Title: An Indian Festival at the "Wild West"

Periodical: Sheffield Daily Telegraph

Date: August 15, 1891

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AN INDIAN FESTIVAL AT THE "WILD WEST."


Conscious in his own rude untutored way of the over ruling power of the Great Spirit the Redskin sets apart times and seasons in which he follows the peculiar method of singing praises customary among the savage races. The middle of the eighth moon, the season when the buffalo casts its hair, the Indian selects as one appropriate for a festival; and, as yesterday was Buffalo Dance Day the Indians encamped at the "Wild West" met at an early hour to perform their devotions. In one of the largest wigwams half a dozen chiefs and braves were tum-tum-tuming on their drums, and now and then trying the voice in accompaniment in accordance with the practice of more civilised professional orchestrians. There was a stir among the tents, a coming and going which denoted that something unusual was in progress. The Indian police were going from tent to tent. Every visitor who entered the wigwam would recline and listen to the strains of the orchestra, apparently in a serious, meditative mood. This was the solemn session carried out by some in the assembly, and by others in their own wigwams. The orchestra, a curious group, some sitting cross-legged, tailor fashion, some with their legs stuck out in front of them, kept up a ceaseless monotonous low beating on their drums, a species of tambourine made large without the jingling appendages. Two of the squaws enter and take their seats alongside, and the younger gives the keynote for the song of praise in a long unmusical throaty sound, never emitting any words, but simply giving forth this rather weird sound in a lower or a higher key. Suddenly the drummers are joined by Chiefs No Neck and Lone Bull, who take their drums, and as by universal consent the music beats louder, and the singular Redskin exclamations are jerked out at intervals more or less spasmodic. This is the call to the braves, and they come. Their number is, however, not complete. The fine young chief who wears a badge "Wild West Police" appears in the wigwam door and makes some announcement to the chief. The drums cease for a moment. Another chief is deputed to accompany the messenger, and something No Neck remarks sets the assembled Indians in a roar of laughter. Mr. Crager, the Sioux interpreter, explains that the great chief has just announced that they will pull the clothes off these laggards. The result of the deputation's mission is shortly apparent. The late-comers steal in, their blankets almost covering their features, and most modestly take the most backward seat they can find; in which proceeding there can be discerned   food for reflection on the habits and customs of more civilised late-worshippers in this country of ours! The hymn of praise to the Great Spirit is full of repetition, interspersed with dances, which, in that stuffy tent, with the wood smouldering in the centre, must have been, and certainly did appear to be, of a very fatiguing nature. All being assembled, the rude chant and wild music resumes. A literal interpretation is conveyed to the listener to be:— "We thank the Great Spirit
Who hast given us the buffalo.
It gives us hides to cover our backs.
It keeps us warm and makes our hearts glad.
Now that its hair is coming off,
It is no longer good to kill.
In the spring we shall have good hides.
For this we sing our praise."
Loud, then low, and rising again to its full power, the orche [stra] plays on in undulating waves of sound, accompanying its mechanical exertion with the drum stick, with full-throated sounds and those piercing whoops. The Chief leaves the wigwam, and there is a break in the proceedings while he enters his own tent alone and inhales a smoke produced from some burning, perfumed material. When sufficiently inspired by the process he returns, and a few more beats on the drums over, they spring to their feet in one bound and commence in that confined space an animated jerky dance, or shuffle, in which the whole body leaves the ground at the same time, quickening up with loud laughter and shouts as they endeavoured to knock each other down in the shocks of collision. Closing together, and going in similar fashion across the tent they illustrate the buffalo stampede When they have had enough of this perspiring business they sit again and resume as vigorously the vocal portion of the proceedings in a lamentation for the loss of the buffalo, played in slow and solemn fashion, quickening up with their song at the prospect of a good hunting season next spring. The second dance is more vigorous, if possible, than the first, and in addition to their humorous efforts to render each other's foothold insecure they now resort to the process of butting with the head, the idea being in this and a succeeding dance to illustrate the coming of the young buffaloes in the spring. In monotonous chants and dances of this description they occupy two hours of the morning, and then return to their tents, satisfied with the exercise, and recline there in silent contemplation of the smouldering wood, only rousing from their recumbent attitude to roll another cigarette. Only a few people from the show stand with the Sioux interpreter and curiously watch the proceedings through the door of the tent.

The show was well patronised yesterday. The management wish to make known their appreciation of the welcome they have received and of the support accorded to them. On Saturday night the operation of packing for the departure will begin at the close of the night performance, and they will proceed to Stoke-on-Trent in three trains of 73 trucks, leaving Wadsley Bridge Station about six o'clock on Sunday morning.

Title: An Indian Festival at the "Wild West"

Periodical: Sheffield Daily Telegraph

Source: McCracken Research Library, Buffalo Bill Center of the West , MS6.3772.036.03 (Crager Scrapbook)

Date: August 15, 1891

Topic: European Tours

Keywords: American bison American Indians Cowboys Elk Ghost dance Indian dance Indian reservation police Music Prayer Railroad travel Sioux Nation Tipis Translators Wigwams

People: Miles, Nelson A. (Nelson Appleton), 1839-1925

Places: Manchester (England) Sheffield (England) Stoke-on-Trent (England)

Sponsor: This project is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Geraldine W. & Robert J. Dellenback Foundation.

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