The Strengthening - Episode 7
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 Strengthening – Episode 7
After the wedding of the Sakomasq and the kci-skicin (high elder) the new couple spent three undisturbed days in their ptoqikan, as was tribal custom for a newly married couple. Kisuhs Nicanol spent most of this time in her and Little Bear’s special place in the forest. There she felt safe, protected from the wrath of the clan. She knew her time of peace would end when the Sakomasq emerged. The young woman’s emotions teetered between fears of what was to come and acceptance that this was her fate and she should accept it with courage. The clan had avoided her but each time Kisuhs Nicanol got near the other women they would laugh softly as if they knew what fate awaited her and took pleasure in knowing.
When not in the forest she would help the young girls of the tribe who were charged with caring for the kalsu (children). This was joyful work for the young woman and she would find new and fun games to play with the kalsu. With the kalsu, the openness and innocence helped her forget her grief and the coming somakonossusq training. The Sakomasq would make it the training hard and it would surely test the strength and endurance of the young woman.
Kisuhs Nicanol had heeded the warming of the clan and not mentioned their existence or the warnings to mihtaqsit (father). Despite the fondness the Sakomasq felt for the shaman, Kisuhs Nicanol, could not be sure that she would not seek revenge against him if he went to the kehcikotonecik (elders) and told them of the women’s activities. It would mean the end of the Sakomasq's marriage to the kci-skicin (high elder) and her banishment from the tribe. Vows of alliance were taken seriously, whether or not they were within tribal law. The clan’s vows would ensure vengeance against anyone, even the shaman, for acts of betrayal.
On the day of the Sakomasq's emergence from her marriage isolation the tribe held a feast for the couple. Kisuhs Nicanol attended to please her mihtaqsit (father) but she kept to herself with her head bowed and never looking in the Sakomasq direction. Her mihtaqsit (father) believed it was her many seasons of isolation and grief that kept her silent and she did not correct him. He could not know that fear filled her heart and mind. It was the first time in her young life that Kisuhs Nicanol was filling the role of the protector. She realized that this was the emotion she had witnessed in the somakonossusq (female warriors). Despite the reasons for her feelings of protectiveness, she felt a sense of pride in being the protector, the provider for the family. It was pride that would see her through her grueling somakonossusq training over the next several months.
On the morning after the feast the Sakomasq, along with two of the most skilled somakonossusq, came to Kisuhs Nicanol’s ptoqikan before the sun had breached the horizon. The young woman and her mihtaqsit (father) were still sleeping when a loud knock awoke them. Mihtaqsit (father) rose quickly, believing it was his services as shaman was the reason for the early morning visit. Kisuhs Nicanol looked sleepily towards the door expecting the usual urgent whispers of explanation when her father was called to sit with the dying or witness the birth of a new member of the tribe. When the Sakomasq and her party stepped into the ptoqikan the young woman sat up quickly, instantly awake.
“Kisuhs Nicanol, the time has come for you to join the women of the tribe as a somakonossusq (female warrior)”. “Your training begins today”. "Rise up young one and don the buckskins of a huntress for you will face many moons of exhausting work, long days, and the strengthening of your mind and body”. “When your training is finished you will be one of the most cunning and skillful hunters and protectors of the tribe”.
Kisuhs Nicanol knew this speech was for the benefit of her mihtaqsit (father) who was standing behind the Sakomasq smiling with pride at his daughter’s initiation into the life of the somakonossusq (female warrior). The young woman could see the eyes of the Sakomasq and her party. The meaning behind the words was clear; they would push her beyond her limits of endurance. If death came it would be her weakness used the reason, not the savageness of the Sakomasq training and treatment.
The pride in being the family protector that had grown in Kisuhs Nicanol over the last few days rose up in the young woman’s heart and mind. She vowed that she would not be broken by the Sakomasq and her clan. She stared hard into the other woman’s eyes and the challenge of strength was laid down between the two women. She wasn’t sure but Kisuhs Nicanol thought she saw a flash of admiration and pride in the eyes of her adversary. But it was gone in a moment and replaced by the anger and hatred she had seen at the clan’s circle.
Over the coming months, through the long cold winter days and into the late spring Kisuhs Nicanol life was filled with days of grueling acts of endurance. Whenever she felt she was overcoming their tests another somakonossusq would appear to thwart the young woman’s efforts. Each night she would return to her ptoqikan and fall exhausted onto her bedding. Many nights she would fall asleep not having eaten the entire day.
Her mihtaqsit (father) began leaving food and water by her bedding so that she could eat while resting her exhausted body on the soft bearskins. The next morning her food vessels had been replenished with fresh meat and water so she could eat while she dressed for another day of somakonossusq training. As the days passed Kisuhs Nicanol’s strength and resolve grew to overcome whatever challenge the Sakomasq chose for the young woman. Despite the Sakomasq best efforts to break her Kisuhs Nicanol prevailed in every feat of strength and endurance she faced. It was not long before the young woman was dressed and waiting when the Sakomasq and members of the clan knocked at the door of the ptoqikan.
When it came time for the tribe to move into the valley and their summer encampment the kehcikotonecik (elders) requested a demonstration of the abilities of the newest member of the somakonossusq. On their first day at the summer encampment Kisuhs Nicanal was tested against the best of the tribe’s somakonossusq (female warriors). With several of the kehcikotonecik (elders) hiding throughout the course as judges of the young somakonossusq (female warrior) prowess; the final test began. The course was to take several days to complete and required the somakonossusq return to camp with enough meat to feed her family from full moon to full moon. With a half a day to spare Kisuhs Nicanol returned to camp with enough to feed two families for two full moons. The game carcasses were carried on a travois she had fashioned from young birch trees. The other somakonossusq returned with barely enough meat to fulfill the test and within moments before the sun set on the final day.
The kehcikotonecik (elders) declared Kisuhs Nicanol to be ready to join the other women on the next hunt. They congratulated her on her skill. The kehcikotonecik (elders) who had been acting as judges throughout the forest returned and spoke of her skill with praise and admiration. Her mihtaqsit (father) tried to be respectful of the other somakonossusq and not show too much pride in his daughter’s accomplishments. But that night as they prepared their dinner alone in their ptoqikan her mihtaqsit suddenly pulled her into his arms and hugged her tightly against his chest. He whispered softly; “Your mother would be very proud of her daughter today”. “I know she is with the ancestors telling them about her brave and skillful child”.
That night as Kisuhs Nicanol lay on her bedding her mind raced with joyful thoughts. “Surely now they will see that I have grown and changed. “ “I am not the young selfish girl who brought much sorrow to the tribe”. “Maybe I made the Sakomasq proud as her student and she too will look upon me with forgiveness”. The young somakonossusq fell into a deep sleep and dreamed of her first hunt with the other women of the tribe.
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 I located was 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.
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If you missed the previous episodes they can be found through the links below in chronological order:
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