The Rise of the Iroquois, Part IV – back to the other side

22 October 2014

The legend of the Peacemaker ends with the creation of the Great League, when the first gathering of the Five Nations and their fifty representatives were presented with the insignia of their office and told about their duties and responsibilities. There was little that the Peacemaker’s wonderfully detailed constitution didn’t cover. Composed of almost hundred and fifty laws and clauses, it gave clear direction as to the way of conducting themselves and their nations in order to preserve peace and concord.

Longhouse

So all was well among the Five Nations for the time being, but what about the Peacemaker himself?

Evidently, he didn’t participate in the government he himself has created. The names of the original founders were to be passed down to their successors in the office – this was one of the laws – however, as typically, the elected representative would stay to serve his people for life, such direction did not create a problem. For example, the person who came to succeed the deceased Hionhwatha was to be called “Hionhwatha”, inheriting this great man’s name along with the vastness of his responsibilities. This is how we came to know the names of the original founders.

And yet, the Peacemaker’s name, although passed down to us as a part of his story, was never inherited, showing that he did not sit in the Great Council he created.

But then, where did he go?

Various versions of the legend did not address this question at all, concentrating on the First Gathering and the set of great laws he had delivered to be passed on to the future generation, instead. Some do mention that this great man went back the Creators, to the Great Spirits he came to represent here on earth. Does it mean that he died? Disappeared?

Two Clubs

If allowed to question the legend and the mysterious aspect of it, I think these questions are important. People were always people, and divine intervention or not, some might have grown jealous of the power this man had wielded. Particularly Tadodaho, who according to every angle and every version of the legend was not a likeable man, not above using violence and dirty means. Hionhwatha’s family and what happened to it prior to the Peacemaker’s coming, serves as an example; them and the fact that the Onondaga People were the last to join the League, difficult to convince only because of this man’s resistance. What if he tried to get rid of the Peacemaker after the Great Council began functioning, looking as though it is going to hold on?

And there is another aspect. Wyandot/Huron People, those whom the Five Nations came to call Crooked Tongues – the Peacemaker’s original country-folk – seemed to be as busy and not idle at all. Composed of four nations as opposed to the five on the other side of Lake Ontario, they were reported to form a confederacy as well, the one that might have been functioning on the similar basis. We don’t have knowledge of when exactly this confederacy was formed. Like with the Great League, the dates are jumping centuries back and forth, with no conclusive evidence, but unlike the Five Nations we don’t have an event as the full solar eclipse to help us out. Nor do we have a recorded story. Only the repeated claim that the Wyandot confederacy of four nations did exist.

Which bring us to another question. Why didn’t the Peacemaker try to bring his own people into the Great Law of Peace of his own creation. After all, according ot his own words it was open to every person or nation with a willingness and a right set of mind “… If any man or any nation outside the Five Nations shall obey the laws of the Great Peace and make known their disposition to the Lords of the Confederacy, they may trace the Roots to the Tree and if their minds are clean and they are obedient and promise to obey the wishes of the Confederate Council, they shall be welcomed to take shelter beneath the Tree of the Long Leaves…”

Why didn’t he make sure his own people had a place under the Great Tree of Peace?

Or maybe he did. Maybe he did try to bring his former people, the Five Nations’ sworn enemy, in and maybe this was what served as his downfall, or made him leave in any other way.

An excerpt from “The Peacekeeper”, The Peacemaker Series, book #4.

And so here he was, stuck with the strenuous task of organizing this important gathering, while the three most important people in his life were threatened, dangerously exposed.

“I’m not underestimating that poison-dripping snake.” Two Rivers’ voice cut into his thoughts, not calming or reassuring, not this time. “I’m watching him as closely. Just in case. But he is not as powerful as he used to be, Old Friend. So don’t fret about him that much. He can hate us all he likes, but he can do nothing to interrupt our work, nothing at all. Mainly because it will go against him, too, if something goes wrong. Having received such a high position in our Great League, he can’t jeopardize the entire thing. He wants it working well as badly as we do.” Sucking on his pipe, the Crooked Tongues man chuckled. “It’s good to be back. Running all over those western lands reminded me of our previous Awakening Season. We didn’t get much rest back then, did we?”

