Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete
Page: 209This, too, is the story of Starved Rock, on Illinois River, near Ottawa, Illinois. It is a sandstone bluff, one hundred and fifty feet high, with a slope on one side only. Its summit is an acre in extent, and at the order of La Salle his Indian lieutenant, Tonti, fortified the place and mounted a small cannon on it. He died there afterward. After the killing of Pontiac at Cahokia, some of his people—the Ottawas—charged the crime against their enemies, the Illinois. The latter, being few in number, entrenched themselves on Starved Rock, where they kept their enemies at bay, but were unable to break their line to reach supplies. For a time they secured water by letting down bark vessels into the river at the end of thongs, but the Ottawas came under the bluff in canoes and cut the cords. Unwilling to surrender, the Illinois remained there until all had died of starvation. Bones and relics are found occasionally at the top.
There is yet another place of which a similar narrative is extant—namely, Crow Butte, Nebraska, which is two hundred feet high and vertical on all sides save one, but on that a horseman may ascend in safety. A company of Crows, flying from the Sioux, gained this citadel and defended the path so vigorously that their pursuers gave over all attempts to follow them, but squatted calmly on the plain and proceeded to starve them out. On a dark night the besieged killed some of their ponies and made lariats of their hides, by which they reached the ground on the unguarded side of the rock. They slid down, one at a time, and made off all but one aged Indian, who stayed to keep the camp-fire burning as a blind. He went down and surrendered on the next day, but the Sioux, respecting his age and loyalty, gave him freedom.
A YELLOWSTONE TRAGEDY
Although the Indians 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 whoso 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 Yellowstone Park. 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 Yellowstone—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 placed 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.