Title: Redskins At St. Paul's

Periodical: The Herald

Date: October 25, 1891

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An Indian Visit to Westminster Abbey and the Tombs of Great English Heroes—Characteristic Comments by the Ghost-Dancing "Messiah" of Last Winter's War—The Small Survivor of Two Hundred Indians.

SEVEN splendid specimens of the North American Indian stalked majestically into St. Paul's Cathedral on Thursday. Each was gorgeous in paint and feathers, and was clad in brilliant-hued and picturesque attire. They were in sight but a few moments, as they arrived in closed carriages. Still they were in sight long enough to attract the attention of all who were passing at the time, and hundreds who would otherwise have passed by St. Paul's on the other side followed the red men into the Cathedral. Of the crowd the Indians took no notice. The crowd had no eyes for anybody or anything else. The casual worshippers rose from their chairs and joined the throng that followed in the track of the dark-skinned visitors. It was a crowd that was simply bursting with curiosity. It stared as if staring were one of the fine arts. It might have taken a lesson in politeness from the "Savages," as some were pleased to call Short Bull and his companions, for although nothing escaped the notice of the Indians, their entire attention was seemingly devoted to an inspection of the Cathedral and the magnificent monuments it contains.

There were really eight Indians in the party, though one was so small that in a crowd he easily escaped notice. This small Indian has a history. He is about [drawing] SHORT BULL. six years of age. He is one of two Indian survivors of the battle of Wounded Knee. This battle was fought on last Christmas Day between the Sioux and United States troops. [1] In less than 20 minutes nearly 250 souls were sent to their last account. Of this number 200 were Indians. The soldiers, maddened by the atrocities of some of their old foes, threw off all restraint and killed every Indian in sight. Many hours after the battle two papooses were found under a heap of slain. One of these was named Johnny Burke No Neck, his godfathers being Major John M. Burke, general manager of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, and No Neck, chief of the Indian police at Pine Ridge Agency, Dakota.

The Indians who visited St. Paul's were members of Buffalo Bill's party. They were under the charge of Major Burke, and were accompanied by Mr. G. C. Crager, the Sioux interpreter attached to the combination, and by the writer and the HERALD artist. They had come by train from Croydon, where the Wild West Show struck its tents last night, to Victoria. Thence they were driven in closed carriages to the HERALD office in Fleet Street, where they said "How" to the editor. In leaving the HERALD office they blocked traffic in Fleet Street for several minutes. Until they entered their carriages not a pedestrian would move from any position of vantage he had secured, and the drivers of vans and cabs were, for once, of one mind. They pulled up their horses and refused to move until warned for the third and last time by the police.


Not a phase of the commotion created by them escaped the attention of the Indians, but their stolid countenances underwent no change. The rain fell as it generally does fall here, with placid steadiness. It fell upon the raven locks of the Indians and moistened the paint on their faces, but it failed to make an impression upon their serenity. They stood quietly until a way was made for them through the closely-packed crowd, stepped leisurely into the carriages, sat in them without a change of position until a halt was made in front of the principal entrance to St. Paul's, and then, the rain still falling heavily, stalked slowly up the steps and into the Cathedral. Kicking Bear was the first to enter. He was followed, in Indian file, by Short Bull, Lone Bull, No Neck, Coming Grunt, White Cloud, High Bear, and Johnny Burke No Neck. All wore blankets, scarlet, with borders of many colours. In the Cathedral, as in the streets, they towered above the crowd that hovered about them and watched their every movement. White Cloud, in his moccasins, stands 6ft. 4in. Kicking Bear is only an inch shorter, and High Bear is 6ft. 2in. No Neck, though over 6ft. high, looks much shorter [drawing] CHIEF NO NECK. on account of the great breadth of his shoulders. His weight is 15st., but his step is light as a panther's.


The stalwart red men never looked more picturesque than as they strode noiselessly from one point of interest to another in the Cathedral. They were in full dress. Kicking Bear wore a magnificent head-dress of eagle feathers. After encircling his head it drooped gracefully almost to his feet. His forehead was painted a ghastly shade of yellow. Beneath his eyes was a broad band of dark red. His cheek bones were painted of the same hue. Brushed back from the yellow painted forehead was his long, straight and shining black hair. It reached to his shoulders. A wide, thin-lipped mouth wore a sneer oftener than not. His black eyes gleamed as they roved ceaselessly but slyly from face to face and one object of interest to another. When he smiled, which was seldom, the crowd stepped on itself in its eagerness to give him room. The impression seemed to be general that Kicking Bear's nature had so much malignity in it that there was room for little else. I have no desire to do the gentleman an injury, but for raw ferocity of expression I never saw his equal. Around his shoulders was flung a blanket of scarlet squaw cloth. Big as it was, it was not long enough to reach the ground. It was not folded across his breast, so that the hair-pipe breastplate could be seen.

