en-es  Hamlin_Garland_River_s_Warning_part1
Hamlin Garland: The River's Warning (1902) – Part 1.

We were visiting the camp of Big Elk on the Washetay and were lounging in the teepee of the Chief himself as the sun went down. All about us could be heard the laughter of the children and the low hum of women talking over their work.

Dogs and babies struggled together on the sod, groups of old men were telling stories and the savory smell of new-baked bread was in the air.

The Indian is a social being and naturally dependent upon his fellows. He has no newspapers, no posters, no hand-bills. His news comes by word of mouth, therefore the "taciturn redman" does not exist.

They are often superb talkers. dramatic, fluent, humorous. Laughter abounds in a camp. The men joke, tell stories with the point against themselves. ridicule those who boast and pass easily from the humorous to the very grave and mysterious in their faith.

It is this loquacity, so necessary to the tribe, which makes it so hard for a redman to keep a secret.

In short, a camp of Indians is not so very unlike a country village where nothing but the local paper is read and where gossip is the surest way of finding out how the world is wagging.

There are in both villages the same group of old men with stories of the past, of the war time to whom the young men listen with ill-concealed impatience.

When a stranger comes to town all the story—tellers rejoice and gird up their loins afresh. It is always therefore in the character of the eager listener that I visit a camp of red people.

Big Elk was not an old man, not yet sixty, but he was a story teller to whom everybody listened, for he had been an adventurous youth, impulsive and reckless, yet generous and kindly.

He was a handsome old fellow natively, but he wore his cheap trousers so slouchily and his hat was so broken that at a distance in the day-time he resembled a tramp.

That night as he sat bare-headed in his teepee with his blanket drawn around his loins, he was admirable. His head was large. and not unlike the pictures of Ben Franklin.

"You see in those days," he explained, "in the war time with the game robbers, every boy was brought up to hate the whiteman who came into our land to kill off our buffalo.

We heard that these men killed for money like the soldiers who came to fight us, and that made our fathers despise them.

I have heard that the white boys were taught to hate us in the same way, and so when we met we fought.

The whiteman considered us a new kind of big game to hunt and we considered him a wolf paid to rob and kill us. Those were dark days.

"I was about twenty-two, it may he, when the old man agent first came to the East bank of the Canadian. and there sat down. My father went to see him, I remember, and came hack laughing.

He said: 'He is a thin old man and can take his teeth out in pieces and put them back,' and this amused us all very much. To this day, as you know that is the sign for an agent among us to take out the upper teeth.

"We did not care for the agent at that time for we had plenty of buffalo meat and skins. Some of the camp went over and drew rations, it is true, but others did not go. I pretended to be very indifferent, but I was crazy to go, for I had never seen a whiteman's house and had never stood close to any whiteman.

I heard the others tell of a great many wonderful things over there—and they said there were white women and children also.

I was ambitious to do a great deed in those days and had made myself the leader of some fourteen reckless young warriors like myself. I sat around and smoked in teepee, and one night I said: 'Brothers, let us go to the agency and steal the horses.'

"This made each one of them spring to his feet. 'Good, Good!' they said. 'Lead us. We will follow. That is worth doing.'

'The white men are few and cowardly,' I said. 'We can dash in and run off the horses, and then I think the old men will no longer call us boys. They will sing of us in their songs. We shall be counted in the council thereafter.'

"They were all eager to go and that night we slipped out of camp and saddled and rode away across the prairie which was fetlock deep in grass. Just the time for a raid. I felt like a big chief as I led my band in silence through the night. My bosom swelled with pride like a turkey-cock and my heart was fierce.

"We came in sight of the white man's village next day about noon, and veering a little to the north, I led my band into camp some miles above the agency.

Here I made a talk to my band and said: 'Now you remain here and I will go alone and spy out the enemy and count his warriors and make plans for the battle. You can rest and grow strong while I am gone."

Big Elk's eyes twinkled as he resumed. "I thought I was a brave lad to do this thing and I rode away trying to look unconcerned. I was very curious to see the agency. I was like a coyote who comes into the camp to spy out the meat rocks."

This remark caused a ripple of laughter, which Big Elk ignored. "As I forded the river I glanced right and left, counting the wooden teepees," (He made a sign of the roof)—"and I found them not so many as I had heard.

