Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Wa-pee Moos-tooch
Chapter XX
Keeping the Rendezvous

THE SUMMER was now far spent, and the time had come for the people to again converge, and presently the gathering of the different bands took place, and it was decreed to move out and make a dash after buffalo. For buffalo were, after all, the staff of life. The wood animals were all very well in their place, and as a change, but all over the great west the people of the many tribes did not think that they were really living unless they were in some way partaking of the buffalo.

Our hero and his friend had left the great herd moving northward, some distance south of the Chain of Lakes River. But by this time they would be across, so everyone felt. And the camp moved to intercept the course of the great herd, and once more White Buffalo was at his favorite employment, providing food for those dependent upon him, bringing in meat and hides and at the same time enjoying to the full that side of his nature which was domestic and homelike. For a full moon the camp circled around in touch with the buffalo. Much provision was made, many hides were taken, many a thrifty matron gathered sufficient to renew her lodge with. It took from sixteen to twenty and sometimes more large hides to make a lodge, and it was a great source of satisfaction when a sufficient number of real good hides were procured for this purpose. Then there was the moccasining of the camp, and furthermore the multiple lines that were needed in the equipment of a lodge, and also in the packing and handling of horses and dogs, as these were used in transport. All the saddles, all the saddle bags, all the travois nettings, all the lariats, and packing lines, were as a continuous demand upon the hunter, and upon the herd that he preyed on.

One day the scouts brought in word that a very large herd was on the plain within easy reach of the camp, and half of the men were told off to make the hunt, the other half instructed to protect the lodges. And it was at this time that White Buffalo again distinguished himself as a great hunter and a wonderful archer, as he went forth with the crowd to hunt on this special day. The country was good, being more or less level; the weather was propitious, and the cattle of the plain were now generally in good order, and some one said:

"This may be our last run for this trip. Let the hunters kill as many as they can, let the pack animals follow up to bring in all the meat possible," and every one was stimulated to exert himself for the good of the commonwealth.

Picture a big plain, gently undulating, and covering it here and there and in large places almost altogether a great herd of buffalo. Know these to he wild and swift and as eager as possible to shun the presence of man. Then see the little crowd of hunters approaching onto the plain. There might be some hundreds of these, but they would be but as a speck in the bigness of territory and in the presence of this small fraction of the great herd. Only those who have beheld the multitude can realize how they did at times cover the earth.

And now the charge is about to be made. The best horses are mounted. White Buffalo is again on the back of his old favorite, Blackfoot. And soon the captain of the hunt gives the word, and they are away, and White Buffalo, remembering the admonition of the morning, lets his first arrow fly, and hits a fine cow, and again he looks through the dust and whirl of the mad race, in and out among the plunging, rushing mass of life, and he sees another one and presses his horse towards it, and again another arrow speeds to the vital spot, and thus he pulls and picks and presses his horse with gentle admonitions after his victim, and pulling up has shot and killed fifteen fat cows. The most that any other man killed in that day's race was five. But here were the fifteen splendid animals stretched along the course that Blackfoot, the great war and hunting horse, had carried his master over.

Nor was he winded at the end of the race, but his master had said:

"'Tis enough. It will be late before we have these animals skinned and cut up and packed to carry home to camp tonight."

Fifteen buffalo with bow and quiver in one short race was great work, even for a great hunter to accomplish. So the camp thought, so Nagos thought, and all men said:

"White Buffalo is the best shot we have known."

When all this meat was either eaten or packed up in dried meat and pemmican, when all these hides were fleshed and scraped and made into parchment light and handy to carry, then this camp moved back northward and in due time, having reached the vicinity of the Assiniboine, or Beaver River, broke up into its several tribal quantities, and White Buffalo and his party crossed the river and went on over into the valley of the Swan, and slowly journeyed northward. For the autumn had come, and the time was approaching which had been fixed by the North Wind Maker as the period of their gathering away in the northland. Towards this many were looking with eager anticipation; Nagos to see her parents, to behold the land of her nativity; White Buffalo to fulfil his appointment, to give joy to his wife, to meet her parents and their friends to whom he was forever grateful, and for whom he had profound respect; Niska to be back with his own people once more. He had gone through many experiences, he had crossed the great plains, he had ascended along the banks of the mighty waters, he had seen the great mountains, he had participated iii war, he had done good scouting, he had killed some of the hereditary enemies of the people of his nation. He had done wonderful things for a boy of his age. He had taken an active part in the life of another people, and was now in measure a plainsman. And yet he longed to hear his mother's voice, and to go out in the forest with his father, and once more to launch the canoe and paddle with or against the stream. Thus he was longing for the northland. But perhaps there was no one so full of intense desire to make this northern trip more than Snake Skin. This was natural, and these were natural men and women. Some intensely so. And Snake Skin was growing more and more into strong character every day. His contact, his association, his love and respect for White Buffalo and Nagos were as a resurrection unto him all the time. He was longing for the north country, for therein dwelt the Little Star. And soon the day came, and White Buffalo said to his people who were with him:

