Moon at Midnight – Part XXXXXXX (day 2044)

(part XXXXXXIX)

We had been going North for three days
And decided to head West towards the mountains
Until we could go no further
And then begin the journey South
Towards our home
Hoping by that time, we’d have some meat.

By noon we had two deer, one male and one female
Moon Cow had found the first one
Put an arrow into it that went in through the rib cage
And Long Arrow put a second arrow into it
Which went right into its neck
We followed it for a short time
Easy to keep track of as it moved slowly
And as we were doing this
Moon Cow saw a second one, the male
Which Runs Wild also saw at the same time
So he snuck up on it a little bit
With Moon Cow right there beside him
As Long Arrow and I kept tracking the first one
And Runs Wild put his arrow right into the second deer’s heart
Which fell right there, on the spot.

For the rest of the afternoon we dressed the deer
And feasted on the hearts
A delicacy I had acquired the taste for
Hunting with Moon Cow
He once told me a story of why it’s important
To first eat the heart of the animal
That has sacrificed it’s life for us
“When the moon bleeds it’s light
We must see it
And the Coyotes howl
We must hear it
When the wind blows
We must send our messages in it
So to must we eat the heart
Of the life we took.”

There is an unspoken tension
That exists when upon the hunt
And no hunt has been made
Land speaks to one in this way
Without words
Call it superstitions
Call it coincidence
But food is food and when no food has been got
One will go hungry
A winter with no food is a cold winter indeed
We were all happy that night
To have very full bellies.

At this point, we were only a day and a half
Away from Sara, Bill, and Johnny-Boy
Who I hadn’t yet gone to check-in on this year
I made mention that I’d like to go see them
And Moon Cow was eager to meet them himself
But Long Arrow and Runs Wild showed no interest
So we decided that the two of us would go see them
With extra heavy packs
And give them a healthy portion of deer
We traveled together for one full day
And when Moon Cow woke me up the second morning
Long Arrow and Runs Wild had already left
Moon Cow and I arrive at their cabin by noon
Just in time for fresh bread from Sara’s oven.

part XXXXXXXI

Moon at Midnight – Part XXXXXXVIII (day 2042)

(part XXXXXXVII)

After seven full days of talks
Mountain Chief decided that we would stay where we were
And let the White Man’s determination
Determine our future
Our hopes were that we would remain safe
Where we were, uninvolved
But I knew that they would eventually come looking for us
However, I knew it would be more peaceful if we stayed out
Of the wars that were happening
Everywhere upon these lands, apparently.

It was also made known to everybody
The dangers of keeping U.S. Army enemies
That is, members of other tribes on the run
In our own homes
As the U.S. Army would most likely
Come looking for them
It was also made known that some of the men
Would be going off to help
Some of the other tribes
This caused tension
About whether or not Mountain Chief would allow back
Any man that went away to fight
But eventually Mountain Chief decided the right thing
And said those who decided to fight
Would always be welcome by his fire
Seven men with family in other tribes
Left after two days preparing,
After much ceremony,
And all for us returned to our usual simple life
In our mountain valley.

Moon Cow and I talked about going on a hunt
So we asked Long Arrow and Runs Wild,
Mercy’s man and eldest child,
To see if they wanted to come hunt with us
They of course were always eager
So we left after a day of preparations
Happy to be wild and free again
Searching through the forest
Using our instinct and skill guide us.

part XXXXXXIX

Moon at Midnight – Part XXXXX (day 2024)

(part XXXXIX)

When I returned home it had been decided that
One of the young women who had just come of age
Would take Runs Wild, Long Arrow’s eldest son,
To be her man
There was a bit of to-do about the village
As everybody began preparing
For the potlatch
They were different
Then what I knew as weddings
The host, in this case Long Arrow,
Would bestow gifts upon the guests
Based on their rank
In our own way we prepared some special things
For the family was very close to us
Willow was nearly every day helping Mercy
She would come home at night
And I could see her hands
Were worked to the bone making something or other
I would laugh kindly as I’d get
Some Buffalo fat and rub her hands for a while.

The potlatch was quite special for me
It was a bit similar to the ceremonies
I had witnessed the year before
But there were a lot of symbolic gestures
That I had to ask Willow the meanings of
I asked Willow if this is what it was like for her
When she took her man
And she smiled and squeezed my hand
And Moon Cow, who was right next to me too,
Winked at me and exaggerated about the grandeur
Of her ceremony
Explaining to me how ten thousand people arrived
From all the hills in every direction
And the ceremony lasted
For one full moon cycle
I only half disbelieved him
For I’d believe two moon cycles were even too short a time
To celebrate in honour of Willow
I had heard many times how honourable
Willow and Moon Cow’s father had been.

