Two Indian Children Of Long Ago Part 1

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Two Indian Children of Long Ago.

by Frances Taylor.

THE FIRST AMERICANS

We are proud of being Americans. But we must not forget that the Indians once owned all America, north and south and east and west.

The Indians were the first Americans of whom we read. No people ever had a greater love for their land, and no race has ever taken more pleasure in out-of-door life.



After Columbus found the New World, white men came from Europe to make their homes here. As time went on they drove the Indians farther and farther west and took away their hunting grounds.

Let us try to imagine our country as it was when the Indians owned it.

Can we picture our land without a house or a store or a railroad? Can we think of great rivers with no cities on their banks and with no bridges on which to cross from one side to the other?

Every boy we know likes to go camping. But who would be willing to set up a camp far away in the deep woods without taking with him tent or food or blankets?

Before trade with the white men began, the Indians found everything they needed in the wild land about them. They could make their own weapons and tools, their canoes and paddles, their houses and clothing, and even build a fire without matches.

Your fathers leave home to earn money for your food and clothing. Your mothers see that your meals are cooked and that your clothes are bought or made.

The Indians took care of their children in much the same way. During the hunting season the fathers and big brothers went away every morning to hunt. The men provided all the meat for their families, and all the skins for clothing and covers.

When a deer or a bear was shot, the hunter brought it to the camp and threw it down. His work for the day was done--the women could do the rest.

And it was wonderful to see what the wives and mothers could do with a big animal. Was there a wigwam in the tribe without food? The meat was shared to the last mouthful. Was there an abundance? The meat was dried for long keeping.

Did the son need more covers for his bed? A bear's skin was finished like a fur rug for his comfort. Did the black-eyed daughter beg for a new dress? Her mother could make from the deerskin a soft garment beautifully trimmed with colored beads, stained quills, and fringes.

But what did the Indians do when they could find no more game to shoot with their arrows? Why, they sent out scouts to select a better place to live, and the chief gave orders for every one to move.

Down came the lodge poles. The trained dogs were called and loaded, and away they all went. Just think of a whole village moving and leaving nothing behind but the land!

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The Indians spent much time in feasting, dancing, and games. During the summer the men had little else to do, for they seldom hunted while the wild animals were caring for their young.

Each tribe was ruled by a chief and a council of warriors. All their lands were held in common, and no one suffered want except when food was scarce for all.

Every boy was watched with interest by the whole village. His first walking was noticed, and his first success in hunting was often celebrated by a feast.

[Ill.u.s.tration]

When the corn was ripe, the Indians held one of the most important dances of the year to show their thanks to the Great Spirit for the gift of corn.

In times of sickness, the medicine man came with rattle and drum to drive away the evil spirits that were believed to have caused the trouble. If the sick person grew worse, Indians, with their faces painted black, crowded the wigwam and more medicine men were called.

They drummed harder and harder. They yelled and beat their rattles, thinking that they were helping the sick one to recover.

When anyone in the tribe died, the things he had cared for most were placed in his grave. There were toys for a little child, and weapons and blankets for a warrior. The favorite horse of a chief was often killed to be his companion on the journey to the land of spirits. Even food was carried to the burial place because the trail was long that led to the Happy Hunting Grounds.

After many years, the early customs became greatly changed. To-day large numbers of Indians are living in the white man's way. Some are well educated and own houses, farms, and even automobiles. Their children are trained in government schools. There are writers among them whose books we like to read, and there are artists who paint interesting pictures of Indian life.

During the great World War the Indians begged to join the army, and hundreds enlisted. Young men from many tribes were in France, and there were no braver soldiers.

THE WILD-RICE INDIANS

Every boy and girl who studies geography can find the Great Lakes. In the states south and west there are hundreds of small lakes and rivers where wild rice grows in the shallow water.

During the early days of our country, different tribes of Indians gathered the wild rice for food, and many battles were fought for the rice fields.

From the birch trees of the forest the men obtained bark for their canoes. In these light boats the women pushed their way through the thickets of ripe grain. They beat the stalks with short sticks, letting the rice fall into the canoes.

The wild rice was eaten raw from the growing plants. It was also parched while green for daily use, and bushels of the ripe grain were stored away for the long, cold winter.

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At harvest time there was always good hunting, for great flocks of ducks, geese, and other birds flew to the rice stalks to eat the seeds.

In the spring the women, boys, and old men spent weeks at the sugar camp. They caught the maple sap in small bark dishes and boiled it into sugar. The boys kept the fires going under the kettles and, for the first few days, ate nearly all the sugar they made.

Many kinds of berries grew in this northern country. These the Indian women picked and dried. Indeed, the underground storehouse of a wigwam housekeeper was full of good things to eat.

Hiawatha is said to have lived on the sh.o.r.e of one of the Great Lakes.

Before the white men sold fire water to the Indians, there were many happy homes in the forest. The ways of living were the same as we read about in Longfellow's poem, and the children were trained to be brave and honorable and to respect their elders.

The boys were trained in woodcraft. They learned the names and habits of wild animals. They could find their way alone through dense forests; and they could see farther and hear better than any boys we know.

The girls were taught by their mothers to be modest and industrious.

They made beautiful beadwork to trim dresses and moccasins. They could set up a wigwam, prepare food, and keep a clean and orderly home.

This little book tells how children lived and played long ago in the wild-rice country. Their tribe was then at peace with the fierce Indians farther west. A few men of the village had traveled north with furs, but the children had never seen a white man.

The old-time life of the Indians is ended. But there are camps in the unsettled lands of the wild-rice region where many strange customs can still be seen; where the Indian drum is heard, and the women gather wild rice as in the olden time.

STORIES AND STORY-TELLERS

The Indians of long ago had no books and no schools; but each tribe had its story-tellers, who went from one wigwam to another. Everywhere they were welcomed by old and young and begged to return.

Two Indian Children Of Long Ago Part 1

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