The young man sat cross-legged and raised his arms toward the sliver of moon still visible behind the maples, oaks, and ash that grew to his west. Raising his face toward the heavens, he sang thanks for his delivery through the night, and then rose to his feet, turned to the east, and began his chant to the new day. Tall and thin, sinew and bone, his muscles were long. There was no other in the valley of his people that was taller than he, and he was widely known for his athletic skills. He loved this place and took every opportunity to visit the lake. It was holy. The unmistakable odors of lake and forest blended into a sweet perfume that filled his senses with absolute perfection. On gentle mornings like this, it whispered to the goodness of the earth and embraced all travelers within its warm cloak.
However, he had seen it angry. A time when the wind blew so ferociously that trees fell and the lake’s surface was whipped into frenzy; the water, black as night, with waves so big they washed over the peninsula on which he now camped. It blew so hard that froth was driven from the white-capped waves and filled the air like fog on a warm spring morning. As much as he feared those times, he loved the peaceful feeling during mornings such as this.
His name was Tomawka and he was sent by his leader to scout the area for sign of Chippewa war parties, and to locate stands of wild rice and berries. The Chippewa were responsible for driving his people from their ancestral home to the north; they were his sworn enemy. Battles were not uncommon in this most special of places. An abundance of ancient burial mounds bore evidence to that fact. His village looked forward to trading and socializing with the other Dakota bands that gathered along the shores and islands of the lake each year, and a tribal war would not be welcome.
Tomawka traveled the shoreline around the entire one hundred plus miles of lakeshore and found no trace of the hated Chippewa. Today he would travel the final miles that would bring him to a place called Spirit Knob. Tomorrow he would return to the camp of his people.
He traveled light, his only possessions a knife that was given to him by the great leader Shakopee in recognition of his bravery in battle, and a flint that was securely held inside a leather pouch at his waist. His upper body was naked. He wore leather leggings and moccasins common to his people. A single eagle feather tied into his long black hair was a sign of his bravery. He had no fire to extinguish so there was very little to be done to erase his presence from the small point of land. Tonight he would build a fire and cook fresh fish. It would be his first warm meal since leaving his village fifteen days earlier.
He left the peninsula, following the water’s edge where it washed against a steep incline. As he walked, the terrain on his left slowly descended to water level and he found himself on a narrow strip of dry ground running through a marsh. On both sides, the reeds opened to deep water. Behind him was the peninsula where he greeted the new day.
The large bay on his right would guide him to this evening’s cooking fire. The journey, if undertaken directly, could be completed in less than half a day, but Tomawka knew he would be lucky to arrive at the place called Spirit Knob before sundown.
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