Tah-We-Chu-Kin, The Wife
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In February, 1837, a party of Dahcotahs (Warpetonian) fell in with Hole-in-the-Day, and his band. When Chippeways and Dahcotahs meet there is generally bloodshed; and, however highly Hole-in-the-Day may be esteemed as a warrior, it is certain that he showed great treachery towards the Dahcotahs on many occasions.
Now they met for peaceable purposes. Hole-in-the-Day wished permission to hunt on the Dahcotah lands without danger from the tomahawk of his enemies. He proposed to pay them certain articles, which he should receive from the United States Government when he drew his annuities, as a return for the privilege he demanded.
The Dahcotahs and Chippeways were seated together. They had smoked the pipe of peace. The snow had drifted, and lay piled in masses behind them, contrasting its whiteness with their dark countenances and their gay ornaments and clothing. For some years there had been peace between these two tribes; hating each other, as they did, they had managed to live without shedding each other’s blood.
Hole-in-the-Day was the master spirit among the Chippeways. He was the greatest hunter and warrior in the nation; he had won the admiration of his people, and they had made him chief. His word was law to them; he stood firmly on the height to which he had elevated himself.
He laid aside his pipe and arose. His iron frame seemed not to feel the keen wind that was shaking the feathers in the heads of the many warriors who fixed their eyes upon him.
He addressed the Dahcotah warriors. “All nations,” said he, “as yet continue the practice of war, but as for me, I now abandon it. I hold firmly the hand of the Americans. If you, in future, strike me twice or even three times, I will pass over and not revenge it. If wars should continue, you and I will not take part in them. You shall not fight, neither will I. There shall be no more war in that part of the country lying between Pine Island and the place called Hanoi catnip, (They shot them in the night). Over this extent of country we will hold the pipe firmly. You shall hold it by the bowl, and we will hold it by the stem. The pipe shall be in your keeping.” So saying, Hole-in-the-Day advanced and presented the Dahcotahs with a pipe.
After a moment he continued his speech. “On account of your misconduct, we did desire your death, and if you had met us last winter to treat of peace, however great your numbers, we should have killed you all. White men had ordered us to do so, and we should have done it; because the Mendewakantonwans had informed us that you intended by treachery to kill us.”
The Dahcotah chief then replied to him saying, that the Dahcotahs were willing that the Chippeways should hunt on their lands to the borders of the prairie, but that they should not enter the prairie. The Chippeways then agreed to pay them a large quantity of sugar, a keg of powder, and a quantity of lead and tobacco.
After their engagement was concluded, Hole-in-the-Day rose again and said, “In the name of the Great Spirit, this peace shall be forever,” and, turning to Wandiokiya (the Man that talks to the Eagle), a Dahcotah who had been taught by the missionaries to read and write, requested him to commit to writing the agreement which had just been made.
Wandiokiya did so, and has since forwarded the writing to the Rev. Mr. P, who resides near Fort Snelling. The Dahcotah adds, “We have now learned that the object of Hole-in-the-Day was to deceive and kill us; and he and his people have done so, showing that they neither fear God nor the chief of the American people.
“In this manner they deceived us, deceived us in the name of the Gods.
“Hole-in-the-Day led the band of murderers.
We shall see how faithfully the Chippeway chief kept the treaty that he had called upon the Great Spirit to witness. There has been great diversity of opinion concerning Hole-in-the-Day, The Chippeways and Dahcotahs all feared him. Some of the white people who knew him admired, while others detested his character.
He was certainly, what all the Chippeways have been, a friend of the white people, and equally an enemy to the Dahcotahs. He encouraged all attempts that were made towards the civilization of his people; he tried to induce them to cultivate the ground; indeed, he sometimes assumed the duties which among savages are supposed to belong exclusively to females, and has been frequently seen to work in his garden. Had it been possible, he would even have forced the Chippeways to civilization.
He had three wives all sisters. He was fond of them, but if they irritated him, by disputing among themselves, or neglecting any thing which he found necessary to his comfort, he was very violent. Blows were the only arguments he used on such occasions.
The present chief is one of his children; several of them died young, and their father felt their loss most keenly. Grave and stoical as was his deportment, his feelings were very strong, and not easily controlled.
