Hunters & Hearts By James Iverson & John Iverson Research by S. Moyer Iverson The adventures of legendary University of Minnesota and Chicago Blackhawk Hockey Coach, Emil Iverson, an Ojibwa Shaman named Two Rivers, and their Raven Spirit Guide.
A Wild Wolf Publication
Published by Wild Wolf Publishing in 2010 Copyright ÂŠ 2010 James & John Iverson All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publishers, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed by a newspaper, magazine or journal. First print The characters and events of this work are based on documented fact, but some elements have been dramatized for entertainment purposes.
In memory of
“The Chief of Big Waters.” And
The Lost Tribe Revision assistance Philippe Farcy
Table of Contents Authors Bio and Story Introduction – Listening to Spirits Foreword – Butterflies and Blood 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35.
Turning Of Leaves Sun and Moon Born Into The Wild Stories At The Fire Flights Over Forests Lessons For Life Far From Dead Lessons In Cruelty Violence at the Jackfish Mine Dragonflies Below the Ice Massasauga and Visions A Promise of Revenge Maddodouswan Ceremony Grinning Fox and the Thunderbird Divining The Bones Treaty Three Alpha and Omega – Teeth and Claws Black Eagle Conjures Evil Death Rites Shadows And Spells Serpents and Sorcerers Rocks and Trees The Knowns The Terrible Predator New Century In Winton Tragedy At Kawa Bay The Last Hope Skeleton Island Isolation Butch Jackson and the Knuckle Nap Emil Iverson – Renaissance Man Vikings and Berserkers The Iverson Expedition and River Rodeos Two Rivers Departs
Epilogue Acknowledgements 5
Authors Bio John is a practicing Taoist that values knowledge and experience over anything material. His passion to explore began as a Recon Marine while stationed abroad in Africa, South America and Asia. He is a former bodyguard, no holds barred fighter and currently an expert in the ancient Greek art of Pankration. He continually strives to balance his extreme physical nature with a more cultural and spiritual side. By borrowing from the philosophy of the samurai warrior – Myamoto Mysashi, he strives to be true to the way of the poet/warrior “pen and sword in accord.” He also holds close to the ideals of his ancestors so as to someday become an equally dedicated environmentalist. James is a father of three and an avid fossil collector who teaches his children the value of staying close to the earth. His background research of Ojibwa history and that of the early European settlers that trapped the waterways delineating the Canadian border was instrumental in producing an accurate book. Both John and Jim are ready for any opportunity to hit the open road and discover exciting things in America’s backcountry as well as finding out new things about themselves. They are currently working on completing their second book about the darker side of adventure seeking called “Gutting the Monkey.”
The museum located at the Bois Forte Ojibwa Reservation. Much of the research for this novel was carried out at the museum. Photo inserted by permission of Rose Berens, Museum Director and Drumkeeper.
Introduction Sept, 2009 â€“ The Leaves Changing Color Moon The Iverson clan has searched the world for adventure, and to collect interesting stories. Their walk-about took them through forest trails, traversed tall pines, crossed over surging streams, and took them atop steep cliffs. Regardless of the terrain, the view was always good, as the landscape was far removed from cities. The journey went full circle before it was completed, thereby, granting a short reprieve to the wanderlust, which had begun at a point deep within their family history. The journey eventually took them to a generational exploration from the past; a story about their grandfather, Emil Iverson and his relationship with an Ojibwa Shaman named Two Rivers and his vanishing civilization. The brotherhood; that grew between Native and White blood, was culminated in an expedition to the long deserted (some said haunted) Ojibwa village. This novel is the account of their quest to return to the village, bury the dead and bring peace to the restless 9
spirits caught between two worlds Both men came from different cultures, each having to struggle in a separate, yet in some respects, similar way - just to adjust to a changing world. One lost his village to disease and to the unrelenting invasion of white civilization. The other lost his land and possessions as a result of the great depression. They were both great adventure seekers, and despite initial suspicions, eventually became even greater friends. As my brother Jim and I began the process of studying Ojibwa history, our research took us many times to the Ojibwa Heritage Museum, located on the Bois Forte Annishinabe Reservation. On my last visit I had the pleasure of speaking with their executive director and Drumkeeper – Rose Berens. During our conversations we discussed many things, but one thing in particular struck a chord with me. I asked her, "what would be the best way to tell an accurate story – partly about the Ojibwa people, without offending them?" The Drumkeeper (Rose) answered in this way, "The thing that angers the Ojibwa people the most is when whites do silly things like: running sweat lodges, claiming to be healers, professing to be a descendant of an Indian Princess, or speaking for the Native people." So, in case it is not clear enough, I am not an Indian Princess, nor do I claim to possess magical remedies. That having been said, there are several occasions throughout the book where I must refer to Ojibwa culture, history, and their relationship with the Spirit World. Many of the ideas expressed will be conveyed thru my own sense of the world. This cannot be helped; however, throughout the story the underlying principle will be to honour both men. I have found that the method of communication Spirits use when speaking to the material world can only be defined by those perceptive enough to hear their voices. As a 21st century man of European descent, I cannot claim to hear the spirits of Fire and Rock, in the same manner as the Ojibwa people. Earth’s dialect takes many forms because it has an unparalleled vocabulary that is unique to its age. Since the Earth uses a voice that began at life's inception, it has earned the right to choose one of the many different methods of speaking. In the same regard, the Spirits have 10