“No, we did not.” Making another tremendous effort, Tekeni tried to push his misgivings aside, if only for this short part of the morning.

“He may not be as powerful as before, yes, but he is still vicious and unscrupulous. He hasn’t changed. His pride demands that he lead our union, so if he finds a way to be rid of you in order to replace you as our spiritual leader as well as the Head of the Great Council, he would do this as quickly as you can say ‘Great Sparkling Water’.”

“Yes, I’m aware of that.” Two Rivers exhaled loudly, in an exasperated manner. “Credit me with more wisdom than that. I’m not a simple-minded child.” He studied his pipe, a skillfully carved and painted affair of many patterns, another gift from this or that grateful community, probably. “I’m not disregarding your advice, Old Friend. I trust your judgment more than I trust the judgment of anyone else on both sides of the Great Lake. I know you are right about Tadodaho. I know he would have gotten rid of me if he could. But the thing is, he can’t. He needs me. After the second, and maybe the third gathering, when it all works and all the laws are firm and solid, and our union looks like the unshakeable structure that it should be, maybe then he’ll decide that I may be of no use to him anymore. Then I will keep him in my eyesight, and I will be careful not to turn my back on him. But until then, I’m safe. He is too wise not to appreciate my usefulness for now.”

“Unless the opportunity to get rid of you presents itself, too tempting not to exploit, even if it might come too early to be of convenience.”

Oh, curse this persistent bad feeling to the underworld of the Evil Twin. Two Rivers was probably right. He was the wisest man of them all. He could see beyond the obvious and above it, flying like an eagle, seeing the great picture and the smallest details at once, his eyes as good as those of that magnificent creature, and his mind as sharp as the most polished flint, the best arrowhead. Wasn’t he the man who had brought this magnificent vision to life, giving his, Tekeni’s, people so many great laws and rules?

“This Crooked Tongues delegation may be that thing, that opportunity, to tempt the evil snake into pouncing, even if your dubious trip to visit the western people did not,” he muttered, hating his gut feeling and his logic, wishing they both would go away and leave him alone, so he could enjoy the company of his friend, or the warm arms of his woman at nights, without the nagging worry.

Real smart folks, but no wheel?

31 August 2014

I’m honored to present a guest post from , Bilingual Interpreter at American Translators Association, an expert on Mesoamerica and its various indigenous nations and cultures.

Why didn’t the peoples of ancient Mesoamerica have wheeled transport? They had a vibrant commercial economy, with lots of long-distance trade, periodic marketplaces, and professional merchants. They had two types of money. But they didn’t use wheeled carts.

The surprising thing is that the Mesoamericans DID invent the wheel. They made wheeled toys – mostly small clay animals with holes in the legs for an axle and wheels. These were most abundant in sites of the Toltec period (AD 900-1100), including Tula in central Mexico.

When the Spanish arrived from Europe in the sixteenth century they were astounded at the remarkable skills exhibited by the architects, builders and craftsmen of the ‘New World’. The calendar developed by the ancient Maya was more accurate than the calendar in use throughout Europe and the medical system in place among the residents of Mesoamerica was superior to that of the Spanish.

Yet, for all the advanced thinking, there was no utilitarian wheel; no carts, no wagons, no potter’s wheel. Still the concept of the wheel was known throughout Mesoamerica.

Archeologists have recovered numerous wheeled toys, very much like those still made today for children. These toys were what we would call “pull toys” and they were generally made of fired clay in the form of an animal (real or imagined) standing on a platform supported by four ceramic wheels. A loop for the pull string was usually made around the neck or head of the creature.

And yet, while the idea of the wheel was in place there were no wheeled vehicles.

Oddly enough, the Maya built roads, or more correctly, causeways. These roads, called sacbeob meaning white roads were constructed of limestone and paved with natural lime cement called sascab. Often as wide as ten to twelve feet and raised between a foot or so to as much as seven or eight feet above the ground, the sacbeob connected various areas of settlement. The sacbeob at one Maya site (Coba) in the Yucatan of Mexico connects several major architectural groups, the longest running in an almost perfect straight line for over sixty miles! Archaeologists have found what may have been stone rollers used to compact the road bed during construction.

