equal to 2.76 miles.]

(8) “This disastrous expedition following the arrival of the Hurons at
Chegoimegon, it could not, consequently, have taken place before 1662.
On the other hand, it preceded, by many years perhaps, the visit that
the Chief of the Sinagaux Ottowas paid the Sioux in 1665 or 1666; it is
then very likely that the defeat of the Hurons by the Sioux occurred in
one of the two years, 1662 or 1663.” ... “Two reasons have impelled me to
place in 1665-1666, the arrival of the Sioux prisoners at Chegoimegon,
followed by their return to their country with the chief of the Sinagaux
and the four Frenchmen of whom Perrot speaks. The first is that, in this
year, the Sioux very certainly visited the Point of the Holy Spirit; the
second, that, according to the account of these events, as it is given
by our author, four or five years at least, had passed away between this
visit and the abandoning of Chegoimegon, in 1670-71, by the Hurons and
the Ottowas.”

(9) “_Kalamalastigouia_—an application of DuLhut, made in 1693, in
which he solicits the concession of this post, gives the name as

(10) “Perrot, who was recalled in 1685, from the country of the Sioux,
received, four years later, express orders to take possession of it in
the name of the king, as seen in the following document: ...

“‘_Nicolas Perrot, commandant pour le roi au poste des Nadouesioux ...
declarons a tous qu’il appartiendra etre venus a la baye des Puants et
au lac des Outagamis, rivieres des dits Outagamis et Maskoutins, riviere
de l’Ouiskonche et celle de Mississippi, nous etre transportes au pays
des Nadouesioux, sur le bord de la riviere de Sainte Croix, a l’entree
de la riviere de Saint Pierre, sur laquelle etaient les Mantantons,
et, plus haut dans les terres, au nord-est du Mississippi, jusqu aux
Menchokatouches, chez lesquels habitent la plus grande partie des
Songeskitoux et autres Nadouesioux qui sont au nord-est du Mississippi,
pour et au nom du Roy, prendre possession des terres et rivieres ou les
dites nations habitent, et desquelles elles sont proprietaires ... fait
au poste Saint-Antoine le dit jour et an que dessus_’”—[le 8 Mai 1689.]
See Neills’ History of Minnesota, pages 143 to 145, for _translation_ of
this “deed” in full.


By G. H. Pond, of Bloomington.

                                    BLOOMINGTON, December 14, 1866.

    Rev. JOHN MATTOCKS—_Dear Sir_:—I have deferred complying with
    your request to prepare a paper for the Historical Society till
    now, only because I have never found the leisure necessary to
    do it. Even now I have been obliged to let every thing else go
    except what was absolutely necessary to be done in order to
    attend to it. The press of to-day contains a notice of your
    meeting last Monday. I suppose, therefore, that I am too late,
    but will forward to you what I have prepared. If it is not
    acceptable please return it to me.

    The “superstitions” to which the paper relates, it may seem
    to some, are too absurd to be the religion of men, however
    degraded, but they have been obtained from the Indians
    themselves, and I have never discovered that they had anything
    better, but have discovered much that is worse. I presume that
    no one will be disposed to say that it is my own invention,
    for that would be giving me credit for more imaginative and
    creative genius than I ever claimed. Such as it is I send it,
    and shall be satisfied if the society accepts it or returns it
    to me.

    The sack I send you will find explained under the head
    “_Medicine-man a DOCTOR_.” It is not the medicine sack of the
    medicine dancer.

                       In haste, yours, &c.,

                                                        G. H. POND.

The Dakota Indians are the tribes who are generally known by the name of
Sioux, a name given them by early French explorers.

Of the Dakota there are several—seven—grand divisions who are, by their
orators, sometimes spoken of as “SEVEN FIRES.”

These again were divided into a great number of smaller tribes or clans,
each having its little chief, who was simply the most influential
individual in the clan, which was composed chiefly of blood relations.

The chief, for generations, seems to have had but little authority except
that which he derived from the support of some medicine-man, who attached
himself to him, or from the fact that government officers and traders
transacted business with the clans through them.

The name Dakotah signifies much the same as confederacy. The word is
often used as the opposite of enemy.

These divisions and subdivisions of Indians are all embraced under the
comprehensive name DAKOTA, the name by which they call themselves. The
Assinnaboines are said to have belonged originally to the Dakota family.

A few years ago, these Dakota tribes occupied the country along the
Mississippi river, from about Prairie du Chien, to far above the Falls of
St. Anthony, the whole of the Minnesota valley, and the immense plains
extending westward to, and beyond the Missouri river.

The language of all these tribes is the same, with unimportant dialectic
differences, and seems to be entirely distinct from that of the tribes
around, except, perhaps, that of the Winnebago tribe.

Being one in language they are alike in their civil polity, if indeed
it can be said that they have any, alike in their religious belief and
practice, and alike in all their manners, allowing for the modifications
which have been produced by diversity of circumstances.

It is to the superstitions of these Dakotas that the following paper

In the first place it seems to be necessary to define the very
significant Dakota word _wakan_, for, in it is contained the quintessence
of their religion. It is an epitome of the whole, containing its pith and

The word _wakan_, signifies anything which is incomprehensible. The more
incomprehensible the more wakan. The word is applied to anything, and
everything, that is strange or mysterious. The general name for the gods
in their dialect is this, _Taku-Wakan_, i. e., that which is wakan.

Whatever, therefore, is above the comprehension of a Dakota, is God.
Consequently, he sees gods everywhere. Not Jehovah every where, but

This is the starting point in their superstitions, but it is not with
ease that one can arrive at the other end of the subject. It runs out
like the division of matter, to divinity. To use an expression of one of
their own most intelligent men, “there is nothing that they do not revere
as God.” _Wakan_ is the one idea of divine essence. The chief, if not
the only difference that they recognize to exist, among all the tens of
thousands of their divinities, is the unessential one of a difference in
the degree of their wakan qualities, or in the purposes for which they
are wakan.

_We_ speak of the _medicine_-man, _medicine_-feast, _medicine_-dance, and
the great-_spirit_ of the Indian, while he speaks of _wakan_-man, the
_wakan_-feast, the _wakan_-dance, and the great-_wakan_.

Evidence is wanting to show that these people divide their _Taku-Wakan_
into classes of good or evil. They are all simply wakan. The Dakotas have
another word to represent spirit, or soul, or Jehovah, but the word wakan
is never used in that sense, though a spirit might be wakan.

Evidence is also wanting to show that the Dakotas embraced in their
religious tenets, the idea of one Supreme Existence, whose existence is
expressed by the term GREAT SPIRIT. If some of the clans, at the present
time, entertain this idea, it seems highly probable that it has been
imparted to them by individuals of European extraction. No reference to
such a being is to be found in their feasts, or fasts, or sacrifices. Or
if there is any such reference at the present time, it is clear that is
of recent origin and does not belong to their system. Individuals of them
may tell us that the worship of the great medicine-dance is paid to the
Great Spirit, but it is absolutely certain that it is not, as will be
seen as we proceed.

Mr. Carver tells us of a religious ceremony of a very singular
nature—very wakan—in which a person is carefully bound hand and foot and
mysteriously released by the gods—the performance of which he witnessed,
and which he said had reference to the GREAT SPIRIT. Doubtless it had
such reference in his opinion, but it will be shown in another place,
that in fact, it had not.

It is indeed true, that Dakotas do sometimes appeal to the Great Spirit
when in counsel with white men, but it is because they suppose him to be
the object of the white man’s worship, or because they themselves have
embraced the Christian doctrines. Still it is generally the _Interpreter_
who makes the appeal to the Great Spirit, when the speaker really
appealed to the _Taku_-wakan, and not to the wakan-_Tanku_.

