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John Tanner: Growing Up a Captive, Part XXIX

Spring arrived and John and his family traveled towards the old sugar camp, John personally disliked being with the Indians in this, their season of drunkenness. John talked to Old Woman about going to the Trading House, telling her about the foolishness of wasting all their pelts and purchasing liquor saying it was not only useless but hurtful and poisonous to them, John was happy to find that he had enough influence so that she agreed to accompany him to the place he had selected for a hunting camp. Old Woman went to see Wa-ge-tote to let him know that she was taking leave of him but when she returned John readily perceived by her manner that something unusual had occurred. Old Woman took John to one side and said to him “my son you can see that I am now old, can scarcely make you moccasins, dress and preserve all your skins and do all that is needful about your lodge, you are now taking your place as a man and a hunter and it is right that you should have someone young and strong to look after your property and take care of your lodge.” Old Woman went on to say that Wa-ge-tote is a good man, respected by all the Indians and he has agreed to give you his daughter, you will gain a powerful friend and protector who will be able to assist us in times of difficulty and she went on to say that she would be relieved from much anxiety and care for her family and added some platitudes to further convince him. Without hesitation he told her that he would not comply with her request as he as yet hadn’t thought much about marriage among the Indians still thinking he should return before he became too old to marry to the Whites and assured her that he could not now marry the woman she had proposed. Old Woman still insisted that John must marry the woman and that the whole affair had been settled between her and Wa-ge-tote and that the young woman had said she was not disinclined to the match and Old Woman pretended she could not do otherwise then to bring her to the lodge. John told her that if she did so he would not treat or consider her to be his wife and without coming to any better understanding with Old Woman he took his gun and went to hunt Elk and in the course of the day killed a fat buck not returning until evening. Before entering the lodge, he carefully reconnoitered the area intending if the young woman was there to go to some other lodge to sleep but he could see nothing of her. The next morning Wa-ge-tote came to his lodge to see him expressing interest in him which he had been in habit of doing and gave him much friendly advice and many good wishes. Afterwards Old Woman returned again urging John to marry the daughter, as was his wont John did not consent but she was not thwarted by his refusal as from time to time she renewed her efforts until the young woman found a husband.

After Wa-ge-tote and his band had left them they proceeded to the hunting ground John had chosen where they spent a great part of the summer by themselves always having plenty to eat as John killed great numbers of Elk, Beaver and other animals. Late in the Fall they traveled towards the Trading House as the Trader was coning to his wintering ground where the Indians had assembled in considerable numbers. The trader had brought a large quantity of rum and as usual encamped for several days so that the Indians might buy and drink what they could before he left. John had the presence of mind to purchase some of the most needed articles for the upcoming winter such as blankets and ammunition. Old Woman took ten fine beaver skins and presented them to the Trader in return for what she had been accustomed to receiving each year, a chief’s dress, ornaments and a ten-gallon keg of spirits but when the Trader sent for her she was too drunk to stand so John though he had been drinking and not completely sober thought it necessary for him to go and receive the articles. John put on the chief’s dress and ornaments and putting the ten-gallon keg on his shoulder and carried it to his lodge.


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