Title: Curious Proceedings at the "Wild West"

Periodical: The North-Eastern Daily Gazette

Date: November 30, 1887

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The Indians at Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, now in Birmingham, having, in grand council assembled, come to the conclusion that the thief who purloined the sum of about one hundred pounds from the tent of Mrs Whittaker [1] , the "mother of the camp," on Friday is in their midst, have adopted some curious means to detect him and obtain the restoration of the money. They have, in fact, resorted to a "pow-wow," a ceremony known only to the tribes of the Sioux, Cheyennes, Shoshones, and Crows, the Indians holding firmly to the belief that by these means the discovery of the miscreant is certain. Three "pow-wows" have already been held, the last taking place last night. After the performance the Indians returned to their quarters in the hall, and made ready for the curious proceedings that followed. The "medicine men" of the tribe assembled in one of the tents, while all the other Indians gathered outside and squatted in a ring around, preserving a most solemn silence. The initiatory proceeding was the broiling of a dog which had been procured for a moderate sum in the town. When thoroughly cooked the council inside discussed its merits. The dog having been eaten, they struck up an impressive chant, to the accompaniment of "tom-toms," [2] in which the Indian deity of good, the great "Mitche-Manitou," [3] was implored to lend his aid in the detection of the thief. The chant over, the chief medicine man, who rejoices in the curious title of "Blue Horse," [4] was bound hand and foot with strong leather throngs. He was then rolled up in a buffalo robe, and again in another, until nought was visible of him excepting part of his face. Some strong ropes were then twisted around the robes and tied, after which he was swung up and suspended to the top of the "teepee" pole, and left hanging there. All the lights were turned out, the hall being in total darkness. Four chants or invocations to the Great Spirit were then offered up by the grand council of medicine men, who retired from the inside of the "teepee," leaving it in total darkness. Other songs were rendered, which occupied several minutes, and then, to the surprise of everyone, the "medicine man" who had been left swinging from the top of the tent-pole had by some extraordinary means vacated his position, and was found in the midst of his fellows. How he managed to extricate himself from his bonds and the folds of the buffalo robes is unexplainable, but it was afterwards seen that they were hanging from the pole, and were arranged in such a manner that they did not, to all appearances, appear to have been tampered with. It is said that inside the tent a few handfuls of earth were found, upon which was sketched a small plan of the grounds, with a spot marked out where the money would be found; and that there was also discovered a stone with the caricature of an Indian upon it. This was supposed to be a correct representation of the culprit; but it would seem to have been but a very poor likeness, for the culprit had not been discovered yesterday. It is true, however, that £70 of the money stolen was discovered hidden in the grounds, but whether the discovery was due to the earth plan or to the diligent search of the Indians is not known.

Note 1: Margaret "Ma" Whittaker was Mrs. Frank Whittaker, who was with Buffalo Bill's Wild West in 1886-87 and in 1890. [back]

Note 2: Tom-tom is a type of drum associated with American Indian culture. It is also the British term for a toy drum. [back]

Note 3: "Gitche Manitou" in several American Indian languages means "Great Spirit." [back]

Note 4: Blue Horse (Sunkawakan To, 1820-1908), an Oglala Lakota chief who performed in Buffalo Bill's Wild West in England in 1887, was one of the first Oglala Lakota U.S. Army Indian Scouts. [back]

Title: Curious Proceedings at the "Wild West"

Periodical: The North-Eastern Daily Gazette

Date: November 30, 1887

Topics: Buffalo Bill's Wild West in Britain

Keywords: American Indians Cheyenne Indians Crow Indians Medicine man Pound, British Powwows Shamans Shoshoni Indians Sioux Nation Tents Tipis

Place: Birmingham (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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