Life in the
Rocky Mountains

A Diary of Wanderings on the sources of
the Rivers Missouri, Columbia, and Colorado
from February, 1830, to November, 1835

By W. A. Ferris

then in the employ of the
American Fur Company


Chapter LXI

The Rocky Mountain Indians are generally of the middle stature, straight, well proportioned, have fine limbs, black hair flowing loosely over their shoulders, in some instances so long as to reach the ground when they stand erect, and lively keen black eyes. Their features are seldom ugly, often agreeable, and in smiling they exhibit beautiful, white even, set teeth; except those who subsist principally upon fish. Their clothing consists of a long shirt, reaching down to the knees, open on each side from the armpits to the bottom; a pair of legging a breech-cloth and moccasins, over all of which a light buffalo robe or blanket is thrown, resting on the shoulders. - The shirt and leggins are usually made of the skins of Rocky Mountain sheep, dressed for that purpose with peculiar care; and are ornamented with small blue and white beads, colored porcupine quills, and leather fringe over the seams, or instead of the latter, human hair dyed of various hues, which is obtained from the scalps of their enemies. They paint their faces with vermillion, white earth, ochre, powder, etc., and fasten beads, shells, buttons, and other trinkets, with feathers in their hair.

The garments of the women, are a long gown, also made of the smooth even skin of the Big-horns, decorated about the neck and shoulders with all the beads they can procure, short leggins, moccasins, and a light robe thrown loosely, yet gracefully, over their shoulders. Their dresses are sometimes loaded with some eight or ten pounds of large cut glass beads of various colors; their leggins and the tops of their moccasins are also ornamented with porcupine quills, or small beads. Like the men they are very fond of decorations, vermillion, trinkets, shells, etc., but they attach them to their dresses, instead of their hair; and like them besmear their faces with the former.

Nothing can divert an Indian from his purpose, when in pursuit of game; but on his return to camp he sinks in comparative indolence. They are brave, and display both intelligence and deep artifice, in their stratagems to surprise and conquer their enemies; but mercy, the hero's noblest attribute, is to them unknown, at least unregarded. Sedate and taciturn, with folded arms, they slowly pace back and forth before their lodges, to all appearance, wrapt in intense thought; approach a warrior thus intellectually engaged, and inquire the subject of his meditations, he will answer with undiminished gravity, "nothing." In their lodges and domestic circles, they are loquacious as the whites, with the difference of good-breeding, that the person speaking is never interrupted; and in turn each speaks, and is listened to with profound attention. Their conversations most frequently are on themes of war, and each individual chaunts his own exploits. Universally superstitious, they put good or ill constructions on their dreams, and account for all the phenomena of nature, by attributing all effects, to the kind or unfavorable temper of the Deity. With a commendable devotion they believe unhesitatingly all the Great-Spirit thinks proper to communicate to them, through their "Medicine men," (i.e. priests,) who, taking advantage of their religious credulity, impose upon them the most ridiculous stories of divine truth.

These medicine men also forewarn them of coming events, and profess to cure them of their diseases, by wearing the skin, assuming the characters, imitating the voices, and mimicking the actions of bears, and other animals; accompanying their demoniac capers by discordant yells, and deafening sounds, extracted from a kind of drum by violent thumpings, alone sufficient, one would imagine, to frighten away both the demon of distemper, and the spirit of the afflicted together. But their endeavors are probably well meant; and they may, from the habit of relating their powers, perhaps have induced themselves to believe they really possess the qualifications, that they arrogate to themselves, and which are so readily conceded them, by their less gifted comrades, - at least they may claim the merit of performing, without any fees, all the various ceremonies of their profession; their only reward being the esteem of their companions, and a more extended influence. Their diseases are however few, and when slightly ill, they usually resort to their sweat houses; which are constructed of willows, pointed and stuck in the ground, with their tops bent over and interlocked, so as to form a hemisphere of about six feet in diameter, on which skins, blankets, or robes, are spread to prevent the escape of the steam. In the centre of this hut a small hole is excavated in the earth, over which dry sticks and stones are placed in alternate layers, and fired beneath; when the wood consumes, the heated stones fall to the bottom, and the invalid, accompanied by others who do so for amusement, divested of all clothing, enter the cabin with a basin of water, which they commence pouring slowly on the stones, and soon fill it with dense scalding vapor; when it becomes no longer supportable they cease pouring, but recommence when it subsides. By this means they produce a copious perspiration from their bodies, which continues until they leave the hut, in which they sometimes remain half an hour. - When they crawl out, their bodies appear half boiled, and they immediately jump into the nearest stream, remaining immersed in the water until they become chilled in as great a degree as they were before heated. Indeed I have often seen them bathe in the winter season, through a hole cut in the ice, after issuing from a sweat house. - This practice, though it may bring present relief, must be attended in the end, with highly deleterious consequences; and indeed I have often observed that young Indians, who were in the habit of taking this hot and cold bath weekly, have foreheads wrinkled, and many other indications of premature old age. Its effects are more apparent of course, in those of mature years. Bathing is one of their favorite amusements, and when near a suitable place, if the weather be fair, some of them may at any time be seen in the water. The employments of the men are war, hunting, fishing, guarding their horses, shooting at a target, horse racing, etc.

