The Birth of America

The Birth of America

An old man told me this in a dream once. He told me of how a white horse came to this land, how the horse raped the land and its people. The old man was a Chippewa
"Before the white horse came," he said to me, "we were all a happy people. Yes, we had our problems. Some winters we barely survived. But mostly the Chippewa were happy. But there was nothing like the coming of the white man.
"The eldest Wabanaki told me this story many years ago. There are only a few of them left. He told me he was there, in those woods, when they came. He told me the story of the white horse coming to this land." This is the story as the old Wabanaki told it to the Chippewa.
"A day in the middle of the year, not long after the shortest night, when the moon was almost full, four animals -- Bobcat, Badger, Squirrel and Raccoon -- were walking near the water looking for something to eat. It was very hot and all of the animals were very hungry and tired of Raccoon's tricks. He had lost a rabbit that Bobcat had caught and soiled the nuts that Squirrel was about to eat. Then they saw a great horse washed ashore.
"Let's eat that horse," cried Raccoon. Bobcat agreed but Squirrel and Badger thought they should help him. The horse was a white stallion and was covered with dirt and seaweed. It was twenty times the size of Bobcat. Badger and Squirrel were afraid to eat it. 'Let's help that horse and maybe he will help us find food,' Squirrel said. So all four of them went to the horse and helped it up. Badger asked him his name.
"The horse told them his name was Manifest Destiny. Raccoon and Bobcat thought that was a funny name but they did not say so. The horse's ribs showed through his pale skin. 'Have you eaten?' Squirrel asked. The horse shook his huge head. Badger remembered a place where they would give food to animals of good nature.
"They brought the horse to the Wabanakis," the old Chippewa told me. The Wabanakis invited the horse and Squirrel and Badger to eat with them. Raccoon and Bobcat were not allowed.
"We fed that horse for four days and nights," the old Wabanaki had said. "We did not know what to call it. It was twice as tall as our tallest brave. We called it "big dog" because that's what it looked like to us. The horse did not care for its name.
"When the horse was healthy and clean, we threw a feast in celebration of the upcoming harvest. There were drums and men dancing dressed in feathers and animal skins. It was always an exciting celebration but the horse did not like it. The drums scared him and when the dancers came out of their ti-pi, he was spooked. We all tried to settle him down but he would not. He jumped and kicked and showed all of the whites of his eyes. Some tried to grab hold of his mane to stop him but he hit them with his great head and killed them. Two tried to grab his tail but the horse kicked them and killed them. There was a great dust that filled the air from the horse's kicking and when it finally fell to earth almost everyone at the celebration was dead. No one was alive but Badger, Squirrel, and me -- I hid behind a rock. Badger dug a hole for himself and Squirrel ran up a tree. the horse, when he was done, trotted towards the sunset. Squirrel, Badger, and I followed him. Raccoon and Bobcat followed us but tried not to be seen. Eventually I called out to them and they walked with us. It was always better to walk with Raccoon than to not know where he was.
"When the Wabanaki told me this story," said the Chippewa, "he stopped here and told me how the white horse had done to other tribes what he did to the Wabanakis. He told me how the horse had killed entire tribes and made the other people forget they ever existed. Some call these the Lost Worlds of the East. He told me how he killed the Cherokee and the Iroquois. The white horse thought he had killed all of them, but many still remain today. Some of them still tell stories of the white horse. Then he told me how Raccoon changed himself into Coyote in order to cross a great, wide river.
"We all knew he was still Raccoon," the Wabanaki had told the Chippewa. "But the people we met told us he was Coyote and he seemed to like the name so he stayed as Coyote for the rest of our journey.
"We followed the white horse far into the west. His great hooves cut a path in the ground as he walked. When trees or hills got in his way he knocked them over with his head or stomped on them with his hooves. When he saw buffalo he ran with them, stepping on many of them and killing them. The white horse killed so many buffalo that the Arapaho could not find food for many days. Seeing that they were weak, the white horse crept into their camp and stomped many of their ti-pi, killing those inside.
