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The Shagganappi   By: (1861-1913)

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By E. Pauline Johnson

With Introduction by Ernest Thompson Seton

Dedicated to the Boy Scouts



How well I remember my first meeting with Tekahionwake, the Indian girl! I see her yet as she stood in all ways the ideal type of her race, lithe and active, with clean cut aquiline features, olive red complexion and long dark hair; but developed by her white man training so that the shy Indian girl had given place to the alert, resourceful world woman, at home equally in the salons of the rich and learned or in the stern of the birch canoe, where, with paddle poised, she was in absolute and fearless control, watching, warring and winning against the grim rocks that grinned out of the white rapids to tear the frail craft and mangle its daring rider.

We met at the private view of one of my own pictures. It was a wolf scene, and Tekahionwake, quickly sensing the painter's sympathy with the Wolf, claimed him as a Medicine Brother, for she herself was of the Wolf Clan of the Mohawks. The little silver token she gave me then is not to be gauged or appraised by any craftsman method known to trade.

From that day, twenty odd years ago, our friendship continued to the end, and it is the last sad privilege of brotherhood to write this brief comment on her personality. I do it with a special insight, for I am charged with a message from Tekahionwake herself. "Never let anyone call me a white woman," she said. "There are those who think they pay me a compliment in saying that I am just like a white woman. My aim, my joy, my pride is to sing the glories of my own people. Ours was the race that gave the world its measure of heroism, its standard of physical prowess. Ours was the race that taught the world that avarice veiled by any name is crime. Ours were the people of the blue air and the green woods, and ours the faith that taught men to live without greed and to die without fear. Ours were the fighting men that, man to man yes, one to three could meet and win against the world. But for our few numbers, our simple faith that others were as true as we to keep their honor bright and hold as bond inviolable their plighted word, we should have owned America to day."

If the spirit of Wetamoo, the beautiful woman Sachem, the Boadicea of New England, ever came back, it must have been in Tekahionwake the Mohawk. The fortitude and the eloquence of the Narragansett Chieftainess were born again in the Iroquois maiden; she typified the spirit of her people that flung itself against the advancing tide of white encroachment even as a falcon might fling himself against a horde of crows whose strength was their numbers and whose numbers were without end, so all his wondrous effort was made vain.

"The Riders of the Plains," the "Legends of Vancouver," "Flint and Feather," and the present volume, "Shagganappi," all tell of the spirit that tells them. Love of the blessed life of blue air without gold lust is felt in the line and the interline, with joy in the beauty of beaver stream, tamarac swamp, shad bush and drifting cloud, and faith in the creed of her fathers, that saw the Great Spirit in all things and that reverenced Him at all times, and over and above it all the sad note that tells of a proud race, conscious that it has been crushed by numbers, that its day is over and its heritage gone forever.

Oh, reader of the alien race, keep this in mind: remember that no people ever ride the wave's crest unceasingly. The time must come for us to go down, and when it comes may we have the strength to meet our fate with such fortitude and silent dignity as did the Red Man his.

"Oh, why have your people forced on me the name of Pauline Johnson?" she said. "Was not my Indian name good enough? Do you think you help us by bidding us forget our blood? by teaching us to cast off all memory of our high ideals and our glorious past? I am an Indian... Continue reading book >>

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