learned over the eons to select the tongue which best serves the recipient of the messages. I recognize the language of the Spirits in the lexicon of the modern world. Although the message may be deciphered differently, distinction of definition is only found in the translation, not in the intent. The basic message I hear remains the same. Much as it was with those who came before me, I listen for the whispers in the wind, and seek to experience premonitions from animal guides, to ease my way into the realm of dreams and visions. Some of the best visions were granted by a clan of crows, a few seagulls, and the occasional raven that I fed during my morning runs. Together we made a bargain; which oddly enough, may have been spoken from lips, but was answered by beaks. My avian friends assured me that in exchange for breadcrumbs they would provide inspiration and more importantly keep the ongoing creative revisions honest. My brother Jim received his guidance from an ancient Ojibwa Ceremonial Drum, which had been passed down from generation to generation. As he too became a Drumkeeper he also became the keeper of our grandfather's adventures with the Ojibwa people. Without James research there would be no novel. The voices we received (before and after completion of the novel) gave us the necessary inspiration to create a deeper story. I freely admit that we live in a cult of personality mired in a quagmire of ego. So, I cannot help but attach certain characteristics and scientific thought to what might have been perceived by the Ojibwa people in a more pure and primal way. Nonetheless, much like my father and my grandfather before him, my family is able to hear spirits. We have spent the majority of our lives following in my Grandfathers footsteps and much as he did we have often found ourselves exploring barren deserts, parting dense undergrowth, clinging to vines, and shading eyes from unrelenting desert sun. I believe the Trees and Rocks still have many stories they wish to share…if only one is able to open their mind. “Just stay away from the brown acid” – (Woodstock quote) In conclusion … maybe it was James and I who managed to put the following words and thoughts to paper. But the real authors are: The Ojibwa People, Emil Iverson, Woodland Spirits, Crows, 11
Ravens, Rattlesnakes and most importantly a Ceremonial Drum that had been handed down from several generations by my ancestors. John for James and S. Moyer Iverson
Foreword – Butterflies and Blood 1653 – Two Centuries before our story begins – During the Frog Moon Orange and black Viceroy Butterflies fluttered in languid figure eights above a dry creek bed. Each fragile insect was kept aloft by surges of warm air rising off cracked mud. The upwelling created a miniature thermo cline. The fragile creatures waited for the right opportunity and then one by one dropped purposefully to the ground. Attracted to the salt and mineral deposits, thread-thin rust colored tongues unrolled, licking up the residue. The temporal life of beauty was often short-lived, often interrupted by chaos, in order to balance the scales dividing light from dark. The best example is the dew soaked silk strands of a garden spider’s web. Each web will eventually fall from geometric perfection, dissolving slowly into a few unorganized sticky lines, knotted with insect carcasses. This is the way of entropy. The brightly coloured butterflies departed and were replaced by the “Fog of War”, as smoke from an Iroquois encampment rode a tailwind, mixed with the fog, and merged with a volley of screams and arrows. The temporary camp had been burned to the ground by a band of Ojibwa warriors before the main battle (that currently raged) began. “Fog of War” is a worrisome enough term; however, what was transpiring on the once peaceful countryside was much worse, becoming dangerous to both Forest Trees and Upright Warriors alike. “Their fire might burn the bark from our bodies,” The Trees voiced in unison as they drew in their branches close to their trunk in order to protect their grainy brown limbs. The Wind blew through, leaving words in the gusty wake for the Sun to hear, the meaning to haunt and hover over the Uprights, “Shroud of Pain and Panic” The tailwind also carried with it a very strange aroma; a stench so unique, that only someone who fought in horrible battles 13
– such as the one between the Iroquois and Ojibwa, would recognize. It was a one-of-a-kind smell, revolting, and yet pleasing at the same time. The scent could never be manufactured outside of the theatre of war or even mildly imitated. When inhaled; it smelled of flower pollen, pine trees, gunpowder, timber smoke, and open chest cavities. The six Ojibwa braves - that had put the Iroquois camp to flames, had been able to do so by circling behind the staging area for the Iroquois invasion. The Ojibwa party stole the enemy’s food stores and destroyed their shelter, thereby taking away a fall back position for the Iroquois. The Iroquois normally moved very light, but this time they moved differently, crossing so far into Ojibwa territory that a large series of camps was necessary along the way. Having to pack so many supplies made the Iroquois war party stand out against the landscape and equally easy to track. The Ojibwa Chiefs took advantage of the mistake made by their enemy. The Iroquois band had foolishly sacrificed speed for the relief of supplies; now they would pay the price for treading so heavy. Tired from the long trek and weighted down to a point that made manoeuvring difficult, the Iroquois were unable to fend off the Ojibwa relentless onslaught of “hit fast and disappear faster” type raids. But outflanking and outfighting the Iroquois warriors was no guarantee of victory. All Ojibwa men had been told during the pre-war council that this was a nation that had previously been responsible for the defeat and subsequent downfall of the Erie and Huron civilizations. “The Iroquois are part of a mighty confederacy of five nations; including the Seneca, Mohawk, Onondaga, Cayuga and the Oneida. They have boasted to the French that they are going to take Ojibwa land and furs…and our wigwams will fall like teepees in a windstorm.” “That challenge to our way of life, we will never allow to happen.” Winter Fox, an Ojibwa Chief, told his men before the fight began. Each war party, met the other as one large mass of warriors. But as soon as the fight started it was “every man for himself’” because each warrior preferred to seek out a lone enemy and engage in single combat. They initially moved within the relative protection that large numbers provided. But when things turned nasty, every man paired off with another single combatant so as to make the 14
