HAKADAH'S FIRST OFFERING
 "HAKADAH, coowah!" was the sonorous call that came from a large teepee in the midst of the Indian
encampment. In answer to the summons there emerged from the woods, which were only a few steps away,
a boy, accompanied by a splendid black dog. There was little in the appearance of the little fellow
to distinguish him from the other Sioux boys.
He hastened to the tent from which he had been summoned, carrying in his hands a bow and arrows
gorgeously painted, while the small birds and squirrels that he had killed with these weapons
dangled from his belt.
Within the tent sat two old women, one on each side of the fire. Uncheedah was the boy's
grandmother, who had brought up the motherless child. Wahchewin was only a caller, but she had been
invited to remain and assist in the first
 personal offering of Hakadah to the "Great Mystery."
This was a matter which had, for several days, pretty much monopolized Uncheedah's mind. It was her
custom to see to this when each of her children attained the age of eight summers. They had all been
celebrated as warriors and hunters among their tribe, and she had not hesitated to claim for herself
a good share of the honors they had achieved, because she had brought them early to the notice of
the "Great Mystery."
She believed that her influence had helped to regulate and develop the characters of her sons to the
height of savage nobility and strength of manhood.
It had been whispered through the teepee village that Uncheedah intended to give a feast in honor of
her grandchild's first sacrificial offering. This was mere speculation, however, for the
clear-sighted old woman had determined to keep this part of the matter secret until the offering
should be completed, believing that the "Great Mystery" should be met in silence and dignity.
The boy came rushing into the lodge, followed by his dog Ohitika who was wagging his tail
promiscuously, as if to say: "Master and I are really hunters!"
 Hakadah breathlessly gave a descriptive narrative of the killing of each bird and squirrel as he
pulled them off his belt and threw them before his grandmother.
"This blunt-headed arrow," said he, "actually had eyes this morning. Before the squirrel can dodge
around the tree it strikes him in the head, and, as he falls to the ground, my Ohitika is upon him."
He knelt upon one knee as he talked, his black eyes shining like evening stars.
"Sit down here," said Uncheedah to the boy; "I have something to say to you. You see that you are
now almost a man. Observe the game you have brought me! It will not be long before you will leave
me, for a warrior must seek opportunities to make him great among his people.
"You must endeavor to equal your father. and grandfather," she went on. "They were warriors and
feast-makers. But it is not the poor hunter who makes many feasts. Do you not remember the "Legend
of the Feast-Maker," who gave forty feasts in twelve moons? And have you forgotten the story of the
warrior who sought the will of the Great Mystery? To-day you will make your first offering to him."
The concluding sentence fairly dilated the eyes
 of the young hunter, for he felt that a great event was about to occur, in which he would be the
principal actor. But Uncheedah resumed her speech.
"You must give up one of your belongings—whichever is dearest to you—for this is to be a
This somewhat confused the boy; not that he was selfish, but rather uncertain as to what would be
the most appropriate thing to give. Then, too, he supposed that his grandmother referred to his
ornaments and playthings only. So he volunteered:
"I can give up my best bow and arrows, and all the paints I have, and—and my bear's claws
"Are these the things dearest to you?" she demanded.
"Not the bow and arrows, but the paints will be very hard to get, for there are no white people
near; and the necklace—it is not easy to get one like it again. I will also give up my
otter-skin head-dress, if you think that is not enough."
"But think, my boy, you have not yet mentioned the thing that will be a pleasant offering to the
 The boy looked into the woman's face with a puzzled expression.
"I have nothing else as good as those things I have named, grandmother, unless it is my spotted
pony; and I am sure that the Great Mystery will not require a little boy to make him so large a
gift. Besides, my uncle gave three otter-skins and five eagle-feathers for him and I promised to
keep him a long while, if the Blackfeet or the Crows do not steal him."
Uncheedah was not fully satisfied with the boy's free offerings. Perhaps it had not occurred to him
what she really wanted. But Uncheedah knew where his affection was vested. His faithful dog, his pet
and companion—Hakadah was almost inseparable from the loving beast.
She was sure that it would be difficult to obtain his consent to sacrifice the animal, but she
ventured upon a final appeal.
"You must remember," she said, "that in this offering you will call upon him who looks at you from
every creation. In the wind you hear him whisper to you. He gives his war-whoop in the thunder. He
watches you by day with his eye, the sun; at night, he gazes upon your sleeping countenance through
the moon. In short, it is the Mystery of Mysteries, who controls all things.
 to whom you will make your first offering. By this act, you will ask him to grant to you what he
has granted to few men. I know you wish to be a great warrior and hunter. I am not prepared to see
my Hakadah show any cowardice, for the love of possessions is a woman's trait and not a brave's."
During this speech, the boy had been completely aroused to the spirit of manliness, and in his
excitement was willing to give up anything he had —even his pony! But he was unmindful of his
friend and companion, Ohitika, the dog! So, scarcely had Uncheedah finished speaking, when he almost
"Grandmother, I will give up any of my possessions for the offering to the Great Mystery! You may
select what you think will be most pleasing to him."
There were two silent spectators of this little dialogue. One was Wahchewin; the other was Ohitika.
The woman had been invited to stay, although only a neighbor. The dog, by force of habit, had taken
up his usual position by the side of his master when they entered the teepee. Without moving a
muscle, save those of his eyes, he had been a very close observer of what passed.