But no wheels.

While it is certainly true that the Maya did not possess the potter’s wheel, they did make use of a device called the k’abal. This was a wooden disk that rested on a smooth board between the potter’s feet. Spun by feet, the k’abal was not unlike the potter’s wheel that had been in use in the Old World for over five thousand years.

Still, there was no conventional wheel.

Perhaps the closest the Maya came to a utilitarian wheel was the spindle whorl.

In ancient times the Maya wove cotton garments in much the same way as they do today. Cotton was spun into thread, using as a spindle a narrow pointed stick about a foot long, weighted near the lower end with a ceramic disk called a spindle whorl. Acting as a fly-wheel, it gave balance to the stick which was twirled with one hand while the cotton was fed by the other to the top of the stick. The twisting motion produced the thread which was then sent to the loon for weaving. Cotton material is still being produced in this way by Maya groups in several parts of today Mexico and Guatemala. Some scholars believe the first wheeled toys were made with spindle whorls and spindle sticks as wheels and axles.

Why, then, were the Maya and other native populations without carts or wagons? Certainly they had the concept, so why did they transported everything on someone’s back?

The answer probably lies in the fact that there were no animals around suitable to pull a wagon or cart, no beast of burden. Horses and burros were unknown in Mesoamerica. Without draft animals a cart is not particularly useful. Then too. the area in which the Maya lived, for example, did not lend itself to road construction and that fact lives on until this very day. Rural areas are more easily accessed by foot or along narrow trails than by car or truck. Streams and rivers were the highways of the Maya, with extensive trade and commerce carried out by fleets of canoes.

Hope this partially answers the mystery of no wheel.

Sources: Diehl, Richard A. and Margaret Mandeville 1987 Tula and Wheeled Animal Effigies in Mesoamerica. Antiquity 61: 239-246. Linn?, Sigvald 1951 A Wheeled Toy from Guerrero, Mexico. Ethnos 16. Stocker, Terry, Barbara Jackson, and Harold Riffell 1986 Wheeled Figurines from Tula, Hidalgo, Mexico. Mexicon 8 (4): 69-72.

For the original post and more information, you are invited to visit Andres Michel Amezcua’s Facebook page

Historical fiction and the Great League of the Iroquois

13 July 2014

I am happy to announce the release of another new book

The Peacekeeper

The after-story of the Great Peacemaker’s legend is not clear. Some versions refer to his disappearance briefly, off-handedly, stating that after bringing the Law of the Great Peace to the people, he went back to the Sky World.

Other versions do not mention his departure at all, concentrating on the events of the First Gathering and the elaborate set of laws he had given the people on this opportunity.

What is clear and agreed upon by all versions of the story is the fact that he did not participate in the government he created, did not sit among the fifty representatives he went to such great pains to guide and direct.

The names of the original fifty became titles, to be passed to each office’s successor and become his to use for the time the man would be expected to hold his position—a lifetime in many cases. These important dignitaries could be replaced by the Clan Mothers of the towns they represented, but there was no limited time for them to officiate if they did so in a satisfactory manner. Thus, the man who was chosen to replace Hionhwatha assumed the name of this great man, and the man who was honored to officiate as the Head of the Great Council was to be called Tadodaho as long he stayed in the office. And so on.

Yet, the Peacemaker’s name was not passed down through the generations. He was clearly not among the original fifty who had formed the first Great Council. A clear indication that he did not remain to see the confederacy of his creation functioning, blossoming as the years passed.

But where did he go?

Wyandot, or Wendat, people from across Lake Ontario—the Great Sparkling Water—or Crooked Tongues as they were honored to be called by the other side of the lake, his original people, were reported to have a confederacy as well. They were four nations of similar-sounding languages, and their union seemed to be of the same nature, maybe on a smaller scale, but not by much. There is no clear evidence as to the time their union might have been formed, not like with the Five Nations, thanks to the solar eclipse and the many recorded versions of the story, but we do know that such a union did exist.

