CAR artifact pics

Wolf Creek Indian Garden

Update 6: Day 98 (4:00 pm, August 13th, 2009)

The Watchers’ Stage

Traditionally, a Hidatsa Watchers’ Stage was a raised platform approximately 5 x 5 foot in size and 5 feet tall constructed near the edge of their gardens (see Figure 1).  Young girls and women would sit atop these raised platforms to protect the ripening corn from theft and pests.  As Buffalo-Bird Woman, a Hidatsa native, related early in the 20th century to Gilbert Wilson (2005):

The season for watching the fields began early in August when green corn began to come in; for this was the time when ripening ears were apt to be stolen by horses, or birds, boys.  We did not watch the fields in the spring and early summer, to keep the crows from pulling up the newly sprouted grain; such damage we were content to repair by replanting.

Girls began to go on the watchers’ stage to watch the corn and sing, when they were about ten or twelve years of age.  They continued the custom even after they had grown up and married; and old woman, working in the garden and stopping to rest, often went on the stage and sang.

Two girls usually watched and sang together.  The village gardens were laid out close to one another; and a girl of one family would be joined by the girl of the family who owned the garden adjoining.  Sometimes three, or even four, girls got on the stage and sang together; but never more than four.  A drum was not used to accompany the singing.

The watchers sometimes rose and stood upon the stage as they looked to see if any boys or horses were in the field, stealing corn.  Older girls and young married women, and even old women, often worked at porcupine embroidery as they watched.  Very young girls did not embroider.

Boys of nine to eleven years of age were sometimes rather troublesome thieves.  They were fond of stealing green ears to roast by a fire in the woods.  Sometimes—not every day, however—we had to guard our corn alertly.  A boy caught stealing was merely scolded.  “You must not steal here again!” we would say to him.  His parents were not asked to pay damage for the theft.
We went to the watchers’ stage quite early in the day, before sunrise, or near it, and we came home at sunset.
The watching season continued until the corn was all gathered and harvested.


Fig 1

Figure 1  Sketch of Traditional Hidatsa Watchers’ Stage (adapted from Wilson 2005)

Fig 2

Figure 2  Audra Excavating a Posthole for the Garden Stage

Fig 3

Figure 3  Digging Postholes is so much Fun!

Fig 4

Figure 4  Doris and Audra with an Offering of Wichita Corn Kernels

Fig 5

Figure 5  The Four Corn Kernels in the Bottom of the NE Support Posthole

Fig 6

Figure 6  Looking NNE at the Completed Watchers’ Stage

Fig 7

Figure 7  The Juniper Poles Comprising the Stage Floor

Fig 8

Figure 8  View of the Supporting Beams and Underside of the Stage Floor

Fig 9

Figure 9  Side View of the Notched Cottonwood Ladder

Fig 10

Figure 10  Close-up of the SW Post and Supporting Beam

Fig 11

Figure 11  Mike, Audra, and Doris after Completing Construction of the Watchers’ Stage

Fig 12

Figure 12  A Texas Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma comutum) Hunting for Bugs among the Wichita Squash

Fig 13

Figure 13  A Soccer Ball-Sized Wichita Squash

Fig 14

Figure 14  The Arikara Watermelon Vines Continue to Spread and Produce New Melons

Fig 15

Figure 15  Close-up of Arikara Watermelon (10” Diameter)

Fig 16

Figure 16  Newly Emerged Hidatsa Sunflower Head

Fig 17

Figure 17  Close-up of Arikara Squash

Fig 18

Figure 18  Close-up of Arikara Squash Ready for Harvest

Fig 19

Figure 19  One to Four Foot Tall Sunflowers

Fig 20

Figure 20  Close-up of Wichita Squash

Fig 21

Figure 21  Looking West at Sunflower Rows

Fig 22

Figure 22  Looking the Southern Half of the Wolf Creek Indian Garden from Atop the Watchers’ Stage




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