We stayed up late with drums and fire
And lots of dancing that everybody loved
It seemed to come and go in waves
The beat of the drums, size of the fire,
Sweat on my forehead
Ecstasy like I had never experienced before
I’d watch Willow dance with the other women
A dream for me, watching her smile and move
Showcasing the steps she had memorized as a young woman
It was a true celebration of souls uniting
Supported by the entire family,
I stuffed myself silly
Because Mercy had some girls
Endlessly circling with more and more food
For everyone to eat.

The next morning as I woke
The mid-Spring frost still hung heavy
And little curls of smoke
Ascended from the big fire
That had powerfully burnt the night before
I could see everywhere around
There were little shelters that we had erected
Preparing for the potlatch
For the visitors that had come
Which, to be truthful, wasn’t that much
On account of us being more isolated
From our friendly tribes
It’s hard to get word out when nobody’s out there
I walked the village
Lost in what seemed to be a dreamworld
Saying hello to the early risers I’d see rummaging around
Wondering to myself what it would be like
If Willow and I had a ceremony
When I came back inside our teepee
Willow was boiling some delicious smelling tea
And I sat down and just watched her for a while.

part XXXXXI

Moon at Midnight – Part XXXV (day 2009)

(part XXXIV)

Moon Cow, Long Arrow and I went hunting
We were gone for four days and three nights
We went South to try and find the buffalo
But what we found was elk and a moose
They were buffalo people but also reasonable people
So we knew that we had to take the animals that came to us.

We made camp that night and began cutting
I reflected on the beautiful Swiss blade that
Frank had given to me,
Wondering how his summer had gone
How things were in his Valley
By night time we were all covered in blood
But had everything cut that we could use
Leaving mostly just the bones
For the wild coyotes and wolves and ravens
That were always around.

We built a makeshift sleigh
That we took turns pulling in twos
It was hard work
But we were in no rush
And had feasted till our hearts content
The night before
On the fresh meat we had
Moon Cow talked about the buffalo a lot
He worried our people wouldn’t have enough food
And Long Arrow agreed, as always
Grunting in his affirmative way.

I asked if they wanted
To go see Amy & Frank
To hunt at their traditional buffalo run
They reminded me it was no use
Unless we moved back to our traditional winter home
That we had been at last year
I asked why that was a bad idea
And they made me understand they disliked the U.S. Army
And also that Mountain Chief had said
We would stay here now
And they didn’t want to go against him.

When we got back, the women were very happy
We had done so well on our hunt
Smoking began at once
This time I was able to build a smoke house by myself
As Moon Cow built the second one
I was proud when he came over to inspect it
And had nothing to say bad about it
Giving his nod of approval
As he poked at the holes
And casually patched them
With his skilled hands.

I talked to Mountain Chief about Winter
About how he felt his people were prepared
He said he believed everybody had a good hunt
As we looked around and saw all the smoke houses
Filling the camp with mouth watering smells
I asked him if he thought about the buffalo run
And he said: “Of course,” as he pointed to his inner arm
Making a motion of cutting it
Showing me it was in his blood
I could not guess the pain he felt
Not being able to lead his people
Where his people had always gone.

part XXXVI

Moon at Midnight – Part XXXI (day 2005)

(part XXX)

Willow’s best friend was named Mercy
Mercy’s man’s name was Long Arrow
And he was one of the most skilled hunter and tracker
I had ever hunted with
By now I had learned enough Pikanii
To be able to communicate on a basic level
As we walked – Long Arrow, Moon Cow and I –
Through the forest hunting
They were both mostly silent
Making subtle gestures and wild bird calls I envied
But when they were feeling like sharing
They would point and teach me words
Of things I wouldn’t learn
Sitting around inside a teepee.

At our new home, Mercy and Long Arrow
Would join us around the fire on many evenings
Long Arrow was less of a story teller then Moon Cow
But it was nice to have him around
And we all became very close to one another
They had two boys
That were a few years older then Lily
And it was clear that one of them
Would become her man when the moon spoke so,
The eldest was Runs Wild and the younger was Big Moon.

Life was good here, and I felt like I belonged
More so, I felt like I had a part
In keeping the family together
I was helpful, strong and eager
And in a family who lives off the land
That is always a benefit
Plus, I quickly became pretty good
At hunting with a bow
And was able, most days, to bring home food
The others also accepted me
At first I could definitely see them wondering who I was
And what I was doing there
But eventually they all knew me by name
And smiled when they saw me, not scowled
It definitely helped that I was Willow’s man
For she was loved by everybody
That much was clear.

I often wondered to myself
If this was the answer to my journey East
That had started the year before
Before I had met Amy, Frank and Clarinet
And before I had met the Blackfoot
Before I had met Willow, Lily and Moon Cow
It seemed so long ago now
So much of a lonely journey
That was now so much past me
But there was still something inside of me
That called me further East again
I wasn’t quite sure what it was
Or why it was
Only that there was something that I was missing
That I kept seeing in visions
And I knew that it was only a matter of time
Before I journeyed further East
To meet who I knew I was to meet.

part XXXII