Shah-co-pee is not so tall or fine looking as Bad Hail, nor has he the fine Roman features of old Man in the Cloud. His face is decidedly ugly; but there is an expression of intelligence about his quick black eye and fine forehead, that makes him friends, notwithstanding his many troublesome qualities.
At present he is in mourning; his face is painted black. He never combs his hair, but wears a black silk handkerchief tied across his forehead.
When he speaks he uses a great deal of gesture, suiting the action to the word. His hands, which are small and well formed, are black with dirt; he does not descend to the duties of the toilet.
He is the orator of the Dahcotahs. No matter how trifling the occasion, he talks well; and assumes an air of importance that would become him if he were discoursing on matters of life and death.
Some years ago, our government wished the Chippeways and Dahcotahs to conclude a treaty of peace among themselves. Frequently have these two bands made peace, but rarely kept it any length of time. On this occasion many promises were made on both sides; promises which would be broken by some inconsiderate young warrior before long, and then retaliation must follow.
Shah-co-pee has great influence among the Dahcotahs, and he was to come to Fort Snelling to be present at the council of peace. Early in the morning he and about twenty warriors left their village on the banks of the St. Peters, for the Fort.
When they were very near, so that their actions could be distinguished, they assembled in their canoes, drawing them close together, that they might hear the speech which their chief was about to make them.
They raised the stars and stripes, and their own flag, which is a staff adorned with feathers from the war eagle; and the noon-day sun gave brilliancy to their gay dresses, and the feathers and ornaments that they wore.
Shah-co-pee stood straight and firm in his canoe—and not the less proudly that the walls of the Fort towered above him.
“My boys,” he said (for thus he always addressed his men), “the Dahcotahs are all braves; never has a coward been known among the People of the Spirit Lakes. Let the women and children fear their enemies, but we will face our foes, and always conquer.
“We are going to talk with the white men; our great Father wishes us to be at peace with our enemies. We have long enough shed the blood of the Chippeways; we have danced round their scalps, and our children have kicked their heads about in the dust. What more do we want? When we are in council, listen to the words of the Interpreter as he tells us what our great Father says, and I will answer him for you; and when we have eaten and smoked the pipe of peace, we will return to our village.”
The chief took his seat with all the importance of a public benefactor. He intended to have all the talking to himself, to arrange matters according to his own ideas; but he did it with the utmost condescension, and his warriors were satisfied.