The Beginning - the Final Episode
Welcome to the continuing fictional saga about the life of a young female Indian warrior. This is the final episode and I hope you have enjoyed this fictional series.
As I have written at the beginning of each episode: We are each our history and who we are and what we become cannot help but be influenced by our past.
I you have gained a little compassion for Running Deer/The Sakomasq and understand why she became what she became. The greatest gift we have to give others and ourselves is forgiveness.
The use of words, traditions, ceremonies, and folklore within the story are influenced but not representative of the Passamaquoddy tribe of Eastern Maine. The story is not meant to be a historical depiction of tribal events or its people. This story should be viewed as a work of fiction only. The author does not guarantee the proper use of the tribe’s language as it is a very complicated language and is in danger of disappearing.
We return to the end of Episode 1 where Kisuhs Nicanal has scaled the cliff face and reached out to pull herself to safety;
The Shifting TideAs Kisuhs Nicanol felt the roots pull from the thin soil she was at first gripped by fear but then acceptance. “Perhaps”, she thought, “it was right that she should perish on the rocks below”. But even as this thought crossed her mind she heard the voices of Little Bear and her parents telling her to fight, to fight for life.
She dug her fingers into the thin soil until she felt the firmness of the rock beneath and with a loud grunt of effort she pulled her exhausted body over the cliff’s precipice and threw herself onto the ground. She lay still until she was sure that she would not slide backwards and then began to slowly rise onto her hands and knees and crawl to safety. It was then she felt the malsum (wolf) bite down onto her shredded buckskins and begin dragging her away from the cliffs. When the Alpha felt the young warrior was safe she released her grip so the young girl could rise. It was then that Kisuhs Nicanol saw the kci-skicin (high elder) sitting at the base of a tree nearby.
With tears in her eyes she called to him; “Why did you not help me kci-skicin?” she asked incredulously. “Did you want me to die on the rocks?” “Do I need to fear and expect punishment from you as well?” She was exhausted by the hours perched on the cliff but Kisuhs Nicanol could still hear the voices of her loved ones. Even if it meant fighting the kci-skicin she was through taking the threats and abuse. She was the daughter of Friend of the Wolf and Morning Dove and a skilled somakonossusq (female warrior); if the kci-skicin (high elder) was here to kill her she would not make it easy for him.
“Kisuhs Nicanol, I am not here to harm you but I understand your doubt.” “I arrived just as the tree gave way under your weight and I dropped to my knees to help you but it was then I saw the look of defeat in your eyes and I realized that as hard as it may be I had to let you make the choice to live or die”. “I sent my friend here”, he said as he patted the malsum (wolf) on the head, “to be of assistance should you decide that life was worth living”. “I’m glad Kisuhs Nicanol that you made that choice because too many of the young are in the presence of the ancestors”, he said with a sad smile.
“The elders know how hard your life has been since your mihtaqsit (father) died, but we saw something else my nicanol (child); you were more weighed down by the burden of your guilt than anything the clan was inflicting on you.”
She had been staring at the ground but with his words Kisuhs Nicanol raised her head and looked at him. “The elders know about the clan?” she asked in surprise.
“We have known since it began,” he answered. She started to speak but the kci-skicin continued. “My wife was full of anger after she lost Little Bear and the clan gave her a sense of control”. “I had hoped our marriage would ease her grief and she would again find contentment but there are some losses from which one can never recover”. “Especially when what is believed to be the cause of that loss stands as a constant reminder”. His words caused Kisuhs Nicanol to flinch as guilt once again dominated her emotions.
“I did not say that to hurt you Kisuhs Nicanol, it is merely a truth that no one can change”. “What happened, happened because you were young and brash”. “Everyone’s youth is filled with events that we wish we could change, we all have regrets my nicanol (child). “The elders know you would change the past if it was within your power and that you suffered two heavy losses that day but our understanding does not change the fact that others continue to suffer as a result of those events”.
“Am I to be banished kci-skicin (high elder)?” she asked in a voice filled with both fear and sadness.
“Come sit with me Kisuhs Nicanol and let us discuss not only your future but your past for I think you will find your own answer to that question”.
She sat on the ground next to the kci-skicin and he felt a shiver pass through her body. “I’m sorry Kisuhs Nicanol, my relief at finding you alive made me forget what you have suffered”. He opened up the bearskin roll he had lying beside him and wrapped the girl’s shivering body in its warmth. She leaned her head against his shoulder as he explained how he had come to the plateau in search of her.
