|KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS
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The Dakotas were strongly represented in the Kaw Valley and vicinity by the Kansas or Kaw Indians and the Osages. In some respects there was a similarity of manners and customs between these branches and the original stock, in others a radical difference was noted.
The practice of shaving all of the head except a small place around the crown -- the scalp lock, which was reserved for the enemy, should he be able to secure it -- was adhered to by the Kaws and the Osages, while the old Sioux law seems to have sanctioned scalping the entire head. However, when compelled to hurry, they took a small section from any part of the head. For the purpose of decorating themselves, many of the Kansas cut the upper and outer edge of each ear, drawing it down so as to form a large ring, reaching to the shoulder. To this circle ornaments were attached. The tribe retained savage proclivities long after their neighbors had become partially or altogether reconciled to the habits of the pale-face; and were tall of stature and physically well developed, but decidedly inferior in mind and morals, being a constant source of annoyance to both the white citizens and more civilized Indians.
One day a golden-haired girl stood by the side of her father, at the door of their home in Kansas City, Kansas, (then Wyandotte) when a number of Kaws filed through the gate and up to the house. Their chief, through an interpreter, formally tendered a horse and several fine blankets in exchange for the "squaw with the hair like the rising sun." Receiving an indignant refusal, he emitted a disappointed "Ugh! ugh!" and turning slowly, rode down the street with his warriors.
A lady who resided at Westport when it was a hamlet of not more than eight or ten houses, was surprised, on entering her kitchen one morning, to see, standing before the stove warming himself, a huge Kaw, entirely nude save for the blanket extended across his out-spread arms. Almost in terror, the woman gasped out, "Puck-a-chee! pnek-a-chee!" (go away). Deliberately, and with evident amusement at her fright, the savage took his departure.
The main village of the Kaws, that of American Chief, was situated two miles east of Manhattan, Kansas. It was composed of one hundred and twenty dirt lodges, of good size. A large portion of the tribe was located, with Fool Chief, on the north bank of the Kansas River, in and near Topeka. Later, by a treaty with the United States, this land, with the exception of a few hundred acres reserved and divided among those in whom white blood predominated, was ceded to the Government. The majority of the people removed, first, to Council Grove, and then to the Indian Territory.
They delighted, for many years, to talk of
A FAMOUS CHIEF.
There had been frequent, hard-fought battles with the Pawnees, who, being superior in numbers, had usually obtained the victory. However, the Great Spirit punished them when, at last, a small band was discovered, just at nightfall, by a strong party of Kaws.
Revenge, always sweet to the barbarian, was now assured. Surrounding the foe under cover of darkness, the Kaws, commanded by Wa-hon-ga-shee (No Fool), waited patiently for daylight.
Wa-hon-ga-shee (No Fool)
Twenty-four hours before going on the war-path a council had been held in the celebrated grove from which the present city takes its name, and every warrior who had joined the preliminary dance, had fasted from that time until the moment of departure. Their leader, together with the medicine men, had long abstained from food, in anticipation of the event. Other matters having been arranged, the line of men rode out of the village, carrying many an anxious good-speed from wives and mothers. Children, half - clothed, huddled together in awe-stricken groups, or sought maternal protection. Old men and maidens gazed with hopeful pride on sons and sweethearts.
Over the plains passed the braves, almost from view, when, by some mischance, their chief slipped and fell. Quickly recognizing an unfavorable omen, he gave the signal for return, and the entire community joined in incantations to dispel future disaster. Again the war party went forth, coming upon the Pawnees, who, all unconscious of approaching danger, lay encamped for the night. Guards had been stationed at proper intervals, and the ponies corralled, in order that they might not wander away.
All seemed quiet until near morning. Faintly the sounds of awakening Nature broke the silence of the prairie. The Kaws began to close in upon the enemy, crawling stealthily through the grass. Gray dawn appeared; then a red streak became visible in the east. The assailants rose with a terrible war-whoop and rushed upon their sleeping victims. Even the guards were surprised. Reports of rifles and fierce shouts from infuriated men mingled with the shrieks of the wounded and dying. Knives struck pitilessly into the breasts of the Pawnees, who, stupefied by the sudden attack, were easily overcome. Blood flowed freely. Deftly a small circle was described upon the head of each one, the scalp torn off, and the reeking trophy attached to the belt of the slayer. Then, when destruction was complete, and death had swept the camp, leaving not a member of the little band alive, the victors gathered up the spoils and journeyed home in triumph. Ninety dead bodies, mutilated examples of the effects of savage warfare, were scattered over the field of battle.
Now, preparations for the dance were in progress. Musicians brought forth flutes and tom-toms -- rude drums made from powder kegs with rawhides stretched over the ends -- while the women busied themselves in making ready and cooking meat and cereals for the feast.
The warriors, in a circle, commenced the celebration with low ejaculations and slow movements not unlike a march, gradually increasing speed, and changing step until it became a wild rush of many feet, accompanied by howls of exultation. Then all was still for a moment, and two beautiful girls, dressed in almost Oriental costume, and carrying red fringed umbrellas, broke into the center of the ring and danced with the utmost grace and abandon. Next followed the process of paying debts. It was the custom for creditors to allow debtors the privilege of paying off old scores, at a dance of triumph, by standing in the center of the circle and submitting to sound beatings, at one dollar a blow.
