Moon at Midnight – Part XXXXXXXI (day 2045)

(part XXXXXXX)

Sara and Bill were happy to see me
They said they hadn’t had any visitors yet this summer
And had none to expect
They confessed they had been watching a while for me now
Thinking it was about that time
That I’d be showing up,
If I were to be showing up at all
They had news of a few U.S. Army parties
Heading through these parts
Looking for some rogue bandits of some sort
Miners, they said, that had caused quite a stir
In a town about five days ride South East
Early in the Spring
We said we hadn’t seen or heard either of them
It wasn’t the group that Tall Pine and I
Had tracked the year prior that ransacked our home,
It is always a bit unsettling
Knowing that people like that are out there
Maybe watching us as we go about our day
Who knows what they’d do if they stumbled upon our home
Most likely they’d stay right clear
If they know what was best for them
We have a good number of scouts
Always roaming the valley who wouldn’t be
Too friendly to them, also.

We showed Sara the gift of our deer
And she was very happy to accept it
She immediately went to work preparing it
And Moon Cow asked her if she’d like us to set up
A smoke house for them to smoke it with
She said that she had heard of such things
But never seen one set up
And she’d be much obliged if we could show her
That was, of course, if we could put one together
With the little pieces
Of leftover wood that we could find around
We told her that wouldn’t be an issue
That all we needed was a few axes
And we’d be able to make it from a few fresh logs.

We spent the night listening to Bill’s stories
Moon Cow fit in just fine
Being a man of words, too
I think Johnny-Boy enjoyed hearing the stories
Moon Cow shared,
A culture I don’t think he has yet had
Much exposure to,
His life mostly living off the land
As they were now
And in mining towns
Like the one he was born in.

Moon Cow and I slept outside
We made a small fire
To keep ourselves warm through the night
I liked sleeping under the stars most of the time
It’s something that you get used to
And if you have just a few small luxuries
It really can become quite liberating
Traveling so lightly and freely
Especially when you’re carrying
Everything on your back.


Moon at Midnight – Part XXXXXXVIII (day 2042)


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.


Moon at Midnight – Part XXXXXXVII (day 2041)


When Mountain Chief returned
From a journey to the other tribes he knew
He shared with us the situation
That the entirety of our people
Were facing, and it wasn’t pretty
He shared the systematic
Slaughter, trickery, cheating, imprisoning, hangings,
Or corralling onto parcels of land called ‘reserves’
That made little sense to anybody
But more sense then sure death.

The U.S. Army was hunting down tribes
Burning the villages of those who didn’t cooperate
Or turning their fire sticks
Upon women and children
Survivors were left so debilitated
That they would do anything.

Mountain Chief’s fury was obvious
As was most of the other people listening
And seven full days commenced
Where Mountain Chief and the elders
Discussed the possibilities
Of what was now to be done
The main ideas were:
To fight with the other tribes fighting
Which would lead to more or less
A life as an outlaw
And left out the future of the women and children,
To stay where we were
Without getting involved in any of the U.S. Army’s games
Nor help our brothers and sisters
Who were or were going to war,
To sign one of these Peace Treatys
That were being waved in the face of anybody
Who would listen
And submit a life on a reserve of land
Cut off from our way of living.

Among those present in the discussions
There were clearly some who were not going to sit
And wait for the U.S. Army to eventually find us
Who said that they would
No matter what way the choice was made
Help our fellow tribesmen
To take our land back
Most people agreed that this was indeed
A very brave proposition and commitment
For it was fairly evident by now
That U.S. Army’s forces
Were just far to powerful
With their firesticks
Meaning that any opposition was mostly a death wish
But never-the-less, a very honourable way.

There was also a growing sentiment that
We would become a safe haven
For those on the run
Seeking to heal or lay low
Until some sort of trouble or another
Would pass over
This seemed like a very passive way
To show our support
While still remaining not involved in the wars
Yet we knew that if it came time for us to sign
One of these Treatys
This would add complexity.

Mountain Chief was a proud man
And having to make such an important decision
Was not an easy one
If it were just him
I know that he would have chosen to fight
Until his last arrow was sent
But he had the responsibility to our family
To ensure its survival and health
And he knew that peace was very smart.


Moon at Midnight – Part XXXXXVII (day 2031)

(part XXXXXVI)

When we arrived to our village
There was quite a commotion going on
Upon inquiring
We learned that Mountain Chief
Had also just returned from a meeting
He had been at with other Chiefs
He was happy to see Moon Cow and I
And, along with the elders
We all went into the big teepee
And had talks.