So he might have died, or disappeared, but he also might have gone to his former people, to do for them what he had done for their enemies? It would be strange if, after declaring his intentions of bringing all peoples under the shade of the Great Tree of Peace, he would not have tried to do so starting with his own ‘Crooked Tongues.’

And even if he failed, as, historically, we know that there was no peace between the League of the Five Nations and the Wyandot (Huron) from the other side, he might have tried to do that at least, to attempt to unite his former people into a similar sort of a union.

With the Great Peace established, new laws delivered, and important agreements reached, Two Rivers and Tekeni could now sit back and enjoy the fruits of their work, watching the union of Five Nations alive and kicking, functioning, maintaining the Peacemaker’s wonderful vision. Or so they thought…

Tekeni had never trusted the power-hungry Tadodaho, now the Head of the Great Council. Yet, Two Rivers dismissed such warnings lightly, too lightly for Tekeni’s peace of mind. The devious man was up to something. Tekeni’s gut instincts screamed danger, but the Peacemaker kept waving his hand in dismissal, claiming that everything was under control.

And then, the Crooked Tongues entered the scene…

An excerpt from “The Peacekeeper”, The Peacemaker Series, book #4

She said nothing, her palm pressing his shoulder, giving warmth, but not enough of it. Nothing would fill the void the incredible man from across the Great Sparkling Water would leave when gone, back to the Great Spirits he clearly belonged to. He was their messenger, the temporary guest here.

“He didn’t finish his work, you know.” He felt silly, like a complaining child, whining about things he couldn’t have. “He said five nations was just a beginning. He went to see Long Tails from the west, somewhere upon the shores of another Great Lake. We barely hear of these people, but the People of the Mountains knew, and they told him. So he went there. Like in the good old times, but alone. I was busy organizing the Second Gathering.” It was easier to keep talking, it kept his grief in some sort of control. “And the Crooked Tongues, of course. He wanted to have them as a part of our union. He invited their delegation, but it was not enough, he said. Not a pitiful delegation from one or two towns. He wanted to go there in the summer, to organize them like he did with our people. Then we could talk to them properly, he said.”

Sighing, he smiled at the memory, not a happy smile.

“He said he did not believe I would like to come. I told him, damn right, I would never cross the Great Sparkling Water again, not if I could help it. But I would have now, you know? If it was the way to save him, to make him change his mind, I would be sailing our Sparkling Water before the sun was to kiss the treetops of the eastern side of it.”

The pressure of the gentle palm was gone.

“He wanted to go and organize the Crooked Tongues?” she asked, suddenly excited.

“Yes, he did.”

“Alone?”

“I suppose so.”

She coiled into her previous position again, pressing her knees with her arms, but not sobbing now, deep in thought.

“What?”

“Wait. Let me think!”

“Think about what, Kahontsi?”

“I think I may have a solution. But you won’t like it.”

“There is no solution.”

“Maybe there is.” Her eyes shone at him like two bright stars, their excitement barely contained. “Like the test of the falls, eh? It was wild, but was worth a try. And we did it. And it worked.”

He felt his own excitement beginning to stir. “Tell me.”

Atenaha, the Seed Game that even the deities played

15 June 2014

So, you are a man and had a busy day behind you. Not something as demanding as trailing along with your peers on a hunting expedition – such enterprise could take days – but just a regular daily activity, clearing a new field at the demand of your Clan Mothers, or chopping firewood, or working on a construction of a new longhouse. Enough activity to make you tired physically but not mentally; not enough to make you sneak into your longhouse’s compartment to catch a good nap on one of the lower banks.

As the Father Sun would be rolling down, progressing toward his resting place, you might get start enjoying this well deserved rest, engaging in throwing games with your equally tired but restless peers. After all, you all have already completed your chores, washed in the nearby stream and ate the warmed meal prepared by the women of your family in the morning. So it might be the time to have some idle fun.

