feared the geyser basins of the upper Yellowstone
country, believing the hissing and thundering to be voices of evil
spirits, they regarded the mountains at the head of the river as the crest
of the world, and who so gained their summits could see the happy
hunting-grounds below, brightened with the homes of the blessed. They
loved this land in which their fathers had hunted, and when they were
driven back from the settlements the Crows took refuge in what is now
Even here the soldiers pursued them, intent on avenging
acts that the red men had committed while suffering under the sting of
tyranny and wrong. A mere remnant of the fugitive band gathered at the
head of that mighty rift in the earth known as the Grand Canon of the
-- a remnant that had succeeded in escaping the bullets of the soldiery,
-- and with Spartan courage they resolved to die rather than be taken and
carried away to pine in a distant prison.
They built a raft and
laced it on the river at the foot of the upper fall, and for a few
days they enjoyed the plenty and peace that were their privilege in
former times. A short-lived peace, however, for one morning they are
aroused by the crack of rifles -- the troops are upon them.
Old Faithful, Jon Sullivan, June 2003. This image available for
photographic prints and downloads
Boarding their raft they thrust it toward
the middle of the stream, perhaps with the idea of gaining the
opposite shore, but, if such is their intent, it is thwarted by the
rapidity of the current. A few among them have guns, that they discharge with
slight effect at the troops, who stand wondering on the shore. The
soldiers forbear to fire, and watch, with something like dread, the
descent of the raft as it passes into the current, and, with many a
turn and pitch, whirls on faster and faster. The death-song rises
triumphant above the lash of the waves and that distant but awful
booming that is to be heard in the canon. Every red man has his face
turned toward the foe with a look of defiance, and the tones of the
death-chant have in them something of mockery no less than hate and
raft is now between the jaws of rock that yawn so hungrily. Beyond and
below are vast walls, shelving toward the floor of the gulf a thousand
feet beneath--their brilliant colors shining in the sun of morning
that sheds as peaceful a light on wood and hill as if there were no
such thing as brother hunting brother in this free land of ours. The
raft is galloping through the foam like a racehorse, and, hardened as
the soldiers are, they cannot repress a shudder as they see the fate
that the savages have chosen for themselves. Now the brink is reached.
The raft tips toward the gulf, and with a cry of triumph the red men
are launched over the cataract, into the bellowing chasm, where the
mists weep forever on the rocks and mosses.
of America, updated March, 2017.
About the Author: Charles M. Skinner (1852-1907) authored the
complete nine volume set of Myths and Legends of Our Own Land in
1896. This tale is excerpted from these excellent works, which are
now in the public domain.