As soon as manhood is attained, the young Indian
must secure his "charm," or "medicine."
After a sweat-bath, he retires to some lonely spot,
and there, for four days and nights, if necessary,
he remains in solitude.
During this time he eats nothing; drinks nothing;
but spends his time invoking the Great Mystery for
the boon of a long life.
In this state of mind, he at last sleeps, perhaps dreams.
If a dream does not come to him, he abandons the task for a time,
and later on will take another sweatbath and try again.
Sometimes dangerous cliffs, or other equally uncomfortable places,
are selected for dreaming, because the surrounding terrors impress
themselves upon the mind, and even in slumber add to the vividness of dreams.
At last the dream comes, and in it some bird or animal appears as a helper to
the dreamer, in trouble. Then he seeks that bird or animal; kills a specimen;
and if a bird, he stuffs its skin with moss and forever keeps it near him.
If an animal, instead of a bird, appears in the dream, the Indian takes his
hide, claws, or teeth; and throughout his life never leaves it behind him,
unless in another dream a greater charm is offered. If this happens,
he discards the old "medicine" for the new; but such cases are rare.
Sometimes the Indian will deck his "medicine-bundle" with fanciful trinkets
and quill-work. At other times the "bundle" is kept forever out of the sight
of all uninterested persons, and is altogether unadorned. But "medicine" is
necessary; without it, the Indian is afraid of his shadow.
An old chief, who had been in many battles, once told me his great dream,
withholding the name of the animal or bird that appeared therein and became
his "medicine." He said that when he was a boy of twelve years, his father,
who was chief of his tribe, told him that it was time that he tried to dream.
After his sweat-bath, the boy followed his father without speaking, because
the postulant must not converse or associate with other humans between the
taking of the bath and the finished attempt to dream. On and on into the dark
forest the father led, followed by the naked boy, till at last the father
stopped on a high hill, at the foot of a giant pine-tree.
By signs the father told the boy to climb the tree and to get into an eagle's
nest that was on the topmost boughs. Then the old man went away, in order that
the boy might reach the nest without coming too close to his human conductor.
Obediently the boy climbed the tree and sat upon the eagle's nest on the top.
"I could see very far from that nest," he told me. "The day was warm and I
hoped to dream that night, but the wind rocked the tree top, and the
darkness made me so much afraid that I did not sleep.
"On the fourth night there came a terrible thunder-storm, with lightning and
much wind. The great pine groaned and shook until I was sure it must fall.
All about it, equally strong trees went down with loud crashings,
and in the dark there were many awful sounds - sounds that I sometimes hear
yet. Rain came, and I grew cold and more afraid. I had eaten nothing,
of course, and I was weak -- so weak and tired, that at last I slept,
in the nest. I dreamed; yes, it was a wonderful dream that came to me,
and it has most all come to pass. Part is yet to come. But come it surely will.
"First I saw my own people in three wars. Then I saw the Buffalo disappear
in a hole in the ground, followed by many of my people. Then I saw the whole
world at war, and many flags of white men were in this land of ours.
It was a terrible war, and the fighting and the blood made me sick in my
dream. Then, last of all, I saw a 'person' coming - coming across what
seemed the plains. There were deep shadows all about him as he approached.
This 'person' kept beckoning me to come to him, and at last I did go to him.
"'Do you know who I am,' he asked me.
"'No, "person," I do not know you. Who are you, and where is your country?'
"'If you will listen to me, boy, you shall be a great chief and your people
shall love you. If you do not listen, then I shall turn against you.
My name is "Reason."'
"As the 'person' spoke this last, he struck the ground with a stick he
carried, and the blow set the grass afire. I have always tried to know that
'person.' I think I know him wherever he may be, and in any camp.
He has helped me all my life, and I shall never turn against him - never."