first cut or slash. This was the one thing the two opposing forces had in common, as both sides had almost the same philosophy when it came to killing. Each tribal battle plan was emphasized by one key idea – “the highest honour is obtained only by killing another man, without the aid of your tribe.” So, as Two Rivers watched the valley, men separated into pairs, knife to knife, hatchet to hatchet, and for the unfortunate ones lacking modern weaponry … Musket to Knife. A mile away on the front lines, an Iroquois warrior – named Big Bear, was caught in a struggle of life and death. Big Bear was tall, even by “Goliath” standards of measurement. He stood high above the headtops of all the other warriors engaged in the fray, for the same reason that his height and girth made him extremely easy to spot, it also made him equally dangerous in combat. He had tribal tattoos, several piercings, and a traditional high-off-the-scalp Mohawk hairstyle fused with tufts of dyed deer mane that made him appear even taller. Legend had it that Big Bear had experienced many close quarter fights, for it was a certainty that his large stature often made him the first target. It was spoken around many fires; that due to his size, Bear Bear was the most honorable kill, so over time the amount of close quarter fights he endured had produced a very skilled warrior. Many Moons ago the Ojibwa elders had told the younger warriors, "Even the French Traders are scared of Big Bear. The Traders told us that no matter what type of encounter Big Bear takes part in, the giant still refuses to smile – even among his friends. This was not due to the fact that he was given to bouts of depression, or that he had a morose continence, not at all, it was however because a mouthful of broken teeth tends to make people keep their lips sealed, so as not to display ragged choppers. As chipped and cracked as his teeth were they did not really hinder his speech patterns. He was never in the habit of taking part in mutual discussions anyway. The Traders would go on to say … "There is no such thing as a fair exchange with Big Bear … the giant will always be better at using accusations over conversations." Big Bear pondered the multitude of past battles he had experienced, hoping to come up with a reliable course of action. He reached back into his memory, sifting thru thoughts, and scanned the previous times that his wits had saved himself from certain 15
death. He then came to an abrupt realization. “We are unprepared for the Ojibwa onslaught. We have underestimated their numbers and their fighting ability!” He yelled the words as another loose incisor left his gums and dropped to the ground. The realization that the Iroquois advantage was falling apart came much too late to arrive at a solution. The Forest Trees swayed in the breeze. However, the to and fro movement of branches, expressed no remorse for the Iroquois or Big Bear. "Death of Breathers and Flesh-Barks in dreams and in life means nothing to the Forest.” The Trees informed their sprouting seeds. Seeds caught in a struggle of their own to selfishly rise above their brethren to grab as much sunlight as possible. Big Bear was scrutinizing the channel cut into the earth by the once healthy river. He found a shrunken depression containing a slushy mixture of dirt, mosquito larva, and green-brown water. Big Bear scooped up a large handful of muck, which he proceeded to rub on his exposed arms and face, vowing that his skin would become as dark as his pillaging intentions. The mud on his skin prevented reflections being cast, so he felt no longer exposed to the gaze of his enemy. Feeling safe, he slid into the thicket of cattails, ferns, and ivy, and disappeared. He prayed to the spirits that he might live another day to fight. Sweat mixed with the mud-mask, streaked down his face, got into his eyes, and finally gave him the appearance of a waxy Ghost Dance Disguise. "Frightful yes, functional no!" A large Oak Tree surmised to a tilted Pine. From within his hiding place, Big Bear fought the urge to swat at the hundreds of no-see-ums that flew into his nostrils, or when convenient, crawled past the corner of his mouth and thru the gaps in his teeth. Peering out from his concealment, he saw the battle had shifted in favour of the Ojibwa fighting element. In fact, things looked so dyer; it appeared that all might be lost. All around him, the remnants of his Iroquois raiding party was being chased and killed by Ojibwa warriors. The hunter had become the hunted. The entire band of Iroquois warriors was undoubtedly tired way beyond the chance of recovery. The entire warparty lacked sufficient energy reserves to fuel a renewed attack, so they were easily overtaken and beaten into submission. Tendons were sliced, 16
organs pierced, and bones shattered. Sweat puddles turned to blood pools "It sounds bad enough, but it is much worse than it sounds,” The Wind said to the Trees, as it blew through on the way to influence a strong gale beginning to form off Lake Superior. Big Bear knew he was not going to find a way out of this predicament and would probably be the next to die. Big Bear was unable to determine where the arrow came from, but he knew where the flight ended – in his neck, just above his clavicle and just below his agony threshold. Big Bear fell to his knees and placed both hands over the wound to slow the bleeding. There were arrows and spears stuck in the ground all around him. Proving the lesson taught to all warriors (yet innocent of battle) that being a foot taller than all the other Iroquois warriors attracted more than your fair share of sharp objects to your position. A sputtering string of high-pitched moans burst forth from Big Bear's throat. It was not the sound of a coward turning his back on his clan. No … it was the last moan pushed from the bottom of a warrior’s soul. Hurt but not ready to retreat, Big Bear gave “teeth to tail” and found fight in a wretched heart. “I refuse to go without giving injury and pain to my enemy,” he bellowed – sounding more wounded beast then human. The huge warrior grinned at a lone butterfly. The giant man was obviously recording the orange and black tints in his mind. This made perfect sense, at least to the Trees, because no creature wants battle scarlet and trauma red to be his final sunset. Butterfly orange was much better to usher in the Spirit world. “Last picture a beautiful one to take to the grave,” Big Bear said under increasingly shallow breath. The sight of the butterflies appeared to give him new hope, enabling him to get back to his feet a braver, if not a more energetic, changed man. Since he had a peaceful image recorded for his death walk, Big Bear felt resolved and mentally rewarded, so he gathered his renewed vigour for one more great and violent test. Big Bear prepared to release the internal berserker that every warrior kept in the reptilian part of his brain. 17