This is the remains of an old fashion. Before the bow and arrow were driven from the field by the rifle, it was customary to protect the breast. The breastplate of to-day is worn simply as an ornament. Kicking Bear's leggings were also of scarlet squaw cloth, and heavily fringed. Scarlet was also the colour of the shirt that fitted his body tightly. Hanging from his hair, on a line with his ears, were two strings of brass beads. Strings of beads, some of brass, some of bone, and of many colours, were looped across his chest. On one wrist was a broad brass band, burnished so brightly that the wearer could see his copper-coloured face in it. His moccasins were of deer-skins, and were heavily beaded. While at the HERALD office Kicking Bear smoked continuously. He is very fond of cigarettes. He is also very fond of fresh meat, and eats four pounds a day. Kicking Bear was chief of the fighting element among the Sioux in last winter's Indian war in Dakota.


An entirely different type of Indian is Short Bull. He was the leader of the "Ghost-dancers," and High [drawing] LONE BULL. Priest of the Messiah craze. He is the diplomatist of Buffalo Bill's party of Indians. He has a face that instantly attracts attention. His features are small and clearly-cut. He has the high cheek-bones of the Sioux, but in a greatly modified form. His eyes are deeply set and flash like diamonds. His expression is wonderfully placid, the only feature that betrays feeling at all being the eye, and even that being under perfect control. Short Bull conveys the impression that he is always laughing at you. Talk to him and he will listen, will give you, apparently, all his attention, but watch him closely, and you will often catch a twinkle in his eye, as if he thought it all very amusing, though, of course, he must not, from a sense of politeness, say so. Describe to him one of the wonders of the world, and his face will wear the same bland expression that will clothe it when he is informed that dinner is ready. When Nelson's tomb in St. Paul's was shown to him and he was told that the upper part of it weighed three tons he said: "He have trouble get that off."

He was dressed in more sober colours than Kicking Bear and his face was not painted. His hair was "done up" in otter skin. The long locks were divided into two plaits, and around each of these was wound otter skin. Like all Indians who have a right to "do up" their hair in this way, they are very particular that it should be done in a certain way and that no other fur but otter should be used. In his right hand Short Bull carried a war club. When the interpreter found it necessary to speak to the Indians in their own language he generally addressed himself to Short Bull. The latter did not put himself forward, but there appeared to be a general understanding that if information were to be given it should be given to Short Bull. No matter of what nature the information might be, trivial or important, amusing or impressive, the expression on Short Bull's face was always the same.


It was a quiet party. While in the body of the Cathedral the only Indian who spoke was Short Bull, and he only did so to keep his companions informed on matters of especial interest. The comments of the crowd that followed the party were not always complimentary to its intelligence. One man, a well-dressed, rather intelligent-looking man, after staring at White Cloud for about five minutes, begged, as a great favour, to be told of what race the Indians were and whence they came. He seemed quite surprised when he was told they were North American Indians. I have been sorry ever since I did not ask him what he thought they were. High Bear had three small spheres of dark-blue paint on his right cheek and a blue star on his left. A large [drawing] THE CHIEFS ENTERING ST. PAUL'S. percentage of the crowd was fascinated by these artistic efforts.

No Neck had many admirers. He carried his blanket over one shoulder, so that everybody could see the heavily-beaded jacket he wore. It looked uncommonly like a woman's bodice. White Cloud carried a silver-headed acacia stick, like those usually worn by Piccadilly swells, and seemed proud of it. When the interpreter told Short Bull that there was a St. Paul's Cathedral before the white man visited the Indian's country, the Indians looked at one another but said nothing. Kicking Bear's eyes flashed when he was told that not many years ago a man had jumped from the "Whispering Gallery," and had fallen a few feet from where the Indians stood. All heads were thrown back and all eyes turned towards the dome. There was a general grunt when a verger [2] said that several men could stand in the ball that surmounted the dome. They stood for a long time in front of Wellington's tomb. A few months ago these same Indians were at Waterloo. They walked slowly around the tomb, looking carefully at the recumbent figure, after being told that the great English chief who had won at Waterloo was buried there. Less than a year ago, some of these same Indians were engaged in the congenial task of killing whites.


When the last of the band had stepped inside, the door that forms the entrance to the crypt was shut in the face of the crowd. Whether sixpences were or were not forthcoming, the crowd was compelled to wait until the gentle red men had finished their tour. They were anxious to see Nelson's tomb. They understood that he was a great sea captain. It made no difference to them whether the occupant of the tomb was a naval or a military hero. If he were a "good fighter" he was satisfactory to them. The Indians looked at the floor: it was stone, at the roof: it was stone, at the great pillars and walls on which the Cathedral rested: they were stone, and of the most massive description.

