From On the Upper Missouri


September 6 1851


It is odd—yet worthy of note---that just such savages, engages, clerks, and even bourgeois cannot have enough of distinguishing themselves as “Mountaineers” on their return to the States or when they go back there on their visits.  The attract attention in their highly ornamented buckskin clothes, by performing Indian dances and imitating Indian war cries, in order that they may be regarded as the hardy, fearless, jovial “Mountaineers,” a name synonymous with famous huntsmen, distinguished warriors, bold and crafty trappers such as are described in books.  While they take pleasure in making themselves conspicuous among their white brothers as savages, they try  to make a forcible impression upon their red brothers here as white men.  He knows---at least, the usual engage knows--- that he is unable to do this except in the matter of clothes, which the poor Indian cannot get, for the former has none of those qualities one ascribes to the “Mountaineer.” On the other hand, the Indian Possess them all in high degree.


September 20 1851

Denig said today that he never wears anything at all that belongs distinctly to Indian dress, for the reason that Indian can take pride in procuring for themselves clothes according to our mode and have an ambition to appear dressed as white men, because they regard our garments as more fashionable and expensive.  A white person in Indian costume inspires no especial respect among the tribes; on the contrary, he rather lowers  himself in their estimation.  Furthermore, if he is a white man in Indian garb of a different tribe, he runs far more risk of being killed, because he may not be recognized in that disguise as a paleface.  That is possibly Mr. Denig’s real reason for discarding buckskin clothes, which are certainly more serviceable against sun and mosquitoes when one is on horseback.  However, he rarely goes outside the fort anymore.


The clerks, who will stay here for years, endeavor to oblige the latter.  They wear clothes made of materials that the company carries in stock and on which a considerable profit is realized.  For that reason, such an arrangement is acceptable to them.  Most of the engages bring with them quantities of clothing for which they paid much less at the place whence they came and which afford them a good article for trade amongst themselves.


The “Mountaineer” costume in which they array themselves in St Joseph and St. Louis, they have made before their departure for the purpose of distinguishing themselves.  Such suits of clothes are made up and sold at Fort Pierre.  Buffalo hides are said to be prepared there and marked for sale.


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