The Strait : Chapter 5 : Katabwe
(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.)
Again I find myself by the Strait’s edge, vaguely aware of a self separate from the mask, but not of a body. It’s dawn, the eighth moonless night is ending. The same shadowy figure approaches, a mask in one hand, a bundle in the other. Putting on the mask, I remember myself as Katabwe; I recognize the figure as lean Sigenak and the bundle as his brother Nanikibi’s. Eagles darken the sky, dead serpents cover the ground. This is the day I dreamed of, the day I dreaded.
My dream’s eagle had swooped down on the serpents and killed them. I was a child when I dreamed; I thought the eagle was my father Mota, who had swooped down on Kekionga’s Scabeaters. When I told my dream, brother Oashi frowned, greatgrandmother Miogwewe told me I was a daughter of Serpents, he called Witchburners because they set fire to their medicine women, those who had burnt the villages of my ancestor Winamek’s Oceanshore kin, those called heretics by the Northern River’s Blackrobes. Winamek had allied with the Scabeat- ers against the Witchburners, my uncle Nagmo was still entangled in that alliance, and after six generations of war, there were no Rootkin on Winamek’s Oceanshore or on the Northern River, the Witchburners were as numerous as sands, the Scabeaters remained strong, and the only original people between them were Turtlefolk of the Eastern River bound together in a league that treated all others as enemies.
Harassed by Nagmo’s northern allies, my father’s companions sought to ally with the generous strangers who brought rum to Pickawillany. To grandfather Lenapi the rumcarriers were neither generous nor strangers, they were emissaries from two gangs who occupied the Oceanshore to the south of the Witchburners.
The rumcarrier with the wagons, a man called Kraw-on, came from among the Cheaters who had invaded the shore of Grandfather Lenapi’s Eastbranch Rootkin. Less murderous than the Witchburners north of them or the Slavers south of them, the Cheaters used their rifles only to kill animals; against people they used rum, gifts and tricks. When they’d first arrived, they’d formed a chain of friendship with the Eastbranch Rootkin, and had accepted gifts with gratitude. When they grew stronger they brought gifts, and when they gave, they wanted more than gratitude. First they wanted com, then animal furs, then the fields where the corn grew and the forests where the animals roamed. Exasperated Eastbranch kin told the Cheaters to take what they wanted once and for all, and then stop nibbling. The Cheaters said they wanted only so much land as they could cross on a day’s walk. When the Rootkin agreed to grant them so much and no more, the Cheaters dispatched their fastest runners along a prepared course in relays. The Eastbranch kin, who had given their word, abandoned their ancestral shore, rivermouth, bay, fields, forests and villages, and retreated to the Sunrise Mountains. And now the Cheaters’ emissary Kraw-on crossed the mountains to the Beautiful Valley looking for other Rootkin with whom to form a chain of friendship, but not because he was friendly.
The other rumcarriers in Pickawillany were emissaries from Invaders grandfather Lenapi called Slavers, Invaders as land-hungry as the Cheaters north of them, but without the Cheaters’ scruples about murdering people.
The Slavers had first landed among Oceanshore Rootkin of the outer banks just south of the Eastbranch shore. After being fed and warmed and then guided from outer to inner banks, after being feasted and caressed by the eloquent Powhatan’s kin, they had murdered their hosts, they had hunted Powhatan’s Rootkin as if they were game, and they had enslaved all those they hadn’t killed. All their ingenuity went into measuring and dividing the earth, granting patches of earth to landsuckers and empowering each to kill everything on his patch so as to repopulate it with enslaved human beings. Having exterminated Powhatan’s kin and divided Powhatan’s shore into slave patches, their emissaries now crossed the mountains into the Beautiful Valley looking for more patches. Those who had promised my father weapons and given him a belt were emissaries for a landgang familiar to grandfather Lenapi, and soon enough to me, the landgang of Ua-shn-tn and Kre-sop.
Grandfather Lenapi said he intended to leave Pick- awillany: the village was no longer a refuge; there was too much disease, too much rum, there were too many Cheaters and Slavers. None spoke against him, not Sigenak nor Namakwe nor my father’s companions. Grandfather Lenapi invited his friend Shawano and other Southbranch kin of Pickawillany to join the Eastbranch kin in the Sunrise Mountains. He said the Cheaters and Slavers who were crossing the mountains were avoiding the Eastbranch villages because the Eastbranch kin had nothing left that the Invaders could take away. He took it for granted that Oashi and I would go with him.
Oashi loved the valley of the mounds and the Southbranch kin in it, but he agreed to leave it, saying the Sunrise Mountains were the gateway to the Valley, a place for councils and ceremonies, for peacemaking. To me, a mountain gateway was a place for ambushes.
We invited Wagoshkwe’s five to go with us, but Sigenak and Namakwe hadn’t heard Lenapi; they still burned to revive my father’s alliance and resume Wagoshkwe’s war; their sisters Tinami and Kittihawa couldn’t wait to rejoin their cross- wearing cousin Katwyn in Nagmo’s lodge of the opposite camp; while Nanikibi, still undecided, as convinced as greatgrandmother Miogwewe that songs and dances would make clawed eagles kind, wanted to unite the two camps by lighting three fires.
Oashi and I accompanied Lenapi and Shawano toward the rising sun, past the fork that makes the Beautiful River, to the pair of Eastbranch villages cradled in a wooded valley of the Sunrise Mountains.
The mountain village of Lenapi’s Eastbranch kin reminded me of my childhood’s Kekionga: I was happy; I seemed to be living closer to the first times, when there were no Invaders.
While I learned to hunt with a bow, Oashi learned the songs of Eastbranch Rootkin, immersed himself in ceremonies, memorized each detail on grandfather Lenapi’s scroll. He told me the irruption of Invaders in our world was temporary, the rhythms lived by the generations described on the scrolls were bound to resume.
But I had dreamed of clawed eagles swooping down on the world, and my dream told me more than the ancient scrolls did. Our happiness didn’t weather four seasons.
The Cheaters who occupied the Eastbranch shore, having scruples about fighting their own wars, showered rum and gifts on an Eastbranch man named Shingis and named him headman of all Eastbranch Rootkin, hoping he would do for them what my father no longer could: defend their rum caravans from attacks by Scabeaters and their western allies. Meanwhile, a landgang among the Witchburners on Winamek’s shore began granting patches of the Sunrise Mountains to rifle-armed landsuckers, claiming that the Sunrise Mountains had been given to the Witchburners by the Turtle league of the eastern Woodlands. Landsuckers arrived; they aimed their rifles against everything that stirred on the patches they’d been granted.
Lenapi’s kin grew alarmed; they counciled; they urged Shingis to speak to those who’d named him headman. Shingis visited the chief Cheaters and he was assured the Sunrise Mountains were inviolable and would belong to Rootkin until the sun no longer rose; that assurance was all the Cheaters would offer Shingis, since they were averse to armed clashes. Shingis went to the others, the Slavers who occupied Powhatan’s shore, offered to scout for the army they were preparing for a clash with Scabeaters and western Rootkin, and asked if this army, after its victory, would help oust the destructive landsuckers from the Sunrise Mountains. The army’s headman, called Bra-duck, told Shingis neither wolves nor wild men would inherit the land his army conquered. Stung by this response, Shingis and his warriors resolved not to help this army to victory; they joined the western army and helped see to it that Bra-duck inherited no land. Bra-duck and most of his army were killed; the remnants fled like rabbits from wolves; it was said that no Oceanshore Invaders had ever suffered a greater defeat.
As soon as they learned of Bra-duck’s defeat, the Cheaters who occupied the Eastbranch shore lost their scruples about killing people. Betrayed by their man Shingis, they turned their wrath on Shingis’s kin, proclaimed that the sun would no longer rise over the inviolable Eastbranch villages, and offered bounties for the scalps of Eastbranch men, women and children. They had swallowed the Oceanshore by cheating; they turned to their neighbors’ ways to swallow the Mountains. They sent ammunition to the landsuckers and urged them to postpone the killings on their patches and join the roving bands of bountyseekers.
Peace and happiness were now part of a brief past. Alarms and "rifle shots made up the rhythm of days'.’ Eastbranch and Southbranch men took turns as hunters, scouts and warriors; women took up hatchets and bows.
The end came on a day when Oashi had left with hunters. I was in grandfather Lenapi’s lodge; Shawano was visiting. Scouts told us a gang of bountyseekers was guiding three hundred redfrocked soldiers toward our village.
I heard shots, the village was surrounded, the forest was infested with scalphunters, the Redcoats and their guides began to set fire to the lodges, foodstocks, even the fields.
Grandfather Lenapi said we were too few to fight, but when our lodge filled with smoke he said we were too many to die. Handing me his bark scroll, he grabbed the old rifle he hadn’t used since his first days in Kekionga and rushed out of the burning lodge. I rushed after him. Shots deafened me and I fell. Shawano had pulled the bow from my hand and tripped me; he held me to the ground, motionless; more shots rang out. Then the Invaders moved away from the ashes of our village.
Shawano and I weren’t scalped. But grandfather Lenapi was dead. He hadn’t killed any Invaders; his old rifle was jammed.
Flames burnt the Eastbranch Rootkin out of the last comer of their original home.
The flames that burnt the village burnt in my heart. I left the scroll with Shawano, picked up my bow and ran toward a circle of dancing Southbranch warriors. I covered my body with the charred remains of lodges. The dance filled my head with thoughts of plagues, rumcarriers and scalp-hunting land- suckers.
I accompanied the warriors to the nearest patch of downed trees and furrowed earth. We didn’t ask if the landsuckers we encircled had been among the killers of our kin; they hadn’t asked if their victims had been among those who’d routed Bra- duck. My arrows hit a rifle-armed man and an unarmed woman. When the woman fell, I lost my rage.
I was relieved when at last the warriors returned to the camp by our burnt village. I was expected to keep track of two of our captives, yellowhaired children of the Invaders I had killed, the older of whom stared at me with hate-filled blue eyes. Shaking from exhaustion, hunger and disgust, I spat in her face.
