Prequel to The Ascent
Welcome to the continuing fictional saga about the life of a young female Indian warrior. The story is told with each episode moving back in time. This backward movement was chosen for a specific purpose to have the reader ask the question; why?
We are each our history and so as the story progresses contemplate the whys and see if what you believe led to the events
was in fact true.
The young warrior has been named Kisuhs Nicanol (Moon Child). This name comes from the Passamaquoddy tribe of Eastern Maine. The use of words, traditions, ceremonies, and folklore within the story are also representative of the Passamaquoddy tribe. But 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. I hope you enjoy the story of Kisuhs Nicanol.
The Hunt - Episode 2
She could hear the other women gathering outside her small ptoqikan (wigwam). She tied the tattered moccasins around her feet with scraps of hide left behind by others last fall. She draped a deerskin hide that had once belonged to her mother across her shoulders and picked up her bow and quiver. These too had been left to her by her mother.
She stepped out into the morning light. The fall sun was bright but the air was already beginning to chill. It would be another cold winter.
The women turned to look at her as she joined the other hunters. Several turned away to hide their laughter but others openly sneered at her ragged clothing. They all wore leggings and buckskins crafted from last year’s hunt. The sun glinted off new beading and recently honed arrowheads.
The sakomasq, wife of the sakom (chief), the woman who had trained her, approached. “You cannot hunt in those garments!” She spoke loudly so the gathering crowd of women could hear. “You’ll slow the party down. Go and put on better moccasins or you won’t be joining the hunt”.
The young somakonossusq (female warrior) dropped her head. They knew, they knew well, that she had no other moccasins. They had found reasons to exclude her from the hunt for the last two seasons. In a quiet voice she pleaded, “I have no others sakomasq and I need to join the party so that I may stock my food bin for the winter and have new hides from which to make new clothing”. “Please excuse my tattered clothing and allow me to accompany you on the hunt.” “I promise you I’ll not slow you down”. Even as she said the words, she knew the answer. It would be another winter of begging for scraps of food and gathering wood for other families to earn a handful of dried venison.
With a sneer of distaste the sakomasq responded; “go back to your ptoqikan, perhaps next season”. “You will stay here and watch over the kalsu (children) ". With a harsh laugh she led the hunting party towards the trail that led through the dense forest. The young somakonossusq knew there would be no next season. She was already thin from little nourishment last winter and the hard labor of the summer. She would not survive another winter. The lack of concern by the women of her tribe angered her.
She turned and walked towards the central ptoqikan. The men were there praying for a successful hunt and the safety of the hunters. It was the men who governed the tribe and it was them from whom she must receive permission to strike out on her own. After tapping softly on the door frame she requested and was granted permission to enter.
The smell of incense filled her nostrils as she stepped into the large ptoqikan. As was custom she walked to the center of the large room and stood before the kehcikotonecik (elders). With head bowed in respect she made her plea. “I have come to request permission to leave the camp in order to hunt”. “My bin is empty and I am in need of new hides with which to craft a new blanket and moccasins”. “The winter is fast approaching and I fear I will not survive without the warmth of a new blanket and enough nourishment to see me through the long cold months ahead”.
The sakom studied her closely and saw the thinness of her frame, the moccasins held together by scraps of hide, and buckskins so worn that holes were beginning to appear. “Why did you not join the hunting party Kisuhs Nicanol, he asked?”
Choosing her words carefully she explained, “the sakomasq believed I would slow down the rest of the party because my moccasins were unsuitable”. “I am a skilled somakonossusq and despite my small stature I am strong”. “I know I will be able to fill my bin and have sufficient left over to offer as tribute to the kehcikotonecik for their kindness in granting this request”.
The young somakonossusq's hunting skills were well known to the sakom. Her father had been a close friend and advisor to the kehcikotonecik. Before joining the kansuhsuwok (ancestors) he had made sure that she was well prepared to take her place amongst the women of the tribe.
The sakom was confused as to why the sakomasq, his nisuwihticil (spouse/wife), had not allowed Kisuhs Nicanol to participate in the hunt. “You have our permission to leave the camp”. “Did the sakomasq assign you any duties before departing?”
“I was told to help in the care of the kalsu”, she answered
The sakom turned to the naksqemol (servant girl) sitting quietly by the door and said; “you are excused from your duty in caring for the kehcikotonecik.” “Go and assist the others with the kalsu”.
