MANY MOONS AGO, before long trip in great metal bird across big lake to strange lands, this brave warrior get two wind canoe from white man in land of the Erie. No have squaw, no have papoose, so brave warrior must do squaw-work and labor in eating place of tepee. Brave warrior, name of No-Brains, not know what to do but him read word of white man and make wind canoe by lonesome — not know that it take two to tangle, white man say. Ughh . . . white man speak with forked tongue.
Brave warrior work alone, work hard, sweat much. Much blood from strange red thread binding canoe. Much finger stuck on strange sap of tree covering big cracks in canoe. Much pow-wow lost by work fit only for squaw. Much Ugh!
Sun chariot pass many times before wind canoe finished. But brave warrior not happy . . . much rain, much cold. Rain stop. Brave warrior take wind canoe from tepee and put on travois behind horse on wheels and seek water for wind canoe. Not find water, but find what white man call Po-to-mac River and decide to put wind canoe in anyway.
Before putting clean white wind canoe in dirty brown stuff brave warrior see Father of Winds work hard — much wind . . . wrinkle water. White man watch brave warrior. White man speak of “winds 20-25 miles per hour” — whatever that mean. Brave warrior work on canoe while on travois. Put up sticks to hold wind catcher and fasten thongs. Put on big red wind catcher; not want small one. Brave warrior alone. Build canoe for son of brother of brave warrior and must try first before son of brother.
Friend of brave warrior come. They pow-wow. Brave warrior ask friend if want to ride in new canoe, Friend have much sick with flu-bug and say “no”. Friend leaves. Brave warrior tie wind catcher to sticks and sticks in boat. Brave warrior fix more thongs and fasten to big hook that moves up and down. Raise canoe from travois and move over and down to put wind canoe in white man’s “water”. Great Spirit help brave warrior and wind canoe not dissolve. Wind canoe sit on top of water like duck — not leak. Brave warrior proud! Much happy!!
Brave warrior move canoe out on dock and tie to pole of iron. Brave warrior get in canoe in white man’s waler for first time. Canoe not sink. Brase warrior happy.
Brave warrior heavy like two sacks of flour — built same — and notice wind canoe waddle side to side until edge almost under water. Not-so-brave warrior wonder ‘bout that! Move with great care. Now he start to untie sticks. Evil spirits work against brave warrior and must make him move fast . . . wrong way . . . he not know. Canoe tip, brave warrior go over backwards into water — canoe must like brave warrior for it follow.
Brave warrior think one word — not proper for little papooses to hear — and think “water cold." See pass before eyes brown-green stuff which he now in not on. Brave warrior pull self to dock and up. He stand there — one unhappy Illini. Him wet! Him ALL wet!!
Him pull canoe and put topside up. Brave warrior so wet. Him wear sweater of hair of sheep — it drip. Him wear leggings of hair from machine - it drip. Him one big drip! ! Him now have name of “Wet Wash.” Him stand in moccasins full of water and make funny sounds when walk, He go to white man’s lodge where white man sit and drink and eat and watch pictures that move in small box and where white man speak with forked tongue of their canoes and what they call “sailing.” But brave warrior see only water there is brown, hot, and white man drink it.
One white man speak — his tongue is sharp and carries many forks. Him say. "Already?” . . . And you wonder why Indian light white man???
Brave warrior draw himself to full height of 2 measure sticks and with great dignity say, "I not leave dock yet” . . . leaving white man to ponder this!
Brave warrior go to room with mans small metal rooms White man odd . . . rooms too small for him, too small for buffalo robes - only big enough for breech clout . . and it too cold for that! Brave warrior remove moccasins, legging, and sweater and squeeze out water and put back on then him leave and go back to his canoe. He walk with dignity - but leave a wet trail and his sweater of hair of sheep now has arms long ‘nuff so he not need gloves.
Now he remember what he left back at tepee. Pail and sponge! But him find can and get out most of water. Brave warrior put on jacket that keep wind out . . . get in canoe . . . untie from iron post . . . raise big red wind catcher . . . and leave dock. Him now “sailor.” Canoe smallest of those on water — same many as fingers on hand. Canoe move swiftly - no one catch brave warrior — no one get away — we even . . . make Indian victory!
Wrinkled water wham-wham (AH say, wham, wham) against bottom of canoe. Spray fly. Canoe tips . . . brave warrior lean other way — FAST! Edge almost under — brave warrior lean even more, tight-lipped and open-eyed in terror. (Editor’s note: Potomac River sailors are detectable by their tightly closed lips — to keep out the pollution. And who ever heard of anyone being “close-eyed” in terror?) What brave warrior do?
Missionary tell brave warrior to pass beads through fingers and speak to Great White Father. But brave warrior not have beads and, besides, too busy with wind catcher and guide stick. Not want to let go string to wind catcher — if this happen, stick at bottom of wind catcher hit water and canoe go over. Brave warrior already been in — no want more. Brave warrior think heavy and pray to Father of Winds. Not brave warrior’s day . . . both thought and prayer work. Canoe straightens and Father of Winds catch breath. Canoe starts to go other way as Father of Winds inhales — brave warrior goes to other side of canoe as wind catcher stick comes his way. Bad timing . . . Indian lose, stick win. Now “Bump-on-Head” moving fast. Him wet, but not cold — him have much fun. Brave warrior stay out for almost two of white man’s hours and returns. Him put cover back on canoe, canoe on travois,
and sticks in canoe.
Many white men ask about canoe. Compliment brave warrior about good looks — of canoe —- not brave warrior. Many have heard tales of this white man’s canoe, but few have seen. White men not all bad!
Brave warrior think of all this and of lightness of canoe and of his weight of two flour sacks and ease of waddle from side to side like duck of his canoe and him have name for his canoe . . It Tippecanoe.
from Marvin Wallis, M 30000
Editor's note - This article is from Reflections No. 11 Autumn 1973, page 8 & 9 and has been captured by OCR, so typos & errors are possible.