Atenaha – a seed game – required little accessories and not much preparation or skill. Like dice it was a game of luck, mainly, to pass an idle afternoon. With blanket, folded and thoroughly smoothed, acting like a game-board, eight small wooden, or carved out of elk horn, disks, burned or blackened on one side each, and a pile of seeds or beans, forty in amount , you and your friends were set to go.

The first player would grab the stones, shake them thoroughly, then throw, making sure none slipped between his palms while mixing them vigorously (such misfortune could see the player losing his round no matter what his throw brought).

The array of the dice upon the blanket would determine the players’ achievement per round. If the stones spread out displaying their blackened sides, all eight of them, you would whoop with joy and earn twenty points, sweeping twenty seeds/beans out of the central pot and into your private stockpiles. This was the luckiest throw.

Still, if your discs would spread on the blanket all displaying their unpainted sides, you would probably not be heard complaining. Ten points such throw would earn you is not likely to see you desperate.

Seven painted/unpainted sides would give you four points, and six would still see you collecting two seeds out of the pot. Nothing to boast about, but not the total failure, either. Any less than that – five painted as opposed to three unpainted, or the other way around, and so on – would earn you nothing, but the loss of your round. Not the end of the world, but you might still get thoroughly angered.

So at this stage the players would be fully engaged, enjoying themselves, most probably ignoring the ominous glances of the passing-by ever-busy Clans Mothers – the elderly women who ran the council of each longhouse and who were bound to frown on such idle pastime. Yet, the players would be too busy for that now, using one hand to throw, and the other to hide their winnings. In many versions of the game a lucky throw would earn the participants another round ahead of his peers.

And so the game would continue until the pot with the seeds empties. By this point some would have hoarded high piles of beans, while the others would sport smaller heaps, or nothing at all. A player without earnings could continue but usually not for long.

Because at this point the game changes.

If before each earned point was compensated out of the central pot of seeds, now it would have to come out of the piles owed by the fellow players. So if you had nothing left but it was your turn to throw and you were lucky enough to earn a point or two, you would be off for a passable re-start.

But if it was someone else’s turn, you would be very likely kicked out of the game the moment your companion earned even the minimal amount of points, because everyone was required to cache in. For example, a throw of all-whites – worthy of ten points as you remember – would require the remaining players, say three of them, to give the lucky winner each three or four seeds. If you have nothing to give, you were out. But the game would go on. Also if you had two seeds instead of the required three, out you would go as well, bankrupted, with what you had left behind divided between the rest of the players.

This is the point when the game turns into a race against one another, with the ultimate victor being the person who remained in possession of all seeds.

The end of the game.

Time to collect the bets, if anything was wagered against the victory, to go home and store your newly acquired goods. Or to engage in a new round of game. Like anywhere else around the globe, the People of the Longhouse (the Iroquois) were fond of gambling.

An excerpt from “The Peacekeeper”, The Peacemaker Series, book #4.

Are you going to fall asleep on us, you vigorous player?”

His companions’ laughter made Hainteroh concentrate.

“Didn’t notice it was my turn.” Collecting the marked stones, he smoothed the surface of the folded blanket, making sure it was ready for his throw.

“Of course you didn’t notice. When one is staring into thin air the way you were, one is prone to missing the goings-on. What were you dreaming about?”

“Nothing. Nothing out of the ordinary.”

Their renewed laughter did not make him angry, not like it would have only a few seasons earlier, in his previous life, when unimportant things had mattered. Back then he would have challenged anyone who dared to laugh or tease him, especially in front of his peers. Today he just shrugged, shaking the stones briefly, throwing them over the smooth surface, watching the marks, his heartbeat not quickening. The outcome of the game did not matter either, any more than their amusement with his wandering attention did.

“Your throw.” Indifferently, he pushed the stones toward the man to his left, collecting the dry seeds out of a large bowl, the four seeds that his throw had earned him.

“Don’t you care if you win or lose?” asked one of the others, a tall man with a spectacular scar running down his left cheek. “You will fall asleep on us for real in the end.”

Hainteroh shrugged. “No, I don’t.”

“What do you care about?”

“Other things.”

“Like what?”

He stifled a yawn. “Important things.”

