The village was a cluster of wigwams around the shore of lake overlooked on both sides by bluffs. The sun was still hidden below the horizon when we arrived. I could hear the waves and feel the cold spray from the water as we entered the wigwam. An oil lamp shone on a woman kneeling by the head of a baby boy who laid on a rabbit skin.
The baby cried as the woman placed a piece of damp rabbit fur on his forehead. My father spoke to me in a low voice. “It’s the fever. ” He opened his medicine bag and took out two masks. He handed one to me and motioned for me to put it on. This will ward off evil spirits. ” He asked the man for a bowl of hot water. He left and quickly returned with the water. My father placed his hands in the water and I did likewise. He pulled out a pouch and sprinkles a white power on my hands and his and begins to rub it in.
“We do this before and after we touch our patient. This will keep the evil spirits at bay. Examine the child and tell me what you see, hear and feel. ” I brought the lamp closer to the boy. “She has a red face. ” I placed my hand on his forehead. “It’s warm and wet. She has a fever. ” He handed me a vile. Have her drink this. ” I placed it to her lips, but she doesn’t drink. “Force his mouth open. ” Father placed his hands on his jaws and pulled his mouth open. “Pore it in. ” I emptied the vile. “Now what? ” “There is nothing more that we can do. It’s up to him. We’ll wash up, go outside, and wait. ” We stepped out into the cold, but there was a faint glow in the eastern sky as clouds hid the sun. An older man stood waiting for us.
“Shaman, Takoda said you had returned with a son. ” My father seemed pleased to see him. “That I have. Have you and your mother been keeping well? “I have,” replied the man. “But, my mother is not well. She is in great pain. Can you help her? ” I was tired and wanted to sleep, but my father looked at me. “Bring the water. ” I grabbed the bowl and followed him to another wigwam where an old woman wailed in pain. There is a young woman holding her hand. She looked up and smiled. “Shaman you’re here. Look Mom the shaman is here. ” A tear rolled down her cheek. “Can you stop the pain? ” We wash like before. This time Father examined the woman. “Feel her stomach. ” I placed my hands on the women.
Her stomach was as hard as stone. Father shook his head. “Your mother has lived a long life, I’m afraid her journey with us is coming to an end. ” The man held his mother’s hand. “Can’t you do anything? ” Father opened in his medicine bag and took out a jar of brown powder. “I can take away the pain. It’s the best that I can do. ” The man nods. Father used a flat stick to scoop out some of the power about the size of a kernel of corn and held it to her mount. “Take, eat, you’ll feel better. ” She opened her mouth, he placed the power on her tongue, and she settled back.
The morning stopped. “Do you think the pain is gone? ” asked the man. A tear ran down Father’s cheek. “I know it has. The man smiled. “Thank-you. ” Father placed his hand on my shoulder. “I’ll stay with her. You can go outside and rest. ” He stood and motioned for me to go. “I’ll get something for you to eat,” said the young woman. I follow her out outside into bright sunshine where smoke rose from newly lit campfires; the village was waking up. She leads the way to a fire pit where she prepared breakfast.
“Are you the Shaman’s son? ” “Yes, I am. ” “I knew it. She beamed. “We worry about him. He disappears during the summer and we don’t know where. He says that he is looking for his son. Now that he has found you, maybe he’ll stay home. The shaman is a kind man, but he’s not the bravest. ” I take the bowl of food she offers me. “Why do you think my father is not brave? ” “He doesn’t fight and he says that we shouldn’t fight,” she replied. “That’s fine to say when you’re protected by Sasquatch and have no need to defend yourself. ”
“What do you think of Sasquatch? ” “Now there’s a fighter. ” She leaned towards me. But he is mean. You have to keep on his good side if you want to live. ” I wonder if she knows that she is talking about the same person. “Have you seen Sasquatch? ” “No, I’m still alive. ” I finish eating and return to find the man holding his mother. He looks up t Father. “She died happy, Thank-you. ” We expressed our sympathies and we leave the wigwam. Outside, the father of the young boy is waiting with four arrows. “The fever has broken and my daughter is eating once more. Here, a token of my appreciation. ” He handed me the arrows. “Please excuse me, Shaman.
I have to return to my son. ” “What’s this for? ” I ask my father. “For your services as a shaman. He saw your bow without arrows and gave you what he thought you needed most. Don’t waste them. ” My father nodded. We turned and made our way back home, leaving the village in silence. When we were away from the village, I spoke to my father. “You said the pain of the old woman would be gone. Why did she die? ” “I killed her? ” My father seemed to be friends with everyone in the village. Anything he asked, they were willing to do. Killing an old woman was out of character for him.
I was baffled as to his motive. “Why? ” He stopped walking. “She was in pain and dying, I stopped the pain with the only medicine that could. Shorting her life by a day or two was an unfortunate side effect. You would do the same. ” I shook my head. “I wouldn’t do that. ” “You wouldn’t go after a deer that you wounded? ” He stared at me with cold eyes then walked away. He was right. I would hunt down a wounded animal. So why would I not relieve the pain of a person who was about to die. I ran to catch up. “It’s a long walk back. Would you like to hear how I became Sasquatch? ”