The young somakonossusq knelt before the sakom and took his hands in hers and whispered; “thank you for understanding my plight and granting your permission.” “I will bring back a bountiful tribute to the kehcikotonecik.”
The sakom merely nodded his head and excused her from the circle.
As she stepped outside the ptoqikan she stooped to pick up the bow and quiver she had dropped to the ground before entering. She turned towards the path the hunting party had taken earlier. The excitement of going on a lone hunt made her heart pound in her chest and a smile displaced all signs of her earlier worry. The coming winter looked less bleak and as she entered the forest she began to run as feelings of freedom filled her heart.
A fortnight passed and the hunting party returned with many travois heavily laden with deer, bear, and wild boar. The hunt had been very successful and the women walked proudly into the camp. They were greeted by the kalsu who ran towards them in excitement. The sakomasq headed straight for the central ptoqikan to inform the men of their return. Tapping softly on the door frame she entered the ptoqikan and stepped into the kehcikotonecik circle.
She spoke with a proud lilt in her voice. “nisuwihticil (my spouse/husband), the hunting party has returned and our success should see the tribe through the longest of pun (winters).”
Rather than giving the expected praise the sakom looked into his nisuwihticil (spouse/wife) eyes and said; “tell me why you denied Kisuhs Nicanol participation in the hunt?” “She is highly skilled, you trained her yourself, and so I am at a loss at to why you would refuse her.”
Feigning humbleness the sakomasq defended her decision. “nisuwihticil (my spouse/husband), she was not prepared for the rigors of the hunt.” “Her moccasins were nothing more than rags.” “Her arrows were dull from many seasons of use. I could not risk her slowing the party or having to wait while she honed new tips.” “I did what I thought was best for the hunt.”
The sakom replied; “then answer me this; “how was Kisuhs Nicanol to overcome these transgressions if she is repeatedly left in camp to care for other’s kalsu?”
The sakomasq realized she was being called to task for her actions and quickly sought to mend the situation. “Our hunt was very successful; there will be sufficient for her to receive a portion of the food and hides.”
The sakom was not to be so easily convinced; “last season’s hunt was just as bountiful and yet she still wears the buckskins and moccasins of her mother.” “Her bones protrude and she is wasting from the lack of nourishment.” “I can only assume she is not receiving a fair portion for her bin.” “Tell me nisuwihticil (wife), who determines the fair portions?”
“You well know nisuwihticil that it is my duty to divide the hunt and I feel she did receive according to her need.” “If she squandered what she had, what fault is that of mine?”
“How do you squander hides nisuwihticil?” And with that question he ended the discussion. “Go now and help the others in preparing the meats and hides.” “We granted Kisuhs Nicanol’s request to hunt alone.” “She will most likely not require her allotted portion as she will be allowed to keep all that she gathers, including the kehcikotonecik tribute.” “The tribute will come from your portion.”
As the sakomasq exited the ptoqikan rage filled to heart. Never had she been admonished by the kehcikotonecik. That it had come from nisuwihticil, the sakom, in front of the rest of the kehcikotonecik had brought disgrace.
Two members of the hunting party approached her to hear of the kehcikotonecik praise. They saw the anger in the sakomasq’s eyes and hesitated. The sakomasq beckoned to them and said; “Kisuhs Nicanol has been granted permission for a lone hunt.” “Go find her and take her to the women’s prayer circle on the cliffs.” “Do not let her return to camp or you will both pay a high price.” “Bring word to me when you have done as you have been told.”
With that the sakomasq stormed off to do as she had been instructed by the kehcikotonecik. The two somakonossusqiyik (plural of female warrior) returned to the forest in search of their prey. Their search was short. Less than a mile from camp they came across Kisuhs Nicanol pulling a travois hand-crafted from small birch trees loaded with deer, rabbit, beaver and wild boar. At her side walked a malsum (wolf) that growled as the two somakonossusqiyik approached. Her hunt had been extremely successful and the somakonossusqiyik could not help but admire her skill.
Kisuhs Nicanol lowered the travois to the ground and placed her hand on the malsum’s back immediately silencing the growls. Something in the way the somakonossusqiyik moved towards her told her that their presence was not a chance meeting. One of the somakonossusqs raised her bow, already loaded with an arrow and aimed it at the wolf. Kisuhs Nicanol jumped in front of the malsum and commanded it to leave. The malsum hesitated at first but sensing the danger quickly turned and disappeared into the thick forest underbrush.