“When your hunt seemed to be lasting too long my wife was called to the elders circle”, the kci-skicin paused as if the words he was sharing were painful. “The elders wanted some of the somakonossusq to go in search of you but as my wife stood within the circle I sensed she was not being truthful in her denial of knowing your whereabouts”. “When we returned to our ptoqikan (wigwam) I told her of my doubt and then I threatened her with banishment if you came to any harm”. “She broke down and told me how the clan had brought you to the cliffs as punishment for speaking before the elders”. “We talked for many hours about all that has happened and even about her leaving the tribe”. These last words were filled with sadness but there was a determination in his voice that told her he was ready to banish his wife if called upon to do so.
“I would have arrived sooner except the sun was already low in the sky when I learned of your predicament and I had to wait for morning”. I know you can probably never forgive my wife for what she has done but I hope you will at least understand that her anger came from the pain of loss”.
His words brought memories of Kisuhs Nicanol’s final night with her mother and the conversation between her and mihtaqsit (father) and she told the kci-skicin about the conversation. “Father asked the same thing of me but kci-skicin I have always wondered why Running Deer disliked my mother so intensely before Little Bear and I were born”. “Do you know how my father betrayed Running Deer and why she blamed mother for the betrayal? “
“Do you know the story of how your parents came to marry, Kisuhs Nicanol?” the kci-skicin asked. Kisuhs Nicanol nodded her head. “Then you know that promises were broken to two others by your parents?” “Your father’s promised was Running Deer and they were to marry when Friend of the Wolf returned from the tribal meeting but instead he returned with Morning Dove”. “Running Deer may never have married had not the wife of Little Bear’s father died during childbirth”.
“You are now a somakonossusq, and I ask you; do you not feel that with such training and responsibility you gained a great sense of strength and control over your own life?” “Imagine how different your existence would have been under the pressures put on you by the clan were you not a skilled warrior.” “The elders knew you were physically strong enough to stand up to the other women but what we did not expect was for the guilt to weigh so heavily on you, for so long”. “It was when you requested permission to hunt alone after being left behind by the other somakonossusq that we realized that the Sakomasq was not the only one living in a world populated only by loss”. This realization led the elders to make a very difficult decision about your future Kisuhs Nicanol”.
The kci-skicin stood and turned towards the path that led towards the camp and motioned to someone hidden from her view. A man and woman emerge from shadows and walked towards them. When the woman was close enough for Kisuhs Nicanol to see her clearly she felt the blood drain from her face and had the kci-skicin not grabbed her arm she would have collapsed onto the ground. “Mother?” she asked in a shocked whisper. But this couldn’t be her mother; this woman was older.
“I’m so sorry my appearance startled you my dear nicanol” the woman said. “I had forgotten how similar your mother and I were in appearance until I saw the shock in your eyes”.
The kci-skicin laid a hand on the small of Kisuhs Nicanol’s back and guided her towards the couple and introduced her to the two strangers. “Kisuhs Nicanol, I would like you to meet the parents of your mother; White Dove and Soaring Eagle”, he said. “A small group of the elders traveled to the village of the northern tribe while you were on your hunt and brought them back south”. “The elders believe that it would be best for the tribe but especially for you if you went north with them after you have had a few days to rest”.
Kisuhs Nicanol turned towards the kci-skicin, with tears in her eyes, and asked; “So I am being banished?” “Is this my punishment for what happened to my mother and Little Bear?”
The kci-skicin laid his hands on her shoulders and looked directly into her eyes as he explained. “My nicanol (child) you are not being punished for anything”. “What happened was a tragic accident and you never meant anyone to come to harm”. “If banishment was a punishment for the bad choices of youth there would be no one left to banish”. “We cannot make you go but we are asking you to make this decision for yourself, so you can rise above what happened and find life again”. “We truly believe your parents would see the wisdom of this decision and want us to help you find way and heal your broken heart”. “You will never forget your lost loved ones Kisuhs Nicanol, but you can find peace until the day you will be with them again”.
Kisuhs Nicanol was not sure what to say. Her tiredness made it hard to think and she was weak from her arduous climb and going so long without food and fresh water. The others stood quietly watching her struggle with her thoughts until finally Soaring Eagle spoke. “She is exhausted and we need to let her rest and have a meal before she makes a decision”. He then turned to his granddaughter and said, “Kisuhs Nicanol it is your decision but you will be welcomed warmly by the tribe of your mother and you will not need to fear anyone; that I can promise you”. “We were told by your mihtaqsit (father) at the last tribal meeting about the death of our daughter and Little Bear”. “I know that Morning Dove would gladly sacrifice her life if she thought it meant she would save his; she loved him like a son”. “The bond between you and Little Bear was why your parents chose not to have more children”. “They loved Little Bear as their own and felt their time on earth was better spent helping him and you become strong members of the tribe”. “Although I never got to meet your young man my daughter spoke with pride of his big heart and his dreams of being a tribal elder”. “She spoke with as much pride as she did about her Kisuhs Nicanol”.
