Short Stories » The Challenge

The Challenge - Page 1 of 8

THE medicine - drum was struck with slow, monotonous beat --that sound which always comes forth from the council-lodge with an impressive air of authority. Upon this particular occasion it was merely a signal to open the ears of the people. It was the prelude to an announcement of the day's programme, including the names of those warriors who had been chosen to supply the governing body with food and tobacco during that day. These names were presently announced in a sing-song or chanting call which penetrated to the outskirts of the Indian village.

Just as Tawahinkpayota, or Many Arrows, was cutting up a large plug of black tobacco -for he was about to invite several intimate friends to his lodge --" Tawahinkpayota, anpaytu lay woyutay watinkta mechecha uyay yo-o-o!" the sonorous call, came for the second time. He stepped outside and held up an eagle feather tied to a staff. This was his answer, and signified his willingness to perform the service.

Having cut a sufficient quantity of tobacco, Many Arrows asked his wife to call at the home of each of the famous hunters whom he intended to honor, for it is the loved wife who has this privilege. Flying Bee was the first invited ; then Black Hawk, Antler, and Charging Bear. The lodge of Many Arrows was soon the liveliest quarter of the Big Cat village --for this particular band of Sioux was known as the Big Cat band. All came to the host's great buffalo- skin teepee, from the top of which was flying a horse's tail trimmed with an eagle feather, to denote the home of a man of distinction.

'Ho, kola," greeted the host from his seat of dignified welcome. "Ho," replied each guest as he gracefully opened the door-flap. Inside of the spacious teepee were spread for seats the choicest robes of bear, elk, and bison. Mrs. Tawahinkpayota, who wished to do honor to her husband's guests, had dressed for the occasion. Her jet-black hair was smoothly combed and arranged in two long plaits over her shoulders. Her face was becomingly painted, and her superb garment of richly embroidered doeskin completed a picture of prosperous matronhood.

While her husband Coffered the guests a short round of whiffs from the pipe of peace, she went quietly about her preparations for the repast, and presently served each in turn with the choicest delicacies their lodge afford- ed. When all with due deliberation had ended their meal, the host made his expected speech for it was not without intention that he had brought these noted men together.

'Friends," said he, "a thought has come to me strongly. I will open my mind to you. We should go to Upanokootay to shoot elk, deer, and antelope. We have been long upon the prairie, killing only buffalo. We need fine buckskin for garments of ceremony. We want also the skins of bears for robes suitable to a warrior's home, such as the home of each one of you. And then, you know, we must please our women, who greatly desire the elk's teeth for ornament, and for fine needle-work the quills of the porcupine."

"Ho, ho!" they replied, in chorus.

" It is always well," resumed Many Arrows, "for great hunters to go out in company. For this reason I have called you four together. Is it not true that Upanokootay, Elk Point, is the place we should seek?"

Again they all asserted. So it came about that the five hunters and their wives, who must cure and dress the skins of the game, departed from the large camp upon the Big Sioux River and journeyed southward toward the favored hunting-ground.

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