The High Cliff Cougar

By HHA Members Tom Helmer and Lorraine Tarket-Arruda

This is the second of four stories in chronological order, based on locations in Tomaquag Valley

The Bothum Home’s Fall Preparations

The winter of 1665-66 was unusually cold. The blessing was the temperatures plunged in late January, not in November or December. Garner Bothum was a thrifty man, a prudent man, and he used the month of October to re-chink his 3 year old log house. It had a dirt floor, and was dug by hand deep into the Southern slope, down an East / West ridge. He was closing the gaps and cracks that formed as the felled timbers had dried out under his slanting shed like roof. There was a door in the South West corner. He couldn’t afford glass out in the wilderness, so his windows were tiny open slits left purposely unchinked between the logs.

When he wasn’t chinking with the muddy clay, he was out hunting for anything that moved which was squirrel sized or bigger. He wasn’t fussy. Come February, a hungry enough person began looking at their boots, wondering what kind of soup the leather would make. Garner, who lived up to his name by harvesting anything remotely edible, had never yet reached that stage.

When he wasn’t out hunting, he was chopping and splitting still more firewood, even though he had filled the West side roof overhang full to the rafters during July through September. This late season wood he piled up along the East side of his 14 x 10 foot cabin as a further barrier from the wind, rain and snow sure to come. The roof of his cabin was a single slope, with the upper edge along the 10 foot southern dimension, up about ten feet above the ground. The Northern lower roof edge rested on rocks keeping it just above the sloping berm of the dug out dirt, which was graded and shaped to divert the rain flowing down the hillside away from his tiny homestead.

The bark roof and the natural hillside formed a shallow Vee. The cold North wind was blocked directly by the ridge, and flowed down the slope, then up and over his roof. The Southern front wall picked up what warmth it could from the Winter sun. The cabin door was “broad axed” planks with iron strap hinges, and the sleeping loft was located along this wall, like a shelf running the full length of the cabin. Everyone, he, his wife and their 3 surviving children slept together in the loft. Close together in the Winter, spread out during the Summer, on the straw covered broad axed planks. They already had a family graveyard with two sets of small fieldstone head and foot markers.

Inside, as chinking progressed, his wife Prudence noticed the wind inside slowly dropping down to a draft, and then to a barely noticed drift, no longer felt, but visible in the smoke that always escaped from the hearth and field stone chimney. Her work inside was preserving the game Garner shot with his musket. This was done by smoking and drying the meat in the chimney’s up draft, accessed by removing certain rocks that didn’t bear weight, or by salting it in the coopered wood preserving tubs, filled with locally dried salt from the sea, a day’s journey to the South.

Besides their trusty iron frying pan, they had a precious iron pot with a lid, a bail and a set of tripod legs to stand in the fire and hold a pot or pan. She could bake bread and corn meal in the coals of the hearth, or make soups and stews when suspended from the hearth’s iron crane. This 12 inch pot, cast in England, was the most prized possession Prudence owned. Garner’s obsolete match lock musket was his. Both items kept his family alive. Garner worked diligently in Spring, Summer and Fall, reaping the rewards of a well stocked larder in Winter. They burned tallow in clay lamps that a Biblical Israelite would recognize, sleeping to the seasonal rhythm of the dim light sneaking in through the narrow slits

By the time Hard Winter cinched Tomaquag in the deep drifts of January, there was scant need for Prudence or him to go outside except to gather snow to melt for water, and to pitch out the chamber pot toilet. In Hard Winter, it was too cold to go outside. There was no privacy for the bodily functions of life in a one room cabin, but the Bothum family were farmers, and soon enough their children would discover everything anyway, assuming Garner got enough money assembled to get some animals. Then the cruelest cold came. Going out for water was done in haste, as they did not have decent winter clothing. Garner, like many young men of his day, was poor. Prudence was even younger. In time, he would trade for a few sheep, and Prudence could make them Winter coats, but that was for the distant future, spending money he did not have.

