I must say a word in regard to the character of this uncle, my father's brother, who was my ad- viser and teacher for many years. He was a man about six feet two inches in height, very erect and broad-shouldered. He was known at that time as one of the best hunters and bravest warriors among the Sioux in British America, where he still lives, for to this day we have failed to persuade him to return to the United States.
He is a typical Indian--not handsome, but truthful and brave. He had a few simple princi- ples from which he hardly ever departed. Some of these I shall describe when I speak of my early training.
It is wonderful that any children grew up through all the exposures and hardships that we suffered in those days! The frail teepee pitched anywhere, in the winter as well as in the summer, was all the protection that we had against cold and storms. I can recall times when we were snowed in and it was very difficult to get fuel. We were once three days without much fire and all of this time it stormed violently. There seemed to be no special anxiety on the part of our people; they rather looked upon all this as a matter of course, knowing that the storm would cease when the time came.
I could once endure as much cold and hunger as any of them; but now if I miss one meal or accidentally wet my feet, I feel it as much as if I had never lived in the manner I have described, when it was a matter of course to get myself soak- ing wet many a time. Even if there was plenty to eat, it was thought better for us to practice fast- ing sometimes; and hard exercise was kept up continually, both for the sake of health and to prepare the body for the extraordinary exertions that it might, at any moment, be required to undergo. In my own remembrance, my uncle used often to bring home a deer on his shoulder. The distance was sometimes con- siderable; yet he did not consider it any sort of a feat.
The usual custom with us was to eat only two meals a day and these were served at each end of the day. This rule was not invariable, how- ever, for if there should be any callers, it was Indian etiquette to offer either tobacco or food, or both. The rule of two meals a day was more closely observed by the men--especially the younger men--than by the women and children. This was when the Indians recognized that a true manhood, one of physical activity and endurance, depends upon dieting and regular exercise. No such system is practised by the reservation Indians of to-day.
AS a motherless child, I always re- garded my good grandmother as the wisest of guides and the best of protectors. It was not long before I began to realize her su- periority to most of her contempo- raries. This idea was not gained entirely from my own observation, but also from a knowledge of the high regard in which she was held by other wo- men. Aside from her native talent and ingenuity, she was endowed with a truly wonderful memory. No other midwife in her day and tribe could com- pete with her in skill and judgment. Her obser- vations in practice were all preserved in her mind for reference, as systematically as if they had been written upon the pages of a note-book.
I distinctly recall one occasion when she took me with her into the woods in search of certain medicinal roots.
"Why do you not use all kinds of roots for medicines?" said I.