The camp was full of strangers. I found Oashi lying in Shawano’s tent, with a bullet in his leg. He clutched grandfather Lenapi’s scroll, said nothing about his wound, and told me we were alive only thanks to the strangers, who were our western Rootkin; our uncle Nanikibi was ill among them.
Our western kin, after routing Bra-duck, had defeated every army the Oceanshore Invaders had sent against them, and had stalked the Redcoats sent by the Cheaters against the Eastbranch villages. Their arrival had kept the bountyseekers from gathering all the scalps in our burnt village, and had tied up the defenders of the patches I had raided.
The westerners urged the Southbranch and surviving Eastbranch kin to move toward the setting sun and join the Rootkin of the Lakes and Prairies.
I yearned to return to the places where my grandmothers had lived, but I didn’t want to go encumbered by captives; I wanted to kill the yellowhaired sisters.
Oashi took my hand and placed it on the pendant that hung from his neck, binding me to it; he said the pendant’s maker, our great-grandmother Shutaha, had taken the children of clawed eagles into her lodge as her own kin. Shawano and other Southbranch kin who thought as Oashi did adopted the girls.
When we separated from Shawano’s kin near the fork where two mountain rivers merge to flow toward the sunset as the Beautiful River, the younger girl stayed with the Southbranch kin, but the older clung to the Eastbranch survivors who accompanied the western warriors to Bison Prairie on the Peninsula. During the long journey, Yellowhair cared for the wound on Oashi’s leg and began to call me Nitis, friend, although she had cause to want me dead.
I was miserable during my first spring in Bison Prairie, and not only because of the hunger, the injuries, the disease. I felt closer to Yellowhair, who nursed Oashi until he began to limp, than to the villagers who lodged and caressed us. To me the villagers weren’t only strangers, they were hated Scabeaters, and I was dismayed to learn they were cousins or aunts or uncles, all my kin.
Uncle Nanikibi recovered slowly in the lodge of the crosswearers Nagmo and Katwyn, nursed by his crosswearing sister Kittihawa.
Nanikibi remembered the name his mother Wagoshkwe had thrown against my great-grandmother’s at my naming; he called me Katabwe, warrior, half admiring and half teasing me for having thrown myself into raids without knowing that an army protected me from behind.
Oashi plied Nanikibi and also Mini with questions, eager to learn how our uncle and cousin, both peacemakers, had arrived in the Sunrise Mountains as warriors in uncle Nagmo’s army.
Many springs earlier, before I was born, Oashi, Nanikibi and Mini had sworn never to become embroiled in the wars of the Invaders; they considered themselves heirs and keepers of the fires ancient Wedasi had lit on the Peninsula. Oashi stayed away from our father’s warriors in Kekionga, Nanikibi from his cousin Nagmo’s army in Bison Prairie, and Mini from the enclosure’s armed men on the Strait.
Mini included others in the pact, among them Bati, the son of the enclosure’s haircutter, Aleshi, the nephew of the enclosure’s headman Belest, and Mini’s own cousins Jozes and Magda when they moved from Kekionga to the Strait. A growing number of the Strait’s youth counciled and danced with Mini in Karontaen, the village of Shutaha and the Strait’s Turtlefolk. The old men of Lemond, the Scabeaters’ council, including Jozes’s and Magda’s father Lekomanda Shak, disliked their children’s ever freer ways. Lekomanda Shak pulled Jozes into the store he shared with Mini’s father Shen and their partner Kampo, and he pushed Magda into a marriage with Kampo. Mini, Shutaha and Magda’s mother Manyan opposed this marriage; ever since she’d left Kekionga, Magda had dreamed of Oashi. But Magda would never be reunited with my brother. Lemond’s army set out to Kekionga to retaliate against my father’s capture of their enclosure; Shutaha died, Mini became the keeper of the Strait’s belts, Lemond’s army returned to the Strait and boasted of having eaten my father and all his allies. Fearing Oashi dead, Magda walked into the arranged marriage like a person asleep. Nine moons later she gave birth to a son and left the world to look for Oashi among the ghosts, not knowing that my brother and I were dancing in Pickawillany. The day Magda died, uncle Nagmo, with Bison Prairie’s headman Jumon and an army of warriors from the Leaning Tree village, arrived on the Strait to recruit warriors against the Oceanshore Invaders in the Beautiful V alley. Few of the Strait’s youth joined Nagmo. Mini’s friends had in the meantime become kin by marriage; Batfs brother Anto had married Kam- po’s sister; Aleshi’s older sister had taken Magda’s place in Kampo’s lodge. The friends refused to be embroiled in a war between the Invaders.
Lekomanda Shak was among the few from the Strait who joined Nagmo’s war party; he had been removed from the Kekionga enclosure for letting furs reach the Oceanshore Invaders, and he wanted to redeem himself in Lemond’s eyes.
But when Nagmo led the party toward Pickawillany his small force disintegrated: the Leaning Tree warriors refused to attack my father, Lekomanda Shak refused to attack Ozagi. Nagmo retained a remnant of an army only by diverting it against a distant enemy; instead of attacking Pickawillany, he went to Cahokia on the Long River, plundered two caravans of rumcarriers, and then went to the eastern end of the Beautiful Valley and planted metal plates on sacred spots. These plates, it was said, shouted insults to the Oceanshore Invaders, and provoked the Slavers on Powhatan’s Oceanshore to dispatch against Nagmo an army led by the brother of the landgang headman Ua-shn-tn. The two armies met and called each other intruders; each demanded that the other leave the Beautiful Valley. Nagmo’s was the smaller and called a truce. Lekomanda Shak and Bison Prairie’s headman Jumon carried a truce flag to Ua-shn-tn’s tent, and never again emerged. Ua-shn-tn and his cohorts suddenly rode off on their horses. The bodies of Lekomanda Shak and Jumon were inside the tent, their scalps removed.
While the Scalper Ua-shn-tn rode eastward to boast of his victory against a western army, Nagmo and his reduced band became the nucleus of a western army larger than the legendary army gathered by his grandfather Winamek. News of the scalping under a truce flag was carried to councils in every corner of the Peninsula; when Oashi’s friends learned of the scalping, they broke their oath and became embroiled in the Invaders’ war. On the Strait, Mini, the scalped man’s nephew, as well as Bati and Aleshi, prepared to go to war.
Nanikibi, Sigenak and their three sisters had just returned to Kekionga from Pickawillany; their father was dead; Oashi and I were on our way to the Sunrise Mountains. When Nagmo passed through Kekionga to recruit more warriors against the scalper, Wagoshkwe’s five separated in three directions. Sigenak and Namakwe remembered that Nagmo’s grandfather had hunted their mother’s kin from their first appearance at the Strait to their final demise 011 the Lakebottom, and Sigenak wanted to attack, not distant Ua-shn-tn, but Nagmo, as well as Jozes, Kampo and Shen, who had reopened their Kekionga fur-gathering post. Nanikibi hesitantly joined Nagmo. Little Kittihawa set out for Bison Prairie to rejoin her crosswearing cousin Katwyn. Tinami stayed in Kekionga to do what her father Ozagi would have done, to make peace between Sigenak and Jozes, who remained in his fur post when the warriors set out to avenge his father’s death.
The western warriors found Scalper Ua-shn-tn barricaded in a small enclosure near the fork that makes the Beautiful River. This time Ua-shn-tn and the outnumbered Redcoats advanced with truce flags. They weren’t scalped; they were marched out of the Beautiful Valley to the beat of drums, their tails drooping between their legs. Scalper Ua-shn-tn looked closely at the drummer Bati and at Mini, Aleshi and Nanikibi; he would remember them.
Nanikibi, Mini and their companions set out again when it was learned that another army of Redcoats was moving into the Beautiful Valley, Bra-duck’s army of thousands, guided by Shingis and Eastbranch Rootkin. This army hadn’t yet reached the mountain pass when Shingis and his kin turned up in the westerners’ camp; they said the Redcoats treated the Eastbranch guides as slaves, rejected all advice, expected the guides to be in the front line, and boasted that only Slavers would inherit the fruits of victory.
Smug Bra-duck moved toward the mountain pass without guidance, even Ua-shn-tn’s, having relegated the drummed-out scalper to the baggage train in the rear. Bra-duck and his thousands advanced directly into the ambush of waiting Rootkin. The headman and most of his Redcoats would inherit no more: they shot and stabbed each other in their mad rush to escape from the mountains, led in their flight by the rear, by Ua-shn-tn, who abandoned weapons, powder, cattle, horses, baggage wagons, and ran at the head of the fleeing remnant.
The victorious westerners, strengthened by Southbranch and Eastbranch kin and by Hochelaga crosswearers, went on to drive Invaders from Shuagan on the Easternmost Lake and from enclosures along the Northern River, pushing them toward the strip of Oceanshore where Rootkin no longer roamed. At one of these enclosures, the treacherous Redcoats, pretending to want a truce, gave the westerners blankets taken from men afflicted with smallpox. The disease spread more suffering and death than all the Oceanshore Invaders’ armies had been able to do. Nanikibi was one of the many who broke out in blisters but survived.
It was this disease-afflicted but still undefeated army that routed the villageburners who had killed Lenapi and destroyed his village; these were the victorious warriors Oashi and I and my yellowhaired captive accompanied to Bison Prairie on the Peninsula.
The three of us, Oashi and I as well as Yellowhair, were made uneasy by the kindness of aunt Katwyn and Nanikibi’s youngest sister Kittihawa. We were repelled by the crosses and pictures, by the iron kettles and needles, by the clothes and the alien ways. We didn’t have tears to shed for the privations suffered by uncle Nagmo’s kin, privations they said came from Redearth hunters abandoning Bison Prairie for the Plains and Firekeeping planters for Pickawillany.
We were relieved when kin from the Strait arrived to celebrate the victories, when Nanikibi’s sister Namakwe, who wore no cross, and Bati’s sister Nizokwe, Mini’s bride who filled the air with song, helped us raise a lodge at a comfortable distance from Nagmo’s.
