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Chapter 10: A Bloody Welcome

Chapter 10: A Bloody Welcome

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Published by Gordon Clark

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Published by: Gordon Clark on Jan 17, 2011
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The gauntlet!Instantly my blood froze.I had heard of the gauntlet before. Indeed, everyone in the Colonies had heard stories of the gauntlet, horrible stories of butchery and death. The gauntlet is the barbarous Indian customwhere they form two parallel lines and force their prisoner to run between them. Each savagecarries a stick, a tomahawk, a club or stone, and uses it to bash the person running the line. I hadheard that men often died of their injuries before they made it to the end of the line. Of thosewho survived, many were then burned at the stake. Now I
knew
the real reason why they had dressed me up. It was not to adopt me, but to
kill 
me
.
Several young men rudely shoved me to a flat area near the river, where almost the wholetribe – I guessed a hundred or so men, women, and children -- formed two long lines about sixfeet apart. Most of them carried some sort of switch or stick; I even saw one or two brandishinglong heavy squashes or gourds. I saw no tomahawks or rocks, but that gave me small comfort.When I appeared at the head of the line, one of the men ripped off my jacket and shirt, leavingmy upper body exposed. The whole tribe began a thunderous roar of hallooing and calls directedat me. Never in my life have I felt such a wall of hate and animosity directed at me. I washorrified. Near me stood the Indian who spoke some English. Over the roar of the crowd, I could barely hear him when he said, “Run fast. No stop.”Looking down the double lines of Indians, I saw the chieftess quietly waiting for me atthe far end. All the other Indians were also looking at me, but they were yelling in a mosthideous and uncivilized manner, beating their sticks up and down in the dirt, calling me to startrunning. Their shouts thundered in my ears.Could I make it the length of the line without being killed? I was petrified. I did not moveuntil one of the squaws finally gave a great shove on my back, nearly knocking me over.I had no choice now. The nearest Indian took a swing with his stick and just barelymissed me. I stumbled, ducked, and began running as fast as I had ever run before in my life.This time it was truly life or death. I ran without thinking, without looking up. All I could seewere two rows of feet and legs, and two rows of sticks swinging down all around me. The blowsrained down on my head and back. The pain felt like a million knives slicing through me. I keptmy head down to protect my face. I pumped my arms and tried to ward off the blows, but thatdid not help.I ran with but one thought: to survive.
 
Somehow as I ran, the yelling faded away in my consciousness. I lost all awareness of the pain; I was only aware of my tortured breathing. The lines of legs seemed to stretch out forever in front of me. Many times a blow to my bare back or head would cause me to stumble, but eachtime I would catch my balance and continue running. Blood poured from cuts above my eyes andabout my head and back, but I kept running.After a time I could barely see through the blood, but still I drove myself forward. I wasstill running at full speed when I burst past the end of the lines, ‘tho I did not know it until TallFeathers grabbed me from the side and stopped me in my tracks. I looked up, and only then did Irealize I had run the entire gauntlet.The sound of the yelling changed. Now they were cheering me.I was still alive!Tall Feathers turned me around and pushed me brusquely toward the chieftess, whoseemed genuinely pleased that I had finished the gauntlet. She alone was smiling. She took holdof my shoulder and walked me inside the council house, all the time stroking me and talking tome and to the others gathering around us. One of the young maidens was already waiting for meinside the house. She took a handful of wet moss and gently wiped the blood from my face, head,and back. Together they removed my boots, britches, and under things. Now I stood before thetwo women, naked and embarrassed, feeling very White indeed. Quietly the older womendressed me in a new ruffled shirt, a pair of buckskin leggings decorated with ribbons and beads,and moccasins and garters dressed with beads, porcupine quills, and red hair. Then she dippedtwo fingers in a small bowl of gray paint and painted the top half of my face, in a line from the bottom of each ear to the top of my nose. She tied back my hair with an amulet of beads, andthen tied a bunch of red feathers into the amulet. She did all these things with great tenderness,not like the rough treatment I had experienced so far from these savages.When I was sufficiently clean and cared for, she brought me outside again to stand on a bear skin in front of the lodge, facing the elders. She launched into a long speech to the elders,and everyone crowded around to listen. From the brave who could speak my language, I learnedshe was telling them that I was now a member of their tribe and their clan. She paused, then began again. She told everyone assembled there that my adoption was to replace her son YellowSnake, the very same Indian who my Father had killed when he tried to climb up on our boat!One of the old men nodded, then gave my wonderful knife to a maiden who bent over and strapped it to my new leggings. I was so surprised and so happy. Then the elder opened hisother hand; in it he held my Hannah doll. He looked at the doll, then at me, with a questioninglook on his face. He handed me the doll; I nearly cried as I took it from him and stuck in mywaistband.The one who spoke English stepped between me and the chieftess. He said something inIndian to the rest of the tribe, and then said to me in English, “You run fast. Good.” At this thetribe erupted into a kind of festive dance, with much shouting and merriment, not at all like the blood-curdling screams I had just passed through.I collapsed from pain, weariness, and relief.Vaguely I become aware of people carrying me into a longhouse and putting me down ona soft fur. I was aware of no more than that until the next morning. I do not know how long I
 
