A Yellowstone Tragedy





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.





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