The Winter Wolf

Late in a January night, so cold the water tub had a cap of inch thick ice inside the cabin, there was a tussle of wolf growling and fighting off to the East, but close, perhaps a hundred feet from the cabin. Garner was not going out to see what the savage beasts were up to, but slipped open the door and fired a musket shot toward the ruckus. There was a yelp of pain, and closing the door, Garner was pleased to believe that by the “Hand Of God” he had hit a wolf. Tomorrow he would investigate when he had the safety of sufficient daylight.

He reloaded his musket. They were in Narragansett lands and you never knew what to expect. Garner just showed up and built his dinky shack, figuring that Elder John Crandall made a deal with the Indians when he came to Westerly in 1661. (Crandall had done no such thing, and soon enough was arrested.) He invited Garner and a few others to join him. Garner wanted his own land anyway, so he left his kinsman living in the village of Dighton, in Massachusetts Bay Colony, to settle in Tomaquag the following year. Elder John was his closest neighbor back in the early days, living only three miles away.

So far, he had no trouble with Indians. He rarely ever saw one, and that was always at a distance in the “fall of the leaves”, or against the snow whitened ground of Winter. He thought the Narragansett were deathly afraid to come within musket range of his home. Garner Bothum was a bumpkin Puritan farmer, not a woodsman or a tracker. The sum total of his accurate knowledge was “Not Very Much”.

Those were the brave, but stupid beliefs of a “babe in the woods”, from someone who never had the need to venture fifty feet from his front door in the heart of the Winter. Twelve years later, after necessity forced him to develop a tracker’s eye, the experienced frontiersman Garner could have easily seen that many moccasin sheltered feet passed well within arrow range of his home.

The next day dawned a clear deep blue. Seventy feet down the slope he could see the snow was all disturbed. The wolf tracks were everywhere, but what thrilled him was to see the blood stains melted into the snow crust! He had hit a wolf, without being able to see anything! Now THAT was some good shooting! Then he humbly remembered that it was God who directed his shot, not himself.

His simple laced boots were inadequate, but he wanted to follow the bloody snow. If the wolf died close by, he would drag it back, skin it, and his family would feast for a week on the flesh. Then he would try his hand at scraping the hide for use as a blanket. He had no real idea how to actually tan leather, but scraping the flesh off the hide would be good enough for him. Seeing only the blood, and not the entire story plainly written in the snow, he eagerly set off after the wounded beast.

A hundred yards from his cabin he saw the wolf, a big one, six feet long from nose to tail. It was dead. In fact, it was frozen solid as a rock. The wolf weighed eighty pounds, and was awkward to get a grip on it, and then to balance it. He finally got it stable, up on his shoulder, and headed back, breaking through the crust with every step. It was tiring, and when he slipped and fell the first time, he and the ice wolf each landed separately, two yards apart. A dreadful surprise was just seconds away from changing his life.

Perhaps the way this wolf was going to alter his life course was Providence, the actual hand of God, not the village where Roger Williams, a Pilgrim religious dissident expelled from extremely Puritanical Massachusetts lived. (The Pilgrims came first, on the Mayflower, but soon were followed by other persecuted Faiths. The Puritans crossed the Atlantic in far greater numbers, and soon were the dominant Faith in what the English called “The New World”, and “New England”. It was ironic, but the Puritans came to “America” to escape harsh religious persecution, only to practice it here, now playing the role of “The Persecutor”.)

Getting to his hands and knees, he saw it for the first time. A stone knife was rammed deep in the wolf’s ribs. He tried to figure out how THAT got there, as he clearly believed he shot the animal.

Then he realized it was a Narragansett Indian’s stone knife.

And the blood stains all came from the knife wound, not a musket ball.

He had not shot the wolf!

His eyes went wide, and his next thought was at the speed of Panic:

Where was the dreaded Indian NOW?!!

He frantically looked around, but there was no one there.

He waited until his breathing calmed, then cautiously rose. Still no one. He hoisted the carcass back over his shoulder, and now, fueled by fear, he had no trouble running back to the house and flinging the frozen wolf on his ice cold dirt floor. Prudence was startled, and their little ones were afraid of the beast and began to cry. Garner snatched his musket, fumblingly lit the match, primed the pan, (spilling precious gunpowder everywhere) then slipped back out the door, urgently telling Prudence to stay inside, keep everyone quiet, and bolt the door solid and true.

