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How Ioscoda and His Friends Met the White Men from the East and Journeyed Across the Great Waters

One morning before sunrise, Ioscoda and five of his young friends left their Ottawa village and went out hunting with bows and arrows. They passed through a forest and reached the top of a high ridge just as the sun rose out of the east. The air was so clear that the sun appeared to be only a short distance from them.

"How very near the sun is," said one of the boys.

"It cannot be far," Ioscoda agreed. "If you will go with me, we will try to find the place where the sun sleeps."

"Yes, yes," they all said eagerly. Even the youngest of the boys wanted to go on the journey.

"You are too young," they told him.

"If you don't let me go with you," replied the youngest boy, "I will tell your families what you are planning to do."

"You may go with us," said Ioscoda, "but say nothing of this to anyone."

For several days they made preparations for the journey. Each boy collected arrows, supplies of dried meat, extra pairs of moccasins, and as many pieces of tanned hide clothing as he could. They found a dry place deep in the forest and concealed these things there. They also used the place to meet in council and make their plans.

At last they were ready for their quest. On the morning they chose to start, each boy left the village in a different direction, but they soon met at their secret place in the forest. They packed their things on their backs and started toward the east.

Day after day they marched, and each morning as soon as they awakened they faced toward the rising sun, yet it always seemed to be the same distance away from them. Some were discouraged and wanted to turn back, but Ioscoda was confident. "If we keep travelling toward the east," he said, "we shall reach the home of the sun, some time or other."

One morning they found a film of ice along the edge of the stream where they had camped for the night. "Cold weather is coming," said the youngest boy, "and we have no more dried meat. I think we should build a lodge for the winter and spend our time hunting."

Ioscoda would not hear of this. "We will stop only long enough to kill a deer," he replied. "Then we must march on toward the sun's rising."

The next day they came to a large river which flowed eastward, and they followed along its bank. Late one afternoon they reached a rising slope of sand, and as they climbed up through a grove of gnarled and wind-blown trees they saw a vast expanse of blue. They had come suddenly upon an immense body of water. No land could be seen as far as the horizon.

Two of the boys lay down on the beach to drink. As soon as they sucked the water into their mouths, they spat it out. "Salt water!" one of them cried. They had come to the edge of a Great Ocean.

They camped on the beach for the night, and when they awakened at dawn they saw the sun rise as though it had come out of the deep waters. To their great disappointment it appeared to be as far away from them as ever. Before breaking camp, they held council to decide whether to turn back homeward.

"It is true," Ioscoda said, "that the sun's home is beyond this great water, but let us not abandon our quest. If we walk around the shore, surely we will find the place." They all agreed to continue, and he led them northward until they came to the mouth of the wide river they had followed toward the east. "We must build a boat," Ioscoda said. They made camp and gathered as much wood as they could until darkness fell.

Ioscoda spent a restless night, and the next morning he told his companions that a Manito, a good spirit, had come to him in a dream. "The Manito told me that we must go south. Only a short distance beyond the place where we camped on the beach is a river with high banks. We must go there and keep watch off its mouth until we see an island moving in the Great Ocean. The Manito told me that the island would come to us, and that if we get on it, the island will take us toward the sun's rising place."

The boys retraced their footsteps, and by late evening reached a high bluff beyond which they found a river flowing into the ocean. They camped, and next morning watched the sun rise again from the water. "We shall wait here for the island," Ioscoda said. "Yes," one of his friends replied sceptically. "We shall see if that which was said to you in your dream will come true." Ioscoda climbed up to the highest point and kept his eyes fixed on the sea. About midday he called out: "There it is! There it is!"

They all rushed up to join him, and they saw something that might be an island steadily advancing toward the mouth of the river. As it came nearer they could see strangely dressed beings moving about on it. "That is a bad Manito!" the youngest boy cried. "Let us run back into the woods."

"No, no," Ioscoda answered quickly. "Stay and watch."

They saw something splash into the water beside the island, and then it came to a stop. It was close enough now for them to see three trees standing in a row along its surface. The trees were bare of bark and Instead of leaves huge pieces of cloth hung from their sides.

A small boat was now lowered from one side, and as it approached the beach, they could see flat sticks moving on each side of it like the flapping of a loon's wings in calm air. The boat entered the mouth of the river.

Some of the boys started to run away. "Come back!" Ioscoda shouted. "We can hide in this hollow place in the rocks. We must see what this can be."

Soon after they crouched down in the hole, they heard the sounds of chopping and then the crash of a falling tree. They heard the crunch of footsteps, and suddenly a man appeared against the sky above them. His skin was light, and hair grew on the lower part of his face. He wore a strange hat and clothing such as they had never seen, and he was gazing down at them. They stared back at him in amazement.

After a few moments the stranger stepped forward, extending his open hand toward them. Ioscoda took it, and they shook hands. The man spoke and Ioscoda replied, but they could not understand each other's words. Then the man turned and called to his comrades. Several other men in strange clothing came up. They laughed and talked, but the boys could not understand what they were saying.

Finding it impossible to communicate by words, the strangers motioned toward the small boat and the large boat, which Ioscoda and his friends had thought was an island. The men made beckoning signs as if they wanted the boys to come with them.

"Let's go," Ioscoda said quietly. "This is as the Manito told me it would be."