"Abide ye in this valley, and move to and fro in it, and myself and wife and Snake Skin and Niska, we will leave you for a time, and the spirits willing, will come again before the winter."

White Buffalo planned to reach the rendezvous about the same time as the autumn before, and thus leisurely he travelled with his party down the valley and over the divide, and in due time again beheld the smoke of the lodges of the wood people. Thus far these had come with their canoes, on the banks of the little stream they had turned these up, and now, having set their lodges, were looking southward, and in the hearts of the parents there was great expectancy.

It has often seemed to the writer that these native peoples because of their intense domesticity and continuity of family association, were more possessed of affection for their children than the people of a more stirring civilization. These families seldom separated, and in the present case it was a new experience for these parents and their people to have one of their number marry a stranger and go away into what was to them a distant land, a distinct life. So now with longing hearts they kept looking southward, and it was a time of great joy when presently from out the forest glade there debouched the little party wherein their loved ones were.

The North Wind Maker eagerly grasped the hand of White Buffalo, and said:

"You are a true man, you have come even as you promised. You have kept your word. You have brought me my daughter, and verily I have but to look on to know that you have been good and kind unto her. I can see that her life has been full of happiness. I am glad—we are all glad." And thus they met, and their gathering was full of joy. Niska had so much to tell. He took the place of Snake Skin. Snake Skin hitherto had been the spokesman. He had related the experiences, he had described the country. He had told about the wars. He had given them wonderful descriptions of the buffalo. But now Snake Skin is silent, and Niska takes up the story, and Nagos, when she has recovered from the joy of meeting her parents and becomes normal once more, says:

"Where is Snake Skin—what is the matter with Snake Skin? Has he lost his tongue?"

And Niska stops to tell her, "Why, don't you know? He is looking for the Little Star. He has no time to talk. Let him alone, Nagos."

In pleasant intercourse and exchange of experience, and occasional hunting parties, a few days and nights quickly pass, and soon each of these distinct parties is reminded that they must separate, and once more take up the life peculiar to themselves—the one to embark in their canoes and travel and drift and sail away into the farther north country, while the others would proceed southward, taking up their overland methods of transport and life.

As he had promised, the father of the Little Star gave her to Snake Skin. White Buffalo and all the hunters made a great hunt, and coming home from this and the meat of the various animals having been brought in, a feast was made, and this was the occasion of the giving of the Little Star to Snake Skin. The father told the assembled people: "Even as it has been with Nagos, so now verily it shall come to pass with our Little Star. We gave our word to this young man from the south country. We knew our daughter had given her heart, and today we give her into his keeping. We are glad to know that the mating of Nagos with White Buffalo has been blessed, and we hope that so it will be with these young people who are now to become husband and wife." And thus without ceremony or ritual or ecclesiasticism or civil or religious law as we know it, these people were married, and doubtless in the sight of the Great Spirit their union was as legal as any on earth.

As was fitting, the North Wind Maker also gave the young couple his blessing, and told the people that when White Buffalo prevailed upon them to give him Nagos to wife, and took her away into the distant south country, he and his wife were very anxious at times. But now, the moons had come and gone, and their children had been permitted to come north and visit them, and the recital of their experiences by his son and daughter had filled his heart with great encouragement. And now he believed firmly that there were great and good people in that south land. Nagos had sung their praise; Niska was full of their brave acts and kindly deeds, and therefore he could with all his spirit give his blessing to the Little Star and her husband. Doubtless these, like Nagos and her husband, would periodically come back into this northern country. He hoped they would. And now he would ask the Great Spirit and all the spirits to bless this union, and to go with these young people and in due time might they all meet on the same spot.

And as he finished these words, the dogs of the camp set up a great clamor, and rushed towards the bank of the little stream where the canoes of the northern people had been left, and suddenly out from among these there came the Little Beaver, fully armed, and in splendid costume. Every one in the camp but White Buffalo recognized him.

