Title: The "Wild West" in Cardiff

Periodical: Evening Express

Date: September 23, 1891

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Among the Indians.

It did not require much imagination on Monday afternoon whi [le] [in the enclo] sure at the Sophia Gardens Park to fancy that, by some wild enchantment, associated with what is called Theosophy, or something of that ilk, one had been mysteriously whisked away, as the comedian Anthony Wood [drawing] ALLEN, SCOTT & Co. P FRENZENY used to say, to "the backest of the backwoods" of America. I followed the procession of Indians from the town of Cardiff into the scene of the Wild West, and I suddenly found myself once more among the wigwams of the Redskins. Along the sides of the racing tracks in the Sophia Gardens Park were rows of genuine tabernacles of the aborigines of the Continent of America. The tents were conical-shaped, and through the top of each projected the pillars or [drawing] Getz RIFFARTH & Co. pegs of the tents, and so arranged as to convey to the mind that eagles had built their nests on the summits of the abodes of the red men and the red women. On the sides of the canvas were painted rude figures of gigantic birds of the wilderness, which figures conveyed the idea that they represented Indian heraldry, and that the dwellers in the tents were descended from the earliest aristocracy of mankind. There were also rows of four-cornered tents with sloping roofs, resembling, on a small scale, the habitations of the white man. [drawing] Frenzeny ALLEN, SCOTT & Co.   The conical-shaped tents were, undoubtedly, specimens of the original Indian homes; and the four cornered ones the earliest attempts of the Indians to imitate the buildings of the white man. Alas! what little progress in that direction the Redskin has accomplished [.] He loves not the towns, and is never happy unless in the primeval forest, in leafy glades, within the sound of murmuring brooks and listening to the songs the Great Spirit has [drawing] Getz RIFFARTH & Co. [?] in the mouths of birds. As I wandered [al] one among the tents cowboys of the Far West, wearing sombreros on their heads, hurried on errands from place to place. Those cowboys have never been accustomed to hold long converse with people. Doubtless, for many long months at a time, they have dwelt with their cattle on the wide prairies, without seeing any human being. In answer to my questions they would only give a curt reply, as if shy, and then hurry on their [drawing] ALLEN, SCOTT & Co. FRENZENY business. Ever since I exchanged greetings with the Tuscarora maidens in the reservation two miles to the east of Niagara River I have felt partial to Indian squaws, both married and single, and I now went in search of their particular tents in the Sophia Gardens Park. But while thus engaged among the tabernacles the canvas of one of them was suddenly opened, and there emerged out of it a tall Indian in full fighting costume and his face well besmeared with war paint! With an air of indescribable dignity, he passed me without a word or a look. His figure was as erect as a poplar, and there was such a commanding look about him as to convey the impression that he had been accustomed to exercise authority over men. His long black hair fell on his back, and was arranged so as to somewhat resemble a horse's tail. He wore red sleeves and a striped blanket was wrapped around his shoulders. He wore coloured trousers, whose legs alone were visible. Across his breast were rows of bones, strung one above the other so as to resemble the breast of a Hussar's jacket. He was bare-headed. He walked until he reached the side of the road, and then stood on the grass border, and seemed intently watching the various movements going on about [?] . I managed to get near him, and after nodding to him, which he acknowledged like a grand monarch, conscious of his importance, I asked him, "Do you speak English?" He cast at me a leonine glance, and replied "No!" rather sharply; and there was something in his air which was quite sufficient to deter me from troubling him a second time. I felt certain he was an Indian chief. I now returned to continue my search for the Indian squaws. I had not been among the tents five minutes when three squaws came out of one to the greensward, and, stooping to pass under the cordage holding the tents, they approached me, and I, taking for granted they were Indian princesses, lifted up my hat. They all smiled and nodded, and when I asked them could they speak English they answered "No," and the "No" was so uttered as to convey that they had given up the attempt to learn it. They did not stop a moment, but proceeded on their way in the direction of the great enclosure where the show was to come off. Those daughters of the forests were grand in their movements as they walked away. Each had on a lower garment similar to that worn by the dignified individual who had a few minutes before attacted my attention. There was a swing in the gait of each and a regularity of step which were delightful to witness. Each was bare-headed and had long black hair. Their features were large and would have suited giantesses. Each had her face painted, and the two cheeks of each had on their centre round scarlet patches. Another young squaw came hurriedly out of another tent and ran after the others, and she went nimbly, like a true daughter of the boundless prairies of the west of the American Continent. I ascertained later on that they had been "dressing for dinner," and that it was towards the place of repast on the opposite side of the enclosure they were proceeding when I first beheld them.