Before she could turn around the somakonossusqiyik were upon her, knocking her to the ground. A piece of hide was shoved into her mouth to silence her screams. While one held her down the other quickly bound her arms behind her and then raising her legs bound them with the same rope. Any movement by Kisuhs Nicanol caused the binding to cut into the skin of her wrist and ankles. There was nothing she could do but await her fate. The travois was emptied of its load and replaced with the bound body of the young somakonossusq.
When they arrived at the women’s prayer circle Kisuhs Nicanol was unbound and tied to a tree. One of the somakonossusqs stood watch as the other went to inform the sakomasq.
When the sakomasq arrived she brought with her several of her chosen. The bond between these women was well known by the women of the tribe. The kehcikotonecik were not aware of the power this small clan yielded. Such factions were not allowed under tribal law and participation was considered treason. Anyone, no matter what their station within the tribe, would be immediately banished from the camp and ostracized by its members. The greatest threat a member of the tribe could make against another was the accusation of clan membership. Despite the consequences the clan had been ruling behind the scene for years. The sakomasq was its founder and leader. As the wife of the kci-skicin (high elder) and the leader of the clan, the other women feared her.
The sakomasq walked up and stood in front of Kisuhs Nicanol still tied to the tree. With a harshness that instilled fear in all the women present said; “so, you went before the kehcikotonecik behind my back!” “You have disgraced me before the kehcikotonecik and nisuwihticil (my husband) and for that you will pay.”
Hate dripped from every word. She was so close Kisuhs Nicanol could feel the warmth of the sakomasq’s breath on her face. She dropped her head to avoid the rage she saw in the sakomasq’s eyes. There would be no defending herself and no justification she offered would dampen the anger.
The sakomasq grabbed the young woman’s hair and jerked her head back, forcing her to make eye contact. “You wanted your lone hunt?” “Well, the hunt will never end, you’ll never return and the kehcikotonecik will assume that you are with the kansuhsuwok (ancestors)”. She gave another jerk and continued. “I will have to spend months earning back nisuwihticil and the kehcikotonecik trust.” “I will be punished because of you." "I will be forced to surrender a portion of my hunt to pay your tribute.”
The sakomasq gave the young somakonossusq’s hair another hard pull. Then raising a hand slapped her with all her might across her face. The sakomasq let out a loud growl and raised her hand again. Before she could land another blow a clap of thunder shook the ground beneath their feet. The sky opened and a heavy rain poured down on the group.
The small group had been so engrossed in the sakomasq’s tirade they hadn’t noticed the dark clouds moving in off the ocean. When they heard the thunder they thought at first it was the sakomasq’s rage being echoed by the sky. Then the rain began to pound the ground around them and all but the sakomasq and the Kisuhs Nicanol ran for the shelter of trees.
The sakomasq screamed to the clan. “Bring the rope and untie this traitor.” “Wrap the rope around her waist.” “We will leave her for the vultures to feast on.” With a harsh laugh said; “if she doesn’t end up on the rocks below”.
The women of the clan did as they were instructed. By this point they feared the wrath of the sakomasq and for their own lives. There would be no defense or rescue offered by anyone. The rope was cinched around Kisuhs Nicanol’s waist and she was led to the cliff’ and forced over its edge. They lowered her until her feet rested on a ledge halfway down the cliff’s face.
Kisuhs Nicanol was ordered to untie the rope or face being pulled off the ledge and dropped onto the rocks below. She knew she had no choice and carefully untied the rope while trying to maintain her balance on the narrow ledge. She could no longer see the members of the clan through the pounding rain and it was the final harsh laugh of the sakomasq that told her that she was being left to die.
The skies above were so dark Kisuhs Nicanol could not tell night from day. Mud and pine needles rained down, washed from the ground above, making her perch all the more precarious. Hours passed. How many she did not know. She tilted her head and looked down at waves crashing below and rocks that were black against the white foam of the receding waves. There was no fear or anger. Her emotions seemed to be as cold as the rain that lashed against her thin buckskins. All she could do was wait for the storm to end.
Image: Woman Warrior - https://art.alphacoders.com/arts/view/70738
Pamela I Williams on beBee.com [2016.] Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pamela I Williams with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.