As soon as manhood is attained, the young
Indian must secure his "charm," or "medicine." After a
sweat-bath, he retires to some lonely spot, and there, for four days and nights,
if necessary, he remains in solitude. During
this time he eats nothing; drinks nothing; but
spends his time invoking the Great Mystery for
the boon of a long life. In this state of mind,
he at last sleeps, perhaps dreams. If a dream
does not come to him, he abandons the task for
a time, and later on will take another sweat-bath and try again.
Sometimes dangerous cliffs, or other equally uncomfortable places,
are selected for dreaming, because the surrounding terrors impress
themselves upon the mind, and even in slumber add to the vividness of
At last the dream comes, and in it some bird
or animal appears as a helper to the dreamer,
in trouble. Then he seeks that bird or animal;
kills a specimen; and if a bird, he stuffs its skin
with moss and forever keeps it near him. If
an animal, instead of a bird, appears in the
dream, the Indian takes his hide, claws, or teeth;
and throughout his life never leaves it behind
him, unless in another dream a greater charm
is offered. If this happens, he discards the old
"medicine" for the new; but such cases are rare.
Sometimes the Indian will deck his "medicine-bundle" with
fanciful trinkets and quill-work. At other times the "bundle" is
kept forever out of the sight of all uninterested persons, and
is altogether unadorned. But "medicine" is necessary;
without it, the Indian is afraid of his shadow.
An old chief, who had been in many battles,
once told me his great dream, withholding the
name of the animal or bird that appeared therein
and became his "medicine."
He said that when he was a boy of twelve
years, his father, who was chief of his tribe,
told him that it was time that he tried to dream.
After his sweat-bath, the boy followed his
father without speaking, because the postulant
must not converse or associate with other
humans between the taking of the bath and
the finished attempt to dream. On and on
into the dark forest the father led, followed by
the naked boy, till at last the father stopped
on a high hill, at the foot of a giant pinetree.
By signs the father told the boy to climb the
tree and to get into an eagle's nest that was on
the topmost boughs. Then the old man went
away, in order that the boy might reach the
nest without coming too close to his human
Obediently the boy climbed the tree and sat
upon the eagle's nest on the top. "I could see
very far from that nest," he told me. "The
day was warm and I hoped to dream that night,
but the wind rocked the tree top, and the
darkness made me so much afraid that I did
"On the fourth night there came
thunderstorm, with lightning and much wind.
The great pine groaned and shook until I was
sure it must fall. All about it, equally strong
trees went down with loud crashings, and in the
dark there were many awful sounds - sounds
that I sometimes hear yet. Rain came, and I
grew cold and more afraid. I had eaten nothing, of course, and
I was weak - so weak and tired, that at last I slept, in the
nest. I dreamed; yes, it was a wonderful dream that came to me,
and it has most all come to pass. Part is yet
to come. But come it surely will.
"First I saw my own people in
Then I saw the Buffalo disappear in a hole in
the ground, followed by many of my people.
Then I saw the whole world at war, and many
flags of white men were in this land of ours. It
was a terrible war, and the fighting and the blood
made me sick in my dream. Then, last of all,
I saw a 'person' coming - coming across what
seemed the plains. There were deep shadows
all about him as he approached. This 'person'
kept beckoning me to come to him, and at last
I did go to him.
"'Do you know who I am,' he asked
"'No, "person," I do
not know you. Who
are you, and where is your country?'
"'If you will listen to me, boy,
you shall be
a great chief and your people shall love you.
If you do not listen, then I shall turn against
you. My name is "Reason."'
"As the 'person' spoke this last,
the ground with a stick he carried, and the blow
set the grass afire. I have always tried to know
that 'person.' I think I know him wherever he
may be, and in any camp. He has helped me
all my life, and I shall never turn against him
That was the old chief's dream and now a
word about the sweat-bath. A small lodge is
made of willows, by bending them and sticking
the ends in the ground. A completed sweat-lodge is shaped like
an inverted bowl, and in the center is a small hole in the ground.
The lodge is covered with robes, bark, and dirt, or
anything that will make it reasonably tight.
Then a fire is built outside and near the sweat-lodge in which
stones are heated. When the stones are ready, the bather crawls
inside the sweat-lodge, and an assistant rolls the hot
stones from the fire, and into the lodge. They
are then rolled into the hole in the lodge and
sprinkled with water. One cannot imagine a
hotter vapor bath than this system produces,
and when the bather has satisfied himself inside,
he darts from the sweat-lodge into the river,
winter or summer. This treatment killed thousands of Indians
when the smallpox was brought to them from Saint Louis, in the
That night in the lodge War Eagle told a
queer yarn. I shall modify it somewhat, but in
our own sacred history there is a similar tale,
well known to all. He said:
"Once, a long time ago, two 'thunders'
travelling in the air. They came over a village of our people,
and there stopped to look about.
"In this village there was one
lodge, and in it there was an old man, an aged
woman, and a beautiful young woman with
wonderful hair. Of course the 'thunders' could
look through the lodge skin and see all that
was inside. One of them said to the other:
'Let us marry that young woman, and never
tell her about it.'
"'All right,' replied the other
am willing, for she is the finest young woman
in all the village. She is good in her heart,
and she is honest.'
"So they married her, without
about it, and she became the mother of twin
boys. When these boys were born, they sat
up and told their mother and the other people
that they were not people, but were 'thunders,'
and that they would grow up quickly.
"'When we shall have been on earth
we shall marry, and stay until we each have
four sons of our own, then we shall go away
and again become "thunders,"' they said.
"It all came to pass, just as
they said it would.
When they had married good women and each
had four sons, they told the people one day
that it was time for them to go away forever.
"There was much sorrow among the
for the twins were good men and taught many
good things which we have never forgotten, but
everybody knew it had to be as they said.
While they lived with us, these twins could
heal the sick and tell just what was going to
happen on earth.
"One day at noon the twins dressed
themselves in their finest clothes and went out to a
park in the forest. All the people followed
them and saw them lie down on the ground in
the park. The people stayed in the timber
that grew about the edge of the park, and
watched them until clouds and mists gathered
about and hid them from view.
"It thundered loudly and the winds
trees fell down; and when the mists and clouds
cleared away, they were gone - gone forever.
But the people have never forgotten them, and
my grandfather, who is in the ground near
Rocker, was a descendant from one of the sons
of the 'thunders.' Ho!"