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Tahan
Chapter IV The Indian Woman as a Mother


THE Indian woman is a good mother.

She is alone when her child is born, and rarely does she let it out of her sight until it is able to care for itself. As she toils at her duties, her babe, in its pocket-cradle, swings from the friendly arm of a tree. She sings to it a heart-song, or hushes its fretfulness by calling its attention to the twittering birds, or the breath of the Spirit in the quivering leaves.

To the older little ones she chants her legends.

Often has my foster-mother led me into the Sleep-Land in the footsteps of some great hero of the past, the telling of whose wonderful deeds expressed the hopes of her mother-heart for me. And she had the mother-heart for me as well as for her own two boys and girl.

My foster-sister, Giawamahye (Kiowa-Girl), was an agreeable, diligent child. She responded well to her mother’s teaching.

The Indian woman is careful to guard her little girl from evil and to train her in virtue and modesty and industry.

My foster-brothers—Tsaeepahgo (One Horse) and Seeseh (Arrow-Head)—and I were not always as agreeable as Giawamahye. We children loved each other as well as do those of any well-regulated, civilised family, but we boys were as rough in our playing as little brother-bears. So there were frequent bites and scratches to call Mother’s attention to us. Her reproof was all that was needed to shame us into agreement.

Our parents were always kind to us. Indeed all Indian parents greatly loved their children, and they taught them to obey.

Obedience is the first law of the savage Indian. He believes it as vital to his existence as to that of animal creation. As the buffalo, the deer, the beaver and the turkey trained their young to obey, so did our parents train us.

For us to disobey meant a day shut up in the tepee alone, or sitting apart with no food when all the others ' were eating. Rarely, if ever, did a father or mother punish a child by whipping.

The nearest I ever came to getting a thrashing— which was, by no means, the nearest I ever came to needing one—was one day when Mother was pounding up some dried meat. She was sitting by the tepee door, not far from where I was playing. I decided it would be> fun to throw a handful of sand into the meat. I threw it. Mother had the fun. She grabbed me by the hair and gave it a vigorous jerk. I squalled.

Father looked reproachfully through the doorway. Mother, meeting his look, hung her head as though she had been caught in a crime. She softened at once, threw her arms around me, gave me a kiss, and sent me back to my play with a light heart.

Father—the big, strong warrior, known by his enemies as the relentless Zepkhoeete—was as loving and tender towards us as is any white civilised man towards his children. For hours at a time he would dandle little Giawamahye upon his knee, singing her a Sleep-song the while. And at times he would romp with us as though we were all young bears together.

We always had the greatest respect for our parents. To me my father was the greatest man that lived; my mother the best and wisest of women.

When we boys were able to take care of ourselves around the camp, we enjoyed a wide range of liberty. We went and came when we pleased, slept when we felt like it, ate when we were hungry. But night always found us at Mother’s tepee.


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