For first time since the death of her father Kisuhs Nicanol felt the love of her parents fill her heart and she began sobbing uncontrollably. White Dove wrapped the young girl in her arms and pulled her down until they were both sat leaning against the tree. She did not try to calm her granddaughter, she knew the pent up emotions Kisuhs Nicanol had been holding onto needed to be released, so she let her cry until exhausted Kisuhs Nicanol fell asleep in her grandmother’s arms.
The kci-skicin and Soaring Eagle set to work building a fire and a temporary ptoqikan (wigwam) for the family to occupy until Kisuhs Nicanol was ready to travel. They would not return to the camp of the cliff tribe. The kci-skicin would have the young girl’s belongings loaded onto a travois and brought to the plateau.
When Kisuhs Nicanol awoke she was lying on a bed of bearskin in a small ptoqikan. She could hear people talking outside and smelled the wonderful aroma of venison cooking on the fire. When she threw back the bearskin she realized she was now dressed in new buckskins. “Who did they belong to and who had dressed her?, she asked herself. She exited the ptoqikan and saw four people sitting around a fire just few feet from the doorway. She realized she was on the plateau of the cliffs and memories of the previous came flooding back. She stood in the doorway until her grandmother noticed her presence.
White Dove beckoned to the young girl; “Kisuhs Nicanol, come join us by the fire, we have been keeping the food warm until you were ready to awaken”.
Kisuhs Nicanol walked towards the small group and sat down next to the only truly familiar face, the kci-skicin. He reached out and patted her hand. “It is okay if you are still shy of your grandparents because you have not seen them since you were very young”.
This surprised Kisuhs Nicanol because she did not realize that that her grandparents had ever seen her before.“When did you last see me?” she asked.
“When you were just one-year-old your parents brought you to the tribal meeting so we could meet our granddaughter”, Soaring Eagle said with a huge smile. “But you cried the whole time, refused to sleep, and by the time the meeting came to the end we were all exhausted from taking turns staying up with you at night”. “White Dove was so concerned that after we returned to our camp she insisted that I bring her south so she could help Morning Dove care for this poor child that could not sleep”. “When we arrived, Friend of the Wolf informed us that as soon as you had arrived back in camp Running Deer had laid Little Bear next to you and you both fell into a deep sleep and slept for an entire day”. “Little Bear had been crying the entire time you were gone”. “They tried to bring you again when you were four-years-old but you refused to leave camp without Little Bear. From that point on your parents gave up trying to drag you away and left you behind with Running Deer when they traveled north”. “We have not seen our granddaughter again until yesterday”, he finished with a huge smile.
Kisuhs Nicanol had always wondered why her parents never made her go with them when they attended the tribal meetings. She laughed now at both her stubborn little self and the joy of knowing the loving sacrifices her parents had made for their obstinate child and her beloved Little Bear.
It was then Kisuhs Nicanol noticed the young man that had joined the small party on the plateau while she was sleeping. She looked questioningly at Soaring Eagle and nodded towards the young man, indicating they should introduce him.
“Kisuhs Nicanol, I would like you to meet a member of the northern tribe who traveled with your old grandparents to make sure we had a safe journey”, Soaring Eagle said. “This is Ahanu (He Laughs) and his grandparents have been our friends for many years”.
“You and White Dove are far from old Soaring Eagle!” the young man exclaimed. Ahanu then turned to Kisuhs Nicanol and said; “To be truthful Kisuhs Nicanol, my mihtaqsit (father) was the promised to Morning Dove before she met Friend of the Wolf”. “He has told me the story many times of how he and my mother came to marry and it couldn’t be told without mentioning your mother”.
Kisuhs Nicanol interrupted him to ask nervously; “Was he angry when mother left with mihtaqsit (father)?”
Ahanu smiled as he answered her; “No Kisuhs Nicanol, he was not angry because he was already in love with my mother but did not want to break the heart of Morning Dove”.
“But wasn’t your mother already promised to another as well?” Kisuhs Nicanol asked.
“No, she was not promised” he answered. “My mother is from the white tribe of the north and her parents died when their home caught fire”. Her tribal mihtaqsit (father) was able to break through a wall in the dwelling and save her but the fire was between him and her parents”. “He brought her back to the tribe and raised her as his own”. Because she was not one of the people she could not be promised to a man of the tribe”. “After Morning Dove told him that she wanted to return with Friend of the Wolf to the cliff tribe of the south he sought the elder's permission to marry my mother”. “Mother always says that they felt sorry for him because Morning Dove left him and that is they only reason he was granted permission to marry her, but she is a respected member of the elders circle, a skilled somakonossusq (female warrior) and is loved by everyone”.