"Later that night Coyote, Squirrel, Badger, Bobcat and I all watched Manifest Destiny in a clearing under the shine of the full moon. We all watched him as he mixed grains he had gathered during the day with some cold water from a mountain spring. He mixed and stirred and mixed until he was too tired to mix. Then he drank what he had. He drank a lot and ate what was left of the Arapahos' food. Then he started to laugh and dance around the clearing and made like he could not walk. We all thought the white horse looked like a fool--except Coyote.
"Coyote was hungry and he thought the white horse looked like he was having fun. Coyote was bored with just watching. 'I would sure like to have some of that food,' Coyote said. 'I bet I know how to get some.' Then Coyote walked away as we all watched the white horse sing and dance. Then we saw a beautiful white mare creep into the clearing.
We all knew it was Coyote up to his old tricks but Manifest Destiny thought it was a real mare he was seeing. Coyote asked him for some food. The white horse gave Coyote some of his food. Coyote ate it very quickly. Then he asked the white horse for some of the drink that made him so happy. Manifest Destiny gave Coyote the pitcher that he was drinking from. Coyote drank the whole thing in one swallow. Now that he was full, Coyote thought it was time to leave. He thanked Manifest Destiny and started to walk away. But Manifest Destiny was not through with what he thought was a beautiful white mare. He jumped on Coyote and soon was deep inside him. "I gave you dinner," the white horse said while he was inside Coyote, "and now you have to give me something in return." Coyote tried to run but he could not get away. Coyote howled in pain.
"Manifest Destiny was in Coyote for three days and nights. During the day the sun was covered by dark smoke that came from the east. For these three days and nights, the white horse never left Coyote and Coyote never stopped howling. When he was finally done, Manifest Destiny let Coyote go and Coyote ran off to the east as fast as he could go.
"Squirrel and I followed Coyote, and Bobcat and Badger followed Manifest Destiny as he made his way west. They told me later he blasted through great mountains with his head and trampled forests with his hooves. They followed him until he reached the sea again. There he found gold and killed the Maidu, Wintaun, Yokuts, Pomo, and Miwok so he could have the gold to himself.
"Squirrel and I followed Coyote as he ran back to the east. Coyote ran quick and was soon over the horizon. He was easy to follow because he ran along the path Manifest Destiny had made by knocking over trees as he went. The black cloud of smoke that had covered the sun also covered the path. We saw cooking fires that the white horse had knocked over and spread when he trampled camps. This was the cause of the black smoke. The path we followed was burned and still burning in many parts. As we got closer to the sea, Squirrel and I saw great black buildings and towers that also smoked. The buildings were not there when we left.
"At the same place where we found Manifest Destiny was Coyote, back in the form of Raccoon. He was howling in pain. Because he was a man, his children had to find another way out. Squirrel and I were about to help Raccoon when an axe blade appeared in his stomach. His first child was chopping his way out of Raccoon. Raccoon cried and cried in pain as more and more axe blades appeared all over his body. First one, then ten, then a hundred came chopping their way out of Raccoon's body. Soon Raccoon was dead, his body cut into pieces.
"Out of his body came animals in the form of the Chippewa and Wapanaki, but they had the color of Manifest Destiny. These were the first white men. The first ones were carrying the axes they used to cut out of Raccoon. After they were out they began chopping down trees. Then, out of Raccoon's body came more white men, these carrying hammers. They took the trees the first white men cut down and began building houses. Soon, where an hour ago stood a forest of a thousand trees were now tens of log cabins. Out of poor Raccoon's body came hundreds more white men--all with tools. Some formed bricks out of rocks and mud and made great walls separating one piece of land from the others. Some built great fires and formed metal in them. With the metal they made weapons to scare whatever Wapanaki Manifest Destiny had not killed. Others built tracks for great carriages that poured out more black smoke. Soon the entire sky was black. The sun has never shown on the Arapaho, Creek, Sioux, Wapanaki, Iroquois, or Apache since."

by Tim Frohrip

Contributors retain all rights to their work. ©1996 Kaleidoscope. Write Place. Volume 7.


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