White Shirt

from the collection of W. C. McKern

Original manuscript pages: | 326 | 327 | 328 |

(326) A Ponca Indian, White Shirt, was a Nebraska or North Dakota Indian. About 15 years ago, we went over there to introduce peyote. John Rave and some others went along. We raised some money for the food. White shirt had been on the warpath many times. The meeting was held one Saturday night. He was between 70 and 80 years old. Both he and his wife took the medicine. Then they were singing. In the morning, when daylight came, he said he wanted to say something, this old man. So he said, "Well, brother, I thank you for bringing to us this great thing of which we did not know before. I want to thank you for bringing us this great thing. Many times have I been on the warpath. I was conceded to be a brave man. So tonight, I found that in this I was wrong. I have a granddaughter who died not very long ago. Then I saw her tonight, with the angels. She had a white dress and a bright face. So I worry a great deal about my grandchild. (327) Then I found out that we didn't take good care of her. God could take better care of her than we could. So he took her away from us. She showed me the good way towards our Great Father in heaven. So new light came into my mind, and I have to live a new life hereafter. I told her, "My wife, we must do just as she said, so that we shall someday see our grandchild in that good place. Because that is the only way we shall be able to see our grandchild again. So what I have used, the warclub and things like that, I shall throw away. We will not need them again because we are to start out on a new life." I never knew of this thing until you brought it to us. That is what this medicine showed me through the will of our Great Father. My wife feels the same way. So we give up ourselves to the Great Father. So remember us in your prayers. So I want you to stay another night. I will provide a whole beef for the food." He was a chief as well as a brave. Thus he confessed himself and asked that he and his wife be baptized. (328) He could only speak the Indian language.

That is all.1

Commentary. "15 years ago" — this would be around the year 1912 when Radin was beginning his field work among the Hocągara.

"70 and 80 years old" — born between 1847 and 1857.

"medicine" — peyote, whose active psychedelic chemical is mescaline.

"we didn't take good care of her" — this, no doubt, was due to the poverty that resulted from the U. S. government's relocation policies.

"a whole beef " — this represents a great sacrifice.

"confessed" — this is an expression that some Christian sects use to mean that a person has made a declaration of his faith. This is not to be confused with Catholic confession.

Comparative Material. ...

Links: ...

Stories: about the Native American Church: John Rave's Account of the Peyote Cult and of His Conversion, The Death of Henry Harris’ Daughter, A Peyote Vision, A Peyote Story, Peyote as an Evil Spirit, The Arapaho Girl, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts; mentioning the Ponca: Introduction.

Themes: someone takes peyote and has visions: A Peyote Vision, John Rave's Account of the Peyote Cult and of His Conversion, The Death of Henry Harris’ Daughter.


1 W. C. McKern, Winnebago Notebook (Milwaukee: Milwaukee Public Museum, 1927) 326-328.