The stones landed upon the folded blanket again, some rolling outside it, some slowing among the wrinkles. Two painted, six unpainted. The man beside him cursed. His stack of seeds was meager, and the addition of only two more did nothing to encourage his spirit.

“So what are the important things you do care about?” insisted the man with the scar.

Hainteroh fixed his gaze on the rolling pebbles, the throw of a youth to his left forceful, making the stones scatter outside the blanket.

“Same as yours.”

“How do you know what I deem important?” The man was watching him, challenging, not about to give up.

“I don’t.” He shrugged again, not feeling threatened. “For myself, I want to kill as many of the filthy lowlifes from across the Great Sparkling Water as I can.” He met his interrogator’s gaze. “I want to burn down their towns and villages and make them suffer for real.” Shrugging again, he narrowed his eyes. “Don’t you want that, too?”

The youth’s curse distracted them as the stones came to a halt, displaying five painted against three unpainted sides. No seeds were to be collected for such a throw.

“Bad turn.” The fourth player grabbed the throwing stones. “But it’s your fault. You don’t toss the poor stones with such violence. One needs to give them proper time to mix between your palms, to feel your warmth. That will reassure them, make them feel calm and unthreatened. Then they will roll and try to do their best for you.” As they listened to the pleasantly monotonous rustling, the man grinned in a slightly condescending manner. “As for the enemy from across our Sparkling Water, you all may need to gather your patience and hold onto your temper as best you can.” A glance shot at Hainteroh was openly amused. “Which won’t be easy for some of you, young hotheads that you are.”

“What do you mean?” He didn’t watch the pebbles as they spread upon the blanket, in a neat pattern, as though prearranged, but the gasps of the others told him the throw was good, maybe too good.

The Maple Ceremony

2 June 2014

Haudenosaunee People (Iroquois nations) did not spare on festivals and thanksgiving events, ready to celebrate the beginning of each season or each new agricultural undertaking, ready to thank the Great Spirits for their generosity and their good will.

The winters were harsh, difficult to endure, especially for the people used to spend their time outdoors. Although having plenty of venting holes, one above each fireplace that dotted long corridors, longhouses could grow suffocating in the closed, smoke-filled air, when every opening was shut tight against the frequency of the blizzards, forcing people to huddle inside. The smoke spread around, stinging people’s eyes and making them cough. No wonder that with the coming of spring, many would plunge into the joys of the outside life, eager to celebrate the rebirth of the world with a beautiful Maple Ceremony.

The Maple Moon fell around the first month of the spring – early to mid March – in time for the maple trees to give plenty of the wonderful sap for the people to enjoy (Haudenosaunee people lived according to the lunar calendar, counting 13 moons of 28 days each). Some claim that the Maple Ceremony was the first official ceremony of the year, the one to start the new cycle of seasons (although the Midwinter Ceremony is more likely to contest for such title), because the returning and raising sap relayed the Great Spirits’ continues benevolence, showed that the kind deities were not tired watching over their creations, not disappointed and not aloof. Pine, hemlock, elm and basswood were esteemed; the maple trees were revered.

So, through the Maple Moon people would pour out in groups, armed with knives and carrying wooden containers, or sometimes, baskets and jars. Each tree would be cut reverently, carefully, as to not to wound the generous forest dweller, but only to let the sap trickle. The maple trees were not to be harmed. The cut needed to be two or three fingers deep and, at least, a palm long. Otherwise, the sap would be difficult to collect. Then a flat stick would be driven into the gush, directing the sticky flow into containers and tabs, collecting the sweetish liquid.

Later on, the collected sap would be boiled in clay vessels, to be used as sweetener and energizer, in all sort of cooking and sometimes, as a medicine to fortify aching stomachs. Sometimes the sap might have even been fermented and used as intoxicant according to Arthur C. Parker, who admits to only one source mentioning such use through the years of his research.

After many days of such happy activity, a Maple Sugar Festival was held in order to thank the Creators. People would perform sacred dances and the faith-keepers would give thanksgiving speeches, burning tobacco, letting its fragrant smoke rise to the world of the Sky Spirits, carrying people’s gratitude to the creators of this earthly world.

