W-MCP2-3b.053 TO THOMAS B. MCQUESTEN ESQ. B.A., from his brother [Rev.] Calvin McQuesten
Jun 18 1904
To: Thomas Baker McQuesten 'Whitehern' Hamilton, Ontario
From: Stand Off, Alberta
My dear Tom,
It was too bad that we should both be so situated that the birthday good wishes cannot reach us on the day, but you may be sure that they will be wished just the same and that most heartily. Have not yet received Mother's letter about convocation week, but am sure you must have had a great time. It is one of the most memorable times in a fellow's life I imagine. I was similarly glad to hear that you were all going hear Greet's company. I saw it a year ago on the McGill campus in "As You Like It" and I never enjoyed an entertainment so much in my life. I thought Miss Mathison was simply exquisite and fine literary appreciation, such finished wit and so fascinating in personality and free from the slightest suggestion of nervousness. I was not surprised to hear the other day that English students of Shakespeare consider her the greatest Shakespearian actress on the stage to-day.
So you have taken to the woods again. I wish I could have got you something worth while out here so that you could have seen this country. But it's almost impossible to get a temporary job worth enough to have much over after the return fare was paid. I am sorry because it won't be possible to see this country as it is now much longer.
At present there are about 800 Blackfoot camped near here for the sun-dance, a three weeks' festival in which you see the redskin more like his forefathers than at any other time. It is a sort of religious affair you know, different dances & ritual for each day, most elaborate & mystical, but very hard to get any explanation of. The young Indians who speak English either cannot or will not tell much, and most of the white men who have lived here long enough to get confidential are not of an investigating turn of mind.1
The arrangements are made & carried out in a sort of Masonic society called "The Horus" of which am finding out a little, piece-meal. Yesterday, I saw their reception of new members; and I understand that as part of the initiation, the new member spends a night in a tepee alone with the wife of the member who introduces him. Both go in stark naked, and they believe that, if the man touches the woman, he will die within a year. Men who have been known to fail in the ordeal have certainly died within the year, whether naturally or not, do not know.
I am getting all the good snapshots I can, and shall get them developed by a man in Macleod who does good work, as do not wish to practice on what I can't replace. The other day got one of a portly but stately chief named "Blackfoot-Old-Woman," a most benevolent-looking old dear who many years ago killed one of his wives every year for three years in fulfillment of the interpretation of a dream.2
Am going up again this afternoon, so please excuse this short scrawl.
1 Calvin wrote an article describing the ceremonial dances. See Box 14-099.
2 Calvin describes another account of this story in W-MCP2-3b.055.