|Chapter 13: Indians
There were many Indians in this country. One party came clear to the ridge where I was, allegedly to gather blueberries. Why they should travel 100 miles after them, I do not know. The party mentioned was of women and children, who had started out with grub for about a week. They had been there three weeks when I first saw them. The boys would pick the meats out of pine seeds, roots, etc. They could throw a stone very straight, and hit many a marmot. These little animals were much like grey squirrels, but lived in the ground like woodchucks. They sat by the holes in which they lived, and ducked into them very quickly. As they lived on a vegetable diet, they were excellent eating. They must be taken, however, without breaking their intestines, as they would then become bitter. They chirped a sharp note, like a bird. I shot many with my .45, with the shells only partly loaded with lead and powder.
The father of the above family then came up with his rifle and I heard no more about hunger. He told me some Indian yarns about old customs and tradition. One was about how an Indian boy must live alone for a week on the mountain without food or water. I wonder if this so-called blueberry expedition were not instead some sort of test for the boys, who were about ten or twelve -- the age when they are so left.
The Indians -- men and women -- wear their hair in long braids. The old Indian shown with the showman [left] was a cattle owner and very well-to-do. The Indians, while crude in their customs, were very intelligent, dignified, and had a very definite civilization of their own. Their self-respect is very jealously maintained, and I liked the ones I met.
I just ran across [my notes regarding?] a story told by the old Indian about my lookout point -- Coolwater. His words were about as follows:
"Indian boys, 10 years old, come Coolwater Mt. Must stay 10 days on mountain top on little bed, too short, so feet hang off. Parents bring them and come after them, but they must stay without food -- only water from spring. A little animal comes to them sitting up on its hind legs like a ground squirrel (marmot) and sings the boy a song, and inspires him with the spirit of bravery. The boy then goes down to his father who is waiting 2 miles away, and falls exhausted into his father's arms. His father takes him to the medicine man, who makes him well. Then he brave and dance and sing song the spirit animal taught him while fasting on Coolwater. Some real pretty songs, too."
By way of comment, I may say that on that mountain top I learned to think things I never would have given thought to in civilization. There is something about a mountain top which is cheerful, inspiring, friendly and soul-satisfying. The Indians considered that it was a grand preparation for a boy of 10 years to go where he could coordinate his thoughts, his reverence for the Great Spirit, and get a perspective of life as he had seen it, and its relation to the God that made him. It is a matter of note that Indian children do not quarrel. Might not this custom be applied to some of us city folks? Christ did just this to himself for the same purpose. The Indians should send us missionaries and help us to get down to fundamentals. I believe they have things of value that they have discovered that we should not be allowed to destroy or pooh pooh. I believe that these Western Indians were of unusually high grade.
While the old Indian did not say so definitely, it is my belief that the above was the purpose of the Indians' 100-mile pilgrimage to Coolwater Mt., allegedly to pick blueberries. They were there just about 10 days, the boys were 10 years old, about, and I saw no more of them.
There were other yarns, but they were merely flights of imagination. The above was their confirmation ceremony.