Wednesday, November 25, 2015

On entering the tent he gave me his left hand, and I gave him my right hand . . .


















David Thompson
Meeting Kootanne Appee, Piikani War Chief
Journals
1788

One afternoon in early January, there was a stir in the camp; and soon after we had the war song of victory sung by the young men one of whom entered the tent and spoke to the old man for a few minutes.  After he went out the old man informed me that a large war party which had been absent for more than two moons had arrived at the frontier camp, and part of them would be here the morrow that they had seen no enemy but the Black People (the name they give to the Spaniards) from whom they had taken a great many horses and mules.  I enquired if any battle had been fought; he smirked and said "No, they never fight.  They always run away."  I was at a loss what to think on so brave a people as the Spaniards running away, and when some of the horses and mules were brought to us[,] I examined them but not the least trace of blood or any injury from weapons could be seen.  A few days after[,] Kootanne Appee paid a visit to the old man [Saukamappee].  On entering the tent he gave me his left hand, and I gave him my right  hand, upon which he looked at me and smiled as much as to say a contest would not be equal; at his going  away the [same] took place.  He passed about half an hour conversing on the late campaign and went away.  No ceremony took place between them:  their behavior was as if they had always lived in the same tent.  The old man recommended me to his protection which he promised.  He [Kootanne Appee] was apparently about forty years of age and his height between six feet two to four inches, more formed for activity than strength yet well formed for either; his face a full oval, high forehead and nose somewhat aquiline; his large black eyes, and countenance, were open, frank but somewhat stern; he was a noble specimen of an Indian warrior of the great plains.  The old man told me he first gained his now high reputation by conducting the retreats of the war parties of his people when pressed on by superior numbers.  Before he became head warrior, when obliged to retreat, each Chief with his party shifted for themselves and great distress often happened.  This he prevented by his speeches and conduct.  His plan was to keep together round him a band of bold and resolute men with which he guarded the rear; and on perceiving the enemy becoming confident and not sufficiently cautious, to lay an ambuscade, let some of the foremost pass, attack them in the rear; it was an onset of a very few minutes and in the confusion and dismay march off and join his people who stood ready to protect them.  This checked the advance of the enemy and gave safety to the retreating party, and has thus gained the confidence of the people.  On meeting the enemy he places his people according to the number of guns they have[,] separating them along his post so that between each gun they should have the same number of archers.  The great plains on which these encounters take place are too open for an ambuscade except by laying down in undulating grounds.  The old man now remarked to me that as we proceed on[,] we should see a great many Indians who had never seen a white man, as very few of them went to the trading houses.  If one of our people offers you his left hand, give him your left hand, for the right hand is no mark of friendship.  This hand wields the spear, draws the Bow and the trigger of the gun; it is the hand of death.  The left hand is next to the heart and speaks the truth and friendship, it holds the shield of protection and is the hand of life.

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