Wednesday, June 23, 2010

June 23rd

My thumb is now quite well, a little stiff but not sore unless pretty well struck. On the 19th Saturday we played one match – the first innings resulted in the officers having 4 runs to the good. A heavy storm coming up prevented the finishing of the 2nd innings.

The Kootanie Indians too came filing over the prairies – a long moving line all on horses. They camped down on the bottom – near the bridge. Not many came up during the evening, it probably being too wet. On Sunday at 9 o’clock the whole force went down to their camp – where a long lodge about 30 feet long had been erected and I which Father Scullen held service. The Kootanies you must know are all Roman Catholics. They come from the other side of the mountains – from British Columbia & are real British subjects. Only a portion of the tribe comes down every spring. The remainder stay at home to take care of their gardens – for in their way they are farmers.

The Romish missionaries have been busily at work with them and they are practically civilized. They have but one wife and are always married by the priest – their children are baptized. They have evening service every evening and never sit down to eat without first kneeling and giving thanks. They bear a character most exemplary for hospitality and honesty. Their language is the queerest and strangest conglomeration of deep guttural sounds – spoken in a very low whisper – so low that one can not help wondering how they manage to understand one another. To hear them talk you would think that they were fearful stutterers and were endeavoring to pronounce the words clerks click. At the service on Sunday they sang one or two hymns to a most mournful tune apparently under their breath.

On Monday we had a big powwow and talk with the Kootanies and North Peagans – feeding them & giving some presents – then we turned the force out and showed them some mounted drill – then fired several shell at a mark about a mile away. In the evening some rockets were sent up. In the evening I went down to their camp and held a sort of sick parade. I was kept busy for nearly three hours attending to them. They appeared very grateful.

Yesterday they gathered the remains of two Kootanies who had been killed here last Fall just before we came and Father Scullen buried them. I managed to get a sketch of their camp altho’ it is very rough not being able to hold my brush very well.
This morning all the Indians went away towards the plains – where they are going after buffalo. I am going up to the mountains tomorrow so for the next three or four days I will not write to you – but be sure I will always be thinking of you. I expect to be gone about four days – and see no reason why I should not have a really good time. To day I was the witness of a double marriage ceremony – two of the roustabouts were married to two half breed women. The ceremony was all right – except that neither bridegroom had remembered to bring a ring – two were borrowed for the purpose and afterwards returned to their owners.

And now for the present good night and believe me your own loving

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

June 22nd

My thumb is pretty nearly all right again but still stiff – the swelling has gone down and I can bend it a little. My Eye didn’t it hurt for a day or two. I will wait until tomorrow to tell you all that has happened in the past two days.

Monday, June 21, 2010

June 21st

Thumb much better today but still sore – swollen very big – can’t press the weight of the pen against it – accounts for my bad writing.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

June 20th

Congratulate Mr. R. for me if you can & wish Miss T. all the happiness she desires. My thumb is very sore - didn’t sleep a wink with it last night.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

June 19th

This morning we are to have our cricket match, the conquering game with the subConstables. The day is very fine & I hope that we will be victorious. Well we did not get the win. But I must tell you that I hurt my thumb so that I can’t write very well. I managed to get it between the bat and the ball and mashed it a little.

Friday, June 18, 2010

June 18th

This is the anniversary of the battle of Waterloo 60 years ago. To day we were favoured by an Indian dance in the Barrack square. The North Peagans all bepainted and gaily caparisoned bore down upon the Fort and tying their horses outside – formed a ring in the middle of the square. They all had bows and arrows & there were 5 or 6 drums along. The drummers got in the middle of the ring & began to drum, the others keeping time & making a klick klick klick with their arrows against the bows. Two men lay down on the ground some distance from the circle & covered themselves with their buffalo robes. After playing a short prelude the ring began to throw stones etc. at the two recumbent figures, who after submitting to the treatment for a while, finally jumped up, threw off their robes and began dancing towards the ring, entered it and then giving a signal all suddenly rose up & throwing off their blankets began dancing – every one as naked as could be – their faces, arms, breasts and legs painted up – they divided into two bodies under the leadership of one of the two [?] ones. These two companies advanced and retreated alternately – finally with a yell they all rushed to their places and put on their blankets. This is the ‘Bear Dance’. And most certainly it was the most savage and wildest thing I have seen amongst the Indians. After their dance we gave them a smoke and a feed. They then repeated their dance and went away highly delighted.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

June 17th

This morning was excessively sultry & warm. About two o’clock we i.e. Capt. Winder and I went down to Conrad’s to get him to go with us to this Peagan camp. We wanted to see the Big Medicine Pipe Dance so we went over provided with some flour and coffee & sugar, crossed the river in the boat & then walked along thro’ the bush towards the camp – but we had to cross a big slue or coulee with a swift deep current. A party of Indians came riding along on their little ponies – and we jumped up behind them & were ferried over. You would have been amazed to see us: all of us pretty long-legged fellows behind a painted savage & astride a diminutive little pony – under whose belly we could almost lock our feet - & gallantly they bore us thro’ the rushing flood. I had brought my colours with me and while Capt. Winder & Conrad went to pay their respects to the old chief I started off to take a sketch of the camp.

I sat myself down on a hill side looking West – and began to sketch – first one child came near me & then called another & another & then older men came & women until I had around me nearly the entire available strength of the camp. A stark naked little Indian boy was not two feet in front of me dancing with all his might & making medicine at me – set on by the older people around. It was most amusing to hear their exclamations and to see them recognizing the various points as they appeared on the paper. I finally had to come down in order to let the old chief get up his dance – no one would come to it while I was sketching.

Well the dance began – a big roll of skins tied up in a peculiar bundle was set in the middle of the wigwam & the old men & women sat around the wigwam - & the orchestra consisting of 9 drums. The old chief took a piece of lighted punk and put some aromatic substance afore it & set it down in front of this bundle – then in the most solemn manner and amidst a deep & impressive silence proceeded to divest himself of his shirt & to put on a new one. Then undoing the roll of skins- he after untying innumerable strings came upon 3 or 4 bundles made of red flannel – these he held over the smoke of the aromatic herb, then proceeded to untie them & after a long series of wrappings at last came to the stem of the Medicine Pipe. This is a long wooden stem polished & ornamented with a profusion of ermine skins being terminated by a tassel of brilliant red & yellow wool or dyed hair towards the lower end are suspended about a dozen eagle’s feathers dyed vermilion and blue – with a couple of small bells on each feather – there are also other feathers of bright colours in various parts of the stem. This was taken out to slow music by the band and the old chief danced around the lodge and then went outside and held it up towards the sun – then came back and a young man took it and did the same, then an old squaw, then a boy & finally a little child hardly able to walk danced with it. Then they took from the same receptacle another red bundle which proved to contain a whistle. This was danced around with & blown always upwards towards the sun – a huge rattle like a dried gourd was now produced and it was danced with. The drums all the while keeping up an incessant clatter & the shrill voices of the women now and again breaking in with their wild wailing chant. As a heavy storm was coming up we bade a hasty adieu and borrowed some horses to cross the coulee and went home – not without getting a thorough soaking however.