THE SIOUX WHO MARRIED THE CROW
A war party of seven young men, seeing a lone tepee standing on the
edge of a heavy belt of timber, stopped and waited for darkness, in
order to send one of their scouts ahead to ascertain whether the
camp which they had seen was the camp of friend or enemy.
When darkness had settled down on them, and they felt secure in not
being detected, they chose one of their scouts to go on alone and
find out what would be the best direction for them to advance upon
the camp, should it prove to be an enemy.
Among the scouts was one who was noted for his bravery, and many
were the brave acts he had performed. His name was Big Eagle.
This man they selected to go to the lone camp and obtain the
information for which they were waiting.
Big Eagle was told to look carefully over the ground and select the
best direction from which they should make the attack. The other
six would await his return. He started on his mission, being
careful not to make any noise. He stealthily approached the
camp. As he drew near to the tent he was surprised to note the
absence of any dogs, as these animals are always kept by the Sioux
to notify the owners by their barking of the approach of anyone.
He crawled up to the tepee door, and peeping through a small
aperture, he saw three persons sitting inside. An elderly man and
woman were sitting at the right of the fireplace, and a young woman
at the seat of honor, opposite the door.
Big Eagle had been married and his wife had died five winters
previous to the time of this episode. He had never thought of
marrying again, but when he looked upon this young woman he thought
he was looking upon the face of his dead wife. He removed his
cartridge belts and knife, and placing them, along with his rifle,
at the side of the tent, he at once boldly stepped inside the
tepee, and going over to the man, extended his hand and shook first
the man's hand, then the old woman's, and lastly the young woman's.
Then he seated himself by the side of the girl, and thus they sat,
no one speaking.
Finally, Big Eagle made signs to the man, explaining as well as
possible by signs, that his wife had died long ago, and when he saw
the girl she so strongly resembled his dead wife that he wished to
marry her, and he would go back to the enemy's camp and live with
them, if they would consent to the marriage of their daughter.
The old man seemed to understand, and Big Eagle again made signs to
him that a party were lying in wait just a short distance from his
camp. Noiselessly they brought in the horses, and taking down the
tent, they at once moved off in the direction from whence they had
come. The war party waited all night, and when the first rays of
dawn disclosed to them the absence of the tepee, they at once
concluded that Big Eagle had been discovered and killed, so they
hurriedly started on their trail for home.
In the meantime, the hunting party, for this it was that Big Eagle
had joined, made very good time in putting a good distance between
themselves and the war party. All day they traveled, and when
evening came they ascended a high hill, looking down into the
valley on the other side. There stretched for two miles, along the
banks of a small stream, an immense camp. The old man made signs
for Big Eagle to remain with the two women where he was, until he
could go to the camp and prepare them to receive an enemy into
The old man rode through the camp and drew up at the largest tepee
in the village. Soon Big Eagle could see men gathering around the
tepee. The crowd grew larger and larger, until the whole village
had assembled at the large tepee. Finally they dispersed, and
catching their horses, mounted and advanced to the hill on which
Big Eagle and the two women were waiting. They formed a circle
around them and slowly they returned to the village, singing and
riding in a circle around them.
When they arrived at the village they advanced to the large tepee,
and motioned Big Eagle to the seat of honor in the tepee. In the
village was a man who understood and spoke the Sioux language. He
was sent for, and through him the oath of allegiance
to the Crow tribe was taken by Big Eagle. This done he was
presented with the girl to wife, and also with many spotted ponies.
Big Eagle lived with his wife among her people for two years, and
during this time he joined in four different battles between his
own people (the Sioux) and the Crow people, to whom his wife
In no battle with his own people would he carry any weapons, only
a long willow coup-stick, with which he struck the fallen Sioux.
At the expiration of two years he concluded to pay a visit to his
own tribe, and his father-in-law, being a chief of high standing,
at once had it heralded through the village that his son-in-law
would visit his own people, and for them to show their good will
and respect for him by bringing ponies for his son-in-law to take
back to his people.
Hearing this, the herds were all driven in and all day long horses
were brought to the tent of Big Eagle, and when he was ready to
start on his homeward trip, twenty young men were elected to
accompany him to within a safe distance of his village. The twenty
young men drove the gift horses, amounting to two hundred and
twenty head, to within one day's journey of the village of Big
Eagle, and fearing for their safety from his people, Big Eagle sent
them back to their own village.
On his arrival at his home village, they received him as one
returned from the dead, as they were sure he had been killed the
night he had been sent to reconnoiter the lone camp. There was
great feasting and dancing in honor of his return, and the horses
were distributed among the needy ones of the village.
Remaining at his home village for a year, he one day made up his
mind to return to his wife's people. A great many fancy robes,
dresses, war bonnets, moccasins, and a great drove of horses were
given him, and his wife, and he bade farewell to his people for
good, saying, "I will never return to you again, as I have decided
to live the remainder of my days with my wife's people."
On his arrival at the village of the Crows, he found his
father-in-law at the point of death. A few days later the old man
died, and Big Eagle was appointed to fill the vacancy of chief made
by the death of his father-in-law.
Subsequently he took part in battles against his own people, and in
the third battle was killed on the field. Tenderly the Crow
warriors bore him back to their camp, and great was the mourning in
the Crow village for the brave man who always went into battle
unarmed, save only the willow wand which he carried.
Thus ended the career of one of the bravest of Sioux warriors who
ever took the scalp of an enemy, and who for the love of his dead
wife, gave up home, parents, and friends, to be killed on the field
of battle by his own tribe.