Oashi was together with his childhood friends for the first time in ten springs. Yellowhair and Nizokwe took to each other as if they had spent their childhood together. I felt among my own kin, the ways of Mini and Bati and Nizokwe being no more alien to me than my great-grandmother’s. Yet Bati and Nizokwe were no more Rootkin than Yellowhair, being two of four children of Lemond’s haircutter and his Hochelaga woman. All four loved to make songs with their voices, with flutes, with strings, even with reeds and sticks. Three of them, Bati, Nizokwe and their brother Anto, had grown up in aunt Man- yan’s lodge close to Magda, Jozes and their cousin Mini, close to the bowlmaker Shutaha.
Nizokwe had stopped singing only three times in her life: when great-grandmother Shutaha died, when Nizokwe’s closest friend Magda died giving birth to Tisha, and when her brother and Mini left the Strait with the western army; she had become Mini’s bride on the eve of the army’s departure. She had remained silent all through the warriors’ absence. Aunt Man- yan had tried to revive Nizokwe’s voice by giving her a bead and cloth animal that my mother Menoko had once made for Minfs mother, and by saying that Menoko’s spirit lived in Nizokwe. But Nizokwe kept silent; she learned from refugees fleeing from a distant eastern island that armed Witchburners had chased people from their lodges and fields; she saw Lemond’s Navar and Decuand chase villagers from the Isle of Rattlesnakes which all had shared in common; she thought the world was ending.
Nizokwe’s voice returned only when she reached Bison Prairie and threw her arms around Mini and Bati. She kept on singing while helping us raise our lodge, while showing Yellowhair the secrets of bowlmaking.
Before long, Yellowhair sang songs of Rootkin and Turtlefolk alongside Nizokwe, spoke with increasing fluency and danced. Oashi, whose eyes were ever on his healer, called my yellowhaired captive Lokaskwe, Bowlmaker.
Lokaskwe told us the people my arrows killed, her kin, were innocents. Their name was Ba-yer, they spoke a tongue different from that of the Oceanshore Invaders, they’d had little to give and gave it all to the landgang that sent them to the Sunrise Mountains. They had left their world so as to flee from landgangs, had crossed the Ocean to find people who shared and gave as freely as their own kin had used to do. But rifle-armed bountyseekers intimidated Lokaskwe’s father into joining a raid against those he’d come seeking. He’d wanted to be accepted by the unfamiliar people he raided, but he was familiar with oppression and desolation and he knew only to oppress and desolate, until he was stopped by people who defended themselves as his never had.
Oashi begged Lokaskwe to repeat her story over and over; he couldn’t believe that the Invaders overrunning our world had themselves been overrun; he couldn’t believe that those who had experienced desolation could be so inhuman as to carry desolation to others.
Oashi drew Lokaskwe away from singing Nizokwe and sang his songs to her, great-grandmother’s songs. Sitting by Lenapi’s unrolled scroll, he sang to her of the Tellegwi, Neshnabek and Talamatun who had inhabited the lakes, valleys, woodlands and oceanshores before desolation arrived in great ships. Lokaskwe said her father had told her of the world Oashi described: its name was Paradise.
Oashi, who wore the pendant Shutaha had made for Mio- gwewe, begged me and Nanikibi and Mini to help him arrange an adoption and renewal ceremony as our great-grandmother would have arranged it.
On the eve of the ceremony, Nanikibi brought me a gift, which I accepted. The adoption and renewal was a double linking.
Lokaskwe and Oashi would share songs as well as lodge and mat and food.
Nanikibi and I, descendants of ancient Wedasi and the first Nangisi, of ancient Yahatase .and the first Binesikwe, reunited all the peoples of the Lakes and Prairies: on Nanikibi’s side Wagoshkwe’s Redearth kin, Sagikwe’s Peninsulakin of Sagi Bay, Yahatase’s Turtlefolk of Morningland; on my side Menoko’s peaceful dreamers, Mangashko’s Prairie warriors, Miogwewe’s Firekeepers, Binesikwe’s Rootkin of Kichigami.
But the life Oashi described to Lokaskwe did not resume in Bison Prairie.
Those of the Strait left us, and when Mini again came to Bison Prairie, it was to bring us terrifying news. After all the defeats inflicted on them by Nanikibi, Mini, Bati, Aleshi and the other western warriors, the Oceanshore Invaders had returned to the Sunrise Mountains with Redcoats more numerous than Bra-duck’s. The western scouts at the fork that makes the Beautiful River, on the lookout for caravans of rumcarriers, receiving no aid from nearby Southbranch kin, abandoned their small enclosure and fled to the Strait. The headman of the Strait’s enclosure, Aleshi’s uncle Belest, led a force against the redfrocked Invaders, but retreated after half his force was destroyed; Mini’s father Shen was among the dead. And then news reached the Strait that yet larger armies of Redcoats had surprised the enclosures at the Great Falls, on the Eastern River and on the Northern River itself: Stadacona and Hochelaga had both fallen to the Oceanshore Invaders. The strongholds had been poorly defended; in its hour of need, Winamek’s alliance of western Rootkin with Northern River Invaders had been a cracked bow. While the Rootkin defeated the Redcoats’ armies, Lemond’s headmen, including Aleshi’s uncle Belest and my cousin Jozes, had greedily enlarged their pelt hoards; then, while the Rootkin rested, Lemond’s warriors couldn’t hold their ground because the weapons and provisions of the enclosures had been given away by headmen for pelts. Two bands of Invaders no longer confronted each other across the world; the Oceanshore Invaders’ armies now confronted none but the world’s original people.
The Strait’s enclosure was the only Scabeater stronghold that had not yet fallen to the redfrocked armies; its headman, Aleshi’s uncle Belest, was bent on keeping it from falling: at the gate he placed a pole with a crow pecking at the head of an Oceanshore Invader.
The Strait’s Turtleyouth and Rootkin, among them Mini, Nizokwe’s brothers Bati and Anto and their cousin Aleshi, were ready to pounce on any Redcoats who approached, and eager to carry belts to every corner of the Peninsula.
But no redfrocked army came. Instead, a band of bountyseekers like those who had burned Lenapi’s village, a motley band who called themselves Rah-jerks Rain-jerks, came to deliver a message, a talking leaf, to the enclosure’s headman.
The Strait’s warriors couldn’t wait to annihilate the message-carriers, but headman Belest and the rest of Lemond were demented by the talking leaf. Belest and his armed men evacuated the enclosure as if defeated by an invincible army, abandoning weapons and provisions to the Rain-jerks. Lemond’s scroll-keeper Navar and Scabeater Decuand took Slaver Rah-jerks into their lodges, even into scalped Lekomanda Shak’s house, where aunt Manyan fell ill from rage. And then headman Belest and all his armed men left the Strait altogether and headed toward the Long River, leaving the Strait’s warriors trapped between enemies ahead and enemies behind, enemies lodged without a battle in the stronghold of former allies. The talking leaf that had demented Belest said that one overman across the Ocean had ceded to another overman across the Ocean all the valleys, forests, prairies and lakes between the Long River and the Oceanshore; had the overman ceded earth, moon and sun, demented Belest would have had to seek a path to the stars.
This capitulation to a talking leaf was the last of Lemond’s many betrayals since the day, sixty winters earlier, when great-grandmother Shutaha and the Strait’s Turtlefolk and Rootkin had invited Lekomanda Kadyak and his hundred Scabeaters to a council. The Scabeaters would betray no more; Shutaha’s council was dead.
The Invaders from the Oceanshore installed themselves in Lemond’s lodges; they posted armed sentinels by the lodges of other villagers, greedy for the objects in them, particularly the furs. Headman Rah-jerks, as well as his companion, Cheater Kraw-on, whom Oashi and I had seen in Pickawillany, resumed where Belest and Lemond had left off; they grabbed all the furs they could reach. Unlike the previous furgatherers, these gave only rum, and even watered this single gift. Told by the headman of all the Redcoat armies, a man called Am-first, to give hunters neither weapons nor bullets, they gave watered rum for the furs taken from women’s and children’s backs.
Oashi and I remembered Lenapi’s warning: the Invaders were generous only when Rootkin were strong; they turned mean when they thought the Rootkin depleted.
All that remained of Shutaha’s village were the belts of the first council, in Mini’s keeping. Lemond’s fat men shamelessly prostrated themselves to the scalpers of their cousin Lekomanda Shak. Aunt Manyan’s last word to Mini was a plea to carry red belts and flaming rage to all descendants of the Redearth warrior Lamina.
Mini stayed the winter in Bison Prairie, hunting with Oashi and Nanikibi, counciling continuously, in and out of the village, with Firekeepers and Prairiekin and everyone disposed to listen.
A son was born to Nanikibi and me; I named him Topinbi, bear that sits quietly and waits for the ice to thaw.
When the ice did thaw, fifteen armed Redcoats and a rum- carrier were spotted on the trail toward Bison Prairie. Uncle Nagmo and several warriors, fur carriers all, rushed out to intercept the Invaders. But Nagmo without orders from Scab- eater allies was like a village dog in the forest; he couldn’t cope, he couldn’t decide between killing the Redcoats and ingratiating himself as the Strait’s Lemond had done. Given strouds, blankets and rum, Nagmo escorted the Redcoats into the village, where angry warriors surrounded them. Even aunt Katwyn, repelled by Nagmo’s slavishness, urged that the Invaders be killed.
Bison Prairie’s Firekeepers, among them Nanikibi, Oashi and their friend Mini, already had another plan. They urged restraint; the killing of these fifteen would only provoke the arrival of many times their number, whereas the elimination of the Invaders’ strongholds would stop the arrival of any. The gatheringplace of all those committed to the larger goal was Karontaen, as the Turtlefolk called their village on the Strait’s shore, the place where Shutaha and her kin had counciled with the previous Invaders, who had come as guests.
The fifteen Redcoats and their rumcarrier were left to exert their powers over each other as virtually everyone else set out toward the Strait.
On the eve of our departure, Lokaskwe learned that the rumcarrier, a man called Shap-man, spoke her father’s tongue, came from her father’s part of the world across the Ocean, and had no love for the Invaders he had been intimidated into joining.