Besides, the great struggle which at the present time exists between
the heathen and the Christian Dakotas, is freely _expressed_ to be a
strife, between the old system of worship rendered to the _Taku Wakan_,
and the new, which is rendered to the _Wanku Tanku_. The Christians are
universally distinguished from the pagans, as being worshippers of Wakan
Tanku, or as we speak, the Great Spirit.

One word more by way of introduction. It is true of all the Dakota gods,
or wakans, that they are male and female, are subject to the same laws of
propagation under which men and animals exist, and are mortal. They are
not thought of as being eternal, except it may be by succession.



It seems to be proper to allow this wakan object to take the precedence
in our arrangement, as he does really in respectability. The literal
signification of the name is probably lost, though it may, perhaps,
signify extraordinary vital energies.

In their external form, the Onktehi are said to resemble the ox, only
that they are of immense proportions. This god has power to extend his
horns and tail so as to reach the skies. These are the organs of his
power. The dwelling place of the male is in the water, and the spirit
of the female animates the earth. Hence, when the Dakota seems to be
praying, chanting or offering sacrifices to the water or to the earth, it
is to this family of the gods that the worship is rendered. They address
the male as grandfather, and the female as grandmother. Hence, also, it
is probably, that the bubbling springs of water are called the “breathing
places of the wakan.”

Though not the same in form, and though destitute of the trident, the
horse, and the dolphin, yet, because he rules in the watery worlds as
Neptune did in the Mediterranean sea, it may not be out of place to
denominate him the Neptune of the Dakotas.

This god has power to issue from his body a wakan influence which is
irresistible even by the superior gods. This missive influence is termed
_tonwan_, which word will frequently recur as we proceed. This power is
common to all the Taku-Wakan. This tonwan influence, it is claimed, is
infused into each medicine-sack which is used in the medicine dance.

One of these gods, it is believed, dwells under the Falls of St. Anthony,
in a den of awful dimensions, and which is constructed of iron.

A little to the left of the road leading from Fort Snelling to Minnehaha,
in sight of the fort, is a hill which is used, at present, as a burial
place. This hill is known to the Dakotas as “Taku wakan tipi,” the
dwelling place of the gods. It is believed that one of this family of
divinities dwells there.

Not many years since, at the breaking up of the ice in the Mississippi
river, it gorged and so obstructed the channel between the falls and
Fort Snelling, that the water in a few hours rose very high. When the
channel was opened by pressure, of course, the rush of water “carried
all before it.” A cabin which stood on the low bank under the falls, was
carried away with a soldier in it, who was never heard of afterwards. It
is universally believed by the worshippers of the god in question, that
the occurrence was caused by one of these gods passing down the river,
who took the soldier for his evening meal, as they often feast on human

On the morning of July 4, 1851, at Traverse des Sioux, Robert Hopkins,
a missionary of the American board to the Dakotas was drowned in the
Minnesota river. It was the general belief and talk among the Dakotas,
who were acquainted with the facts, that this god destroyed his life
and ate his soul—nagi—because he had spoken against his worship in the

It is related that as some Indians were once passing through Lake Pepin,
they suddenly found themselves aground in the middle of the lake. Their
god had risen to the surface, and they were lifted from the water on his
back! Instantly they were enveloped in clouds, and a terrific tempest
arose which chilled them with fear. Eagerly they offered their prayers
and sacrifices to their venerable grandfather, when the wakan monster
began “slowly to beat his drum the sound of which was the present
thunder, while his eyes glistened like two moons. Soon the blows fell
quicker and lighter, and the god chanted as follows:

    “Wakan de homni, waye.
    Wakan de homni waye.
    Tipi de wankahe waye.
    Wakan de homni waye.
    Tipi de wankahe waye.
    Wakan de homni waye.”


    I whirled this wakan.
    I whirled this wakan.
    I demolished this tent.
    I whirled this wakan.
    I demolished this tent.
    I whirled this wakan.

As the chant ceased, a calm succeeded, and one Indian with his wife,
found himself safe and tranquil on the shore, but his companions had
all perished. From that time he was a friend of this divinity, and was
honored with the name of ONKTEHI-DUTA.”

Another chant of this god, may, with propriety, have a place here,
because it is often used in the medicine-dance, and indicates the
character of the god in the estimation of his worshippers:

    “Mde hdakinyan wakanyan munka.
    Mde hdakinyan wakanyan munka.
    He taku nagi knayan, niyake wata nunwe.”


    I hie mysteriously across the lake.
    I hie mysteriously across the lake.
    It is that decoying some soul, I may eat him alive.

The medicine-feast and the medicine-dance, have been received from this
god, and the chants above are much used in both.

The sacrifices which are required by them, are the soft down of the swan
rouged with vermilion, deer skins, tobacco, dogs, medicine-feasts and

Their subordinates are the serpent, lizard, frog, ghosts, owl and eagle.
These all obey their will. The Onktehi made the earth and men, and gave
the Dakotas the medicine-sack, and also prescribed the manner in which
some of those pigments must be applied, which are daubed over the bodies
of his votaries in the medicine-dance, and on the warrior when he goes
into action. They are believed to possess a wakan and an amuletic power.

Among all the myriads of the Dakota gods, there are none more
respectable, or more respected, than the one above mentioned.


The wakan dance is represented as having been received from the family of
gods above considered.

The onktehi, immediately after the production of the earth and men, to
promote his own worship among them, gave to the Indians the medicine
sack, and instituted the medicine dance. He ordained that the sack should
consist of the skin of the otter, the raccoon, the weazel, the squirrel,
the loon, one variety of fish, and of serpents. It was also ordained that
the sack should contain four species of medicines, of wakan qualities,
which should represent fowls, medicinal herbs, medicinal trees, and
quadrupeds. The down of the female swan represents the first and may be
seen at the time of the dance, inserted in the nose of the sack. Grass
roots represent the second, bark from the root of trees the third, and
hair from the back or head of a buffalo, the fourth. These are carefully
preserved in the sack.

From this combination proceeds a wakan influence so powerful, that no
human being, unassisted, can resist it.

At the institution of the dance, the god prepared a tent, four square,
opening towards the east, with an extended court in front, and selecting
four men for initiation, proceeded to instruct and prepare them for the
reception of the mysteries. The rules of conduct which he gave them,
were that “they should honor and revere the medicine sack, honor all who
should belong to the dance, make frequent medicine feasts, refrain from
theft, not listen to birds, (slander) and female members should not have
a plurality of husbands.” The sum of the good promised to the faithful,
was “honor from the members of the institution, frequent invitations to
the feast, abundance of fowl, with supernatural assistance to consume it,
and long life here, with a red dish and spoon in the life to come.”

The evils threatened against the unfaithful were as follows: “If
unfaithful you cannot escape detection and punishment. If you enter the
forest to hide yourself the black owl is there, if you descend into the
earth serpents are there, if you flee into the air the eagle will pursue
you, and if you go into the water there I am.”

The candidates thus instructed and charged were placed in the center of
the tent to receive the tonwan of the sack, discharged at them by the god
himself. It is said that they perished under the operation.

After consulting with his goddess, the god holding up his left hand, and
pattering on the back of it with the other, produced myriads of little
shells, whose virtue is to restore life to those who have been slain
by the tonwan of the sack. (Each of the members of the medicine dance
is thought to have one of these shells in his body.) After taking this
precaution, the god selected four other candidates and repeated the
experiment of initiation with success, following the discharge from the
sack immediately with the shell cast into the vital parts, at the same
time chanting the following words:

    “Najin wo, Najin wo,
    Mitonwan katapi do.
    Najin wo, najin wo.

    _Chorus._—Haya haya,
              Haya haya.”


