Hamilton Borradaile Chipman
Meri-ka-chak

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[inside front cover]

Meri-ka-chak—His Message

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[blank page]

IT IS TOLD: Away in the north, far beyond the land of the Strong Woods Indians, beyond the Great River which carries the Dancing Lakes down to the Big Sea Water, three lives a wonderful tribe.

    There, where the sweep of forest o’er hill and dale has never echoed to the footfall of the Paleface, where the birds and beavers of the Dancing Lakes have never been disturbed by the clatter of his machines, this people has lived for generations.

    All the secrets of the woods and lakes and rivers are known to the boys and girls who, through summers and winters of adventure, grow to happy men and women. So well know they the simple secret of working together that they are called by name the Shan-a-macs (the People who Pull Together, like the voyageurs in their great canoes).

    Here, as he would have it told, begins the Message of their great chieftain Meri-ka-chak (the Friend of All Men), to our own boys and girls.

Verses by

H. B. CHIPMAN,

Edited and illustrated by

E. S. RUSSENHOLT.

[page 1]

Issued by

THE SASKATCHEWAN

WHEAT POOL.

(Saskatchewan Co-operative Wheat

Producers, Limited.)

[page 2]

[page 3, includes illustration: Meri-ka-chak

His Message]

[page 4, includes illustration]

Meri-ka-chak The Chieftain

Gaze upon the kindly chieftain                                                             [illustration]

    Meri-ka-chak, Friend-of-All-Men,

Who from out the distant Northlands

    Comes to bring a message to you.

Very wise is Meri-ka-chak

    Without rival as a hunter—

None so cunning as a trapper

    As the great chief Meri-ka-chak,

He whose name means Friend-of-All-Men.

    For since childhood he has studied

                                 All the habits of the Wild Ones;

                                     Knows the animals and fishes

                                  Knows the birds, their songs and plumage.

[illustration]

                                  Many moons the Chief has travelled

                                       Down the swiftly running waters.

                                  All alone he made the journey—

                                       Came that he might tell the story

                                   Of the Shan-a-macs, his kinsmen,

                                   Of his tribe the Pull-Togethers

                                        To the little Paleface children;

                                    So they, too, may live together

                                         Healthy, happy and contented. [page 5]

Chee-mon The Canoe

Listen, little Paleface children

    To the words of Meri-ka-chak:

Often down our Northern rivers

    I have journeyed with my comrades,

Eight or ten of us together

    In our long canoe of cedar.

At the stern the steersman seated

    Very skilful with his paddle,

Well he knows the course to follow.

    Long ago on former journeys

He has noted down the land-marks,

    Some lone pine tree, high uprising,

On some rock of strange formation.

    Thus the weary miles are shortened

Through the knowledge of the steersman;

    Thus the labor of his comrades

Through the steersman’s skill is lightened.

[illustration]

[page 6]

He it is who gives the signal

For the start when dawn is breaking.

He it is who in the evening

Settles on the place for camping.

Very welcome is the signal                                                                [illustration]

That the long day’s toil is over.

On an island, wooded, sheltered,

Soon the great canoe is resting.

From it food and robes are carried,

Wood is gathered for the fire

And the teepees rise like magic.

Every brave alert and busy

Working cheerfully together.

               Yet, with all his skill and wisdom,

                Little could he do unaided

                     When the rapids must be traversed,

                When the treacherous whirlpools threaten.

                      Then above the roaring waters

                High and clear his voice is lifted

                      Shouting, “All together, comrades!”

                 Dripping, gleaming in the sunlight,

                      Every paddle is uplifted.

                  Downward in the foaming current

                       As one blade they cleave the water!

                   So we overcome the perils

                        Of the whirlpools and the rapids.

                   Thus by striving all together

                            Is our journey made in safety! [page 7]

Eyik The Ants

Often in the summer evenings

    I have wandered with my children,

Smiling Face and Little Rabbit,

    Down the trails across the prairies.

As we walked they asked me questions

    Of the animals and insects

And the birds that flew above us.

“Will you show us,” they would ask me,

    “Where the plover’s nest is hidden?”

Or, perhaps, as high above us

    Some great hawk would wheel and circle,

“Give his call, and bring him nearer,”

    They would beg me as they watched him.

So to please them I would whistle,

    I would give a call that brought him

Swooping down from where he circled

    Till he hovered just above us.

Once we halted by an ant-hill;

Watch, said I to Little Rabbit,

     How they all help one another.

Very small indeed the ant is,

     Little can it do unaided,

But their strength lies in their numbers,

     Thousands working all together. [page 8]

Thus it was they built this ant-hill,

    Tall as you are, Little Rabbit.

In it there are many tunnels

    Leading to the different chambers;

Some in which they store provisions,

    Others which they use as nurseries.

And their duties are divided—

    Some are warriors and hunters

Others never leave the ant-hill;

    There they work, or feed the young ones,

Or keep guard against invaders.

But no matter what their duties

    Each one faithfully performs it;

Thus the welfare of the ant-hill

    Comes from working all together.

[illustration]

[page 9]

Ah-meek The Beaver

Often, as the darkness gathered

    Have I stolen to the river,

And by moonlight watched the beavers

    Working busily together.

I have seen them stem the current

    With a dam of branches woven;

Filling up the cracks and niches,

     Using mud and moss to fill them.

Sometimes I have forced a passage—

    Through their dam have thrust my paddle—

Then have hidden in the bushes

    So that I might see them mend it.

’Twas not long before the beavers

    Noted that their dam was broken,

And at once began to mend it;

    Each one bringing twigs and branches.

Thus, by working all together

    Soon they had repaired the damage.

[illustration]

[page 10]

Sometimes in a lodge of beavers

    One there is who shirks his labors.

One who will not help the others.

    As they fell and drag the timber.

Very soon his comrades notice;

    He from out the lodge is driven

Never more to dwell amongst them!

    For amongst the busy beavers

    Only those who work are welcome.

                 Never need Ah-meek, the beaver

                      Suffer hunger in the winter,

                For, while yet the streams are flowing

                      Long before the river freezes,

                  Ah-meek stores enough to keep him

                      And his family from famine.

                  They are wise, the busy beavers

                       Working for the common welfare,

                  Storing up against the future.

[illustration]

[page 11]

Bag-ga-pa-way Lacrosse

In the Autumn when the harvest

    By the squaws is reaped and gathered,

Comes a time of sport and feasting;

    Then the young braves strive together,

Race and wrestle with each other,

    Test their skill with bow and arrow.

But the chief of all their pastimes

    Is Lacrosse, for so the Paleface

Names our game of Bag-ga-pa-way.

    Dearly do our young men love it.

Teams they form to play each other

    Called by different names, the Panthers,

Beavers, Buffalo or Foxes,

    Each team plays against the other.

[illustration]         All around the tribe is gathered,

                                   Eagerly they watch the struggle,

                               As the young braves strive together

                                    For the prizes that are offered

                               To the team that wins the contest. [page 12]

I remember how the Panthers

   Won with ease against the others.

Though the Antelopes were swifter,

    Though the Buffalo were stronger.

Afterwards a warrior asked me,

    “Can you tell, my Chief, the reason

Why the Panthers, though the youngest,

   Won the prize against all others?”

Yes, I answered, I will tell you.

    All were selfish save the Panthers,

Each brave striving for the glory,

    Trying to outshine his comrade.

Not so was it with the Panthers;

    As one man they played together.

That is why they found it easy

    To defeat their friendly rivals.

[illustration]

[page 13]

Wa-wa The Geese

Have you noted, Paleface children,

    How the wild geese, flying over,

Cleave the air in “V” formation,

    Like a spear-head or an arrow?

At their head the strongest fliers,

    And, when these at length grow weary,

Others take their turn in leading.

Thus the stronger help the weaker

    As they make the long, long journey

North in springtime, south in winter.

[illustration]

[page 14]

Have you noticed, how when feeding

    In the stubble fields in autumn,

Always one on guard is posted

    At a distance from the others,

So that if a foe approaches

    He may warn his feathered comrades?

Little chance the wily coyote

    Has to steal upon them feeding—

Loud a warning note is sounded,

    Instantly the flock uprises!

Strong wings beating all together,

    Up they soar with strident clamor.

We may learn a lesson from them,

    From the habits of the wild geese—

How each member helps the other.

    We should profit by their lesson,

We should strive to work together.

[illustration]

[page 15]

The Shan-a-m Pull-Togethers

Listen, children, to the story

    Of the Shan-a-macs, my tribesmen,

In your tongue named Pull-Togethers.

    Long ago they lived contented

By the lake called Great Sea Water.

[2 illustrations]

Very close they held together,

There were none who dared attack them;

They were strong because united.

Till, one day, the wicked Nah-min,

Nephew of their good chief Wemo,

[illustration]

[page 16]

Stirred up strife against his uncle,

    Envying his wealth and power.

Very treacherous was Nah-min,

    Cunning as the wily coyote,

And he gathered round about him

    Others like him—lazy, greedy.

But their plotting was discovered

    And when all the tribe was gathered

Round the camp fire, at the Council

    Wemo rose and told the story

Of the treachery of Nah-min,

     And the braves who plotted with him.

“Kill them!” cried the friends of Wemo;

“Comrades, to me!” shouted Nah-min.

    Bows were bent and war-clubs lifted;

But the good chief stepped between them—

“Peace, my children,” Wemo ordered,

    “Let no blood be shed, but rather

Let us banish them forever—

    They shall leave our tribe forever.”

Thus was Nah-min and his comrades

    Driven forth ’midst hoots and hisses.

[illustration]

[page 17]

The Shan-a-macs The Pull-Togethers

                                        Very wroth was cunning Nah-min.

                                             To the Iroquois he journeyed;

                                         And, with lying tongue, he told them

                                             Wemo’s tribe was on the warpath

                                         And had sworn to march against them.

                                              “Do not wait,” he told their chieftain,

                                          “Till you hear their warwhoop ringing;

                                              Arm your warriors and smite them,

                                          Take them by surprise and slay them.”

                                          Through the forest trails that evening

                                          Sped the Iroquois in war paint;

                                               And next morning, just at daybreak,

                                          While the Shan-a-macs still slumbered,

                                               Suddenly the warwhoop sounded!

   [illustration]                  ’Twas the Iroquois attacking—                                      

                                               Taken by surprise, outnumbered,

                                           Bravely fought the Pull-Togethers—

                                               Even drove their foemen backwards

                                           To the shelter of the forest.

                                               In the breathing spell that followed

                                           Wemo called his brother to him.

                                               “Brother,” said he, “For the moment,

                                            We have won, but it is hopeless.

                                                Soon the Iroquois will rally.

                                          We must save the little children

                                              And their mothers from the war club—

                                          From the tomahawk and arrow.

                                              Choose from those who are not wounded,

                                          Twenty warriors to help you;

                                               And though certain death awaits you.

                                          Hold them off, until the women

                                               And our little ones and wounded

                                          In the war canoes are resting—

                                              Down the current swift are speeding!” [page 18]

Still our tribe the Pull-Togethers

    Tell the story of that struggle,

How that little band of heroes

    Fought until not one was standing—

Died, in order that their loved ones

    Might escape from death and torture.

“Northward paddle,” Wemo ordered.

    Many a weary mile they travelled

Till they reached a land of plenty

    Where no man before had settled.

There in peace they lived together.

    There they learned from ant and wild goose,

From the buffalo, and beaver,

    How the Wild Ones helped each other—

Taught the lesson to their children.

So this message now I bring you

    From my tribe the Pull-Togethers;

From the Shan-a-macs, my kinsmen—

    Joined together, none can harm you;

Little can you do, divided!

[illustration]

[page 19]

Wolverine and Flying Eagle

In our tribe there dwell two brothers,

   Wolverine and Flying Eagle.

Very mighty hunters are they,

    Skilled in fishing and in trapping.

                                Once, when in the woods together

                                    Wolverine cried, “See, my brother,

                                See the tracks, that lie before us!”

                                    “Bear tracks,” Flying Eagle answered,

                                “’Tis a cinnamon or grizzly

                                    From his winter sleep awakened.”

                                         Slowly, warily they followed.

                                            Well they knew that in the springtime

                                         Very savage was the grizzly,

[illustration]                        Lean and hungry from his fasting.

                                          Silently they tracked the foot prints

                                              Till they reached a gloomy cavern

                                          That had served the bear as shelter,

                                              Where all winter he had slumbered.

                                          As they peered into the shadows

                                               Something stirred within the cavern,

                                          And a sullen growl like thunder

                                               Warned them that the bear was charging.

                                   As he burst into the sunlight

                                      Both their bowstrings twanged together,

                                   And two arrows hummed like hornets—

                                       Quivered in the monster’s body.

                                   With a roar of pain and anger

                                   Swift the bear whirled on the brothers.

                                       Wolverine stood nearest to him,

                                   ’Twas at him the bear charged madly.

                                       Unafraid the hunter waited

                                   With his tomahawk uplifted—

                                       As the bear reared up to smite him [page 20]

Downward flashed the keen-edged weapon,

    While the warrior, leaping sideway,

Skilfully the charge evaded.

    How the combat would have ended

Had there been one hunter only

    None can tell, so huge the bear was.

But next moment it was finished!

    Flying Eagle, like a panther

Leapt, his warclub smote the grizzly,

    Like a thunderbolt descended,

And the bear crashed forward, lifeless!

Thus it was that Flying Eagle

And the Wolverine, his brother,

    Won their fame as mighty hunters—

Thus it was they helped each other.

[illustration]

[page 21]

A Legend A Legend

Listen to a story, children,

    That is told our small papooses—

How the mighty hunter Keewis,

    Once, when tracking in the forest,

Heard a voice amongst the bushes—

    (Such a little voice) that called him,

Crying, “Help me, Keewis, help me.”

    ’Twas a tiny forest fairy

In a spider’s web entangled—

    Who, in spite of all her struggles,

Could not break the threads that bound her.

Very gently, Keewis freed her.

Smiled, and whispered to her softly,

“Fly away, my little sister

To your home amongst the flowers.”

