Then came the tomahawk and scalping knife—the former to finish the work of death, the latter to bear a trophy to their country, to say, Our comrades are avenged. Nor was that all. The bodies were cut to pieces, and then the warriors commenced their homeward journey.
They allowed themselves but little rest until they were out of their enemies’ country. But when they were out of the reach of attack, when their feet trod again upon Dahcotah soil, then they stopped to stretch each scalp on a hoop, which was attached to a slender pole. This is always the work of the war chief.
They look eagerly for the welcome sight of home. The cone-shaped teepees rise before their view. They know that their young wives will rejoice to see the scalps, as much as to know that the wanderers have returned.
When they are near their village the war chief raises the song of victory; the other warriors join their voices to his. The welcome sound rouses the inhabitants of the village from their duties or amusements. The warriors enter the village in triumph, one by one, each bearing the scalp he took; and the stout warrior, the aged woman, and the feeble child, all press forward to feast their eyes with the sight of the scalps.
There was a jubilee in the village for weeks. Day and night did the savages dance round the scalps. But how soon may their rejoicings be lost in cries of terror! Even now they tremble at the sound of their own voices when evening draws near—for it is their turn to suffer. They expect their foes, but they do not dread them the less.
Many of the customs of the Dahcotahs are to be attributed to their superstitions. Their teepees are always made of buffalo-skins; nothing would induce them to use deer-skin for that purpose. Many years ago a woman made a teepee of deer-skin; and was taken suddenly ill, and died immediately after. Some reason must be found for the cause of her death, and as no other was known, the Indians concluded that she brought her death upon herself by using deer-skin for her teepee. They have always, since, used buffalo-skin for that purpose.
Nothing would induce a Dahcotah woman to look into a looking-glass; for the medicine men say that death will be the consequence.
But there is no superstition which influences them more than their belief in Haokah, or the Giant. They say this being is possessed of superhuman powers: indeed he is deemed so powerful, as to be able to take the thunder in his hand and cast it to the ground. He dresses in many colors, and wears a forked hat. One side of his face is red, the other blue, his eyes are also of different colors. He always carries a bow and arrow in his hand, but never has occasion to use it, as one look will kill the animal he wants.
They sing songs to this giant, and once in a long time dance in honor of him; but so severe is the latter custom, that it is rarely performed. The following incident will show how great is their reverence for this singular being. An Indian made a vapor bath, and placed inside of it a rude image of the giant, made of birch bark. This he intended to pray to while bathing.