The Traders Arrive
The traders arrive and give us credit for guns, flints, powder, shot and lead, and such articles as we want to clothe our, families with and enable us to hunt. We first, however, hold a council with them, to ascertain the price they will give for our skins, and then they will charge us for the goods. We inform them where we intend hunting, and tell them where to build their houses. At this place we deposit a part of our corn, and leave our old people. The traders have always been kind to them and relieved them when in want, and consequently were always much respected by our people, and never since we were it nation, has one of them been killed by our people.
We then disperse in small parties to make our hunt, and as soon as it is over, we return to our trader’s establishment, with our skins, and remain feasting, playing cards and at other pastimes until the close f the winter. Our young men then start on the beaver hunt, others to hunt raccoons and muskrats; the remainder of our people go to the sugar camps to make sugar. All leave our encampment and appoint a place to meet on the Mississippi, so that we may return together to our village in the spring. We always spend our time pleasantly at the sugar camp. It being the season for wild fowl, we lived well and always had plenty, when the hunters came in that we might make a feast for them. After this is over we return to our village, accompanied sometimes by our traders. In this way the time rolled round happily. But these are times that were.
While on the subject of our manners and customs, it might be well to relate an instance that occurred near our village just five years before we left it for the last time.
In 1827, a young Sioux Indian got lost on the prairie, in a snow storm, and found his way into a camp of the Sacs. According to Indian customs, although he was an enemy, he was safe while accepting their hospitality. He remained there for some time on account of the severity of the storm. Becoming well acquainted he fell in love with the daughter of the Sac at whose village he had been entertained, and before leaving for his own country, promised to come to the Sac village for her at a certain time during the approaching summer. In July he made his way to the Rock river village, secreting himself in the woods until he met the object of his love, who came out to the field with her mother to assist her in hoeing corn. Late in the afternoon her mother left her and went to the village. No sooner had she got out of hearing, than he gave a loud whistle which assured the maiden that he had returned. She continued hoeing leisurely to the end of the row, when her lover came to meet her, and she promised to come to him as soon as she could go to the lodge and get her blanket, and together they would flee to his country. But unfortunately for the lovers the girl’s two brothers had seen the meeting, and after procuring their guns started in pursuit of them. A heavy thunderstorm was coming on at the time. The lovers hastened to, and took shelter under a cliff of rocks, at Black Hawk’s watchtower. Soon after a loud peal of thunder was heard, the cliff of rocks was shattered in a thousand pieces, and the lovers buried beneath, while in full view of her pursuing brothers. This, their unexpected tomb, still remains undisturbed.
This tower to which my name had been applied, was a favorite resort and was frequently visited by me alone, when I could sit and smoke my pipe, and look with wonder and pleasure, at the grand scenes that were presented by the sun’s rays, even across the mighty water. On one occasion a Frenchman, who had been making his home in our village, brought his violin with him to the tower, to play and dance for the amusement of a number of our people, who had assembled there, and while dancing with his back to the cliff accidentally fell over it and was killed by the fall. The Indians say that always at the same time of the year, soft strains of the violin can be heard near that spot.
On returning in the spring from oar hunting grounds, I had the pleasure of meeting our old friend, the trader of Peoria, at Rock Island. He came up in a boat from St. Louis, not as a trader, but as our Agent. We were well pleased to see him. He told us that he narrowly escaped falling into the hands of Dixon. He remained with us a short time, gave us good advice, and then returned to St. Louis.
The Sioux having committed depredations on our people, we sent out war parties that summer, who succeeded in killing fourteen.
I paid several visits to Fort Armstrong, at Rock Island, during the summer, and was always well received by the gentlemanly officers stationed there, who were distinguished for their bravery, and they never trampled upon an enemy’s rights. Colonel George Davenport resided near the garrison, and being in connection with the American Fur Company, furnished us the greater portion of our goods. We were not as happy then, in our village, as formerly. Our people got more liquor from the small traders than customary. I used all my influence to prevent drunkenness, but without effect. As the settlements progressed towards us, we became worse off and more unhappy.
Many of our people, instead of going to the old hunting grounds, when game was plenty, would go near the settlements to hunt, and, instead of saving their skins, to pay the trader for goods furnished them in the fall, would sell them to the settlement for whisky, and return in the spring with their families almost naked, and without the means of getting anything for them.
About this time my eldest son was taken sick and died. He had always been a dutiful child and had just grown to manhood. Soon after, my youngest daughter, an interesting and affectionate child, died also. This was a hard stroke, because I loved my children. In my distress I left the noise of the village and built my lodge on a mound in the corn-field, and enclosed it with a fence, around which I planted corn and beans. Here I was with my family alone. I gave everything I had away, and reduced myself to poverty. The only covering I retained was a piece of buffalo robe. I blacked my face and resolved on fasting for twenty-four moons, for the loss of my two children–drinking only of water during the day, and eating sparingly of boiled corn at sunset. I fulfilled my promise, hoping that the Great Spirit would take pity on me.