This time, when he returned to the scene of the scuffle, he saw the moccasin tracks, and a lighter trace of blood drops heading off to the bent down cedar tree, toppled by snow weight. There were hand, knee and toe tracks crawling under the tree. The early morning forest was silent, not even a bird chirped. His heart beat was pounding in his ears. No longer hearing his feet complain that they were freezing, with his musket leveled, he climbed under the obscuring branches of the tree.

The light was dimmer under the snow drift above him. In the tunnel of branches, up near the top of the tree, there was the Indian, curled up tightly, lying heavy and flat in the snow and branches, just like the wolf. He seemed to be dead. Afraid of tricks, he yelled and poked at the Narragansett with his musket barrel. The Indian opened his eyes half way, closed them, and muttered his gibberish to himself. Garner could see both of his hands had been mauled, and there were big splashes of blood where he lay in a stupor.

Becoming A Neighbor

Perhaps it was actually applying the Good Samaritan Parable from the oft quoted Scripture in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 10. The verses were 29 through 37, and were very familiar to young Garner. Every Minister in every congregation among the English colonizers applied it to the English helping any other white man, French, Dutch, or the occasional Spaniard they might encounter in this harsh wilderness, regardless of the nature of his needs. They were to help their neighbor no matter what the cost to themselves!

Perhaps it was stupidity, perhaps it was the idealism of youth, untouched by hypocrisy, but Garner widened out the application of the command of Lord Christ the King to include the savages. He laid his precious musket aside in the snow. He dragged the half frozen man, slumped again and deep in a nightmare dream, back to the shack, and gently laid him on the floor next to the dead wolf. Prudence was afraid to touch that creature, lips snarling in death’s embrace.

The innocence of his children was apparent. They circled away from the dreadful wolf and gawked at the strange man, because they knew he was a man, not another kind of savage forest beast.

It was Prudence who’s lip began to tremble in fear. “Is it dead?” she stammered.

“No! Brew some tea!

No, quick, last night’s stew, heat it and thin it with water! Haste ye, woman!”

It would take Prudence fifteen minutes to heat the leftover soup. Meanwhile, Garner dragged the wolf outside and hefted him up on the top of the East wood pile, then dragged the Indian closer to the scant warmth of the hearth. Then he remembered his musket was outside and ran to retrieve it. The slow match was out. When he returned, the first thing he did was to calmly relight the match, blow any remaining powder which might be wet out of the pan, and with a steady hand re-primed the pan with his powder horn. He was ready for anything to happen, just in case. But this time he had no dread. For the first time since the wolf fight during the night, he had the feeling that his God was watching him.

He dragged over his stool, and with his musket on his lap in case of trouble, directed Prudence to spoon the left over soup into the Indian. She refused. She was terrified.

Trading places with her, (God might be watching, but Garner was not a dullard!), Garner had Prudence sit with the musket. She was an old hand with it, and a right fair shot. She was born in America, and everyone over here had to learn the fundamentals of life. Her fingers were white from the death grip she had on the musket stock.

Garner lifted the Indian’s head and dribbled broth between his lips. The bronze man sputtered and spit it back out, opened his eyes, and as he looked around they widened in terror. He tried to sit up, but as soon as weight came on his shredded hands, the pain made him cry out, and he fell back.

Garner signed with his open palms to lay still. He got another spoon of soup and slowly brought it to where the Indian could see it and smell it. Then Garner sucked it down and smiled. He got another spoonful, and once again raising the man’s head, he brought it to the Indian’s lips. With his eyes fixed on the White man, the Indian bent forward and slurped it down. It took ten minutes, but Garner spoon fed a pint of squirrel soup into the injured man.

They only owned one thin blanket, and Prudence, reluctantly, and loudly complaining that blood would be smeared on it, was silenced with a wave, then ordered up the loft ladder to fetch it. Garner wrapped it around the man, and tucked it in. They blazed their fire, a rare event, rapidly using up precious dry firewood, and the cabin actually got warm. Prudence liked that part, as the clothes would all dry out, and maybe they wouldn’t need the blanket up in the loft. Together they scooted the Indian over and propped him sitting up in the corner. Then the 3 adults silently wondered to themselves what was going to happen next. No one knew of a similar situation ever occurring before.