Had the dog but moved once to attract the attention of his little friend, he might have been
 dissuaded from that impetuous exclamation: "Grandmother, I will give up any of my possessions!"
It was hard for Uncheedah to tell the boy that he must part with his dog, but she was equal to the
"Hakadah," she proceeded cautiously, "you are a young brave. I know, though young, your heart is
strong and your courage is great. You will be pleased to give up the dearest thing you have for your
first offering. You must give up Ohitika. He is brave; and you, too, are brave. He will not fear
death; you will bear his loss bravely. Come—here are four bundles of paints and a filled
pipe—let us go to the place."
When the last words were uttered, Hakadah did not seem to hear them. He was simply unable to speak.
To a civilized eye, he would have appeared at that moment like a little copper statue. His bright
black eyes were fast melting in floods of tears, when he caught his grandmother's eye and
recollected her oft-repeated adage: "Tears for woman and the war-whoop for man to drown sorrow!"
He swallowed two or three big mouthfuls of heart-ache and the little warrior was master of the
 "Grandmother, my Brave will have to die! Let me tie together two of the prettiest tails of the
squirrels that he and I killed this morning, to show to the Great Mystery what a hunter he has been.
Let me paint him myself."
This request Uncheedah could not refuse and she left the pair alone for a few minutes, while she
went to ask Wacoota to execute Ohitika.
Every Indian boy knows that, when a warrior is about to meet death, he must sing a death dirge.
Hakadah thought of his Ohitika as a person who would meet his death without a struggle, so he began
to sing a dirge for him, at the same time hugging him tight to himself. As if he were a human being,
he whispered in his ear:
"Be brave, my Ohitika! I shall remember you the first time I am upon the war-path in the Ojibway
At last he heard Uncheedah talking with a man outside the teepee, so he quickly took up his paints.
Ohitika was a jet-black dog, with a silver tip on the end of his tail and on his nose, beside one
white paw and a white star upon a protuberance between his ears. Hakadah knew that a man who
prepares for death usually paints with red and black. Nature had partially provided Ohitika in
 this respect, so that only red was required and this Hakadah supplied generously.
Then he took off a piece of red cloth and tied it around the dog's neck; to this he fastened two of
the squirrels' tails and a wing from the oriole they had killed that morning.
Just then it occurred to him that good warriors always mourn for their departed friends and the
usual mourning was black paint. He loosened his black braided locks, ground a dead coal, mixed it
with bear's oil and rubbed it on his entire face.
During this time every hole in the tent was occupied with an eye. Among the lookers-on was his
grandmother. She was very near relenting. Had she not feared the wrath of the Great Mystery, she
would have been happy to call out to the boy: "Keep your dear dog, my child!"
As it was, Hakadah came out of the teepee with his face looking like an eclipsed moon, leading his
beautiful dog, who was even handsomer than ever with the red touches on his specks of white.
It was now Uncheedah's turn to struggle with the storm and burden in her soul. But the boy was
emboldened by the people's admiration of his bravery, and did not shed a tear. As soon as she was
able to speak, the loving grandmother said:
"No, my young brave, not so! You must not
 mourn for your first offering. Wash your face and then we will go."
The boy obeyed, submitted Ohitika to Wacoota with a smile, and walked off with his grandmother and
They followed a well-beaten footpath leading along the bank of the Assiniboine river, through a
beautiful grove of oak, and finally around and under a very high cliff. The murmuring of the river
came up from just below. On the opposite side was a perpendicular white cliff, from which extended
back a gradual slope of land, clothed with the majestic mountain oak. The scene was impressive and
Wahchewin had paused without a word when the little party reached the edge of the cliff. It had been
arranged between her and Uncheedah that she should wait there for Wacoota, who was to bring as far
as that the portion of the offering with which he had been entrusted.
The boy and his grandmother descended the bank, following a tortuous footpath until they reached the
water's edge. Then they proceeded to the mouth of an immense cave, some fifty feet above the river,
under the cliff. A little stream of limpid water trickled down from a spring within the cave. The
little watercourse served as a
 sort of natural staircase for the visitors. A cool, pleasant atmosphere exhaled from the mouth of
the cavern. Really it was a shrine of nature and it is not strange that it was so regarded by the
A feeling of awe and reverence came to the boy. "It is the home of the Great Mystery," he thought to
himself; and the impressiveness of his surroundings made him forget his sorrow.
Very soon Wahchewin came with some difficulty to the steps. She placed the body of Ohitika upon the
ground in a life-like position and again left the two alone.
As soon as she disappeared from view, Uncheedah, with all solemnity and reverence, unfastened the
leather strings that held the four small bundles of paints and one of tobacco, while the filled pipe
was laid beside the dead Ohitika.
She scattered paints and tobacco all about. Again they stood a few moments silently; then she drew a
deep breath and began her prayer to the Great Mystery:
"O, Great Mystery, we hear thy voice in the rushing waters below us! We hear thy whisper in the
great oaks above! Our spirits are refreshed with thy breath from within this cave. 0, hear our
prayer! Behold this little boy and bless him!
 Make him a warrior and a hunter as great as thou didst make his father and grandfather."
And with this prayer the little warrior had completed his first offering.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics