The Strait : Chapter 3 : Miogwewe
(1934 - 1985)
Fredy Perlman (August 20, 1934 – July 26, 1985) was an American author, publisher, professor, and activist. His most popular work, the book Against His-Story, Against Leviathan!, details the rise of state domination with a retelling of history through the Hobbesian metaphor of the Leviathan. Though Perlman detested ideology and claimed that the only "-ist" he would respond to was "cellist," his work as an author and publisher has been influential on modern anarchist thought. (From : Wikipedia.org.)
I find myself alone by the strait’s edge. I expect someone to come with a mask and a gift. No one comes. By the light of early dawn I make out a pendant hanging from a low branch. Reaching for the pendant, I make out the outline of a mask by the tree’s base. It’s the mask of an ancient woman with long white hair. I put on the mask.
Suddenly I recognizje the pendant. It’s the greenstone pendant Shutaha left hanging from a low branch, the pendant she made for me to replace uncle Wedasi’s gift to me. She knew how I loved my first pendant. Uncle Wedasi gave it to me soon after Chebansi returned from his first journey to Boweting with my father. He wanted to tell his mother about the journey, but she didn’t let him. She wanted to show him she loved him. She removed the arrowhead that hung from her neck and gave it to Chebansi. Then Chebansi enacted the journey for her. Aunt Yahatase thought her son had been to the end of the world, had fallen off, and had come back up twisted. She was sad beyond bearing. She tried to make the world open up. She wanted Chebansi to go back down and then come up the right way. Chebansi couldn’t see what she wanted.
My mother dried aunt Yahatase’s tears. She took me to aunt Yahatase’s lodge to replace Chebansi. Uncle Wedasi sang to me of the Beginning. And then he gave me the greenstone pendant, his mother’s gift to him. He made me Shutaha’s sister.
Uncle Wedasi tried to help Chebansi see. He built a fasting lodge. Nopshinga and Chebansi went to it together. But Chebansi let hunger be his guide. He speared fish and roasted them while telling stories.
Chebansi’s stories excused him in everyone’s eyes but his mother’s. He was full of stories whenever he returned from Boweting. He told us there was a man in Boweting whose member was so long it raced across a pond to impregnate a woman. Shutaha said she wanted to see such a member. I shuddered. Nopshinga told us that the man’s member had chased a chipmunk into a tree hollow and gotten chewed up.
Chebansi was very funny when he returned with the thirty canoes from Hochelaga, the spring when uncle Wedasi was building Shutaha and me a fasting lodge. Kukamigokwe announced the arrival of the canoes. Shutaha and I were dropping fish into my mother’s cornhills while aunt Yahatase sang. We left our two mothers and ran to the shore. Chebansi prepared his impersonations. He made my father and the Hochelaga men look like the man he’d described.
But our laughter was cut short. Suddenly my father was yanking Kukamigokwe and me toward an unfamiliar clearing. Chacapwe was already there, keeping the little children from wandering back to the village. The others came later. They had burned the lodges and father’s gifts and uncle Wedasi’s scrolls. They had buried the bones and raised a mound over them. I would never again be with my mother or aunt Yahatase.
Uncle Wedasi brought only his otterskin bundle and his bow. He said the green bay had not been good to us. He walked toward the canoes. Shutaha and Chebansi, Chacapwe and Nopshinga went with him.
Kukamigokwe held on to my arm. She had wished the plague would devour aunt Yahatase. She had hated aunt Yahatase more than she had loved our mother. She thanked the plague. Kukamigokwe always sought the most powerful ally. She told me Mishigami would swallow uncle Wedasi and all who went with him.
I concentrated on the tree behind her and begged it to drop a branch on her. She became afraid and let go of my arm. Filled with gratitude, I hung the greenstone pendant on the tree’s branch.
I ran to shore. The canoes were almost beyond my voice’s reach.
I trembled when Shutaha pulled me in. I didn’t look back into the bay. I knew Chacapwe and Nopshinga were in the canoe behind ours. Chebansi shed tears. He had wanted to please his mother. But she had turned from him and gone to die with my mother.
Uncle Wedasi dried Chebansi’s tears by asking him to name the islands and shore points. Chebansi brightened as he talked. He told us of the northern land and the cataract he’d visited. He pointed to the Isle of Beavers, the Bay of Sturgeons, and the abandoned village by the leaning tree on the handshaped Peninsula. He pointed to Mishilimakina on the tips of the long fingers when we passed through the Northern Straits, the meetingplace of three great lakes.
Uncle Wedasi caught whitefish with a net and said we were moving toward the center of the world. I thought we had moved from the world’s center toward its eastern edge and were about to fall off. But there was another world beyond the straits. There was an island full of white trees, and a bay called Sagi between the thumb and forefinger, and then another strait.
At last we reached uncle Wedasi’s place, Tiosa Rondion, the place that linked the lakes and bays with the Northern River and the Ocean, the place that linked Kichigami’s forests with the Beautiful River’s valleys. Deer, bears and swans along both shores seemed to be urging us to end our journey and stay by their strait.
Chacapwe, Shutaha and I ran from groves of fruit trees to vines heavy with grapes. We ran across a meadow to the edge of a beaverpond and saw four lodges surrounded by oak trees. Beyond the oaks we saw bubbling fountains and the sand hills of an old burial ground. Chacapwe had dreamed of such a place.
Aunt Yahatase had named the place of her dream Tiosa Rondion.
The people of the place came out of their lodges to greet us. They prepared sweat lodges, danced with us, fed us. They were people who had survived the great plague. They lit the three fires for us. They hadn’t lit them since the death and exile of the others. But they wouldn’t join uncle Wedasi in the dance enacting the expulsion of Wiske.
A stocky man named Raccoon, Ahsepona, said Wiske was the founder of the village on the Strait. Wiske, shaped like a split tree by a roundish rock, had watched over his village. But a spring ago, two Blackrobes came through the Strait. The villagers hid in the forest. The Blackrobes made ugly noises, smashed the roundish rock and cut down the tree. The man of the Strait said the Blackrobes had broken the link between earth and sky.
Chacapwe said a new tree would grow, as the sun rises after night, as birds return after the snows melt.
Uncle Wedasi said we would move on. He didn’t want to stay where Blackrobes had been.
All but one of us returned to the canoes. As we pushed off the Strait’s shore, I and those in Nopshinga’s canoe looked back at the four-lodge village called Tiosa Rondion. Chacapwe stood proudly on shore alongside the stocky man named Raccoon.
Uncle Wedasi was sad when he left his birthplace. But he wanted us to grow far from Blackrobes.
We glided through the Strait’s mouth into the lake of the vanished Ehryes. We were rounding the hand. We turned into a river along the wrist. On its banks we saw forest-reclaimed remains of Kekionga’s fields and villages.
We found people at the carryingplace near the river’s source. They were kin of Nopshinga’s and Chacapwe’s mother. They had recently come back to Kekionga from western prairies.
We danced and feasted with the Prairiekin. But we didn’t stay in Kekionga. We carried our canoes to the river that flowed further westward along the wrist.
While we glided past forests and flowers and tall grass, Shutaha shaped a greenstone given to her by the people of the Strait. I made out the outline of the pendant I had hung on the tree in Greenbay.
Suddenly uncle Wedasi paddled more quickly. There was impatience, even joy, in his eyes. I saw a moose looking toward us from an opening on the northern shore.
This is the place, Shutaha said, as if she recognized the exact spot uncle Wedasi was seeking. Across from where we landed, bison grazed at the very edge of the river.
Chebansi and I ran behind Shutaha gathering multicolored fruit and picking ripe grapes from heavy trees and vines waiting for us to accept their offerings. We paused at terraces where vanished villagers had once planted corn and beans and squash. This was the Bison Prairie where people from four directions had once danced around three fires.
Uncle Wedasi saw a spot on which four lodges could rise between earth and sky. The men left to hunt.
When they returned, uncle Wedasi prepared us for the founding ceremony. He re-lit the long-extinguished fires. Wearing a moose’s head, he did the dance of the Firekeepers. I wore a bear’s head, Nopshinga bison horns, and Shutaha a turtle’s shell. Chebansi as a hare tried to put the fires out. Chebansi was a funny hare—fat, awkward and slow.
Shutaha and I beat sticks on the ground. The hare tried to flee from our sticks but nearly tripped into one of the fires. He knew how to impersonate tricksters. But he couldn’t be one.
After the expulsion, uncle Wedasi took a bark fragment from his bundle. He drew the outlines of four lodges on the ground. He told us our great-grandmothers had gone through the four lodges. In the first, the mother had swallowed her children. In the second, the remaining children swallowed their mother. In the third, the children became embroiled in fratricidal feuds and swallowed each other. In the fourth, they expelled the embroiler and made peace.
We raised our four lodges. Soon Prairiekin from southern valleys raised lodges alongside ours. Other Firekeepers from Greenbay joined us. Rootkin came from the northern forests.
Shutaha learned the secrets of women who shaped bowls. I watched women who stretched the skins of muskrat and deer on drying frames. When we joined planters in the fields, Shutaha and I sang her mother’s songs.
Uncle Wedasi built us a fasting lodge. The bear came to my dream. Shutaha fasted but didn’t dream. She said her dream would come when she needed it.
Chebansi grew restless and lean. In Greenbay he’d floated between his father Wedasi and his uncle Nangisi, impersonating one to the other. In Bison Prairie he had to stand on his own spot and be himself. But he couldn’t stand, he could only float.
Nopshinga found a band of hunters heading northward. The two youths floated to the mouth of our river with the hunters. They returned from Mishigami’s north with a canoe caravan. My father Nangisi and my sister Kukamigokwe came to Bison Prairie with them. Five winters had passed since my father and uncle had separated.
My father told us the gathering of peoples at Greenbay had dispersed after our departure. The disease that killed my mother and aunt Yahatase had attacked all the people of the bay. Most of the bay’s Riverpeople had fled to the Plains west of the Long River. Rootkin had fled to Kichigami’s forests. Fire- keepers had returned to the Peninsula. Turtlefolk had gone to Mishilimakina on the tip of the hand. An Invader had come from the Northern River to set up a fur post in Greenbay. False- tongue is the name Nopshinga gave this Invader.
Kukamigokwe boasted that this Falsetongue considered our father the center of the bay’s Peninsulakin. Shutaha reminded Kukamigokwe that we had just learned there were no Peninsulakin left in Greenbay. Kukamigokwe glared at Shutaha with the same hatred with which she had looked at aunt Yahatase.
I was not sad when my father and sister returned to their Falsetongue and his fur post.
But Chebansi soon followed them. Chebansi was floating again. He and Nopshinga had learned how to cross Mishigami. As soon as the snows melted, they left Bison Prairie.
When they returned, Chebansi was fat with stories. They had accompanied my father and Falsetongue to Boweting. They had seen a great procession. Chebansi reenacted it for us. Falsetongue in a blue cloak and four Blackrobes with crosses and plaques led the procession. They were followed by bearded boatmen with colorful sashes and hundreds of chanting Turtlefolk.
Chebansi, impersonating blue-clad Falsetongue, pretended to reach a summit, where he planted a plaque. Nopshinga, in a black robe, placed a large cross beside the plaque. Then Chebansi sang in the Invaders’ tongue. He harangued the skies. He linked the Invaders’ Sun with the lakes, rivers, forests and animals of Kichigami.
Nopshinga told us Falsetongue’s harangue was followed by a thunderburst of firesticks discharged into the sky.
After hearing Chebansi’s translation of the harangue, uncle Wedasi told us a story. He told of a man who ate a scab. This meal gave the man a great hunger. He ate all the food in his lodge. Then he went to other lodges and ate all the food. When he had eaten all the food in his village, he sought the food of .neighboring villages.ItJncle Wedasi said the Invaders were like the Scabeater. They had insatiable appetites. After having eaten all the food on their sid^ of the salt sea, they had come to eat all there was on our side.
Uncle Wedasi no longer withdrew the bark fragment from his bundle. He said he was learning to see without it. When he scratched on the ground, he drew only a line and a point, the wrist and Bison Prairie. He did not draw the Oceanshore or the eastern Woodlands or the Northern River. He did not draw the paths followed by my father and Chebansi and Nopshinga. And he no longer hunted. He was going blind.
Uncle Wedasi wanted our village to be far from the Scabeat- ers. But his brother and his son brought them close.
Chebansi and Nopshinga came to tell us that my father had brought distant Rootkin and numerous Scabeaters to our river. My sister had taken one of these Rootkin, a man named Winamek to her lodge. We were invited to take part in the celebration.
As we floated toward the Rivermouth, Chebansi told us we would meet a Scabeater who had built a great boat. This boat had been pushed from the Easternmost Lake to Greenbay by wind. Chebansi was overawed.
But Nopshinga warned us that this Boatmaker was also a weaver of nets. He was an embroiler even craftier than Falsetongue. Boatmaker was an enemy of Falsetongue and the Blackrobes. He traveled with barefooted Greyrobes. He had turned Nangisi’s head with gifts, praise and poisoned water. My father and his carriers had put all their furs into the great boat. The furs had been gathered for Falsetongue, who would be very surprised when he returned to Greenbay. Boatmaker had sent the boat and all the furs to his allies in Hochelaga. But he had stayed. Scabeater that he was, he wanted more. My sister had told Boatmaker the center of the Peninsula’s Firekeepers was not in Greenbay but in Bison Prairie.
Kukamigokwe wanted to trap fish of her own with Boat- maker’s net. She had brought him to the Rivermouth to help him enlarge his net. She wanted to put our father and her new man at the real center of the Peninsula’s Firekeepers.
Shutaha and I laughed at Nopshinga’s warning. I knew my sister wanted the moon in her lodge, but she hadn’t the strength to hold on to me. Shutaha said she’d always wanted to see the man with the long member. Now she could see two such men at the Rivermouth.
We saw bearded men pushing logs over rolling logs. They were building a palisaded enclosure on the hilltop that overlooked the Rivermouth and the lake. We saw firesticks everywhere, as well as a large device which, Nopshinga told us, could hurl thunderstones to a great distance.
When we reached the council fires, we saw that the linking ceremony was a pretext for another ceremony. My father and sister sat between a short bearded man with quick, suspicious eyes and a fat, flabby beardless man. Shutaha’s curiosity must have vanished. If these men had long members, they did not carry them between their legs. Their members came in the form of firesticks, of pointed logs surrounding the hilltop enclosure, of devices that discharged thunderstones.
The two strangers offered uncle Wedasi a calumet and welcomed us as if we were the guests, they the hosts.
Boatmaker wore a bloodred coat trimmed with yellowstone. He didn’t listen. He harangued. Chebansi translated, mimicking the red and yellow man’s gestures so accurately it seemed two Boatmakers were haranguing us. Boatmaker had come to protect us from our enemies the eastern Serpents, as he referred to aunt Yahatase’s kin.
It seemed to us that Boatmaker had raised his picketed enclosure to protect himself from nearer enemies. He seemed to fear blind uncle Wedasi. Kukamigokwe must have neglected to tell him Firekeepers were peaceful. Perhaps he expected Falsetongue and his Blackrobes to come after the furs he had taken from them.
Boatmaker told us he would leave armed men in the enclosure to protect us during his quest. He was seeking the mouth of the Long River. He spoke of it as something he had lost. I wondered if he intended to take it back east with him if he found it.
Kukamigokwe beamed when the big man from the east rose to harangue us. Winamek spoke a quaint Rootspeech none of us had ever heard, the tongue of ancient Oceanshore Rootkin.
Uncle Wedasi asked the easterner if his first kin had reached the seashell coast by way of the northern forests at the time of their arrival in Kichigami, or by way of the river valleys at the time of Wiske’s war and the great dispersal.
Winamek knew nothing of the arrival or the dispersal. The earliest Rootperson he knew of was his great-grandfather, who perished of the plague soon after great whales swam to earth from where the sun rises in the salt sea. The flab in Winamek’s limbs was not in his voice. His strength was in his tongue. His story entranced us.
He told us Invaders occupied villages made desolate by the plague. They ate all they found in abandoned fields and storage places. After filling themselves with what the plague granted them, the Invaders starved. They knew nothing of cornplanting or tree-tapping, and they feared to enter the forest even though armed with firesticks. Winamek’s grandfather took them meat and taught them planting and tapping. They grew stronger. The yearly births of their women and the frequent boats from the sunrise increased their numbers. They gave the grandfather a metal knife for their lives and a hatchet for his teachings. This absolved them of love and gratitude.
Winamek told us they did not regard anyone as kin, even each other. Their world contained only enemies.
They offered Winamek’s father a pot for his cloak. Playing with their firesticks, they gave him some beads and a few hatchets and demanded the ground his village stood on. Winamek’s father did not feel compassionate toward them. He sharpened his arrows.
The face behind the gifts revealed itself. Armed gangs of Invaders arrived in the dark of night. They set fire to the entire village. They burned warriors together with their grandmothers and children. Villagers who fled the flames were killed by firesticks. Winamek and another boy escaped both fires unharmed.
Winamek found refuge on the Eastern River, among Root- kin who had survived similar massacres. Threatened from downriver by the Oceanshore Invaders and from upriver by Serpents, Winamek’s name for Turtlefolk, the Eastern River Rootkin learned to sleep with their weapons. But to no avail. The Invaders and the Serpents ganged up with each other against the Rootkin. The Invaders gave Serpent warriors trophies for the scalps of dead Rootkin. They broke the spirits of those they captured and used them as dogs.
The Invaders despised the lame and respected the strong, Winamek said. They respected the Serpents. The Serpents knew how to gang up with each other. They treated all others as enemies. They also knew when to gang up with their enemies’ enemies.
Winamek’s next refuge was Hochelaga, which he found full of his enemies’ enemies. In Boatmaker, Winamek found a Scabeater who was eager to gang up against the common enemy.
Winamek said the Oceanshore Invaders were numerous but cowardly. The eastern Serpents were brave but few. The Rootkin of the Great Lakes were as brave as the Serpents and as numerous as coastal sands. He spoke of a league of western Rootkin.
Uncle Wedasi rose and said suffering was an affliction to be pitied, not kindling with which to feed fires of hatred. He said Winamek knew people only as hunters and prey. Then he turned his back on Boatmaker and my father and sister. Shutaha and I guided him to the canoes and returned to our village.
Uncle Wedasi told us a fox lay on his back doing antics until ducks waddled up the bank to watch him. Then the fox kept still, moving his tail ever so slightly. When the silly ducks pecked his tail, he sprang on them.
We were to have listened to Winamek’s sufferings until our tears moved us to stroke his back. Then he’d spring on us. His league would no longer be confined to my father’s carriers camped outside Boatmaker’s enclosure. It would embrace the Firekeepers of Bison Prairie and the Rootkin and Prairiekin who counciled with us. We would all become Wiske’s nephews. Our minds would empty when he dreamed. Our tongues would become paralyzed when he spoke. Our bodies would go prone when his member went prowling. Our warriors would perpetrate the monstrosities of the Oceanshore Invaders. The monstrosities would be heroic feats when perpetrated by Winamek’s league.
Kukamigokwe neglected to tell her fox that we weren’t ducks.
We didn’t only walk out of Winamek’s circle. We warned our kin of the trap. Nopshinga carried the word from the Strait to the Beautiful and Long River’s valleys. Winamek’s league remained confined to the three fires lit by my father at the foot of the hill with the enclosure.
Kukamigokwe and her big man did not give up their hunt.
On my father’s bidding, Chebansi came to invite us to the naming ceremony for Winamek’s and my sister’s son. Chebansi also told us Winamek expected me to find a place in my sister’s lodge. Chebansi mimicked the big man mouthing this request as something modest, almost trivial. Chebansi laughed with us. Shutaha told her brother to urge Winamek to protect us from the armed Scabeaters in the enclosure. They were the only Serpents we would see in the western Lakes. They had already helped themselves to four canoes we had not given them.
Kukamigokwe grew desperate. Unable to enlarge her net by embracing uncle Wedasi, she decided to isolate him. She joined a medicine lodge. Uncle Wedasi had told us about his grandmother’s medicine lodge. Its people had used medicine to restore the powers of the afflicted. The people in Kukamigo- kwe’s lodge used medicine to enhance the powers of the healers. They were mainly carriers and they concentrated on poisonous powers. She and her lodge spread the word that there were Serpents in Bison Prairie. She didn’t identify the Serpents yet. She had a scheme. She wasn’t surprised by my refusal to join her in big Winamek’s lodge. She knew I was close to Nopshinga. She spoke to my father of this closeness.
Chebansi came to tell me that Nopshinga had consulted my father about taking me as his companion.
I knew Nopshinga was far, and I knew he would have spoken to me first, so I knew it was Kukamogokwe who had consulted my father. Chebansi should have known this too.
Kukamigokwe expected me to leave uncle Wedasi and Shutaha and move to Nopshinga’s lodge. Then she and Winamek would make themselves at home among Nopshinga’s kin. Nangisi would be the father and Kukamigokwe the sister of Firekeepers from Tiosa Rondion to Bison Prairie and of Prairiekin from the wrist to the valleys. And then my sister and her medicine people would identify the Serpents in our midst. They would point to the husband and daughter of the Serpent witch Yahatase.
I knew how to frustrate her scheme. I remembered that uncle Wedasi had not enlarged his brother’s lodge when he had taken aunt Yahatase for his companion.
I told cousin Chebansi I looked forward to the linking.
He paddled and waddled to my father with the message. That settled it. The event could no more be stopped than a river’s flow. My father and sister amassed gifts. Prairiekin prepared masks and dances. They sent runners to invite cousins from every direction. Poor Nopshinga was the last to learn of his coming linking. He was near the Long River hunting bison when word of it reached him.
On the night of the event, I trembled as I hadn’t done since the day I’d left Greenbay. I hoped Shutaha had found the occasion to tell Nopshinga my intentions. I wondered if he remembered uncle Wedasi’s linking ceremony.
Kukamigokwe rocked her cradleboard and beamed. She expected me to leave the Serpent lodge and rush to her big man’s great league. She thought my reasons would be the same as hers. She was as narrow as a knife’s cutting edge.
My father beamed too. Playful Nangisi was looking forward to the new kin who would dance around his three fires. His betrayal of Falsetongue had reduced the number of his followers more than the plague had. His son by marriage, big Winamek, puffed and grinned as he watched a chipmunk run into the hollow of a tree.
Nopshinga left the corner of his Prairiekin and walked toward me with his gift. Both of us faced my father and sister and their big man. I took Nopshinga’s gift. Then Nopshinga turned—away from my sister, away from his Prairiekin, toward uncle Wedasi’s lodge. As I turned, I saw the smile on my father’s face freeze like a mask’s. He had seen all this before.
Shutaha patted Nopshinga, took the meat from me and, unable to contain herself, burst out laughing. Soon everyone was laughing except Nangisi, Kukamigokwe and Winamek.
Through the lodge opening I saw my sister rush away with her cradleboard, her face livid with rage. I told myself that even the sharpest knife could cut only something softer than itself. I saw Winamek strut after her toward the canoes. His face was pale, his finger pointed eastward, the direction from which Serpents were to come. I thought that if he sent his shortened member into yet another tree hollow, the little that remained would get chewed up.
Nopshinga hadn’t needed Shutaha’s instructions. He had no desire to strengthen either Winamek or Boatmaker the Scabeater. Neither he nor Chebansi trusted Winamek. Boatmaker was hated even by his own bearded followers. Instead of enlarging Winamek’s ailing tree, Nopshinga and I had girdled it. Before long the tree fell.
Chebansi told us the enclosure’s armed men were demented from drinking poisoned water. They were celebrating Boatmak- er’s death. They were no longer obliged to keep each other inside the enclosure. Boatmaker had found the mouth of the Long River. There one of his kinsmen had murdered him.
Shutaha accompanied her brother to the Rivermouth. She wanted to see demented Scabeaters. She also wanted to see what remained of the great league of western Rootkin. She hoped Kukamigokwe would see her examining the remains. With Boatmaker gone, even my father and his carriers would turn their backs on Winamek. Kukamigokwe and her big man would shine only for their infant son.
Shutaha returned with the young Scabeater who had taken our canoes.
Shutaha said the enclosure overlooking the Rivermouth was a mound of rubble. The armed Scabeaters had lost their fear and destroyed it. They had gone to seek adoption among those they had looked over.
The young Scabeater Shutaha brought to our lodge named himself Pyerwa. Shutaha told me she’d found him attractive after she’d drunk poisoned water. But when the poison wore off, the beard and the hair-covered body repelled her.
Soon the hair was all that remained of Pyerwa’s former coverings. When he was out of food for his firestick, he watched Nopshinga fashion arrowheads. He watched blind Wedasi weave a basket by feel. He watched me dress an animal skin. He watched Shutaha shape a bowl. She gave it to him. It broke the first time he used it. He said he preferred metal pots; they didn’t break. We asked him to make us a metal pot. He didn’t know how to begin.
Shutaha was pleased with our strange kinsman. She said even her mother would have been pleased. Yahatase would have seen that Kukamigokwe and Winamek had beards on their hearts, whereas Pyerwa’s heart was as hairless as ours. He was an unformed shoot who’d been stunted by growing in poisoned ground. Among us he would blossom.
Shutaha and I sang of repopulated villages filled with transplanted shoots guided by their own dreams.
The child inside me was eager to stretch out near my dream village, on the green prairie beside the blue water.
Chebansi had gone with my father to seek Falsetongue, with gifts of propitiation. Chebansi returned agitated and afraid. He said Falsetongue had refused to accept my father’s gifts. Falsetongue no longer needed my father or his carriers. He had formed his own bands. He had turned Prairiekin of the Long River into scavengers and pillagers. Falsetongue and his Blackrobes had gone to villages in the valleys of the Wabash. They had told the villagers stories of monsters and man-eaters. These were stories Falsetongue had learned from my father. They referred to the age when Turtlefolk and Riverpeople had called each other man-eaters. But when Falsetongue told the stories, he referred to the Serpents he hated, the eastern Turtlefolk. His listeners heard him confirm barely-remembered fears. And when Falsetongue saw them afraid, he offered to protect them from the Serpents. He gave away hatchets and firesticks while he gathered furs and followers. He led bands of pillagers toward the sunset across the Long River. The pillagers attacked the ancient Turtlefolk who live in earthlodges in the Plains. They captured Earthlodge people and took them to Hochelaga as if they were furs. The Hochelaga Scabeaters broke the Earthlodge people’s spirits, called them Panis, separated kin from kin. They made each other human gifts. But they considered the captives and not themselves man-eaters.
The Earthlodge people began to dream of a remedy, and Falsetongue began to fear them. The Earthlodge people learned of this remedy from people who lived in stonelodges yet further toward the sunset. The Stonelodge people had been similarly treated by Invaders who had come from the south. They had listened to a healer’s dream. All the men, women and children of all the Stonelodges had armed themselves with arrows, spears and stones. They had attacked the Blackrobes’ idol-lodges. They had chased every Invader from every corner of their land.
Falsetongue feared that the Earthlodge people were dreaming of a similar remedy. He feared that Rootkin would learn of the Stonelodge medicine. He feared that he and all other Scabeaters would be driven to the other side of the salt sea.
Falsetongue sought to protect himself by turning all resentment of Scabeaters into hatred of Serpents. His pillagers ambushed a band of eastern Turtlefolk. The Turtlefolk responded by sending a scouting party westward.
When uncle Wedasi learned of this scouting party, he resolved to do what he had done once before, what Firekeepers had always done. If Turtlefolk were camped on the Peninsula, uncle Wedasi would go to their camp and greet them as a kinsman with a gift of love and a calumet of peace. Shutaha reached the same resolve as quickly as her father. We counciled with the other villagers. No one in Bison Prairie wanted to be embroiled in a war against Falsetongue’s enemies.
We learned that the eastern scouts were not camped on the Peninsula but west of it, halfway between the Lakebottom and the Long River. We got as far as a village of Redearth Rootkin on the carrying place at the Lakebottom. Chebansi would go no further. Like his aunt Mani, he feared that the easterners would kill his father and sister. I, too, could go no further because I began to feel birth pains. Nopshinga stayed with me, as did Pyerwa, who feared the easterners would not know what to make of his beard.
My newborn daughter was absorbing the warmth of the spring sun when Shutaha, her father, and the accompanying Redearth kin returned to the Lakebottom. Shutaha spoke to me of a beautiful hunter as tall as a pine and strong as a bear with whom she had shared peace and love. He had whittled a stick and Shutaha had gathered the pieces. He had told her he would return to Bison Prairie after his scouting mission.
The Lakebottom village filled with Firekeepers from the Peninsula, Prairiekin from the valleys, Redearth kin from Mishi- gami’s sunset shore. All danced with complete abandon celebrating the revival of a fire that had not been lit since almost forgotten days. Uncle Wedasi showed the peace belt and said the easterners’ feud was not with us but with Scabeaters whose murderous raids had cut their tree of peace. Scabeaters had told the easterners to stay away from Rootkin of the Lakes. But the easterners were not the Scabeaters’ dogs. They were free people who went where they pleased. They had come to see if the people of the Lakes let themselves be treated as dogs.
The celebrants returned to their villages when leaves began to fall. We remained on the other shore of Mishigami. We raised our winter lodge at a place blind uncle Wedasi remembered from his boyhood in Greenbay.
But the peace we carried in our hearts existed nowhere else. We didn’t know it had already been undone. Kukamigokwe preferred to die rather than live unrevenged for the mockery to which my linking ceremony had subjected her. When we left Bison Prairie on our peace mission, my sister learned that Falsetongue and his pillagers were desperately seeking allies. Eleven canoes of Oceanshore Invaders had broken through the Scabeaters’ strongholds and reached Boweting. Numerous Rootkin and bearded renegades had smoked with the Invaders, accepted gifts and given furs. Falsetongue feared that Rootkin and renegades would unite with eastern Serpents and, armed with Invaders’ firesticks, would apply the Stonelodge medicine to the Scabeaters. Kukamigokwe sent a messenger to Falsetongue. Her message was that renegade Scabeaters and Rootkin were conspiring with Serpents, and that his old ally Nangisi needed reinforcements to quash the conspiracy. While we had been celebrating, Winamek had been gathering an army of manhunters at the Lakebottom. The manhunters pursued celebrants returning to their kin, and murdered them on the outskirts of their villages. They scalped the corpses in the Serpent manner, and then entered the villages wailing that Serpents were ravaging the Peninsula. The homebound eastern scouts were followed by trees that spat fire and bushes that stabbed. If Shutaha’s beautiful hunter reached the eastern Woodlands, no peace or love could have remained in his heart.
We returned to the Lakebottom village from our winter camp and found the whole world changed. We were told that Winamek’s scouts had spotted a band of fierce Serpents rushing toward us to seek revenge. We knew nothing of Winamek having scouts or of Turtlefolk desiring revenge. But I knew my sister. And uncle Wedasi remembered the end of his earlier peace mission. Aunt Yahatase.had dreamed of beavers exterminated by firesticks. My father and his carriers had murdered the Turtlefolk with whom the peacemakers had counciled.
Our Redearth hosts knew even less than we did. Falsetongue as well as Winamek were strangers to them. They knew Turtlefolk only from the peace council to which they had guided Shutaha and her father.
Suddenly eastern warriors arrived at the Lakebottom village and surrounded it. They entered from three directions. One of the warriors, in fluent Rootspeech, arrogantly demanded to see the false peacemaker who had lulled his brothers to sleep in order to pounce on them as they dreamed.
Pregnant Shutaha helped me guide her blind father toward the loudmouth. Uncle Wedasi extended the peacebelt he had received the previous spring from the arrogant speaker’s brothers.
Powerful arms pulled me away from uncle Wedasi and threw me on the ground. I saw Nopshinga lunge forward unarmed. An instant later he was on the ground. I looked toward the spot I had reached with uncle Wedasi. The horrible deed was done.
Shutaha lay on the ground giving birth to the nephew of her father’s murderer. Her wide eyes were fixed on the bleeding head of uncle Wedasi, murdered because he had sought peace.
Chebansi appeared from nowhere and lunged at his father’s murderers, but he got no further than Nopshinga.
Winamek’s armed band stamped through the village long after the deed was done.
Salty tears merged with the sweet milk sucked by Shutaha’s son and my girlchild Mangashko during the burial at Bison Prairie.
Chebansi and Nangisi, Nopshinga and Pyerwa, Fire- keepers and Prairiekin carried baskets of earth to uncle Wedasi’s tomb. Everyone was at the burial except Kukami- gokwe and Winamek, who were far away, counciling with Falsetongue.
Chebansi had warned us, but Chebansi had been so much in bark canoes, we’d thought he didn’t recognize solid ground.
Nangisi had known of all the preparations: Falsetongue’s, Winamek’s and Kukamigokwe’s. But he had sat at the River- mouth, saying nothing and doing less, because he regarded Falsetongue his friend and Serpents his enemies. Yet he shed tears into the earth he carried to his brother’s tomb.
Shutaha sat apart. She hadn’t eaten or drunk since the deed. She had collapsed during our return from the Lakebottom. She had been starving her newborn son until I’d taken him from her. She was so thin she seemed all eyes. I feared she’d become like her mother. Her mother’s kin had raided the Peninsula only once, and they had killed only her father.
Falsetongue had turned eastern Turtlefolk into what he called them: vipers, wolfpacks.
Winamek acquired his league. He came to recruit warriors. He said he sought to revenge his uncle’s death.
Bison Prairie emptied. Firekeepers turned their backs on peace and joined him. Chebansi carried his father’s otterskin bundle to war.
Chebansi painted himself and went east in order to avenge his father, Nangisi in order to regain the confidence of Falsetongue, and Winamek in order to place himself at the head of the Great Lakes army.
When the warriors returned to celebrate their victories, they brought their trophies directly to the murdered man’s closest kin.
Chebansi came to tell us what Shutaha, Nopshinga and I already knew: that his father’s death was a mere pretext for the raid. The raid’s real purpose was to weave western Rootkin into a net with which Scabeaters could catch fish. Chebansi told us Winamek’s manhunters had gone to the shore of the Clear Lake by the Strait. They had been joined by armed Scabeaters and by Falsetongue’s pillagers. From this camp, Falsetongue had led plundering raids against Oceanshore Invaders heading toward Boweting for furs. Falsetongue embroiled Rootkin in feuds brought here from the other side of the world. Falsetongue’s and Winamek’s allied bands then went to infest the eastern Woodlands the way they said Serpents infested our woodlands. They killed men, women and children, they burned villages and fields as if life itself were their enemy. Chebansi told us he sickened of the wanton killing and plundering of his mother’s kin.
Yet when my sister prepared a virtual pageant to propitiate the spirit of her dead uncle Wedasi, Chebansi helped prepare. He didn’t see that the tears of the murdered man’s children were a mere pretext for Kukamigokwe’s pageant.
It was said that Nangisi had used his brother’s death to place himself at the head of the carrier band. My sister was trying to use uncle Wedasi’s death to place herself and Winamek at the center of the Peninsula’s Firekeepers. She wasn’t satisfied with Nangisi’s three fires, which lit only the faces of his carriers. She wanted her three fires to light up all the people of the world’s four corners. Her big man and his manhunters had returned with enough gifts to dry everyone’s tears.
But Shutaha, still stunned from the murder, wasn’t about to put plundered gifts in her father’s place. And she wasn’t about to thank these consolers for their kindness.
Shutaha, her eyes wide open, moved like a sleepwalker toward the mound of gifts. I knew her intentions. My father and sister must also have guessed them. Only Pyerwa tried to stop her. None else dared. She was the murdered man’s daughter.
She scooped up cloth, beads, blankets, hatchets and knives and carried them to one fire. She scooped up another load for the next fire. Her mother’s spirit danced in the flames that leaped to the sky. The three fires brightened the four corners. Uncle Wedasi’s bones could rest.
Shutaha looked defiantly at the pageant’s arrangers. Her eyes accused them of the murder of her father.
I rose and proudly walked alongside Shutaha to our lodge. Nopshinga followed us. He said others—Firekeepers, Peninsula and Redearth kin—were also rising and leaving. Winamek and Kukamigokwe after the victories, as before, sat by three fires with Nangisi and his band of carriers.
Pyerwa came to the lodge with tears in his eyes. He said his people killed each other for the objects Shutaha burned.
Chebansi came last. He told us a story his father had told him after he’d returned from his fasting lodge. It was the story of one who had not resisted eating fish during his fast. Instead of seeing an animal, the fast-breaker had become one. He turned into a dog. Chebansi said he had been pulling Nangisi’s travois while Nangisi had pulled Winamek’s. The light from Shutaha’s fires had shamed Chebansi; it had enabled him to see himself as his mother had seen him.
Winamek and Kukamigokwe were surrounded by indifference and hostility. Winamek’s western army dissolved like snow in spring. We learned that a thousand eastern Turtlefolk retaliated against the westerners’ raid by plundering Hochelaga, the Scabeaters’ stronghold. No western warriors rushed to the Scabeaters’ aid. The Scabeaters who before had urged their allies to slaughter the common enemy now made peace with the enemy without consulting the allies.
Winamek and Kukamigokwe failed to make their lodge the center of the Firekeepers. So they turned it into a center of Scabeaters. Their lodge replaced the Greenbay post. Furs from the Long River, Lakebottom and Mishigami’s other shore passed through it on their way to Boweting. Two Blackrobes came from Greenbay and raised an idol lodge beside Kukamigokwe’s medicine lodge. They sprinkled children with water and taught them spells. Nangisi wept shamelessly as he watched. The spells reminded him of aunt Mani.
The only child who paid attention to the Blackrobes was Kukamigokwe’s son Wabskeni. The other children quickly tired of the spells. The Blackrobes blamed Pyerwa for the children’s indifference. They said his singing of our songs made the children hostile to theirs. Kukamigokwe blamed Shutaha. She said the Serpent entranced the children with her secret language and poisoned them. The gift-burner who had counciled with Serpents, kidnapped Nopshinga and housed a renegade Scabeater was now bewitching the children.
In her way Kukamigokwe saw further than the Blackrobes. It was true that the children around Shutaha, as well as those around me or Nopshinga, didn’t feel any need for the Blackrobes’ spells. They sensed themselves as branches of a living tree. They were strengthened by the songs we sang in our fields, by the stories we told while dressing pelts or shaping bowls, by the rites performed before the hunt, by the dances celebrating the return of the hunters, and by their own dreams. The Blackrobes’ teaching was a wind that could carry only dead leaves. It couldn’t stir a living tree.
The two Blackrobes returned to Greenbay, to children of disease who had lost their kin and their songs, to children who had no dreams.
Other Scabeaters replaced the Blackrobes. Identically clad armed men arrived. They destroyed a beautiful fruit orchard by the river’s edge. They built a picketed enclosure similar to the one Boatmaker had raised at the Rivermouth. They came to protect Falsetongue from real and imagined enemies. A band of Falsetongue’s pillagers had been defeated by Earthlodge people armed with firesticks. It was said that the firesticks had been brought by Redearth kin who had visited the eastern Woodlands. The Redearth kin were said to have counciled with the Earthlodge people about the Stonelodge medicine. Falsetongue feared for his post and his life. He expected the Peninsula’s Firekeepers and Prairiekin to start counciling about the remedy applied by the people of the stonelodges.
Falsetongue’s armed kinsmen liked Shutaha’s medicine no better. The adoption of renegade Scabeaters in our village would undo the ravages of plague more surely than the Stonelodge medicine. The armed Scabeaters seemed as hostile to this as to the remedy that turned their camps into fields of corpses. The headman of the enclosure, the one called Lekomanda by the others, sent his uniformed men out to capture renegade Scabeaters. Chebansi impersonated him as saying the renegades did nothing for him. He said they cared for nothing he esteemed, followed every inclination and avoided all correction.
To avoid being captured, Pyerwa fled from Bison Prairie. Nopshinga led him to Chacapwa’s lodge in Tiosa Rondion.
Pyerwa’s departure pained Shutaha. Kukamigokwe rejoiced.
But even Kukamigokwe couldn’t have been proud of the enclosure at Bison Prairie’s edge. It was a substitute for Winamek’s power. It was a reminder that despite all his raids he had failed to raise his league.
Kukamigokwe looked for power elsewhere. She gathered poisonous herbs. She filled her son with hatred toward Serpents. She was intent on bringing the war against Serpents into the heart of Bison Prairie. She began by spreading stories. Her medicine people spoke of Shutaha’s mother as a demented sorceress who had tried to slaughter Nangisi. They said Yahatase had conspired to drive Firekeepers into Serpent captivity.
Nangisi said and did nothing. I was ashamed to be his daughter. Aunt Yahatase’s tree and uncle Wedasi’s fourth age were as strange to him as to Kukamigokwe. He only remembered that Yahatase had showed him no great love. Silent accomplice in his brother’s murder, he let his daughter mutilate and spread stories he himself had told her.
Chebansi spoke to him. But Nangisi couldn’t see that Kukamigokwe’s stories really differed from his own, just as he couldn’t see that Kukamigokwe’s medicine lodge differed from his grandmother’s.
Gradually stories told by Scabeaters and carriers were added. It was said that Serpents captured human beings in the western Plains and carried them to Oceanshore Invaders, who shipped the captives to Ocean islands as if they were cattle or furs. We all knew Falsetongue and his pillagers engaged in such raids. But in the mouths of my sister’s allies, Shutaha’s Serpents were the only raiders.
Accusing Shutaha of being a sorceress, Kukamigokwe herself turned to sorcery. One night Shutaha found a bear’s claw on her mat. I resented my sister’s using my dream animal so cruelly. Another night we found the mutilated body of a turtle on the floor of our lodge. Nopshinga and I and several Prairiekin spoke to Nangisi. He said we were making a great noise about children’s games.
Kukamigokwe’s game reached its climax when her enemies suddenly came to her aid. I was in the forest preparing a fasting lodge for my Mangashko. A band of revenge-seeking Turtlewarriors sprang from the trees and killed an unarmed Bison Prairie man. The eastern Turtlefolk strengthened their enemies and hurt their friends for the second time. Winamek set out after them, followed by manhunters, carriers and armed Scabeaters. Even Kukamigokwe’s son Wabskeni painted himself, but the warriors left him behind.
After the war party left, Shutaha’s eight-spring old son failed to return to our lodge. Carriers returning from the pursuit found him, scalped in the Serpent manner. His body was mutilated, not in the Serpent manner, but like the turtle we had found on our lodge floor. Children’s games! Shutaha’s eyes had her mother’s look in them. Chebansi feared for his own and his sister’s lives.
Nopshinga painted himself. When the war party returned, Prairiekin and Firekeepers confronted Winamek. Kukami- gokwe and her Wabskeni were in the Scabeaters’ enclosure. Winamek quickly joined them.
A council was called. Nopshinga said it was time to send a belt to Redearth kin of the other shore. Nangisi suddenly remembered his brother the peacemaker. He said he would go to Boweting to tell the Scabeaters to remove their armed men from our riverbank. Firekeepers urged him to go. They did not want more fratricide in Bison Prairie.
When Nopshinga and I returned to our lodge, I saw something hanging on a low branch of the tree by the entrance. Reaching toward the branch, I see that it’s the greenstone pendant Shutaha had shaped in the canoe when we first came to Bison Prairie. It’s identical to the pendant uncle Wedasi had given me when I’d been adopted into aunt Yahatase’s lodge, the pendant I’d left on a branch in Greenbay.
I take the pendant, enter the lodge, and see that all other traces of Shutaha are gone.
I learn that, while we had been counciling, Shutaha and Chebansi had set out with a band of Prairiekin going to Boweting.
Bison Prairie without Shutaha is empty to me. I decide to leave Mangashko’s fasting lodge to Nopshinga and to accompany my father to the Northern Straits.
It’s my first long journey since my childhood, my first journey with my father, my first view of the sunset shore of the Peninsula. I complete the circle when we reach the Beaver Island halfway between Greenbay and the Northern Straits.
We stop at the palisaded village on the Peninsula’s northernmost point, Mishilimakina. Turtlefolk I had known in Greenbay greet us as Yahatase’s kin. They caress us, feast us, make much of us. I had thought they were all crosswearers, but not all are. We learn that Chebansi and Shutaha are among our hosts.
As soon as we’re alone with Chebansi, my father tells of his mission and asks if Chebansi knows Falsetongue’s whereabouts.
Chebansi says Falsetongue is with the Blackrobes at Boweting by the northern cataract. He tells us the Scabeaters are
divided, and have been since Boatmaker’s time, as we had guessed. Their headman in Mishilimakina is a man called Lekomanda, like the headman in Bison Prairie’s enclosure. He dislikes Blackrobes, surrounds himself with barefooted Gray- robes, and cares only to amass furs, which he accomplishes by making fur carriers foolish with poisoned water. The Blackrobes, Falsetongue’s allies, are lodged in Boweting. Their aim is to amass furs as well as souls. They want to prohibit the flow of poisoned water because it makes souls unreceptive to their spells. The two parties war against each other by having messengers race each other to the Scabeaters’ central lodge in Stadacona.
Nangisi prevails on Chebansi to accompany him to Boweting in search of Falsetongue.
My hosts lead me to Shutaha. She’s ill. She seems demented. She has drunk the poisoned water. She barely recognizes me. She talks as if she were in a dream. She tells me she died when her son died. She says those who killed her son have bearded hearts. They love power and hate life. They want to bloat themselves by eating the world instead of fulfilling themselves by flowing out into the world.
She dreamed her own body was mutilated. She felt great pain. The pain stopped when she left her body. Shutaha wandered northward and on the way she met her mother. Yahatase told her she had been with the great Turtle. The Turtle was the world’s support and the monster who ate the world. The two were one. The Turtle was all of life.
Shutaha went to her mother’s kin in Mishilimakina and everything she saw confirmed what Yahatase said. Excrement was nourishment. Shutaha’s death was her birth. The Scabeaters’ poison was medicine. Shutaha sat among crosswearing Turtlefolk and uniformed Scabeaters and saw crosses and uniforms fall away like dead leaves.
She says the poisoned water helps people leave their mutilated bodies. Women and men as averse to carnal passion as her aunt Mani abandon themselves to orgies, dance with the phallus and flow out toward the moon.
Shutaha says the poisoned water brings dreams to those who never dreamed. She dreamed new songs and new rituals. She says she no longer needs her mother’s medicine. She can replace her son without blood feud, endless war or sacrifice. She’s Wedasi’s daughter too. She’s replacing her son with uncles, cousins and sons from among the Scabeaters. She already knows that Pyerwa did not have a bearded heart, like Kukamigokwe. He could shed his skin as easily as Yahatase. And once he shed his old skin, all he needed to grow and become a Turtle was our songs and the warmth of our lodge. She says the Scabeaters’ water loosens the bad ground that keeps stunted shoots from growing. Once they’re loose, all the shoots need is healthy ground, and the marks made by plague and Blackrobes fall away like scabs. She says she’ll make Turtles of Scabeaters, right next to the largest Blackrobe mission on the Lakes, under Lekomanda’s very nose, and with his own medicine.
Shutaha is not as empty without me as I am without her. I accompany a caravan of Rootkin and return to Bison Prairie.
Nopshinga tells me Winamek and his son haven’t once dared leave the Scabeaters’ enclosure. Our Mangashko tells me a turtle came to her dream. I tell her she couldn’t have a better guide. I hang Shutaha’s pendant around her neck.
When the ice thaws, Chebansi arrives in Bison Prairie with a young woman. He tells us that my father, the world-changer, brought havoc to his Blackrobed allies on the Northern Straits. Chebansi and Nangisi found Falsetongue in Boweting. They went with him and twelve canoes of Blackrobes and Scabeaters to Stadacona. My wily father hadn’t gone to put an end to what Kukamigokwe started, but to complete it. In the Scabeaters’ central lodge, Falsetongue composed a scroll with Nangisi’s words. The scroll said women of the Lakes were using poisoned water to destroy young Scabeaters. It said our women enticed drunken Scabeaters into their lodges and turned them into renegades from the Scabeaters’ ways. Falsetongue sent this scroll to the Scabeaters’ Sun across the Ocean. Many moons later the Sun’s response arrived in Stadacona. The Sun’s scroll said Scabeaters were to stop hunting in the western Lakes. All fur posts and enclosures were to close. Only Blackrobes were to remain. That way there would be no Scabeaters in the Lakes for our women to entice. Nangisi and Falsetongue bit their lips. They composed another scroll to undo the effects of the first. Now they said the people of the Lakes could not live without the Scabeaters because they had forgotten how to hunt with bows and arrows, how to cook with bark and earthen pots. Falsetongue himself took this scroll across the salt sea. Nangisi waited for his ally’s return, but Chebansi knew Falsetongue wouldn’t return.
In Stadacona Chebansi had learned that the Scabeaters’ Sun didn’t only want to stop his young men from drinking with our women. He also wanted them to stop sending furs across the Ocean. The Sun’s lodge was full of furs and he had no room for more. Chebansi tells us the Scabeaters gather furs for power, not for warmth. Just as Blackrobes get power from plague and not wellbeing, big Scabeaters get power from dearth and not plenty. The fewer the pelts, the greater the powers of the pelt holders. The Sun was burning the pelts he already had. Falsetongue was a great pelt holder. He would leave his ally Nangisi waiting for a long time.
Chebansi accompanied a Greyrobe rushing to Mishili- makina with the news. There he found Nopshinga’s sister Chacapwe inviting Shutaha to Tiosa Rondion to celebrate the linking of her daughter with our Pyerwa.
On hearing Chebansi’s news, not only Shutaha but all other Turtlefolk and most Scabeaters accepted Chacapwe’s invitation and abandoned the Blackrobes of the Northern Straits.
Chebansi doesn’t want to be in Bison Prairie when my father brings Winamek the news from Stadacona. Nopshinga and I don’t either, and we all look forward to being with Shutaha and Chacapwe and Pyerwa. Many of Bison Prairie’s Firekeepers leave with us. We follow the deertrail used by ancient Peninsulakin to reach Tiosa Rondion and Sagi Bay.
The young woman Chebansi calls Sagikwe points excitedly to the sacred places along the way. My Nopshinga has walked the trail several times but knows nothing of the landmarks. Yet Sagikwe, who has never been here, recognizes trees, meadows, lakes. She heard her grandfather sing of them. She was bom near the Sagi Bay to Rootkin who returned to the Peninsula several springs after we did. She had her first glimpse of Scabeaters and pillagers during her eleventh spring. She and her kin hid in the forest, and then fled, from the armed men gathered by False tongue and Winamek to pillage canoe caravans and raid eastern Turtlefolk. Sagikwe speaks of the armed men, especially the identically-clad, obedient Scabeaters, as an army of ants. She and her kin fled to rejoin Rootkin at the northern cataract, unaware that Boweting was a center of Scabeaters. She gathered herbs and tree sugars, remade the world in her quillwork, and sang at yearly fish feasts. From Rootkin she learned of the diseases brought by the Invaders.
Sagikwe wears uncle Wedasi’s arrowhead around her neck. Something like aunt Yahatase’s fire burns in her eyes. But unlike Chebansi’s mother, Sagikwe thinks of Wiske as her ally. She says Wiske taught our Neshnabek ancestors to catch herring, sturgeon and whitefish. He made the first net by copying a spider’s web. He’ll show us how to catch the ant-men.
As we near the Strait, I too recognize sacred places, the ones so frequently described by uncle Wedasi, the meadows, rivulets and fountains, the vines and fruit trees Shutaha and I ran among.
We arrive in Tiosa Rondion during a great council and a naming.
Chacapwe and her Ahsepona, the Raccoon, remove our weariness by sweating with us and caressing us. Thirty springs have passed since Chacapwe stayed on the Strait when the rest of us went on.
She beams with barely disguised pride. The village of mounds and beaverdams is once again the center of the world. Turtlefolk, Firekeepers and Prairiekin council with Northern River Invaders. A new village of four peoples, the village of uncle Wedasi’s songs, rises out of the council fire.
Chacapwe’s lodge is the navel of the village. Her newly- named granddaughter is its beginning.
Chacapwe proudly displays her beautiful daughter Uban- kiko, who welcomed our bearded Pyerwa to her lodge. Pyerwa names their newborn girlchild Mani, after Shutaha’s cross- wearing aunt who helped birth Nopshinga.
There’s one who doesn’t celebrate the renewal of Tiosa Rondion. He’s Ahsepona, the stocky, solitary grandfather who in his youth saw Blackrobes destroy the sacred tree and rock that had stood at water’s edge. He had not welcomed Pyerwa when Nopshinga brought him. Ahsepona had accepted him as Ubankiko’s companion only after hearing Pyerwa chant the songs Shutaha and I taught him.
The lone hunter keeps apart from those counciling with the Scabeaters.
Shutaha urges me to hear the counciling orators. Her enthusiasm is more guarded than Chacapwe’s. But she doesn’t share Ahsepona’s forebodings. The Scabeaters are not yet Turtles, but Shutaha is convinced they can be.
A hundred of them abandoned the Blackrobes of the Northern Straits. The Blackrobes were celebrating their Sun’s closure of the Lakes to all Scabeaters but themselves. They were left to celebrate by themselves. The others accompanied Shutaha’s Turtlefolk to Tiosa Rondion.
Their spokesman, called Lekomanda Kadyak, is beardless. He’s flanked by two barefooted Greyrobes who pour and drink poisoned water as freely as he.
Shutaha says Lekomanda’s generosity with the liquid poison shows his weakness, not his strength. The villagers depend on him for little else. He depends on them for everything else. Shutaha and the planting Turtlewomen supply all his corn, beans and squashes. Neshnabek hunters provide his furs. Chacapwe, Ahsepona and the Tiosa Rondion hosts give him space on which to raise his lodge.
At the council, which is an adoption ceremony, the Scabeaters bind themselves in kinship with the people of the Strait. The pledges of the new cousins are on belts to be kept in a lodge of Turtlefolk. Shutaha thinks the Scabeaters will, in time, sing our songs as easily as Pyerwa. And when they do, a long-leafed tree will extend its branches in four directions. Her father’s fourth age will resume.
But Nopshinga raises doubts in my mind. To him, Lekomanda Kadyak is a weaver of nets, like Boatmaker and Falsetongue. Nopshinga urges me to listen carefully to Chebansi’s translation of Lekomanda’s acceptance speech.
The headman’s words flow with gratitude, but there’s a cataract along the stream’s course. He speaks as if he were the host and we the guests. He assures the gathering that his Sun will shelter and protect all the kin of the Strait.
Nopshinga thinks Lekomanda Kadyak understands the bond and the belts as Winamek would understand them. Boat- maker’s heir is another long-membered trickster founding another league.
Chebansi translates the Scabeater’s words as if they were his own. But I can see he shares Nopshinga’s fears. Since childhood, Chebansi has expressed his fears by mirroring, by impersonating those he fears.
When Sagikwe gives birth to a son, the second child of the Strait, Chebansi decides to do more than to mirror. He asks Shutaha and me to help him prepare for his son’s naming ceremony. He wants us to arrange the expulsion ceremony his father failed to complete in Tiosa Rondion thirty winters earlier. I ask him to show me the reminder, the sole survivor from the fourth age, the scroll fragment in his bundle.
Everyone takes part except Sagikwe and Ahsepona.
Chacapwe and Ubankiko, the hosts who light the three fires, wear beavermasks. Mangashko as a deer and I as a bear are Rootkin. Nopshinga and other Prairiekin are Riverpeople. Shutaha and the Turtlefolk complete the circle, which forms the outline of a hand. Pyerwa is the hare who disrupts the fires until we chase him. Chebansi stands on the fringes and interprets the ceremony for curious Scabeaters.
Sagikwe names her son Ozagi. She returns to her lodge, hostile to our expulsion of the hare.
Ahsepona, the oldest of the hosts, observes the ceremony from the forest edge, as hostile as Sagikwe.
During the expulsion of Wiske, Nangisi and a band of carriers arrive from Bison Prairie. And then a disturbance puts an abrupt end to the ceremony.
Vigorously pursuing the hare, Mangashko runs into the forest. Several young Scabeaters, demented by poisoned water, surround her. They maltreat Mangashko even though she wears ceremonial garments. Ahsepona reaches the spot, an arrow poised in his bow. The Scabeaters run, but not before removing Shutaha’s pendant from Mangashko’s neck.
The deed confirms Ahsepona’s hostility toward the destroyers and desecrators of Wiske’s tree and rock.
When Shutaha and I arrive, Sagikwe is inflaming my daughter against the ant-men in Tiosa Rondion. Sagikwe, and now Mangashko, are hostile to the very presence of the strangers on the Peninsula. Sagikwe reminds me ever more of Yahatase. She’s ready for war, blood feud, even sacrifice.
Ahsepona and other hunters bring out war paint and prepare an altogether different ceremony.
Chebansi and Pyerwa rush to the Scabeaters’ camp to seek satisfaction for the ugly deed.
Nangisi sarcastically tells Shutaha that she leaped from the jaws of the fox Winamek into the jaws of a wolf. Shutaha tells my father her life is safer beyond the reach of his protection from either fox or wolf. But Nangisi isn’t offering protection. He’s trying to undo the unintended consequences of his plea to the Scabeaters’ Sun. He’s himself ready to leap into a wolfs jaws, if that will help him. Falsetongue has not returned. All Scabeaters have abandoned Bison Prairie. Winamek has no allies other than the Blackrobes in Boweting. Kukamigokwe gave away all her pots, ornaments and dresses, out of fear. Nangisi’s carriers have been taking their furs to Oceanshore Invaders. Nangisi knows that the Strait’s Lekomanda has been hoarding furs, waiting for the day when the Hochelaga fur gang becomes eager for them. Nangisi is here, not to insert himself in Chacapwe’s village, but to make Lekomanda the heir of Falsetongue as well as Boatmaker.
Chebansi does not offer himself as mediator. He doesn’t forget his father and his nephew. He doesn’t forget that Nangisi could have stirred against the murderers, but kept still.
Chebansi no longer needs Nangisi. His first joy is his son Ozagi. His second is to run between Mangashko’s defenders and attackers, impersonating each to the other. He’s peacemaker Wedasi to the enraged defenders. He’s furious Yahatase to the attackers.
Lekomanda Kadyak punishes the attackers by having them enclosed in a box, a man-sized bird cage.
Shutaha wants to transplant the quarrel. She pushes Chebansi and Pyerwa to beg for the attackers’ release. The songs of Ahsepona’s angry and armed kinsmen strengthen her plea.
The Scabeaters’ beardless headman refuses to release Man- gashko’s attackers. He says he’s the only one on the Strait with the power to punish them.
Shutaha gives Chebansi another message for Lekomanda Kadyak. Chebansi tells the headman that Turtlefolk will grow corn only for themselves and Rootkin will take their furs elsewhere. Shutaha is no longer as helpless as when she lay on the ground giving birth while her father was murdered. Lekomanda Kadyak has Mangashko’s attackers released from the cage.
Shutaha wants the attackers to be punished by Man- gashko, not by an outsider to the quarrel. Pyerwa advises the attackers to go to Mangashko with gifts.
The young strangers, no longer demented by the liquid poison, seem almost rational. They return the pendant and offer many other gifts. Through Pyerwa, they offer Mangashko whatever else she wants, even their lives. Mangashko laughs. She would like all Invaders to return to the Ocean, but she wants nothing more from these three.
Attackers as well as defenders drink liquid poison until they all become demented. The quarrel is all but forgotten. For the duration of a night, yesterday’s enemies are the closest kin. Shutaha tells me the Scabeaters have long restless members. But they don’t know how to use them. That’s why they turn to firesticks and other devices. She thinks the liquid poison is like a medicinal herb. It can kill. But in the right combination and with the proper ceremony, it can cure. It loosens the ground and makes openings. The restless phallus can be guided into an opening. Its seed will germinate. With proper nurturing, healthy plants will grow. The monster will have been turned into a source of life.
At dawn, when the poison-brought dreams slip away with the night, Pyerwa wakes us with his explanation. He tells us the three Scabeaters were drawn, not to Mangashko, but to the pendant hanging from her neck. The firelight made the pendant glisten, and the Scabeaters thought it was not of greenstone but of yellowstone. Pyerwa says the strangers value yellowstone above their lives, they even kill each other to possess it. I shudder. These beings who only yesterday seemed so reasonable are Scabeaters after all.
Chacapwe thinks they’re all healthy plants already. Sagikwe thinks they’re all poisonous. Chacapwe beams too much, Sagikwe too little. Shutaha thinks the shoots can be transplanted. Chebansi drifts between Shutaha and Sagikwe, and I find myself drifting.
Nopshinga says Shutaha takes crabs for sturgeon. She adopted me. She adopted Pyerwa. She thinks she can adopt a hundred Scabeaters. Nopshinga tries to see with Shutaha’s wide eyes. But he sees neither the fertile ground nor the seedling that can grow into a long-leafed tree. He sees a stick without branches or roots.