We went by way of my birthplace, Kekionga, where we found Nanikibi’s sister Tinami, who had stayed in Kekionga to make peace between her cousin Jozes and her brother Sigenak. Tinami was sharing her mat with Jozes and heavy with child. Magda’s son Tisha, already old enough to scout and hunt, had been with his father Jozes since Manyan had died. The peace between Jozes and Sigenak had not been made by Tinami but by the arrival of a detachment of Rah-jerks Rain-jerks, one of whom had entered Jozes’s store with armed companions and simply taken it over, another of whom had demanded Sigenak’s horse and, on being refused, shot and killed the beautiful animal. It took the loss of his store to rouse Jozes, who hadn’t been so roused by his mother’s frustrated end or his father’s scalping under a truce flag. It took the death of his horse to sour Sigenak on the allies he’d been waiting to embrace since he’d learned of my father’s raid.
On the Strait, Nanikibi and I, Oashi and Lokaskwe, Jozes and Tinami and Sigenak were made much of by Nanikibi’s sister Namakwe, who had recently become Bati’s companion, and by Mini’s birdlike Nizokwe, who together with her three brothers surrounded the gathering warriors with music so gorgeous that it almost made me forget my rage and my reason for being on the Strait.
I had heard of many great councils on the Strait, but couldn’t imagine one greater than this. Into this place called Tiosa Rondion by ancient Turtlefolk and Karontaen by Shutaha’s heirs, this center of the first Firekeepers, ancient Wedasi’s village before the wanderings began, there came warriors from every corner of the world: Rootkin came from Bowe- ting, Mishilimakina and Greenbay; carriers came from the Leaning Tree village and from Sandusky Bay in the Lake of the vanished Ehryes; Southbranch kin and even a few Eastbranch kin came from the Muskingum, Tuscarawas and Kanawha in the Beautiful Valley (Lokaskwe unsuccessfully sought her sister among them); there were even two emissaries from the eastern Turtleleague, the people considered Serpents by ancient Winamek and his Scabeating allies; the only places from which no warriors came were Lemond’s former strongholds Hochelaga and Stadacona.
Firekeepers were anxious to reveal their plan to the counciling warriors, but the time wasn’t right, the lines weren’t clear, there were many at the council who had already gone over to the Invader. Near the council’s center sat Lemond’s Navar and Decuand with other fat men and two lean Blackrobes; these were present as spies for their new master, dogs who licked the new hand that rewarded them. The rest of the center was taken up by uncle Nagmo and his fellow fur carriers from Greenbay, Leaning Tree and Mishilimakina. These two groups yelled at each other. Navar shouted that rifles and bullets and other gifts would be given only to the deserving: he spoke from his own experience. Nagmo shouted that rifles and bullets were not gifts, but the very condition for the hunt; withholding these was a fool’s decision, since none could reach furs without them, deserving or undeserving. Nanikibi reminded Nagmo of Ozagi’s prophesy: when one Invader eliminated the other, his generosity would end, for he would no longer need Rootkin as allies.
Sigenak said the Invader withheld weapons and powder because he intended to attack the Peninsulakin as the former Invader had attacked the Redearth kin, and for the same reason: the kin of the Peninsula blocked his path. Sigenak was loudly approved by many carriers, formerly my father’s allies, formerly enemies of Shutaha’s village and friends of the Oceanshore Invaders but now their loudest enemies.
Mini raised his voice against the carriers’ approval; he said the carriers as well as Nagmo were ready to come to terms with the new Invaders if only the terms were the same as those granted by the earlier Invaders. He displayed the belts of the agreement made two generations earlier by the Strait’s villagers and guests, promising mutual enhancement, and he said no such agreement had been made with the Slavers, who promised not to enhance but to oppress, break and remove, because they regarded kinship as a burden, because they applied horse-breeding and -breaking tricks to human beings, because they saw horses, people and earth herself as nothing but obstacles to be enslaved and put to use. Mini said Slavers were not wanted on the Strait no matter what terms they granted; their mere presence was a provocation.
After the silence that followed Mini’s words, the two Turtleleague emissaries rose. Many eyes had been fixed on these two redoubtable warriors whose mere presence on the Strait was a surprise, who were viewed as long-lost cousins by some and as mortal enemies by others. It was the first time Turtleleague warriors had ventured into a council of western Rootkin since the days when Blackrobes had named them Serpents and tried to reduce Rootkin to tools for the extermination of Serpents. The Turtleleague had grown strong by allying with one Invader and then with the other, playing with both and trusting neither, as Nanikibi’s father Ozagi had done, until the last war between the Invaders, when they lost their sense and gave all their strength to the Invaders of the Oceanshore, even to the point of advising their allies to strengthen themselves by uniting their thirteen bickering gangs into a single league like their own. The victory of their allies brought the Turtleleague defeat, which was something Lenapi could have and the Turtlefolk should have foreseen.
After helping defeat those who called them Serpents, the Turtleleague warriors returned to their eastern woodland homes to find their kin hungry and their allies camped in hunting grounds, destroying plants and game, their allies’ headman Am-first granting lands to redfrocked underlings and insisting that Turtlefolk be given rifles and gifts only for slavish services performed for Redcoats. Western members of the league rose up against their redfrocked allies, but their eastern cousins didn’t rise, and the great Turtleleague tore.
The two men who rose at the Strait’s council were not emissaries for the whole league, but only for its angry western half. They presented two red belts to the council and called for the simultaneous annihilation of every enclosure west of the Sunrise Mountains. This was exactly the plan that Firekeepers were waiting to reveal. But the Turtle emissaries, unfamiliar with western Rootkin, had no sense for the time or the place to reveal the plan, and they addressed their war cry and gave their belts to Nagmo, in their eyes the heir of Winamek’s great league of western Rootkin with northern Invaders.
Nagmo gave the belts to Lemond’s Navar. This predictable betrayal was the last act of Winamek’s great league. Navar promptly carried the belts to Mad-win, the redfrocked headman in the Strait’s enclosure. Their task accomplished, Lemond’s fat men as well as Nagmo and his companions left the council.
Now at last the lines were clear. The time was ripe for a second council, this one among those who had always been hostile to Winamek’s league, among those who had allied with Redearth kin against Winamek and his heirs, among those to whom Mini’s great-grandfather Ahsepona had sent belts. Now Firekeepers and Turtlefolk without crosses and Prairiekin who had fought alongside Redearth kin and carriers who had turned against the remains of Winamek’s league began to elaborate the details of the plan prematurely announced by the Turtleleague emissaries, a plan that in any case wasn’t new: ancient Yahatase had tried to kill the first Invaders in the western Lakes, my grandmother Mangashko had rejected all the Invaders’ ways, Nanikibi’s mother Wagoshkwe had fought to push the Invaders toward the salt sea.
It was during the interlude between the first and second council that yellowhaired Lokaskwe began to have her dreams. She dreamed of the landgang who had given her father a talking leaf, of the armed men who had forced her father to join them in raids against the people he had come to join, of the Redcoats who had arrived in Bison Prairie, of the rumcarrier who had arrived with them, and after each dream she woke up screaming, terrified, afraid of sleep. Her friend Nizokwe and Nanikibi’s sisters tried to soothe her by exorcizing the spirit responsible for her bad dreams, Nizokwe with songs, Namakwe with herbal potions, Tinami with gibberish learned from Blackrobes.
Oashi and I, and also Nanikibi, sensed that we were in the presence, not of dreams to be exorcized, but of visions to be shared, and we urged Lokaskwe to tell all she saw and to fathom its meaning. Oashi saw quickly and I very slowly that the meaning of Lokaskwe’s dreams was very close to the deepest meaning of our own.
Before leaving Bison Prairie, Lokaskwe had spoken to Shap-man, the rumcarrier who spoke her first language; she had asked him who the Redcoats were and what they wanted in Bison Prairie.
Shap-man’s answer was at the root of Lokaskwe’s visions. He told her two things: the Redcoats considered themselves heirs to ancient people chosen at the beginning of time by a power outside the world to be the world’s improvers, and the improvement consisted of enclosing people, animals and earth herself in a net so strong that none of those caught in it could ever emerge.
Nanikibi and Oashi immediately recognized the great entangler Wiske, but Lokaskwe insisted the Invader was something larger, something not encompassed by our stories. The Invader considered himself one of the chosen, and his very contempt toward all that wasn’t chosen confirmed his self- image as chosen. He considered himself chosen because he put last things first, because he felt contempt for earth’s body as well as his own. Public display of his contempt for women, Rootkin, unpenned animals and uncultivated plants, ostentatious display of his shame of his own body, desires, natural acts and even nakedness, made him great among his likes and gave him a license to cheat, plunder and kill without qualms. These acts, when done by the chosen, were not called cheating or plunder or murder but always improvements, and they were never inflicted on kin, since the chosen called none kin, neither earth’s plants nor animals nor people but only the outside power that chose them. The affirmation of that outside power led to the denial of everything else.
Lokaskwe said the outside power was Death, and the improvements performed by Death’s chosen consisted of enclosing, enmeshing and swallowing everything that had emerged as Life. She was terrified because she felt enmeshed, not by her birth and childhood among the Invaders, but by the net of objects that lay over our villages, by the cloth and metals and rum and flint which mangled us by making us dependent on the world-improvers, which entangled us in a net so strong that none caught in it ever emerged.
Oashi and Nanikibi shared Lokaskwe’s vision with their counciling kin. But the vision was too demanding, even for warriors preparing to destroy every enclosure this side of the Mountains.
Many heard Oashi and Nanikibi, even the renowned Mashekewis of the Northern Straits, and were eager to begin life anew, adopting from the Invaders only their children so as to let them grow into human beings.
But many were impatient of words and visions and eager to begin to push the Invaders toward the Oceanshore and even back to the salt sea they came from. Sigenak and my dead father’s allies were among the most eager.
Hasty preparations to seize the Strait’s enclosure were made. Lokaskwe and I followed Namakwe and other women to replace the village men in the fields, for among the Strait’s inhabitants the men did the seeding.
Five hundred warriors then surrounded the enclosure; sixty entered on the pretext of wanting to confer with headman Mad-win, knives and hatchets (as I then thought) hidden under their cloaks, ready to open the gate to the five hundred outside. But once inside, the sixty found themselves surrounded by all the hundreds of Redcoats inside the enclosure, and they could only retreat, ashamed and frustrated.
