Lessons in Motion

Untitled by Courtney Grammentz of Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College
Untitled by Courtney Grammentz of Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College

The sound of the stream flowing behind him was comforting. The water always represented both a means of refuge and a means of transportation, so he always found himself relaxing along the shores and banks during his journeys. Things were as they usually were, but as nature has a habit of doing, things change.

Gun shots rang out not far off in the distance

For a moment there was a chaotic torrent of motion and sound. The birds all left their roosts up in the trees and began calling out to one another as they coordinated their retreat. A few deer burst through some brush and out across the stream before elegantly climbing the approach on the other side, disappearing into the small thicket of birch and cedar. As sudden as everything happened it was over and then the clearing fell completely silent— even if but for a moment.

He could hear the men yelling not far off in the distance. He knew it was coming from a nearby fort. This thought propelled him out of his cover and further upstream. After a brief but brisk run he came upon the edge of another clearing. He took refuge beside the trunk of a very large tree. It was from this vantage that he could see the lone man riding a short distance away, making his way through the field the clearing opened into. He noticed the rider appeared to be slouching in his saddle some and surmised that he was probably the recipient of the gunshots from earlier. Accompanying the lone man was another horse but no rider.

He couldn’t help but think how opportune a predicament he found himself in. on one hand he could steal the horses and probably make a good profit, or he could even keep them and get good use out of them. Either way, this could provide much for his people. But on the other hand, being caught with the horses that could be verified by the men of the fort could definitely bring some harsh retaliations to his people. He thought back to the time he spent with his grandfather in his youth.

His grandfather had taught him many things, one was honesty. Gwayakwaadiziwin—this was one of the seven teachings instilled in him from a young age. So, he thought better not try and steal the horses from the man. Yet, he couldn’t stop himself from thinking about what he had seen. How easy it would be to sneak up and take the horses from a wounded man. He shook his head as he turned around and headed back towards where he was resting before. As he walked, he thought about his actions and could feel a sense of pride rise up within him. He was happy to have chosen the high road, as all too often he did not.

Having gathered the rest of his things from beside the stream, he began towards the thicket of trees he had seen the deer run into earlier. If nothing else, he could get on the trail of the deer before nightfall. That would be his contribution to his people in the stead of those horses he mused about silently as he walked. He continued on through the dense underbrush for what must have been near an hour before he came upon rocky terrain that overlooked a decently flowing river. As he climbed down the rock shelf, he noticed an opening in the face of the rock formation itself that appeared to possibly be the opening of a cave or at least a place where he could be out of the elements as night quickly approached.

The sound of branches breaking nearby broke the silence of his thoughts as he looked up and away from the cave to see the two horses from earlier standing nearby on the other side of the river. The one that was free from a rider approached semi-aggressively as to establish dominion over the water. or maybe it was trying to get the man’s attention. Regardless, as the young man looked to the other horse, he could see the rider, obviously unconscious, hanging in the saddle.

“Moogee, moogee, MOOGEE!!” he shouted in an exasperated tone. This wasn’t simply taking a horse from a defenseless man anymore. Should he help this man from his impending fate, or do nothing because of the possible repercussions for his people? The feeling of pride was now gone, replaced by the burden of regret he was already feeling. He approached the horses, and the pair made no move to escape. Rather, they seemed to invite the engagement, almost hopeful.

After a moment of introduction to the steeds, he adjusted the rider and mounted up, wasting little time in launching their escape. As they rode, he heard his passenger muttering under his breath. As he weaved the horses through the woodlands, he listened closely. He could just barely make out the name “Drover.” He wondered to himself as the wind raced by him, “I wonder what that name means to this man?” Darkness fell around them as the group broke from their escape and headed into the refuge under the cover of some pine.

The young man pulled the rider from the horse and rested him against the base of the pine. He could see the blood on the man’s shirt in the moonlight. He had been shot through the shoulder. His grandfather had taught him about treating such wounds. He thought back to this lesson from his past and the tension in his mind eased as he got to work.

Craig Poitra is a student at Turtle Mountain Community College.

Leave a Reply