As I rode up the bank I passed near a white woman and I looked at her with sharp eyes. I had heard that all white women looked white and sick-like.

This I found was true. This woman had yellow hair and was thin and pale. She was not afraid of me—she did not seem to notice me and that surprised me.

"Then I passed by a big wooden teepee which was very dirty and smoky. I could see a man, all over black, who was pounding at something. He made a sound, clanks clank, cluck-clank, I stood at the door and looked in.

It was all very wonderful. There were horses in there and this black man was putting iron moccasins on the horses' feet.

"An Arapahoe stood there and I said in signs: 'What do they do that for?' He replied: 'So that the horses can go over rocks without wearing off their hoofs.'

"That seemed to me a fine thing to do and I wanted my pony fixed that way. I asked where the agent was, and he pointed toward a tall pole on which fluttered a piece of red and white and blue cloth. I rode that way. There were some Cheyennes at the door, who asked me who I was and where I came from. I told them any old kind of story and said, 'Where is the agent?'

"They showed me a door and I went in. I had never been in a white man's teepee before and I noticed that the walls were strong and the door had iron on it. 'Ho!' I said, 'This looks like a trap. Easy to go in, hard to get out. I guess I will be very peaceful while I am in here."

"The agent was a little old man—I could have broken his back with a club as he sat with his back toward me. He paid no attention till a half-breed came up to me and said. 'What do you want?'

" 'I want to see the agent.' " 'There he is, look at him,' and he laughed.

"The agent turned around and held out his hand. 'How how,' he said. What is your name?'

"His face was very kind, and I went to him and took his hand. His tongue I could not understand, but the half-breed helped me. We talked. I made up a story. 'I have heard you give away things to the Cheyennes,' I said, 'therefore I have come for my share.'

"We give to good red people,' he said. Then he talked sweetly to me. 'My people are Quakers,' he said. 'We have visions like the red people—'but we never go to war. Therefore has the Great Soldier, the Great Father at Washington, put me here.

He does not want his children to fight. Thou are all brothers with different ways of life. I am here to help your people,' he said, 'and you must not go to war any more.'

"All that he said to me was good—it took all the fire and bitterness out of my heart and I shook hands and went away with my head bowed in thought. He was as kind as my own father.

"I had never seen such white people before; they were all kind. They fed me; they talked friendly with me. Not one was making a weapon. All were preparing to till the soil. They were kind to the beasts, and all the old Cheyennes I met said, 'We must do as this good old man says.'
unit 1
Hamlin Garland: The River's Warning (1902) – Part 1.
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unit 5
The Indian is a social being and naturally dependent upon his fellows.
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unit 6
He has no newspapers, no posters, no hand-bills.
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unit 8
They are often superb talkers.
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unit 9
dramatic, fluent, humorous.
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unit 10
Laughter abounds in a camp.
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unit 11
The men joke, tell stories with the point against themselves.
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unit 21
His head was large.
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unit 22
and not unlike the pictures of Ben Franklin.
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unit 27
Those were dark days.
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unit 29
and there sat down.
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unit 30
My father went to see him, I remember, and came hack laughing.
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unit 39
"This made each one of them spring to his feet.
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unit 40
'Good, Good!'
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they said.
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unit 42
'Lead us.
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unit 43
We will follow.
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unit 44
That is worth doing.'
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unit 45
'The white men are few and cowardly,' I said.
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unit 47
They will sing of us in their songs.
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unit 48
We shall be counted in the council thereafter.'
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unit 50
Just the time for a raid.
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unit 51
I felt like a big chief as I led my band in silence through the night.
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unit 52
My bosom swelled with pride like a turkey-cock and my heart was fierce.
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unit 55
You can rest and grow strong while I am gone."
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unit 56
Big Elk's eyes twinkled as he resumed.
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unit 58
I was very curious to see the agency.
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unit 59
I was like a coyote who comes into the camp to spy out the meat rocks."
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unit 60
This remark caused a ripple of laughter, which Big Elk ignored.
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unit 63
I had heard that all white women looked white and sick-like.
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unit 64
This I found was true.
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unit 65
This woman had yellow hair and was thin and pale.
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unit 67
"Then I passed by a big wooden teepee which was very dirty and smoky.
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unit 68
I could see a man, all over black, who was pounding at something.
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unit 70
It was all very wonderful.
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unit 74
unit 76
I rode that way.
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unit 78
I told them any old kind of story and said, 'Where is the agent?'
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unit 79
"They showed me a door and I went in.
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unit 81
'Ho!'
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unit 82
I said, 'This looks like a trap.
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unit 83
Easy to go in, hard to get out.
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unit 84
I guess I will be very peaceful while I am in here."
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unit 86
He paid no attention till a half-breed came up to me and said.
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unit 87
'What do you want?'
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unit 88
" 'I want to see the agent.'
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unit 89
" 'There he is, look at him,' and he laughed.
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unit 90
"The agent turned around and held out his hand.
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unit 91
'How how,' he said.
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unit 92
What is your name?'
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unit 93
"His face was very kind, and I went to him and took his hand.
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unit 94
His tongue I could not understand, but the half-breed helped me.
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unit 95
We talked.
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unit 96
I made up a story.
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unit 98
"We give to good red people,' he said.
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unit 99
Then he talked sweetly to me.
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unit 100
'My people are Quakers,' he said.
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unit 101
'We have visions like the red people—'but we never go to war.
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unit 102
unit 103
He does not want his children to fight.
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unit 104
Thou are all brothers with different ways of life.
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unit 107
He was as kind as my own father.
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unit 108
"I had never seen such white people before; they were all kind.
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unit 109
They fed me; they talked friendly with me.
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unit 110
Not one was making a weapon.
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unit 111
All were preparing to till the soil.
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Hamlin Garland: The River's Warning (1902) – Part 1.