It happened quickly, once the Narragansett got warm.
Pain and infection set to work on his terrible bite wounds.

Building Trust

It took 3 weeks for the Indian’s swollen, scabbed hands to drain and heal to the point where he could reliably use them, and he became less & less dependant.

He learned how to use a White Man’s funny chamber pot. He learned little White Children laughed exactly the same as little Red Children. He saw the White family share everything from their big pot with him, and silently vowed to somehow repay his debt. He decided to try and trust Garner. He remained aloof from Prudence, the squaw. He learned to say “Garner Bothum”, in English.

Garner learned to apply tallow to his own boots. They were still too thin, but now they were water proof. He memorized the pattern of the Indian’s winter moccasin boots, and how they were stitched together with thongs. The winter secret of the Narragansett was they had fur on the inside! He decided to try and trust the Indian, who was somewhat older than him. He learned to say his name, “Long Eye”, in Narragansett: “A-nûk-qua-que Wus-ke-é-suck”.

Garner had collected Long Eye’s bow and arrows, and while he had kept them hidden at first, in a few days he discovered that was never required. By signs he explained that he wanted Long Eye to teach him how to skin and scrape the wolf hide, but he forgot all about the knife frozen within. Long Eye signed back that he understood, and Garner brought the wolf inside to thaw out near the ash pile.

The Bothums slept up in the loft, Long Eye was more comfortable on the floor with his own pile of straw. After the wolf thawed, Long Eye simply retrieved his knife, returned it to his sheath where it belonged, and thought nothing more about it. It took Garner a full day of skinning lessons to notice the razor sharp quartz blade flapping at Long Eye’s waist.

His eyes bulged out when he saw it. Long Eye saw the reaction, figured out what Garner was staring at, and began to laugh loud and long. (That was the first time Garner ever heard that Indians could laugh!) Wiping mirth tears from his eyes, Long Eye drew out his knife and handed it over to Garner, handle first, as a sign of trust. In Narragansett, with pantomime, he said “I am not lying, I speak the truth, you are my friend”: “Mat-ta Nip-pán-na-wem, A-chi-e-no--um-wem, -top”.

In time, Garner would learn to speak Narragansett fluently, but for now, all he understood was the gesture and the smile. Garner took the knife, but didn’t know what to do with it now that he had it, and so he returned it to the older man, repeating “-top”, with his hand over his heart as Long Eye had done.

If Long Eye wanted to kill him, he had a full day at close range to do it already. That made him laugh at his misgivings, then both men laughed together. That was the very moment they united forever. Garner learned how to say wolf in Narragansett: “Muck-qua-shím”, and how to scrape a wolf hide, and how to beat it folded between his hands to soften it, as both men worked together on the hide.

The Friends (Ne-tom-pa-ûog)

Over the next nine years the two men regularly exchanged greetings in Narragansett and English, gave gifts to each other and their families, and even began trading together. Garner wanted skins and game, Long Eye wanted a musket and iron. It was a common English practice to exchange gunpowder, shot and muskets for furs and game.

Later they came to regret this, but for now, the English delighted in sharp bargaining practices, always getting the better half of any trade with the savages.

Meanwhile, through daily use in hunting game in the forest, the Indigenous Tribes became expert marksmen with the new weapons. They were far more proficient with a musket than the colonizing farmers, who were usually bound tightly to the soil to grow and harvest their food crops.

When Garner eventually prospered, he purchased two flint lock muskets, the very best, and swapped one, along with powder, shot and a new horn for three black bear skins, Indian tanned and supple. His winters would be so much warmer, and with six children in the loft, everyone, especially his newborn son Briggs Bothum, who would eventually became his heir, could be under a toasty Bear Fur Blanket! Long Eye, already renowned with a bow, moved up as an elite hunter with his musket, a provider for many in the band of The People he lived among.