They followed the strangers down to their small boat, which had been loaded with wood, and soon they were bouncing over the waves to the large vessel. The men called it a ship. As the boat came alongside, dozens of strange faces peered down at them. One spoke out, louder than the others, and he seemed to be their leader. He motioned to the boys to climb the rope ladder. As soon as they were on deck, this man whom the others called Captain led them down a ladder to a cabin and gave them some food. He treated them very kindly.

Afterwards they returned to the deck and found the sails all spread above their heads and the ship moving rapidly over the water. The land they had left was fast disappearing in the distance. That night and on the following day Ioscoda and most of his friends were made ill by the motion of the ship, but they soon recovered. As the days passed, they learned to understand and to say a few of the words used by the strangers, and the boys taught them some of the words of the Ottawa people.

One day a man on one of the high masts--that the boys had first thought were trees--cried out in a loud voice: "Land! Land!" Soon after that the Captain took them to a cabin and showed them some clothing similar to that which he wore. He made signs to them to change their worn leather clothing for the other. Ioscoda knew enough of the Captain's language to ask him why they must do this. "To cover your nakedness," the Captain replied, and pointed to their bare legs. "We are coming to my country, and my King will be displeased if your bodies are not properly clothed."

As the ship moved up a river, they saw many houses made of stone along the banks. They passed other ships. One of these vessels had flags flying above it and on its deck were several black objects shaped like logs. Suddenly smoke belched from one of the logs and a noise like thunder frightened Ioscoda and his friends.

"Cannon," the Captain explained calmly, and pointed to the big guns along the other ship's deck. "They're saluting our return from a long voyage."

When the ship docked, the Captain took them to a big house nearby, and led them up some steps to a room outfitted with a bed and several other objects strange to them. He brought them food and drink. "You will stay here until morning," the Captain said. "Then I shall take you to see the King."

Ioscoda and his friends slept very little that night. Until darkness fell, they knelt beside the window, looking out at the people passing up and down. From time to time, they would see a huge animal, larger than a moose, its feet pounding on the cobblestones. Sometimes a man would be riding astride one of these hooved animals; others were fastened with leather straps to an object Somewhat like a sledge except that it rolled along on wheels.

Next morning the Captain came and took them out to the street and showed them how to get into one of the wheeled sledges. It contained seats and was covered with leather. They rolled along over the cobblestones almost as swiftly as they had travelled on the ship.

After a while the carriage stopped, and two men dressed in bright-coloured clothing helped them down in front of the largest house they had ever seen. They followed the two men and the Captain inside, where shining objects hung from above. They were then taken into a large and splendid room where a man was waiting for them in a great chair decorated with many glittering pieces of metal. The Captain addressed this man as King, and Ioscoda guessed that he must be the chief of all these people.

The Captain bowed down before him, and made signs for the boys to do as he did. "We welcome these young strangers to our land," the King said, and then he spoke rapidly to the Captain. As best Ioscoda could make out, he was asking if the Indians had come of their own will, or had been forced aboard the ship. The Captain assured the King that the boys had come willingly.

"Ah," said the King, "and where did you young men think you were going?"

"We were going to the east," Ioscoda replied, "to find the place where the sun sleeps." By using signs and a few words he had learned, he soon made the King understand.

"To do such a thing is impossible," said the King. "You can never find such a place."

Ioscoda bowed his head for a moment. "My father," he said to the King, "we have come this far on our long journey, and we will continue it. We have given our lives up to this quest."

The King smiled at the boy, and then slapped his hands together and sent one of the men who was wearing clothes of brilliant colours out of the room.

"I beg of you," Ioscoda continued, "not to stop us from continuing our journey."

The King nodded, still smiling until the courtier who had left the room returned with bundles of presents for the boys. The King passed these gifts out to them, remarking that he would like to see them again before they left his country, and then he bade them good day.

That night Ioscoda's friends held council in their room in the inn. "I am ready to return home," said the youngest boy. "My eyes hunger for the green forests and rivers, the animals, and the songs of the birds. I want to see the faces of my people."

Another agreed with him. "We are not suited for places such as this. If we must go through towns of stone filled with countless strangers we will never live to see the home of the sun."

"Our families will believe we have perished in the wilderness," said another. "They will mourn for us."

"I do not wish to abandon the quest," Ioscoda said. "Tomorrow we will go once more to see the chief of these people, the one they call King, and ask his advice."

"He is a kind man," said the youngest boy. "He is a wise man. He said that we can never find the place of the sun."

Ioscoda's face was sad. "Perhaps he is right," he said. "Perhaps not."

The next morning the King received them again in his palace. When Ioscoda asked him to advise them whether to continue their search, the King complimented them upon their bravery and determination and called them young knights. "In a day or two," he said, "one of my ships will set sail for your country. The ship will take you home. That is my advice to you."

Ioscoda glanced at the faces of his companions and he could see the eagerness in their eyes when they understood the King's words. And so Ioscoda yielded. He told the King they would go on the ship.

Several moons later, after the ship landed them at the mouth of the river where they had first met the light-skinned strangers, Ioscoda and his friends made their way over the last ridge and through the last forest into their village. Within a few minutes, the news of their return started a celebration that lasted far into the night. Their families and friends rejoiced, having long given them up for lost, and the tales the young men told of their adventures brought them much fame.

All were happy except Ioscoda. Every morning he arose before daylight and walked to the high ridge to face the east and watch the sun rise out of the earth. Some day, he told himself, he would resume his quest and find the place where the sun sleeps.

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The Indigenous Peoples' Literature pages were researched and organized by Glenn Welker.