Such scenes are witnessed every day at the Dahcotah villages. The missionary sighs as he sees how determined is their belief in such a religion. Is it not a source of rejoicing to be the means of turning one fellow-creature from a faith like this?
A few years ago and every Dahcotah woman reverenced the fish-dance as holy and sacred—even too sacred for her to take a part in it. She believed the medicine women could foretell future events; and, with an injustice hardly to be accounted for, she would tell you it was lawful to beat a girl as much as you chose, but a sin to strike a boy!
She gloried in dancing the scalp dance—aye, even exulted at the idea of taking the life of an enemy herself.
But there are instances in which these things are all laid aside beneath the light of Christianity; instances in which the poor Dahcotah woman sees the folly, the wickedness of her former faith; blesses God who inclined the missionary to leave his home and take up his abode in the country of the savage; and sings to the praise of God in her own tongue as she sits by the door of her wigwam. She smiles as she tells you that her “face is dark, but that she hopes her heart has been changed; and that she will one day sing in heaven, where the voices of the white people and of the converted Dahcotahs, will mingle in a song of love to Him ‘who died for the whole world.’”
Wabashaw, (or The Leaf,) is the name of one of the Dahcotah Chiefs. His village is on the Mississippi river, 1,800 miles from its mouth.
The teepees are pitched quite near the shore, and the many bluffs that rise behind them seem to be their perpetual guards.
The present chief is about thirty-five years old—as yet he has done not much to give him a reputation above the Dahcotahs about him. But his father was a man whose life and character were such as to influence his people to a great degree.
Wabashaw the elder, (for the son inherits his father’s name,) is said by the Dahcotahs to have been the first chief in their tribe.
Many years ago the English claimed authority over the Dahcotahs, and an English traveller having been murdered by some Dahcotahs of the band of which Wabashaw was a warrior, the English claimed hostages to be given up until the murderer could be found.
The affairs of the nation were settled then by men who, having more mind than the others, naturally influenced their inferiors. Their bravest men, their war chief too, no doubt exercised a control over the rest.
Wabashaw was one of the hostages given up in consequence of the murder, and the Governor of Canada required that these Dahcotahs should leave the forests of the west, and remain for a time as prisoners in Canada. Little as is the regard for the feelings of the savage now, there was still less then.