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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 384 pages of information about The Oregon Trail.

The “soldiers,” who lent their timely aid in putting it down, are by far the most important executive functionaries in an Indian village.  The office is one of considerable honor, being confided only to men of courage and repute.  They derive their authority from the old men and chief warriors of the village, who elect them in councils occasionally convened for the purpose, and thus can exercise a degree of authority which no one else in the village would dare to assume.  While very few Ogallalla chiefs could venture without instant jeopardy of their lives to strike or lay hands upon the meanest of their people, the “soldiers” in the discharge of their appropriate functions, have full license to make use of these and similar acts of coercion.

CHAPTER XVII

THE BLACK HILLS

We traveled eastward for two days, and then the gloomy ridges of the Black Hills rose up before us.  The village passed along for some miles beneath their declivities, trailing out to a great length over the arid prairie, or winding at times among small detached hills or distorted shapes.  Turning sharply to the left, we entered a wide defile of the mountains, down the bottom of which a brook came winding, lined with tall grass and dense copses, amid which were hidden many beaver dams and lodges.  We passed along between two lines of high precipices and rocks, piled in utter disorder one upon another, and with scarcely a tree, a bush, or a clump of grass to veil their nakedness.  The restless Indian boys were wandering along their edges and clambering up and down their rugged sides, and sometimes a group of them would stand on the verge of a cliff and look down on the array as it passed in review beneath them.  As we advanced, the passage grew more narrow; then it suddenly expanded into a round grassy meadow, completely encompassed by mountains; and here the families stopped as they came up in turn, and the camp rose like magic.

The lodges were hardly erected when, with their usual precipitation, the Indians set about accomplishing the object that had brought them there; that is, the obtaining poles for supporting their new lodges.  Half the population, men, women and boys, mounted their horses and set out for the interior of the mountains.  As they rode at full gallop over the shingly rocks and into the dark opening of the defile beyond, I thought I had never read or dreamed of a more strange or picturesque cavalcade.  We passed between precipices more than a thousand feet high, sharp and splintering at the tops, their sides beetling over the defile or descending in abrupt declivities, bristling with black fir trees.  On our left they rose close to us like a wall, but on the right a winding brook with a narrow strip of marshy soil intervened.  The stream was clogged with old beaver dams, and spread frequently into wide pools.  There were thick bushes and many dead and blasted trees along its course,

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