    Rise on your feet, rise on your feet,
    My tonwan is for sport,
    Rise on your feet, rise on your feet.

Such, it is believed, was the origin of the medicine dance.

There are no officers, or superiority of rank, except that of age and
experience, known in this pagan institution. The dance is celebrated;
1st, on account of the death of one of its members whose sack is given to
a near relative of the deceased; 2nd, when a new sack is to be conferred
on one who desires to become a member and who has proved himself worthy
of the honor by making medicine feasts, and rendering due honor to the
members; and 3rd, in the performance of a vow.

It is required of a candidate for admission, that he go through the
ceremony of the “vapor bath” once each day, four days in succession. In
the meantime some of the aged members instruct him in the mysteries of
the institution, in imitation of the course of its author as already
related. Besides, he is provided with a dish and spoon both of wood. On
the side of the dish is often carved the head of some voracious animal,
in which resides the spirit of the IYA—the god of gluttony. The dish will
contain eight to ten quarts, or more, and is always carried by its owner
to the medicine feast, and he is bound to eat all that is put in it, or
pay a fine to the maker of the feast. A woman came to the writer on one
occasion to ask for calico to make a short gown. She said she had lately
had seven new ones, but had lost them all at medicine feasts, where she
was unable to empty her dish. GREY IRON, of the _Black Dog_ band, used
to possess a dish on which was carved a bear entire, indicating that he
could eat as much as a bear. The candidate is also instructed in the
matter of painting his body for the dance. This paint is nearly all the
covering that he wears on the occasion. He must always paint in the same
manner for the ceremony of the dance. There is said to be wakan virtue
in this paint, and the manner of its application, and those who have not
been furnished with a better, by a war prophet, wear it into battle.

The candidate being thus prepared, and having made the requisite
offerings for the benefit of the institution, on the evening of the
day which precedes the dance, is taken in charge by ten or more of the
more substantial brothers, who pass the night in devotional exercises,
such as chanting, dancing, exhorting, eating, and smoking. Early in the
morning the tent, in form like that which the god first erected for the
purposes, is thrown open for the dance. The members assemble painted and
ornamented, each bringing his medicine-sack.

After a few preliminary ceremonies, appropriate to the occasion,
including a row of kettles of large dimensions, well filled and arranged
over a fire at the entrance of the court, guarded by sentries appointed
for the occasion, the candidate takes his place on a pile of blankets
which he and his friends have contributed. He is naked, except the breech
cloth and moccasins, and well smeared with pigments of various hues.
Behind him stands an aged and reliable member. Now, the master of the
ceremonies, with the joints of his knees and hips considerably bent,
advances with an unsteady, uncouth hitching, sack in hand, wearing an
aspect of desperate energy, and uttering his “Heen, heen, heen,” with
frightful emphasis, while all around are enthusiastic demonstrations
of all kinds of wild passions. At this point the sack is raised near
a painted spot on the breast of the candidate, at which the tonwan is
discharged. At the instant the brother from behind gives him a push and
he falls dead, and is covered with blankets.

Now the frenzied dancers gather around, and in the midst of bewildering
and indescribable noises, chant the words uttered by the god at the
institution of the ceremony, as already recorded. Then the master throws
off the covering, and chewing a piece of the bone of the Onktehi, spits
it over him, and he begins to show signs of returning life. Then as the
master pats energetically upon the breast of the initiated person, he,
convulsed, strangling, struggling and agonizing, heaves up the shell
which falls from his mouth on a sack placed in readiness to receive it.
Life is restored and entrance is effected into the awful mysteries.
He belongs henceforth to the medicine-dance, and has a right to enjoy
the medicine feast. Now comes the season of joy. The novice takes the
wakan shell in his hand, and in the midst of savage demonstrations of
the wildest kind, exhibits it to all the members, and to the wondering
by-standers who throng the enclosure outside. The dance continues
interspersed with “shooting each other,” rests, smoking, eating and
drinking, till they have jumped to the music of four sets of singers.

The following chants, which are used in this dance, will sufficiently
evince its character and tendency, and the character of its members,
especially when it is considered that this is the RELIGION OF IMMORTAL
BEINGS—men and women.

            “Waduta ohna micage.
            Waduta ohna micage.
    Minizata, ite wakan, maqu—Tunkan sidan.”


            He created it for me enclosed in red down
            He created it for me enclosed in red down.
    He in the water, with mysterious aspect, gave it to me—my grandfather.

Here is another of like significance:

    “Tunkansidan pejihuta wakan micage.
            He wicake.
    Minizate oicage wakan kin maqu ze.
    Tunkansidan ite kin zuwinta wo.
    Wahutopa zuha, ite zuwinta wo.”


    My grandfather created for me mysterious medicine.
            That is true.
    The mysterious being in the water gave it to me.
    Stretch out your hand before the face of my grandfather.
    Having a quadruped, stretch out your hand to him.

The celebration of the medicine-dance, is the extraordinary part of
a system of Dakota superstition, of which the medicine-feast is the
ordinary and every day part. A very large portion of the adults belong to
this fraternity.


This name signifies “_flyer_,” from _kinyan_, to fly. Lightning emanates
from this _flyer_, and the thunder is the sound of his voice. This is the
universal belief.

The existence of thunder is a matter of fact, apparent to all people. It
must be explained and accounted for by the savage as well as by the sage,
and by the first with as much confidence as by the latter, and more; for
he who is not supported in his tenets by reason, must of necessity be
confident or fail. He must evince seven times as much confidence as one
who has the support of reason, which the wise man observed to be the case
in his day. The Indian has no more doubt, apparently, of the correctness
of his religious tenets, than he has that a hungry man wants to eat. He
is as confident of the correctness of his theory, in relation to the
thunder, as we are that it is caused by the passing of electricity from
one cloud to another.

The lightning, which is so terrible in its effects to destroy life, or to
shiver the oak to atoms, is to the Dakota simply the tonwan of a winged
monster, who lives and flies through the heavens shielded by thick clouds
from mortal vision.

By some of the wakan-men, it is said that there are four varieties of the
form of their external manifestation. In essence, however, they are but

One of the varieties is black, with a long beak, and has four joints in
his wing. Another is yellow, without any beak at all, with wings like
the first, only that he has but six quills in each wing. The third is
of scarlet color, and remarkable, chiefly, for having eight joints in
each of its enormous pinions. The fourth is blue and globular in form,
and is destitute both of eyes and ears. Immediately over where the eyes
should be, is a semi-circular line of lightning resembling an inverted
half-moon, from beneath which project downward two chains of lightning,
zigzaging and diverging from each other as they descend. Two plumes,
like soft down, coming out near the roots of the descending chains of
lightning serve for wings.

These thunderers, of course, are of terrific proportions. They created
the wild rice and a variety of prairie grass, the seed of which bears
some resemblance to that of the rice.

At the western extremity of the earth, which is presumed to be a circular
plain surrounded by water, is a high mountain, on the summit of which is
a beautiful mound. On this mound is the palace of this family of gods.
The palace opens towards each of the four cardinal points, and at each
doorway is stationed a watcher. A butterfly stands at the east entrance,
a bear at the west, a reindeer at the north, and a beaver at the south.
Except the head, each of these wakan sentries is enveloped with scarlet
down of the most exquisite softness and beauty. (Indians are great
admirers of scarlet, and to induce a child to take some nauseous drug,
the mother has but to assure it that it is red.)

The Wakinyan gods are represented as ruthless, cruel and destructive in
their disposition, and ever exert their powers for the gratification of
this, their ruling propensity, at the expense of whatever may come in
their way. They are ever on the “war path,” and are “sharp shooters.”