I see a gathering of fragments whose traces of the fourth age are as dim as the marks on Chebansi’s piece of bark scroll. The newly-lit three fires of Tiosa Rondion don’t light up the four peoples of Wedasi’s songs. The places of Rootkin are taken by Nangisi’s carriers. Most Turtlefolk are crosswearers from Mishilimakina. There are no Riverpeople. The only real host stays away from the fires. And the strangers watering the tree with poisoned water don’t seem intent on making it grow, but on drowning it.
Nopshinga longs for the Tiosa Rondion of the songs. But he thinks Shutaha’s dream village was killed when Invaders and their diseases reached the Oceanshore. The real Tiosa Rondion is not in the sky but on a Strait where land and water paths intersect.
Nopshinga helps arrange ceremonies, sings loudly and dances with vigor. But his attention is on the Redearth kin who carry furs from the other shore of Mishigami to the Oceanshore Invaders. The journeys of the Redearth kin make Nangisi’s carriers restless. Nopshinga understands this restlessness. As a youth he had shared it.
One of the carriers, a man known as Kendawa, the Eagle of Bison Prairie, at last breaks loose. He and several companions join a caravan of Redearth kin who take their furs wherever they please.
Kendawa and his band return to the mouth of the Strait laden with gifts from Lekomanda’s Oceanshore enemies. They are detained by an armed band of Lekomanda’s uniformed Scabeaters. The Scabeaters give Kendawa a few more furs than he started with, and take all the enemy gifts. Then Lekomanda’s men bring the eastern blankets, cloth, powder, firesticks and poisoned water to Tiosa Rondion. Lekomanda Kadyak barters his loot for several times the furs his men gave Kendawa.
The carriers become enraged at what they call Lekoman- da’s betrayal of his allies. Nangisi and Kendawa rush to Bison Prairie to council with Winamek and Kukamigokwe.
Nopshinga helps me imagine what happens next. Kukamigokwe rants and rages about the den of Serpents camped at the gate to the western Lakes. Several members lengthen, harden, and become anxious to strike. Winamek’s league comes back to life. The big man goes to the Northern Straits to council with Blackrobes, with the remains of Falsetongue’s pillagers, and with his murderous son Wabskeni. Kendawa and his band join another eastbound caravan to seek new powder and firesticks. Nangisi, the peacemaker’s brother, stays in Bison Prairie, lights three fires, and waits for the outcome. Kukamigokwe, no peacemaker, summons the powers of her medicine lodge to help her son finish the task she began. Winamek lets his member be carried from Mishilimakina to the Strait by Wabskeni and his pillagers.
Kendawa and his band are already camped at the Isle of Turkeys when they’re joined by the pillagers from Mishilimakina.
The mutilator of the body of Shutaha’s son leads the raid on Tiosa Rondion. The attackers burn Lekomanda’s lodge. They burn the lodge of the Greyrobes as well as the lodge that holds their cross and idols. And then the raiders wait to be joined. It seems that Nangisi’s appraisal had led them to expect Peninsulakin and even Turtlefolk to rise against Lekomanda.
Turtle and Prairie youth do paint themselves, but they stand alongside Nopshinga, Chebansi and Pyerwa against the raiders. Ahsepona and other Peninsulakin arm themselves, but not in order to place Winamek on a spot vacated by Lekomanda.
Kendawa and several other carriers fall ill.
Wabskeni, finding himself with a shrunken member, as isolated as the Blackrobes of Mishilimakina, rushes back to the Northern Straits.
Kendawa and other carriers break out in blisters. The smallpox is in Tiosa Rondion.
I see the disease that killed Yahatase and my mother in Greenbay thirty-five springs ago. I didn’t see the blisters then; Nangisi pulled my sister and me away from the dying. Yahatase thought the Invaders placed the disease into the canoes of our gift carriers so as to empty the world of original people and to break the spirits of survivors. Those with broken spirits turn to Blackrobes for protection from a disease more powerful than our medicines. Smallpox makes people crosswearers. The plague that killed my mother and aunt must have been among the gifts Nangisi and Chebansi were given in Hochelaga. The blisters torturing Kendawa must have been given to him by the Ocean- shore Invaders on the Eastern River.
Sagikwe tries to battle the disease. She recruits Man- gashko and Chebansi to the task.
Shutaha urges me to help remove the healthy to the Mom- ingland shore of the Strait. Her eyes have her mother’s urgency in them. She wanted a poison that regenerated the Turtle, not one that killed her. She embraced a phallus that generated life, not one that ripped up the living.
Shutaha takes Sagikwe’s son Ozagi across. Ahsepona and Chacapwe take their daughter Ubankiko and their granddaughter Mani.
Mangashko begs Nopshinga and me to help Sagikwe and Chebansi heal the ailing Eagle of Bison Prairie.
Nopshinga and Chebansi forget that Kendawa was yesterday’s raider and remember him as the companion of their youth. They sweat with him. Chebansi invites a healer from among the Scabeaters. Nopshinga urges Rootkin to raise a shaking tent.
I urge Mangashko and Sagikwe to help me arrange an enactment of the four ages of our ancestors. We dance as I sing of the time of the monster, of the children, of Wiske, of the three fires of Tiosa Rondion. I sing of the time before Invaders or their diseases reached the Oceanshore.
Kendawa’s blisters become scabbed. He grows stronger.
Sagikwe rejoices. She thinks Kendawa and Wabskeni raided Tiosa Rondion in response to her wishes. She regretted the failure of the raid. She didn’t want the long member to get chewed up in the hollow of a tree. She thinks Wiske is life itself, the great progenitor; his member is not to be guided to a hole in the ground, but to be raised high above the ground.
Kendawa grows stronger. But the father of Sagikwe’s son breaks out in blisters. Chebansi doesn’t die the way Yahatase had foreseen. She had seen him as a beaver shot by scavengers.
Before dying, Chebansi gives his father’s otterskin bag to Sagikwe. He wants his son Ozagi to carry it.
Uncle Wedasi’s kin had fled to save their children from the first plague in Tiosa Rondion. His son returned to succumb to the second.
My Nopshinga had often guided Chebansi. Now he follows his friend on their last journey. Weak and disfigured, he tells Mangashko and me to be wary of adopting Invaders, to take only their children into our lodges. He says all the others have blisters on their spirits. They bring our death. Even Pyerwa.
Mangashko pours tears over her dead father. She joins Sagikwe in chanting that health is a world without Invaders.
Those of Kendawa’s followers who could still walk in Tiosa Rondion accompanied Wabskeni to Mishilimakina. Many of them were prone before they reached the Northern Straits. Wabskeni accompanied his father to Bison Prairie. By the time they reached Kukamigokwe, their pillagers were blistered. My sister was one of the many who died of smallpox in Bison Prairie.
The news brings no joy to Shutaha. My sister’s hatred had not planted hatred in the heart of Wedasi’s daughter.
But the news weighs little now. Shutaha bites her lips to keep from crying for the brother who stayed so close to her during his last years. She bites her lips for Nopshinga and for all the dead among the Turtlefolk and Peninsulakin. Even some Scabeaters succumbed. Shutaha’s eyes are joyless, her face mourns, until the day when numerous canoes arrive from Hochelaga.
Over a hundred Scabeaters, with horses and cattle and iron instruments, disembark in Tiosa Rondion, apparently determined to stay.
There’s a glimmer in Shutaha’s eyes. I remember the day in Mishilimakina when she told me she would replace her dead son with several from among the Scabeaters. But her enthusiasm is guarded.
Chacapwe, who also lost a brother, expresses her enthusiasm openly. She’s ready to adopt bearded as well as beardless scavengers with all their beads and pots. Her daughter Ubankiko welcomes the beads and pots above all else.
Chacapwe is convinced we’re strong enough to adopt them all. Sagikwe is convinced we’re strong enough to get rid of them all. Ahsepona keeps apart. He, like my dead Nopshinga, thinks their spirits are blistered, even our kinsman Pyerwa’s.
I long for Yahatase who had lived among them, for Chebansi who had understood them, for Nopshinga who had seen through them. But I’m alone now. I have to see with my own eyes. I can’t see with Shutaha’s. I’m as repelled by the strangers as Sagikwe.
Nangisi and Winamek sought power by giving all they had. The Invaders seem to gain power by retaining all they have. They’re all hoarders. Even Pyerwa seems intent on accumulating furs, knives, shells, anything. If they give, it’s only with a view to enlarging their hoard. (Pyerwa tells me they even try to hoard land. They pretend that land is like a medicine bundle or a pendant or a song!] Lekomanda pretends that the land on the coast of the Strait is his hoard. The others pretend to believe him. Lekomanda pretends to give each a strip of the land. The others pretend to be so grateful for this gift of earth that they bind themselves to supply him with food and fur, to chop his wood, haul his water, build his lodge, flatten his path, and raise a picketed enclosure around him. Pyerwa takes this game so seriously that he rushes to Lekomanda to beg for his strip. He fears that without Lekomanda’s word, there’ll be no earth on which he can raise his lodge. Pyerwa carries the game to foolish lengths. When he grinds corn by wind, he carries gifts, not to the wind, but to Lekomanda. When he drinks the milk of cows, he takes his gifts, not to the grass or clouds or sun, nor even to the cows, but to Lekomanda, who pretends that the cows are his members. Pyerwa agrees that the game is absurd. He tells me the armed scavengers in the enclosure force all others to play it. But I don’t see what keeps the armed men inside the enclosure. Pyerwa says they all hate Lekomanda. They outnumber Lekomanda fifty to one. Yet they impose his wishes on each other, as if each were Lekomanda to all the others. And they stay penned in like Pyerwa’s companions in the Bison Prairie enclosure before the death of Boatmaker.
My Mangashko grows ever more hostile to the Scabeaters. She sees them through Sagikwe’s eyes. And she grows ever fonder of Kendawa.
But the Eagle stays away from Mangashko. He’s twice her age, and he’s ashamed of his disfigurement. He takes Mangashko’s fondness for pity. He stays with us and brings us meat. He thinks himself responsible for our Nopshinga’s death. But Kendawa’s every look and move tell us he longs to return to the remaining carriers in Bison Prairie.
Sagikwe quarrels daily with Shutaha. She even resents Shutaha’s love for five-spring Ozagi. She says Shutaha will grow the boy a beard. Only Chebansi’s vacillating and mirroring kept the two women in the same lodge.
Sagikwe decides to remove Ozagi from Shutaha’s reach. She rejects Chacapwe’s invitation. She looks up to Ahsepona but she’s repelled by Pyerwa. She responds to the invitation by ridiculing Ubankiko for using dead beads instead of living quills to ornament moccasins. Sagikwe comes to my lodge to be near Mangashko and Kendawa. She fumes about the ant-men, as she calls the Scabeaters.
One night Sagikwe wakes us to tell us her dream. She saw all the trees of the Peninsula girdled and dying. Wherever she looked she saw picketed enclosures. Inside the enclosures, cows wearing bead-ornamented uniforms ate all the shoots, bushes and grass. Suddenly Sagikwe realized she was herself inside a picketed enclosure, one barely large enough to hold her. She woke terrified.
The day after her dream, Sagikwe resolves to remove her son from the cows and ant-men of the Strait. She urges Kendawa to return to his carriers. She begs Mangashko to accompany her to Bison Prairie.
Their decision pains me, most of all Mangashko’s. All three long to be near the embroiler Winamek and his son, the mutilator Wabskeni. SVhen I try to see with Sagikwe’s eyes, I feel my waking life to be a bad dream in which I move backward. I see myself moving from an interrupted fourth age to an earlier age. A monster emerges from the Ocean and begins to swallow everything living. Wiske, the hare, is the only creature who dares confront the monster. All is so clear in that age, when none see in Wiske the monster’s attributes and appetites. It’s as if Neshnabek had not lived four ages, or as if we had never heard their songs"
I suspect I’ll be needed in Bison Prairie when the dreamers wake. I take my leave of Chacapwe and her kin.
And I take my leave of Shutaha. Neither of us speaks. We both know that I’m choosing the easier task. Shutaha isn’t merely preventing fratricide. She’s trying to bring new life out of death. She wants to draw health from disease. She’d like to carry cows, ants, and scabs from the first age to the fourth. She’s paddling her canoe across a strait of disease and hostility whose every wave tries to swallow her and all she carries. If Yahatase was guardedly demented, her daughter is recklessly insane. The obstacles Shutaha faces make Kukamigokwe’s sorceries seem what Nangisi called them: children’s games.
