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John Tanner: Growing Up a Captive, Part XXIII

In the course of the Fall John had killed a good many beaver and other animals and his family had enough to supply all their wants.

One very cold morning in the winter, John was going out to hunt so he stripped off all of his silver ornaments and hung them up in the lodge, the Old Woman asked why? John told her that they were not very comfortable in such extreme cold weather and moreover in pursuing game he was liable to lose them. She remonstrated for some time but he persisted and went hunting without them. The Old Woman told John that she was going to visit another lodge and would be absent for two days. When John returned that night after a long and unsuccessful hunt he found two children standing outside shivering and crying by the side of the ashes of their lodge which owing to their carelessness had burned down and everything in it consumed by the fire. John’s silver ornaments, one of his guns, several blankets and much clothing were lost. John’s family had been considered rather wealthy among the Indians but now they nothing left except for a medicine bag and a keg of rum. John was angered, stripped the blanket from the girl and sent her away to stay by herself in the snow telling her that it was her carelessness that had cost them everything and it was right she should feel the cold more than he did, John and the little boy laid down together upon the warm ashes. Very early the next morning John stared out to hunt, he knew very well how the Old Woman would behave when she found their misfortune, he did not wish to return home until late. When approaching the place where their lodge had been he heard Old Woman scolding and beating the girl, Old Woman then asked him why he had not killed the girl adding “since you did not I must now kill her”. The girl pleaded and told her she would pay for all that has been lost, Old Woman was not mollified asking her “what have you to give and how can you pay me”. I will give you Manito said the little girl “the great Manito shall come down to reward you if you do not kill me”. They were now destitute of provisions and almost naked. They determined that they should go Aneeb’s trading post who John had hunted for, there they obtained credit for one pack of beaver skins and they purchased blankets and cloth. They returned to their destroyed lodge and started to repair their loss by building a small grass lodge while they prepared a new wigwam. The woman were industrious in making this none more active than the young girl, in the evening when John wasn’t hunting with help of another Indian he assisted in the labor. In a few days their lodge was complete and the gentleman Indian that helped them having killed three Elk left for his own lodge.

It took some time but good humor was restored, one evening Old Woman asked the girl if she remembered what promise she had made to her when she was whipped for burning the lodge? The girl had no response but Old Woman took the opportunity to admonish her of the impropriety of using the name of the Deity in an irreverent manner.

They remained in their lodge until spring when at the commencement of sugar season they applied to some Indians there to give them some trees to make sugar and they gave them a place where there were a few small trees but Old Woman was dissatisfied and refused to stay so they again traveled for two days until they found a good place to made sugar and in the same area were plenty of beaver as well as birch for troughs. As they finished up a friend came to them with his father-in-law and all his large family in distress, they were able to give them something but Old Woman did not present them with any of the ten biggest beaver John had caught without remarking “these and many more have all been killed by my little son who is much weaker and less experienced than yourself”. She was not very well pleased in giving and they were a little ashamed to receive her presents, after a few days they all left for the Mouse River trading house.


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