Chapter 19: Becoming Human

For many days after my meeting with Fox, I wandered the hills and woods. I was in no hurry to return to the village. I had a lot to process in my mind. Fox actually had said very little to me, but what she said was bursting with meaning. It was my job to figure out what she meant. Kistalwa once said to me, “We seek balance and harmony within the Great Circle of Life.” It seemed Fox was saying the same thing. How I wished Father was here with me now to help me sort through it all. One thought above all kept rolling through my head: How, in a world gone mad with war and violence, can we truly say we seek balance and harmony? Could this be the great mystery Fox spoke of? I struggled with this thought and many others for several days. Finally I decided to try to talk with Fox again. I picked a nice secluded glade near a quick-running stream in a natural depression nestled between two hills. I had eaten only lightly since my visit with Fox, so it was not hard to prepare myself for another vision this time. In the center of a small clearing I drew a circle with a forked stick, then stuck the stick into the dirt in the middle of the circle and hung my Hannah doll from the top of the stick. I had no drum or flute with me but I wanted to dance, so I began singing the songs I knew while dancing around the outside of the circle. Since I do not know any songs for Fox, I danced and sang the Raccoon Dance and the Duck Dance. Then I danced the Bean Dance and the Corn Dance. Finally I sang the the Cherokee Dance and the Quapaw Dance (‘tho for that last one I mostly made up the words). I danced and sang and sang and danced until I was so exhausted I could dance no more and my voice failed me. Late afternoon had long since turned to dusk, which had turned to a dark, half-moon night. I sat down on the ground facing the circle, weary and exhalted, my arms wrapped around my bare legs. “Fox, now I can use your help to figure things out,” I said out loud. “My head is swimming with questions. I don’t know how to ask for your assistance. I don’t know if you are listening to my words. If you are listening, please come to me now.” Then I waited in silence, my eyes focused on the Hannah doll but all my other senses stretched to include everything around me. And I waited. And waited. Much later, I awoke with a jerk. Obviously I had fallen asleep. It was still dark, but in the half light I could see the Hannah doll still hanging on the stick in front of me. Nothing appeared to have changed. Except this: Everything out there was still the same, but inside I was a different person. I felt triumphant, full of purpose and resolve, finally able to return to my ordinary world, no longer

feeling the “aloneness” of being a child and losing my parents. I felt like a new human being. And those questions I had been struggling with? I now had a new knowledge of the ancestors and a new way of holding the questions. I saw the questions no longer as an impediment of my moving forward but as an affirmation of the vision I had experienced. I also knew what I needed to say to my Lenape family, to help them remember what has been forgotten. Now I was ready to return to Mahon-hanne, my village. * * * *

Travelling quickly and quietly for three days, I arrived late one afternoon at the steepwalled side canyon that Smiling Beaver and I had discovered so long ago. Pausing in my headlong rush, I sent out the call of the Raven. I could not do it nearly as well as Water Moon, but it was passable. After a moment, someone answered me in return, and I continued in toward the village. Water Moon practically knocked me over when he came rushing down the trail to greet me. He had recognized my ersatz call and did not bother waiting for me to show up. Indeed he was the first person I hoped to see (followed soon, I hoped, by Monotowan). “Brother, welcome back,” he called out as he ran up to me. And then, espying my newly shaven head, he shouted, “Oh, you must have had a good vision, brother. We will welcome you back tonight at the council fire.” “I have much to tell you, Water Moon, but for now tell me what happened in my absence,” I said joyfully . “Many changes, that is certain,” he began. “The Ottowa chief Pontiac was killed by an Illini Indian; we are all greatly disturbed by news. Tall Feathers says he had a dream where he assumed the role of Pontiac. He wants to be made War Chief of our tribe. He has been turned down by the elders, but he still argues for it. I think we will hear more tonight at the council fire.” “And what of our village?” I asked. “Is everyone well? “Yes, the Yangwe have left us alone. We do not think they know where the village is now. Spotted Owl crossed the great bridge in the sky and we did a Cry Ceremony for him.” That news saddened me greatly. Spotted Owl was the oldest person in the village. He was born near present-day Trenton, New Jersey, the son of a broom-maker. He often told the story of being a small child and seeing his first White man, and thinking him a god. Now I was so happy to see my brother Water Moon again. As we walked slowly into the village, I excitedly told him of my visit from Fox and my days and nights wandering. Everywhere we walked in the village, people greeted me or waved a welcome. Monotowan heard the commotion and came running out of her longhouse to see me. What a delight it was to see her again. As dusk descended the villagers began assembling for the council