Mangashko carries Shutaha’s pendant to Bison Prairie. I wait for the day when Mangashko hears the pendant speak.
Shutaha dreams of the transformation of two hundred alien Scabeaters into kindred human beings. I face only my own kin. Nangisi is, after all, my father, Winamek my sister’s husband, Sagikwe my cousin’s wife, Mangashko my own daughter. Yet I don’t know where to begin. The game was easy when all I had to do was to avoid Kukamigokwe’s traps. But she’s a ghost now. When her traps were visible, I needed Chebansi’s or Nopshin- ga’s eyes to see them. Now her traps are not even visible.
I beg young Ozagi to let me see the scroll fragment in his bundle. I seek out old Firekeepers and ask to see their scrolls. I find several medicine lodge scrolls that trace the path of the Invaders’ diseases from the Oceanshore to the Lakes. But I find no scroll that contains the song of Ozagi’s fragment, the song of the four ages. I wander and fast to stop seeing with my own eyes, to start seeing with earth’s eyes, as Yahatase saw.
Kendawa has stopped resisting Mangashko’s advances. Nangisi as well as Winamek urged him to bring her a gift.
Nangisi asks me to arrange the feast celebrating their linking. I see an opening. I beg Nangisi to help with the arrangements. I ask him to remember everything he learned from his brother about the three fires and the four ages. I beg him to be Wedasi for a day, to make Bison Prairie a center of Firekeepers, of kinship, of peace. I in turn agree to sing alongside Winamek as well as the mutilator Wabskeni. I assume I’ve nothing to fear.
Wiske’s member followed too many chipmunks into hollow trees and it’s all chewed up.!Winamek’s league is as extinct as the scrolls from the fourth age. Even the Blackrobes of Mishili- makina abandoned it. After Wabskeni’s failure to disperse the village on the Strait, the Blackrobes of the Northern Straits burned the lodges of their idols and returned to Hochelaga. The only surviving fragment of the league is Wabskeni himself, in a Scabeater’s uniform, and a small band of similarly- clad crosswearing pillagers who trail behind Wabskeni as he oscillates between Mishilimakina and Bison Prairie.
Nangisi does what he promised, as he understands it. He lights the three fires and peoples them with guests. He sings without feeling and retires to drink. He’s as indifferent to the spirit of the ceremony as a Scabeater.
The things he learned from Wedasi are turned against Wedasi, but Nangisi goes on drinking.
Winamek is the one who steps into the opening. Foxy Winamek puts the expulsion ceremony to his own use. He substitutes a dog for the hare. Instead of Neshnabek women chasing the hare, Wabskeni and his pillagers pounce on the dog. They disembowel the animal. They eat its flesh. It doesn’t take me long to realize that the dog is the monster and Wabskeni is Wiske. The dog is Kukamigokwe’s monster: Serpents of the eastern Woodlands, Yahatase, Shutaha. But Winamek is silent about the monster’s identity. He has his eye on my daughter and her Eagle.
Sagikwe doesn’t keep silent. She identifies the monster right away as the Invader, the ant-man. She doesn’t know Wabskeni as the Scabeaters’ most loyal ally in the western Lakes. She knows him as Wiske, the world-saver, the intrepid enemy of the monster, the slayer of Digowin. Mangashko and Kendawa join her in eating the monster’s flesh.
Kendawa, unlike my Nopshinga, leads his bride and Shutaha’s pendant away from my lodge and toward the square lodge of his grandfather Nangisi, his uncle Winamek and his cousin Wabskeni.
Nangisi did what he promised. He made a whole of our fragments. But a strange, illusory whole. Kendawa wants to go where he pleases. But Winamek would have all Neshnabek go only where he pleases. Mangashko, with Sagikwe, wants all Scabeaters to leave the Peninsula. But Winamek would have Falsetongue’s Scabeaters return, and Wabskeni exists to remove all others from the Peninsula.
Sagikwe is pleased. She’s so much like Yahatase, yet she embraces everything Yahatase hated. Sagikwe knows I share her antipathy toward the Scabeaters. She doesn’t know I share Shutaha’s hopes. She and Ozagi come to my lodge to replace my Mangashko.
Winamek comes to our lodge bearing gifts. He’s no longer big and awesome. The inactivity, the many winters without fasting, are making him old and fat. His gifts are intended for me. He fears Sagikwe. He knows she’ll put a knife in his breast the day she discovers he’s not the one she thinks him. He wants to make his net a little tighter. He would like me to replace my absent sister in his lodge. He has less to gain from my acceptance than he did the previous time he made this request, twenty-seven winters ago. Some of his thoughts must be on me. ^He seems to think he can fill the chasm inside me.
I don’t burn his gifts, as Shutaha did. I don’t fling them in his face, as Yahatase is said to have done to his great-uncle’s. I carry Winamek’s gifts gently out of my lodge. I tell him I’m not Kukamigokwe. I don’t want to be at the head of Falsetongue’s pillagers. I don’t want to install myself in the lodge of the Strait’s Lekomanda. I don’t want my kin to depend on Winamek’s gifts. I don’t want to see my kin become ants who carry furs to Winamek. I tell him the only gift he has brought us is fratricidal war. I sing to him of the desolation of the Ocean- shore. He’s the one who described it to us. Yet he’d have us bring this desolation on ourselves. I beg him to take what remains of his long member and offer it to people whose trees bear no sap, whose land bears no corn. I beg him to go among people who have no memory of world’s beauty, whose past begins with the arrival of the Invaders and their diseases, whose dreams are drowned by Blackrobes’ chants, who consider their own ancestors man-eaters while considering Scabeaters human. Such people seek his league. I don’t.
The eloquent Winamek struts out of my lodge without a word.
Sagikwe praises my boldness. At close range she finds the large man less awesome and appealing than his name. But she remains convinced I should save my ire for those Shutaha wants to adopt. When she builds a fasting tent for Ozagi, she doesn’t ask for my help.
The boy is fat, awkward and playful, like his father. But unlike Chebansi, Ozagi returns from his fast emaciated. He appears to have dreamed instead of eating fish. Ozagi and a friend named Mota hover around Kendawa, my daughter’s Eagle. But they don’t join the caravans yet.
Kendawa leaves Bison Prairie with Winamek and Wabskeni. During his absence he becomes a father, I a grandmother. Mangashko arranges the naming ceremony without me. She names her daughter Menoko.
Winamek returns alone. He prepares another dog feast. He wants us all to celebrate the removal of Lekomanda Kadyak from Tiosa Rondion.
The dog is still being eaten when Chacapwe’s Raccoon arrives from the Strait. He comes to shame those celebrating the dog’s disemboweling. Winamek hastily names Ahsepona the dog’s jaw, and all but I turn deaf ears to the Raccoon from the Strait.
Ahsepona tells me the reason for Winamek’s hasty naming. He tells me things I could have guessed if I had concentrated as Nopshinga was able to do. Nangisi knew what was happening. But he wanted me deaf and blind.
The Blackrobes who abandoned Mishilimakina did not change their skins when they reached Hochelaga. They merely relocated the vantage point from which to weave the schemes familiar to me since Falsetongue’s days. Nor did Winamek lose contact with their intrigues. His restless son kept him in touch with every unraveling scheme.
Lekomanda Kadyak was summoned to the Scabeaters’ center Stadacona to explain his hoard of gifts that came from enemy Invaders. Winamek chose this moment to send Wabskeni and Kendawa on a second raid of the village on the Strait. The first had not brought enough desolation. Kukamigokwe’s ghost hovered over the Strait. Wabskeni offered gifts to Turtlefolk and Peninsulakin. Then he turned to insult Pyerwa and other adopted Scabeaters. He called Pyerwa lazy, undisciplined, and a renegade from the true faith, insults that could not have meant much to Wabskeni’s ally Kendawa.
Ahsepona, his face painted a raccoon’s mask, faced Wabskeni, not to shield Pyerwa, but to confront those who had brought the plague to his village.
Kendawa harangued Peninsulakin and Turtlefolk. He said the Invaders intended to transform them all into dogs.
Youths painted and armed themselves. They remembered the plague that had followed the previous raid. They stood beside Ahsepona.
The tension drove Wabskeni’s dog, an actual dog, to bite one of the youths near Ahsepona. The youth kicked the dog. Wabskeni’s firesticks promptly murdered five youths.
The Scabeater temporarily replacing Lekomanda, hearing shots so near his enclosure, became as hysterical as Wabskeni’s dog. Thinking that eastern Serpents were invading the Strait, he ordered the uniformed Scabeaters to kill. Shutaha, Chacapwe, Pyerwa and Ubankiko begged the killers to desist from the wanton slaughter. But thirty of Kendawa’s and Wabskeni’s armed men were dead before the smoke settled. Wabskeni fled, as he had done earlier.
Kendawa was injured. Ahsepona and Pyerwa carried their kinsman to Chacapwe’s lodge. While the Eagle’s daughter was born in Bison Prairie the father lost a leg in Tiosa Rondion. Kendawa cursed his hosts. He called Ahsepona a traitor and Pyerwa a bloodthirsty enemy.
Lekomanda Kadyak returned from Stadacona. Turtlefolk and Peninsulakin greeted him with a war council. Ahsepona and the youths and hunters spoke with painted faces and weapons in hand. They said they would make the raiders from the north answer for the death of the five youths, for the plague that had killed half the people, for the earlier plague, and for the destruction of Wiske’s tree. They said Lekomanda would have to answer for the massacre of thirty of Kendawa’s kinsmen.
Lekomanda stomped on Ahsepona’s warbelt. He said the slaughter would not have taken place if he had not been called away. He called himself a peacemaker and said our quarrels invited Serpents and Oceanshore Invaders to the Lakes. He said the Strait’s council had shown it could not maintain peace without him. He said he wanted justice, not vengeance. He said he had already dispatched the one guilty of the massacre. What this meant was that his murderous replacement had returned to Stadacona.
Lekomanda said he would aim his firesticks at anyone who settled grievances without his permission. He pretended to assume all the powers of the Strait’s council.
Ahsepona and the other warriors remained painted and armed. They saw that the Scabeater would not answer for anything.
Lekomanda dispatched couriers to the north, to pretend to seek those guilty of the raid. The couriers returned from Mishilimakina with four emissaries, two of whom were Winamek and Wabskeni. The emissaries did not appear before the council. They went directly to Lekomanda’s lodge.
Lekomanda did not reemerge from his lodge until the emissaries returned to the north. He then told the council that the one responsible for the raid was a man called The Heavy, and that the emissaries had returned to the north to root him out. He said peace had been restored, urged all carriers to bring their furs to him, and threatened to kill carriers who took furs to the eastern Woodlands.
It was evident to all that Lekomanda Kadyak had capitulated to those he had pretended to punish. The emissaries must have told the Scabeater to break his alliance with seed scatterers and dancing women, and to ally himself with Winamek’s pelts and Wabskeni’s arms. If he refused, Winamek no doubt told him, he would have neither pelts nor gifts nor peace, and he would lose his post.
The warriors were enraged. Kendawa was incensed by what he considered Wabskeni’s betrayal of his allies.
Ahsepona called Firekeepers to prepare to resist the alliance of predators hovering above his village. It was the first time Firekeepers had painted themselves since Nopshinga had confronted Winamek after Wabskeni’s murder of Shutaha’s son.
Shutaha, Chacapwe and Ubankiko urged the warriors to lay down their weapons. Acceptance of the predators’ alliance was preferable to fratricide. jCorpses could not be adopted and turned into Turtles.
The warriors would not be restrained. They attacked the enclosure and killed three uniformed Scabeaters.
Lekomanda, heavily outnumbered, was willing to agree to anything. He even said he would welcome Redearth kin who came to the Strait to drink poisoned water with him.
But the occasion Winamek and the Blackrobes were waiting for had arrived. Lekomanda Kadyak had shown that he could not maintain peace on the Strait. He was removed from his post and summoned to Stadacona. A Scabeater amenable to Winamek and the Blackrobes’ wishes was sent to Tiosa Rondion to replace him.
Winamek returned to Bison Prairie to celebrate. Ahsepona came to make us see and hear.
