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Tags: #fiction, #historical, #st denis, #natchitoches

Legend upon the Cane

BOOK: Legend upon the Cane
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Other Titles by Keith R. Rees

 

Quill and Ink
-
POETRY

 

 

Legend Upon the
Cane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By

Keith R. Rees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© 200
8 by Keith R. Rees. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For my mother, Claudia
Williams Rees, who was born and raised in Natchitoches,
Louisiana.

 

Prologue

 

In the mid
17
th
century, many Indian tribes lived in the areas of eastern
Texas and northern Louisiana along the Red River and Sabine River.
One such tribe, called the Caddo Indians, lived there long before
the first French and Spanish explorers arrived. As time passed, the
tribe eventually split into smaller tribes and settled in other
nearby areas as explorers began to encroach upon their
territory.

At the turn of the
18
th
century, exploration of the New World was well underway.
France and Spain continued to push further into the heart of North
America, by way of the Mississippi River. Merely a few decades had
passed since the 30 Years’ War in Europe, yet tensions still ran
high between France and Spain in the New World. The French
explorers sought to establish trade with the natives and help them
improve their way of life. The Spanish made their way with
missionaries that came along to spread the Christian Word to the
natives. The race was on, to claim new territory, and establish
strategic positions in this part of the New World burgeoning with
promise and opportunity. Many times their paths crossed in these
strange new lands.

Yet, the explorers were accompanied by only
small military fronts. They found it best to travel up the local
rivers and tributaries with traders and small companies of soldiers
to try and establish good relations with the local Indian tribes.
Good progress was made, but resentment and opposition from some
tribes was culminating, for the newcomer’s presence was not
welcome.

French explorers were deeply interested in
establishing roots in the fertile lands of the lower Mississippi
for purposes of trade and settlement. But, they were also wary of
Spanish explorers in Texas pushing into their territory from the
West.

For the most part, the
native tribes welcomed the newcomers for their livestock trade, and
building and farming skills. In turn, the natives showed the
settlers the art of hunting in these foreign lands. The land was
called
La Louisiane
, or “Land of Louis”. Just a few short years earlier, Robert
Cavelier de La Salle had claimed the land for France in the name of
King Louis XIV. The land would become known as the Louisiana
Purchase nearly a century later.

This is a fictional account
based on true persons and events in the oldest settlement of this
territory, which is nearly three hundred miles inland from the
mouth of the Mississippi River. This particular area, near the head
of the Red River, was called Natchitoches. It was named for the
local tribe, which the French settlers befriended in the early
1700’s. The French were led by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis. The
story tells of the tribe’s settlement in the area, their first
encounter in 1701 with the French explorers, their move to Lake
Pontchartrain near New Orleans in 1702, and then their eventual,
yet historic, return to their homeland in 1714. Their return to a
small tributary near the head of the Red River, called the
Riviere aux Cannes,
or the
Cane River.

Chapter 1

 

The light of the fire flickered in the
dimming light of a summer sunset. The early evening sounds of marsh
crickets and tree frogs echoed through the river valley. A lone
Indian brave danced by the light of the fire, dressed in a
ceremonial headdress. He chanted low and slowly and stepped lightly
on his bare feet. He shuffled through the sand to the sound of a
solo drumbeat. He danced to the coming twilight and for the
beckoning moon. His chant would rise and fall with the embers that
crackled from the fire as he lifted his eyes to the heavens as the
smoke rose to bless the air of the coming night.

In a small, mud thatched hut, the glow of a
fire could be seen. A new mother’s cry sang out into the night,
blending with the chant of the spirit guide. Inside the hut, a
young squaw gritted her teeth and wailed in pain. Her eyes
glistened in the light of the fire, as tears filled her eyes.
Aiyana breathed short and quick and she grasped the hand of her
caretaker, Onacona, or White Owl. Aiyana threw her head from side
to side, crying out in pain. But she kept her eyes fixed on the old
woman, knowing that she was in good hands.

As the sun set its last light over the
horizon, Aiyana cried out once more. Her breathing became a series
of long sighs of relief. Then another faint cry was heard from
within the tiny hut. It was the cry of her newborn son. He cried
out as he felt the cool night air for the first time. The little
one was wrapped in warm, soft fox pelts and was placed in his
mothers exhausted arms. Aiyana smiled at her baby, with tears of
joy running down her cheeks. The little baby rested in her arms,
with his tiny blue eyes opened just slightly. He had a small, damp
mat of light colored hair. His eyes closed in the comfort of his
mother’s arms.

The old woman pulled the door flap aside to
reveal an anxious father waiting outside. Chief Caddo stepped into
the hut slowly, looking at his young wife and their newborn
son.


Your eyes are shining
brightly this night, my wife,” he said softly to her.


Here is our son,” Aiyana
said in a weak voice.

