Wednesday, January 17, 2007

William Augustus Bowles (1763-1805)

January 16, 1792: Leading a force of 300 Creek and Seminole warriors, Willaim Augusts Bowles has surrounded St.Marks, Florida. After holding out for several weeks, the Spanish will surrender to Bowles today. They will seize the supplies and will be forced out by a Spanish force in a few months. Bowles will conquer the fort again on May 19, 1800.


William Augustus Bowles (1763-1805)

Born in Frederick, Maryland in 1763, William Augustus Bowles represented one of the very few loyalists west of the Chesapeake Bay to join the British cause.

As a young teenager, he was commissioned with the rank of ensign in the First Battalion of Maryland Loyalists in the spring of 1778. He followed the regiment to Pensacola and resigned, only to return more than a year later. After the British surrender at Fort George, he returned with his regiment to New York where he performed in several theatre productions with British officers.

After the war, he returned to Florida to live with his friends, the Creek Indians. He became their leader of sorts and kept the United States terrified of Indian uprisings in the Florida territory. Bowles married a Creek woman and adopted the Creek ways. He routinely visited London in his native Indian garb, attracting considerable attention. Eventually, however, his old enemies, the Spanish, caught up with him and he was imprisoned in Cuba where he died in 1805.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Mandan Buffalo Dance

January 5th, 1805: Lewis and Clark describe buffalo dance.

( George Catlin image courtesy of )

( The following from )

Dance with the Mandans

Members of the Corps of Discovery celebrated the New Year by joining the Mandans in their village for music and dancing. The dances continued each day through January 5th, the Mandans believing that the buffalo dance would attract herds to be hunted. Within days a herd of buffalo showed up. Of the dance, Sergeant John Ordway wrote:

"January 1st, 1805 - We...went up to the 1st village of Mandans to dance as it had been their request. carried with us a fiddle & a Tambereen & a Sounden horn. as we arived at the entrence of the vil[lage] we fired one round. then the music played. loaded again. then marched to the center of the village [and] fired again. then commenced dancing. a frenchman danced on his head and all danced round him for a short time, then went in to a lodge & danced a while, which pleased them verry much. they then brought vectules from different lodges...& Some buffalow Robes which they made us a present off. So we danced in different lodges untill late in the afternoon. then a part of the men returned to the fort. The remainder stayed all night in the village."

( Close-up of Catlin painting courtesy of )

( The following from )

Their (Mandan) religion ... incorporates three primary ceremonies. The first, held annually, is the celebration of the subsiding of the great flood. The second is the buffalo dance that is performed as a prayer to the Great Spirit in supplication to send the buffalo. And lastly is the bull dance, used to conduct all the young men of the tribe into manhood by testing their endurance and discipline through deprivation and self-inflicted torture. After going without food for several days, the skin of the initiate is pierced, thongs were attached and weighted buffalo skulls were tied to these thongs, with the entire village joined in communal singing, initiates danced around a "medicine pole" erected in the center of the village, until the skulls have pulled loose from their flesh. There were many other festivals and ceremonies celebrated by the Mandan, all of which focused around the great medicine lodge which stood in the center of the village and was the domain of the "mystery men" who were the holy men of the Mandan. Beyond these three primary ceremonies, and perhaps central to all ceremonies, is the Mandan's use of the Sacred Pipe ...

( The following from )

The Buffalo Dance (Mandan)

The most exciting event of the year's festival was the Buffalo Dance. Eight men participated, wearing buffalo skins on their backs and painting themselves black, red, and white. Dancers endeavoured to imitate the buffalo on the prairie.

Each dancer held a rattle in his right hand, and in his left a six-foot rod. On his head, he wore a bunch of green willow boughs. The season for the return of the buffalo coincided with the willow trees in full leaf. Another dance required only four tribesmen, representing the four main directions of the compass from which the buffalo might come. With a canoe in the centre, two dancers, dressed as grizzly bears who might attack the hunters, took their places on each side. They growled and threatened to spring upon anyone who might interfere with the ceremony.

Onlookers tried to appease the grizzlies by tossing food to them. The two dancers would pounce upon the food, carrying it away to the prairie as possible lures for the coming of the buffaloes.

During the ceremony, the old men of the tribe beat upon drums and chanted prayers for successful buffalo hunting.

By the end of the fourth day of the Buffalo Dance, a man entered the camp disguised as the evil spirit of famine. Immediately he was driven away by shouts and stone-throwing from the younger Mandans, who waited excitedly to participate in the ceremony.

When the demon of famine was successfully driven away, the entire tribe joined in the bountiful thanksgiving feast, symbolic of the early return of buffalo to the Mandan hunting-grounds.