All warriors knew the secret section of gray matter where the merciless genie of the most terrible violence lived, and all knew intuitively that they could call upon this entity (who craved conflict) to refill empty lungs, and pump blood through collapsing veins, and thereby extend the battle. As Big Bear become close to the end, he also came close to the primitive brute festering deep at his core. “Hiding in a thicket is no way to die,” he told the Sky. "Hiding is never the way for anything,” the Sky reflected. And so, after inhaling deeply, Big Bear stepped out into the open, made ready to die in combat, with weapon in hand, and limitless fury in heart. It was not a feeling that was to last. Another arrow pierced Big Bear's beaded shirt and imbedded deep in his liver – a death blow. Even though he had decided to stand his ground he failed to stop the retreat of his own strength. “Too much pain and too large a task to endure,” Big Bear said as he fought the urge to admit defeat. Amazingly, Big Bear still refused to let his broken and injured body quit. He took a deep breath and tried to pull the second shaft out. As designed, the shaft shattered at the business end, leaving the obsidian point in the organ. Even if he had lived on to fight another day, the gash would most likely have turned septic, and killed him. Big Bear was running out of ways to survive the battle. He did not waste any more time trying to pull out the arrow. He was certain he was a mere mayfly’s wing beat from becoming a dead brave. “So what difference does it make if I die with an arrow in me or not?” Big Bear said. Winter Fox ran to get close and (once and for all) finish Big Bear. Winter Fox was in his own right also a man to be feared. He was a famous leader of the Ojibwa people, and had led many attacks, often times acting as a key antagonist in many of the most bitter conflicts. Winter Fox had the dignified appearance of most Ojibwa people. He was proud and so resourceful that he never regretted the struggle with a Mountain Lion on Hunters Island that cost him one of his index fingers and an ear. As he often said, “a warrior does not need a little finger or an ear to draw a bow.” 18
At the moment of his death, the Mountain Lion probably wished he had picked another quarry. Because as a result of losing the fight, the Lion's tanned hide had adorned Winter Fox's lodge for many winters. On a ghostly cliff, the "Spirit of the Lion" heard the words and growled into the Wind. "I have been made into a rug in exchange for a finger and ear … bad trade! If I had known Winter Fox was such a vicious fighter I would have picked someone else to try and eat,” said the Spirit of the Mountain Lion. The Wind heard the words, felt sympathy for the Lion, and wanting to console the spectral animal he said “imagine the freedom you have now, without being hindered by a body of flesh. Where ghost Lions go to hunt, there are also ghost racoons and weasels, so the stalking will be good.” Winter Fox seemed to be thrilled by the inevitable pleasure he would soon receive for finishing off Big Bear. He closed the gap, raised his tomahawk, and delivered the final strike to his Iroquois enemy. His tomahawk opened skull to misty air. Big Bear admitted internally that he would not see another morning and vowed, “My attacker has also seen his last.” Unfortunately vows cannot block a stone club, or a tomahawk swung in a violent arc and aimed with crushing force at your temple. There was no shortage in the amount of rage Winter Fox put forth in hitting Big Bear. The strike was delivered with as much force as possible. Winter Fox had been told by his scouts that just two days earlier, one of his children had been killed by an Iroquois scouting party led by Big Bear. The tragedy had occurred when the enemy scouts had trespassed on Ojibwa land, hoping to take pelts and collect ill-gotten food stores. Winter Fox’s expression of violence was so well magnified and focused that it easily matched the transgression committed to his family. “Now I will have my revenge for my son, as well as for the slaughter of my allies.” The Iroquois had a history of moving silently into the land of another tribe and hiding until the moment was right then striking small villages. For this reason the Ojibwa’s had given them the name “Big Serpents”. Winter Fox was not a man to allow snakes into his lodge, and if you crossed his people, or harmed someone he loved…well then you better be prepared to be hounded for the rest of your wretched life. 19
Even the Great Spirit (observing the battle) was unable to ascertain whether it was the magnification of Winter Fox’s fury, or the weight of the club that split the Iroquois head open … "Best to say Furious Club and leave it at that!" The Great Spirit said as he moved on to join the Mountain Lion Spirit on the ghostly cliff. The Earth shifted uncomfortably underfoot of the battle. Feeling moccasins on his rocky surface and blood on his sand skin, the Earth long for the days before the Uprights (Man) came forth into the world. The Earth knew (possible survival of split heads notwithstanding) that very soon the dead bodies were to meet his dirt hands. Grieving was an emotional tone far beyond the voice given to the Earth. "You breathers are all here for a short stay. Your impression on of the planet is as shallow as a marsh after a hot summer,” The Earth said with no small amount of sarcasm to the Wind. Winter Fox watched his foe die and thought … Death … although a cruel consequence