We were visiting the camp of Big Elk on the Washetay and were lounging in the teepee of the Chief himself as the sun went down. All about us could be heard the laughter of the children and the low hum of women talking over their work.

Dogs and babies struggled together on the sod, groups of old men were telling stories and the savory smell of new-baked bread was in the air.

The Indian is a social being and naturally dependent upon his fellows. He has no newspapers, no posters, no hand-bills. His news comes by word of mouth, therefore the "taciturn redman" does not exist.

They are often superb talkers. dramatic, fluent, humorous. Laughter abounds in a camp. The men joke, tell stories with the point against themselves. ridicule those who boast and pass easily from the humorous to the very grave and mysterious in their faith.

It is this loquacity, so necessary to the tribe, which makes it so hard for a redman to keep a secret.

In short, a camp of Indians is not so very unlike a country village where nothing but the local paper is read and where gossip is the surest way of finding out how the world is wagging.

There are in both villages the same group of old men with stories of the past, of the war time to whom the young men listen with ill-concealed impatience.

When a stranger comes to town all the story—tellers rejoice and gird up their loins afresh. It is always therefore in the character of the eager listener that I visit a camp of red people.

Big Elk was not an old man, not yet sixty, but he was a story teller to whom everybody listened, for he had been an adventurous youth, impulsive and reckless, yet generous and kindly.

He was a handsome old fellow natively, but he wore his cheap trousers so slouchily and his hat was so broken that at a distance in the day-time he resembled a tramp.

That night as he sat bare-headed in his teepee with his blanket drawn around his loins, he was admirable. His head was large. and not unlike the pictures of Ben Franklin.

"You see in those days," he explained, "in the war time with the game robbers, every boy was brought up to hate the whiteman who came into our land to kill off our buffalo.

We heard that these men killed for money like the soldiers who came to fight us, and that made our fathers despise them.

I have heard that the white boys were taught to hate us in the same way, and so when we met we fought.

The whiteman considered us a new kind of big game to hunt and we considered him a wolf paid to rob and kill us. Those were dark days.

"I was about twenty-two, it may he, when the old man agent first came to the East bank of the Canadian. and there sat down. My father went to see him, I remember, and came hack laughing.

He said: 'He is a thin old man and can take his teeth out in pieces and put them back,' and this amused us all very much. To this day, as you know that is the sign for an agent among us to take out the upper teeth.

