William awoke as the sun’s glow was just hinting at coming over the eastern horizon. He pulled open the hide cover over the entrance to his wikkum as he stepped out into the crisp morning air.
“Bezon.” William said to the people he met as he headed to the trees for his early morning relief call. All of them gave him the same greeting back. It was a Shawnee friendly greeting.
William thought back to the day he first saw the Shawnee hunting party. He had come down from a knoll overlooking the Scioto River and almost stumbled into a party of nine Shawnee hunters. William had never seen so many Indians, so close before in his life. He put his musket’s butt on the ground and held onto the barrel. Facing the group of hunters he just stood and waited for whatever was to come, he knew he would not have a chance in beating nine such strong looking men anyway.
The one with several tattoos eventually tried signing, but William did not understand. Then he spoke and although he did not understand that either William pointed to himself and said his name.
“Wwwiill..iiam.” The tattooed one said very slowly and smiled to his friends and they all laughed. After a few minutes of talking to each other the tattooed one pointed to William and then to himself and the others then waved his hand in a gesture to follow them.
William nodded his head up and down then picked up his musket and followed them down the trail to their village. It looked very similar to the ones he had passed very carefully around weeks before. There were several of the round wikkums about eight to twelve feet across and one longer one at about the same width but much longer. Women, children, old people and many men working at one thing or another were all around the area in and near the structures. There were also many frames with skins or cadavers hanging from them scattered all around in and between the wikkums.
They all walked to the long house and went inside. After being seated Tattoo spoke to an older man already there, their chief. Once all the hunters, chief and several other older men had talked for a while the chief looked at Tattoo pointing to William and said one final long statement. Everyone rose from their seated position and the hunter, with William following left the long house. They went to a fairly unused looking wikkum in need of some repair and Tattoo pointed to William, then inside. William nodded his head and went inside.
That had been four months ago and William had found that nothing he had heard about Indians was true . These people were just like any other people he had ever known; at home in England or here in the colonies with the white colonists.
Their children played and laughed, they had toys; the boys had small bows and arrows and the girls had dolls. Mothers cleaned, cooked and tended gardens of corn and squash and the fathers hunted or made weapons. The old were revered and had honored functions in the family. They told stories at night around campfires one of William’s favorites was about a Shawnee man and Sky Daughter.
Their religion was very different but the Shawnee followed it as faithfully as any Christian followed the bible. Chiefs were elected by the council of elders, the big difference here was that women could hold positions of authority and might even be a clan chief but the Shawnee Nation chief was always a man.
At first he was just accepted into their presence but as time passed many things changed. First he found that the one he originally thought of as Tattoo was actually called Grey Hawk and that he was a respected warrior, husband and hunter. Grey Hawk befriended William and allowed him to learn some of the Shawnee ways and language.
William had never used a bow before in his life but he had become quite good at it and that was due to Grey Hawk’s patience. He had learned well but like anyone it had taken time, even the young boys had some laughs at his expense when he first tried to shoot the bow and arrow at a target Grey hawk picked out where the young boys learned to shoot. The fact that Grey Hawk started to call him Pale Bear as a small joke about William’s skin and beard stuck and everyone in the tribe now called him that.
After four months with these fine and friendly people he hardly thought of himself as William any more, He was Pale Bear a hunter of the Shawnee people here at the junction of the Ohio and Scioto Rivers. His Wikkum had been in fine shape before the first snow and had been warm all winter. Pale Bear had made many newer changes as winter went on and was quite happy with his home here. He had used his Musket but a few times and then only to display its use to some of the braves and young boys. Always he went to his targets and retrieved the shot for melting, molding and later use. The one thing that did concern him though was powder.
Once in late winter a French fur trader had come to the camp to trade. Pale Bear had traded with him for more gun powder. Now Pale Bear did have a rekindled concern that eventually someone from his own past or someone who could ask the wrong questions somewhere else after hearing of him here would stumble onto him. Mostly Pale Bear did not want any trouble to come to these people.
The more Pale Bear thought in the peacefulness of night in his wikkum as he rested, the more he knew that soon he would need to leave. The Shawnee had been far too good to him for him to be the cause of any possible trouble that might befall them. Pale Bear decided to talk with Grey Hawk in the morning, rolled over and went to sleep. During the night he remembered his time being indentured on the Plantation before he found the musket and made his plan to escape.
Pale Bear dreamed of the pretty slave woman who after a while had befriended him there starting one night as they were both watching the night sky stars. After that night she would come by his quarters every now and then when she would spend a few hours of the night taking away all his cares and tension. It had been too bad that he left without even saying goodbye. Here after about two months Elk Woman had come into his wikkum one night after all were asleep, her husband had died about a year before Pale Bear came to the village. She had come in very quietly slipped out of her clothes and slid into Pale Bears robes before he was fully awake.