of battle, can give you a few things that life could never promise. The end brings a bright future filled with songs, exciting stories, and a hero status of war. Death in Battle grants all the gifts that a boring serene life could never give." In his anger, Winter Fox did something that he had not done before; he cut through hair and skull-cap and took a human pelt to be placed on a scalp pole next to the body. Several Ojibwa warriors stopped and raised a questioning eye. “Scalp them all! The mutilated bodies would make anyone else think twice before trespassing on our land." Winter Fox said to his men in a strong voice and then thought silently, "Very few invaders have the spine to cross a flesh-fence of scalps and pain. "It is too horrible to watch." Lake Spirits said in hushed tones to the high-altitude Trout Ponds. Trout Ponds looked to creek inlets and expressed their sorrow for a world gone mad. Living in a trinity of past, present and future – as Spirits were able to do, they spoke outside of clocks and calendars. Their words were able to divide definitions and remove the constraints of time from seasons. Winter Fox embraced the bloodlust, and when too tired to continue, he drew on the loss of his family member to add new fuel to new attacks. He moved on to find another victim and spun around just in time to catch Gray Wolf – another Iroquois warrior 20
charging towards him with a spear held as a jouster. Winter Fox countered the strike by deftly side-stepping and causing the trust to miss him. The spear was way off-target. The razor sharp point ended up being wedged firmly into a narrow V-shaped tree trunk; which stood very low to the ground. The spear was pinned so tight, that try as he might Gray Wolf found it impossible to yank loose. Winter Fox dropped his club and used both hands to snap the shaft in half. Flipping the longest piece into the air he caught it and jabbed the splintered part into Gray Wolf's throat. "Another kill, another scalp." The Ojibwa surge into the Iroquois ranks gained impetus. Their strategy of hit and hide, combined with surprise, gave them all the advantage they needed. Stone clubs and arrows might have seemed to be inadequate against muskets, steel knifes and tomahawks. However, when arrows are notched into quivers of perseverance, and stones are lashed to handles of fortitude, then the balance shifts to those with weapons forged of the intangible. Winter Fox heard the voices of dead Chiefs again, the sounds echoing out from Dream Mountains. "Of all the Algonquin tribes it was the Ojibwa who had the fiercest reputation. We never avoided confrontation when others tried to take our food or furs. The Ojibwa drove the Iroquois from their lands and our plan of striking fast and disappearing even faster was used over and over. We attacked our enemies like ghosts and because we came and went like Wind … our way would break the enemy spirit and cause dissention in the in the hearts of all you came to take what is ours." The Ghostly Chief’s words went on to say … "The Ojibwa way of fighting from concealment, never standing in formation, and staying out of the open, was said to be cowardly by the Whites. "They could not understand that the Ojibwa method of fighting. We never met a larger force head on … we used the night and stormy weather to conceal movement, and then melted away before the enemy could recover. It is the Ojibwa way that saved countless lives and always gave them victory." The Spirits of the Woodlands had opinions all their own about the European method of fighting. “Dress in bright colours, amass together in a straight line, and don’t retreat or move when musket balls cut 21
through your ranks. Genius! Why not just shoot yourself and save your enemy the trouble?” The Ojibwa victory left only a handful of Iroquois alive. Driven from Ojibwa land they left southern Ontario and never returned. Battle over, Winter Fox gathered his warriors and said in a booming voice, “Remember … it had been foretold by a prophet to the Ojibwa Shamans when they left the great salt sea and headed west, this land you go to will be yours forever. Our people journeyed westward and put the land of the new sun behind them, but not so our struggles. We may have won our country back but the Whites will not be happy until all Ojibwa people are forced to become farmers and discover that as new seasons came and went “promises of forever cannot geminate in a garden of uncertainty.” Winter Fox’s words got louder and flowed like water over the valley. "The White Man will come in numbers like the sand on the lakeshore and will sweep the red race from their hunting grounds, land that the Great Spirit had given us as a gift. The rush of White people into our country will eventually mean our end.” The furious fight between the Ojibwa and Iroquois nations was over and the final images of the battleground always evolved in the same way. A calm phase pushed out the chaos. The valley settled back into the subtle rhythms and the yellow Sunflowers and Blue Bonnets, which all felt bold, since it was safe to bend to the breeze … and the will of bees. A single winged scout returned to the creek bed and signalled for his comrades that it was safe to resume their morning activity of searching out salt and minerals. The orange and black Viceroy Butterflies returned to the battlefield and reclaimed the empty territory as their own. They fluttered in lazy figure eights while searching out salt and minerals in the cracked mud and new blood. The warrior tears gave the land more salt and still even more butterflies, a natural, if not fair trade – butterflies for tears. Not all the anger and bloodlust on the battlefield was the result of man against man. Something dark and sinister rose up from a place that could only be described as “nowhere and everywhere”. It was a Spirit that resided in the empty space separating nightmares from the touch of a speculative mind - a 22
mind which was open to possibility, unafraid to see beyond truth’s fragile idea of “what is”, and “what should not be.” The Spirit looked over the carnage, hoping the Iroquois warrior called Big Bear was still alive and could be used to help spread evil. The one he sought out was already dead. Unfortunate, but there would be another, it could be centuries of waiting, however, that was of no concern to something unaffected by "the setting or rising of the Sun."