The faith-keepers were respectable people of the society, entrusted with many aspects of spiritual representation, organizing and conducting ceremonies, but these were not their primary duties. There was no equivalent of the priest title among the Five Nations. When it came to private lives, everyone thanked the Creators the way he or she felt fit, with no outside intervention or guidance, unless specifically asked for.

An excerpt from “The Great Law of Peace”, The Peacemaker Series, book #3.

“So tell me, sister,” the girl smiled, revealing a row of large, even teeth. “How long were you forced to live among the savages of the Flint?”

“Two moons.” Frowning, Onheda took the flat stick off the gash in the maple tree, making sure that not a drop of the precious sap was still seeping. Satisfied, she cleaned the stick and measured the amount of the collected liquid in her jar.

“Two moons is a long time to survive without being adopted,” commented the girl, shooting a gaze full of curiosity at Onheda. She bent to pick a greenish strawberry that hid among the bushes and eyed it dubiously before giving it a hesitant bite. “How did you manage to get away?”

“I slipped out in the middle of the night.” Absently, Onheda caressed the cut bark, muttering a silent prayer, thanking the old tree for being so generous. Pine, hemlock, elm and basswood were honored, highly esteemed, but the maple trees were the special gift of the Right-Handed Twin himself. Its returning and raising sap let people know that the new span of seasons had truly begun, with the Great Spirits’ blessing, benevolence, and goodwill.

The eyes of her companion did not stir, sparkling with expectation. The girl’s name was Hanowa, and she was a funny, restless, sweet little thing. “Weren’t you afraid to make the matters truly bad for you by running away?”

Onheda raised her eyebrows. “They didn’t seem to take it badly. It’s not like their entire warriors’ force was chasing me all the way to our lands.”

The girl giggled. “That would be a sight I could do without. And surely you, too.” Her eyes sparkled again. “But how did you manage to live there for so long without being adopted?”

“Oh, well…” She fought the urge to tell the stupid fox to mind her own business, proceeding toward the next maple tree, instead. “It was their fault, actually. They took their time. I thought I was adopted, and then, all of a sudden, that annoying women from that longhouse I lived at told me I was not actually adopted, demanding that I do things to make it happen.” Onheda snorted. “Such an annoying ground snake she was!”

“What did she want you to do?”

“Well, all sorts of things. She said I was not adapting well. She wanted me to be nice to people. But I was nice, I was! Not to all of them, but to some.” She shrugged. “They were all right, all things considered. But not all of them.”

“There are quite a few Flint people’s women in Onondaga Town,” said the girl thoughtfully, fishing a long knife from the basket she carried. “But our clan has none, so you are lucky, I say. There was this young man – a very good-looking boy at that – but he fell in love with a girl from the nearby village, and when the Grandmother of her longhouse agreed, he went to live there.”

The girl laughed. “To the deep disappointment of more than a few cute-looking foxes from all over the town, I say. He was truly good-looking and nice. I would have fallen for him myself had he not been from our longhouse.” Another bout of laughter. “I bet you would be running back to your High Springs if he were still there. You must hate them all really badly, to take such a terrible risk like running away.”

Taking the knife from her chatty companion, Onheda frowned, studying the tree.

“I don’t hate them all. I met good Flint People, too. In fact, I have a really good friend among them.” She studied the bark closely, looking for signs. “He was captured too, and he lived among the Crooked Tongues, imagine that. He ran away too, and now he is back in his Little Falls.”

But maybe not anymore, she thought hopefully, her stomach twisting. Maybe he is on his way here, he and the Crooked Tongues man, rowing against the current, hurrying to visit her people, to bring them the message of the Great Peace, hurrying to find her like he promised. What would he do when he heard that she was not at Jikonsahseh’s? Would he be disappointed? Hurt? She hoped he would.

“Among the Crooked Tongues?” cried out the girl, aghast. “Oh, Mighty Spirits! I would take my own life if captured by those savages.”

“They are no savages,” said Onheda returning her attention to the tree she was scanning. “Didn’t you hear about the Messenger?”

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