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John Tanner: Growing Up a Captive, Part XXXIX

As the war party of Muskegoes and Ojibbeway’s rested at a spring an old warrior made a divination concluding that a large band of Sioux warriors were coming directly towards them but if they could turn to the right or left they could avoid meeting them and proceed unmolested to the Sioux village and wreck some mischief to the women of the village and if they did not an attack by the Sioux warriors would be imminent. The Ojibbeway were in favor of moving but the Muskegoes would not listen to it. This naturally created discontent and there was talk of abandoning the Muskegoes by the Ojibbeway and return to their own country. For some days nothing happened except for the discovery of a single Indian at a distance who fled immediately upon being seen and it was thought that he was from the Sioux war party. One morning they came to a herd of buffalo and with food being scarce several of the young men were dispersed too kill some. Since the discovery of the single Indian they had been traveling only by night and concealing themselves in the day, the young warriors pursued the buffalo discharging their weapons ending the day with a feast upsetting the Ojibbeway for what they thought a rash act and expressed their determination to abandon the war party and return to their own country fearing that the Sioux would soon fall upon them and kill great numbers. The Muskegoes cautioned the Ojibbway to stay but they left and the Muskegoes saw one after another of their young men get up and follow the Ojibbway’s until only a handful were left, eventually the excursion was abandoned and every man sought to return home.

When John returned to his family he had but seven balls left and there was no trader near, with those seven he killed twenty moose and elk as the ball did not pass quite through them and he used them again and again. He killed an old she bear that was perfectly white, she had four cubs, one white like herself, one reddish brown and two black. In size and other respects, she was the same as a black bear but the only thing that was black was her lips. The fur of this color is very fine but was not highly valued by the traders as was red, the old one acted very tame and he killed her according to John “without difficulty”, he shot two of the cubs in their den and two escaped into a tree. John had traded guns and the next day chased another bear into a low poplar tree and that’s when he became convinced of worthlessness of the gun he had traded for, he shot fifteen times without killing it and was compelled at last to climb into the tree and put the muzzle close to the head before he could kill it. A few days afterwards he saw three small bears and two of them fell to his shots, he thought they may be just wounded so he sought the protection of a tree and had scarcely reached it when he saw the old she bear come jumping, she caught up with the nearest cub which had fallen and raised it as a woman holds her child standing on her hind feet, she looked at it for a moment, smelled the ball hole which was in its belly and dashed it to the ground and came directly at him gnashing and clacking her teeth and walking so erect that her head stood as high as John’s. This all happened so sudden that he had scarcely reloaded and had only time to raise his gun when she came within reach of the muzzle, he fired killing her. The lesson he learned was to think of nothing else after discharging his gun but to reload it immediately. John remained in the area for about a month and even though he thought his gun inferior he shot twenty-four bears and about ten moose. He created a sunjegwum to store the meat. Later after rejoining his family and their provisions started to become scarce he returned expecting to live until spring on the meat he had saved only to find that his brother with his family and several others had been there, had broken it open and taken away every pound of meat. Reduced to the apprehension of starvation he was compelled to go in pursuit of Buffalo,


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