Once for all, it may be here stated, that a mortal hatred exists between
the different families of the gods, like that which exists between
Indians of different tribes and languages. The two families already
mentioned, like the Dakota and the Chippewa, are always in mortal strife.
Neither has power to resist the tonwan of the other, if it strikes
him. Their attacks are never open, and neither is safe, except as he
eludes the vigilance of the other. The fossil remains of the mastodon
are confidently believed to be the bones of the Onktehi which have been
killed by the Wakinyan. These relics of the gods are carefully preserved
and held in awful esteem, for their wakan virtues. The Wakinyan, in his
turn, is often surprised and killed by the Onktehi. Many stories are
told of the mortal combats of these divinities. The writer listened to
the relation, by an eye witness, of a story in substance as follows: “A
Wakinyan god was killed, and fell on the bank of the Blue Earth river,
which was twenty-five or thirty yards between the tips of the wings.”

From the Wakinyan god, the Dakotas have received their war implements,
(spear and tomahawk,) and many of those pigments, which, if properly
applied will shield them from the weapons of their enemies. Dressed in
these pigments, they feel as secure as did the fabled Greek, protected by
the vulcanian shield.

It almost seems as if it were becoming to offer an apology before
proceeding, but it is ventured to presume on the good nature of the
reader and introduce


The signification of the term is, _that which stirs_. This god is too
subtle in essence to be perceived by the human senses, and is as subtle
in his disposition as in his being. Though invisible, he is ubiquitous.
He is supposed to have a controlling influence over intellect, instinct
and passion. His symbol is the boulder; and, hence, boulders are
universally worshipped by the Dakotas. He lives, also, in what is termed
“the four winds,” and the consecrated spear and tomahawk are animated
by his spirit. He is much gratified to see men in trouble, and is
particularly glad when they die in battle or otherwise.

He can rob a man of the use of his rational faculties, and inspire a
beast with intelligence, so that the hunter, like an idiot, will wander
and become bewildered on the prairie or in the forest, and the game on
which he hoped to feast his family at night, escapes with perfect ease.
Or, if he please, he may reverse his influence, and the animal has not
even brutal instinct to escape from its pursuer.

This god is passionate and capricious to the highest degree; and, hence,
it is very difficult to retain his favor. Often he is likened to a
passionate, whimsical child, taking offence at everything, while it is as
necessary to secure his favor, on the part of the hunter or the warrior,
as it is to procure food, or to prove one’s manhood by taking a scalp.
Subordinate to this god are the buzzard, the raven, the fox, the wolf,
and other animals of a similar nature. To him belong the “armor feast”
and the “vapor bath.”

The “armor feast” is of ordinary occurrence when the provisions are of
sufficient abundance to support it, in which the warriors assemble and
exhibit the sacred implements of war, to which they burn incense around
the smoking sacrifice.


This god is so curiously wakan that he is entitled to a brief notice.

Like the Wakinyan, there are four varieties of them, all of which assume,
in substance, the human form, but it would be unnecessarily tedious
to note the differences of form, especially as the differences are

These objects of superstition, are said to be armed with the bow and
arrows, and with the deer-hoof rattle, which things are charged with
electricity. One of the varieties carries a drum, which is also charged
with the same fluid. For a drumstick, he holds a small Wakinyan god by
the tail, striking on the drum with the beak of the god. This would seem
to us to be an unfortunate position for a god to be in, but it must be
remembered that it is wakan, and the more absurd a thing is the more

One of these gods, in some respects, answers to the wreathed zephyr of
Grecian mythology. It is the gentle whirlwind which is sometimes visible
in the delicate waving of the tall grass of the prairie.

By virtue of their medicine and tonwan powers, they render aid to such
men as revere them, in the chase, in inflicting and healing diseases, and
especially in the gratification of their libidinous passions.

That feast, in the observance of which the worshippers dip their hands
into the boiling kettle and lifting the water in their hands, throw it
over each other’s naked bodies with impunity, belongs to this god.

The nature of the Heyoka is not simply supernatural, it is the opposite
of nature.

He expresses joys by sighs and groans, and by assuming a most doleful
aspect, and sorrow and pain by opposite sounds and aspect. Heat causes
their flesh to shiver, and their teeth to chatter, while cold makes them
perspire and pant. It is said of them, that in the coldest weather of the
Minnesota winter, when mercury congeals, they seek some prominence on the
prairie, where they put up some bushes to shelter them from the rays of
the sun, under which they sit naked and fan themselves as they swelter
with heat, and in the oppressive heat of summer they fold around them
robe on robe, and lean over a rousing fire, sniveling and shaking with
cold like one in a fit of the ague.

They feel perfect assurance when beset with dangers, and quake with
terror when safe. With them falsehood and truth are reversed, good is
their evil and evil their good.

Years ago at Lac qui-parle, the mother of the tall, “curly-haired chief,”
UPIZAHDEYA, was informed that it was required of her to make a feast
to the Heyoka. She was so much opposed by some of her friends that she
failed to comply with the wakan mandate, but she assured her friends,
that as a penalty, they would be mortified by seeing her flesh become
black, and her head bald, which came true. By degrees her flesh did
become very dark, and her head bald, but to an intelligent observer,
it was abundantly evident, that instead of being an infliction of the
offended god, it was the result of neglecting to wash, even her face, for
several years, and pulling out her own hair by little and little.


As the sun is visible to all men, and as it has been an object of
superstitious regard on the part of almost all pagan nations of past
generations, it will not be thought worth while, perhaps, to mention
the fact that the Dakota too, worships the sun. It will not, however,
be quite out of place to put on record a few facts in relation to this
part of Dakota worship, by which they presume to honor this glorious
object; facts which evince the sentiments of the deluded worshippers. The
following, from the pen of Rev. S. R. Riggs, is to the point.


The Sun is, from many circumstances, a natural object of worship among
the unenlightened nations of men. With the Dakotas, the sun is sometimes
appealed to as a witness. Sometimes they pray to it, generally with the
honorable title of _Hunkayapi_. Sometimes, as a god, it communicates
with men in dreams and visions. But the nature of the communication is
that the men should dance the _wiwanyagwacipi_, with the promise of
success in hunting or war. Generally the object of dancing to the sun
is to secure victory over enemies. In this aspect it is a _waihdusna_
or _self-immolation_ to the sun; it is an offering up of one’s strength
and manhood to secure the aid of the sun in the day of battle. The Bible
says, “the stars in their courses fought.”

There are occasions, also, when a man dances the sun dance as a
thank-offering. He is sick and apprehends he will die. He makes a vow
that if his life is spared he will dance to the sun. Or, he is on the
war path and he prays to the great _hunkayapi_ for success, promising in
that event to dance to his honor. These are said to be the occasions and
reasons for the _Wiwanyag-wacipi_.

More than a quarter of a century has passed since I witnessed this
ceremony, and I was there only a couple of hours about the middle of
the day. On the north side a couple of tents, fastened together, were
stretched around poles, forming a large semicircle. In the focus of the
radii stood three dancers, with their eyes turned towards the sun, which
was then in the south. Their faces and the upper part of their bodies
were gaily painted, and their heads were adorned with feathers. A blue
or red blanket was strapped around their waist, and hung down like a
woman’s skirt. Each one had a fife made of the bone of a swan’s wing, on
which they kept up a toot-toot-toot-ing, varied by the measures of the
dance and the song. Behind them in the shadow of the tent sat the singers
and players on instruments—the drums and rattles. A few women sat still
farther back, who formed a part of the choir, and joined in the chorus.