Chapter 1 – Turning of Leaves Fall, 1933 – Nettle Stalk Harvest Moon An Ojibwa elder - named Two Rivers, was alone in a canoe that drifted lazily on Lake Vermillion. He had watched close to ninety winters come and go, and his body was beginning to show the hardships it had endured. His knobby knees and pointy elbows protruded from limbs extending out from a battle tested torso. Impossibly high cheekbones gave his face a kind of nobility usually reserved for the legendary Chiefs carved out of folklore. Each limb showed multiple scars, most of which had been earned in dangerous encounters as an adult leader, and earlier on, from the wild escapades of youth. The years had made him without equal as a shaman and a warrior. His was a life that had been hardened by inevitable collisions with authority, and by the determined stride over the many rugged trails he had chosen to walk, many times alone, all times cautious. Deep grooves of age wrinkled a sunburned face, upon closer inspection, smile lines could be seen along his mouth, which were surely the result of an easy grin and a sly sense of humour. Tangled strands of long white hair draped over still broad shoulders and caused him appear almost wizardly, which when one considered his gifts as a conjurer was probably somewhat appropriate. Pleasant looking except for a dirty cloth-bandage over his left eye, he now showed the distance that went with the years. The injury to his eye had occurred roughly thirty winters ago, as a result of having been stalked, and almost eaten alive by the elusive, near extinct Bear/Wolf creature. The broken collarbone earned in the fight with the same animal had only taken a few weeks to mend and now – despite his age, he could still swing an axe with the best of them. But the eyesight on Two Rivers’ left side had never fully recovered and many seasons were spent nearly blind. Having a patch over his eye did nothing to lessen the pride and dignity of the face – for such was the character and fierce determination of the man. As his father had said during his lessons, 24
"every warrior needs to accept the fact that scars, missing body parts, and blood loss are all part of becoming a leader. To reach adulthood without injury was the way of a coward or hermit." In his younger days, his physical form was best described by all who knew him as “having sinewy strength”, however … now with many days behind him, the most apt description would be “wiry willingness”. Howling Wolf probably said it best – after they had done battle with the evil Shaman – Black Eagle, “Two Rivers is a man to have in your clan when it came time to shoot the falls, face down an enemy, or climb imposing cliffs.” The forest encircling the lake was like an Impressionist painting, it was composed of random splotches of brightness bursting out amid the clusters of Oak trees. It was as if the weather was a Fauvist and found joy in turning the foliage from flaming yellow to burntorange and finally to cinder-red. Throughout his life Two Rivers had been very fond of the autumn hues and the panorama made him smile to himself. He was of the opinion that red was a good colour for leaves to drift from the branches to the ground, just as ninety, was a good age to drift into the spirit world. But with the passing of many winter moons a slow certainty had come to him, “death had finally picked up my sign and was tracking very close. There would be no losing my pursuer this time.” He recalled a time, decades ago, when he escaped from the sadistic boarding school and how he had cleverly lost the outlaws who gave chase in the hope of collecting an Indian bounty. But unlike mortal hunters … death never got tired and never lost a sign. It was close now … he could feel the touch of death right behind him. Cold embrace it was not. It was more like a reassuring pull towards a place that promised renewal and maybe even feeding the hunger he felt to see old friends. In the early mornings Two Rivers believed he was able to see his ancestors laughing, mending nets and singing on a distant shoreline across the lake. All of his heroes were there, and at times he even believed that he could see his great grandfather Winter Fox, and the famous Chief Red Cloud sharing a pipe. But Two Rivers had given up on the foolish act of paddling out and attempting in joining the merriment of his ghostly tribe because trying to 25
approach his people would turn them into smoke where they were easily lost in the pale flaps of whiteness hanging off the birch trees. Blaming the mirage on his bad vision was more sensible. The Ghost Tribe’s disappearance left only speculation behind. “Have my wishes become illusions?” Two Rivers questioned the Sky Spirit hiding in the blue haze and cotton clouds. Thinking of the tribe, caused his body to relax, so the mind could enter a state of clarity that resided somewhere between merciful dreams and tortured delirium. Two Rivers took a deep breath of pine air that was thankfully absent of factory smoke or timber mills. He listened and from the Spirit World came a message of earth-songs and emerald-notes that rang through the rocks and above the water, “on this day your death has come.” A whispering breeze shook the last of the leaves from the trees and chimed in to make the message undeniably clear about his last days on earth. Clarity came with the arming of nature’s affirmations and gave way to morning visions which enabled him to foresee his death making him confident that he was about to revisit his ancestors. “I have no fear and am rather anxious to see my Ojibwa brothers and sisters; most of all the ones who had been driven from their lodges at gunpoint and those who had died of the Spanish Flu epidemic so many years ago,” Two Rivers thought to himself. Flashes of history continued to strike like a lightning storm raging in his brain and served to fire up another memory from the past – his people all tragically stricken from a disease brought to the tribe from far away lands. He could remember the sight of his people clutching themselves in pain. Nearly every last one of them had died and remained unburied for many years. No rituals or ceremonies were given to put their spirits at peace. That is… until his friend, a white man had led an expedition some ten winters later to find the lost village. The white man became as a brother, proving once and for all, the size and scope of his village against all government denials. The white man had also had the ability to hear the spirits of the woodland and could call on their wisdom. Two Rivers said the white man’s name in a hushed voice, “Emil Iverson.” Then he said the Ojibwa name given to the man, “Chief of Big Waters.” 26
