Visiting A Pony Smoke

On December 15, 1901, The New York Times ran a first person account of an Osage pony smoke. It was written by W.R. Draper, a white man. He attended with Cherokee friends under the guise of being a half blood relative. Following are excerpts from Draper’s account.

Osage camp          The event took place in the fall on the banks of Beaver Creek during the time of a full moon. The location was “not far south of Pawhuska, the Osage council town.”
          “The Osage invite their friends to attend the smoke on a certain date. The invitations are sent out by special messengers and written in such signs as to be out of reach of the ordinary Indian…But it is a communication which the medicine men understand, and they tell their tribesmen when and where the smoke is to occur.”
          “…as we spied the camp of 300 tepees pitched in the open valley, a hum of the medicine man came across the still night air. It rose louder and louder as the ponies carried us nearer. By the time we had reached camp it was a wild, weird chanting.”
Osage          “The Poncas came clad in gay trappings. Their faces were painted and their bare limbs polished until they shown like burnished copper.”
          “Before daybreak the camp was astir. The subchiefs of the Osages, their war bonnets dancing from their heads, held high and dignified, rode over and had a talk with the Ponca leaders. The visitors were informed that a dance of welcome would occur at 10 [a.m.]. The Poncas hastened to devour their morning meal…[T]hen all tepee flaps were tightly closed, while gorgeous colors were daubed here and there on faces and bodies of the visitors. The Osage in their camp a hundred yards upstream were doing likewise.”
          “A little before the appointed hour a couple of Osages entered the dancing circle – a strip of ground cleared and sprinkled with white powder. [They] commenced to pound the tom tom…A circle of Osages was soon formed…The Poncas arranged a second circle around [the Osage]…the medicine men let out a piercing scream, and the dance was well on in a few seconds.”
          “Hours sped by, but there was no sign of quitting. Occasionally, a squaw would throw up her hands and fall over in a faint. Her place would be filled by others…After six hours of steady dancing some of the young men fell, too. At midnight the dance stopped, and all jumped into the cold waters of Beaver creek for a bath.”
          “After a feast of dog meat, certain bucking ponies were brought forward. They were handsome little beasts, strong and wiry. These were given to the visitors…Certain young bucks, who had been selected by their own people to accept the first offerings of presents, came forward…they examined the flesh and bone of the little animals thoroughly…[They] determined that a certain yellow and white spotted animal was the best of the lot. All of course wanted her. She was untamed and unridden. The first man to ride her one hundred yards [would win her].”
          “Little Elk was the first victim. Although a hunter and trailer of many years experience, he had no sooner touched the back [of the horse] than he found himself tossed high and clear of the crowd. [The next man] suffered the same fate.”
          “Then came Tall Bull. He won the animal, but just by a scratch. [He] passed the line by ten feet when his feet slipped from their moorings under the pony and he went spinning upwards. Tall Bull was the hero of the pony smoke.”
          “[The event] lasted a week…every night much [like] the first night’s proceeding. Three hundred ponies were given to the Poncas. In exchange, the Osages took thirty Ponca women for brides…These Ponca squaws were wooed and won under the regular forms of Indian courtship.”

Published in: on December 1, 2014 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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