He was a man of deep thought, and of great ambition. The latter passion was gratified to as great a degree as was possible. Loved by his tribe, feared by his enemies, respected and well treated by the white people, what more could a savage ask? Among the Indians he was a great man, but he was truly great in cunning and deceit.
On this occasion, however, the Dahcotahs had perfect confidence in him, and it was on the first day of April, in the same year, that they arrived at the place appointed to meet the Chippeways, near the east branch of the Chippeway river, about thirty miles northeast of Lac qui parle. The women raised the teepees, six in number, and prepared the scanty portion of food for their families. Here they remained, until their patience was almost exhausted, constantly expecting Hole-in-the-Day to appear; but day after day passed, and they were still disappointed. Now and then the reports of fire-arms were heard near them, but still the Chippeways did not visit the camp of the Dahcotahs.
Famine now showed itself among them. They had neither corn nor flour. Had the wild ducks flown over their heads in clouds, there was but little powder and shot to kill them but there were few to be seen. Some of the Indians proposed moving their camp where game was more plenty where they might see deer, and use their bows and arrows to some
purpose. But others said, if they were not at the appointed place of meeting, they would violate the contract, and lose their claim to the articles that Hole-in-the-day had promised to deliver to them.
It was finally concluded that the party should divide, one half moving off in search of food, the other half remaining where they were, in hopes that Hole-in-the-Day would make his appearance.
Three teepees then remained, and they were occupied by seventeen persons, all women and children excepting four. It was drawing on towards evening, when the Dahcotahs heard the sound of footsteps, and their satisfaction was very great, when they perceived the Chippeway chief approach, accompanied by ten of his men. These men had been present at the council of peace in February.
One of the Dahcotahs, named Red Face, had left his family in the morning, to attend to the traps he had set for beaver. He had not returned when the Chippeways arrived. His two wives were with the Dahcotahs who received the Chippeways. One of these women had two children; the other was quite young, and, according to Indian ideas, beautiful too. She was the favorite wife.
The Dahcotahs received the Chippeways with real pleasure, in full faith and confidence. “Hole-in-the-Day has been long in coming,” said one of the Dahcotahs; “his friends have wished to smoke the pipe of peace with him, but some of them have left us to seek for food. We welcome you, and will eat together, and our friendship shall last forever.” Hole-in-the-Day met his advances with every appearance of cordiality. One thing, however, the Dahcotahs observed, that the Chippeways did not fire their guns off when they arrived, which is done by Indians when they make a visit of friendship.
The party passed the evening in conversation. All the provisions of the Dahcotahs were called in requisition to feast the Chippeways. After eating, the pipe went round again, and at a late hour they laid down to sleep, the Chippeways dividing their party, several in each teepee.
Hole-in-the-day lay down by the side of his host, so motionless you would have thought that sleep had paralyzed his limbs and senses; his regular breathing intimates a heart at peace with himself and his foes; but that heart was beating fast, for in a moment he raises himself cautiously, gazes and smiles too upon the sleeping Dahcotah beside him. He gives the appointed signal, and instantaneously plunges his knife into the heart of the trusting Dahcotah. It was child’s play afterwards to quiet the shrill shrieks of the terrified wife. A moment more, and she and her child lay side by side, never to awake again.
For a short time broken and shrill cries were heard from the other teepees, but they were soon over. The two wives of Red Face had laid down without a fear, though their protector was absent. The elder of the two clasped her children to her heart, consoled, in a measure, while listening to their calm breathing, for the loss of the love of her husband. She knew that the affections of a husband might vary, but the tie between mother and child is indissoluble.
The young wife wondered that Red Face was not by her side. But he would return to-morrow, and her welcome would be all the greeting that he would wish for. While her thoughts are assuming the form of dreams, she sees the fatal weapon pointed at the mother and child. The bullet that kills the sleeping infant on its mother’s breast, wounds the mother also; but she flies in horror, though not soon enough to escape the sight of her other pleading child, her warrior-son, vainly clasping his hands in entreaty to the savage, who, with another blow from his tomahawk, puts an end to his sufferings. The wretched mother escapes, for Hole-in-the-Day enters the teepee, and takes prisoner the younger wife. She escapes a present death what will be her future fate?