"What brings him here at this time?" was the question. Snake Skin bent his bow and pulled some arrows from his quiver. Here was his rival. Here was the man who had desired to kill him.

"What brings him here at this juncture?" Others of the Indians seized their weapons also, for it looked as if this man had come to disturb the peace of the time. But the Little Beaver came boldly up, and holding up his hand intimated that he was there as a friend.

"Think no trouble in your hearts, my friends," was his message. I have been impelled to come here at this time. I want to say that I have no evil in my heart towards the man who has come into our country and won the heart and love of the Little Star. I desired to do this same but it was not my fate. A better man came for her."

Then he briefly recounted the scene of last winter's night when, with his heart full of jealousy and hatred, he had tracked his rival to their camp and had determined to kill him if possible. Then he told how in all this he had been circumvented by Snake Skin, how Snake Skin had sprung upon him and taken away his gun from him, and marched him as a prisoner into their winter camp, and how Snake Skin had then given him his life, and how this had worked upon his heart and feelings until all jealousy and all hatred had gone therefrom. And now he had been impelled to seek this spot and to come here at this time to give his blessing also to the union of Snake Skin and Little Star.

Said he: "My heart will go with you, and I will forever wish you prosperity and happiness." And all the people shouted in acclaim, because of this man's change of heart.

Then the people made ready to separate, the North Wind Maker and his friends and the Little Beaver to re-embark in their small canoes and go back into their great wilderness home country, and White Buffalo and Snake Skin and their young wives also made ready to return south to their people. Niska would fain have gone with them, but he felt in his heart it was his duty to stay with his parents for the coming winter. Even though his affections were pulling him southward, yet he elected to remain in the north country for some moons, determining that if his life was spared he would again go south. Papamotao's daughter was calling him, so he felt.

We will now travel with this little company on their homeward journey. Slowly they climb out of the valley, and after a time find themselves once more upon the summit of the range of hills from which White Buffalo many moons since had looked clown upon the smoke of the lone lodge away in the distance. Here, as was fitting, they stayed their journey and alighted from their horses and looked upon the scene. To White Buffalo the place was sacred. To him it had been as the turning of his life, the starting point towards a great blessing, one for which he was forever grateful. Thus his heart was full. He remembered himself alone peering from this hill summit. He remembered again when with his young wife and his two friends, Snake Skin and Niska, he was starting out on his honeymoon trip. He thought of the incidents of their lives since that time. Involuntarily he moved towards the Little Mother when he remembered the days of her capture by the Blackfoot warrior, and his heart swelled in thanksgiving for the great happiness which had been his since the previous autumn. How his home had been blessed, how his lodge had been consecrated unto himself and his people because of this gift of the Great Spirit in his life.

White Buffalo in his way was a most pious man. To him everything that was good came from the Great Spirit. Therefore he was always in the mood of worship, and forever grateful. Today he is full of thanksgiving, and so is Nagos. She had spent thirteen moons away from her people, never a day from her home before, always with her parents and people; and now she had been absent from them for thirteen moons, and re-visiting them found them well, and again she was going forth, and her heart was full of joy. If last autumn she was happy to leave parents and home and all her previous life and go forth with this man into a strange country and among a strange people, today much more so without any risk, without a tremor of spirit, she stands beside her husband, and is conscious of reigning supreme in his heart.

Thus it was with White Buffalo and Nagos. Life to them was exceedingly sweet, and this world was as a heaven below. And here is our friend Snake Skin. He has won the Little Star. She is with him, blushing but confident. Nagos has told her so much about Snake Skin and about the life in the south country, that while her heart is all a-tremble, yet nevertheless she feels secure in this man's love. Then she has this wonderful little woman, her older sister, and so she is greatly comforted. And as they stand and look upon the scene White Buffalo sings in joy, and all take up the chorus. And away yonder on another knoll there appears the great wolf, and the men and Nagos look and are glad, and the Little Star looks and cannot but exclaim:

"Oh, see the great wolf standing on the hill yonder," and she wonders that none of her friends seem to notice. Later on in course of time she will understand that the great wolf is the visible representation of White Buffalo's Pawakun.

Then Snake Skin says: "We are indeed greatly blessed, and now let us continue our journey," and they wind their way down the hill and through the forest, and camp that evening upon the spot where Snake Skin was almost killed on their previous journey south.