At first, public social visits to the other family were nervous events, but in time and after many repetitions, they became an unremarkable routine. Long Eye and his squaw Sweet Berry (We-é-kan Wut--him-ne-ash) would visit and share a meal with Garner and Prudence of squash (As-kût-ta-squash) and raccoon (-sup) or squirrel (Mish-án-ne-ke) stew.

Later, Garner and Prudence would visit Long Eye and Sweet Berry and share a meal of boiled ground corn, (Au-pûm-in-ea-naw-saûmp), beans, (Ma-nus-qus--dash) and strawberries (Wut--him-ne-ash) with them and The People. In the early days, one look from Long Eye would silence any grumbling about his unusual guests. That was the stature and power he had amid The People of his clan in their camp. Soon others of The People began to speak in their camps, and greet Garner when they occasionally met in the forest.

To both men, Indigenous Narragansett and English Colonist, their friendship was first and foremost true, and secondarily, mutually beneficial for both to live in harmony with the good neighbors that Scripture and Narragansett Tradition taught. Staying alive was hard enough with so many natural enemies. Having an ally and safe haven in times of need was obviously good in their eyes.

Increase Mather

Eighty miles to the Northeast, a zealous religious man, living safe in the town of Boston, believed differently. The young and vigorous Puritan Minister Increase Mather expounded his view that the coming of English Christianity was a second fulfillment of God’s long ago command to Joshua to claim the Promised Land by force of arms. Such a prophecy was never a part of the Holy Bible, but he made it so by endless repetition.

He was preaching to the upper crust of Boston, the premiere “city” amid the colonies of “New” England, the people of influence and King’s Granted Authority. The same people who benefited by unscrupulously easing the various tribes out of their land. Increase Mather successfully gave them a Moral Justification, even an honorable Duty, by preaching long and loud that “God was on our side!

In time, the inevitable war broke out, 1675-1676, between the Sachem (Chief) Metacom (King Philip), the son of Massasoit, the Chief that gave sustenance to the original Plymouth Colonials, who unfortunately arrived ill equipped on December 20th, 1620, at the start of winter on the raw East coast of Massachusetts.

Called “King Phillip’s War”, it began in Massachusetts, and rapidly spread throughout New England. At first, the Indians seemed to be everywhere, and forced the colonists to retreat into safe havens. There was fear that the English would inevitably be forced back into costal enclaves, but the new year and the tide of war combined with English alliances with other Indian tribes and turned the conflict into a rout of the shattered Wampanoag & Narragansett Tribes.

The War News Letter from Dighton

[Please note that the incident with Edward Bobbet, an ancestor of Lauri Arruda’s husband Joe, is true. Edward was an early casualty in King Philip’s War, dying exactly as described in this fictional letter.]

June 1675

My trusty friend Garner, I have read your letter many times over and have thought of you often. I am troubled by the fact you have chosen to live in the wilderness without the safety of a village or a close neighbor. This town you speak of that you settled in seems very remote, even though you speak of feeling safe. You should be very careful of the indian you call friend.

I do not think of any indian as a friend. Up north to me the towns are being burned and the citizens killed by indians.

This week two of our neighbors were killed by indians, Edward Bobbet and John Tisdale, although Mr. Bobbet could have spared his life.

Upon hearing the indians were approaching, he hurried his family to safety in the fort. He then remembered something at his home and left the safety of the fort to get it. He brought his dog with him. Upon retrieving the item, he headed back to the fort, but heard the indians approaching and climbed a tree. Perhaps he had forgotten about the dog, as the dog sat under the tree and looked up at him to bark. The indians found him and he was killed. All for a forgotten treasure.

I am writing this letter in the safety of the fort. I was able to get Priscilla and the children here in plenty of time. Tis hard on the younger children, they are frightened. Priscilla is frightened but does not show it.

Daniel and James have been with the older children, Daniel being nineteen now. They have told me of rumors that the men want to get a militia together to fight the indians.

I fear I will not be able to join. Recalling the accident I had while haying last summer, my foot did not heal properly and I do not walk very fast. I fear my Daniel and James will join in and I fear for their safety.

My other son just being thirteen years of age is with his brothers, but I will not allow him to go. His mother and I need him here.

I would suggest you travel back home here, but travel would be too dangerous now.