The chief dancer on this occasion, if I remember rightly, was _Mahipiya
sua_, who afterwards shot himself. The dancers always make incisions
in their flesh, in which they insert swan’s down or horse hair. These
incisions are commonly made on the shoulders and arms. When the sacrifice
is intended to be as complete as possible, an incision is made in the
back, through which a cord of horse hair is passed, and a buffalo head is
attached to the lower end, so that every time the body moves up and down,
a slight motion is given to the buffalo head which lies on the ground
behind him. At the close, if his strength remains sufficient, he drags
the buffalo head around the place.

Occasionally a man inflicts still more torture on himself than this. He
makes an incision in his breast, and passing a cord through it he draws
it tight and fastens the other end to a pole which stands immediately in
front of him.

The ceremonies of the sun dance commence in the evening. I have been
under the impression that the time of the full moon was selected, but
I am now informed that it is not essential. The singers and players on
instruments practice their songs in the night, and there is some dancing.
There is also feasting. Before morning the company generally lie down and
sleep awhile.

The real dance commences when the _Hunkayapi_ makes his appearance.
Then the dancers begin and continue without _eating_, _drinking_, or
_resting_, until nature is quite exhausted. Some join in the dance as
particular friends of the dancer. They may occasionally sit down and
smoke, but if the maker of the dance falls down or is observed to be
quite exhausted, a friend may step forward and make a valuable present to
some one. In this case the dancer may rest awhile and begin again. Some
give out entirely before the sun goes down, when the dance is concluded.
Others are able to continue into the night.

A man who dances to the sun is expected to make a song of his own, which
embodies the _god-communication_ to him.



    1. Hena yuha hibu e:
    Nazi topa hena yuha oecetiwaya nunwe.


    “_Having these I come_;
    Having these four souls may I make my camp fires.”

He was to take _four scalps_ in battle.

    2. Anpetu kin wamiconga,
    Makatakiya u we.

    “The day that is determined for me,
    May it come earthward.”

    3. Minagi topa ye do,
    Hoksidan wakan cicu e do.

    4. Wiwanyake toki da he;
    Nitakoda wanyaka ye.

    “Wiwanyaki (a bird) where have you gone;
    Behold your friend.”

    5. Anpetu kin wanniyag hi nanwe.

    “May the day come to see thee.”

    6. Wacinhe wakanyan
    Taninyan wahinawape.

    With a crown of glory,
    I come forth.

This is the language of the sun as it rises in glory.

    7. Mahipiya sua, kode,
    Mini yain hwo.

This is sung by the singers when the man is almost dying of thirst. The
brave man pays no attention to it.

The following is from the pen of Major General Curtis, dated Fort Sully,
June 2, 1866:

    “The whole of the three thousand Sioux camped about us gave
    me early information of their design to have the annual sun
    dance at this time and place, the season of the year—the trees
    in full leaf—having now arrived, and they wished me to inform
    Colonel Recor, the commander of the soldiers, that however
    boisterous their demonstrations might be, they would all be
    peaceable and of a pious character.

    On yesterday, June 1, the dancing was delayed at intervals to
    allow tortures to be inflicted. Two or three men stood over the
    devotee with needle and knife, very quietly performing penance,
    according to the customs of all these sacerdotal rites, as
    follows; First, they cut the arms in several places by striking
    an awl in the skin, raising it and cutting out about half an
    inch; this is done on both arms, and sometimes on the breast
    and back. Then wooden setons (sticks about the thickness of a
    common lead pencil) are inserted through a hole in the skin and
    flesh. Then cords or ropes are attached to these sticks by one
    end, and to the pole at the other end, the victim pulling on
    the ropes till the seton sticks tear out the flesh and skin. I
    saw one with two setons thus attached to his breast, pulling
    till it seemed to draw the skin out three inches, and finally
    requiring nearly his whole might to tear out the seton.

    One, painted black, had four ropes attached at once. The
    pulling out is done in the dance, the pulling carried on in the
    time of the music by jerk, jerk, jerk, and the eye, head, and
    front all facing the sun in the form of supplication. One had
    four setons attached to four dry buffalo head bones. These were
    all strung and suspended to his flesh by ropes that raised each
    head some three feet off the ground. He danced hard to tear
    them out, but they would not break the skin. One came off the
    stick accidentally, but it was again fastened. Finally, these
    heavy weights (each at least twenty five pounds weight,) not
    tearing out by their own weight or motion, the devotee gave
    a comrade a horse to take hold of the rope and tear out the
    setons. While these were being thus tortured, their female
    relations came in and had pieces cut out of their arms to show
    their appreciation of the valor and devotion of their kinsmen.
    Still, as soon as the victim could be prepared, the music was
    renewed, and the dismal dance went on, victims’ bodies now
    mingled with blood, paint, and setons.

    There being several steamboats and many soldiers here, a crowd
    of spectators rather embarrassed the performers, so they
    concluded the performance at twelve o’clock, having only danced
    twenty-four hours instead of forty-eight, as they usually do.
    All the devotees gave away all their ponies and other valuables
    to their friends, had their wounds carefully dressed by
    attendant medical men, and sat down to an abundant feast of dog
    soup and buffalo meat.

    So ended this most barbarous and painful exhibition of savage
    idolatry. The picture is still deeply impressed on my senses,
    but I cannot give half the horror of the scene, either by pen
    or pencil.”

The object of these rites is to obtain the favor of the god to whom they

In these divinities which have been mentioned, and innumerable others
like them, as various as the wildest imaginations, maddened by passion,
can create, or their circumstances and felt wants demand, the Dakotas
find all that they desire of a religious nature. These divinities
communicate with mortals through the medium of


These men are the representatives of the gods on earth, to men. They
_are_ the gods in human form, though in diminished proportions. They are
essentially different from other men—wakan.

The original essence of these men and women, for they appear under both
sexes, first wakes into existence floating in ether. As the winged seed
of the thistle, or of the cottonwood, floats on the air, so they are
gently wafted by the “four winds”—“Taku-skan-skan”—through the regions
of space, until, in due time, they find themselves in the abode of some
one of the families of the superior gods, by whom they are received into
intimate fellowship. There the embryotic medicine-man remains till he
becomes familiar with the characters, abilities, desires, caprices, and
employments of the gods. He becomes essentially assimilated to them,
imbibing their spirit, and becoming acquainted with all the chants,
feasts, fasts, dances and sacrificial rites which it is deemed necessary
to impose on men.

Some of the more favored of these men are privileged to pass through a
succession of such inspirations, with various families of the divinities,
until they are completely _wakanized_, and prepared for human incarnation.

In particular, they are invested with the irresistable powers of the
gods to do good or evil, with their knowledge and cunning, and their
everywhere present influence over mind, instinct and passion. They are
instructed how to inflict diseases and to heal them, to discover things
concealed from common men, to foretell future events, to manufacture
implements of war, and infuse into them the missive virtue—the tonwan—of
the gods, and to perform all sorts of wonders.

Thus qualified for his mission, this germ of wakan, to become incarnate,
is again committed to the direction of the “four winds.” From his
elevated position, he selects a place which is to be the scene of his
service, and enters the body of an unborn infant. Thus he effects an
entrance into the world and into the sympathies of mortals.

When one of them dies, he returns to the abode of his gods, where
he receives a new inspiration and a new commission, to serve a new
generation of men in some other portion of the world. In this manner
he passes through four inspirations and incarnations, and then returns
to his primitive nothingness. These characters, however, do not always
appear in human form, but enter the bodies of beasts, as the wolf, the
bear, and the buffalo.

To establish their claims to inspiration, these characters must, of
course, perform things that are wakan, in a manner to satisfy those on
whom they purpose to impose their superstitions.

For this purpose, they artfully lay hold of all that is strange and
mysterious, and if possible turn it to their own advantage. To do this
is the one object and effort of their lives. It is their study day and
night, at all times and on all occasions. They think about it when awake,
and dream about it when asleep. They make use of all the means in their
power, and their zeal never grows cold.