I now returned to the neighbourhood of the grand monarch, who continued to stand where I had last seen him. I now came into contact with a young gentleman of a very interesting type, named Mr. G. C. Crager, the Sioux interpreter of the Wild West. He has spent sixteen years among the Sioux Indians of the West, and was during the late troubles with the tribe the principal intermediary between them and the American Government. Subsequent acquaintance with Mr. Crager convinced one that in him the American Government have an exceedingly valuable public servant in dealing with the spirited Sioux tribe. When the Indian referred to saw Mr. Crager and I speaking he walked away. Mr. Crager called after him, and he instantly faced about and returned towards us with what, from an Indian point of view, must be supposed to be a pleasant expression. The interpreter now informed me that this Indian was Lone Bull, who, with Scatter and Revenge, was a leading brave with the chiefs Short Bull and Kicking Bear during the late rebellion of the tribe against the American Government. I am convinced Lone Bull does not care to be made an exhibition of, but he submitted quietly to an examination of his dress and general appearance. Around one of his   arms was a flat brass circle, with his name engraved thereon. Mr. Crager and he conversed in the Sioux language. Later on I proceeded, in company with other journalists, including Mr. Lascelles Carr, towards what must be described as the refreshment place of the Indians. It was a large marquee, and on my opening the canvas entrance a strange, not to say thrilling, scene met the view. The moment my face appeared in the opening all the Redskins who were engaged at their meal lifted up their faces and gazed earnestly at the intruder. I can only describe the scene before me as a truly horrible one. Each face was besmeared with paint of divers colours, and each countenance seemed diabolical in its expression. There was one face there which I shall never forget. It was besmeared with light brown paint, and it seemed, as if by way of novelty, to be spotted with black. The brave seemed conscious of the horrible impression his appearance had made upon me, and he glowered at me like a tiger preparing to spring at a foe. Casting a glance in the direction of all the others at the same table, not a smile lit up the countenance of a single one of them. Led by Major J. M. Burke, who was accompanied by Mr. Crager, we passed into the marquee. Sitting at his meal, facing several squaws at the opposite side of the same table, was a chief somewhat advanced in years. This was the renowned Short Bull, the late leader of the Sioux tribe. He was painted like the rest, and on Major Burke saying "This is the chief, Short Bull," the old warrior, who has often trod the war-path in earnest, nodded his head repeatedly, but did not cease eating. The squaws opposite were handling their knives and forks in such an awkward fashion as to convey the impression that they were longing for us to depart that they might use their fingers as Adam and Eve must have done in the Garden of Eden. I saw one of the squaws lifting a boiled cabbage on the point of her fork in such an awkward manner as to induce one to feel pity for her. I sat down by Short Bull's side, and remained there after the rest of the visitors had gone. "Now, chief," said I, "speak English?" He glanced askance at me for a second. He then patted the long black hair which concealed his right ear, and murmured something inarticulate, and proceeded with his dinner. The squaws opposite uttered a low sounding whine while I was making another attempt to draw out this remarkable Indian. This is the very chief who thrilled, not only the Indian nations, but the people of the whole of the United States little more than a year ago by preaching with great Sioux eloquence the advent of the Indian Messiah. According to Mr. Crager, the burden of his discourse to the Indians was that the Messiah came to the white men many hundreds of moons ago, and that, instead of according Him a becoming reception, they crucified Him! That he was now about to appear—he, the Wakan Nuka, or the great God—to redeem the red men! We must believe the chief Short Bull suffered from what must be supposed to be a religious mania. But what a new light the statement sheds on the cause of the late Sioux rising. They, the simple children of the forests of America had come to believe that their Redeemer was at hand, and they assembled in their thousands, to employ the words of Mrs. Hemans, [2] in their forest sanctuaries, to afford Him a fitting welcome!

One naturally felt extremely anxious to discover whence the Sioux Indians had obtained their notion of a Messiah Redeemer and that he was Divine. I questioned Mr. Crager on the point. He did not know, but believed it was a forest echo of the teachings of the Christian Churches of America, "or that some Mormon had been among them." Mr. Crager added that the Sioux legends associated with the promised advent of the Indian Messiah were beautiful beyond belief, and he seemed quite enthusiastic when referring to them. This very intelligent interpreter is preparing a work on Sioux legends, about fifty pages of which are devoted to the chief Short Bull and his craze about the Wakan Nuka. Short Bull declares he has seen the Messiah in the forests, and the entire Sioux people believe him.

By three o'clock in the afternoon the two immense sides and the space across the top of the vast square within which the various exhibitions were to take place were well filled. At three o'clock to the minute the entertainment was commenced by the orator standing on a stage in the centre of the vast square and proclaiming the nature of the performance about to take place, the idea of appointing an orator being, no doubt, borrowed from the Olympic Games. Although speaking in the open air, everyone present could hear every syllable he said. Here is an admirable suggestion for the National Eisteddfod: Place a similar orator in the middle of the vast pavillion, and let him there proclaim beforehand each event about to come off on the platform or "llwyfan." In obedience to a signal, a large body of horsemen entered from the lower side of the square, the display of colours in the garments being the first thing to attract attention. Their small horses came up at great speed. As the cavalcade drew nearer it was seen that the riders were Indians, with the chiefs at the head of each tribe. All wore their native costumes, and the chiefs wore a circle of eagle feathers around their faces, giving them a very owlish appearance. The horsemen ranged themselves in picturesque lines in front of the grand stand, with the chiefs a short distance in front. The cowboys came next and afterwards all the squaws, riding astride their horses. Then the Union Jack was carried forward, followed by the stars and stripes of the United States. Suddenly, Colonel W. F. Cody, riding a splendid bay charger, galloped to the forefront and saluted the company by lifting his sombrero. He was well received. During the whole time the Indians uttered sharp cries, as if in imitation of the voice of large birds, At a signal from Colonel Cody, the entire body of horsemen and squaws galloped at full speed along the centre of the green enclosure, and disappeared through the lower opening. That commenced the exceedingly novel and interesting entertainment already described.

Note 1: Morien was the pseudonym used by Welsh journalist, historian, and author Owen Morgan (~1836-1921). [back]

Note 2: Felicia Dorothea (Browne) Hemans (1793-1835) was an English poet. [back]