I must ask you straight and simple: what can you be thinking by having this indian come and go as he pleases? Prudence must be frightened to death! This is a trying time and who knows how it will end. I beg of you, dear friend, please use caution. How can you trust the word of a wild savage?

The indian might be your “friend” but what if he tells others where you are? They may have different ideas about you and your family.

My paper is running short so I must close. Stay safe and do not do anything foolish. May you and Prudence prosper and increase.

Your friend, Joseph Haskins.

Post Script: I am sore anxious for you! Please write as time and a traveler going North permit you to send what news you have from Tomaquag.

King Philip’s War

Increase Mather used the very first sentence of his self proclaimed “impartial” history of that 1675-76 War, called “King Philips War” by the victors, to summarize his years of preaching.

“That the Heather People amongst whom we live, and whose Land the Lord God of our Fathers hath given to us for a rightfull Posession, have at sundry times been plotting mischievous devices against that part of the English Israel which is seated in these going downs of the Sun, no man that is an Inhabitant of any considerable standing, can be Ignorant.”

To read Increase Mather’s book, go to: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/libraryscience/31

As Garner Bothum was a poor man, Increase Mather, living safely in Boston, instinctively dismissed anything such a man, actually living among the Narragansett, as not worthy of consideration. In his own way, Increase Mather determined the policy eventually followed by the United States Government in all it’s subsequent Indian Wars, from sea to shining sea.

On December 19, 1675, came the Great Swamp Massacre, where Sweet Berry and all her children were killed as their fortified winter settlement was overrun by a Puritan Army.

Long Eye, fighting at the stockade surrounding the Winter camp, eluded his would be executioners, and disappeared into the woods. These warriors vowed to bring the fight to the homes and hearths of the White men. That spring, they gathered, a paltry hundred strong, at the plain below the High Cliff Cougar. But Long Eye made a stop before joining the War Party.

It has been said in modern times that “a Narragansett will never forget a favor, and never forgive a treachery.” Actually, you can substitute almost any race or individual for “Narragansett” and still be saying a common enough truth. But that Spring, Long Eye came to Garner’s home, bearing a gutted deer over his shoulder. The two men exchanged greetings, and Prudence and Garner expressed their sadness at the death of Sweet Berry and his family.

Long Eye warned them that he was leaving soon on a raid up North, and that while he was away, perhaps for the rest of the year, he would not be available to shield Garner from the hot headed young men who did not know of their peaceful nature. He suggested they should abandon Tomaquag and flee to a larger White settlement. Garner thanked him for the warning. Both men nodded. Prudence waved. Then Long Eye was gone.

Garner declared to Prudence that he was never leaving Tomaquag. Prophetically, his hand was on the head of Briggs when he spoke it. Long Eye was unaware he would never be returning to Tomaquag.

The High Cliff Cougar

Below the cliff and the Cougar, the hundred surviving warriors clustered in familiar groups with distinct separations between those groups who were not well know to each other.

High Cliff Cougar

Long Eye, although a distinguished hunter in his Clan, was not a War Chief, and had no over all Tribal Authority. Still, if this War Party was to avenge their dead, these six separate groups had to become one united band of Narragansett Warriors. Only then would they make sufficient blood flow in extracting revenge from the Waum-pe-shau (White Man). Among his little group of clansmen, he had no trouble moving them over to the closest group of strangers, and introducing them by their common tribal heritage. Once they got conversing, he introduced himself to the next group, directing them over to the doubled band. Soon it was one band of warriors awaiting the blessing and exhortation from their leaders.

The Tribe’s Pau-Waw, (Medicine Man) appeared on the chunky, flat topped boulder next to the Cougar. (Pus-sough) His name was Deep Sky. (Táu-qus-fin -e-suck) He had tried to keep The People out of the conflict between the Pokanoket Tribe, which was a member of the larger Wampanoag Confederation, and the English Waumpeshau.

The Narragansett Sachem, Canonchet, steadfastly remained neutral in the war erupting on his northern border. He refused the English demand that he turn over all his tribe’s firearms. Then he refused to turn over to the Waumpeshau all the women, children and old people of the Wampanoag that sought shelter and protection from the Narragansett.