We learned that every day
The U.S. Army was getting more and more aggressive
With locating and systematically
Forcing all the tribes onto
What they were calling ‘Treaty Lands’,
Reserves, they said, for our safety
And to uphold our traditions
Mountain Chief shared a few stories he had heard
About the U.S. Army promising everything
But then once the papers were signed
They were not respected
And abused
And had even heard of some tribes
That had been slaughtered
Once they had signed the treaty.

Even worse,
The tribes that didn’t sign
Or refused to sign
Were declared enemies of the country
And hunted like outlaws
Mountain Chief had told many
About where what we had done
Though they most likely already knew
But there were a few others that were following our lead
And going further into the mountains
It was hard though
To leave their traditional land
An act of cowardice to some of the Chiefs
An act that they would refuse to do
With their heads held high
As they went into battle.

I greatly respected Mountain Chief
For the sacrifices he had made
To bring us here
No doubt he was criticized for his actions
And he, himself, probably thought about it too
But he had his vision
Which had led him here
And he was a proud man
And we all trusted him with our lives
He was our leader.

We learned of many of the other tribes
Particularly the Sioux
Who were not our friends
Fighting the U.S. Army,
Even the Canadian government
In the East
Was trying to do the same with the tribes
The RCMP was then doing their dirty work
Some of the tribes were fighting them
Nobody liked to hear all this news
It was a scary time for everybody to think
About what the future meant.


Moon at Midnight – Part XXIX (day 2003)

(part XXVIII)

Frank showed up on the first day
He came riding alone
And the scouts had recognized him
Knowing he was coming to us
They knew he was our friend
He spoke to Willow, Moon Cow and I
He said that he didn’t like
What news he had heard of the U.S. Army
Their movement was just too weird
And it seemed like they were gearing up
For a big militia action
He wanted me to know
That he, Amy and Lily
Would happily let us stay with them
Until everything blew over
I told him our plans
Of what Mountain Chief had told us
And that he would certainly see us in the coming months
He understood we couldn’t leave our family
At this time anyways
Without first supporting the migration effort
We had lots of organizing yet to do
So he gave us a token of his friendship
To help us on our way
A knife of fine Swiss steel
His father-in-law had recently given him.

The evening of the second day
We took our teepees down and began walking
Silently into the darkness
The horses carried a lot of the loads
With thongs strapping poles and
Leather skins across their backs
We moved quickly
As our family was very used to walking
Not like settlers
Walking in their fancy Victorian rags
And raggedy old wagons.

We walked for three days to the West
Into the heart of mountain country
It was colder in the foothills
Then out where we came from in the plains
But I loved the trees
Lots of jack pine
With big ol’ needles on them
Covering the ground that we walked on
Very nice and easy on the horse hooves.

We stopped in a valley
North of where Mountain Chief said
The U.S. Army would patrol
He knew the valley as a good hunting ground
That his fathers’ fathers hunted it
And it was far enough off of any regular trail
That it would be very hard for anybody
To find us
And over the next few weeks we
Began making ourselves acquainted with the land.

part XXX


Moon at Midnight – Part XXVIII (day 2002)

(part XXVII)

The next day riders from other Blackfoot tribes came
And Mountain Chief, Moon Cow, and three other men
Rode off to a great meeting of Chiefs
I knew, and could tell,
That nobody was pleased with what the U.S. Army was doing
And tension was clearly in the air
Nobody felt comfortable
And people were becoming worried
These proud people were feeling scared
In the very land they had always lived free.

I spent the next few days with Willow and Lily
Walking through the grassland and forests
Looking for fuel and food
Waiting, I guess,
Our presence comforted each other
Reassured each other
All three of us had become very close
With all the time we had shared over the winter
It was exciting for me to recognize
How much Lily had already learned from her mother
She was very good at finding the herbs
That her mother would ask her to find for her
She would come back with a handful of them
And an even bigger smile on her face.

Willow told me that she had heard of other tribes
Being forced into slavery
To being held captive on certain land
The Government had given them
If they signed a Peace Treaty
I listened quietly,
For I had also heard such things
Further in the South and East
And was saddened from what I did hear
I asked Willow if she would want to live like that
And she said that she would not
She was born free and would obey nobody but the earth
I asked her if she would rather
Live off the land like a nomad
Always wandering more and more
Or if she would like to live more like Amy & Frank
She said she did not know
But that she did see the benefit of having land
To return to every year
Like Amy & Frank had
She asked me if I could build a house
Like Frank had built.

