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The People | Kestrel's Aerie

The People | Kestrel's Aerie

The People

The Eldest woke before the sun, as always. He made his way down the sturdy wooden ladder to the valley floor and walked slowly to the river. Yesterday’s trickle, as he had feared, was no greater this morning. Just six seasons ago, the river had almost filled the valley. Floods had threatened the cliff dwellings themselves during the rainy season then.
In the spring just past, however, the river had flowed briefly when the winter snows retreated, but during the last four full moons, the flow had steadily decreased. The snows had not been as deep, and the summer was hotter than any the Eldest could recall.
A step behind him made him turn. His mate smiled at him, then looked at the tiny rivulet that had once been a mighty river. “So it is done, then.” Not a question, just a statement confirming what they had long feared.
“The shaman will dance and pray, but no rains will come. The world has changed, and Manitou has turned his eyes away from the People. Our sons have gone to the four winds, searching for a new home. Three have returned with nothing; our eldest has, I fear, perished. I will meet with the other Elders in the sweat lodge…but for what purpose?”
As he spoke, the other Elders made their way down to the river. They knew it was only a matter of days before the mud would be dried and cracked. The limited supplies of water the tribe had stored might last through the coming winter, perhaps a bit more.
The Eldest started to speak again, but was interrupted by a cry from above the cliffs. “Aiyeee-ai-ai-ai-ai-eee!” He looked to his mate, hope lighting a spark in his eyes. Several voices repeated the cry, and it reverberated against the opposite wall of the canyon. “AIYEEEE-AI-AI-AI-AI-EEE!”
The Eldest repeated the call, and it was echoed by those around him. As he looked up, he saw four men making their way down the northern cliff, calling out to friends and relatives as they descended.
As they reached the valley floor, they ran to the group of Elders, hands raised high, clapping, calling out greetings and exultations. When at last they reached the small group at the river’s edge, their leader looked at the dwindling flow, frowned slightly, then turned to the Eldest, his father.
“Honored Eldest, beloved Father. Mother, fairest of the flowers that once filled our valley. Honored Elders. I am Ar’pa’haho, eldest son of the Eldest of The People,” he stated in the formal manner of his tribe. But his words were rushed, his smile large.
“My companions and I traveled in the direction of the north star, as you bade us five moons ago. We have seen beauty beyond words in flowing rivers, the greenest meadows, mountains that threaten the sky for dominance. We have found game aplenty, roots that sustained us when the latest snows of winter hid any game from us. And rivers that flooded their banks when the mountains shrugged off their snowy mantles, but ran swift and full even in the heat of the summer.
“Manitou has shown us a new home, not in the cliffs, but among the trees and flowers and grasses of his home. The People are saved, thanks be to Manitou’s grace and mercy.”
The group retired to the meeting circle, where Ar’pa’haho and his mates recounted their travels and the wonders they had seen. When the sun reached its zenith, the Elders met in their kiva. There was no debate: The People would travel north to new lands. The only question was when to begin their trek.
The Eldest held up his hand, and the room grew quiet. “Manitou has given us new lands to call our own. He will also give us a sign to tell us when to begin our trek. Until then, we must begin our preparations to leave these cliffs.”
At that moment, a golden aspen leaf drifted down to the center of the circle around which the Elders were seated. The Eldest looked at each of the other men. “Manitou has given us a sign. The aspen has dropped its first leaf in preparation for the coming winter. So, too, shall we take this time to prepare, both for winter, and for our coming journey. When the first green leaf appears again on the aspen, then shall the People move.”
The other Elders nodded their agreement. “Our Eldest has again shown his wisdom, and has shown us that Manitou still smiles on the People through him,” stated the shaman.
– – –
Throughout the fall and winter, the cliff dwellers prepared for the trek north. And when the first green leaves appeared on the aspens, they were ready.
They made their way up out of the valley, and headed to the north. Ar’pa’haho led the way, his companions of the previous year close by. Following him were his father and mother, then the shaman, the other Elders, and the rest of the tribe.
On the fifth day after they emerged from the cliffs, the Eldest suddenly cried out, clutched his chest, and collapsed to the ground in pain. As the others gathered around him, there was peace in his eyes as he spoke to his only remaining son. “My time is done…Manitou calls me to his side. You are chieftain of The People now. Lead them well, my son.” With a final groan and a sigh, he was gone.
– – –
After seven hands of days , the People of Ar’pa’haho found their new home. Ar’pa’haho was a strong and fair chief, and his feats in battle against other tribes were memorialized in story, song, and dance. Forever, the Arapaho would be known as a strong and fearless People.
3 Conversations about The People
  1. Mazil
    July 12, 2010 | 21:14

    I read, and I enjoyed. You have a very nice story telling style :)
    Mazil´s latest blog post is 2 Minute Musing- Creative EndeavoursMy ComLuv Profile

    • Kestrel
      July 12, 2010 | 21:57

         Twitter: Thanks! It’s that kind of encouragement that just might prompt me to write more. :) Have really not been “feeling it” lately, and can’t really figure out why. But I have some other friends telling me “just do it” so maybe it’s time to focus again.

      Not really feeling blocked…more like, just not interested in writing. But perhaps one is disguising the other.