The result of his loyalty to his own tribe and the non combatants of his neighboring tribe was the Great Swamp Massacre, and Chief Canonchet led the Narragansett into the war. Deep Sky brought all his considerable power to bear on producing the most dreadful warriors the Waumpeshau had faced, now that they had treacherously attacked his People.

He danced and chanted on the rock above them all. He hurled invective at the Tribes which had sided with the Waumpeshau. (This treachery is well remembered today among those Tribes who fought against the Waumpeshau.) But Deep Sky was at his loudest in exhorting the Warriors below to summon the courage, the stealth and the deadly fierceness of the Cougar within their own hearts.

Down below, surrounded by younger warriors, Long Eye could feel the War Rage building all around him. The breath of those men came shallow and fast. They moved in choppy steps with fierce expressions. They had no knowledge of the long ago, and so they easily succumbed to the War Drums and Deep Sky’s ecstasies of Victorious Revenge.

To himself, he wondered what the legendary Pau-waw Provider would have done if faced with these difficult times. Perhaps nothing different. Provider had a vision of the Waumpeshau, strange men with hairy faces and skin a light pink, but he never encountered a real one in his life. He never encountered the horrible plagues that killed nearly all in some villages. Provider never heard the thunder of a musket or the dreadful roar of a cannon. Perhaps the wise Shaman Provider would be up there, dancing and chanting right beside Deep Sky. But he hoped Provider would have found another way.

With that, Long Eye joined with his brothers in the rhythms of the War Dance, and took his place in the line snaking up the talus slope to make their individual “eye to eye” pledges to the Manitou of Honor.

Sculpted beneath the Cougar, this Manitou cast his eye and all knowing grin on each warrior, standing still beneath him, looking up directly into his eye. Each man pledged on his honor to fulfill the oath the Pauwau proclaimed for the men gathered on the plain.

On this occasion it was to transform his heart into the heart of a Cougar, fierce in battle. On other occasions the Pauwau would present a different oath to the men. But with each separate occasion, the men lined up and individually pledged themselves to the Manitou of Honor.

The High Cliff Cougar
The High Cliff Cougar

Long Eye, chanting the War Dance, and shuffling his feet with the same vigor as the warriors half his age, promised the Manitou of Honor that he would personally kill five Waumpeshau, one for each of his children, and two for Sweet Berry, his gentle, loving wife. With his pledge made, he raised a war cry, and skipped down the slope to rejoin the warriors gathering on the plain.

Within the hour, the Narragansett War Band was out of Tomaquag Valley, heading North to burn much of Springfield, Massachusetts.

The Disremembered Legacy Of “King Philip’s War”

What follows is fuel for your personal research & meditation regarding “The High Cliff Cougar” Story. The story (remember it is Fiction) probably bears no resemblance to what you were taught in school. Either I have misrepresented the actual history of our country, or your schooling has.
In deciding this, it would be better for you to follow your own curiosity and reach your own conclusions.

The Internet makes this easy. Original historic documents are free downloads and Web addresses are included.

King Philip’s War was the second war between the Native Americans living on the Eastern Seaboard & the European colonizers. The first war was the “Pequot War”, fought in 1637, only seventeen years after the arrival of the Pilgrims on Cape Cod. The decisive battle was the surrounding and burning of the Pequot fort at Misistuck, (current Mystic, CT), by order of Captain John Mason. The result was a massacre, with only seven survivors out of 600 to 700 Pequot.

Mason, like Increase Mather, attributed his victory to God: “Thus did the Lord judge among the Heathen, filling the place with dead bodies”.

To read Captain John Mason’s book, please go to http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/etas/42, please see Page 6-9

The Pequot Tribe was essentially eliminated in this first conflict with the Europeans. It has only been in modern times that the descendants have regained a Tribal Cohesiveness. The European expansion continued unabated. There are those who believe that Metacom (King Philip) saw that the only way to preserve the Native American way of life was to drive the Europeans back to wherever they came from.

In the end he was shot and quartered. (cut into 4 pieces) His head was cut off and exhibited on a pole for decades in Plymouth, the settlement his father Massasoit saved from disaster 56 years before. His hands were cut off, and shipped to Boston. The mighty Narragansett Tribe was reduced to a few hundred men who endured.