The elder of the two wives escaped from the murderous Chippeways. Again and again, in the darkness of the night, she turns back to flee from her deadly foe, but far more from the picture of her children, murdered before her eyes. She knew the direction in which the Dahcotahs who had left the party had encamped, and she directed her steps to find them. One would think she would have asked death from her enemies her husband loved her no more, her children were dead but she clung to life.
She reached the teepees at last, and hastened to tell of her sorrows, and of the treachery of Hole-in-the-Day. For a moment the utmost consternation prevailed among the Indians, but revenge was the second thought, and rapidly were their preparations made to seek the scene of the murder. The distance was accomplished in a short time, and the desolation lay before their eyes.
The fires in the teepees were not gone out; the smoke was ascending to the heavens; while the voices of the murdered Dahcotahs seemed to call upon their relatives for revenge.. There lay the warriors, who, brave as Hole-in-the-Day, had laid aside their weapons, and reposed on the faith of their enemies, their strong limbs powerless, their faces turned towards the light, which fell upon their glassy eyes. See the mother, as she bends over the bodies of her innocent children! her boy, who walked so proudly, and said he would kill deer for his mother; her infant, whose life had been taken, as it were, from her very heart. She strains them to her bosom, but the head leans not towards her, and the arms are stiff in death.
Red Face has asked for his young wife. She is alive, but, far worse than death, she is a prisoner to the Chippeways. His children are dead before his eyes, and their mother, always obedient and attentive, does not hear him when he speaks to her. The remains of the feast are scattered on the ground; the pipe of peace lies broken among them.
In the course of the morning the Rev. Mr. , missionary among the Dahcotahs, with the assistance of an Indian named Round Wind, collected the bodies and buried them.
Of the fourteen persons who were in the three teepees, no more than four escaped; two young men and two women.
The Chippeways fled as quickly as possible from the country of the Dahcotahs, with their prisoner sad change for her. A favorite wife finds herself in the power of ten warriors, the enemies of her people.
The cries of her murdered friends are yet sounding in her ears; and she knows not how soon their fate may be hers. Every step of the weary journey she pursues, takes her farther from her country. She dares not weep, she cannot understand the language of her enemies, but she understands their looks, and knows she must obey them. She wishes they would take her life; she would take it herself, but she is watched, and it is impossible.
She sees by their angry gestures and their occasional looks towards her, that she is the subject of their dispute, until the chief raises his eyes and speaks to the Chippeways and the difference ceases.
At length her journey is at an end. They arrive at the village, and Hole-in-the-Day and his warriors are received with manifestations of delight. They welcomed him as if he had performed a deed of valor instead of one of cowardice.
The women gaze alternately upon the scalps and upon the prisoner. She, poor girl, is calm now; there is but one thought that makes her tired limbs shake with terror. She sees with a woman’s quickness that there is no female among those who are looking at her as beautiful as she is. It may be that she may be required to light the household fires for one of her enemies. She sees the admiring countenance of one of the young Chippeway warriors fixed upon her; worn out with fatigue, she cannot support the wretched thought. For a while she is insensible even to her sorrows.
On recovering, food is given her, and she tries to eat. Nothing but death can relieve her. Where are the spirits of the rocks and rivers of her land? Have they forgotten her too?
Hole-in-the-Bay took her to his teepee. She was his prisoner, he chose to adopt her, and treated her with every kindness. He ordered his men not to take her life; she was to be as safe in his teepee as if she were his wife or child.
For a few days she is allowed to remain quiet; but at length she is brought out to be present at a council where her fate was to be decided.
Hole-in-the-Day took his place in the council, and ordered the prisoner to be placed near him. Her pale and resigned countenance was a contrast to the angry and excited faces that lowered upon her; but the chief looked unconcerned as to the event. However his warriors might contend, the result of the council would depend upon him; his unbounded influence always prevailed.