slept, but I know how mightily I hurt when I finally woke up. Every muscle, every joint ached.My backside felt as though it were on fire. I sat up and a great pain pounded in my head. With both hands I felt around my head. I had so many bumps and gashes. I fell back onto the furs andlay there with my eyes closed but now fully awake.What strange situation had I now fallen into?I did not trust these savages. Yes, they were caring for me now, and dressing me, andseeing to my wounds, yet these were the same savages who murdered my Father, brothers, andcousin, and nearly murdered me during the gauntlet. What style of person can do both thosethings, I wondered. Why would they kill part of my family then propose to adopt me as part of their family? And why me?I looked down at myself. I very much liked my handsome new buckskin clothing, withthe beads and the fringe. I was grateful to have my knife and my Hannah doll back, most of all. Isuppose I looked like an Indian, except for my very white skin and my auburn hair. But Icertainly did not feel like an Indian. Mostly I just felt pain.With great effort I sat up and studied my surroundings in the dim light. The longhouseappeared to be made of large sheets of bark, tied over a pole frame. It was about 40 paces long. Iwas sitting on a bearskin fur along one side, one of many beds running down both sides of thestructure. Smoke holes at the top let out the smoke from three small fires inside. A door at eachend and one in the middle let in some daylight. A few Indians were in the longhouse now, butthey paid little attention to me. Two or three were sleeping; others appeared to be mendingclothing. One woman suckled a baby while another fed a few sticks to the fires. Dried foodstuffshung from many rafters, and shelves above the beds held a great number of folded blankets, baskets, rough tools, and clothing. Clearly 20 or 30 people must share this space, I thought as Ilay back down.Soon I heard a movement near me and opened one eye. The English-speaking Indian boysat down next to me, along with one of the maidens who had washed me the day before. Slowly,ever so stiffly, I sat up. She had a large bowl of fruits and nuts which she fed to me. I wasgrateful for the food, and ate enthusiastically. The brave watched me curiously, and I him. Heseemed to me about the size and age of my cousin Balthus. That would make him 16.Finally the brave said something that sounded like “Shay-cone”, and then said “Hel-lo” inEnglish. He pointed to himself and said “
 Enita-Oneka
.” He repeated it, so I guessed it was hisname. He said it again, and pointed to himself again. Obviously he wanted me to say it, too, so Idid. Then he said in English, “Water Moon”, and pointed first at the sky then at himself.I realized he was the very first Indian to ever introduce himself to me. For that I wasgrateful.“Benjamin,” I said and pointed to myself. “Benjamin.”Water Moon said my name a few times, tentatively at first. It appeared he had troublewith the ‘J’ sound in my name. It sounded more like “Ben-men.”“Does just one family live in this house?” I asked.He looked puzzled at this. Perhaps he did not speak much English. I tried again. I held upone finger and said “One family?” then pointing around the longhouse.

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