That night, when the lodge was set, and the supper was eaten, Nagos gave them her account of the scene of the previous autumn. And Little Star fairly shuddered at the thought that Snake Skin had been so near death. As on the previous trip, the season was propitious. The earth was glad, the summer had done its work, all nature was now arrayed in beauty. Animal life was at its best, and, as is the condition in Canada's great northwest, the general autumn weather is magnificent. Thus our little party moved slowly southward. Snake Skin seemed to have great good luck. One day he tracked an immense moose, and discovered him, and was fortunate in his archery, and killed him. This caused them to camp in a beautiful spot and dry the meat, and dress the hide. And again Snake Skin went out hunting, and this time a monster elk fell to his kill. And Nagos said:

"Surely the Little Star is bringing you most wonderful good fortune, Snake Skin. You never did any- thing like this before. That was a tremendous moose you killed, and this is one of the greatest elk I ever saw. You must always be thankful to me, Snake Skin, for helping you as I have to win the Little Star."

Ha!" said Snake Skin, "I am always thankful, Nagos, and I will forever sing your praise, even if I do not become a great hunter like White Buffalo, or even a great warrior like White Buffalo. Still, if I can be in a small way like him, I will be thankful."

Another day Snake Skin was out alone and he encountered a big bear and slew him. "And now, indeed," Nagos said, "surely the spirits are with you, Snake Skin, and it is very true that much blessing has come to you with the Little Star."

And slowly moving southward, with horses heavy laden with dried provisions, and moose and elk parchment hides, these young people made their journey. And again it came to pass that White Buffalo was given to save his friend's life. Emboldened by his luck, Snake Skin had again gone forth alone. But this day he came upon a group of bear, and sending an arrow at one, he but wounded it, and drew the whole pack upon himself, and speedily would have been overpowered and clawed and chawed to pieces had not White Buffalo burst upon the scene, and again with his marvellous archery and his undaunted pluck, become the saviour of his friend. He shot the bears one after another, and then throwing away his bow and quiver, rushed in with his knife and delivered Snake Skin. Fortunately, the latter had no limbs broken, but was pretty well clawed up and bitten. However, this time 'twas not his lungs or breath that became affected. So with the dressing and bandaging that White Buffalo gave him he was able to reach camp. And now perforce our little party had to remain several days in the one place. Both White Buffalo and Nagos were skilful in dressing wounds, and they gave every attention to Snake Skin, and it was wonderful how his healthy, strong young manhood responded to their care. The Little Star was in great trouble at first, but Snake Skin's wonderful cheerfulness and sublime happiness greatly cheered her, and when she saw how Nagos and her husband took care of Snake Skin, then she plucked up and was very brave. While in this camp, White Buffalo determined to make a cache of provisions and hides. Said he:

"We may come this far during the winter, and if so we will have these splendid autumn provisions for our use."

So he continued to hunt and all worked with him in the filling of the cache with provisions. In the meantime, Snake Skin was recovering rapidly and soon they were again on their journey southward.

If one had approached this camp, this lonely lodge in the great wilderness of the northland, in the early morning of the day, or in the waning of the same, he would have heard the song of thanksgiving and petition, and he would have been compelled to say to himself:

"These people are religious"; and if he had been permitted to join this little party, he would have found them intensely hospitable, anticipating his need and doing all they could for his comfort. Moreover, if being right-minded himself, he would have been delighted in the simple and natural domesticity of the people in this lodge. Moreover, as his acquaintance might grow with these nomads, he would observe their great modesty. This was not assumed, but natural.

Snake Skin now being able to travel, and take a part in the duty and work of the journey, our little company went on more rapidly southward until White Buffalo, coming in one evening, said to them:

"I believe that before tomorrow's sun goes down we will meet some of our friends," and so it happened, for the next day they met a few lodges of their people, and among these was the seer, and also Papamotao's widow and her family, and once more they were all welcomed, and the Little Star was astonished at the warmth of the welcome that was given to Nagos. It was as if she was their own daughter and not a stranger. They also welcomed her. The seer said:

"We are all glad that you have come to us as the wife of our young man, Snake Skin. We all love Snake Skin, and we will take you in our hearts for his sake, and perhaps for your own sake. Your older sister is our queen. All our people love her. We will hope that when we are acquainted with you we will also love you as well." Thus the little stranger was bidden welcome into the lodges of her husband's tribe.

And now for some time they hunted with these friends, and slowly moved their camp southward as their occupation permitted, making caches of provisions as well as loading up all the transport that they had. Said the seer:

"It will be several days before we reach White Buffalo's parents and the rest of our people. In the meantime let us rejoice and improve the days, and be thankful."


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus