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John Tanner: Growing Up a Captive, Part XXV

John Tanner described him as “a very small old man” he had joined them in the course of the Winter and when food became scarce he set out to hunt buffalo. The old man came back to the family camp pretending he had seen fifty lodges of Assinneboins and had been kindly received by them and although he had nothing to prove his assertions he said they had plenty of meat and were disposed to be hospitable. He persuaded the family to join them and in the morning the family were all ready to accompany him but he told them “I cannot go yet, I have first to mend my moccasins.” One of the young men so as to be no unnecessary delays gave him a pair of new ones but as they moved on he said he must cut off a piece of his blanket and make himself some mittens, another had who had some pieces of blanket assisted him in making some new ones but he still invented excuses for delaying his departure most of which resulted in the supplying by someone in the party of his little wants. He lied.

Knowing it would be in vain to search for the fifty lodges of Assinneboins they went in pursuit of the Crees but they unexpectedly met with another band of the same Tribe. They were strangers to John’s family but inquiring of their chief they entered his lodge and sat down, the women immediately hung a kettle over a fire, took out a sack of what John called “a substance” which then was new and unknown to them but excited John’s party to considerable curiosity. When the food was placed before them they found it consisted of little fishes scarcely an inch long and all the same size, when put into the kettle they were in large masses frozen together. Afterwards they became familiar with them and found they were found in small holes which remain open in shallow ponds and crowded together in such numbers that one may scoop up hundreds of them at once with ones hands.. After they had finished their meal a woman who appeared to be the principal wife of the chief examined their moccasins and gave each of them a new pair. These people were on a journey and left John’s family who determined to make a cache and go to the plains in pursuit of buffalo and accordingly followed the path of the Crees and overtook them in the Prairie.

It was about the middle of winter when they arrived among them and John had difficulty with an Indian who was hunting in an area John also was, John felt that the Indian’s right to hunt was certainly no better than his but the Indian complained that John had no right to be there. John found a gang of beaver, set his traps and as usual left them until the next day. The next morning John found that he had followed his trail and taken up all his traps, threw them into the snow and had sent his own in place of them. The Indian had caught one beaver which John did not hesitate to carry home as his own and threw all the Indians traps in the snow and set his own as before. The affair soon became public and the band even the Indians own friends sided with John and assured him that they would support him. In the affairs of this kind the customs of the tribe are as a law and anyone who ventures to depart from them can expect neither support or countenance and it was rare in the affairs of private rights that it would take place.

John stayed about a month in the Prairie then returned to the Old Woman’s lodge then to their trading house on Elk River. Here a lodge of Tus-kwaw-go-mees from Canada came into their neighborhood and when John first visited their lodge he did not know who they were. They presently went out and brought his snow shoes in, placed them by the fire to dry and found that they were a little out of repair and an old man repaired them. They then proposed to John to accompany them on a hunt, they killed several beavers all of which were given to John, the kindness of this family continued as long as John remained.

Sugar season arrived and John traveled to tend to the trees called by whites “river maple.


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