Forgotten Frontiersman

In The Western Odyssey of John Simpson Smith, author Stan Hoig recalls a little remembered early pioneer of the American West.

Smith was a Kentucky boy. By 1830 he was in St. Louis and apprenticed to a tailor. He likely ran away that year and went west with a group of trappers and traders. He spent the winter in a Blackfeet Indian camp and learned to speak their language. The author says Smith likely participated in the 1835 rendevous of trappers and traders that met on the Green River. Among the men he met there were Jim Bridger and Kit Carson.

By 1840 Smith was living in a Cheyenne camp with his Cheyenne wife and her son. About 1842 the couple had a son called Jack. John Smith became a principal trader at Bent’s Fort. He accompanied several Indian delegations to Washington, serving as interpreter for treaty talks. Smith became an advisor to Indian Agents and official government interpreter for the four major treaties with the Cheyenne and Arapaho.

For an interesting and detailed account of life in the early West and in Indian camps, look for a copy of this book published in 1974 by The Arthur H. Clark Company, Glendale, California.


Moons and Seasons

MoonA year, for Plains Indians and many other Native American peoples, began with the first snow in the autumn. They measured time by moons and the seasons when certain events of nature took place. Here are some examples:

Jan      Time of flying ants
Apr     Moon of the big leaves
May    Season when the leaves are green
Jul       Moon of the horse/time of ripeness
Oct      Time when the corn is taken in

 Cheyenne (Great Plains)
Jan       Moon of the strong cold
Apr      When the geese lay eggs
May     When the horses get fat
Sep       Drying Grass Moon
Oct       Freeze begins on stream’s edge
Nov      Deer rutting moon
Dec      When the wolves run together


Jan       When snow blows like spirits in the wind
Feb      Frost sparking in the sun
Mar      Buffalo dropping their calves
Apr      Ice breaking in the river
May     When the ponies shed their shaggy hair
Jun      When the buffalo bellows
Jul        The hot weather begins
Aug      Geese shedding their feathers
Sep       Dying grass
Oct       Falling leaves
Nov     When the rivers start to freeze
Dec      Popping trees

Lakota (northern plains)

Jan        Hard moon
Feb       When the trees crack because of the cold
Mar      Moon of the sore eyes
Apr      When the wife had to crack bones for marrow
May      Moon of the green leaves
Jun       When the berries are good
Jul        When the chokecherries are black
Aug      Moon of the ripening
Set        Moon of the brown leaves
Oct       When the wind shakes off leaves
Nov     When winter begins
Dec      When the deer shed their antlers

Photo Courtesy NASA

Published in: on September 29, 2014 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Indian commissioners; Colorado connections Part 2

William W. Bent and Christopher (Kit) Carson 
 were among the men who represented the United States as commissioners in peace talks with the Plains Indians.

On October 14, 1865, at a meeting place along the Little Arkansas River in Kansas, chiefs of the Arapaho, Cheyenne and Apache nations signed a treaty with the U.S. government. The Apaches left their alliance with the Kiowa and Commanche to join with the Arapaho and Cheyenne.