After four days and four nights
Mountain Chief returned with Moon Cow
And directly summoned me
And the other elders of the tribe
Into a gathering
He told us everything that had been talked about
How the other Chiefs didn’t trust
The U.S. Army men
That they threatened our whole way of life
And that if they got their way
It would be the end of us
He told us of visions he had listened to
And told us of his own vision
He himself had had one night
While camped along the river
He told us he had seen an owl
And had walked closer to ask him
What he was going to do
And the owl had told him
That when he sees the mouse
He then plans his action
In the middle of the night.

Mountain Chief told us that we would stay for two more days
On their traditional winter grounds
And that we would be moving
In the middle of the second night
So we all returned to our teepees
To begin preparation.

part XXIX

Moon at Midnight – Part XXVII (day 2001)

(part XXVI)

Around noon three U.S. Army men on horseback
Came into camp
They acted as if they owned this land
With their rifles in their hands
They set up a makeshift desk
And began taking down everybody’s name
And asking some of the weirdest questions
I’d ever heard people get asked
Especially for no apparent reason
And without consulting Mountain Chief
About the appropriateness of the whole ordeal
Mountain Chief I could see was confused
And really not sure what to do
He was a smart Chief
Not wanting to start a war with the U.S. Army
But he was a proud man too.

Nobody made too much fuss
But nobody was really too excited
To see men in uniforms there
They each had heard stories
Their suspicions only grew
As the tension grew from these army men
It was very hard for me to sit by
And watch as these U.S. Army men
Clearly disrespected my family
For no reason other then the colour of their skin
And their history.

They left peacefully
Giving little logical reasoning for the interrogation
And also no real thanks for everybody’s cooperation
I saw people looking at me afterwards
Hoping that I had some sort of answer
But I had no idea either
I sat with Mountain Chief and Moon Cow
And other elders of the tribe
Discussing what this meant
What rumors they had already heard
And what we would do
Mountain Chief said he would consult the other tribes again
See how they had been treated
I knew he didn’t want to align with either army
Canadian or U.S. or even Sioux or
Other Blackfoot that had started fighting
But I knew that he could sense change
Something that would change their lives forever
A change that he couldn’t control
No matter how many buffalo hides he had
Or how much water ran past his feet.

I sat up for a long time that night
With Willow by my side
I didn’t really know what to ask
Or how to answer anything
So I just sat silently
Watching our small fire burn away
Outside of our teepee
In the blanket that wrapped us together.



Moon at Midnight – Part XXVI (day 2000)

(day XXV)

When Spring finally came
The village came to life with activity
Even the wildlife seemed to be happier
As the sun stuck around longer
Whistling was heard everywhere
Especially coming from the young scouts
Who were all running around
With their new quivers they had proudly made
With the help of Moon Cow
Runners would come daily from the surrounding tribes
Spreading the news of the cold winter.

We were told to come at once
As our neighbours were having a gathering
To celebrate the new life
Sprouting all around
There was also much talk
About the army’s whereabouts,
Both the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
And the U.S. Army,
Mountain Chief and Moon Cow were always involved
In these important discussions
Trying to understand
Why the land had brought them
Charging into Blackfoot territory.

I was excited as well
To practice once more my arrow
See if she still sung straight
With the young Scouts I hunted with
It became a challenge
Who would get their first offering
Of the season.

The four of us,
Willow, Lily, Moon Cow and I
All rode over to pay Amy, Frank, and Clarinet a visit
They were ever so happy to see us
As they usually were
It was nice to see they had survived the winter well
Still plenty of split wood left
In Frank’s woodpile
It’s funny how a winter changes a person
Even though most physical things stay the same
For me, I was surprised to remember
How just a year ago
I had been embarking on my journey East
To find what I had been looking for.

Frank had news from Missouri country
Where he learned that President Ulysses S. Grant
Was in the process of Reconstruction
Rebuilding, a lot of talk about Black folk
And settling affairs with Natives
For us out where we were,
It was all just city talk,
Technical business matters we weren’t involved in
Or so we liked to think
Though we knew that it wasn’t just going to be me
Wandering through these hills
It was going to be many more like me
In search of something to call their own
I didn’t know it at the time
But anybody who was familiar with the territory
Knew that there was a bit of unease that spring
As news spread after the thaw.

part XXVII