After several speeches had been made, Stormy Wind rose and addressed the chief. His opinion was that the prisoner should suffer death. The Dahcotahs had always been enemies, and it was the glory of the Chippeways to take the lives of those they hated. His chief had taken the prisoner to his teepee; she was safe; she was a member of his family who would harm her there? but now they were in council to decide upon her fate. He was an old man, had seen many winters he had often traveled far and suffered much to take the life of an enemy; and here, where there is one in their power, should they lose the opportunity of revenge? She was but a woman, but the Dahcotah blood flowed in her veins. She was not fit to live. The Eagle spoke next. He was glad that the chief had taken the prisoner to his teepee it had been always customary occasionally to adopt a prisoner, and the chief did well to keep up the customs of their tribe. The prisoner was young, she could be taught to love the Chippeway nation; the white people did not murder their prisoners; the Chippeways were the friends of the white people; let them do as they did, be kind to the prisoner and spare her life. The Eagle would marry the Dahcotah girl; he would teach her to speak the language of her adopted tribe; she should make his moccasins, and her children would be Chippeways. Let the chief tell the Eagle to take the girl home to his teepee.
The Eagle’s speech created an excitement. The Indians rose one after the other, insisting upon the death of their prisoner. One or two seconded the Eagle’s motion to keep her among them, but the voices of the others prevailed. The prisoner saw by the faces of the savages what their words portended. When the Eagle rose to speak, she recognized the warrior whose looks had frightened her; she knew he was pleading for her life too; but the memory of her husband took away the fear of death. Death with a thousand terrors, rather than live a wife, a slave to the Chippeways! The angry Chippeways are silenced, for their chief addresses them in a voice of thunder; every voice is hushed, every countenance is respectfully turned towards the leader, whose words are to decide the fate of the unhappy woman before them.
“Where is the warrior that will not listen to the words of his chief? My voice is loud and you shall hear. I have taken a Dahcotah woman prisoner; I have chosen to spare her life; she has lived in my teepee; she is one of my family; you have assembled in council to-day to decide her fate I have decided it. When I took her to my teepee, she became as my child or as the child of my friend. You shall not take her life, nor shall you marry her. She is my prisoner she shall remain in my teepee.”
Seeing some motion of discontent among those who wished to take her life, he continued, while his eyes shot fire and his broad chest heaved with anger: “Come then and take her life. Let me see the brave warrior who will take the life of my prisoner? Come! she is here; why do you, not raise your tomahawks? It is easy to take a woman’s scalp.”
Not a warrior moves. The prisoner looks at the chief and at his warriors. Hole-in-the-Day leads her from the council and points to his teepee, which is again her home, and where she is as safe as she would be in her husband’s teepee, by the banks of the Mine So-to.
While the wife of Red Face lived from day to day in suspense as to her fate, her husband made every effort for her recovery. Knowing that she was still alive, he could not give up the hope of seeing her again.
Accordingly, the facts were made known at Fort Snelling, and the Chippeway interpreter was sent up to Hole-in-the-Day’s village, with an order from the government to bring her down.
She had been expected for some time, when an excitement among a number of old squaws, who were standing outside of the gate of the fort, showed that something unusual was occasioning expressions of pleasure; and as the wife of Red Face advanced towards the house of the interpreter, their gratification was raised to the utmost.
Red Face and some of the Dahcotah warriors were soon there too and the long separated husband and wife were again united.
But whatever they might have felt on the occasion of meeting again, they showed but little joy. Red Face entered the room where were assembled the Indians and the officers of the garrison. He shook hands with the officers and with the interpreter, and, without looking at his wife, took his seat with the other Dahcotahs.
But her composure soon left her. When she saw him enter, the blood mantled in her pale cheek pale with long anxiety and recent fatigue. She listened while the Dahcotahs talked with the agent and the commanding officer; and at last, as if her feelings could not longer be restrained, she arose, crossed the room, and took her seat at his feet!
The chief Hole-in-the-Day has been dead some years, and, in one of the public prints, it was stated that he was thrown from his carriage and killed. This was a genteel mode of dying, which cannot, with truth, be attributed to him.
He always deplored the habit of drinking, to which the Indians are so much addicted. In his latter years, however, he could not withstand the temptation; and, on one occasion, being exceedingly drunk, he was put into an ox-cart, and being rather restive, was thrown out, and the cart wheel went over him.
Thus died Hole-in-the-Day-one of the most noted Indians of the present day; and his eldest son reigns in his stead.