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Wa-pee Moos-tooch
Chapter II
His Childhood and Early Teachers

It was into great territory such as we have described, and into conditions such as we have depicted, that White Buffalo came as inheritor therein. His childhood was like that of multitudes of the children of the forest and the plain. But his boyhood gave evidence of a strong individuality, and in all that affected the education of his time, the lad was widely awake. When other boys were sliding downhill on pieces of bark or on little toboggans made of the long ribs of the buffalo, this boy was sitting in the lodge of Atoos-o-Kao, the arrow maker, watching the expert handiwork, as with deftness the old warrior placed the flint in the head of the seasoned Mis-as-quit, or blueberry stick, and fastened this with the sinew of the great bull, and taking the other end, with precision and mathematical placement he arranged feathers and secured them to the arrow. As the old man thus plied his trade, the coming man was asking his questions. How about the land away in the far \vest; how about the regions that lie under the midday sun. For the old arrow maker was renowned as one who had travelled far and had seen much, and he gave Write Buffalo lessons in geography. He told of the interlacing of the great river system, where the waters of the Saskatchewan and Missouri entwined themselves and seemed as one. He told of the great hill countries on the plain Moose-wha-che, (Moose Mountains), the Mis-tik-wa-che, or Woody Mountains. and still farther west on the great upland, the Me-nah-tuh-gow, the beautiful forests, known today as the Cypress Hills, and farther still the We-kusk-wa-che, or sweet grass buttes, and as the boy listened and his eyes opened, while the old man described this faraway land, the arrow maker would say:

"And now away towards the setting sun, my grandchild, if you would lift your eyes, you would behold great mountains, the backbone of the world," and he would tell of snow that never melts, and of the ice that seemed forever growing, and the little White Buffalo would say:

"And, my grandfather, what is beyond?" And the old man would look at the lad in reproach and say: "Have I not told you enough?" And the boy would drop his eyes and reply: "Oh, my grandfather, surely you have told me enough—it is wonderful!"

The fact was that the old man did not know what was beyond, for even then, as it is now, men were reluctant to confess their ignorance. And now came the next question.

"And what took you there, my grandfather?" And the old man would tell this keen listener of many a war expedition into the land of the Sioux, and again into the country of the Blackfoot tribes. Thus White Buffalo was acquiring his education.

Another day would find him in the lodge of the O-me-tao, the medicine man, and O-me-tao would astonish the boy with his lesson at medicine making, medicine that was strong in war, and made the person of the owner invulnerable; medicine that reached out from him who was fortunate enough to possess it, and, like wireless telegraphy, flew through space and met the enemy afar and paralyzed sense and limb, so that he became the easy victim of his foe. O-me-tao told him of medicine which cast a spell upon the sentinel who was standing guard over the coveted horse, and his limbs would slacken, and his eyes would droop, and an irresistible drowsiness would come upon him, and thus the possessor of this potent medicine could slip quietly in, and take almost out of the hand of the owner his much-loved horse. Then as the warrior rode away into the darkness astride his capture, he would fling back a derisive yell which would hardly arouse the poor victim from his sleep. O-me-tao would continue to tell, as the boy intensely listened to the story of his art, of the power of his medicine in hunting:

"But touch the arrow with it, and it would not miss, but pierce to the death the prey the hunter was after. Rub a little of this on the mocassin, and the trapper would be sure that all fur-bearing animals that came upon his trail would follow on until they became victims of his cunningly set traps and snares. Faintly touch the bait of the deadfall with this wonderful medicine and the marten would he sure to go in. Smear but a little upon a tuft of grass shoved into the end of a split stick, and this in turn put in through the hidden snare and stuck in the snow behind the bar, with the snare fastened to it, and the lynx would put his head through and be caught"—and then the old man would look up at the boy and would say:

"You are young yet, my child, but some day as the winters pass, you will come to me, and I will tell you about my wonderful love medicine," and the growing lad would answer, "Surely there is time enough for that, my grandfather."

Another day White Buffalo in his eager pursuit after knowledge would slip into the lodge of O-ni-pis-kao, the one who acted death, the man who intoned his creed, and chanted his hymn, and under the influence of his own intensity, having possibly hypnotized himself, and gone into a trance, and thus for the time was like one who is dead, and then his spirit went afar into the unknown and again in due time came from thence, and re-occupying what had seemed to be his inanimate body, O-ni-pis-kao would tell of strange and marvellous scenes, and White Buffalo would listen to the supernatural. Thus O-ni-pis-kao took his young pupil into regions afar and unknown, and unseen by the ordinary mortal. These were some of the lines of White Buffalo's education. They fired him with ambition to become in his own time like these men, a great traveller, a big medicine man, and also familiar with that which is mysterious and extraordinary. In the meanwhile he was learning the practical side of life, by becoming expert as a marksman. Already he was part of the commissiarat. When very young he had killed his first Peyao, or prairie chicken, as his father had said:

"Now, my son, I must make a big hunt, for according to the custom of our people, your mother will have to prepare a great feast, inasmuch as our little boy has brought in his first game.''