They assume familiarity with whatever astonishes other people, with a
degree of self complacency, and an air of impudence and assurance which
strikes the observers with amazement. They foretell future events with a
degree of accuracy or of ambiguity which is sufficient for their purpose.
Those at one village affect to be familiar with what is transpiring
at another village leagues distant They predict the result of a war
expedition as if they had already been there; and if the prediction is
not fulfilled they find no difficulty in setting the failure to the
account of the sins of their followers.

They inflict diseases and heal them. They kill and make alive. When
occasion requires they seem to calm the tempest, or to raise the storm,
and converse with thunder and lightning, as with a familiar friend and
equal. In their devotional exercises, at times, they wrangle with the
gods, charge them with duplicity, and are defiant. If one of them is
killed by the electric fluid, which sometimes happens, it only proves the
truth, to the living, of all he had taught them concerning the Wakinyan,
and that he had provoked their anger by his sins.

The medicine man is not only familiar with the superior gods who are out
of him, but he also has inferior gods dwelling in him, to satisfy whose
cravings he frequently, and in the most public manner, tears off with his
teeth and eats the raw, quivering, bleeding flesh of newly-slaughtered
animals, like a starving beast or bird of prey, devouring parts of dogs
or fish entire, not excepting bones and scales.


In the summer of 1852, a feast of this kind was observed at Shakopee. It
was made by _Anoginajin_, second chief of the Little Six band and others.

After two days spent in introductory ceremonies, including “vapor bath”
and “armor-feast,” a tent was prepared opening towards the east, with
a spacious court in front constructed of bushes. Within the court each
of those who were to participate, had a bush set in which was prepared
a nest. Two pikes, each about one foot long, rouged with vermilion and
ornamented with down from the swan, were placed on some branches of trees
in the enclosure. The fishes were entire as they had been taken from
the water. Near the fishes were placed dishes of birch bark filled with
sweetened water. The implements of war, belonging to the participants,
were solemnly exhibited in the tent. The dancers, who were naked, except
the breech cloth and moccasins, were fantastically smeared with pigments
of various colors, and otherwise ornamented with down, white and red.
Four ranks of chanters and musicians were in attendance. The dancers
claimed to be inspired by the cormorant. They danced to the music of
three ranks of the singers, till their chants closed, taking little
seasons for rest and smoking. When the fourth rank struck the drum and
“_lifted up their voices_,” the inspiration was poured out and the welkin
trembled, and the dancers approached the fishes in a rage, like starving
beasts, and without using their hands, tore off piece after piece,
scales, bones, entrails and all, and swallowed them, drinking at the same
time from their bark dishes. Nothing remained at the close except the
heads, fins and large bones, which they had deposited in their nests.
To end the ceremony, what few articles of clothing had been worn on the
occasion, were offered in sacrifice to the gods.

Thus, while the favor of the TAKU WAKAN was secured, the fact that the
dancers were inspired, was demonstrated to most of the six hundred
wondering spectators. By performances of thousands of wakan things,
such as have been hinted at, these men triumphantly substantiate their
claims to inspiration, and they are fully believed to be “the great
powers of the gods,” and, among their people, hold a position like that
of the THUGS of India. The wakan qualities which these persons possess,
or assume to possess, qualify them to act in any capacity and in any


As a priest, with all the assurance of an eye-witness—of an equal and
of intimate and long continued communion, he bears testimony for the
divinities. He gives a minute description of their physical appearance,
their dwelling place, and their attendants. He reveals their disposition,
their powers and their employments, as one who has been with them.
He dictates prayers and chants, institutes fasts and feasts, dances
and sacrifices. He defines sin and its opposite and their respective
consequences. In short, he imposes upon the people a system of demonism
and superstition, to suit their depraved tastes and passions, and
caprices, and circumstances, and interests as savages, with an air of
authority and with a degree of cunning which does seem to be almost
superhuman—a system so artfully devised, so well adapted to them, so
congenial to them, that it readily weaves itself into, and becomes a part
of them, as really as the woof becomes a part of the texture, ensuring
their most obsequious submission to its demands. It becomes part of their
body, soul and spirit. They breathe and speak, and sing and live it. It
is not something that can be assumed and laid off at pleasure.

In the character of a priest, the influence of these demons in human
form is so complete and universal, that thirty years ago, scarce an
individual could be found among them who was not a servile religionist.
Every individual was trained to it from early infancy. Mothers put the
consecrated offering into the little unconscious hand of their babes at
the breast, and caused them to cast the present to the god. As soon as
the little tongue could articulate, it was taught to say, “grandfather
befriend me;” or “grandmother befriend me.” On one occasion the writer
witnessed a whole band, old and young, male and female, march out to the
lake shore in Indian file, and perform their acts of devotion, and offer
their prayers at the back of the medicine man, who was at the same time
officiating between them and the god—each individual was obliged to the
performance—the mothers fixing the little mouths of unconscious infants
carefully, reverently, on the stem of the consecrated pipe, which the
priest extended to them backward over his shoulder.

Much as the savage loves ease and self-indulgence he will cheerfully
subject himself to almost any privation, discomfort and toil, for days,
weeks, or even months together, in order to procure the necessary
provisions for a sacrifice which the priest assures him the gods demand.
If he fails he fully believes that the penalty may be the infliction of
any, or all the evils to which an Indian is exposed. A man made a trip
on foot from the “Little Rapids,” on the Minnesota river, to Big Stone
Lake, and purchased and brought on his back, a pack of dried buffalo
meat, weighing, probably, sixty or seventy pounds, a distance of nearly
two hundred miles, to be used in the medicine-dance—a sacrifice to the
Onktehi and to the souls of the dead. This he did because the priest had
assured him that it was the will of the TAKU-WAKAN.


In this capacity the wakan-man is an indispensable necessity. Every
Dakota man sixteen years old and upward, is a soldier, and is formally
and _wakanly_ enlisted into his service.

From him he receives the implements of war, as the spear and tomahawk,
carefully constructed after a model furnished from the armory of the
gods, painted after the divine prescription and charged with the missive
virtue—the tonwan—of the divinities. From him also he receives those
paints which serve as an armature for the body.

To obtain these necessary articles from the MDE TAHUNKA—the War
Prophet—the proud applicant is required, for a time, to abuse himself
and serve him, while he goes through a series of painful and exhausting
performances, which are necessary on his part to enlist the favorable
notice of the gods. These performances consist chiefly of “vapor-baths,”
fastings, chants, prayers, and nightly watching.

The spear and tomahawk being prepared and duly consecrated and rendered
wakan, the person who is to receive them, with a most piteous wail and
suppliant aspect, approaches the god-man and reverently presents to him
the pipe of prayer. He then lays his trembling hand on the head of his
master, and sobs out his desires in substance as follows:

“Pity thou me, poor and helpless—a woman—and confer on me the ability to
perform manly deeds.”

The prophet then, with the majestic mien of a god, places in his hand
the desired weapons, as he says, “Go thou and test the swing of this
tomahawk, and the thrust of this spear; but when in triumph thou shalt
return—a man—forget not thy vows to the gods.”

In this manner every man, it is said, is enlisted into the service of the
war prophet, and enlisted for life.

The weapons thus received, are preserved by the Dakota warrior, as
sacredly as was the “ark of the covenant” by the pious Hebrew of ancient
times. They are carefully wrapped in cloth, together with sacred
pigments, and in fair weather are every day laid outside of the lodge,
and may never be touched by an adult female.

Every warrior feels that his success, both on the battle-field and in the
chase, depends entirely upon the strictness, promptness and constancy
with which he adheres to the rules which are imposed upon him by the
wakan war leader.

