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White Fur And The Sharp Tooth Clan
Awahkáóótsiiyssin, the war
Beavers always are prepared,
Such is their nature's wisdom.
Through the summer and the fall
They worked the harder for the
Move, piling bark and planning.
At the first break of the ice
White Fur spoke and said,
"We must wait for the grass
To grow tall to shelter us
In the crossing of the land."
At the time when all was set
For the journey the clans divided.
White Fur led off half his gens
Down the river through the pines,
Loud Slap showing them the way,
With oak sticks chewed sharp
Upon their backs for a fight.
They terrified a young wolf, his fur
Turned aged white in shock at the
Sight of the marching beaver troops.
The chiefs of the Big-Snarled-Ones
All welcomed them and their help
With a great feast and powwow.
They arrived in safety at the place,
Little River's rich treed banks
And quickly began the toiling work
To build the dam to build the lodges
The beaver camp there on the water.
Many young soon felt alone there
On the waters with only the sound
Of chewing and the logging rough
Without laughing young beaver cubs.
"Minn-át-tok-sínat!"1 said the white sleeves2
"To the south are others like you
Sad as well after the hard deaths
By the wolf of so many males.
Now the females cry to the Sun
For mates." White Fur sent scouts
To see and bring them back in marriage.
Soon from the Snake Spring River pond
A few more came, the growing cubs,
And White Fur knew that the Sharp Tooth
Would grow enough to have two ponds; a
Point of pride for They-Who-Chew-the-Bark.
Days to days were added then a moon
When color touched the shriving leaves
White Fur still no more heard
From the old pond of his clan.
He sent Hard Tail with three friends
Well-armed and with gifts to the
Big-Snarled-Ones to ask of them their
Help as escorts in the open spaces.
They were to find why the quiet
And no more came to Little River.
They knew the answer the closer that
The party drew, there on the banks
Lay the bodies of their kin telling
Them an enemy had come.
Hard Tail said, his voice shaking
With rage, "Side Step, you, the
Quickest squirrel, run back and
Tell them of the death, murder,
Here in our old home! Hurry! Fast!"
They crept along the brown bank to
An old hide-out they knew as cubs
Dug by their fathers' fathers' kin
And unknown to the invaders.
"We will wait till night to see
Who they are who did this sin
By catching one of them here
And know our adversary's name."
When the cold mixed with dark
Laid down dreary on the land
They crept a bit closer to the dam
And saw beavers they did not know
Moving all around, in and out as if
They had always been living there.
One of them stray wandered close
To the brush where they knelt.
Rushing out they dragged him
Pulled him in swift as the spider
Who wraps her prey and holds it tight.
"Who are you?" Hard Tail asked rough
But the beaver could not understand.
"I know this talk," one said, "they
Must come from Shoshoni man land."
So Hard Tail in signs asked him
He answered with a zigzagging paw3
"Ha! Shoshoni!" Hard Tail growled
Then in quick signs sharp told him,
"I am Hard Tail of the Sharp Tooth,
The No Laughs Warrior Band4, and
This is Pikúni5 Man land here.
Your enemies have killed my kin
Most were females and soft cubs
And you will die here now for it
And so none may know we were here!"
So they dragged him deep into the woods
From which he never came again.
Despite the danger of the night
In which beaver-eating foes play
The knew they had to get back to
Tell the tribe all they had learned.
Swimming back up the stream they
Scrambled onto the high bank
And rumbled into the pine grove.
The moonless night cold and alive
With eyes their slanted pupils round
Following from the black the
Sound and motion of the three.
His claws fast and sharp rolling
Hard Tail on his back he fought
And yelled, "Go on! Go on!" to
Them. Twisting, biting scratching
His teeth cut the furry limbs but
He could not overcome the force
Of the lynx the fierce cat. He
Entered on the way to the ghostly
Lodges of the Great Sandy Hills.6
The other two ran on in black
The howling calls of wolves and of
Coyotes shot above, sound arrows,
But they dared not stop or hide.
At last they reached the shelter
Where the Big-Snarled-Ones sat
All in sorrow at their allies' deaths.
"You can not pass the gap tonight,
You must wait! What is the good
To die and to fail to tell them
The sad fate of your kin there?"
One listened, one did not, and
Vanished on the rocks his end
Unknown save to the cougar.
Hard Tail was not lonely on his trip.7
When the Sharp Tooth saw one of
Three and heard the tail he had to
Tell, they cut patches in their hair
With white mud they rubbed their fur
And for three days they wailed in pain.
Then White Fur called a council
For all the beavers to attend.