Had all the tribes united, that surely would have been the result. As it was, the desperate tenacity of both sides in this second Indian war is revealed by comparing the estimated casualty statistics for America’s 5 deadliest Wars.

KING PHILIP’S WAR: Indigenous Deaths 3,000, Population 20,000, D. per 100,000 = 15,000

KING PHILIP’S WAR: European Deaths 800, Population 52,000, D. per 100,000 =1,538

CIVIL WAR: Deaths 305,235, Population 35,630,885, D. per 100,000=857

WORLD WAR II: Deaths 291,557, Population 141,183,318, D. per 100,000=206

AMERICAN REVOLUTION: Deaths 4,435, Population 2,464,250, D. per 100,000=180

Statistics Source: Please see “King Philip’s War”, by Schultz & Tougias, Page 5

Walter Giersbach, author of the article “Philip’s War: America’s Most Devastating Conflict” summarized the war as follows:

(Please Google “Military History Online King Philips War”)

“In all, more than half of New England’s 90 towns were assaulted by native warriors. For a time in the spring of 1676, it appeared to the colonists that the entire English population of Massachusetts and Rhode Island might be driven back into a handful of fortified seacoast cities. Between 600 and 800 English died in battle during King Philip’s War. Measured against a European population in New England of perhaps 52,000, this death rate was nearly twice that of the Civil War and more than seven times that of World War II. The English Crown sent Edmund Randolph to assess damages shortly after the war and he reported that 1,200 homes were burned, 8,000 head of cattle lost, and vast stores of foodstuffs destroyed. One in ten soldiers on both sides was injured or killed.

Nathaniel Saltonstall noted in 1676, the Indian attacks left “in Narraganset not one House left standing. At Warwick, but one. At Providence, not above three. At Potuxit, none left…. Besides particular Farms and Plantations, a great Number not be reckoned up, wholly laid waste or very much damnified. And as to Persons, it is generally thought that of the English there hath been lost, in all…above Eight Hundred.”

The outcome of King Philip’s War was equally devastating to the traditional way of life for Native people in New England. Hundreds of Natives who fought with Philip were sold into slavery abroad. Others who might be rehabilitated, especially women and children, were forced to become servants locally. As the traditional base of existence changed due to the Colonists’ victory, the Wampanoag and other local Native communities had to adapt certain aspects of their culture in order to survive.

It is curious that such a conflict is little remembered today, not because of its bloody devastation but for the extent that such a great proportion of the population—English and Native American alike—was affected.

Jacques Arsenault, writing for the University of Georgetown, indicates this is because many of the realities of King Philip’s War do not fit the classical myth of America as the Land of the Free.

He states, “The final reason for the poor understanding of King Philip’s War is that the events of the war really don’t fit into American Mythology. The evidence of King Philip’s resistance to an encroaching colonial population would not sit well with peaceful images of the first Thanksgiving, or with the vision of the founders of our nation gathering together to create a nation of freedom, equality and liberty.””

Lexicon of Narragansett words used in this story

  • A-chi-e-no--um-wem, I speak the truth
  • A-nûk-qua-que Wus-ke-é-suck, Long Eye
  • Au-pûm-in-ea-naw-saûmp, Dried & ground corn, boiled in water
  • -sup, Raccoon
  • -e-suck, Sky, Heavens
  • Ma-nus-qus--dash, Beans
  • Mat-ta Nip-pán-na-wem, I am not lying
  • Mish-án-ne-ke, Squirrel
  • Muck-qua-shím, Wolf
  • Pau-Waw, or Paw-waw, Medicine Man, Healer ,Priest, Consulter of Spirits, Sorcerer, Advisor to the Chief. The Paw waw was concerned with everyone in his clan about matters of Spiritual & Physical Health. He was viewed as a concerned friend, although he held great power.
  • Pus-sough, Cougar, Panther
  • Sa-chem, Chief
  • Táu-qus-fin, Deep
  • Waum-pe-shau, White Man
  • We-é-kan, Sweet
  • Wut--him-ne-ash, Berry, Strawberry