Then the hunt for those guilty of betraying the plan began. From the enclosure itself came the story, devised by Lemond’s Navar, that a Rootwoman called Katwyn had warned Mad-win from affection; this story was devised to turn Rootkin against each other, but it convinced no one: it was known that Mad-win, who treated Rootwomen as if they were goats, could not inspire affection. According to another story that came from the enclosure, Aleshi’s younger sister Anjelik had revealed the plan to the man she loved, a cheating rumcarrier named Star-ling, who then warned Mad-win. This may have happened, since Anjelik later married Star-ling, and the story turned many warriors against the carriers in their midst, for the carriers, as was known by Navar inside the enclosure, wanted to install Anjelik’s father Kuyerye into the post of Lekomanda and the carriers also sent talking leaves to Anjelik’s uncle Belest composed by Anjelik’s brother Aleshi. Whether true or not, this story, like the first, was sent out of the enclosure to create dissension among the attackers.
It was the attackers themselves who warned the Redcoats. Several days before the planned entry, carriers had visited every gunsmith on the Strait to have their rifles shortened, and these visits were known by Anjelik as well as all the other villagers, including those serving the Invaders. When the carriers entered the enclosure, not with knives and hatchets but with shortened rifles under their cloaks, the bulges couldn’t have been a mystery to Invaders familiar with sawed-off rifles.
The carriers hadn’t heard Lokaskwe’s vision, they couldn’t live without the Invaders’ weapons, they no longer knew how to use stone and wood, they couldn’t imagine how their ancestors had warred and hunted.
There was no time to be disgusted with the carriers; the failed attack did not impair the rest of the plan; the destruction of the other strongholds would cut the supply lines to the Invaders on the Strait, and in the east, Turtleleague warriors were ready; their belts were accepted by the second council.
Sigenak set out toward Sandusky Bay in the Lake of the vanished Ehryes with my father’s one-time allies and also with my father’s one-time enemies Jozes and Mini and their cousins Bati and Aleshi.
Lokaskwe and Oashi, Nanikibi and I set out toward Bison Prairie with Firekeepers and Prairiekin, unencumbered by the Invaders’ weapons or alliance, Nagmo and Bison Prairie’s carriers having retired to the Leaning Tree village in the north.
The Redcoats stopped us on the path into Bison Prairie, almost on the very spot where Nagmo had stopped them. After aunt Katwyn and Nanikibi’s sister Kittihawa made it clear to the Redcoats that we were kin returning to our own village, the Invaders let us pass, and we immediately surrounded every Redcoat. Those who raised their rifles were downed by arrows; the rest were disarmed. Bison Prairie was freed of its Invaders without rifles, without metal, in a battle that lasted a few moments.
The captives were prepared for their journey toward the rising sun. They were hostile and contemptuous; no one wanted to adopt any of them except the rumcarrier Shap-man. Katwyn had welcomed the rumcarrier into her lodge, her younger son had befriended him. Katwyn wanted Bison Prairie’s Firekeepers to adopt the rumcarrier; she couldn’t live without his gifts. Lokaskwe too urged his adoption, not for his gifts but for his insights and his sense of humor.
Oashi arranged great-grandmother Miogwewe’s ceremony of three fires, not only to adopt the rumcarrier, but to celebrate the rebirth of Bison Prairie. During the chaos that accompanied the ritual expulsion of the hare, in which even crosswearing Katwyn and Kittihawa took part, the unfortunate rumcarrier almost lost his wits: he didn’t understand he was being adopted and apparently thought the fires had been lit to roast him! When a party of warriors, Nanikibi among them, escorted the captive Redcoats out of Bison Prairie, adopted Shap-man accompanied them, evidently afraid to be left among his new kin.
Nanikibi returned before the moon had completed two phases with news that sweetened the very air. The Firekeepers’ plan was being carried through; all Invaders had been ousted from the valleys and prairies.
After escorting the captives to the Strait’s enclosure, Nanikibi had joined Sigenak in Kekionga. Sigenak and the other warriors had just ambushed and captured the headman of the Sandusky enclosure, downed the Redcoats who tried to shoot, and burned the enclosure. In Kekionga, the warriors captured three Redcoats and a hostile rumcarrier outside the enclosure; the headman, demented by fear, shot at shadows, and then foolishly ran out after a girl who promised him love and safety; surrounded, he shot in every direction until he was killed; all the Redcoats in the enclosure promptly surrendered. Leaving Kekionga, the warriors were joined by carriers who had surprised a caravan of Redcoats moving from the Great Falls to reinforce Mad-win at the Strait. The force that went from Kekionga to the Wabash to attack the Uiatanon enclosure consisted of Wagoshkwe’s sons as well as sons of warriors who had once fought alongside Wabskeni and Lekomanda Shak against Wagoshkwe’s Redearth kin. The Redcoats in Uiatanon, surrounded by peoples all of whom were hostile to their presence, were easily captured and disarmed; none were killed. AH the Invaders west of the Strait were now ousted. Mini, Aleshi and Bati escorted the captives to the Strait. Sigenak, Jozes and Magda’s son Tisha, who had gone as a scout, stopped at Kekionga.
Nanikibi learned of yet more captures before he returned to Bison Prairie. At the second council on the Strait, the northerners with the renowned Mashekewis had listened carefully to Oashi’s impersonation of Lokaskwe’s visions. Mashekewis and the northern Rootkin set out toward the Northern Straits unencumbered by crosswearers or carriers, who had retired with Nagmo to the Leaning Tree village. Mashekewis’ warriors camped in front of the enclosure at Mishilimakina, the Black- robes’ long-time stronghold and the greatest fur post on the Lakes. The warriors played bagataway with visiting kin from Sagi Bay while Redcoats watched the game and Rootwomen entered the enclosure with concealed knives and hatchets. The ball, as if by chance, bounded into the enclosure; the players bounded after it, grabbed weapons, surrounded the Redcoats and disarmed them before any could shoot; a rumcarrier called Soli-man, a cousin of our Shap-man, was among the captives. News of the capture traveled quickly to the nearby Leaning Tree village and to Greenbay. Carriers and crosswearers in the Leaning Tree village were insulted because they and their rifles had not been invited to help capture the great enclosure on the Northern Strait. Mashekewis conciliated Nagmo by letting the carriers escort the captives eastward. Before Nagmo’s party left Mishilimakina, the Redcoats who had occupied the Greenbay enclosure arrived on their own and voluntarily added themselves to the captives, terrified by their isolation: they already knew of the fall of the western enclosures and of the capture of enclosures on the Easternmost Lake and in the eastern Woodlands by warriors of the Turtleleague.
From the first planting until the leaves fell, Bison Prairie was alive with dance and song. Wagoshkwe’s dream was coming true, and in the way she would have wanted, Lokaskwe’s way. Even Katwyn and Kittihawa were beginning to enjoy life unencumbered by alien contrivances. But our joy fell with the leaves.
Aleshi brought the bad news. All warriors who had followed Lokaskwe’s way had succeeded; those on the Strait had failed, and there was no word from those at the fork that makes the Beautiful River.
Mini, Bati and Aleshi returned to the Strait celebrating their victories in Sandusky, Kekionga and Uiatanon. They soon learned that the Strait’s enclosure was the only stronghold on the Lakes still in the Invaders’ hands. Carriers wanted to storm the enclosure with rifles and fire. Mini and the Strait’s Turtlefolk remembered the Redearth kin’s siege and warned that such an assault would mean a loss of life human beings could not sustain. Aleshi warned that such an assault would not even frighten the enclosure’s headman; Aleshi had learned from a renegade Redcoat named Hop-kin that headman Mad-win was a block of stone who served his distant power with the rigidity of a contrivance, something like the monster that took the shape of an eagle in my dream; no dog could be broken to such extreme loyalty; Mad-win was determined to hold fast until every one of his Redcoats was killed, and he was convinced of the wisdom of such idiocy. There were no blocks of stone among the besieging warriors to lead such an assault.
The warriors prepared another ruse, for they knew that the enclosure’s Redcoats were running out of provisions: Jozes and Tisha were summoned from Kekionga; together with other sons and grandsons of Lemond whose involvement with the warriors was unknown by those inside, they were to open the enclosure’s gates and let the warriors flood in.
Carriers who had been capturing every supply caravan approaching the Strait from above and below precipitously abandoned their ambushing posts and camped outside the enclosure with all their weapons, letting several hundred Rah- jerks Rain-jerks, led by a hothead called Dah-sell with twenty dugout canoes of provisions, slip into the enclosure unobserved.
The plan was put off. Inside the enclosure, hothead Dah- sell, enraged by the warriors encircling the enclosure in plain view, led his hundreds out to exterminate the encirclers, but not before those inside the enclosure had sent out warnings. Dah- sell and his entire force rushed in blackest night directly into the ambush that awaited them; almost half were killed, the rest ran bleeding and screaming toward the enclosure, saved only by the fog.
The carriers celebrated the victory; this was a battle they could understand: rifles against rifles. But Jozes and Tisha had been spotted warning their companions; the plan was ruined. The carriers went back to capturing caravans of provisions heading toward the Strait.
Suddenly Lemond’s Decuand turned up in one of the carrier camps, Navar in another, with word that Redcoat headman Mad-win as well as overman Am-first were willing to come to terms with the Strait’s besiegers; they were willing to resume the fur trade, to provide weapons to hunters, and to block incursions of landsuckers beyond the Sunrise Mountains. These were the terms ancient Nangisi’s heirs had fought for; they agreed to return captives and dispersed to their villages to prepare for their winter hunt.
Headman Mad-win promptly captured Mini, Aleshi, Jozes and Tisha. Mini and Jozes were placed into a wooden trap. Kampo’s son Tisha and Anjelik Star-ling’s brother Aleshi were released and banished from the Strait.