    And the grateful fairy promised,

“Very soon I shall repay you.” [page 22]

That same evening, turning homeward,

    Keewis heard a voice cry “Danger!

Look above you!” Glancing upwards

    Keewis saw a panther crouching

On a limb that crossed his pathway.

    Swift the panther sprang, but swifter

Flew the fearless hunter’s arrow—

    Pierced its heart and laid its lifeless.

And he heard a voice that whispered,

    “I have kept my promise, Keewis,

Not too small was I to help you!”

’Twas the little forest fairy

    That had warned him, that had saved him.

From this story learn a lesson

    We should always help each other. [page 23]

Amow The Bees

“Come with us,” said Little Rabbit,

    “Smiling Face and I will show you

Where the bees have found a lodging,

    In a hollow tree have gathered.”

Through the woods my children led me,

    There they pointed out a cedar;

Showed the hole that in the tree-trunk

    Made an entrance for the wild bees.

“Did you know,” I asked my children,

    “That our tribe, the Pull-Togethers,

From the Winged Ones learned a lesson?”

[illustration]

[page 24]

[illustration]

Then I told them how the wild bees

Choose a place to store their honey.

    Building, working all together,

Never tiring of their labors.

    Told them of the guards they stationed

At the entrance to their bee-hive.

    Every bee, with honey laden,

By these guardians are halted.

    First must satisfy the keepers,

Otherwise they may not enter.

Thus it is, I told my children,

    Smiling Face and Little Rabit,

That the hive is built and prospers

    By the bees’ unceasing labors,

Working busily together.


Long ago, the Pull-Togethers

    Learned this lesson from the Winged Ones;

That is why we live contented

    Working for the common welfare. [page 25]

Moos-toos The Bison

Listen to a tale recounted

    By my kind old nurse Wen-o-nah

In my far-off days of childhood.

Long ago, Wen-o-nah told me,

    There was warfare without ceasing,

’Twixt the timber wolves and bison.

    Though the bison were the stronger

Yet the wolves were easy victors;

    For they kept in packs together

While the bison wandered singly.

    Fierce and cunning were the grey wolves;

When they spied a single bison

    From his comrades separated,

Silently they raced towards him

    And from every side attacked him.

[illustration]

[page 26]

As he charged the wolves that faced him

    They would scatter, but behind him

There would come a deadly onslaught—

    Cruel fangs would snap his tendons.

Helpless, he would falter, stumble—

    Weakened, fall an easy victim

To the cunning of the wolf-pack.

    So, at last, they learned their lesson;

They, to win, must band together.

Now, when through the snow-clad forests,

Howling sweeps the gaunt, grey wolf-pack

    Swift the bison from a circle,

In the centre place the young ones,

    While around them stand the strongest,

Shaggy shoulder touching shoulder.

    Never yet the wolves have broken

Through that circle of protection.

    Those who, hunger-maddened, try it

Are hurled backwards, dead or dying.

    “Ever since,” Wen-o-nah told me,

“Have the bison kept together.”

[illustration]

[page 27]

The Wampum Belt

See the gift I bring unto you

    Children of the Paleface nations.

’Tis a wampum belt, a token

    From my tribe the Pull-Togethers

And your friend, Chief Meri-ka-chak.

    It shall be a sign amongst you—

Let it be a bond between you.

    When you see another wear it

You shall know him as a comrade.

For this wampum bears a message

From the Shan-a-macs, my people.

    This the message: Work together;

Help each other, Paleface children,

    As the beavers work together,

As the wild geese help each other.

I would see you band together,

   Form a lodge with your companions,

Those who wear the belt of wampum.

    I would have you meet in Council

Once a week hold secret meetings.

    In my tribe the Pull-Togethers

Every week we hold a meeting—

    One, at which the braves are gathered;

On another night, their sisters.

In our Lodge we hold a pow-wow—

    Only those can be admitted

Who can show the belt of wampum—

    Wolverine and Flying Eagle

Guard the entrance to the wigwam;

    They must watch that no one enters

Save those braves who know the password

    And can give the secret hand-grip.

In like manner, I would have you

Form a lodge, as we have formed one.

Paleface children, I have spoken! [page 28]

[page 29, includes illustration]

[blank page]

[page 30]

    We hope you have enjoyed reading these stories from Meri-ka-chak, about his wonderful tribe, the Shan-a-macs. Pulling together is better than pulling against each other, and that is why we have a Wheat Pool in Saskatchewan.

    If you would like more little books like this, will you write a letter to:

The Junior Department,

SASKATCHEWAN WHEAT POOL,

Wheat Pool Building, Regina.

[page 31]

The Columbia Press, Ltd.,

Winnipeg, Man.

[illustration]

[unnumbered page]

[3 blank pages]

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