There are many other instances of intermar- riage with captive women. The mother of the well-known Sioux chieftain, Wabashaw, was an Ojibway woman. I once knew a woman who was said to be a white captive. She was married to a noted warrior, and had a fine family of five boys. She was well accustomed to the Indian ways, and as a child I should not have suspected that she was white. The skins of these people be- came so sunburned and full of paint that it re- quired a keen eye to distinguish them from the real Indians.
WITH the first March thaw the thoughts of the Indian women of my childhood days turned promptly to the annual sugar- making. This industry was chiefly followed by the old men and women and the children. The rest of the tribe went out upon the spring fur-hunt at this sea- son, leaving us at home to make the sugar.
The first and most important of the necessary utensils were the huge iron and brass kettles for boiling. Everything else could be made, but these must be bought, begged or borrowed. A maple tree was felled and a log canoe hollowed out, into which the sap was to be gathered. Little troughs of basswood and birchen basins were also made to receive the sweet drops as they trickled from the tree.
As soon as these labors were accomplished, we all proceeded to the bark sugar house, which stood in the midst of a fine grove of maples on the bank of the Minnesota river. We found this hut partially filled with the snows of winter and the withered leaves of the preceding autumn, and it must be cleared for our use. In the meantime a tent was pitched outside for a few days' occupancy. The snow was still deep in the woods, with a solid crust upon which we could easily walk; for we usually moved to the sugar house before the sap had act- ually started, the better to complete our prepara- tions.
My grandmother worked like a beaver in these days (or rather like a muskrat, as the Indians say; for this industrious little animal sometimes collects as many as six or eight bushels of edible roots for the winter, only to be robbed of his store by some of our people). If there was prospect of a good sugaring season, she now made a second and even a third canoe to contain the sap. These canoes were afterward utilized by the hunters for their proper purpose.
During our last sugar-making in Minnesota, be- fore the "outbreak," my grandmother was at work upon a canoe with her axe, while a young aunt of mine stood by. We boys were congregated with- in the large, oval sugar house, busily engaged in making arrows for the destruction of the rabbits and chipmunks which we knew would come in numbers to drink the sap. The birds also were beginning to return, and the cold storms of March would drive them to our door. I was then too young to do much except look on; but I fully en- tered into the spirit of the occasion, and rejoiced to see the bigger boys industriously sharpen their arrows, resting them against the ends of the long sticks which were burning in the fire, and occasion- ally cutting a chip from the stick. In their eager- ness they paid little attention to this circumstance, although they well knew that it was strictly for- bidden to touch a knife to a burning ember.
Suddenly loud screams were heard from without and we all rushed out to see what was the matter. It was a serious affair. My grandmother's axe had slipped, and by an upward stroke nearly sev- ered three of the fingers of my aunt, who stood looking on, with her hands folded upon her waist. As we ran out the old lady, who had already no- ticed and reproved our carelessness in regard to the burning embers, pursued us with loud reproaches and threats of a whipping. This will seem mys- terious to my readers, but is easily explained by the Indian superstition, which holds that such an offense as we had committed is invariably punished by the accidental cutting of some one of the family.
My grandmother did not confine herself to canoe-making. She also collected a good supply of fuel for the fires, for she would not have much time to gather wood when the sap began to flow. Presently the weather moderated and the snow be- gan to melt. The month of April brought show- ers which carried most of it off into the Minnesota river. Now the women began to test the trees-- moving leisurely among them, axe in hand, and striking a single quick blow, to see if the sap would appear. The trees, like people, have their indi- vidual characters; some were ready to yield up their life-blood, while others were more reluctant. Now one of the birchen basins was set under each tree, and a hardwood chip driven deep into the cut which the axe had made. From the corners of this chip--at first drop by drop, then more freely-- the sap trickled into the little dishes.