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A Yellowstone Tragedy


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

Although the Indians feared the geyser basins of the upper Yellowstone
country, believing the hissing and thundering to be voices of evil
spirits, they regarded the mountains at the head of the river as the
crest of the world, and whoso gained their summits could see the happy
hunting-grounds below, brightened with the homes of the blessed. They
loved this land in which their fathers had hunted, and when they were
driven back from the settlements the Crows took refuge in what is now
Yellowstone Park. Even here the soldiers pursued them, intent on avenging
acts that the red men had committed while suffering under the sting of
tyranny and wrong. A mere remnant of the fugitive band gathered at the
head of that mighty rift in the earth known as the Grand Canon of the
Yellowstone--a remnant that had succeeded in escaping the bullets of the
soldiery,--and with Spartan courage they resolved to die rather than be
taken and carried away to pine in a distant prison. They built a raft and
placed it on the river at the foot of the upper fall, and for a few days
they enjoyed the plenty and peace that were their privilege in former
times. A short-lived peace, however, for one morning they are aroused by
the crack of rifles--the troops are upon them.

Boarding their raft they thrust it toward the middle of the stream,
perhaps with the idea of gaining the opposite shore, but, if such is
their intent, it is thwarted by the rapidity of the current. A few among
them have guns, that they discharge with slight effect at the troops, who
stand wondering on the shore. The soldiers forbear to fire, and watch,
with something like dread, the descent of the raft as it passes into the
current, and, with many a turn and pitch, whirls on faster and faster.
The death-song rises triumphant above the lash of the waves and that
distant but awful booming that is to be heard in the canon. Every red man
has his face turned toward the foe with a look of defiance, and the tones
of the death-chant have in them something of mockery no less than hate
and vaunting.

The raft is now between the jaws of rock that yawn so hungrily. Beyond
and below are vast walls, shelving toward the floor of the gulf a
thousand feet beneath--their brilliant colors shining in the sun of
morning that sheds as peaceful a light on wood and hill as if there were
no such thing as brother hunting brother in this free land of ours. The
raft is galloping through the foam like a racehorse, and, hardened as the
soldiers are, they cannot repress a shudder as they see the fate that the
savages have chosen for themselves. Now the brink is reached. The raft
tips toward the gulf, and with a cry of triumph the red men are launched
over the cataract, into the bellowing chasm, where the mists weep forever
on the rocks and mosses.

Next: The Broad House

Previous: Besieged By Starvation

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