“We both have needs that together we can enjoy relieving, I will make no claims on you. No one here will think badly of us, it is natural to for two people to comfort and please each other.” Was all she had said before Pale Bear took her in his arms and they had spent the night doing just that. Elk Woman had left before the rest of the camp was awake and she had returned a few times since. Pale Bear had thought about asking Grey Hawk about the necessary requirements and custom about taking a wife. Now he knew that could not be and that made him sad.
The next morning Pale Bear found Grey Hawk and asked if they could walk away from the village and talk for a while. Grey Hawk agreed and the two hunters started in the direction away from the two rivers and the village.
After talking for a couple of hours Grey Hawk understood pale Bears concern, even if he did not think it was necessary. However no man had a right of to tell another what to do. Pale Bear had decided and Grey Hawk would honor his decision even if he did not wish the other hunter to go. When they returned to the village Pale Bear started making ready to move on, by tomorrow morning he would be ready.
Pale Bare traded with another hunter for one of the few horses in the village and made presents or traded with others all day long. That evening he slept fitfully his decision was final but he would miss the people here.
The next morning he loaded the horse with everything he had took the reins and said nechon to Grey Hawk and others as he left toward the north he was headed in the direction of Serpent Mound. He was a little disappointed that Elk Woman was not among the ones who said thank you and goodbye as he left.
In the early evening Pale Bear saw a small camp fire not far ahead and walked in its direction, someone to talk to would be welcome this night. He was missing his friends on this his first day leaving all of them behind and headed on a journey with no particular destination.
When he got closer he could see it was a squaw and that she was alone, at least there wasn’t any hunter sitting with her or around the camp. Pale Bear called out that he was coming into the camp and as he neared the fire he saw that the woman was Elk Woman.
Elk Woman stood and looked at Pale Bear. “Grey Hawk told me that you had wished you had the time for proper courting, so you could ask for me to become your woman.”
“Yes, but I could not let anything bad happen at the village because of my past. So I could not stay any longer to do that even though I wanted to. I was not sure you would want it that way either.” Pale Bear told her.
“No bad will happen now and I was already your woman. Now when you are ready the soup is hot and you can make your meal.” Elk Woman told him in a matter of fact manner smiling broadly.
“Does Grey Hawk know you left to be with me? Did you say your farewells to your friends and family? Are you sure this is what you want to do, I don’t know where I am going.” Pale Bear asked her.
“Where we are going is not as important as we are going together. Yes I told everyone goodbye and they all thought I was doing the right thing. You are much liked by our people.” Elk Woman said as she handed him a bowl corn and squash soup with a piece of corn bread.
After their meal was over and they had sat watching the stars twinkle in and out in the azure night sky for a while Pale Bear and Elk Woman went to lay in their sleeping robes for a night’s sleep.
Over the next couple of weeks they stopped and spent a day and night at the Serpent Mound with Pale Bear wondering at the people who built it. Elk Woman told him that no one knew, it had always been there. Then they stopped by The Seven Caves for a day so Pale Bear could look around inside. He came out with a couple of small crystals, which he gave to Elk Woman. Her eyes sparkled brightly at the gift; these were items of power and love.
Then a few days later they stayed at the village of the northwest most Shawnee clan. Pale Bear found that his name was even known here and they were accepted as husband and wife. However they talked with the clan chief and made arrangements to have a proper ceremony a couple of days later. The ceremony was done with all the Shawnee tradition and fanfare, Elk Woman made a beautiful bride in bleached skins beaded with elk teeth and ermine tails.
Two days after the ceremony Pale Bear and Elk Woman were on the trail again however this time they were on two horses and they were riding with their load split and most of it on a travois hitched to Elk Woman’s horse. The second horse was a gift of the clan chief who turned out to be a distant relative of Elk Woman.
Around noon the following day as they crested a small hill headed in the direction where the sun would set several hours later Elk Woman spoke to her husband.
“Husband have you given any thought yet as to where you wish to go?” She asked.
“No my wife not exactly where but in the direction the sun sets for now. Far enough away from the English whites that we won’t be bothered by them again. But soon enough so we can be ready for the winter before it comes. Maybe even with some friendly people if we are lucky enough to stumble upon some.” He told her.
“That will be good Pale Bear, my husband. It would be good if we could stay with some maybe a little into spring when our son will be born.” Elk Woman said and waited for Pale Bears reaction.
“A, a son woman, are you sure?” He turned and asked Elk Woman. Pale Bear had a broad smile beaming on his face.
“Yes I am sure that at least we will be having a child, for you I hope to give you a son.” She said.
“Son or daughter my wife I will love either. Our child will be cherished and loved.” He told her as he halted his mount close enough to give his wife an endearing and thankful embrace.
“Yes husband, much loved and protected.” Elk Woman answered as she nudged her horse to walk close beside her husband’s to the west.