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Poweshiek Part 10:  Personal Diplomacy
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How Poweshiek Became a Chief
The way things were
Poweshiek has some fun
Poweshiek outwits the paymaster
Poweshiek meets the missionary
Ross can come home now
Dancing during an eviction
Poweshiek's Friends intervene
Personal Diplomacy

From Wigwam and Warpath by H. B. Meachum

“In 1846 Pow-e-shiek came with his band to visit his old home.  We were ‘early settlers’ then, and had built our cabins on the sloping sides of a bluff overlooking the valley below.  From this outpost we descried the bands of piebald ponies and then the curling smoke, and next the poles of his wik-e-ups (houses); and soon we saw Pow-e-shiek coming to make known his wish that he might be permitted to pasture his stock on the fields which we had already robbed of corn.  The recognition in me of one who had assisted in removing his people seemed to surprise and please him, and for a moment his eye lit up as if some fond reality of the past had revived the friendship that had grown out of my sympathy for him in his dark hour of departure from his home.  And when I said, ‘This is my father and my mother, these my sisters and my brothers, and this place is our home,’ he gave to the welcoming hands a friendly grasp in evidence of his good intentions, and then assured us that no trouble on his part should grow out of his coming, and that, if his young men should do any dishonest acts, he would punish them; that he had come back to spend the winter once again near his haunts of olden times, perhaps to kill the deer that he thought white men did not care about since they had so many cattle and swine.  We accepted his assurance, and believed him to be just what he pretended,--a quiet, honest old chief, who would do as he agreed, nor seek excuse for not doing so.

The dinner hour had passed, but such as we had my mother set before him, and he did not fail to do full justice to everything upon the table.  He made sure that his pappooses should complete what he began by making a clean sweep into one corner of his blanket to bear it to his lodge.  After dinner he drew out his pipe, and filling it with Kin-ni-ki-nick (tobacco), and lighting it with a coal of fire, he first sought to propitiate the Great Spirit by offering up to him the first puff of smoke; next the devil, by blowing the smoke downward, and saved the third for himself; and after that he offered to the fourth person on his calendar, my father, the privilege of expressing his approval.  But, as he was not a smoker himself, he passed the pipe to his oldest son, intimating his desire that he should be represented by proxy.  I, willing to do his bidding, in friendship for our guest, it may be, or perhaps from other personal motives, soon reduced the Kin-ni-ki-nick to ashes and handed back the empty pipe to Pow-e-shiek.  I knew not that I had transgressed the rules of politeness until afterwards, when I offered a pipe to our strange-mannered guest,  he, with dignity, drew a puff or two and then passed it back, with an expression of countenance which declared unmistakably that it was meant for reproof.

If I felt resentment for a moment that a savage should presume to teach me manners, I do not feel that I was the only one who might be greatly benefited by taking lessons of unsophisticated men and women of other than white blood; not alone in simple politeness, but also in regard to right and justice, whose flags of truce are never raised ostensibly to insure protection, but really to intimidate the weak and defenseless, who dared to stand up for the God-given rights to home and country.

Pow-e-shiek made preparations to return to his lodge, and we, boy-like, followed him out of the cabin door, and while he was saying good-by he espied a fine large dog that we had, named Van, though the name did not indicate our politics.  Pow-e-shiek proposed to trade a pony for ‘old Van,’ and we were pleased at first because we thought the pony would do to ride after the ‘breaking team” of dewy mornings in the spring.  But when we learned that ‘Van’ was wanted by the chief to furnish the most substantial part of a feast for his people, we demurred.  ‘Old Van’ too, seemed to understand the base use to which he was to be put, and reproached us with sullen side-looks; and the trade was abandoned, and would have been forgotten only that Van was ever afterward maddened at the site of Pow-e-shiek or any of his race.

The winter passed, and our red neighbors had kept their promise, for although neither the granary nor any other buildings was ever locked, nothing had been missed, and our mutual regard seemed stronger than when the acquaintance was renewed.  When spring had fully come, Pow-e-shiek, punctual to his promise, broke up camp and went away.

Occasionally, for years afterwards, his people came back to visit; but he no more.


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