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INDIAN WHY STORIES



WHY THE BIRCH-TREE WEARS THE SLASHES IN ITS BARK


The white man has never understood the
Indian, and the example set the Western
tribes of the plains by our white brethren has
not been such as to inspire the red man with
either confidence or respect for our laws or our
religion. The fighting trapper, the border ban-
dit, the horse-thief and rustler, in whose stomach
legitimately acquired beef would cause colic--
were the Indians' first acquaintances who wore
a white skin, and he did not know that they
were not of the best type. Being outlaws in
every sense, these men sought shelter from the
Indian in the wilderness; and he learned of
their ways about his lodge-fire, or in battle,
often provoked by the white ruffian in the hope
of gain. They lied to the Indian--these first
white acquaintances, and in after-years, the
great Government of the United States lied and
lied again, until he has come to believe that
there is no truth in the white man's heart.
And I don't blame him.

The Indian is a charitable man. I don't be-
lieve he ever refused food and shelter or abused
a visitor. He has never been a bigot, and con-
cedes to every other man the right to his own
beliefs. Further than that, the Indian believes
that every man's religion and belief is right
and proper for that man's self.

It was blowing a gale and snow was being
driven in fine flakes across the plains when we
went to the lodge for a story. Every minute
the weather was growing colder, and an early
fall storm of severity was upon us. The wind
seemed to add to the good nature of our host
as he filled and passed me the pipe.

"This is the night I was to tell you about the
Birch-Tree, and the wind will help to make
you understand," said War Eagle after we had
finished smoking.

"Of course," he continued, " this all happened
in the summer-time when the weather was
warm, very warm. Sometimes, you know,
there are great winds in the summer, too.

"It was a hot day, and OLD-man was trying
to sleep, but the heat made him sick. He wan-
dered to a hilltop for air; but there was no
air. Then he went down to the river and
found no relief. He travelled to the timber-
lands, and there the heat was great, although
he found plenty of shade. The travelling made
him warmer, of course, but he wouldn't stay
still.

"By and by he called to the winds to blow,
and they commenced. First they didn't blow
very hard, because they were afraid they might
make OLD-man angry, but he kept crying:

"'Blow harder--harder--harder! Blow
worse than ever you blew before, and send this
heat away from the world.'

"So, of course, the winds did blow harder--
harder than they ever had blown before.

"'Bend and break, Fir-Tree!' cried OLD-man,
and the Fir-Tree did bend and break. 'Bend
and break, Pine-Tree!' and the Pine-Tree did
bend and break. 'Bend and break, Spruce-
Tree!' and the Spruce-Tree did bend and break.
'Bend and break, O Birch-Tree!' and the
Birch-Tree did bend, but it wouldn't break--
no, sir!--it wouldn't break!

"'Ho! Birch-Tree, won't you mind me?
Bend and break! I tell you,' but all the Birch-
Tree would do was to bend.

"It bent to the ground; it bent double to
please OLD-man, but it would not break.

"'Blow harder, wind!' cried OLD-man, 'blow
harder and break the Birch-Tree.' The wind
tried to blow harder, but it couldn't, and that
made the thing worse, because OLD-man was so
angry he went crazy. 'Break! I tell you--
break!' screamed OLD-man to the Birch-Tree.

"'I won't break,' replied the Birch; 'I shall
never break for any wind. I will bend, but I
shall never, never break.'

"'You won't, hey?' cried OLD-man, and he
rushed at the Birch-Tree with his hunting-knife.
He grabbed the top of the Birch because it was
touching the ground, and began slashing the
bark of the Birch-Tree with the knife. All up
and down the trunk of the tree OLD-man slashed,
until the Birch was covered with the knife
slashes.

"'There! that is for not minding me. That
will do you good! As long as time lasts you
shall always look like that, Birch-Tree; always
be marked as one who will not mind its maker.
Yes, and all the Birch-Trees in the world shall
have the same marks forever.' They do, too.
You have seen them and have wondered why
the Birch-Tree is so queerly marked. Now you
know.

"That is all--Ho!"


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