"Sharp Tooth! Hear! You know what
Our old enemies bad Shoshoni talking
Beavers to our kin have done! Put
Now aside your sorrow for justice!
Hear! Let us vow to the Sun and
Dance the war dance and attack!
I who have cut a long nail in sorrow
Off, will cut from them much more!
To war, beavers! To war, my clan!"
In ululations terrible and sharp that
Shook the water cracked the air
They cheered at White Fur's talk.
Forming circles, their spears banging
And slapping their tails they danced
Without words chanting in falsetto
Voice they raised a spirit in their
Blood to fight and beat their foes.
White Fur as war chief led the host
Who towards the end of a Deer Moon8
Afternoon began their march to the
Occupied homes of their massacred family.
No cougar or coyote would have dared
Stand in their war path the cries
Alone evoked dread and terror in
Any who might have heard them.
In the territory of the Big-Snarled-Ones
They raised the war cry to their allies
Many of whom joined up with them
To repay the favor done in driving
Off the hungry young wolf.
In the mists of the pines a
Blackfoot youth sat and prayed
On the third day of his quest for
A vision of power and protector
To grant him his medicine. Weak
With hunger and racked by thirst
He struggled to repeat with thought
From his parched lips the words
That his grandfather in a sweat-lodge9
Told would catch the ear of spirits.
In the dark he heard a wave of stirring
Saw the shaking of the earth
As if the grass was all lifted up.
"Ha! Aaáhs!10 What a mighty vision
The earth alive grew into beavers!"
White Fur with Loud Slap approached
And gave a sign to him for silence lest
Some sharp ear on the pond would hear
And know of their attack. He said,
"Blackfoot íssokhko11 this is no dream
Nor the vision of the spirits given.
A war party armed for revenge we
Are against Shoshoni talking beavers
Who killed our cubs and took our home."
"The wicked tribe of Snakes are to us
A bane, and they have often raided us."
"I am White Fur of the Sharp Tooth clan
The beaver chief, and if we need you will
You help us and the Big-Snared-Ones?"
"O chief, I am called No Otter and
Will do all I can to help you here."
"Yá-ah-síi!12 May the one who made
Us13 all bless you and I will give to
You powerful beaver medicine ,
Even if we do not need your aid.
Now sit down there and wait."
No Otter still did not know if
This was real; no one ever heard
Such a thing in all the world before!
With the beaver and the squirrel
Combined the war party was
Over two-hundred in their number.
The beavers plopped into the pond
As squirrels along the bank ran
And across the dam to guard it
Against the escape of fleeing foes.
Then No Otter grabbed his head
In disbelief as a flock of blackbirds
Diving dropped stones on the foes.
In the dark the shifting shapes shattered
Shadows one against another shrieking.
Shoshoni speakers and the Sharp Tooth
Splashed and thrashed and bit and hit.
But the invaders could not hold out
For they knew that they were wrong.
The water ceased to boil and foam
In violence, it lay a still red. There
The all dead enemy floated.
Loud Slap he fought brave there
Counting many coups14 and kills;
But he lamented Hard Tail's death
Who could have been a bulwark
There to the beavers in their struggle.
In war and in construction White Fur
Proved a master of strategy and strength.
Many injured sat upon the shore
To tend their bleeding wounds and
To rest from the athletics of battle.
No Otter with White Fur returned
To the Little River lodges where he
Heard the tale of all that passed with
White Fur and the Sharp Tooth clan
As well as songs and medicine to
Cure the sick, guide the lost. He
Was a treasure to his Pikúni tribe.
Soon the beavers multiplied and
Grew in safety at both ponds.
There's nothing more by "Kyi!"
So here end the story.
- Don't feel bad!
- Áiksikkominsst - The Brown Trout.
- In the Plains Indian Sign Language the sign for the snake and the Shoshoni tribe.
- This is the name of an actual Blackfoot band.
- The Montana or south Blackfoot name for themselves.
- In Blackfoot belief the soul after death goes to his physical location in northern Montana to live a ghostly mirror existence of the earthly life.
- A danger of the dead is that they do not like to be lonely on their trip, so, caution must be taken.
- Áwákaasiiki'somm - September.
- A small, enclosed space used for purification and prayer before vision quests, battle or other ritual functions.
- A generic term often translated as 'uncle,' but, is a sign of respect to nay older male.
- A'pistotooki - God
- In the warrior code of the Plains Indians to strike an enemy with killing him, to count coup, is an act of bravery and renown.
-© Copyright Santiago del Dardano Turann
Part 1 : A'póóhsin, the journey.