His dying orders were faithfully obeyed. His corpse was placed astride of his war-steed and a mound raised over them on the summit of the hill. On top of the mound was erected a staff, from which fluttered the banner of the chieftain, and the scalps that he had taken in battle. When the expedition under Mr. Hunt visited that part of the country, the staff still remained, with the fragments of the banner; and the superstitious rite of placing food from time to time on the mound, for the use of the deceased, was still observed by the Omahas. That rite has since fallen into disuse, for the tribe itself is almost extinct. Yet the hill of the Blackbird continues an object of veneration to the wandering savage, and a landmark to the voyager of the Missouri; and as the civilized traveller comes within sight of its spell-bound crest, the mound is pointed out to him from afar, which still incloses the grim skeletons of the Indian warrior and his horse.
Rumors of Danger From the Sioux Tetons.—Ruthless Character of Those Savages.—Pirates of the Missouri.—Their Affair with Crooks and M’Lellan.—A Trading Expedition Broken Up.— M’Lellan’s Vow of Vengeance.—Uneasiness in the Camp.— Desertions.-Departure From the Omaha Village.—Meeting With Jones and Carson, two Adventurous Trappers.—Scientific Pursuits of Messrs. Bradbury and Nuttall.—Zeal of a Botanist.—Adventure of Mr. Bradbury with a Ponca Indian.— Expedient of the Pocket Compass and Microscope.—A Messenger From Lisa.—Motives for Pressing Forward.
While Mr. Hunt and his party were sojourning at the village of the Omahas, three Sioux Indians of the Yankton Alma tribe arrived, bringing unpleasant intelligence. They reported that certain bands of the Sioux Tetons, who inhabited a region many leagues further up the Missouri, were near at hand, awaiting the approach of the party, with the avowed intention of opposing their progress.
The Sioux Tetons were at that time a sort of pirates of the Missouri, who considered the well freighted bark of the American trader fair game. They had their own traffic with the British merchants of the Northwest, who brought them regular supplies of merchandise by way of the river St. Peter. Being thus independent of the Missouri traders for their supplies, they kept no terms with them, but plundered them whenever they had an opportunity. It has been insinuated that they were prompted to these outrages by the British merchants, who wished to keep off all rivals in the Indian trade; but others allege another motive, and one savoring of a deeper policy. The Sioux, by their intercourse with the British traders, had acquired the use of firearms, which had given them vast superiority over other tribes higher up the Missouri. They had made themselves also, in a manner, factors for the upper tribes, supplying them at second hand, and at greatly advanced prices, with goods derived from the white men. The Sioux, therefore, saw with jealousy the American traders pushing their way up the Missouri; foreseeing that the upper tribes would thus be relieved from all dependence on them for supplies; nay, what was worse, would be furnished with fire-arms, and elevated into formidable rivals.