"All so strong here," exclaimed Johnny Burke No Neck.

Short Bull looked approvingly at him and said: "When they get them here they keep them."

The other Indians grunted. They stopped in front of the tomb of Sir Christopher Wren.

"Here lies the man who built this Cathedral," said the interpreter.

Short Bull nodded with his eyes, and the others, except Kicking Bear, grunted.

"He told how each stone should be placed," said the interpreter.

Short Bull began to count the stones, but soon gave it up. "Too much," said High Bear.

The Indians stood in front of Nelson's tomb, which is exactly in the centre of the Cathedral. When they had been told that he had been a great fighting man, they walked slowly around the tomb. It was then that Short Bull suggested that the great Admiral would experience considerable difficulty in removing the weight from his chest when he wanted to get up. They were intensely interested in Wellington's funeral car. They listened closely to its history as given by the verger and translated into their own language by Mr. Crager. When told that it was made from cannon captured in battle by Wellington, they nodded their heads slowly, but looked at the car a trifle distrustfully until the verger struck it with a piece of iron. It rang clearly and sharply, and the red men were satisfied. Kicking Bear spent much of his time looking at the muskets with which the front of the car was decorated. They were picked up from the field of Waterloo. Finally, Kicking Bear gave a grunt of disapproval.

"What's the matter?" asked Mr. Crager.

"Guns no good," replied Kicking Bear, who was armed with a Winchester repeating rifle in the last war.

"You think you could whip soldiers armed with those guns?" asked the interpreter.

"Yes," growled Kicking Bear.

At the head of the stone steps leading from the crypt stood the verger on the return journey. Major Burke shook hands with him, and said "Good morning."

Short Bull at once held out his right hand. The verger grasped it, and said "Good morning, sir." Short Bull said "How." Each Indian shook hands with the verger as he passed. To each of them the verger, whose nerves seemed to be a bit shaken, said "Good morning, sir." Each Indian answered gravely, "How."


After a quick drive, the rain still falling, the Indians arrived at Westminster Abbey. They stood in the [drawing] KICKING BEAR. rain for several minutes looking at the front. They did this of their own accord. Once inside they were lost in admiration. Their manner could not be called enthusiastic, in the ordinary sense, but showed plainly enough that they were greatly interested. They walked slowly, and sometimes the white men of the party were considerably in advance. All the ordinary visitors fell into line, and wherever the Indians went the crowd followed. One of the crowd asked the HERALD artist the nationality of the "gentlemen with the rugs." The HERALD artist replied "Swedes," and at once became an object of suspicion and dislike to the seeker after information. Short Bull asked how old the building was, and scattered the information when told that it was "many hundreds of years old: nearly a thousand."

The windows filled them with admiration, and they [drawing] JOHNNY BURKE NO NECK. showed a disposition to stand for a time in front of every tomb. They had been told that all the dead chiefs of England were buried in the Abbey. They gave the most time to the inspection of a tablet that was upheld by two figures of Indians. They looked at the figures and then at each other. Short Bull had a twinkle in his eye as he looked from the figures to his companions. The marble figures were correct so far as habiliments go. One of them held a musket and the other a war club. These accessories were correctly represented. But the sculptor had evidently never seen an Indian, for the faces were not at all like those of Indians, and the hair was in short ringlets. These discrepancies rather spoiled the effect. Short Bull smiled when I pointed to the war club grasped by one of the marble figures, and then pointed to his own.


The Indians would gladly have remained in the Abbey for an hour or more, and they walked out of it very slowly, still looking about them, when told that it was necessary to hurry in order to catch the train for Croydon. They were due for the afternoon performance of the Wild West Show, which began at two o'clock. They are hostages intrusted to the care of Colonel Cody. They shook hands in quite a friendly fashion with the white men, who remained behind, and said, through the interpreter, that they had enjoyed their visit to St. Paul's, Westminster Abbey, and the HERALD office. They remembered the names of the places they had visited.

Colonel Cody gave his last performance at Croydon last evening. He will open at Glasgow in a week, and remain there for nine weeks. He and his company will then sail for home. His Indians and cowboys will have much information to disseminate on their return. That their European experience has done much to civilise the Indians there cannot be a doubt. Neither can there be any doubt that the influence of the travellers over the stay-at-homes will be beneficial. The Indian is a close observer, and those who have travelled can hardly avoid knowing and telling those who have and doubt upon the subject that the white man has the power, if he cared to exercise it, of blotting the red man off the Continent of America.

Note 1: The Massacre at Wounded Knee between Sioux Indians and United States military troups occurred on December 29, 1890. [back]

Note 2: A verger is a mostly British term that refers to a church official who serves as a caretaker; usher is a general attendant to a bishop, dean or other person of hig rank within the church or government. [back]