The influence of the medicine-man in this capacity, permeates the whole
community, and it is hardly possible to over-estimate it. Those who are
led by him will be murderers, it is their trade. They are commissioned
for this. Those who are bound to these war-prophets, by such rites, _will
be led by him unless they renounce their religion_.

The Indian, if he can, will kill a foe, whoever he be, as long as he is a
pagan. He is as apt to do it as a duck is to swim. The favor of the gods,
and even his very manhood, depends upon it. He is not a man till he has
killed a foe. Till their hands have been dipped in blood they are liable
to be abused and insulted in the most outrageous manner. Young men, in
sight of St. Paul, have been obliged to assume the petticoat and exhibit
themselves as women in the public dance, because they had not killed a
foe. The _pagan_ Indian, in a sense, is obliged to be a murderer.


The power of the Doctor “caps the climax.” In him all the powers of the
gods meet, as the colors blend in the rain-bow. The doctor is revered
as much, perhaps, as the superior gods themselves. The subordinate gods
dwell in them and confer on them the power to _suck out disease_ from
the human body. If long without practice, it is said that the gods in
them become restless, and subject them to much inconvenience. To pacify
them it is represented that they sometimes obtain and drink considerable
quantities of human blood.

When one of these doctors has been called, with due respect, to
administer relief to a sick person, the patient is placed on a blanket
on the ground, in a lodge vacated for the purpose, with the body chiefly
naked. The doctor also lays off his own clothes, except the breech
cloth. After chants and prayers, the rattling of the sacred shell, and
numerous other noisy ceremonies, with an air and attitude of self-conceit
and impudence, which only a devil could inspire, he mutters out the
following, or something similar: “The gods told me that having this, I
might approach the bones of a dead man even, and set him on his feet.” He
then drops on his knees, at the patient’s side, and applying his mouth to
the part of the body immediately over what is supposed to be the seat of
the disease, he sucks with frenzy, at the same time rattling the shell
with the utmost violence. In this manner, the god which is in the doctor,
draws the disease from the sufferer. After a considerable time spent in
this manner, like an enraged beast, he suddenly starts to his feet in
apparent agony. He utters dreadful, indescribable sounds, in variety, and
groans which may be distinctly heard for a mile or more, at the same time
violently striking his sides with his hand, and the earth with his feet,
twisting the whole body into the most hideous contortions. He now grasps
a dish of water with his left hand, and proceeds, with a disgusting
sing-song bubbling, with his mouth in the water, to deposit the disease
in the dish, keeping time still with the sacred rattle which he continues
to shake with great energy.

This operation is continued with brief intervals for smoking, for hours
and sometimes day after day and night after night. This process sometimes
effects a cure at once. At other times extra demonstrations are deemed
necessary. The doctor ascertains the sin which has been committed, and
the particular god which has been offended and inflicted the disease.
Then he makes an image of the offended god, which he hangs on a pole
and which is shot by three or four persons in rapid succession. As the
image falls the spirit of the god which is in the doctor, leaps out,
and falling upon the spirit represented by the image, kills it. On this
it is expected that the sick one will recover. But it is not absolutely
certain that even this will prove effectual. After repeated experiments,
the doctor often discovers that the god who inflicts the disease is
mightier than the one by whom he is inspired, and he desists. Now, unless
another doctor is found, competent to expel the demon, death ensues. The
wakan-men are wakan to a degree corresponding to the strength of the gods
by whom they are respectively inspired.

If the higher doctor can be found, health will be restored, but it is
difficult to obtain their aid. If not duly respected at all times, and
on all occasions, and in all their relations, and well remunerated for
their services, in advance, they may let the patient die without exerting
their powers, or perform their work deceitfully. This seems to be a
necessary provision of their system, as it affords ample room to account
satisfactorily for all failures. This operation is termed Wapiyapi, or
renovation. There are instances where the doctor prevails on the gods
to come in person and perform the operation for him. The following
description of such a scene was obtained from an Indian who was present
on the occasion. The doctor was named RED BIRD, of the Lake Calhoun band,
who was killed with his son by the Chippewas in the memorable battle of
Rum River, in the summer of 1839. The sack of Red-Bird, which contains
the symbols of the gods, and which was used on the occasion to which the
narrative relates, has since providentially fallen into the hands of the
writer, and will be herewith forwarded as a relic of superstition worthy
of preservation. The gods employed were the TAKU-SKAN-SKAN:

“A man had been sick a considerable time, and many of the wakan-men had
attempted, to the extent of their ability, to exorcise him, but without
any favorable results. Red-Bird had in his service many of the gods
called Taku-skan-skan. It was decided in council that the case should
be referred to them. Accordingly, in the evening, a feast was prepared
for the gods, to which they were called by chants, on the part of the
medicine-men. A tent of parchment was prepared for them. The doctor
was bound, by carefully weaving strings and tying them firmly in all
his fingers and toes. Then his arms were bound behind his back and he
rolled up in a buffalo robe, and carefully bound in it by cords around
it outside. He had a little boulder in his bosom, a symbol of the gods.
He charged those who bound him to do it thoroughly, assuring them that
his boys—his gods—would come and release him. He was so bound that he
could not stir and then was rolled into the tent, and the sick man was
placed by his side. Over him was hung a drum and a deer-hoof rattle; a
large number of spectators were in attendance—men, women, and children.
Red Bird ordered that certain men present should chant to the gods, which
they did. The doctor, in the mean time, was very demonstrative with his
wakan jargon. A young man, who had been appointed for that purpose,
then gave a wild yell, and all lights were suddenly extinguished. At
the instant, a strong wind struck the tent, and the doctor cried out,
as if he were in great fear, “Boys come carefully, your father is very
weak, be careful.” But the gods did not seem to regard the admonition
and beat the drum, shook the rattle and heaved the tent furiously. The
tent seemed to be full of them and they were very talkative and rude,
but their voices were so fine, so soft, that we could not comprehend
their meaning. They performed the ceremony of exorcising the sick man.
The sounds they made were so different from what we had been accustomed
to hear, and so ludicrous that we could scarcely refrain from laughter,
though we had been forewarned that if any one should laugh he should be
knocked down. The gods called for a pipe and smoked many pipe’s-full,
indicating a large number of them, but it was dark and they could not be
seen. Suddenly the gods were all gone, and the doctor ordered the torches
to be lighted. All expected to see him still bound, as he was thrust into
the tent; but, to their surprise, he was out of the robe, and all of his
fingers and toes slipped out of their fastenings, though not a single
knot had been untied. The sick man began from that time to recover,
though all sick persons who are treated in this manner do not recover.
All were confirmed in their faith and confidence in the Taku-Wakan.”

In some cases the sick are cured by obtaining a new blanket, and
consecrating it to this class of gods, and then wrapping the sick person
in it.


As frequent allusion has been made to this ceremony, and as it is a rite
which is so frequently observed, it seems necessary that it should be
explained. The following description of this rite is furnished by Rev. S.
R. Riggs:


“He took _eight poles_ about the size of hoop-poles, of any wood that
would bend readily, and putting the large ends in the ground, at proper
distances in a circle, bent them over and tied them together at the
top. This frame-work he then covered with robes and blankets, leaving a
small hole for a door at one side. It was a little higher than a man’s
head, when seated within. Before the door, he built a fire, and having
selected four round stones (or nearly round) about as big as a man’s head
(size not essential), he placed them in the fire. He called Wamdiokiya
to be high priest on the occasion. The high priest then ordered him to
call so many to be his helpers—the number determined by the size of the
tabernacle—from two to five. With these he entered into the _wokeya_, all
entirely naked.