When he finished his story Kisuhs Nicanol let out a long breath of relief. It was obvious from the way he spoke that Ahanu was very proud of his mother and loved her dearly. “I am so happy to hear your mihtaqsit spent his life with the woman he loved”. “My mother would have hated keeping him from that because of the promise”. Her voice reflected the relief she felt at not encountering yet another victim of the broken promises.
Soaring Eagle interrupted the conversation; “Kisuhs Nicanol, perhaps we should explain a few of the differences between the tribes”. “Your kci-skicin told us you are aware of the differences in the roles of men and women. In the north we share all duties and each is allowed to pursue the duty that best suits their skills and can best contribute to the well-being of the tribe”. “The lesson of your parent’s marriage and that of Ahanu’s parents was taken very seriously and discussed for many moons by the elders before we decided to end the making of marriage promises”. “Your mihtaqsit came to one of the elder’s meetings to speak on breaking the bonds of promises". "He spoke so passionately about the harm that such restrictions cause that the elders decided that the promises made by parents were not binding on the children”.
“So no marriage promises exist in the northern tribe?” Kisuhs Nicanol asked in an incredulous voice.
“No promises” White Dove answered, “Ahanu does not have any prospects for marriage!” she finished excitedly. The two older men laughed as the young man and woman dropped their eyes in embarrassment.
Kisuhs Nicanol could not stop a small smile of pleasure. She raised her eyes towards Ahanu and found him looking boldly back at her and he broke into a huge smile when he caught her eye. “Maybe life in the northern tribe held a brighter future for her”, she thought. For a moment she thought of her beloved Little Bear and felt a pang of guilt for considering a life with another man but once again she heard his voice; “Be happy my beloved, until we meet again”.
The kci-skicin rose to his feet and interrupted the young girl’s thoughts. “I think Kisuhs Nicanol you have made your decision” he said. “I need to return to the camp but first I have a gift for you from Running Deer”. He handed her a small package wrapped in the finest of deer hide, as white as the first snow.
“What is it the kci-skicin?” she asked.
“After you and Little Bear were born and your mothers were finally able to find friendship my first wife was so happy she made what is in that package for Running Deer”. “Running Deer cherished this gift for many years and even after the death of Little Bear and your mother she could not bring herself to destroy it”. “It was that reluctance that gave me hope that one day Running Deer would be able to find happiness again”.
Kisuhs Nicanol opened the small package
that held another white piece of hide about the size of a baby’s wrap. When she
spread this second piece of hide on the ground in front of her she caught her
breath in a gasp. On the hide was embroidered in fine stitches and painted with
the brightest tints the images of her mother and Running Deer standing back to
back but each clasping the hand of the other as they were looked back over their
shoulder at the other with large smiles. Even the twinkle she loved seeing in
her mother’s eyes was present through a small white bead carefully stitched in
place. Tears filled her eyes and when she tried to thank the kci-skicin her
voice caught in her throat.
“The gift is from Running Deer and with it she sends this message; forgive me my dear girl, but the pain was too great, may you find happiness in your new home”. With that he leaned down and gave the young somakonossusq one last hug before turning towards the trail leading back to his wife and camp.
Kisuhs Nicanol turned to the three people still sitting around the fire and smiled. They rose and came to join her and admire the beautiful gift still spread on the ground before her. She turned to the young man kneeling at her side and said:
“Ahanu, that is my mother with the twinkling eyes and the other is Running Deer, the most skilled and powerful somakonossusq in the Cliff Tribe”. “My mother taught me all I needed to know about life and love, but Running Deer taught me to be strong”. She looked towards her grandparents and said; “tomorrow we will travel to the northern tribe and perhaps one day I will share with my daughter all that I learned from these powerful warriors”.
The End of the Beginning
IMAGE: "Blue Moon " by Maija is one of the Fine Native American Art, Western Art, and Wildlife Art prints and posters available from Native American Expressions.
If you would like to read about the role of the American Indian woman in the tribe; an interesting site is the White Wolf Pack: http://www.whitewolfpack.com/2015/01/true-story-native-american-women.html.
The strength of the women depicted in the saga of Kisuhs Nicanol is illustrated in these stories.
I truly hoped you enjoyed my first fictional series. I thank everyone that read, commented, and liked. It’s been fun adventure.
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