ASCENDING a ridge, the large
camp was before us—rings within rings of white tents, varying in size but
all of one shape, and all made from the buffalo's hide ; many of them
covered with hieroglyphics and paintings indicative either of supernatural
power or of martial achievement; their projecting ventilators tasselled with
buffalo hair and gently flapping in the breeze.
In and out among their tents,
and beyond them for a mile all around, hundreds of horses were feeding,
while on almost every knoll groups of guards could be seen, whose duty it
was to watch over these herds of horses, and, in so doing, the camp also.
Everywhere among the tents
were stagings made of peeled poles, on which was spread the meat of recent
hunts in various stages of curing; for here meat was cured without either
sugar or salt, with only the sun and wind and the chemicals which may be in
the atmosphere; and this meat, either as dried meat, or pemmican, or pounded
meat and grease, will keep for many years in a perfect state of
Women were dressing skins,
scraping hides, rendering tallow, pounding meat, making pemmican, slicing up
the fresh meat and hanging it on the stages; some were cooking; some were
sewing, with awl for needle and sinew for thread. Scores of naked children
were playing and eating and crying in every direction.
Hundreds of dogs, half wolf,
were fighting and stealing and barking as we rode through the circle of
lodges on into the centre, where a small cluster of large tents stood.
Here we alighted, and again
the chief welcomed the strangers to his country and camp, and once more
invoked Heaven's blessings upon the meeting, and then invited us to enter a
large tent, which was to be our home while in the camp.
Here we found Mr. Steinhauer
and his people, who had reached the rendezvous ahead of us.
This was the first time in
the history of the country that three Protestant missionaries had met on the
plains. This was the first time in the history of the Methodist Church that
a Chairman of a District had visited the Saskatchewan country. The lone and
often very isolated missionary's heart was cheered, the Christian native was
delighted, and the pagan people were profoundly interested at such an event.
Conjurers and medicine-men
looked askance, and may have felt premonitions that their craft was in
danger; yet all were apparently friendly and courteous to us.
Soon a steaming repast was
served, consisting of buffalo tongues and "boss"; the latter is the third
set or back ribs, in the possession of which the buffalo is alone among
animals on this continent.
To us this nice, fresh,
delicious meat was a feast indeed. We had fed on comparatively nothing, then
surfeited on fat bear meat, and made our jaws weary with tough bull meat;
but this—no epicure could ask for more or better in the way of meat food.
Our table was the ground, our mats buffalo robes, our dishes tin.
Had we not brought a little
salt and tea there would have been none, for you might have searched the
whole camp in vain for these, to many, "indispensables"—the western Indian
had not as yet acquired the taste for either. But the kindly manner and
princely hospitality, and the delicious quality and large quantity of the
meat our hosts served us with, more than made up for anything we might have
thought necessary or lacking.