But before the tragic disease struck his village, Two Rivers had always held the opinion “that his life was a gift” and not taking such a meaning lightly, made his mission each and every morning to rejoice in life, and share with others his many adventures. This made the prospect of sharing his stories in the spirit world very exciting. The solitude on the lake made him reflect further on his past. Thinking back on the teachings of his father – Grinning Fox, reaffirmed his belief that his father’s words always held the most significance and taught him to value every second of life. Lessons came back to him … “Do not ponder death, for then it will fill you up with fear, making no room for happiness. Instead, start every season like it will be your last, holding close every new experience, never mistreating another. If you live as if there will never be the opportunity to right a wrong … then you will limit wrong acts”. Grinning Fox had shared many great gems of insight with Two Rivers. Now in his last days, Two Rivers had lived a life such as his father had spoken of, having no regrets or fear. The present came rushing back into focus. Two Rivers picked up his paddle and pumped out a last series of strokes which sent the birch bark Jeemonnug into deeper water. The canoe's stern cleaved easily through the lake and glided quietly towards the center of Lake Vermillion. He checked to make sure his Medicine Bag was still beside him with the note still attached. "It is very important that the contents of the bag be found, even if my body never is.” He told the water. Lapping against the canoe with growing insistence the waves replied, “We are only here for you.” Glancing into the sky he saw his request to the Spirits to bring forth a real storm outside of the one raging in his mind had been granted. The mild haze became threatening clouds, which turned dark, gathering strength from the Wind that was returning from Lake Superior. The storm was becoming formidable and undulated directly overhead. Two Rivers' posture was still craned upward when he spotted the black shape spiralling in lazy circles and moving towards the rocky point that had always been the Shaman's secret fishing hole. The Raven had followed his old friend and here he would 27
remain. Two Rivers felt a sigh of relief. He had suffered a brief moment of doubt concerning whether or not the bird would complete the assigned role – as ordained by the Great Spirit. But now, as he saw the Raven draw near his lingering questions disappeared and he became satisfied that the Raven would stay with him to the very end. “We have seen so much of this world. It was you who taught me to fly without ever leaving the ground.” The canoe approached a crooked rock that jutted up from the cold waters. Two Rivers shrugged off sore muscles, took in the morning chill, relaxing in the knowledge that he had arrived. Now he could select a spot to prepare. “I know that my proximity to the island will give me a better view of my friend in the sky, he thought to himself. The silhouette of the Raven drifted earthward. The bird also yearned for rest because he had grown tired of making use of frayed feathers and narrowing quills in order to get closer to the man. Two Rivers used his paddle as a rudder and turned the canoe so that it glided towards the Northeast side of the island. His course brought him within a couple of inches from a wall of rock where it drifted in the gusts so that the swell of wind and water pinned it firmly in place. Now only the rocking motion hinted of the storm. The Raven alighted on a thin Poplar. He selected a part of the tree that would give a firm perch on a branch, hanging only ten feet above the man. The bird looked down and gazed intently into the wizened face of the elderly Shaman, and with a flap of his black wings, he mentally imploring the man below to ignore the approaching storm and look into his avian eyes. Although the sight that remained in the man’s one good eye was very poor and in some respects as feeble as his body, he still believed he saw a flicker of ready-resignation in the stare of the bird. “There will be no second thoughts or chances for either of us this time. It looks like he too has decided the end is near. This feathered being was indeed as clever and resourceful as it had always proven to be,” Two Rivers thought. The intelligence of animals had never come as a surprise to the Shaman, nor did he find their connection with the spirit world the least bit unusual. Two Rivers had always thought that – much like his father, “I have more in common with the beasts and birds of the forest. Their roles as either predator or prey, does nothing to dull the brotherhood they all share.” 28
The Sun – which was partly obscured behind the clouds, concurred and exclaimed to the Wind “Strategies formed by the nonhuman animals, in competitive struggle, merely earned them the right to breath, but did not give way to greed. For to all creatures – all except the humans, breathing was more than enough. Birds – like the Raven for instance, made all living things forget limitations – be it limitations of gravity or of beliefs.” Creatures of flight had often played a role in the stories Two Rivers heard as a young brave by various people he had met. “Yes… I can recall a discussion with a French Trapper, a fellow I ran into on the Dawson Trail, a path I had used many times to set snares for martin and beaver pelts,” he reminisced. He had liked the Frenchman right away. The Trapper was not a poacher, nor was he the kind of vermin prone to taking without giving. The Trapper had proved his generosity by giving Two Rivers a metal knife in exchange for some dried fish during their last encounter. While they shared a smoke, the trapper told the fable of a raven that had been chosen to find land, when a wizard named Noah had gotten lost in a floating lodge of great size. The trapper had said that, “of all the animals that filled the lodge, it was the raven selected to save Noah’s people.” But after getting used to seeing the Trapper on a regular basis, Two Rivers was surprised when the man suddenly disappeared. The absence of his friend caused Two Rivers to sense something bad had happened. Some said that the trapper had been killed and tortured by Black Eagle. This was never proven but blaming Black Eagle was always a safe assumption. Two Rivers pushed the thoughts of Black Eagle and the Trapper from his mind – this was not the right time to be thinking of unhappy events. It comforted Two Rivers to think of the special place the entire Raven clan seemed to hold in the legends of old. “I am fortunate to have had such a friend to guide me though visions and reality. Now you are here to help me face death and have come forth in the same way you did at my birth so many moons ago,” Two Rivers exclaimed as he looked at the Raven. The thoughts of Two Rivers turned to a more critical and honest examination of his winged friend’s current health. The bird was now ravaged by mileage and age. Interesting enough the state of he bird exactly mirrored his 29