fire, coming in by ones and twos. Monotowan and her parents and I together walked over to the fire. I was ecstatic being surrounded by friends and family sharing the news. Two or three of the few remaining elders spoke on general subjects, but it seemed we were all waiting for the main event. Finally, as Water Moon had predicted, Tall Feathers rose to speak. I always enjoyed hearing him speak in his stately oratorical voice, but this time I disliked intensely what he said with it. “One moon ago I received a vision,” he began. “In this vision I was given the name Tenskwatawa (the Open Door). In the vision I was instructed to re-form the alliance with our old friends the Shawnee, Cherokee, and Chickasaw. Together we will stop all further Yangwe expansion. We will drive them out of our sacred lands. We will drive them out of our sacred hunting grounds. No longer will they be free to hunt our game, kill our women, or destroy our villages. No longer will they be free to crush our sacred ceremonies.” Tall Feathers’ message was similar to what the prophet Neolin's had been in 1763. But now he added a new and ugly twist, dropping his voice almost to a whisper for dramatic effect. Nobody listening missed the threat. “Now I say to you, whoever disagrees with us is a witch and a traitor.” “To be successful, we must win the support of the Wyandot, keepers of the council fire of the western alliance,” Tall Feathers concluded. He left unsaid the most important requirement of all: to be successful, he was going to need the complete support of all us Lenape. I was appalled. Looking around the circle, it appeared to me that many of us felt uneasy at the idea, although some were certainly agreeing with him. One of those was Mud Turtle. This did not surprise me. Mud Turtle always seemed ready for a fight. Now his eyes shone brightly, possibly envisioning the fight he would love to join. Others, too, seemed ready to take up Tall Feathers’ call, among them some of the subchiefs and quite a few of the young warriors. ‘Tho village women attended the council fire, in matters of this nature they had no direct voice. This was strictly a man’s discussion. However, having watched Calling Owl and Runner of the Mountain Path for many seasons, I can tell you honestly that ‘tho they had no voice at the council fire, women made their feelings abundantly clear to their men in the relative privacy of the longhouse. The tribe could never embark on a course of action unless the women agreed, particularly the elders. I looked around again, this time at the older women. None offered encouragement to Tall Feathers. There was a rustle of low conversation as he sat down, followed by an expectant pause. Water Moon looked directly at me and nodded encouragingly, as if he expected me to do something. So I stood. Never before had I risen to speak to the council fire. But then, never before had I been able to address the council as an adult and a warrior. I knew from my vision that this was the time. I needed to tell my village of what they had forgotten and what they never knew. I took a deep breath and began: “Though you may hear birds singing on this side and that side, you must not take notice of them, but hear me when I speak to you and take it to heart, for you may always depend that what I say will be true."

“Tho he speaks well and from the heart, I urge you to put aside the ideas of Glick-hican and to follow the example of Waka-Tanka, the Good Spirit.” “Our elders tell us that when the first Yangwe came here they wanted to know how many Lenape we were. Of course the elders did not understand their question. The elders told them the deer are part of our Nation as are the birds, trees, and hills. Even the stones beneath our feet are a part of our people. We cannot give you a number.” I saw the old ones nod in agreement. “Now my brothers and sisters, believe me when I say I cannot give you a number for the Yangwe. You know I was born of the Yangwe. But you do not know how many more of them there are than of us. We count the birds in the sky and the deer in the woods among our number. But the Yangwe need only to count themselves to get a much bigger number. I have seen their largest village, at the shore of the great sea that lies toward the sunrise. It stretches over many hills and islands. It once took me half a day to run from one side of that village to the other. And they have many more villages besides, many more villages than I could ever count. And every one of those villages has more human beings than you or I can count.” Silence greeted my words. No one stirred. Slowly I turned to look around the entire circle. Every face was familiar; every person was my relative, and everyone was expectantly watching me. Tension hung in the air like a deep wool blanket. I looked at Water Moon. He appeared stunned. He dropped his gaze to the ground then to the fire. Slowly I saw a small smile of understanding creep across his face. He looked up again; we locked eyes for a moment. Yes! he told me with his eyes. Now tell us what we have forgotten. I nodded slightly, took another deep breath, and continued with confidence. “We Lenape have forgotten this: we do not rail at the storms, the furious winds, or the biting frosts and snows. To do so only intensifies our human frailty. Instead we adjust ourselves to whatever comes, by more effort and energy if necessary but without complaint.” I let people think about that a moment while I gathered my thoughts. It was critical that I accurately convey the next important part of Fox’s teaching. “We have forgotten that bright days and dark days are both expressions of the Great Mystery. We must remember this in order to survive and flourish. And remember, too, my dear friends. This is not me telling you this for the first time. I am only the hole, the channel through which the medicine comes. If I thought that I was the owner, it would close up and I would die.” I sat down. I knew would have to wait at least a day to hear the consensus of the tribe. These matters were too weighty to be decided hurriedly. The council broke up quietly, everyone returning to their longhouses to discuss the issue privately. Water Moon beamed, Monotowan was impressed, and Tall Feathers was clearly incensed. He glared at me with undisguised hatred. Suddenly I realized that my days with the Lenape were now numbered. Tall Feathers would see to it. Whether the village supported him or me did not matter now, for I had challenged him in a very public way. ‘Tho he was not a chief, he certainly was an honored warrior and I was but a “new man”. Still I felt strong about about my stand. I did what I knew needed to be done. I was certain this was the logical conclusion of all that I had learned among the Lenape.

