The Crow Indians
The Crow Indians
In June, 1833, Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied, a scientifically trained German explorer, arrived at Ft. Clarke, a trading-post on the Upper Missouri in what is now North Dakota. Back of it lay the Mandan Indian village of "Mih-Tutta-Hangkusch," with the friendly Hidatsa in close proximity; and both tribes were playing host to a Crow band of seventy lodges under the chief Rotten-belly. Fine figures of men, picturesquely longhaired, the Indian guests, spurless but cracking their elk-horn quirts, rode to and fro on mounts gaily bedecked with red cloths and mountain-lion skins. Their camp was crammed with horses, kept close at hand for fear of hostile marauders. The conical tents were set up in no special order, and instead of scalps dangling from the tips of their poles the Prince saw only pennantlike streamers of red cloth waving in the wind.
Threading their way through the settlement, Maximilian and his party were attacked by packs of wolflike curs, whose onset they could check only with difficulty by a fusillade of rocks. In Rotten-belly's lodge a small fire was burning, surrounded by men of consequence, all of them stripped to their breechclouts. Himself in mourning, the chief was wearing his ugliest clothes, and his close-cropped pate was plastered with clay. He sat opposite the entrance -- in the place of honor -- and the Prince was made to sit beside him on buffalo skins. Lighting a long, flatstemmed pipe of Dakota pattern, Rotten-belly held it for each of the guests while they took a few whiffs. Then the pipe was passed about the tent from right to left.
The haughty bearing of the Crow impressed Maximilian, as did their craftsmanship. He admired the women's porcupinequill embroidery and the men's bows of elk or mountain-sheep horn, some of them covered with the skin of a rattlesnake; and the draftsman of the expedition sketched a quiver decorated with a quill rosette.
From Charbonneau, a white man settled for thirty-seven years among the Hidatsa, the traveller gleaned some facts about . . .