An old squaw had tried in vain to collect the sum of twelve dollars from a young man. Desiring to end her importunities for money, he advanced and stood, the object of all eyes in stoical forbearance, while she administered, to the full extent of her power, the requisite amount of punishment. As usual, the Kaws had buried their most valuable goods previous to undertaking the foregoing expedition. First, a large cavity had been made in the ground and the articles placed inside. These were covered with sticks and branches, earth being piled on top and stamped down. In a violent effort to bestow the last blow effectively. the old woman caused this structure to give way and sank into the chasm, to the great diversion of spectators - for the Indians, among themselves, on such a day, were prone to cast dignity to the winds.
Frequently, Osages and Kaws were employed to perform special police duty. It gave them a sense of responsibility that had a tendency to prevent mischief. Even in this capacity, they were governed by superstition. At night, when ready to give place to another watchman, each brave, before going home, went to the fire, gathered a handful of ashes and rubbed it on his head to keep away the witches.
Death was mourned, not only by relatives, but by professionals, hired for a period of two weeks. Pasting the hair on top of the head with mud, they united in a series of groans and wails, dismal beyond description. These strange songs had words, probably recounting the virtues and wonderful deeds of the dead. Wrapped in his blanket and provided with food and drink, trinkets and valuables, with all that he considered most desirable, the warrior was lowered to his last resting-place, a favorite horse having been killed that the spirit might ride to the Happy Hunting Grounds.
The Osages were once the most powerful people west of the Mississippi River. They owned a vast territory and had remained in possession over three hundred years; but were forced eventually to cede the greater portion to the Government. Nevertheless they are the wealthiest of the Indians. The tribe was divided originally into three bands, the Little Osages, the Grand and the Black Dog Band. They were tall and fine-looking, the young, able-bodied men being hunters and warriors, while the old men were doctors and cooks. Upon entering a village, a stranger was expected to present himself first at the lodge of the chief, and there partake of food. A general feast followed. The cook stood outside and called, in a loud voice:
"Come and eat. White Hair (or whomsoever it might be) gives a feast."
When traveling, the Osages made lodges in the shape of wagon-tops, of bent trees covered with skins or blankets.
A native orator, speaking of the good qualities of his people, said:
"Are we brave and valiant? Behold Dakota scalps drying in the smoke of our cabins. Are we strong? Here is the bow of an Osage boy -- bend it. Are our women beautiful? Look at them and be convinced."
Despite the fact that civilization has penetrated even remote portions of the United States, and its effects are felt in a greater or less degree by every savage nation, the Osages in the Indian Territory have returned to many of the old barbarous customs. They had a unique creation story. Old people used to talk of a man, the first of the race, who came out of a shell. They said:
"The father of our nation was a snail, who passed a quiet, happy existence on the banks of our own river. His wants were few and well supplied. He seldom hunted, going out only when driven by hunger to seek food, and taking whatever could be most easily obtained. Thus lived our great forefather, the snail."
According to the tradition, there was a storm and the river burst over its banks and swept everything before it. The snail, seated on a log, was carried along down the stream and deposited at last upon a bed of slime. He was contented and had enjoyed the travel, since it had required no exertion. Now, he found himself in a strange country. It was very warm and the sun came out and baked the earth in which he was embedded. It was impossible to move. Then, feeling a change, he began to grow and developed into a man, tall, strong and perfect. At first, the new being was stupefied; but with returning memory, he realized that he had once been a snail, and immediately set out for his former home.
Arrived on the banks of the Osage River, he became faint from hunger. Game was plenty, but he knew not how to catch it. There were birds and fish, but no means of reaching them. He lay down to die. A soft voice broke the silence. The man looked up and saw, mounted on a noble, snow-white animal, a being like nothing seen on earth. It was tall and mighty, having eyes like stars. The Osage trembled. The gentle voice said:
"Why does he who is the kernel of the snail look terrified? Why is he faint and weary?"
"I tremble because I fear thy power and quail before the lightning of thine eye. I am faint because I lack food."
Then said the Great Spirit:
"Be composed. The Master of Breath punishes not till sin is committed. Thou hast not sinned; be calm. But art thou hungry?"
"I have eaten nothing since I ceased to be a snail."
The Great Spirit drew from under his robe a bow and arrows, and taught the man to shoot. He killed a deer and was told to cover himself with its skin. The Great Spirit made fire and told him to use it for cooking the meat. One day, when hunting, the man went to a river to drink, and saw, in the water, a beaver hut, on which the chief of the family was sitting. The animal asked who he was and what he was looking for; and was informed that the Osage had no home and came to the river to quench his thirst. The beaver said:
"You seem to be a reasonable man. You may come and live with me. My family is large and there are many daughters. Should any of them be pleasing in your sight, you may marry." The Indian accepted the offer and married one of the beaver's daughters. They had many children, from whom the Osage people are descended. To this day, the members of the tribe refrain from killing the beaver, which is regarded as sacred.
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