A Battle With The Sioux

: Thirty Indian Legends

Less than sixty years ago, the vast tracts of land which are now large

cities and cultivated farms were prairie and forest. Numerous tribes

of Indians camped on these prairies in summer-time, and when the cold

winter came, they sought the shelter of the forest. Most of these

tribes were very warlike and fought with one another, but sometimes the

white people were attacked by the savages. The most warlike tribe was

e Sioux, and the white settlers, who were very few in number, were

always on the alert against their attacks.

In June, 1851, a party of three hundred hunters set out on their annual

buffalo hunt. With them went the grave, kindly-faced missionary, who

had given up his life to work in the western wilds. They travelled to

the westward, keeping a sharp lookout for Indian tribes, as their route

now lay through the Sioux territory. After about three weeks' journey

over the prairies, they decided to separate into two bands, as this is

the usual way in buffalo hunting. But the older men thought this was

not safe, because they would need all their numbers if attacked by the

Indians. They talked it over for some time, and finally sixty-five

hunters with their wives and children separated from the larger party

and decided to go in a different direction. Each party was to take the

direction of the Big Hill.

After some time, two scouts came riding back from the larger party to

tell the others that a tribe of Sioux had been seen by them, and to be

very watchful. The hunters kept a watch, but saw nothing of the

Indians, and at last, after about six days' journey, reached the Big

Hill. Their chief sent five of the officers to have a look around and

find out the best place to pitch their camp, and also to see if there

were Indians in the neighborhood. The five men rode to the top of the

small ridge, and from there could see a camp in the distance. They

could not tell whether it was their friends or the Indians, so they

rode on, and on reaching the top of the higher ridge saw it was a camp

of Sioux Indians. Instead of going back to warn the hunters, they rode

on, and the Indians, who had sighted them at once, came forward to meet

them. The Indians appeared very friendly, but while talking to the

officers they closed in, and the men saw that they were prisoners. Two

of them at once put spurs to their horses and made a dash for liberty.

Before the Indians could stop them, they had escaped, and had ridden

back to the party.

When the missionary and the hunters heard what had happened, they at

once pitched camp and began to fortify it. They knew they could not

save the prisoners, and decided that it was better to defend themselves

than for all to lose their lives.

They had scarcely begun these preparations when two Sioux Indians rode

up. They said they had been sent to tell the hunters not to worry

about their companions. The Indians would not harm them and would

bring them back in safety the next day. After delivering this message,

the Sioux rode away. The hunters were not at all reassured, for they

knew the Indians did not speak the truth, and had merely come as spies

to find out how large their camp was.

During the night the hunters continued their preparations. They

arranged their carts in a circle, putting the shafts of one into the

wheels of the next, so fastening them together. Then they dug a hole

in the centre of this fortification and in it put the women and

children. They threw the earth in little mounds, behind which they

could crouch and shoot. By morning the fortification was complete.

The sentries, who had been watching all night, now gave warning that a

band of Indians was approaching. Thirty of the hunters mounted and

rode forward to meet them. Some of the Indians were in advance and

halted when the hunters reached them. Suddenly a man on horseback came

dashing past. It was one of the officers who had been made prisoner.

"There is nothing but death for us all," he shouted. "They are two

thousand strong and intend to massacre every one of us." But the

hunters did not let this daunt them; they rode up to the chief and

pretended they thought the Indians were friendly. They gave them a few

presents and asked them to journey back. But the Indians, who now saw

what an easy victory they could have, would not listen to this. The

hunters, seeing they meant to fight, turned their horses and galloped

back to the camp. Scarcely were they within the fortification when the

Indians dashed up. They had not waited for the main band to overtake

them, but with one fierce yell came on, expecting to overturn the

carts. But the hunters, crouching behind the little mounds of earth,

aimed and fired. Every shot was true, and the foremost warriors fell

from their ponies. The men reloaded and fired, and again the Indians

bit the dust. Those in the rear now withdrew to the top of the ridge

to wait for the remainder of the band. Another horseman came dashing

up then, his horse all covered with foam. It was the fourth prisoner.

His guard had been among the whites, and had allowed him to escape,

firing in the air as the prisoner escaped from the rear of the war

party. The savages now came in sight, an immense number, confident of

victory because they were so strong. The missionary said, "My

children, the Indians are very strong and great in number. But fight

bravely. You have a Father above who sees this battle. Trust in Him.

Die if you must, but die bravely."

With fierce yells the savages surrounded the little camp. They did not

dream that a handful of men behind a barricade of wooden carts could

cause them to retreat after killing the bravest of their warriors. For

five hours bullets whistled back and forth over the heads of the men

kneeling in the shelter of the carts. The Indians had begun the battle

confident of victory, but as the time went on and warrior after warrior

was killed, their courage grew faint. Late in the afternoon they said,

"Let us go back; it is of no use to fight them. They have a Manitou

with them."

They began to retreat, and by evening all was peaceful where the battle

had been. But the hunters knew that on the morrow the attack would be

renewed, and so did not let this deceive them. All through the night

they could hear the hideous yells of the savages. They decided to

start back in the morning, hoping to meet their friends, for they had

sent two scouts, when the firing began, to tell them of the attack.

They arranged the carts in four rows and divided the hunters into four

parties. One party was to ride in front of the carts, another at the

back, and the other two on the sides. Then, if they sighted the

Indians, they were to give the warning by two horsemen riding past each

other on the top of the ridge.

They set out by daylight, and had not gone many miles when they saw two

horsemen ride past each other in their rear. This was the signal of a

fresh attack. At once the party was halted; two rows of carts went to

one side, two to the other. Then the ends were filled in, and the

circle was complete. They began to dig a hole in the centre and throw

up the mounds of dirt. The women and children were hidden, and the

hunters with loaded guns went behind their ramparts. The large band of

Indians advanced. They were not so numerous as the day previous, but

were quite fierce for the fight.

For five hours the two fought. At the end of that time the Indian

chief advanced and signalled that the battle was over. The hunters did

not believe him at first, but suddenly the tribe of Indians with their

horses at full gallop came dashing close to the camp. They were

yelling fiercely, and discharged their guns into the air as they rode

by. The noise was most hideous since the battle had begun, and for a

second the hunters were fear-bound. Then, as they realized that this

was really the end of the fight, their shouts of joy rang out in answer

to the Indians' yells. The Indians now retreated, and hardly had they

disappeared when the big party of hunters galloped up. They were

accompanied by two hundred Saultaux who had joined them to help to

drive back the Sioux. At first they were all going to follow, but

finally they decided they had had enough of fighting and would go on in

search of the buffalo.