It was a bright clear evening, and the rays of the setting sun fell upon some objects further on. For a time the Dahcotahs gazed in silence; but no movement gave sign of what it was that excited their curiosity. All at once there was a fearful foreboding; they remembered why they were there, and they determined to venture near enough to find out what was the nature of the object on which the rays of the sun seemed to rest as if to attract their notice.
A few more steps and they were relieved from their terrible suspense, but their worst fears were realized.
The Dahcotahs recently killed had been skinned by the Chippeways, while their bodies were yet warm with life, and the skins were stretched upon poles; while on separate poles the hands were placed, with one finger of each hand pointing to the Dahcotah country. The savages were in a fearful rage. They had to endure a twofold insult.
There were the bodies of their friends, treated as if they were but beasts, and evidently put there to be seen by the Dahcotahs. And besides, the hands pointing to the country of the Dahcotahs—did it not plainly say to the spies, go back to your country and say to your warriors, that the Chippeways despise them, that they are not worthy to be treated as men?
The spies returned as cautiously as they had ventured near the fatal spot, and it was not until they were out of reach of danger from their foes, that they gave vent to their indignation. Then their smothered rage burst forth. They hastened to return and tell the event of their journey. They forgot how grieved the wives and sisters of the dead would be at being deprived of the solace of burying the remains of their friends—they only thought of revenge for the insult they had received.
When they arrived at their village, they called together their chiefs and braves, and related to them what they had seen. A council of war was held, which resulted in immediate preparations being made to resent the indignity offered to their friends, and the insult to the whole tribe.
The war-dance is always celebrated before a war party goes out to find an enemy, and there is in every village a war chief, who conducts the party. The war dance is performed inside of a wigwam, and not out of door, as is usually represented.
The “Owl” felt himself qualified in every respect to conduct the present party. He was a great warrior, and a juggler besides; and he had a reputation acquired from an act performed when he was a very young man, which showed as much cunning as bravery; for one of these qualities is as necessary to a Dahcotah war chief as the other.
He was one of a party of Dahcotahs who went to war against the Chippeways, but without success. On their way back “the Owl” got separated from the rest of the party, and he climbed a tree to see if he could discover his comrades. While in the tree a war party of the Chippeways came in sight and stopped quite near the tree to make their camp.