"We did not care for the agent at that time for we had plenty of buffalo meat and skins. Some of the camp went over and drew rations, it is true, but others did not go. I pretended to be very indifferent, but I was crazy to go, for I had never seen a whiteman's house and had never stood close to any whiteman.

I heard the others tell of a great many wonderful things over there—and they said there were white women and children also.

I was ambitious to do a great deed in those days and had made myself the leader of some fourteen reckless young warriors like myself. I sat around and smoked in teepee, and one night I said: 'Brothers, let us go to the agency and steal the horses.'

"This made each one of them spring to his feet. 'Good, Good!' they said. 'Lead us. We will follow. That is worth doing.'

'The white men are few and cowardly,' I said. 'We can dash in and run off the horses, and then I think the old men will no longer call us boys. They will sing of us in their songs. We shall be counted in the council thereafter.'

"They were all eager to go and that night we slipped out of camp and saddled and rode away across the prairie which was fetlock deep in grass. Just the time for a raid. I felt like a big chief as I led my band in silence through the night. My bosom swelled with pride like a turkey-cock and my heart was fierce.

"We came in sight of the white man's village next day about noon, and veering a little to the north, I led my band into camp some miles above the agency.

Here I made a talk to my band and said: 'Now you remain here and I will go alone and spy out the enemy and count his warriors and make plans for the battle. You can rest and grow strong while I am gone."

Big Elk's eyes twinkled as he resumed. "I thought I was a brave lad to do this thing and I rode away trying to look unconcerned. I was very curious to see the agency. I was like a coyote who comes into the camp to spy out the meat rocks."

This remark caused a ripple of laughter, which Big Elk ignored. "As I forded the river I glanced right and left, counting the wooden teepees," (He made a sign of the roof)—"and I found them not so many as I had heard.

As I rode up the bank I passed near a white woman and I looked at her with sharp eyes. I had heard that all white women looked white and sick-like.

This I found was true. This woman had yellow hair and was thin and pale. She was not afraid of me—she did not seem to notice me and that surprised me.

"Then I passed by a big wooden teepee which was very dirty and smoky. I could see a man, all over black, who was pounding at something. He made a sound, clanks clank, cluck-clank, I stood at the door and looked in.

It was all very wonderful. There were horses in there and this black man was putting iron moccasins on the horses' feet.

"An Arapahoe stood there and I said in signs: 'What do they do that for?' He replied: 'So that the horses can go over rocks without wearing off their hoofs.'

"That seemed to me a fine thing to do and I wanted my pony fixed that way. I asked where the agent was, and he pointed toward a tall pole on which fluttered a piece of red and white and blue cloth. I rode that way. There were some Cheyennes at the door, who asked me who I was and where I came from. I told them any old kind of story and said, 'Where is the agent?'

"They showed me a door and I went in. I had never been in a white man's teepee before and I noticed that the walls were strong and the door had iron on it. 'Ho!' I said, 'This looks like a trap. Easy to go in, hard to get out. I guess I will be very peaceful while I am in here."

"The agent was a little old man—I could have broken his back with a club as he sat with his back toward me. He paid no attention till a half-breed came up to me and said. 'What do you want?'

" 'I want to see the agent.' " 'There he is, look at him,' and he laughed.

"The agent turned around and held out his hand. 'How how,' he said. What is your name?'

"His face was very kind, and I went to him and took his hand. His tongue I could not understand, but the half-breed helped me. We talked. I made up a story. 'I have heard you give away things to the Cheyennes,' I said, 'therefore I have come for my share.'

"We give to good red people,' he said. Then he talked sweetly to me. 'My people are Quakers,' he said. 'We have visions like the red people—'but we never go to war. Therefore has the Great Soldier, the Great Father at Washington, put me here.

He does not want his children to fight. Thou are all brothers with different ways of life. I am here to help your people,' he said, 'and you must not go to war any more.'

"All that he said to me was good—it took all the fire and bitterness out of my heart and I shook hands and went away with my head bowed in thought. He was as kind as my own father.

"I had never seen such white people before; they were all kind. They fed me; they talked friendly with me. Not one was making a weapon. All were preparing to till the soil. They were kind to the beasts, and all the old Cheyennes I met said, 'We must do as this good old man says.'