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Wyeth's Oregon

A Short History of a Long Journey, 1832; and Townsend's Narrative of a Journey across the Rocky Mountains, 1834

John B. Wyeth

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
On the evening of the 24th of March, 1834, Mr. Nuttall and myself arrived at St. Louis, in the steamboat Boston, from Pittsburg. On landing, we had the satisfaction to learn that Captain Wyeth was already there, and on the afternoon of the next day we called upon him, and consulted him in reference to the outfit which it would be necessary to purchase for the journey. He accompanied us to a store in the town, and selected a number of articles for us, among which were several pairs of leathern pantaloons, enormous overcoats, made of green blankets, and white wool hats, with round crowns, fitting tightly to the head, brims five inches wide, and almost hard enough to resist a rifle ball. The day following we saw about one hundred Indians of the Sâque tribe, who had left their native forests for the purpose of treating for the sale of some land at the Jefferson barracks. They were dressed and decorated in the true primitive style; their heads shaved closely, and painted with alternate stripes of fiery red and deep black, leaving only the long scalping tuft, in which was interwoven a quantity of elk hair and eagle's feathers. Each man was furnished with a good blanket, and some had an under dress of calico, but the greater number were entirely naked to the waist. The faces and bodies of the men were, almost without an exception, fantastically painted, the predominant color being deep red, with occasionally a few stripes of dull clay white around the eyes and mouth. I observed one whose body was smeared with light colored clay, interspersed with black streaks. They were unarmed, with the exception of tomahawks and knives. The chief of the band, (who is said to be Black Hawk's father-in-law,) was a large dignified looking man, of perhaps fifty-five years of age, distinguished from the rest, by his richer habiliments, a more profuse display of trinkets in his ears, (which were cut and gashed in a frightful manner to receive them,) and above all, by a huge necklace made of the claws of the grizzly bear. The squaws, of whom there were about twenty, were dressed very much like the men, and at a little distance could scarcely be distinguished from them. Among them was an old, superannuated crone, who, soon after her arrival, had been presented with a broken umbrella. The only use that she made of it was to wrench the plated ends from the whalebones, string them on a piece of wire, take her knife from her belt, with which she deliberately cut a slit of an inch in length along the upper rim of her ear, and insert them in it. I saw her soon after this operation had been performed; her cheeks were covered with blood, and she was standing with a vast deal of assumed dignity among her tawny sisters, who evidently envied her the possession of the worthless baubles.