own erosion. This could not be a coincidence because it made it abundantly obvious that both of their days as tribal leaders were over. "Probably for the best since there was no place left for those not swift in a world of hunters,” Two Rivers whispered. Wind and Clouds stirred restlessly from high above and observed the events. They had decided long ago that both man and bird had much in common. All the Elements held affection for the Raven and the man, though sometimes, they found them hard to understand. But stranger still were the breathers to the brethren of their own clans. "Unlike some of the other animals that resided on earth, this man, and this bird, practice the complexities of lateral thinking and have always guarded against the crush of conformity. But such is the piercing arrow the sorcerer’s bow draws, and being misunderstood is the reward of he who dares. So now they have come to the end of exploring odd dimensions and visiting ghostly worlds. Very soon they will go to the most secret world of all. It was an exciting prospect for us all,” The Sun exclaimed. Two Rivers spoke hesitantly, he was not quite sure if the words were meant for the Raven, or the approaching storm. So to be polite, he greeted them both. “Boozhoo – Aniish Na, It is good to see you again. Have you come to guide me to the next world?” The storm ignored his question as it had enough to do, busy as it was with the rain and wave surge. At first it seemed like the Raven was also impassive to his question, but as minutes ticked by he began to show some interest and soon began punctuating his captured attention by emitting a loud caw, followed by hopping on to the bow of the canoe. Pounding waves shook the canoe, lifting and tilting the craft back and forth, in unison with the Wind and Waves. The motion caused both man and bird to struggle in the spray of water just to maintain their balance. Rain continued to shoot down in torrential sheets so impenetrable that it obscured the world about them, and reduced the island to a tiny microcosm of all they knew and saw. The Sun would occasionally burst forth between the clouds, filtering and defusing light, giving rainbows for all to see. Two Rivers sensed the Raven’s weather beaten soul. Last acts were now in place – bird alighting on to the canoe and man paddling to the island. It was a 30
day of finality, last deeds, last wishes, and last contemplations. Only memories had to be reconciled. “Go to shore and find safety in the forest, we only have a moment before the embrace of the waves takes us,” Two Rivers implored the Raven. The bird stayed right where it was. Upper and lower beaks separated, emitting a series of caws and clicks, tones unravelled; until the sounds morphed into words … “I will if you will.” The old man nodded his head in understanding as his tangled white hair and buckskin sleeves snapped in the breeze. Tears that usually gathered only in sadness, now gathered in joy, and inched down his high cheekbones. It was at that moment that Two Rivers became certain that neither of them had any intention of returning to land. This revelation was all the convincing he needed. He lowered his frame to the bottom of the canoe, in a posture that allowed him to face the clouds, and when comfortable he accepted the cascading rain that dripped from hair to chin. "The Manitou has smiled on me, for my life has been full of wonder and magic,” he murmured. Knowing that there was no place for rationalization in the realm of dreams he did not question the strangeness of his past. Two Rivers closed his eyes and allowed his mind to drift; entering the space where time does not pass and leaves do not fall. There (safe in the world of memories), he let his whole life unfold, and directed the story of his tribe to began where the tale would best be served – "in the part of his mind where the seasons become seconds and words become landscapes." The Raven intuitively realized that the man had returned to his dream world and left reality for the place filled with painted sounds and musical pictures. The sight of this made the Raven wish to dream of the joys and travesties of his past. So he tucked his head under his plumage and took wingless flight up to sapphire skies and towards far horizons glowing in the morning fog. His avian dreams let him reminisce on a past of careening manoeuvres that took place many winters ago and were filled with amazing flights. "Flights that had left the rest of the flock in awe since others of my kind could not match my effortless ability to climb to heights reserved for eagles and gods." The Raven 31
cawed. The Raven's mind reached back and he saw himself fly higher and higher until his heart knew of Icarus and he became filled with the sun. He recalled more flights of his youth that exhibited an unmatched exuberance and grace wrapped with a boundless energy. But the past was the past and in the surge of the present the years had taken their toll on acrobatics and altitude. Seasons had come and gone and little by little the excitement had gradually waned. Sure … he still had a curious sense of adventure but that was now not enough because unfortunately his physical form could no longer keep pace with his desires. The Raven slipped into yet another dream and mentally took back to the air. When he began to lose the supporting lift of earth’s atmosphere he looked down, his acute vision sighting a familiar image from days gone by. The picture forming in his brain became an Ojibwa Village, huts and lodges isolated on the sediment laden waters of the lazy Kabwawiagamak River. In the trees above the village his raven mother is laying a clutch of eggs into a nest of moss and twigs. In one of the eggs his previous incarnation stirs and warms to the thrill of the touch. In the blink of the "guardian of the cosmic eye”, all he is … becomes all he will be! His mind drifts further still in the trance and spell abyss, he is reminded of the Great Understanding, granted to him at the inception by the Gitche Manito of the forest. He allows the words and images to wash over his fading body. The breech of the Sun gave forth the first elements, which in turn gave birth to the Ravens Fire gave the raven his unbridled passion Wind gave him the vastness of being Water created his thirst for knowledge The earth kept safe his soul Dreams and recollections start and stay in the past. Not quite ready to return to the present, or to reality for that matter, the Raven observes one of the huts in the village. The scene is very familiar. “It is the birth place of the old Shaman – dreaming in the canoe,” The 32
Raven surmises. On this day – in the time of the planting moon, Two Rivers was no longer the wizen Shaman, but a baby that was beginning to leave his mother’s birth canal. He was introduced from human womb to the womb of the Ontario Wilderness. All did not go well and his Mother died in the delivery process, as her birthing pain and screams issued a warning of the impending sting of life. Together, the thoughts of bird and man remain in the past, outside of the storm, balancing on rainbows, each getting a more accurate glimpse of their younger days as they are allowed to mentally relive their entire history. Their respective dreams enter the thin realm dividing life from death. It is filled with wishes unrealized and revelations ignored. Death opens the log fence guarding all the pictures of the past, which had been forgotten by some but remembered by Two Rivers and the Raven. And so … their dreams went back to a place (where in the final hours of a person's life are always prone to go) … to the beginning.
Published on Sep 9, 2010
The adventures of legendary University of Minnesota and Chicago Blackhawk Hockey Coach, Emil Iverson, an Ojibwa Shaman named Two Rivers, and...