Aleshi’s bad news was only the beginning. The arrival in Bison Prairie of Eastbranch and Southbranch refugees from the Beautiful Valley, most of them pockmarked, confirmed Lokaskwe’s vision of the Invaders as nothing like eagles, even contrived ones, but as Death’s agents. Shawano came with the emaciated refugees, his face marked by the dread disease, as well as Lokaskwe’s younger sister, named Magidins by those who’d adopted her, fluent in Rootspeech, a young Southbranch woman with yellow hair.
After fleeing from the ruined Eastbranch village in the Sunrise Mountains, Shawano and his kin had camped near the fork that makes the Beautiful River. They were followed by rumcarrier Kraw-on and by a Blackcollar called Brother Post- err, who spoke Magidins’ first tongue and used her as translator. This Post-err spoke of himself as one of several black- collared Brethren who carried no weapons, and to whom the ways of the original people were dearer than the Invaders’ ways. After Brother Post-err won the confidence of the Southbranch kin, Kraw-on delivered the message that an army of Redcoats would return to the Sunrise Mountains solely in order to keep landsuckers from invading the Beautiful Valley on the pretext that the valley had been granted to them by the Turtleleague.
Impressed by Brother Post-err’s evident sincerity and not eager to paint themselves for war, Shawano’s kin looked on while Redcoats under a headman called Bow-kay, Bra-duck’s successor, built, fortified, and entrenched themselves on the fork itself, in an enclosure they called Pit-strength.
Southbranch women were hardly done placing their first cornseeds into the ground when a steady stream of landsuckers began to pour through the mountain passes, each armed with a rifle and a talking leaf that conferred what the Invaders called a title. Shawano’s kin had been taken in by Post-err’s sincerity; apparently Brother Post-err himself had been taken in; he had been sent to impress the Southbranch kin with his sincerity; it was Kraw-on who had delivered the false promises. The Redcoats had promised to oust landsuckers who invaded on the pretext that the land had been granted by the Turtleleague; but the Redcoats protected those who invaded on the pretext that the overman of Invaders of one tongue had granted the land to the overman of Invaders of another tongue. The Invaders proceeded by sheer force, but they apparently needed to believe they proceeded by right—otherwise, as Lokaskwe observed, they couldn’t feel chosen. This need was easily met: any pretext, any illusion, seemed to satisfy it.
Southbranch kin were alarmed. Shawano, accompanied by Magidins, led an embassy to the Blackcollar Post-err. They learned that Brother Post-err had spoken for headman Bow-kay only when he had believed Bow-kay’s words; disabused of his belief, Post-err spoke for no one. Cheater Kraw-on greeted the embassy with a greedy grin; he still spoke for the headman; he now said that possession of the mountains and valley resided in an overman and a permanent army, and that wandering tribes, as he called the Southbranch kin, could not possess land. This language of armed hatred was as incomprehensible to Magidins as to Shawano, and while they wasted themselves on this pointless mission, Invaders continued to pour past the Southbranch villages, killing all life in their path: plants and plant-eating animals and meat-eating animals and people.
The Southbranch kin heard rumors of the capture of the Sandusky and Kekionga enclosures. When Turtleleague warriors arrived with warbelts, Shawano’s kin accepted the belts. Southbranch warriors, and even a few warriors from among the remaining Eastbranch kin, joined with Turtlewarriors for the first time since the days described on the ancient scrolls; they emptied two enclosures in the Sunrise Mountains, pushed a rum caravan over a precipice, ambushed two red armies, and presuccessful war of western Rootkin against the Invaders’ enclosures and then by the agreement between the Invaders and the Strait’s carriers.
Pit-strength headman Bow-kay was not pleased by the agreement, and he twisted its meaning to continue his war of extermination. When overman Am-first had promised to block further incursions of Invaders, carriers had agreed to end their siege and return their prisoners. Bow-kay now moved his army against plague-desolated villages and threatened to raze them unless they returned not only war-captives but all people like Magidins and our Lokaskwe who had been adopted, who spoke the language and followed the paths of Eastbranch and Southbranch Rootkin, who were daughters, sisters, uncles and cousins, who thought themselves free human beings and regarded the Invaders’ towns as prisons, who would become prisoners only after they were returned.
Bow-kay knew what Shutaha had known, what was becoming common knowledge: the smallpox decimated those who had not been exposed to it, it decimated original people, it spared the Invaders who had been exposed to it for countless generations, and the villages of original people were being repopulated and reconstituted by people Bow-kay chose to call prisoners, by adopted kin, who now made up a large proportion of the surviving Eastbranch and Southbranch Rootkin.
Villagers who feared total annihilation dragged themselves to the Pit-strength and gave up to Bow-kay’s captivity the brothers, sisters and cousins with whom they had shared lives. When the returned prisoners shed their Invaders’ clothes and tried to return to their forest kin, they were murdered.
Magidins and her kin came to Bison Prairie to be out of Bow-kay’s reach; she dreaded the thought of living without meaning and dying without dignity among penned-in Pox-tn Boys.
All my insides flowed out as tears when I heard of the desolation of the Beautiful Valley’s Southbranch Rootkin. Oashi was sad beyond description; he said the desire for revenge was drowned by deeds so gross, so vicious, so unthinkable. My sadness drew me yet further from Bison Prairie’s carriers and Firekeepers, yet closer to Lokaskwe and Oashi, to Magidins, Shawano and the Southbranch kin.
I was heavy with my second child, Lokaskwe was carrying her first. We rarely parted. I barely noticed that Aleshi had returned to the Strait because news had come that Mini and Jozes had been released from their trap. Lokaskwe and I told each other our dreams. Mine were vague, like memories I could no longer reach. I dreamed myself something suspended above the ground, never able to reach the ground, never able to embrace earth or touch earth with my entire body like a serpent, and I woke with a vague sense of loss, a sense of incompleteness; I felt that the plagues, persecutions and wars had separated me from earth and from kin, had invaded my mind and my very blood, had turned me into a contrivance that floated because it could no longer stand with feet on the ground, had made me unable to put first things first and forced me to plant leaves and destroy seeds.
The birth of Lokaskwe’s Aptegizhek and my Cakima, a moon apart, coincided with the return of Nagmo and the birth to Katwyn of their second son, whom they named Winamek to honor the memory of the great embroiler. Nagmo sought to reconcile enmities and restore peace to Bison Prairie with a mound of gifts—pots, cloth, blankets—things Katwyn and Kit- tihawa embraced with joy, and with a lot of rum.
While Southbranch kin had been perishing, Nagmo had been reestablishing his lost position, emerging with an importance enjoyed by no one since his great-grandfather Nangisi. Nagmo had turned the capture of the Mishilimakina Redcoats to his own use. Mashekewis and the northern warriors had given up their captives to Nagmo and other carriers who had done nothing except to fume after the capture. On the way to occupied Hochelaga with the captives, Nagmo learned that the rumcarrier Soli-man, our Shap-man’s cousin, was eager to reestablish the fur trade network first established by Nangisi and the Scabeater Falsetongue. Nagmo, who trusted the Oceanshore Invaders no more than the rest of us did, learned that Soli-man didn’t trust them either, for they treated him as an outsider whom they tolerated in their midst. The two came to an agreement: Nagmo was to gather the furs of all Mishigami from the Lakebottom to Greenbay, and to return with gifts acquired in Hochelaga by Soli-man and distributed in Mishilimakina by Batf s brother Anto. It was the wealth of gifts from this net that Nagmo brought to the celebration of the three namings.
Unfortunately for Nagmo, Sigenak and Magda’s Tisha arrived during the celebration and destroyed Nagmo’s hopes for reconciliation and peace. In Sigenak’s eyes, the war against the Invaders’ enclosures wasn’t over, couldn’t be over, since none of the western warriors engaged in it had been defeated, and the agreement between the Invaders and the carriers bound no one; the agreement was nothing but an insult.
Sigenak and Tisha came with a stranger who originated neither among Rootkin nor among any Invaders familiar to me; he was called Sandypoint after a place on a distant Ocean island where he was born, and he came with gift bundles. Katwyn welcomed the stranger to Nagmo’s lodge.
Sigenak had been in Kekionga when Tisha had brought him news of the carriers’ agreement and of the imprisonment of Tisha’s uncles Mini and Jozes. Sigenak had been livid with rage when the cheating rumcarrier Kraw-on turned up in Kekionga, guided there by Jozes, who had been released on condition that he guide the wily emissary to the gatheringplaces of Prairiekin. Kraw-on carried horse-loads of gifts as well as the message that the Invaders would take no lands by force, not even the land for their fortified enclosures, but would beg Rootkin for the right to take any land. This forked-tongue who had recently told Southbranch kin they had no right to land because they lacked an overman and a permanent army did not go to Kekionga accompanied by a Blackcollar who actually believed his words, and none were taken in. Sigenak, and also Tisha, nevertheless decided to accompany Jozes and the rumcarrier to Uiatanon; Sigenak intended to translate Kraw-on’s intentions while Jozes translated his words.
Once on the Wabash, Sigenak found that western Prairiekin did not need his translations. They accepted Kraw- on’s gifts by plundering and capturing him. The western Prairiekin were as fond as Sigenak of the carriers’ peace, and had been plundering and capturing every rumcarrier who had reached the Wabash.
Jozes fled to the village of Kithepekanu on the Wabash. Tinami and her two sons soon joined him.
Tisha guided Kraw-on to nearby Uiatanon so that the rum- carrier’s very life wouldn’t be taken as well.
Sigenak was enchanted by what he found west of the Wabash: the Prairiekin with whom he had captured the Uiatanon enclosure were allied with Redearth survivors from the other shore of Mishigami and with Tellegwi from across the Long River, and all had rifles and horses from southwestern Invaders called Senyores who had once been ousted by Stonelodge people of the Sunset Mountains, Invaders considered too distant and weak to threaten the invasion of the Plains or Prairies. To Sigenak, this was the alliance his mother Wa- goshkwe had dreamed of, and he accompanied Prairiekin to Cahokia on the Long River, the great mound that held the remains of the last Riverpeople of the Beautiful Valley. There Sigenak was given warbelts with which to remind Rootkin of Bison Prairie, Kekionga and the Strait that the war against the Oceanshore Invaders had not been completed.
