1881: Indians

On Monday, September 26, I wanted to go to town. Mrs. Gottschalk offered me to use her husband’s horse and rifle, which I thankfully declined, even though we had heard that Indians supposedly resided close by. In the afternoon I marched towards town and soon discovered a squad of horsemen in the woods coming into my direction. It were the Snake Indians. The group was led by a big chief who called “Hau, Hau” to me while riding by. This greeting I promptly returned. All the others also shouted “Hau, Hau” just like a pack of hounds.

All stores in Bozeman were closed; the news about the death of President Garfield from September 19th, who fell victim to a revolver-shooting on July 2nd and died of the consequences, had made the rounds here by now.

Many Indians of different tribes roamed the streets. The Snake, Bannock, Flathead and Blackfeet Indians, about 500 count, came here in order to do their purchases and barter trades to prepare for their big buffalo hunt on the Yellowstone River. The women I encountered – Squaws – were, without exception, short and quite ugly, they carried their small children in a bag on their backs. Among the men I saw several strong bodies with black, spookily flashing eyes. In Kopp’s butchery an older Indian acquired several bones for soup, which he wanted to burden a Squaw with. We intended to make him understand that that was not “gentleman-like”, which obviously surprised him.

It was already getting dark when I headed home to the farm. When I came to the spot in the woods again where I had encountered the first Indians, many tents glimmered through twilight at the edge of the forest. On the spur of the moment, I walked towards a tent and called from a little distance “Hau, Hau”. A friendly “come in, Sir!” proved that I could go inside without concern. The Indian opened up the drape on the entrance, welcomed me inside and offered me a seat. A seat made of buffalo-hide provided me with a comfortable resting bench. The tent was filled with smoke, so that I could recognize my hospitable host only after a little while. Two small girls carried wood inside and kept the fire going. The Indian had long, black, in streaks braided hair, the part was dyed red, the skin was parchmenty.

He spoke a commonly used English, through which we were able to communicate rather well. We soon found out that he and Gottschalk, whose nickname “Dutch Gus” was well known to him, hunted on the 25 Yard Creek together long years ago, where they shot a black tail. He called himself Carpenter, told me to send greetings to Gottschalk and sent me off with a “take care of yourself”. It was then that he expressed his surprise that I had no rifle on me. Inspired by the hospitality of that Indian I recalled a story by Ad. V. Chamisso “We savages are the better people after all”. Though he did not know anything about the “European’s polished hospitality” or Christian charity, he still did not lack the ability of applying human virtue just as he were a creature of civilization. That is the impression that I won in the fifteen minute conversation in the tipi.

In the meantime on the farm Mrs. Gottschalk was very concerned about my nonappearance, since she had learned about the presence of Indians.

translated by Julia Strehlau-Jacobs

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