WISCONSIN. Fall 1837. Relationship between Indians and Half-Breeds
The etymology of the names of rivers, prairies, rocks, and other places in this country, derives, as one may have noticed, very often from some circomstance or souvenir connected with them, which passes from mouth to mouth and from generation to generation, and thus acquires a geographical authority. The funniest derivation I have heard of is that of the name of a prairie which the hunters along the Mississippi call the Ferribault (sic) Woman's Prairie. Here in a few words is the etymology:-Mr. Ferribault's wife was a half-breed who affected the costume and the customs of white people and made fun of Indians. Some young Indians in the neighborhood, vexed at her jokes, swore to be revenged, and one fine day they got hold of Mrs. Ferribault and, as the Indians say, passed her around on the prairie; and the chronicle has it that 25 young Indians inflicted upon her the most terrible punishment (from the moral point of view) that can be inflicted on a woman. Fortunately Mrs. Ferribault put up with all these outrages for the love of God and felt only the better afterwards.
PRAIRIE EXPEDITION DEPARTING FROM ST. LOUIS. Fall 1837. General remarks about the Indians; Education, Appearance; Marriage. Largely based on Arese’s experiences with the Sioux and the Menominee.
The training of children among the savages lasts a very short while. As soon as they are able to look after their own needs, or at least to stand on their legs, they have entire freedom and live with their parents as with strangers, receiving from the father nothing except lessons in courage, slyness, and revenge-practical lessons, of course, not merely theoretic.
The Indians may marry as many wives as they are able to feed. Usually they buy them from their parents. The wife has an entirely passive role, she is almost the slave of her husband. It is she who cooks the meals, takes care of the babies, the tents, the horses, and in a word, the whole establishment. When her husband is away at war or hunting, it is she who tans the skins and the furs and tailors the clothes. On the trail it is the wife that carries the babies, and the baggage, and attends to all the work connected with camping. The husbands are jealous or pretend to be jealous and cut off the noses and the ears, sometimes even kill wives that have failed to be faithful. The wives' behavior is in general pretty regular, whereas that of girls is not in the least so. A girl gives or sells herself to anybody she chooses, and does it almost coram populo, without her reputation's suffering the slightest bit. When a stranger arrives in a tribe and is well received, it never fails that he is given a woman for the time he is to be there. In any case, supposing he wants one, he need not lack. "Running the match" is a phrase in use among the Canadian hunters: it is one of the better methods for getting girls, and the pursuit goes like this:
You enter a tent when the fire there is out. You have been careful to have a torch in your hand, or it would be better to say, a lighted piece of wood. You go along past the different girls in bed, and the one who puts it out, receives you in her arms. That is how it is sometimes done; but ordinarily you just go into a tent where you know there is a pretty girl, you stir up the fire so as to be able to pick her out among the other people, you bring her a present of a mirror, some glassware, a knife, or any other little thing, and your happiness is assured.
In general the savages do not know the charm of mystery and consider the actual formula with which one gives proof of lively emotion as an animal function and nothing more.
As I have said above, when I was travelling with an Indian family [of Menominee Indians], the husband would prove to his wife, before me, the lively interest she aroused in him; and that in a little tent twelve feet square, while I was tranquilly smoking my pipe, and no more embarrassed than if it had been the cat.
The women wear their hair smooth, parted on the forehead and falling over the shoulders. They wear a little skirt of blanket or leather, which they attach above the hips with a strap. Their corsage is formed by the same piece as the skirt and held up by a pair of small suspenders passing over the shoulders. Others wear a skirt separate from the waist, and in that case the skirt is held in the same way by a belt which is covered by the skirt falling back over it: as to the waist it is a sort of sleeveless waistcoat. The skirts come halfway to the knee. For stockings they wear a mitosse or embroidered leggings which come to the knee: for shoes, moccasins. On their backs they wear either a blanket or a skin, which covers them from head to foot. When they can have their clothes of blanket, red is the favorite color. On the trail they carry a baby, sometimes even two, inside the blanket on their back, and supported by the top of the head.
The women's costume is perhaps more picturesque than the men's.