And the father went forth and killed the buck moose, and the mother brought forth her bag of dried berries, and the people feasted and sang, "White Buffalo is a hunter," and the boy was launched out into the life of his time. Soon he became expert in the use of snares and deadfalls. Presently his father took him with him on his hunting trips, and beside many a camp fire he listened to tales of prowess and skill in the chase. To excel in all these pursuits became the boy's great ambition, and to do this, he went farther, and risked more than the ordinary lads of his age in the camps. When in the timber belts, and in the more secure places, in the lands where the plains people would shrink from coming, and while the rest of the camp was feasting, White Buffalo roamed, always alone, and thus a strong independence took hold of his nature. He was hunting for himself. He was seeing the world from his own viewpoint. Many a deer he killed with bow and quiver, and was greatly delighted when his mother made him moccasins out of the hides of the moose of his own slaying. Few boys of his age started out as early in life as White Buffalo had done. One day he encountered a bear, and wounding the animal with his arrow, the bear turned on him, and the boy fought him and killed him with his scalping knife. His mother did chide him because of his lack of care, but his father said:

"Well done, my son."

In the winter seasons he went with his father on long trips to set snares for wildcats. Presently he asked permission to go of his own account and set a line of snares, and a very proud boy was White Buffalo when he had caught his first lynx and proved to his mother that he had learned his lesson in this art. He watched his father making deadfalls, and again he went on his own line of march, and set up his deadfalls, and after a few days he walked into camp with several marten hanging from his belt. As the snow deepened his father bent for him the snowshoe stick, and made the frame neat and right and proportionate to his size. and his mother smiled as the mothers of the race have always smiled as she deftly wove in the deer or cariboo rawhide strings, both small and big, as was needed to complete the snowshoes. White Buffalo had often put his father's big snowshoes on and tramped around the camp. So now, with pride he tied his own neat shoes to his feet, and throwing his bow and quiver over his neck and across his back, he started out into the forest, feeling that at last he indeed was growing to manhood. Great good fortune seemed to follow our boy hero, for on this very first day of his long tramp on his own snowshoes, he came across the den of a big black bear, and full of ambition he dared to rouse the bear from his early winter sleep, and was was successful in killing him. Many a boy in the camp that night was filled for the moment with envy, as it was noised abroad, "White Buffalo had found and killed a big black bear today."

And then he drove the envious feeling from his heart, and said to those around him, "I am glad, for if we live, some day White Buffalo will be my O-gimao (Chief). There was something in the makeup of this child of the forest and plain which made his fellows conscious that he was greater than they. In a dispute among the boys in the camp some one would say, "Here comes White Buffalo, he will settle it." Shooting at a difficult target, if there should arise a contention among the marksmen, it was left to White Buffalo, and whatever he said was accepted by all. Some great fight which had become history in the records of their people might be related by one of the boys to the listening crowd of younger ones. And another lad would speak up and say: "Ah, there now you have forgotten, that is not the way it occurred. It was Ma-ickun, the Wolfe, who led our people, not the Ma-ka-son, the Fox, as you have said just now." And each boy would contend for his version, and then all would appeal to White Buffalo, and he would set them straight in their history.

Thus the lad became the chief among the boys in the camp, without himself aspiring to the position in any wise.

And now he was up in his teens, and one day he went to the priest of the camp and said to him:

"My grandfather, tell me of the faith of our people. Tell me what men mean when they say Opaw-ahun, meaning the one he dreams about.'"

And the seer did make answer: "You know, my child, there are two great spirits. Keshamanito, the great merciful spirit, and the Machimanito, the evil spirit. The Keshamanito is the Creator. He made the Heaven and the earth. Moreover, he is the upholder. The sun and the moon shine at his bidding. Winter and spring. summer and autumn come at his call. He makes the snow melt, and the rivers run full. He calls the grass and it springs from the ground. He says unto the flowers 'Come forth and smile and be glad.' He hangs the fruit on the vine and on the tree. He tells the birds when to fly north and where to make nest. He says to the wild fowl. 'This is your nesting time, this is your moulting season.' He speaks and they come from the south and spread themselves in our land. He says to the buffalo and to the moose and to the elk, and to all the deer kind. 'This is your mating season.' and gathering herds listen to his voice. He creams the grass when it is full grown; he paints the forest; he blows with his wind and the leaves fall. He breathes with his nostril and the north wind comes, and the buffalo draw in from the great plain, and sniffing the chill of the coming winter, say: 'We will travel into the forest lands of the north country. We will cross the Ka-na-na-wa-o-gamag (the chain of lakes and rivers today called the Qu'Appelle). We will wash our feet in waters of the Amiskoseepe, the Beaver River. We will cross the Askawawe Seepe, the open water river, (now known as the South Saskatchewan); yea, we will go on into the country across the Big Saskatchewan.'

