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Soul Stance River - 11
Suddenly, two Indian boys throw themselves into the water like meteors swiming towards camp chatty as prarie dogs, they hail from a Teton encampment of 74 lodges a few miles up river most of the men are feeling uneasy because of the casual way the Teton have broached invitation, it feels like a disarming tactic, a way to have us carry our caution lightly which we cannot afford to do, we gave them a pouch of tobacco and some vermilion paint happily accepting council for tomorrow taking them back across the river, this is a monumental situation, President Jefferson made establishing hospitable relations with the Sioux a major objective, paramount in opening the promise of Providence, by now we've learned to sleep on gun dreams, Hundreds of Indians are on the riverbank some on horseback and many standing on feet of stolid fascination, they appear to be waiting for truth to begin, Destiny is anchored 50 yards off shore where the Teton River grabs the Missouri, Clark and I are going ashore with a dozen others flag crackin bright in the wild wind and America's architecture in our hearts, a solitary man steps forth from the staring crowd old as death with the dignity of winter in his eyes and as he secures our pirogue's tow line a merry constellation of Sioux women greet us with presents of buffalo meat and cardinal feather wreaths, a pow wow with the village's three chiefs Black Buffalo, Partisan and Buffalo Medicine culminates with our formal political tokens of goodwill the Presidential Peace Medals, fine military tunics and captain's hats along with a U.S. flag, the Sioux mood is spoiling like a peach in a puddle with consternation over our gifts to them, I don't believe they appreciate the magnitude of what we represent, their responses seem a bit dismissive regarding the hegemony of the United States and their eyes and mouths are speaking seditiously, we are in a precarious place right now and indignance can spawn violence like fire on dry grass the mission is in jeapordy, I recognize our peril quickly and calmly, an invitation to the keelboat is offered to the chieftains and a couple of warriors they accept with agitated expectations of tribute, An hour of whiskey and smoke pass between rivals of Fortune's noon, aside from our scientific, medical and carpentry tools they are enamoured by glass as if children beholding frozen starlight, colored bottles, bifocals and magnifying glasses glimmer in the imagination the mirrors are magical gateways to the Afterlife to them believing that their faces are living in a hidden wind, I emphasize that along with encouraging the Indians of the Great Plains to embrace peace and new trading opportunities the Corps of Discovery's principal aim is to navigate the Missouri to the Pacific Ocean which is why we cannot give away our provisions or remain here any longer, once again their blood becomes onerous as Clark insists that we part several of our men practically manhandle the Indians into the large canoes I'm staying aboard Destiny, alert to aggression, close to Hell's canon, the river is begining to heave with deep current swells nothing is steady right now, nothing but the will to fight, some of the Sioux are becoming rowdy after reaching shore and the bystanders are starting to bark one of them has jumped onto the canoe's mast to prevent it's opening, another savage has taken a menacing hold of the bowline, Clark and Private Gibson appear to be involved in a snappy tussle and the sun is not waiting to burn, I shout to the men on the boats...Load and aim!... to Sergeant Gass and Private Labiche I order to move their pirogues forward reinforcing Clark's, anytime now battle can awaken, the blunderbusses have been loaded with berserking buckshot potential and my brass canon is ready to release devastating 16 lead ball rounds at high velocity on anyone who wants to gamble I've got the twine taper burnin just beggin to bite the canon wick, Clark has pulled his sword from the scabard yet is in control clearly, and sternly commanding the Indians to step off, relief suddenly strides into the bedlam as Chief Black Buffalo intervenes chastising the ruffians with impatient authority, somehow the explosive emotions have settled and instead of warring or departing we have nervously agreed to remain with the Teton for the night most of our men will stay on the river, the rest, including Clark and I will experience the Sioux spirit in the ritual of nightfall archery, J.A.B.
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