Introduction: Sometimes you can find courage in unexpected ways and places.
It was summer and the Indian brave was to become a man this season but he was afraid of war. They were at war with the Chumash and it wasn’t likely to end soon which weighed heavily on his mind as he worked on his preparations.
Today would be the big hunt and tonight the ceremonial feast where they would become men. He would become a man, be expected to fight with the others and take a wife. Every brave has done this since the people’s beginning and he was excited about leaving his childhood behind.
Strong and tall he was a well-known figure in the tribe. He was used to fighting as he had been taught well by his father but his warrior skills were not being questioned. It was his courage.
He hid this fact from the others with much bravado but eventually, they were bound to find out. He pushed these doubts aside, noted the sun and rose to his feet it was time for the hunt. He gathered his things from the lodge and went outside.
He walked over to the other young braves as they were mounting their stomping ponies crying out with excitement, “Hee hee ha ha hee!”
They too would soon be men and were very impatient about starting the hunt. They called out to him. Not to be left out he ran over, mounted his pony from behind and they galloped off towards the tribe’s hunting grounds.
His mind on the hunt he started to relax. Nothing like a good hunt to take his mind off of war and fighting. They all split up into pairs for better coverage and safety in numbers. Just in case they ran into any Chumash raiding parties they’d be ready. He was hoping that wouldn’t happen.
After a time they came out into a clearing near a stream and decided to water the ponies. He longed to tell his friend that he was afraid to fight in the war, it was not their way so he remained stolid.
His friend was bringing his pony back out of the stream as he mounted his and spied a small group of deer feeding upwind of them. Spurring his pony on he closed the distance between them quickly. They could still not smell him and if he was lucky he would bring home some nice deer meat.
When he was close enough he expertly fit an arrow into his bow. He picked out a young white-tailed buck and he shot it. At the last second, it veered sharply into a stand of thick trees but he had nicked it so he followed the blood trail into the woods.
He realized that his friend had dropped behind him and not caught up. Surely he was following him because his people had full knowledge of this land. It was in their blood and it was their home. He felt reassured his friend would catch up waiting quietly.
It was dark under the canopy of trees and after his eyes adjusted he could pick out the deer lying in the brush several feet away. It was very still and shafts of sunlight played through the branches. He was puzzled because it had not been a kill shot yet the deer looked dead.
He crept closer to examine the deer and found the brush around it disturbed like there was a struggle. The deer was torn apart on one side and just as he was taking this in a large wolf limped out from the underbrush.
“Brother please do not be afraid for I am injured and need this food.” The brave heard these words as plain as day and knew he was speaking to a spirit animal.
The wolf was indeed injured, it looked like his leg was hurt. He was deeply honored answering, “Brother wolf you may have this deer for you were the one who killed it.”
“Thank you for your kindness young brave. I will not die from this injury but without food, I surely would have sickened and died.”
The wolf moved closer, “For helping me I will give you my father’s tooth. It will help you to be brave and have much courage in battle.” The young Indian took the tooth and thanked the wolf for this gift.
He mounted his pony and left the wolf to his meal wondering about his friend when he saw a rabbit out of the corner of his eye. Swiftly he drew an arrow and shot. It screamed once and lay dead. He urged his pony towards it and saw an eagle on the ground nearby.
“I have a nest of young ones and we need this food,” she cried.
Another spirit animal, what were the chances? The brave was deeply honored for at this time in his life these were good omens.
“Sister eagle you may have the rabbit for I will hunt another. Feed your young and live long in this valley.”
The eagle looked at the young Indian closely and replied, “Thank you for your kindness, here’s a feather from my wing. It will help you be fast and fly through your battles.”
He found himself coming out of his trance and realized he was watching the eagle fly off with his rabbit.
Just then his friend rode up on his pony and said, “I was looking all over for you and here you are goofing off in the woods. We will be the only ones not bringing meat back for the ceremony!”
His friend was a chubby boy who ate too much in his opinion but he was right.
They finished the hunt bringing down a large wild boar which was the best meat of the hunt and was enjoyed by all. They became men that night and the brave was full of his thoughts of the woods.
The next day the tooth glistened in the sun as he turned it around in his fingers. The feather was soft yet bristly and large. Examining his treasures and thinking of the spirit animals already gave him strength and he felt something change inside. What was this feeling, could it be courage?
As soon as the word popped into his mind he felt it fully. The animal spirits of the wolf and eagle moved freely within him. Yes, he was not afraid! He was the Mudjikiwis, a Cree Indian and would slay his enemies gladly with his brothers to protect the tribe.
He took a wife that season and built his own lodge. The Chumash attacked and he fought bravely with his brothers and saved the whole of the tribe with his fierceness and quickness in battle. The people sing songs of these battles to this day around our fires for he was the true Mudjikiwis.
(Mudjikiwis means eldest son in Cree.)
© Rebecca Sanchez 2013
I wrote this story after seeing the image I used. Not sure if the Indian in the artwork is a man or women but no matter, this is fiction based on a few facts I looked up on Google. Stories of spirit animals have always interested me.