IN such a motley company
as that of the Estized-delebe, there was naturally a wide difference in
religious ideas and ceremonies. But no one interfered with any other
one’s belief—an affair looked upon as wholly individual.
Still the Indians all
felt the need of a common ground upon which to meet and worship.
The Cheyennes and
Arapahoes had their peculiar kinds of Sun Dances, as did the Kiowas. But
the Seminoles, for instance, could not celebrate the ceremonies of the
Buskita, or Green-Com Dance. They lacked both the com and the Black
Drink necessary to the rites. Could they have got the com, the Black
Drink would still have been wanting. Only their Medicine Man knew how to
make that, and they had no Medicine Man.
Indeed, for the matter of
that, our tribe had none. This caused most of the men grave concern.
The Seminoles, strange to
say, were the least disturbed over the matter. They held that the most
necessary things to have were a wise chief, good guns, plenty of
ammunition and watchful eyes.
But the others talked a
great deal about it. They argued that without some one to listen to the
voices of The Above-Ones to tell us what to do and how to do it, we
could not hope to survive.
There was an old Pueblo,
Quohahles, who did not have much to say. He never said much, but when he
did talk it was with wisdom. And he lived apart from the others.
Always he kept a piece of
buffalo meat hanging on a pole back of his tepee. This, he told me, was
an offering to The Above-Ones. He had, moreover, a large mystery bundle.
Some one thought of him
as the most likely one to meet the need and fill the place of Medicine
One night, as the men sat
in talk, he quietly entered the circle and remained standing in silence
for a long time. Finally he spoke.
“We must move. The
warning has come in a dream. Before the sun walks up, we must move.”
His manner was so
impressive the men thought it wise to do as he counselled.
Before daylight the next
morning we started. Just at sunup, when we were on a hilltop on our way
westward, Quohahles called attention to a low, rumbling sound like
distant thunder. This increased in volume until we recognised the noise.
It was a buffalo
As we stood there on the
hilltop we saw the buffaloes coming from the north—a great brown mass as
far as the eye could reach. It looked as if the hills were moving. We
saw them sweep over our camping place which we had left but a few hours
before. Had we remained there we would have been trampled into the
earth. Quohahles’s dream had saved us. This placed him still higher in
the estimation of the entire band.
Then the warriors began
to talk of the way they had seen men tried or tested as to their
genuineness before they were received as medicine men by their tribes.
One of them said that
among his former people a man used to go away and fast and pray for
three or four years in order to fit himself for his office. Then he came
back and announced himself qualified to cure diseases and to hear the
voice of The Great Mysterious One.
Thereupon some one of the
tribe killed a prairie dog and took out its liver, while others found a
rattlesnake. They made the snake bite into the liver until it was black
with poison. After dipping their arrows into it they returned to camp.
The chief called for the
claimant. He came, naked body painted red, and took his stand opposite
four waiting warriors—a few steps away. They fired the poison arrows at
If an arrow so much as
scratched his skin the man would die of poisoning and thus be proved an
impostor. But if he was truly prepared, the arrows would fall harmlessly
to the ground.
Our men did not try
Quohahles in this way. But they saw him scoop his hands full of red
coals of fire and rub them over his body without injury. So he became
our Medicine Man.
As I watched the holy man
with his quiet dignity which nothing could ruffle, and as I witnessed
the wonders he performed at times, the desire took possession of me to
become like him, a Medicine Man.
When I told him of my
desire, he thought it over for several days. Then he called me into his
tepee and asked me if I fully realised what it meant to fit myself for
one through whom The Great One could speak. He informed me that it would
take years of prayer and fasting and thought and great self-denial; that
if I had the desire to become a warrior
I would have to give it
up; and that I would have to fulfil every vow that I had made before
beginning my novitiate.
After that, I sought
seclusion away from camp to meditate upon the goodness and power of God,
who was in every tree and leaf and flower and breeze, and whose
messengers watched over every stream and valley and mountain.
Sometimes on such
occasions I fell into a kind of sleep in which I seemed to be awake, and
to feel a presence which I could not see.
When I told Quohahles of
these things, he advised me to continue my devotions and in due time he
would give me further instructions.
He laid down certain
rules of conduct for me to follow. Among the number were these
warnings—not to look at my reflection in the water nor to enter a tepee
if there were dogs in it; to keep away from the fire when meat was being
cooked; and to abstain from certain kinds of food.
Once Quohahles fell into
a trance in which he remained two days as one dead. When he revived he
told me that his spirit had left his body and travelled great distances;
that he felt neither hunger nor weariness; and that he had learned
mysteries of which as yet he could not speak.
This wonderful man
possessed a working knowledge of the laws of the human mind such as I
have never found in books. He could not explain how he performed his
wonders, but he knew what to do in order to produce certain definite
Often, for instance,
during religious ceremonies, I have seen men fall to the ground in a
deep sleep and become rigid and stiff, after Quohahles had waved his
sacred fan of crow feathers before their faces.
On a time when the moon
looked like a buffalo’s horn—far gone in the last quarter—Quohahles, who
had been engaged in prayer since the day before, called me to him. At
his word I laid aside my robe so that I was naked save for the
“You have been earnest
and diligent in seeking the mysteries/’ he said, “I will now prepare you
for the office of Quo-dle-quoit. Your medicine shall be strong. For four
years nothing can kill you.”
Then while he prayed to
The Above-Ones and to the Four Ways, I almost held my breath in awe. The
prayer finished, he painted my body white from waist to feet, which he
made black. From waist to neck he smeared me with yellow. Around my
forehead at the roots of the hair he drew two streaks of black, which he
extended on each side of my face down to the chin. On each cheek bone he
put the shape of the crescent moon. On each breast he drew a picture of
the sun in white. To each wrist, which he coloured red, he tied a bunch
During the ceremony he
chanted a prayer; also, while painting the crescent-shaped moon, he
explained that among his own people—the house dwellers—it was sometimes
cut into the flesh. Which was not necessary in my case, since I had
followed his instructions in every particular.
The painting finished, he
put on my head a cap made of jack-rabbit skins with the ears sticking
Believing as I did,
without doubting in the least anything he told me, after this ceremony I
was ready and anxious for the most dangerous duties. But according to
his instructions I was always as careful and discreet when in danger, as
though The-Ones-of-the-Four-Ways did not insure my safety.
I shall not tell of
narrow escapes I had, lest they pass the bounds of the reader's belief.
Quohahles also taught me
several secret and mysterious things.
Once when the camp was
very quiet he had me stand before him in his tepee. He approached me
with his sacred fan of crow feathers in his hand and began to wave it in
a circle before my face.
“You shall now see many
things,” he said.
And after an interval of
silence, during which I kept my eyes fixed on the circling fan, he spoke
“Look at that herd of
deer running across the hill, yonder. See those buffaloes—those white
men on horseback—that beautiful valley—that camp of painted tepees.”
All of these things I did
see very distinctly, although we were shut in by the walls of the tepee.
Afterwards he taught me
how to cause others to see what I wished them to see.
The days that I passed
with the Medicine Man were wonderful days to me, and I hoped to continue
to learn many mysteries. But there came a sudden change in the life of
the tribe, and my studies ended.
Much of what I did learn,
however, has been of practical use to me in the years that have