Chapter LXII

The women of most tribes in the Rocky Mountains, though sometimes pretty when young, soon become decrepid and ugly, in consequence of the great hardships they are compelled to endure throughout their whole lives. They are esteemed rather as beasts of burden than companions for their tyrannical husbands; and are seldom valued as high as a favorite horse, for which they have been exchanged. They perform all the camp labors, such as drying meat, dressing skins, collecting fuel, bringing water, cooking, making clothing and moccasins, packing and driving horses from one encampment to another; and frequently accompany their husbands in the chase, to butcher and bring in the game they may happen to kill. Notwithstanding the constant drudgery to which they are subjected, they appear cheerful, sing during the performance of their duties, in rather a wild mournful air, and seem contented to wear through life, patient as an ox, submitting to all the hardships their capricious lords impose upon them without a complaint, which, however, instead of exciting sympathy or pity, would only exact blows and abuse from them.

Infants, when they first appear on life's eventful stage, are immediately immersed in a snow-bank, in a state of perfect nudity, a few moments, for the purpose of familiarizing them to the endurance of cold; if in the summer, they are instantly plunged into water, perhaps to render them as nearly as nature will permit, amphibious: if it be a female child, it is regarded by the father with contempt, and valued little more than a puppy; on the contrary, if a male, it is caressed and fostered by him, and the utmost pains taken to instil into its mind, as soon as it becomes able to comprehend, a love of glory, spirit of chivalry, and a contempt of privation, and hardship, and suffering, to which he must necessarily be exposed in leading the life of a hunter and a warrior. He is taught by example, the precepts early inculcated, and daily practised by his father, but is on no occasion punished, or deprived of any gratification. His youth is passed in hunting small animals and birds, in gymnastic exercises, such as are calculated to render him robust, active, and fearless, and in riding on horseback, with various equestrian feats, an accomplishment essential to his future character and destiny. When he becomes old enough to enter the lists of battle, he assembles, with other youthful aspirants for glory, chaunts the inspiring war song, and proudly dances in the midst of his companions, vowing vengeance against the enemies of his race; and shouting to the charge, enacts what his enthusiastic imagination prescribes his duty on the field of honor, and yells of rage and anger fill the air, as bursting from his lips in fiery wrath. The spectators applaud, and hardy veterans, kindling into zeal, join in the dance, proclaim aloud their achievements, exhibit their trophies, brandish their weapons, and with vehement eloquence encourage the high-souled youth to follow their footsteps, smite his enemies with vindictive fury, and return triumphant to his tribe and kindred, by whom he will be welcomed with shouts of rapture and applause, and win the favor of Heaven. His bosom glows with exultation, and burns with ardor to emulate the glowing deeds of his ancestors; to win for himself an honor and a name wholly, peculiarly his own, and in addition, secure to himself a happy enhance to the land of spirits, all of which he believes are to be won on the field of battle. Thus in his fervor, happiness, renown, immortality, are believed to be the reward of valor, and an impression is formed that will last with his life; he resolves to be a brave, and becomes - nay is - a warrior.

War dances are usually held in the evening, round a large fire, made for the purpose; and though the performers are entirely divested of clothing, they are attended by women and children; accustomed, however, from infancy to exhibitions of this kind, they are unconscious of there being any impropriety or indecency in them. A large circle being formed by the bystanders around the fire, the ceremony commences with a general song, in which they all join in perfect harmony, beginning in the highest strain their voices are capable of, and gradually falling note after note, until the sound dies imperceptibly away; then suddenly resuming a high shrill tone, and again falling gradually as before, the song being accompanied by a regular thumping on a discordant kind of drum. In the mean time the naked youths and warriors jump into the ring, and dance with vigor, keeping time with the drum, yelling at intervals like demons, shaking aloft their gory gleanings of a field of carnage, (scalps, etc.) flourishing their weapons in their rapid evolutions, throwing their bodies into unnatural, sometimes ludicrous attitudes, and chaunting aloud their deeds of desperate daring. These dances are invariably celebrated on the return of a successful war party, and at such other times as their inclinations may direct.

When a young man wishes to marry, he selects a young woman, and makes application to her parents, who, if they think he can support a wife, will probably demand a horse, which if he promises to bestow, concludes the contract, and he is invited to come and sleep with her, at her father's lodge, without perhaps having ever had any conversation or acquaintance with her. In such cases, the wishes, however, of the young woman are always ascertained by her mother, but if averse to the proposed bride-groom, not always followed. Sometimes he sends a present of one or more horses to the favored damsel's parents, and if they are accepted, he sends a horse to her lodge the first time they move camp, which she sides; from that moment she is considered his wife, and at night encamps with him.