In Cahokia Tisha had met Sandypoint, a gift-carrier and fur-gatherer with the ways, language and clothing of Lemond, a man whose ancestors hailed from a world distinct from that of the other three Invaders, a man who had come up the Long River looking for crosswearing Rootkin converted by Black- robes to the Invaders’ language and ways like his own ancestors, a man who feared the Oceanshore Invaders because, he said, they were too stupid to recognize his kin as human beings. Tisha brought the stranger to Bison Prairie when Sigenak came to deliver his belts.
Bison Prairie’s Firekeepers counciled with Sigenak and welcomed the belts; many of them were, like Sigenak and Nanikibi, children of Redearth kin.
Nagmo avoided the councils; perhaps he already knew he would war alongside Oceanshore Invaders against Sigenak’s allies as his father and grandfather had warred alongside northern Invaders against Wagoshkwe’s kin. He and Katwyn and their children moved to the Lakebottom, where the brave Redearth kin were said to have been annihilated.
Kittihawa once again chose her crosswearing cousin Katwyn over her brothers, and she too moved to the Lakebottom. My son Topinbi, already old enough to dream and decide, accompanied Kittihawa to be with his friends, Nagmo’s sons.
Those of us who were not taking part in Sigenak’s councils were soon invited to celebrate Kittihawa’s marriage. Oashi and I and Lokaskwe heavy with her second child went to the Lakebottom. Kittihawa and Sandypoint had found each other; both were crosswearing converts who had made the ways, language and clothes of Lemond their own. Oashi and I, although fond of neither, helped them raise a lodge near Nagmo’s on the midpoint between Cahokia and Mishilimakina, between the fur-gatherers at the mouth of the Long River and those of the Northern River.
A daughter was born to Lokaskwe on the Lakebottom; Oashi named her Shecogosikwe.
Oashi and Lokaskwe, as well as Shawano, Magidins and the Southbranch kin, were eager to be gone from Bison Prairie and the Lakebottom. Rumor reached us that the Pit-strength army had stopped hunting for prisoners and that headman Bow-kay had been replaced. Magidins was repelled by the idol- worshiping Katwyn, Lokaskwe by Nagmo’s fur-gathering network, Oashi by the embroiling alliances.
My brother, Miogwewe’s great-grandson, was disappointed by his friend Nanikibi’s involvement with Sigenak’s belts and councils. Oashi saw that Sigenak’s and Nagmo’s alliances were the same, they were both revivals of embroiler Winamek’s League between Rootkin and Invaders, alliances between jaws and meat, in which Rootkin were the meat. But Oashi said nothing; he didn’t dream of trying to turn Nanikibi against his brother, or of trying to turn both brothers against their mother. He delayed our departure until Sigenak and Nanikibi were ready to set out toward Kekionga and the Strait with the belts of the Cahokians.
In Kekionga I separated from Nanikibi, sadly, for I too was attracted to Sigenak’s league; I had been attracted to Sigenak’s league many years earlier, in Pickawillany. I remembered that I had been too young to see, and Lenapi had helped me. Now I was old enough to see with my own eyes.
I accompanied my brother and Shawano’s kin to the valley of vanished Riverpeople, the Beautiful Valley of mounds and memories. Oashi carried Lenapi’s bark scroll to a village of Southbranch and Eastbranch survivors camped on the Muskingum; he wore a pendant shaped by Shutaha as he carried the two children born by Mishigami’s shore to a visionary mother adopted from the Invaders’ world.
Our return to Southbranch and Eastbranch kin must have been like legendary Yahatase’s return to plague-devastated Morningland after a childhood of imprisonment in the Black- robes’ mission in Stadacona. Shawano and Magidins were embraced by celebrating kin who had thought them dead.
The familiar faces, language and songs, the corn-filled fields, gave an impression of life renewed, vibrant and strong, until memory intervened with its reminder that the people on the Muskingum were no longer whole, that they were mere fragments of what they had once been. The Eastbranch kin were not guests from among numerous people who inhabited the Oceanshore, but mere remnants. The Muskingum village was not one of the countless and teeming Southbranch villages that dotted the Beautiful Valley, but one of the few depopulated villages that remained. The councils were not occasions for dance and song but for rum drinking; they were not sessions of remembering the Beginning described by the scrolls, but sessions of forgetting the plagues and wars, the humiliation and devastation.,
Oashi was dismayed to learn that even the lifegiving spirit of adoptions was waning. Southbranch kin had adopted a lone landsucker who had come from among Oceanshore Cheaters, and had then pushed him to take up his discarded skin and put it on again, to become a rumcarrier, to bring cloth and beads, rifles and metal hatchets and rum from the Pit-strength, the Invaders’ camp at the fork.
This rumcarrier, called Con-err, had wanted land, but not badly enough to kill for it; he had responded with gratitude to the offered kinship, for he had never before experienced kinship; he took up his role as go-between hesitantly and with shame, the shame I remembered on my father’s face whenever he returned with the Invaders’ gifts.
Oashi was more dismayed by the dependence of the Southbranch kin than by Nagmo’s or Katwyn’s, because the Southbranch kin knew what Lenapi had known; they knew the men who pushed the rum, the men who scalped for bounties, the men who aimed rifles at every living thing that stirred, the men who murdered for the sake of a patch of land which they then denuded and ravaged, the men who considered earth and all its creatures to be nothing but weapons for dominating, disabling and killing. The Southbranch kin knew that the Invaders’ gifts disabled Rootkin and made them dependent on the very net that held the Invaders themselves inside their enclosures.
The Eastbranch survivors in the Muskingum villages, hardly a thousand, the last remnants of Lenapi’s once numerous kin, were driven by ip great fear: they who for ages had celebrated and sung and recorded their event-filled trajectory feared that soon none would remember it, soon no living person would have ancestors who had followed that path, soon there would be no memory of Eastbranch Rootkin ever having existed. Some hundred of the Eastbranch kin, largely survivors from Lenapi’s Sunrise Mountain village, had adopted several blackcollared Brethren who originated from Lokaskwe’s and Magidins’ part of the world, and had formed a village on the Tuscarawas, a village of neat wooden lodges surrounded by fenced-in gardens.
Lokaskwe was hostile to the Blackcollars in the Tuscarawas village. She remembered that Brother Post-err, himself sincere enough, had been used by the Pit-strength headman to deceive Shawano’s kin. Lokaskwe questioned one of the Blackcollars, a Brother Kanish, who was less tight-lipped about things that mattered than the other Brethren.
Lokaskwe learned that Blackrobes, who for ages had crossed ocean and mountains to convince people broken by plagues and wars that their misery came from their own failings, had been suppressed by their overmen across the Ocean. Now only blackcollared Brethren crossed ocean and mountains with a message, and their message was altogether different from the Blackrobes’. Kanish told that his and Lokaskwe’s ancestors had once been as free and healthy as Rootkin before the invasion. Devastated by plagues and wars and driven by a great fear, the ancestors had allowed protectors and Blackrobes to come among them. The protectors exacted ever-heavier burdens for ever-less protection; the Blackrobes said people had fallen, were vicious and depraved, and would be at each other’s throats if the protectors didn’t keep peace among them. Shortly before the first Invaders crossed the Ocean, Kanish’s ancestors rebelled against protectors and Blackrobes; they still remembered the time before the protectors, they knew that their only fall had been to let themselves fall to protectors. At a mountain called Tabor they disencumbered themselves of protectors and Blackrobes and celebrated the return of their original condition. The rebellion spread until it threatened to dislodge all the world’s protectors, who sent their combined armies to suppress it; the rebels defended themselves by forming an army, and quickly found themselves again beset by protectors, this time their own; those who weren’t killed by the combined armies were reduced to underlings by their own. Kanish and the other Brethren considered themselves these rebels’ heirs. They had drawn the lessons of the great rebellion and they carried its memory to all the world’s corners, secretly, because they were persecuted; they considered themselves teachers of the rebellion’s lessons. But many, to avoid persecution, had corrupted their message and come to terms with the world’s powers.
Lokaskwe saw that Brother Post-err was one of the corrupted, since he’d let his sincere and peaceful self be used by liars and killers as the front line of the invading army. And she lashed out against Kanish himself: she asked if the people of the mountain called Tabor had disencumbered themsel ves of protectors only to enclose their own gardens with protective fences, if they didn’t know that earth, sun and clouds grew corn and greens as well as berries and fruits for all to enjoy. She asked why people who were not depraved, fallen creatures needed teachers, since free people learned from each other and only the fallen needed to be raised up; she said the Brethren had come to complete what the Blackrobes had begun, to get the lame to walk, not on their own, but leaning on crutches.
Oashi and Shawano grew increasingly alarmed by the landhungry Invaders who continued to flow over the mountain passes into the valley, and they took their alarm to a council with the Redcoats at the Pit-strength. They were told that no Invaders were to cross the mountain divide, that they had bound themselves to stay on the side where the rivers flow into the Ocean.
After promising to stay away from war parties if the Redcoats agreed to remove Invaders who nevertheless crossed the divide, Oashi and Shawano learned that the Redcoats were helpless: their overman across the Ocean had given the task of removing the landsuckers to the very landgangs that sent the landsuckers over the mountains.
Oashi heard what he was told, but Menoko’s son couldn’t take in the duplicity of it, and he couldn’t learn to act in the face of such duplicity. He saw, with Lokaskwe’s eyes, that the Invaders who came ever closer to the Muskingum were more pathetic than vicious. Like the adopted Con-err, like Lokaskwe’s own father, they were men who’d had little on the Oceanshore and who had given most of that to a Ua-shn-tn or a Kre-sop in exchange for a title to land in the Beautiful Valley granted to the landgang by the Turtleleague of the eastern Woodlands or by an overman across the Ocean or by someone else who didn’t live in the Beautiful Valley. Such a man came to the valley with a pot in one hand and a rifle in the other, grew lonesome on the patch where he had no human contact, feared the forest and nursed resentments; he resented the landgang that had skinned him of all he’d had; he resented the rumcarriers to whom he became increasingly indebted because he needed more bullets, more pots, nails for the cabin in which he imprisoned the mother of his children, and rum; he resented rocks and trees and the land itself because of the joyless sweat and labor he had to expend before his seeds would grow; above all he resented Rootkin whose joyous songs he sometimes heard, because they neither sweated nor labored, and if any dared to venture onto his planted field, he killed without remorse. This man whose sweat and labor all went to fatten landgangs and rumcarriers was sustained by the illusion that the land and the plants that grew on it were his; he thought it was not earth or sun or rain that made seeds grow but his sweat and labor, and he eliminated everything in his reach that didn’t confirm his illusion; he destroyed whatever thrived without his sweat and labor: trees and bushes, deer, beaver and wolves.
