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Jews in the Wild West

Chapter 10.

Incidents of Travel and Adventure in the Far West

Cheyenne Indian Village—"Big Timber"— Daguerreotypes— Indian Papoose— Author is Suddenly Changed into a Magician— Silver and Brass Bracelets— Portrait of Indian Princess— "Presto, pass!" — Moccasins— Cheyennes and Pawnees at War— Grand Scalp-dance— Col. Fremont a Spectator— Dinner with the Chief— Rosewood Carved Furniture not in Use— Duties of Indian Women— Employment of the Men.

THE Cheyenne village, on Big Timber, consists of about two hundred and fifty lodges, containing, probably, one thousand persons, including men, women and children.

I went into the village to take daguerreotype views of their lodges, and succeeded in obtaining likenesses of an Indian princess— a very aged woman, with a papoose, in a cradle or basket, and several of the chiefs, I had great difficulty in getting them to sit still, or even to submit to have themselves daguerreotyped. I made a picture, first, of their lodges, which I showed them. I then made one of the old woman and papoose. When they saw it, they thought I was a "supernatural being;" and, before I left camp, they were satisfied I was more than human.

The squaws are very fond of ornaments; their arms are encircled with bracelets made of thick brass wire— sometimes of silver beaten out as thin as pasteboard. The princess, or daughter of the Great Chief, was a beautiful Indian girl. She attired herself in her most costly robes, ornamented with elk teeth, beads, and colored porcupine quills— expressly to have her likeness taken. I made a beautiful picture of her.

The bracelets of the princess were of brass; silver ones are considered invaluable, and but few possess them.

After I had made the likeness of the princess, I made signs to her to let me have one of her brass bracelets. She very reluctantly gave me one. I wiped it very clean, and touched it with "quicksilver." It instantly became bright and glittering as polished silver. I then presented her with it. Her delight and astonishment knew no bounds. She slipped it over her arm, and danced about in ecstasy. As for me, she thought I was a great "Magician."

My extraordinary powers of converting "brass into silver" soon became known in the village, and in an hour's time I was surrounded with squaws entreating me to make "presto, pass!" with their "armlets and brass finger-rings."

Some offered me moccasins, others venison, as payment; but I had to refuse nearly all of them, as I had only a small quantity of quicksilver for my daguerreotype operations.

My "lucifer matches," also, excited their astonishment; they had never seen them before; and my fire water, "alcohol," which I used, also, to heat my mercury-capped the climax.

They wanted me to live with them, and I believe if I had remained, they would have worshipped me as possessing most extraordinary powers of necromancy.

I returned to camp with a series of pictures, and about a dozen pairs of moccasins, some elaborately worked with beads; all of which I stowed away in my boxes, and had the great gratification of supplying my companions with a pair, when they were most required, and when they least expected them.

The Pawnees and Cheyennes were at deadly war, at this time. During our visit to the Cheyenne camp, a number of warriors returned from a successful battle with the Pawnees, and brought in some twelve or fifteen scalps as trophies of their prowess. On the night of their arrival, they had a grand scalp-dance; all the men and most of the women were grotesquely attired in wolf, bear, and buffalo skins; some of them with the horns of the buffalo, and antlers of the deer, for head ornaments. Their faces were painted black and red; each of the chiefs, who had taken a scalp, held it aloft attached to a long pole. An immense fire was burning, around which they danced and walked in procession, while some of he women were beating drums, and making night hideous with their horrible howlings and discordant chantings. This was so novel and extraordinary a scene, that I rode into our camp, about three miles off, and induced Col. Fremont to accompany me to witness it. Mr. Egloffstien, succeeded in writing down the notes of their song; they have no idea of music; they all sing on the same key. I did not notice a single second or bass voice amongst them. We returned to camp about 12 o'clock, and left them still participating in the celebration of their bloody victory. I accepted an invitation to dine with the chief; his lodge is larger, but in no other respects different from those of the others. We dined in it, on buffalo steaks and venison; a fire was burning in the centre; around the fire, were beds made of cedar branches, covered with buffalo robes, on which his two wives and three children slept. They use no furniture of any kind; there are hiding places under their beds, in which they place their extra moccasins and superfluous deer-skin shirts.

The women make the bows and arrows, and all their moccasins, dress and prepare their skins and buffalo robes, take down and put up their lodges when they move their villages, which is three or four times a year, and all the servile and hard work of the camp. The men hunt, fish, and go to war.

The Cheyennes possess a large number of fine horses, some of which they raise, while the most of them are stolen and taken as prizes in their forays with other tribes of Indians.

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