Polygamy, though allowed, is by no means common among them, but in accordance with the customs of their forefathers, they put away their wives and take others at pleasure. I have known an Indian to have fourteen wives, all living; but this is a solitary instance, and similar ones occur very rarely. In most cases, the husband and wife pass their lives agreeably, and sometimes happily together, and when separations take place, they proceed most commonly from the infidelity of the latter not the inconstancy of the former. The females thus banished from the lodges of their husbands, return to their parents, by whom they are received and supported until another opportunity occurs to marry.

It is the custom in some nations, on the death of a friend, to cut off a joint of a finger; and in others, to clip off their hair and continue mourning until it grows out again to its usual length; others, again, black their faces with a composition that only wears off with the skin, and cease to mourn when it disappears. But all nations give utterance to their grief in a piercing, wild, monotonous lamentation, commencing at a high key and gradually falling to the lowest notes, in continued repetition, that sounds extremely melancholy, and fills the hearer with solemnity.

They all inter their dead in the earth, with the exception of infants, who are sometimes encased in skins and deposited in trees; but are generally buried like adults in the ground.

Chapter LXIII

Of their vague and crude notions of the past and of futurity, each tribe in the Rocky Mountains has its own favorite traditions, most of them too ridiculous either to hear or repeat. Some believe that a beautiful woman descended from the clouds, at an era when Indians were but few, and even those extremely poor; that she supplied the country, before destitute, with game, and promised that brave men and warriors, who perished on the field of battle, should go to a pleasant country after death, where there is very little snow, good horses, and plenty of game, not very wild; she then disappeared. Another tradition speaks of a wonderful beaver that suddenly appeared in a certain river, of immense size and great sagacity, gifted with intelligence and speech, which bestowed great bounties on the people, promised them happiness in a fine country after death, where game was abundant and hunting easy; when he also vanished. A third informs us that a prairie wolf visited the sources of the Columbia, ages ago, and finding the people poor and miserable, caused the mountains to be stocked with deer, sheep, goats, elk, moose, etc., and the plains with antelopes, and the rivers with salmon; so that the people, who had before lived wretchedly upon roots and berries, were overjoyed, and loved the wolf; which afterwards married a cow, and had innumerable difficulties with a rival bull, which he finally succeeded in destroying, and lived long afterward happy and undisturbed; but at length, he promised the people happiness in a fine hunting country after death, where brave men would be loved, and have much less trouble in their excursions for game than cowards, who would always be miserable and distressed. With these words he left them, and was seen no more. These, and many other equally absurd traditions, are the grave ideas of the mountain savages on this subject. All agree, however, in the belief of a future state of existence, more happy to the brave, than the present; and in a great spirit, by whose bounty they will be permitted to inhabit that delightful region.

Such of the Indians as possess horses enough to convey themselves, their families, and their baggage, with ease, are esteemed wealthy; their animals are guarded with peculiar care, during the day in bands of twenty or more together, by boys; and in the night, they are tied to stakes, driven in the ground for that purpose, near their lodges, for greater security against robbers. Those who are not so fortunate or wealthy as to possess the number of horses requisite, are obliged to walk or put enormous loads upon such as they may chance to own. In one instance, in the year 1832, I saw a mare loaded with, first - two large bales containing meat, skins, etc., on opposite sides of the animal, attached securely to the saddle by strong cords; secondly - a lodge, with the necessary poles dragging on each side of her; thirdly - a kettle, axe, and sundry other articles of domestic economy; fourthly - a colt too young to bear the fatigue of travelling was lashed on one side; and finally - this enormous load was surmounted by a woman with a young child; making in all, sufficient to have fully loaded three horses, in the ordinary manner. Though this rather exceeds any thing of the kind I ever before saw, yet large loads, in like manner surmounted by women, children, colts and puppies, are often observed in their moving jaunts.

Some of the poorer classes, who do not possess horses, and are consequently unable to follow the buffalo in the prairies, ascend the mountains where deer and sheep are numerous, and pass their lives in single families - are never visited by the horsemen of the plains, but sometimes descend to them, and exchange the skins of those animals for robes, and other articles of use and ornament.

Their weapons are bows, arrows, and war-clubs, and are of their own manufacture. Their bows never exceed two and a half feet in length, and are made usually of the rib bones of the buffalo, two of which, in the construction of this weapon, are neatly jointed, glued together, and wound with thongs about the joint; it is gradually tapered from the middle toward each end, is polished, and rendered more elastic by sinews glued on the back, from end to end, over which rattle snake skins are sometimes cemented for ornament. The string is always composed of sinews, twisted together into a cord. Bows are made sometimes of elk horn, and sometimes of wood, but are always strengthened by adding sinews to the back, and not, as an eminent western writer has observed, "by adding buffalo bones to the tough wood."

Their arrows (except the poisoned ones of the Sann pitches) are made of wood, slender, never above two feet in length, and are pointed with sharp transparent flints, neatly broken to a dagger-blade shape, from half to three-fourths of an inch in length, which never exceed the latter. These points are ingeniously inserted in a slit in the end of the arrow, are fastened by sinews wrapped around it, and are rendered less liable to damage by being covered with a coat of glue. They have three or four distinct feathers, six or seven inches in length, placed opposite to each other, remaining parallel, but turning gently on the arrow, in order to give it a spiral motion, which prevents its wavering, and enables it to cleave the air with less resistance.

