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John Tanner: Growing Up a Captive, Part XLI

John and family found it necessary to move their lodge as game began to be exhausted, they went up the Assinneboin about ten miles and found two lodges under a man called The Little Pond, relatives of his wife. When they first arrived, they were given meat by the wife of Little Pond who was cooking moose tongue and she would have given them more but when Little Pond returned from hunting they gave them nothing even though they had plenty of meat and John would not suffer to buy meat from them as they wished to do.

At the earliest appearance of dawn on the ensuing morning he took up his gun and standing at the door of his lodge announced in a purposely loud voice “can none but Little Pond kill elk”, his wife came out of the lodge and gave John a piece of dried meat about as large as his hand which she said her sister had stolen for her, by this time many of the others had come out of their lodges and John threw the piece of meat among the dogs saying, “shall such food as this be offered when there are plenty of elk in the woods”? Before noon he had killed two fat elk and returned to his lodge with a heavy load of meat, he soon killed great numbers of buffalo and then left to make dry meat, which also served as a preparation for the proposed war-party. They returned to the woods to select some good elk and moose skins for moccasins as the skins of the animals living in the open prairies were tender and did not make good leather.

One day as they were traveling through the prairie they looked back and saw at a distance a man loaded with baggage. They soon recognized the traveler to be one of the band that had been so inhospitable that they had left and was none other than Pich-e-to, the face of the girl Skwas-shish showed some idea of why Pich-e-to was following them and at length came upon them. Old Woman inquired about his business and when she found out that his designs extended no farther than to the girl she gave her consent and married them the next morning.

Very early in the spring they had a severe thunderstorm storm and Pich-e-to becoming much alarmed by the violence of the storm got up and offered some tobacco to the thunder asking it to stop. The Ojibbeways and the Ottawwawa believed that thunder was the voice of living beings, some considering them to be like men while others said they had more resemblance to birds. John felt it doubtful whether they were aware of any necessary connection between the thunder and the lightning that preceded it. They thought the lightening was fire and many would assert that by searching in the ground of a tree that had been struck immediately afterwards they would find a ball of fire, John himself many times searched but could never find it. After the storm they found an elm tree that had been struck and was still burning, the Indians had a superstitious dread of this and none of them would touch it to replace their firewood that had been extinguished by the rain, at last John and not without some apprehension brought some of it to their fire pit as he had fewer fears than that of the Indians who in his words often had unfounded apprehensions that constantly pursued them.

After they had killed and dried a large quantity of meat and erected a scaffold where they deposited as much as they thought would supply the wants of their women in their absence. Before they had entirely finished the preparations for their journey they were fallen upon by a war-party of about two-hunded Sioux and some of John’s people were killed. A small party of Assinneboins and Crees and already gone out towards the Sioux country and by accident saw a trace of the Sioux and dogged them for some time coming repeatedly close but chose not to engage them but sent messengers by a circuitous route to the principal chief of the Ojibbeways who was hunting in advance of his people, but this man scorned to betray fear and by retreating immediately to a traders fort he might have escaped the threatening danger. Early one morning he climbed a nearby oak tree to look for buffalo, it turned out disastrous.


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