Neither Oashi nor Shawano nor any on the Muskingum took up arms against the encroaching Invaders, but Southbranch kin west of us, in villages near the Serpent Mound, did take up arms. They raided the Invaders’ patches and lodges; they were joined by allies and their raids became more numerous. Thanks to these raids, the invasion slowed down and in some places even receded. The Redcoats’ overman across the Ocean, unwilling to provoke another war against the Invaders’ enclosures, unwilling to send forces to protect the landsuckers, decided to give back to the Redcoats the task of keeping landsuckers east of the mountains.
Oashi thought the Redcoats were keeping their promises for the first time; Redcoats were turning against landgangs.
Oashi and Shawano, both peaceful men, actually believed the Redcoats were going to remove the intruders from the Beautiful Valley. They went hunting near the Kanawha expecting to find the hunting grounds undisturbed.
Neither Lokaskwe nor Magidins were as trusting as Oashi and Shawano. Lokaskwe, heavy with her third child, learned that angry bountyseekers attacked by the Serpent Mound warriors had returned to the east to rouse their likes to a frenzy of hatred against Rootkin, and she knew that landgangs among the Cheaters and the Slavers were waiting for the slightest excuse to send armed men to every rivermouth and every intersection of paths. Both sisters remembered the killers who had intimidated their father into taking up a rifle against Rootkin, both remembered the bloodlust that spread like a disease through a mob of aroused killers.
When rumors reached us of armed bands moving from the east, Magidins became nearly demented with fear. She sought refuge in the Tuscarawas village of Brethren and their Eastbranch converts who drank no rum and carried no rifles. But once there, she feared attack from both sides; she thought the Serpent Mound warriors would take the village, with its orchard, its gardens fenced by rails, its square lodges and large common lodge, for a settlement of Invaders; and she was sure the Invaders would destroy it as a village of Rootkin, envious of its neat lodges surrounded by oaks, hickory, maple and ash, its nearby game and berries and herbs by a river teeming with fish; she remembered how the Pox-tn Boys had viewed earlier converts of the Brethren. She abruptly left the village and accepted the invitation of the adopted Con-err; she felt safe in the fur and gift post, since to Southbranch warriors she would be a kinswoman lodged in a carrier’s lodge, and to the Invaders she would be the wife of one of them, the Pit-strength rumcarrier Con-err.
Lokaskwe’s and Magidins’ fears were confirmed by an unimaginable horror. Shawano and the hunters returned to the Muskingum village with my brother’s body, bloody and scalped.
The hunters had been aware they were not alone in their hunting ground near the Kanawha; armed members of Kre- sop’s landgang were measuring patches which, they said, had been given to them by the Turtleleague. I later learned Kre-sop had gotten some Turtlefolk to admit the Beautiful Valley wasn’t theirs, and Kre-sop had given many gifts for this admission. Oashi and Shawano disregarded the measurers and they separated in their quest for deer; they told themselves Kre-sop’s men were armed against the Pit-strength Redcoats who had promised to keep landgangs out, and were relieved that the two bands of Invaders were intent on wiping each other out. Kre- sop’s men lost a horse, and these men who boasted of their agility in taking the horses of Rootkin set out on a manhunt; they pounced on the nearest camp of isolated hunters; they shot, cut and scalped Oashi and his companions, Shawano’s cousin and nephew, in a frenzy of bloodletting.
Uncontrollable fury welled up inside me, restrained only by Lokaskwe’s hysterical state. Lokaskwe gave premature birth. With trembling hands she gave the bark scroll, Lenapi’s scroll, to Oashi’s firstborn, tear-covered Aptegizhek; she gave the pendant to Shecogosikwe; she named her newborn girl Wagoshkwe. Lokaskwe’s eyes burned with the desire to push the manhunt- ers, not only beyond the Mountains, but beyond the Oceanshore and into the salt sea.
We still hadn’t buried Oashi when word came that a band of Invaders had approached the hunting camp of Shawano’s only surviving brother, had offered cloth and rum for the hunters’ furs, and when the hunters were ill from the rum, had murdered and scalped every one of them.
After these two massacres, there were no more peacemakers among the Southbranch kin of the Muskingum. I joined the dancing warriors, Shawano joined them, even Lokaskwe would have joined them if her sister hadn’t fallen ill while giving birth to her first, to Con-err’s child.
Without Lokaskwe or Oashi beside me, I suppressed all I knew of dependence on the Invaders’ weapons and I took up a rifle; my single thought was to kill Oashi’s murderers. We sent belts to near and distant kin, and were soon joined by the Southbranch warriors from the villages near the Serpent Mound, by cousin Mini and his friends Aleshi and Bati together with Turtlewarriors from the Strait, finally by Nanikibi with Firekeepers from Bison Prairie. The friends who had made a pact as children remained loyal to their pact-brother Oashi after his death. Shawano led a hundred of us toward the spot where Kre-sop had attacked. We found and surprised the front of the Invaders’ force near the mouth of the Kanawha; our charge routed the men in the front line, who stabbed and shot each other fleeing from us, until suddenly the rout ended, and the Invaders stood their ground. We saw that we were face to face with myriads of rifle-armed Invaders, we were outnumbered ten to one. Shawano, satisfied that our rout of their front line had already inflicted more damage than all of Kre-sop’s bands had, signaled a retreat. Like the storming of the Strait’s enclosure, this was a battle only demented killers would have fought, it would have led to the death and maiming of many of the remaining Southbranch Rootkin in the Beautiful Valley. A handful of warriors diverted the monstrous army away from the river; the rest of us were in our hidden canoes and across the river before the Invaders knew the war was over; our retreat was as unnoticed as our approach.
I returned to Lokaskwe. Magidins had given painful birth and was still ailing. I had already decided to leave the Muskingum and I begged Lokaskwe to come with me. I had learned from Mini and Aleshi that the force we had faced on the Kanawha was not Kre-sop’s landgang; it was the combined force of all the Oceanshore Invaders. Those of the Strait already knew what they would be facing when they decided to respond to our belts.
Nanikibi and Mini urged Shawano and the Southbranch warriors to go to the Peninsula and join warriors more numerous than those we faced on the Kanawha; they said even the Redcoats on the Strait were ready to take up arms against the Invaders of the Beautiful Valley.
But Shawano and Lokaskwe chose to remain with the Southbranch and remaining Eastbranch kin, heeding dead Lenapi’s warning against entanglement with allies who swallowed Rootkin in victory and defeat. Shawano chose to depend on no powers other than his own. Lokaskwe would have gone for my sake or for Mini’s Nizokwe, but she felt no love for Nagmo or his kin; she preferred to live alongside her sister’s compromises, beset by daily threats, yet clean and whole; she didn’t want to live alongside Katwyn and Kittihawa who no longer knew how to give without taking, or alongside the Strait’s perpetually armed warriors who were ever more similar to the armed men they hunted.
I took my Cakima and accompanied Nanikibi to Bison Prairie.
Mini and the Strait’s warriors already knew that Kre-sop’s murder of Shawano’s kin and Oashi was the first incident of the Invaders’ new war against the Beautiful Valley’s Rootkin.
The war was unleashed by the Slavers who occupied Powhatan’s shore. While one of them, the landgang leader Kre- sop, went to the Kanawha to measure land, a slaver called Done-more, leader of another landgang, went to the Pit- strength to oust the headman who had committed himself to ousting the landgangs from the Valley. Slaver Done-more turned the force of the Redcoats, not against Oashi’s murderers, but against Oashi’s kin, and he enlarged this force tenfold by recruiting the victims of the landgangs, the lonely landsuckers who condemned themselves to war against trees, bushes, roots and rocks in order to make room for tame plants which, when harvested, were swallowed by landgangs and rumcarriers.
This alliance of spiders with flies was not laughable. The flies, the landsuckers who called themselves pioneers, did not vent their pent-up resentment against those who victimized them, but against those who stayed clear of the victimization, against free people. Some of these landsuckers had, like Lokaskwe’s father, crossed the Ocean in order to find paradise; they had been cheated by landgangs on the Oceanshore and sent west to remove all the varied inhabitants from a patch of land. Trapped in a net of debts and obligations that demanded ceaseless labor, they found paradise at last by eating it, by swallowing Rootkin and their world, by becoming manhunters, and once they experienced the murderer’s joy, they sought no other paradise.
These manhunters were what Bra-duck’s army had lacked. Nowhere could the landgangs have found better front lines than among their own victims.
This alliance of landgangs with their victims had proclaimed itself independent of the Redcoats and their overman across the Ocean. Thirteen different bands of Oceanshore Invaders, among them the Witchburners, Cheaters and Slavers, had united themselves in a league that was a loose parody of the Turtleleague, a league in which neither the villagers nor the longhouse grandmothers made any decisions. The victims chose their overmen from among the landgang headmen who oppressed them, and these overmen made all the decisions. The central overman of the entire alliance was Slaver Ua-shn-tn, the man well-remembered by Nagmo and Nanikibi in Bison Prairie, by Jozes in Kekionga, by Mini on the Strait, as the scalper of Jumon and Lekomanda Shak. The purpose of the alliance was to invade the Beautiful Valley, a venture begun twenty winters earlier by Ua-shn-tn. The Redcoats had lately been hampering this venture; that’s why the landgangs had proclaimed themselves independent of the Redcoats.
The landgangs had acquired their right to the Valley by having Turtleleague warriors disclaim such a right, and when they failed to convince even the Redcoats of their right thus acquired, they expressed their resentment against the one and their gratitude to the other by having young Scalpers dump the Redcoats’ tea into the Ocean dressed as Turtleleague warriors.
From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org
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