They manufacture spears and hooks, also of bone, for fishing, but they are not to be compared to the same instruments made of metal by the whites. But they have been supplied by the traders with light guns, spears, and iron arrow points, which have in measure superseded their own weapons; still, however, bows and arrows are most frequently employed in killing buffalo.

Chapter LXIV

The Indians rise at day light invariably, when all go down to the stream they may happen to be encamped on, wash their hands and face, and comb their long hair with their fingers, the nails of which are allowed to grow long.

The men are all expert horsemen, ride without saddles generally, always when they pursue game. Their saddles are made of wood, sometimes of elk horn and wood, covered with raw hide, which renders them very durable and strong; their stirrups are also composed of wood. - Instead of a bridle and bit, they make use of a long cord, (used for catching wild horses) tied to the under jaw of the animal; these cords, or more properly leashes, are made of narrow strips of raw hide, divested of the hair, and rendered soft and pliant by greasing and repeated rubbing; or of the long hair from the scalp of the bison, twisted into a firm and neat rope. The saddles of the women have both before and behind, a high pommel, reaching as high as their waists, for the greater convenience of carrying children. Some of them carry two children and drive their pack horses. They drop their little ones on the ground, dismount and arrange their packs, when necessary, remount, ride along side of them, and draw them up again by the hand, and continue their march. Their children of three or four years of age, are lashed firmly on the top of their packs, and are often endangered by the horses running away with them, though I never saw one seriously injured in consequence. Yet, if the loads turn under the horses' belly, as they sometimes do, the situation of the poor child is truly frightful.

Gaming is common with all the mountain Indians. Some of them, however, are more passionately addicted to it than others. The games mentioned in my journal, and described as having been observed among the Flat-heads, are those practised by all the various tribes, without exception.

Indian sagacity has ever been a riddle to the greatest portion of the public; who have been inclined, in some degree, to consider their great skill in tracing an enemy, or detecting the vicinity of danger, as depending on a finer construction and adaptation of some of the organs of sense, and to believe that no white man could ever attain a degree of skill by any means equal to the tact so often exhibited by the aborigines of this country. But I am convinced it is entirely owing to a careful attention to, and observation of, various minute peculiarities, which would escape the notice of any one not instructed how to prosecute his examination, though ever so attentive; and in proof of this, there are in the mountains many hunters who have become so practiced in this species of discernment, as to be acknowledged by the Indians as equal to themselves; though these Indians, in this respect, are inferior to none.

Several tribes of mountain Indians, it will be observed, have names that would be supposed descriptive of some national peculiarity. Among these are the Black-feet, Flat- heads, Bored-noses, Ear-bobs, Big-belly's, etc., and yet it is a fact, that of these, the first have the whitest feet; there is not among the next a deformed head; and if the practice of compressing the skull so as to make it grow in a peculiar shape ever did exist among them, it must have been many years since, for there is not one living proof to be found of any such custom. There is not among the Nez-perces an individual having any part of the nose perforated; nor do any of the Pen-d'orulles wear ornaments in their ears; and finally, the Gros-vents are as slim as any other Indians, and corpulency among them as rare.

The funerals of the mountain Indians are similar to those described by various authors of other nations. The dead body is dressed in the neatest manner, envelloped in skins, and deposited in the earth, with the weapons, ornaments, trinkets, etc., which belonged to the deceased when living; and it is customary among some tribes, to sacrifice his favorite horse on the grave of a warrior, after the manner of the Tartars.

Chapter LXV

THE CROW INDIANS call themselves "Ap-sa-ro-ke," and are tall, active, intelligent, brave, haughty and hospitable. They acknowledge no equals, and pride themselves on their superiority over other nations. They boast of greater ability in making their wishes understood by signs, to those who do not comprehend their language. - In their lodges, they consider themselves bound to protect strangers, and feast them with the best they can procure. They are well armed with guns and ammunitions, which they have purchased from the whites, or taken from their enemies; and are supplied with horses, which they steal from other nations, with whom they are constantly at war.

Their women are, without exception, unfaithful, and offer themselves to strangers unhesitatingly for a few beads or other trifles. Jealousy is hardly known among them, though the property of one proved to have had illicit connexion with another's wife, by "crowic law," is immediately transferred to the injured husband.

War parties, on foot, are frequently sent out, at all seasons of the year, for scalps and property; and every man in the village is compelled, in turn, to join these predatory excursions. They are slow to project, cautious to proceed, certain to surprise, firm to execute; and are ever victorious when they commence an affray. Extremely superstitious, with certain charms about their persons, such as the skins of birds, small animals, or other trifles, in the efficacy of which they place great reliance, they charge fearlessly upon their enemies, under the entire conviction that these their medicines ward off every danger, and completely shield them from harm.

They are good hunters and accomplished horsemen; they ride at full speed, throw their bodies entirely on one side of their animals, shoot from the same side under their horses' necks, and pick up their arrows from the ground without abating their rapidity.

They are fond, nay, proud of ornaments for their persons, particularly scarlet cloth, feathers, and vermillion, with which they attire themselves with great care for the field of battle; but they are fonder, prouder still, of a high reputation for bravery and prowess.

Among the trophies of victory, a scalp is prominent, and belongs, not to him who shot down the enemy, but to him who first rushed upon him and struck him on the head. The very pinnacle of human glory with them, is to have taken twenty scalps from their enemies, and to achieve this high honor is the constant ambition of every noble-minded brave. They express their gradations of rank by affixing ornaments to their hair, among which the tail feathers of the golden or calumet eagle, indicate the loftiest. None but the most heroic warriors are entitled to the envied privilege of wearing this valuable plumage, (a single feather of which is more prized than a fine horse) and the person in whose hair even a single quill is conspicuous, is entitled to, and receives, the most profound respect and deference; but when a plurality of these badges are displayed by some fortunate brave, he is regarded with veneration, almost with awe.

They are entitled to precedence in the science of theft, of which they are masters; being almost certain to obtain from a stranger any article they discover about him, that they may chance to desire. When detected in pilfering, they appear extremely foolish and ashamed, because it is superlatively dishonorable - not to steal - but to have failed in an attempt, the complete achievement of which would have added renown to their characters for dexterity and address.

They are now the declared enemies to trappers, several of whom they have killed; yet there is an establishment on the Big-horn river belonging to the American Fur Company, at which they trade peaceably. During the summer of 1835, they caught two of our trappers, at the point of the Wind Mountain, detained them several days, robbed them, and then allowed them to return to us. It must be regarded, however, as a freak of kindness, not as a settled principle of mercy. They rove in two villages, containing six or seven hundred souls in each. These villages seldom leave the Yellow Stone and its tributaries, but war parties infest the countries of the Eutaws, Snakes, Arrapahoes, Blackfeet, Sioux, and Chayennes, with all of whom they are at war. They have a tradition that their forefathers fought a great battle with the Snakes, in which many hundred of the latter were killed; that the battle lasted three days, during which time the Chief of the Crows caused the sun to stand still. Several years since, one of the Crow villages, issuing from a narrow defile into a large prairie valley, through which they designed to pass, discovered a village of Blackfeet encamped on the opposite side. A council was immediately held, in which it was resolved to place a few lodges in a conspicuous situation, purposely to be observed, and conceal the greater part, together with all their war horses, in a low place where they could not be seen. This was done, and their inferior horses were permitted to stray down the plain, offering an inducement to their foes to come and take them. At the same time, the Blackfeet discovered, as they supposed, a few lodges of the Crows, and thinking themselves undiscovered, made instant preparations for combat. These young warriors were sent in a body to surround the Crows in the night, and directed to commence the attack at daybreak, at which time the old braves were to join them on horseback, and assist in exterminating the enemy. In obedience to their instructions, the young men set out that evening, but the night being dark, they mistook their way, and were prevented from reaching the field of glory at all. - Early in the morning, the old veterans, believing that the business would be half finished before they could reach the scene of action, set off at full speed, which they continued unbroken until they reached the fatal spot. The Crows allowed them to approach to the very doors of their lodges, when the war-whoop resounded in their ears, and in a moment every hill was red with mounted warriors, bearing down upon them. They saw the snare into which they had fallen, when too late, and fled; but alas! their horses, already fatigued, were unable to run. The Crows pursued them on fresh horses, overtook and killed them as they fled, until the survivors gained the mountains. - Seventy scalps were displayed on that day by the victors, who also obtained considerable booty. So much for out-manoeuvering and discomfiting their enemies.

The following anecdote exhibits their character in a different light. During a long continued storm in the winter of 1830, the Sioux Indians carried off nearly one hundred and fifty head of horses from them, and a party of eighty Crows immediately departed in pursuit. They travelled several days in the direction that they supposed the Sioux had taken; but the protracted storm prevented them from discovering the traces of their enemies, and all but twenty-three returned home. The small party still in pursuit, consisted of men who scorned to return without even a glimpse of their enemies, and continued on, far beyond the distance that horses could have travelled at that season of the year, in the same length of time. Finally concluding that they had quite mistaken the course of their enemies, they resolved to retrace their steps towards their own firesides; but some days after, unfortunately, they passed, during a tedious snow storm, very near a Sioux village, and were discovered by them. A large party were soon in pursuit, and the Crows, unconscious of danger, advanced at their usual pace until night, and encamped as customary. During the night, they were entirely surrounded by the Sioux, who awaited for the next day to make an attack upon them. In the morning they made the necessary preparations for departure; breakfasted, packed their dogs, and started; but the Sioux, till this moment unobserved, rushed towards them, and drove them into a hole, which had been the bed of a spring torrent, crossed by a fallen tree. To this they suspended their robes for concealment. In the mean time, a Sioux chief, who could speak the Crow language, stepped in front of the rest, and in a loud voice addressed them, saying that he was very sorry to keep them in suspense, but that his party were nearly frozen, having passed a sleepless night in the snow without fire; that they were consequently compelled to kindle a fire and warm themselves before they could proceed; "but," continued he, "as soon as we thaw ourselves, you will cease to exist, unless you are what your name indicates, and fly away; or like the prairie dog, you can burrow in the ground." - Accordingly, they warmed themselves, attacked the devoted little band, and killed them all, with the loss of but two men killed, and several slightly wounded. Three of the Crows fought manfully, but the others, benumbed as they were by the cold, could make but little resistance. Their bodies were cut in pieces, and transported to the village on dogs, the same day.

Chapter LXVI

THE SNAKE INDIANS are termed in their own dialect, Sho-sho-ne. They are brave, robust, active and shrewd, but suspicious, treacherous, jealous and malicious. Like the Crows, war-parties frequently go out to plunder, and some times kill and rob the trappers if they think it will not be discovered. They are utterly faithless even to each other.

There is one evil genius among them, called the "Bad Gocha," (mauvais gauche - bad left-handed one) who fell in with a party of trappers, led by a well-known mountaineer, Mr. E. Proveau, on a stream flowing into the Big Lake that now bears his name, several years since. He invited the whites to smoke the calumet of peace with him, but insisted that it was contrary to his medicine to have any metallic near while smoking. Proveau, knowing the superstitious whims of the Indians, did not hesitate to set aside his arms, and allow his men to follow his example; they then formed a circle by sitting indiscriminately in a ring, and commenced the ceremony; during which, at a preconcerted signal, the Indians fell upon them, and commenced the work of slaughter with their knives, which they had concealed under their robes and blankets. Proveau, a very athletic man, with difficulty extricated himself from them, and with three or four others, alike fortunate, succeeded in making his escape; the remainder of the party of fifteen were all massacred. - Notwithstanding this infernal act, its savage author has been several times in the camp of the whites; but his face not being recognized, he has thus far escaped the death his treacherous murder so richly merits. As the whites are determined, however, to revenge their murdered comrades, the first opportunity, there is little doubt that his forfeit life will, sooner or later, pay the penalty of his crimes to injured justice! During the life of that white man's friend, the Horned Chief, Gocha was seldom if ever seen with the Snake village, but was heard of frequently, with a small band of followers, prowling about the Big Lake.

The principal chief of the Snakes is called the "Iron Wristband," a deceitful fellow, who pretends to be a great friend of the whites, and promises to punish his followers for killing them or stealing their horses. The "Little Chief;" a brave young warrior, is the most noble and honorable character among them.

Notwithstanding the bad qualities of these Indians, their country is rich in game, and the whites have thought proper to overlook many serious offenses, rather than expose small trapping parties to the vindictive attacks that would characterize an open war.

It is hardly necessary to say, that though not so completely adept in the art of stealing as the Crows, they are nevertheless tolerably expert. I saw one of them steal a knife without stooping from his upright position, or in the least changing countenance. He was barefooted, and connived to get the handle of the instrument between his toes, and then draw his foot up under his robe, where a hand was ready to receive the booty.

There is one Snake who has distinguished himself in battle, called "Cut Nose," from a wound he received in the facial extremity, from the Blackfeet, who has joined the whites, lives with and dresses like them. He is an excellent hunter, and has frequently rendered them important services.

The females are generally chaste, the men extremely jealous. I have heard of but one instance of adultery among them, which was punished by the enraged husband by the death of the female and her seducer, the latter of whom was murdered, and then placed upright on a high cliff, in a valley on Horn's fork, as a warning to all, and a fearful monument of an injured husband's revenge.

Of the Snakes on the plains, there are probably about four hundred lodges, six hundred warriors, and eighteen hundred souls. They range in the plains of Green river as far as the Eut mountains; Southward from the source to the outlet of Bear river, of the Big Lake; thence to the mouth of Porto-muf, on Snake river of the Columbia; and they sometimes ascend the Snake river of the Soos-so-dee, or Green river, and visit the Arrappahoes, on the sources of the Platte and Arkansas.

They are at war with the Eutaws, Crows, and Blackfeet, but rob and steal from all their neighbors, and any body else whenever an opportunity occurs. It may be said of them that stealing is their master passion; and indeed they are so incorrigibly addicted to the practice, that they have been known in some instances to steal, in the most adroit manner imaginable, even their own horses, mistaking them, of course, for the property of others.

Chapter LXVII

THE EUTAWS are neither ugly nor prepossessing. They are brave, but extremely suspicious; are candid, never treacherous, and are not inhospitable, though they rarely feast a stranger who visits them, like the Crows, Arrappahoes, or Blackfeet, but in general ask for something to eat themselves of their guests. Unlike the Crows or Snakes, they never steal; but they are most accomplished beggars. With unblushing assurance, one of them one day asked me for my coat, and was of course refused. "Then give me your blanket" - denied; "your pistols, then," - no; and was going to ask for every article he saw about me, but ascertaining by a very abrupt reply, that I was not inclined to listen to him, and still less to give him any thing, he turned to one of his companions and observed, "that man's heart is very small." The reader no doubt remembers the ingenious impudence of La Fogue in directing his children to weep, and then telling us they were crying for something to eat, with a pathetic gravity, to obtain a little food, when there were in his lodge at the time several bales of dried buffalo meat, and we had nothing else, he well knew. It is not, however, so much for the property itself that they beg with incorrigible pertinacity on every occasion, as they do invariably; but for the honor of having obtained it in that mode; for to be adroit and successful in the art is considered a demonstration incontestible of uncommon talent.

They are very jealous, though their women give them little cause for being so. They are as well clad, but are not so well supplied with lodges as some other Indians, because there are no buffalo in their country, and they are obliged in winter season to construct cabins of cedar branches, which are by no means so comfortable.

They are, by far, the most expert horsemen in the mountains, and course down their steep sides in pursuit of deer and elk at full speed, over places where a white man would dismount and lead his horse.

They are less addicted to gambling than most other Indians; probably, because they subsist principally upon small game, more difficult to obtain, and hence have less leisure for other pursuits. In places where deer are numerous, they excavate holes in the earth, in which they conceal themselves, and shoot them as they pass in the night.

They frequently visit Taos on the Del Norte, and California; consequently many speak, and nearly all understand, the Spanish language.

There are of the Eutaws, in all, about two thousand five hundred souls.

THE ARRAPPAHOES are a tribe of Indians who rove in one or two villages, as their inclinations may indicate, on the sources of the Platte and Arkansas rivers. They were for several years deadly enemies to the whites, but Capt. Ghant, whose firmness and liberality they have reason to remember long, has established a trading house among them on the Arkansas, four day's march from Taos, and has succeeded in gaining their confidence and inculcating among them, an opinion of the whites, that will perhaps secure their lasting friendship.

They set before their guests the best provisions they can procure, and feel bound to protect them even at the risk of their own lives. They consider hospitality a virtue second only to valor.

Polygamy is common among them, every man having as many wives as he pleases.

The flesh of dogs is esteemed with them a dainty, and by some of the neighboring nations they are detested for no other reason, than because they eat them.

They are brave, candid, and honest, for though good warriors, they neither rob nor steal. Some of Mr. Vanderburgh's men wintered with them in 1834 and '35, and speak highly of their integrity and generosity. They lost nothing by theft during their stay, but were kindly treated, and the chief told them on separating in the spring, to display a white flag on a pole near their encampment, and they would never be molested by the Arrappahoes. As their country abounds with buffalo, they have fine lodges and live comparatively easy and comfortable. - Their number is in all about two thousand souls, and they are friendly with the Snakes, Black-feet, Gros-vents, and Comanchies; but at war with the Eutaws, Crows, and Sioux.

Chapter LXVIII


This animal, well known to be the most formidable and dangerous in North America, is found in the Rocky Mountains of every shade and color, from black to white, but most frequently of a dark grizzly hue, and is so large that those of a brown color are often mistaken by hunters who are accustomed to see them almost daily, for buffalo.

For instance - returning from the waters of the Columbia to those of the Colorado, in the spring of 1834, with four white men and several Indians, on our way over Horse Prairie, I discovered and passed within one hundred yards of a very large female, accompanied by two cubs, but was prevented from firing upon her from the fear of arousing some lurking foe in this dangerous part of the country, and permitted her to pass without molestation. At our encampment in the evening, the men, who usually discuss the occurrences of the day over their suppers, surprised me by inquiring if I had ever before seen a female bison with two calves. I replied that I had not yet met with an instance of the kind. "What?" exclaimed all of them, "did you not see a cow followed by two calves, who passed us this afternoon at ______ ?" describing the place - when I immediately discovered that they had mistaken the bear for a buffalo, and found them still incredulous when I asserted the fact.

A trapper, with whom I am acquainted, discovered, as he supposed, several years since, a herd of buffalo near Bear river, and being without provisions, resolved to approach them. Accordingly he followed the winding of a deep gully, which at length brought him among them, but imagine his disappointment and terror, when in lieu of buffalo, he found himself surrounded by thirty grizzly bears, whose aspects were any thing but amiable. Perceiving, however, that he was yet undiscovered, he retraced his steps, and fortunately escaped a horrible death, which in all probability he would have suffered had they observed him.

I have often mistaken them for buffalo, and discovered my error only when they erected themselves to ascertain what passed near them, which they always do when they hear, see, or smell any thing unusual. They are numerous throughout the mountains, particularly when fruit is most abundant, which serves them for food in the fall; roots being their chief subsistence in the spring. Through-out the long inclement winter season, like the black bear, but unlike the white, they penetrate and lay dormant in caverns.

Most animals, from their superior speed, can escape them; hence, though extremely fond of flesh, they kill very few; yet they often rob wolves of their prey, and devour it at leisure; and sometimes, but seldom, catch a deer or elk that happens to pass near without discovering them.

When wounded they are terrible and most dangerous foes; and unlike all other animals, are so extremely sagacious and vindictive, that though their enemy is concealed from their view, they will rush to the spot whence the smoke of his gun arises in search of him, and if he has not already secured his safety, he will hardly have an opportunity.

Many of the trappers bear the most incontestible proofs of having been roughly handled by them, of which the most shocking instance, together with attendant circumstances, is told of a well known trapper by the name of Hugh Glass, which is so extraordinary, that I shall give a brief sketch of it here. The same incidents have already been related, I believe, in the Southern Literary Messenger.

Glass was an engaged trapper in the service of Major Henry, who was the leader of a party of beaver hunters several years in the mountains. In the year 1822 or '23, during an excursion to the sources of the Yellow Stone, Glass was employed in hunting for the subsistence of the company. One day, being as usual in advance of his friends, in quest of game, he reached a thicket on the margin of a stream, which he penetrated, intending to cross the river, as it intersected his course. But no sooner had he gained the center of the almost impenetrable underbrush, than a female bear, accompanied by her two cubs, fell upon him, cast him to the ground, and deliberately commenced devouring him. But the company happening to arrive at this critical moment, immediately destroyed the grizzly monsters, and rescued him from present death, though he had received several dangerous wounds, his whole body being bruised and mangled, and he lay weltering in his own blood, in the most excruciating agony. To procure surgical aid, or to remove the unfortunate sufferer, were equally impossible; neither could the commander think of frustrating the object of his enterprise by remaining idle, with a large party of men, engaged at high salaries. Under these circumstances, by offering a large reward, he induced two men to remain with, and administer to the wants of poor Glass, until he should die, as no one thought his recovery possible, and proceeded on with his party to accomplish the purpose of the expedition. These men remained with Glass five days, but as he did not die perhaps as they anticipated he soon must, when the company left them, they cruelly abandoned him, taking his rifle, shot-pouch, etc., with them, believing that he would soon linger out a miserable existence. Leaving him without the means of making a fire, or procuring food, the heartless wretches followed the trail of the company, reached their companions, and circulated the report that Glass had died, and that they had buried him. No one doubted the truth of their statement until some months afterward, when to the astonishment of all, Glass appeared in health and vigor before them; but fortunately for one of the villains, he had already descended the Missouri and enlisted in the service of the United States. The other, though present when Glass arrived, being a youth, received a severe reprimand only from the justly exasperated hunter, for his unpardonable crime.

After Glass was deserted, he contrived to crawl, with inexpressible anguish, a few paces to a spring, the waters of which quenched his feverish thirst, and a few overhanging bushes loaded with buffalo berries and cherries, supplied him with food for ten days. Acquiring by degrees a little strength, he set out for Fort Kiawa, a trading establishment on the Missouri, three hundred miles distant, a journey that would have appalled a healthy and hardy hunter, destitute as he was of arms and ammunition. By crawling and hobbling along short distances, resting, and resuming his march, and sustaining life with berries and the flesh of a calf, which he captured from a pack of wolves and devoured raw during his progress, he finally reached the fort and recovered his health. After innumerable other difficulties and adventures, Glass finally fell a victim to the bloody-thirsty savages on the Missouri.

There is also a story current among the hunters of two men, whose names I have forgotten, who being one day some distance from the camp, discovered a large bear, busily engaged in tearing up the ground in search of roots. One of them, who was reputed an excellent marksman, desired his companion to ascend a tree, and after selecting one as a refuge for himself in case he should only wound and enrage the bear, deliberately elevated his piece and fired. In an instant the huge and vindictive beast rushed like a tiger toward him, seized him in the act of ascending the tree, a branch of which had caught his coat, and prevented him from accomplishing his purpose, and tore him in pieces. Having thus consummated his vengeance, the bear sank down beside his victim and expired. The other person, terrified at the bloody scene enacted beneath him, descended and ran to camp, informed his comrades of the melancholy circumstance, and returned to the spot with them. They interred the remains of the ill-fated hunter, and on examining the bear, found that he was shot directly through the heart. Hunters usually shoot them through the head, when, if the ball is well directed, they always expire instantly; yet they dare not molest them unless they have the means of escaping, either on their horses or by ascending trees. I have often heard trappers say that they would willingly, were it possible, make an agreement with them not to molest each other. I knew a bear to charge through an encampment of hunters who had fired upon him, knock down two of them in his progress, bite each of them slightly, and continue his flight, with no other demonstrations of anger at the warm reception he met with. John Gray, a herculean trapper, has fought several duels with them, in which he has thus far been victorious, though generally at the expense of a gun, which he usually manages to break in the conflict. A Shawnee Indian in the Rocky Mountains, has acquired much fame by attacking and destroying numbers of them, with an old rusty sword, which he flourishes about their ears with no little dexterity and effect.

When they are attacked in a thicket, they charge out into the prairie after their pursuers, and return back, and continue to do so when any of their assailants come near them. Hunting and chasing them on horseback is a favorite amusement of both whites and Indians, and is attended with no great danger, for a good horse will easily avoid and outstrip them; but daring hunters, by charging too close upon them, have had their horses caught and frightfully lacerated before they could extricate them, which is only effected by leaving portions of their bodies in the claws and teeth of the bear.