And in this way many peoples are fed and clothed. Thus my child you will see how full of mercy, how wise in his great plans the Keshamanito is. Forever you will speak of him with reverence; forever you will think of him with love; for this life he has done everything needful. The mountains from whence flow the great rivers, the great plains oil feed the countless herds, the big forest lands, the home of many animals full of blessing to man, the lakes and rivers wherein move the fish, and upon whose waters swarm the birds, the sunshine and darkness, the summer and the winter, are all his provision for us children whom he does love with a constant love."

And White Buffalo's heart would swell as he thought of this wonderful being. And the old man would go on with his recital And this is not all, my child. The Keshamanito has provided another world for his children. We know but little about it, my child, but our people have forever believed in it. Someone must have told them about that other world. How else could they know? They say it is surpassingly beautiful. Sometimes I have climbed to the top of the big bill, and the day was quiet, and this earth was glad, and I looked and beheld, and my spirit seemed satisfied. And I said: ' Great, great is Keshamanito!' But, my child, they tell me that this other world is away and beyond in beauty, in richness, in happiness, and our people for ages have called it the Mewaenoaske— the Happy Land. Thus, my child, you will always love Keshamanito. But this other spirit, this evil spirit"—and the old man lowered his voice and spoke in hushed tones.

He has wonderful power in this world that we now live in. He can bring in sickness and famine. He can put it into the heart of the buffalo leader to say unto the herd, 'Let us not go north at this time,' and the herd will listen, and the people of this north country, and all over this land, will starve and die in consequence. He can, my child, coax the north wind to stay away in his northern home, and the snows will keep him company, and here up and clown the banks of these rivers, and all through these forest-covered hills, the grass is crisp and dry, the leaves are forever speaking as von walk. The frozen twigs are brittle and snap almost without your having touched them, and all the land is full with voices, which speak into the ear of the deer and the moose, and the elk and all food-making animals, an(] they bound away from your presence, and the most cunning of our hunters will come home weary and faint, having failed, and there is crying in our lodges, and the children are hungry, and the mothers are sad, and the father's heart heavy. For this evil spirit is against him.

Again, our enemies seem to have gamed his favor, and are for the time being victorious over us. Our bravest men are foiled, our scouts, keen eyed and keen scented, and trained as they are, act for a while as if they were under a spell, as if their eyes had dimmed, as if their ears had dulled, as if their whole sense was away from its usual condition. And our war parties stumble into ambushes, and are discovered by the enemy, and our bravest men are slain, and there is mourning and sadness in our camp. The evil spirit is offended. Our people have lost his favor. Then, my son, we make vows, and we offer sacrifice, and when the midsummer time comes, we gather our people and build a great thirst dance lodge. and all who have vowed fulfil their vows by fasting and thirsting, and punishment of the body, and constant petition. Then it will come to pass that the evil spirit will be pleased, and remove the blight he had cast upon its. Then our hunters will kill game, and our warriors are victorious, and our people are healthy, and we sacrifice to this evil spirit all the while remembering that the great father is forever good unto us, his children."

This was White Buffalo's student day. These were his teachers, and with the passing of the years he became an adept in the creeds and traditions and mythologies of his race. By this time White Buffalo had become a skillful hunter. Ordinary deer were his frequent victims. The great elk had felt the sharp thrust of his unerring arrow, and bounding away wondered what was the matter with his breath, but after a few leaps fell choking to the earth with the outgushing of his own life blood. White Buffalo had already learned the art or science of circumventing the most cunning of all animals, the moose. The moose, the animal unto whom mother earth had given the great ear, which, turning almost in every direction caught a sound from afar, and kept this keen eared animal forever on the alert. This big creature, with the ponderous nose, which seemed to reach out into space and become conscious of all things for miles around, had, notwithstanding, become the prey of the stronger-brained and more cunning hunter. White Buffalo very soon was known as having a fine sense of judgment, as to where the great buck moose might be taking his afternoon siesta. The ordinary hunter would make his mistake and give his scent to the game, and thus the moose, early forewarned, moved out of the way. Not so with White Buffalo. He took the topography of the landscape. He saw the winding of the valley, and the reaching out of the forest-clad hill. He felt the wind and with wonderful precision calculated its currents over the hills and through the valleys. He took the time of the day, and then made his calculations.

"Here is. the big track. This is the mid-morning trail. Away yonder lie circled, and there he carne back, and now he is chewing his cud in this thicket."

So he turned from the track and went the other way in his circle, and coming back found the trail, and now with the wind in his face, all he had to do was to stalk quietly onto the prey. Then, with his best arrow pulled to the barb, he would let it slide into the immense carcass of the bull moose. Seldom did one so young as White Buffalo accomplish the feat of killing a moose.


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