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Tibbles, Thomas Henry. Buckskin and Blanket Days: Memoirs of a Friend of the Indians. New York: Doubleday, 1957 [1905].

While we were in Boston in 1879, a lady told me that after studying ethnology for years in books and museums she now wished to visit Indian tribes in their own lodges, living as they lived and observing their daily customs herself–especially the women’s and children’s ways.

"Did you ever camp out?" I asked.

"No, never."

I found it hard to take her plan seriously. She, a thorough product of city life, was evidently nearing her forties. I could not imagine her leaving all her home comforts to go out to the far frontier and live among the Indians in an Indian lodge. Still, she was so earnest that I reluctantly agreed to take her some day with our group for the trip she wished. But I gave her fair warning: "You can’t stand such a trip. You’ll have to sleep on the cold ground. The food will be strange to you. You’ll meet storms on the open prairie and be wet to the skin. Burning sun and wind will blister your face and hands. Long days of traveling will exhaust you. You’ll have no privacy night or day. I’m sure you never can endure it."

"Yes, I can!" she insisted.


p. 238-9

…We drove northward across the Winnebago reserve and the Santee Sioux Agency–through a steady series of rainstorms, broken whiffletrees, muddy roads, balky spells of a pony, thunderstorms during our night camping, and winds which burned our ethnologist’s face to a blister. But that city-bred lady stood everything without one complaint.

To her great delight Wajapa therefore gave her an Indian name from his own tribe and family–the eagle family. The word described the sweep of the eagle when high in the air. After Bright Eyes had made several faulty attempts to translate it by some one English word, I hinted that "Highflyer" might do, but that suggestion did not please our ethnologist at all.


p. 256-7

…a real tempest was brewing. The ethnologist, who had bought a lining for the tent, proposed slipping it in under the tent poles. While we were discussing how best to do this, Wajapa made some remark which led the lady to comment impulsively: "You speak to us as if we were children."

I saw Wajapa’s face change. When I looked up from my task a moment later he was gone…

Under all these circumstances I was thankful that I already had met one pressing problem of that day more tactfully than the Highflyer had met hers, but, unlike her, I had known the Indian mind from long personal experience.


p. 267-8

Meanwhile on that first evening White Thunder and a number of other chiefs called on us and gave us a right royal welcome. A half-breed came also, an agency employee, to interpret for the ethnologist. She began to use him in questioning Ausapi about agency affairs but she found the chief very reticent Finally the half-breed began to talk to her on his own account, his words almost tumbling over each other. His statement that they had only part of a sawmill there, at which nothing was done and no Indian could get any lumber sawed, while the agent’s own nineteen-year-old boy, small for his age, drew a salary of fifty dollars a month as the miller, caused the ethnologist to express great indignation. She took out her notebook to record the facts, but as soon as she began to write, the half-breed grew so frightened that he would talk no more and soon left the tent.

Then I began to worry. We knew nothing about that half-breed. He might go straight to the agent and, repeating every impulsive word the Highflyer had said, add to these a great deal she had not said at all. It was only a year since I had had my own troubles and had faced genuine risks in the Indian Territory reserves. …

So I earnestly begged the Highflyer not to talk publicly about anything except the scientific angle of her work. She must repress any other remarks until we all had left this reservation well behind us. But she would not heed my warnings. She was sure that no agent would dare to arrest her, though I told her that I had seen judges, lawyers, authors, and scientists make the same mistake out here on the plains — to their cost.

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