Antoine of Oregon - James Otis

Wash Day

From this point on to the Little Vermilion Creek was eighteen miles over high, rolling prairie, and I believed we ought to make it in one day's travel, which we did.

[Illustration] from Antoine of Oregon by James Otis

We arrived at the creek about four o'clock in the afternoon, and within thirty minutes it seemed as if the banks of that small stream were literally lined with fires, over each of which was suspended a kettle filled with water. Tubs were brought out from all the wagons, for the women of our company had decided on making a "wash day" of the three or four hours remaining before sunset.

On seeing that Susan Mitchell was not taking part in this labor, I proposed that we ride five or six miles onward, where I knew would be found quite a large village of Kansas Indians. She was only too well pleased with the proposition, even though having been in the saddle since early morning.

To me one Indian village is much like another; but before we had come to the end of our journey Susan could point out the difference between a Kansas, a Pawnee, a Cheyenne, or a Sioux tepee.

[Illustration] from Antoine of Oregon by James Otis

The Kansas Indians make their houses about thirty feet in length by fifteen feet wide, and build them by sticking hickory saplings firmly into the ground in the shape of the lodge desired. These are bent to form an arch eight to ten feet in height, when the tops of the saplings are bound together by willow twigs. This forms the inner framework, which is covered with bark taken from linden trees; over this is another frame of saplings, also tied with willows, to bind the whole together securely and prevent the coverings from being blown away during a high wind.

Each of these lodges has one small door about four feet in height and three feet wide, while at the top of the hut is an opening for the smoke to pass out, when a fire is built in the center of the floor during cold or stormy weather.