Simon stands at the door without, by the fire, to attend the stones. He
has made two paddles about twelve inches long and painted them red. These
are to be used by the man within to move the stones with. He covers the
ground, between the tent door and the fire, with nice feathers and cut
tobacco. When the stones are heated, the chief within calls to him to
roll in the first one. This he does, with a brand, putting tobacco upon
it and praying to it—“Turkan wahipani mada wo, toka wahte kta wacia.” So
he rolls one after another of the stones over the tobacco and feathers
and prays to each one. The men within receive them and roll them to the
middle with the painted paddles—singing, hi, hi, hi, hi.

They then commence their songs; each one has a song. They all pray to
the _Tankan_ to give Simon help in the day of battle, to make him strong
and furious and successful. The chief then says to his fellows: “Have
mercy on me, I will cool these stones.” And he proceeds to pour water on
them. The steam fills the tent, which has been closed entirely after the
stones were rolled in. Then they pray to the _Taku skan-skan_ or to the
_Wasican_. All their gods are called _Wasican_.

Simon, this while, stands without crying and praying. The chief _wakan_
man receives an encouraging communication from the stone god which he
delivers to Simon. When the stones are cold, they all cry and come out of
the booth. So ends this sacrifice to the stone god.”

The doctors count much on the efficacy of this “vapor bath.” Perhaps no
other one rite is in more general use than this, on the part of all who
wish to become conspicuously _wakan_.

As regards the medicine man as a doctor, or exorcist, or juggler, it is
not only believed that he can cure diseases, but that he can inflict
them at his pleasure, on any person who may dare to offend him. It only
requires a _purpose_ on his part. They are feared, if possible, more than
the gods themselves, for _they are present_ in the camp and in the lodge.

If a person is sick, he will give all he possesses and all he can obtain
on credit, to secure the services of one of them, and will cheerfully
give a horse, in advance, for a single performance such as has been
described. In almost innumerable instances, families sacrifice all that
they have on these pretenders, and to be abandoned by them is felt to
be a dire calamity. Parents are as careful to train their children to
respect and revere them, as was an early Puritan to inspire his children
with reverence for the divine institutions of Christendom. They are
respected. They sit in the highest and have the best of everything. If
some among them are thought to be mere pretenders, this circumstance only
serves to enhance the importance of those who are believed to be true.

Thus, by imposing on an ignorant, savage people, “gods many,” gods of
life and gods of death, gods of hate and revenge and lust, gods of cold
and of heat, gods of all the various passions, gods of lying, deceit
and wrong, gods of gluttony and drunkenness, gods of lasciviousness and
impurity, gods of conception and abortion, gods innumerable—hideous and
horrid monsters, which are the creation of the inflamed and bedeviled
imaginations of these Thugs—these wakan men—they exert an influence
over them, in the various official capacities which they assume, which
is absolute and which pervades Dakota society—an influence which bears
with all its force on each individual of their victims, which tends to
crush him down still deeper, if indeed there are depths below them, in
ignorance, superstition, degradation and misery of soul and body, and
force them into an unreserved surrender to their own whims and caprices.
Of these wakan men there are from five to twenty five in each of the
little clans of Dakotas.

Alkalies and acids mingled produce effervescence. A like result attends
the contact of any opposing influences. Nothing can exceed the antagonism
that lies between TRUTH and the system of superstition which is the
subject of the foregoing paper. Root, trunk, branches and leaves there is
not the smell of truth to be found on it. It is plainly opposed to truth
and truth is opposed to it. It is opposed by the truth of history, the
truth of science, the truth of “animated nature,” social truth, political
truth and spiritual truth. _All_ truth tends directly to its destruction.
A little boy was one day listening to a missionary who was endeavoring to
explain to him the workings of the magnetic telegraph. The little half
naked fellow seemed to catch an idea of natural truth, and starting up,
excitedly exclaimed. “If that is true, then all our religion is false.”
A glimpse of truth broke the spell that bound his mind, and shook their
whole system of superstition to its foundations. It never recovered its
hold on him. For more than thirty years, truth, in variety, has been held
to the Dakota mind. With a keen and jealous eye, these wakan men have
watched its workings. It has mortified and pained them to see their cords
of error snapped by it, one after another, and their hold on their blind
victims loosened. Their “craft was in danger.” They have cried with voice
and soul, these thirty years, “Great is the Taku-Wakan—the Taku-Wakan is
wakan, and I am their prophet.”

They have done all they could and dare do, in the circumstances, to
oppose the progress of truth among their people, by slanders and snares,
gibes and abuse, and violence, and even murder. But in spite of their
vigilance and efforts to oppose, truth advanced with slow but steady
step, and worked like “leaven in the meal.” Old men and young men, old
women and young women, boys and girls, left them, and by open profession
of regard for truth, stood boldly up in the face of their lies. The
symbols of the gods, which the priests, war prophets and doctors had
painted, wreathed and paraded “on every hill,” were defiantly spurned
from their places by the feet of those who had been used to obey their
caprices and crouch to their authority. The feasts and dances were less
fully attended, the medicine-sack cast away, while hundreds of their
former dupes, emancipated, read daily in their Bibles, sung the song
of Zion, and prayed, in their houses, to their “Father in heaven;” and
on the Sabbath assembled in the Christian church, erected by their own
hands, and seriously, reverently, joined in the holy worship of the God
of heaven. At sight of this, the rage of these demons in human form
boiled over. The effervescence was mighty. Threats were fulminated and
nothing but opportunity was wanting for them to rise, and re-establish
by violence, the waning power of the TAKU-WAKAN, and to return, wading
through the blood of Christians, if need be, to the homes of their pagan
fathers. They hoped to be able to roll back the providential wheels of
the Almighty God.

That opportunity, they deemed, had arrived when all our young men were
being marched off to the South, probably to be swept away by the great
rebellion. Hence, the “out-break” of 1862. True, it has been said that
the _Christian_ Indians were our worst enemies, but where is the evidence
of this? Were not those _Christian_ Indians, at least by profession, who
rescued companies of our people from death, and conducted them, through
perils, to a place of safety? Which is the exception? Were not those
_Christian_ Indians who, in a considerable number of cases sacrificed
their little all and risked their lives to protect individuals and
conduct them to safety? Were there any exceptions? Which was the _pagan_
Indian who performed such a deed? Were not those _Christian_ Indians,
who, encouraged by General Sibley, effected the deliverance from bondage
and death, or treatment worse than death, of hundreds of captives at
“Camp Release?” Did not the leaders of that band bear _Christian_ names,
given to them in the holy ordinance of baptism? Who are they who have
composed the band of faithful “scouts,” three long years standing on
our frontiers to protect our citizens from the scalping-knife of the
worshippers of the _Taku-wakan_, but _Christian_ Indians? Was there an
exception here? It is not claimed for these Indians that they were _model
Christians_, but they were Christians by profession, and their names and
the names of their wives and children stood enrolled on the records of
the Christian church.

On the other hand, who led the murderous bands in work of the
destruction? “_Little Crow_” and his _Wakan_ associates, who, from old
time, had been the open and determined enemies of the Christian religion,
and most zealous and devoted worshippers of the _Taku-wakan_. It is not
denied that individuals, professing Christians, were involved in the
wrong and fled with the pagans to the plains. We could name a few such.

Even those of the pagan party who surrendered themselves to our military
authorities, felt that the Wood Lake battle was the result of the strife
between their _Medicine-men_ and “_God Almighty_;” and from that day,
in their minds, the doom of their gods and of their representatives was
sealed. They soon cast away even the symbols of their divinities, and a
large portion of them began to seek to know how to worship the God of the

Those wakan-men will never suffer their people to enter into an honest
treaty of peace with us while they are wakan-men. They can never be
trusted. Circumstances may render them harmless, but by their own
showing, they are _essentially wakan_. They are devils incarnate.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society for the Year 1867" ***

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