As the council fire began to break up, Smiling Beaver quietly sided up to me and said, nodding in the direction of Talls Feathers, “It appears you have made a powerful enemy, Racer,” Just as quietly he slipped away into the dark. Next Water Moon joined me. I wanted to ask him if I should be afraid of Tall Feathers, but I held my counsel. I did not want to let him know just how afraid I really was. Instead he said, “Brother, you speak the truth. From this I know you have made the journey that our father told you about. You have traveled from your head to your heart and back to your head. But Racer, I know you well. I know you gave us only part of your vision. I know this because I know you would not antagonize Glick-hican (he used the Lenape name) as you did tonight unless you already had a plan to deal with him. Am I correct?” Now it was my turn to be stunned. How could Water Moon possibly know what I myself had discovered just a moment before? “Yes, my brother,” I said simply. “Walk with me,” he replied, and we headed for the nearby river, avoiding both the longhouses and their occupants. Once alone by the water’s edge, we sat cross-legged facing each other. “Racer, in your vision, did the Yangwe world sing to you?” The question startled me. I had to think about that for a moment before replying. “No, Water Moon. Only the Lenape world sings a powerful, beautiful song to me, I think the most beautiful I have ever seen or felt. Also Òkwës sings to me. She sings of love and purity and compassion. She sings of purpose and power. She sings of Waka-Tanka. She even sings of me . . .” I paused, confused. Indeed I had heard her song, but what were the words again? What was she trying to tell me? Then softly on the night wind I heard the answer, her pure, sweet voice singing to me: “Racer, borne of one world; Ka-tesk-aw-tin, borne of another world; Òkwës, borne of the light and the darkness. As Fox, Racer looks into both worlds. As Racer, Fox lives in both worlds. Now take your separate ways To teach your different days And always come together to sing.” Water Moon looked intently at me; I looked at him. Had he heard the song of the Fox, or did she sing just for me?

He smiled a sad smile and said, “Racer, I believe you have a new song to sing. I think you just heard it. I suppose you must go away from us to sing it.” In the resulting silence we continued to look at each other. I desperately wanted to tell him he was all wrong, but I knew deep down that he spoke the truth. He knew it, too. At last I said, “Tall Feathers may take some of the warriors out against the Yangwe. They may win some battles. One day Lenape may sing heroic songs about those battles. But they will not win what they want most, because they cannot look into both worlds. “Water Moon, you too have a new song to sing. I believe your task is to teach that song to the tribe. You will be their leader. Our people will look to you for guidance. Long have we both known that. Certainly Kistalwa knew it. “My beloved brother, together we learned how to be human. I am deeply grateful for all that you have given to me. You are now as much a part of me as my foot or my ear. We truly are
Rak-tsi-‘a.” Brothers.

He smiled and nodded, then said in his best English, “Yes, we are Racer and Water Moon. We are brothers. We will be together again.” I left Mahon-hanne soon thereafter. Never again did I return to that sweet, lovely village hidden in a side valley near the foot of Kittatinny Mountain. Soon after, the Lenape were forced to abandon it, too, as I knew they would. The End.

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