He placed his hand on the side of her face.
She closed her eyes and rested her head against his broad hand.
Suddenly, her eyes flew open wide and she wailed in tremendous
pain. White Owl came rushing back and took the newborn baby from
her arms and placed him in a small bed of fresh grasses and pelts.
She quickly looked Aiyana over and instinctively knew what was
wrong.


You must leave now,” she
said firmly to Caddo.


Why, what has happened?”
he asked frantically.


There is still another! I
must attend to her now!” White Owl exclaimed, pushing him out of
the hut. Aiyana’s pain was even more severe. She could barely
breathe as the pain shot through her body. She gasped for air and
held the old woman’s hand tightly. White Owl wiped the sweat from
Aiyana’s face and tried to calm her.


Easy, my child, easy,” she
said calmly. “I will stay with you. I will not leave your
side.”

The ordeal for Aiyana continued into the
night and her labor pains intensified with each passing hour. Caddo
remained outside in the damp light rain the entire night. White Owl
waited patiently at her side, trying to comfort Aiyana and attend
to her needs. She kept the fire alit and fresh water at her
bedside.

At first light, a light fog covered the
Sabine River valley. The rain clouds had dissipated as the faintest
of light could be seen over the eastern horizon. The cries of
Aiyana could be heard throughout the tribal village. Caddo stared
at the ground helplessly. He worried greatly about his wife and
wanted her pain to cease.

He gazed into the distance as the morning
sun warmed his face. Then, he noticed that he no longer heard the
cries of his laboring wife. Suddenly, he heard a low, faint cry
coming from the hut. He closed his eyes in relief. She had finally
delivered her second baby.

White Owl emerged from the hut, carrying an
empty water skin and wearily walked towards the river to refill
it.

Caddo grabbed her arm and she looked at him
with tired eyes. “She is alright?” he asked her. She nodded and
motioned for him to go inside.

Caddo ducked inside the hut slowly to see
his thoroughly exhausted wife asleep on the bed. In her arms was
another tiny baby, with dark brown eyes, who appeared to be wide
awake. He cooed softly, with light, faint cries. His head was
covered with thick dark hair that matched the color of his
father’s. Caddo knelt beside her. He brushed her hair away from her
forehead.


My lovely Aiyana. How
brave you are,” he said in a whisper. She opened her eyes slowly to
see him and then closed them again. “Rest now, my wife. I will not
leave your side.”

 

On the third day, the entire Caddo tribe
came together on the banks of the river to welcome the newborn
babies into their midst. It was tradition to name the newborn on
this day and welcome them into the tribe with ceremonial dancing. A
great feast was prepared and a large sacred fire was burning in the
center of the village.

Aiyana sat with her husband, holding her two
newborn sons. Caddo stood before the crowd and all became
quiet.

“The ‘great spirit’ has come upon our
village and blessed us with the arrival of not one, but two sons,”
he said, standing with a firm expression. “We welcome them to our
family with dancing amid the sacred smoke that will lift their
names to the realm of the ‘great spirit’. Let the names of my sons
now be spoken!”

Caddo reached down and Aiyana handed him the
first of their two sons. He held him in his arms and spoke, “My
son, since you came into this world as the sun set over our lands,
I shallcall you Nakahodot.”

He gave Nakahodot back to Aiyana and then
she handed him their second son. He held him close in his arms and
spoke, “My son, since you came into this world as the sun rose over
our lands, I shall call you Natchitos.”

Caddo sat next to his wife and the dancing
and singing began. He smiled at his wife and their twin sons. The
little ones watched the celebration with wide and fascinated
eyes.

 

As the years passed, Nakahodot and Natchitos
grew to be excellent young braves. Their father took pride in
teaching them the ways of the Caddo. He taught them to hunt and to
fish. Both became very skilled with the spear and the bow and
arrow. They learned to work in the fields and plant corn, beans and
tobacco. They learned how to use the native trees to construct
their homes and build canoes. They learned to fashion mud to the
walls of their homes. Caddo took pride in teaching both of his sons
the true ways of a young warrior.

Natchitos grew very fond of the river valley
where they lived. He loved to explore in the forests by the river.
He found a small hill that overlooked their village that provided a
view of the river. As he grew older, he would hike up the hill
early each morning to watch the sunrise. Aiyana would see him
sitting on the hillside staring out over the horizon each morning.
She would shake her head and smile and think that her second son
was indeed aptly named.

 

In the fifteenth year of their lives, both
young braves were given their father’s permission to seek wives to
marry. The tribe was close-knit, with a small collection of
families that lived amongst one another. So, they both already knew
the young squaws with whom they held favor.

Nakahodot came to the hut of Atohi, father
of Calanele. He sat with him at the fire and asked him for his
daughter’s hand in marriage. If Atohi should grant his permission,
on the third morning Nakahodot would find blessings outside his
door.

BOOK: Legend upon the Cane
13.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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