Sagikwe and Mangashko dance with Nangisi’s carriers and help him make a mockery of the three fires. Both are deaf to Ahsepona. Sagikwe regards her one-time ally as an enemy. She takes him for an agent of ousted Lekomanda and a defender of the Strait’s ant-men. I try to make Mangashko listen, but all she hears is that Ahsepona stood by the Scabeaters who injured Kendawa. She’s convinced that Kendawa is being held captive by the Scabeaters in Chacapwe’s lodge.
Ahsepona decides to take his news, as well as a warbelt, to the Redearth kin of the other shore and to the Prairiekin of the valleys.
A runner arrives from the Strait. Winamek and Wabskeni promptly prepare to depart, fully armed.
Nangisi decides to accompany the warriors to the Strait. Sagikwe urges her son to go with Nangisi. Eleven-spring Ozagi and his ancient granduncle are on the best of terms. At times Nangisi seems the younger of the two.
Mangashko decides to carry her Menoko to Tiosa Rondion.
I don’t know what news the runner brought, but I do know that Winamek is rushing to place himself and his son at the head of the league of Rootkin of the western Lakes. Nangisi wants to reestablish the position he and his carriers lost when Falsetongue failed to return from across the Ocean. Mangashko intends to free Kendawa from his captors, Pyerwa, Chacapwe and Shutaha.
I’m left alone with Sagikwe. We’ve nothing to say to each other. We’re both tense and owly. A whole age seems to pass before news from the Strait reaches Bison Prairie.
Wabskeni and Winamek return and engage their pillagers in a flurry of activity. Winamek speaks of a great victory, and warns that Serpents are about to attack the Peninsula.^! realize - - I was wrong about the condition of Wiske’s member. I had overestimated the sharpness of chipmunks’ teeth.;
I look to see how Sagikwe responds to Winamek’s identification of his present enemies as Serpents, not Scabeaters. But she doesn’t respond. The momentum of hatred and war cloud her mind. Winamek could tell her he was battling Rootkin and she would still remain convinced he wielded his weapon only against ant-men.
Wabskeni gathers men and youths willing to join his uniformed pillagers, and he departs in search of more victories.
We learn the destination of Wabskeni’s army when a crowd of enraged villagers moves toward our lodge. At the head of the crowd, the boy Mota leads his friend Ozagi toward nearly distraught Sagikwe. Ozagi looks as wide-eyed as Shutaha. Both boys cry.
Mota excitedly tells us that Wabskeni’s army murdered Kendawa and fifty other Rootkin returning westward from the Strait. The pillagers would have killed Mangashko, Menoko and Ozagi as well, if Mota hadn’t cut the slaughter short.
Sagikwe is sure the boy is lying. She shakes Ozagi, begging him to deny his friend’s story.
Ozagi confirms his friend’s story. He says Wabskeni will claim he was hunting Serpents. But Wabskeni knew perfectly well that the people he ambushed were Rootkin, Firekeepers and Prairiekin.
Ozagi is less excited than Mota. He narrates in Chebansi’s best manner. Despite the near loss of his life, he impersonates people and enacts deeds as if he were uninvolved.
Sagikwe guesses that he stayed in Shutaha’s lodge. She thinks Shutaha bewitched him.
Soon after Ozagi and his cousins and uncles arrived in Tiosa Rondion, Redearth kin from the other shore reached the Strait. Many of them were carriers whom Kendawa had once accompanied to the Eastern River. They jokingly said they had come to the Strait to accept Lekomanda Kadyak’s invitation to drink poison water with him. Actually they were responding to Ahsepona’s call to help him oust Lekomanda’s successor from Tiosa Rondion.
Ahsepona promptly went to them to greet them as brothers. Kendawa would have gone too if he could have walked.
The new Lekomanda, flanked by Wabskeni and Winamek, left his enclosure to confront the Redearth kin. The Scabeater asked them what they wanted in Tiosa Rondion.
One of the Redearth kin, a man called Lamina, asked what the Scabeater wanted on the Strait. He said his kin had been invited to drink poisoned water with the previous headman. The Redearth kin were the only people on the Lakes who had never shed a drop of Invaders’ blood. They were eager to share the Scabeater’s poison water while listening to his answer.
To this, the new Lekomanda said he did not want the Redearth kin to camp so near his enclosure on the Strait.
Lamina laughed. He said his kin did not like the Scabeaters’ enclosure so near their camp on the Strait.
Lamina’s laughter was answered by murderous shots. Prompted by Wabskeni, the new Lekomanda called out all the armed Scabeaters of his enclosure and told them to aim at women and children, to kill indiscriminately.
One of the first to fall was Ahsepona. He had not been able to deliver the Firekeepers’ greeting to the Redearth kin. He was no longer able to take the greeting of the Redearth kin to the people of Tiosa Rondion. He had always known he would die at the hand of those who had cut his tree and destroyed his rock.
The killing was so quick, it seemed so well prepared, that Lamina concluded he had been led into an ambush by Ahsepona’s invitation. He prepared to besiege the Strait’s entire shore.
Kendawa sent runners to tell Lamina he had allies on the Strait. Shutaha sent runners to tell Lamina the Strait’s council would make the Scabeaters answer for the murder of his kin.
But the ghosts of dead kin blinded Lamina. He saw only Scabeaters on the Strait. He heard only that Tiosa Rondion’s people were all each other’s kin, and therefore his enemies. The runners who returned said he was determined not to be led into an ambush twice by the same council of women.
Inside Tiosa Rondion, Pyerwa was recruited to defend the besieged village. Many of the Turtlefolk and Peninsulakin who had been ready to attack the Scabeaters’ enclosure hesitantly turned against its besiegers. Winamek called the besiegers Serpents, and Wabskeni’s pillagers burned to exterminate lifelong enemies.
Shutaha was repelled by the fratricide. Kukamigokwe’s ghost was cutting down Shutaha’s long-leafed tree. Ozagi stayed in Shutaha’s lodge and absorbed her revulsion.
Tiosa Rondion was defended by the combined forces of Scabeaters, pillagers and most of the Strait’s youth. The defenders were armed with the enclosure’s inexhaustible stock of firesticks and powder and with the Scabeaters’ device for hurling thunderstones. The besiegers’ arms were limited, and they knew they were outnumbered. Lamina sent emissaries to ask for a truce which gave him time to smoke at the Strait’s council.
Wabskeni had the emissaries murdered and their mutilated bodies hurled toward the besiegers.
The infuriated Redearth kin resumed their siege. They shot flaming arrows into the village and into the Scabeaters’ enclosure. Fires broke out everywhere. Bearded hoarders joined with Firekeepers, uniformed Scabeaters joined with Turtleyouth to quench the fires. They filled hollowed-out canoes with the Strait’s water and passed them from hand to hand in serpentine lines that moved from fire to fire.
The Redearth kin could neither defeat their enemies nor council with them nor burn them out. On the nineteenth day of the siege, the remnant of Lamina’s force and his camp of women and children retreated from the Strait.
On the same day, word reached Tiosa Rondion that numerous Prairiekin were coming from the Long River in response to Ahsepona’s invitation. Kendawa prepared to dispatch runners. But Wabskeni had already set out to intercept Lamina’s allies. Wabskeni told the Prairiekin that eastern Serpents and Invaders were besieging the Peninsula, and he convinced them to lend their power to his army. fThe combined armies of Scabeaters, pillagers and Prairiekin set out after Lamina’s retreating kin. Hundreds of Redearth kin were slaughtered. Hundreds of women and children were captured and taken to Hochelaga to be treated as human cattle."
By the time the Prairiekin saw their deception, Wabskeni was already on his way to Bison Prairie to spread the deception further.
When Kendawa learned of the massacre, he had himself carried to the Prairiekin. Mangashko and Ozagi followed the Eagle. Ahsepona’s daughter Ubankiko, together with Pyerwa, their Mani and several Peninsulakin repelled by the fratricide,.\s- accompanied the Prairiekin as far as Kekionga. Kendawa, bent on making his one-time ally Wabskeni answer for his abominations, went on—directly into Wabskeni’s trap. None had foreseen how far Wabskeni would carry his deception.
Young Mota had set out with the scouts of Wabskeni’s ambushing party. When the front line of painted Prairiekin passed Mota’s hiding place, Mota stayed where he was, terrified by what he took to be Serpents, the world’s fiercest warriors. But when the dog travois and the women and children approached him, Mota immediately recognized Ozagi and Mangashko.
The boy let out a cry to drown thunder. The Serpents are aunts and cousins returning to Bison Prairie, Mota cried. But fifty of the Prairiekin had already been ambushed. Among the dead was Mangashko’s one-legged Kendawa. The slayers as well as the slain were led by carriers, Nangisi’s grandchildren, Wiske’s nephews.
Sagikwe rejects every word of her son’s story. She insists Ozagi was bewitched by Shutaha.
The first to be repelled by Sagikwe’s blindness is her closest friend, my daughter. Mangashko furiously says the dead Ahsepona and the slaughtered Redearth kin were the only ones who fought Sagikwe’s battle. While they died, Sagikwe wasted her songs on the mutilator who disembowled her Peninsula, on the conjuring kin-hater who made men take the flesh of their brothers to his dog feast.
Prairiekin from the sunset join with those of Bison Prairie in calling for the instigators of the fratricide. But Wabskeni and his loyal pillagers are already on their way to the Northern Straits. Angry voices demand a council. Winamek is called to answer for Wabskeni’s slaughter and deception.
While the council is being prepared, Nangisi and his carriers return from the Strait bearing gifts. Mangashko rages against her ancient grandfather. She says he sat in Tiosa Rondion drinking poisoned water with Scabeating hoarders while his grandson was perpetrating his horrors. Nangisi thought the poisoned water absolved him of all responsibility because it turned him into a foolish child who saw nothing, heard nothing and knew nothing.
Nangisi hears his granddaughter’s anger. He learned of her Eagle’s death the moment he arrived in Bison Prairie. He speaks before the council. He confronts Kukamigokwe’s Winamek for the first time. During one of the rare moments when he hasn’t been drinking, Nangisi names himself and Winamek the real instigators of the fratricide. He says he helped Winamek lead Rootkin to war when the Serpent enemies were eastern Turtlefolk. He helped Winamek when the Serpents were Redearth kin of the other shore. But now that the Serpents are his own nephews, Nangisi sees that he had fallen into the jaws of the only real viper on the Peninsula.
Winamek answers Nangisi. He says he has used all his strength to gather Peninsulakin around the three fires. If he fought against Serpents, it was only to clear the ground where a strong, healthy tree could grow. He brought gifts to help reconstitute the lost fourth age, to eliminate hunger and misery from the Peninsula. His weapons provided meat, his pots meals, his clothes and blankets warmth. Without his gifts, Peninsulakin would be powerless, cold and miserable.
Winamek has learned much from my father and sister. He has added a great deal of his own. His words wake even Sagikwe. She sees, for the first time, that Winamek’s soul wears a long beard. Sagikwe pours a bowlful of water on Winamek and then, to make herself perfectly clear, spits in his face.
While we deliberate, word reaches us of yet another massacre perpetrated by Winamek’s son. The homebound remnant of Lamina’s Redearth kin was ambushed near Greenbay by Wabskeni’s northbound pillagers. But this time Wabskeni erred in his choice of battleground. He was near the center of Lamina’s homeland. Redearth kin saved Lamina’s band from being completely exterminated. They arrived from every direction and routed Wabskeni’s pillagers. They proceeded to disarm all Scabeaters on the other shore of Mishigami. They now maintain scouting parties on every trail and stream between Mishigami and the Long River. They’re even dispatching armed bands eastward to raid caravans of Scabeaters on the Strait’s periphery.
Hearing this news, the already humiliated Winamek slinks to his lodge. But I fear his member is still inhumanly long.
Some speak of staying armed, others of attacking. I resolve to abandon Winamek and his gifts. That’s Shutaha’s way. Man- gashko agrees to go with me and with most of the remaining Prairiekin to Kekionga.
Mangashko thinks we’re going to join Kendawa’s and Lamina’s allies, the real enemies of the Scabeaters.
Sagikwe, ashamed, stays in her lodge. She wouldn’t share Mangashko’s enthusiasm. She knows that Pyerwa and Uban- kiko are in Kekionga and are not enemies of the Scabeaters.
Ozagi and his friend Mota see us off.
From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org
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