Cornplanter sees the future.
|"John! John Abeel! What are ye doing, my friend?"
The warrior looked up from his burning uniform and frowned, "My name is Gaiänt'wakê, Thomas," his eyes returned to the flaming pile of clothing, "John Abeel is dead. I am taking the advice of my brother and returning to tradition."
Thomas' forehead wrinkled in confusion, "But...but what about the Quaker school thou had us start? Wilt thou cast out thy friends from the Seneca territory?"
"You and your people may stay, but the school will close," Gaiänt'wakê grunted.
He pulled a medal from a bag tied around his waist and watched as the light from the fire flickered over the gold. With a sigh, he tossed the award into the heat. Thomas gasped and reached a hand forward as if to pull the piece from the fire, but then jerked his hand back at the last moment.
"Ye know we are a peaceful folk, Gaiänt'wakê. And yet, I understand that such an award is a sign of respect to thee." Thomas gestured helplessly at the fire, "Did thou not earn that in the 1812 battle?"
"It is but a trinket. As is this," Gaiänt'wakê lifted a sword into the air before bringing it down firmly over one knee. The sword was snapped into two pieces and chucked into the fire with the medal and uniform. Night chased away the day as the two studied the flames dancing over the weapon.
"We fight in America's wars and they fill my people's bellies with alcohol. Handsome Lake is right in his prophesy. The only way to remove the despair from our people is turn back to the old ways," Gaiänt'wakê murmured.
Shifting his eyes to the Quaker, he allowed a small smile to crawl across his face, "But you and your people will always be in my heart." Clapping Thomas on the back, Gaiänt'wakê turned from the bonfire and marched back to his longhouse.
"Brother!" Handsome Lake burst into the building as Gaiänt'wakê slipped off his moccasins.
"It is late, my brother. I was about to go to bed..."
"Ah, yes!" Handsome Lake chuckled, "That is very good. This is the time of the Dream Festival. Perhaps you will dream of our future!"
Gaiänt'wakê rolled his eyes, "I doubt that, brother. Besides, you're the prophet in the family. I am but a mere warrior."
Handsome Lake threw back his head and laughed, "Perhaps so...but we share the same blood, do we not? At any rate, I noticed you didn't eat this evening during the Festival Feast. I've brought deohako. You must keep up your strength if you are to dream tonight," he winked and held out a woven basket.
Gaiänt'wakê perked up, "The Three Sisters," he grinned and gently removed a pot of corn, beans, and squash from the container.
"Eat, Gaiänt'wakê, and dream," Handsome Lake tucked the basket under his arm as Gaiänt'wakê nibbled at the food. With a sigh, he set aside the pot and crawled up into the second story of the longhouse, where he promptly flopped down and fell asleep.
"Look at the boat! How swiftly it flies across the water!"
Gaiänt'wakê glanced fondly at his son, Charles, and then back to Olean Point where the steamship, Allegheny, docked. His pine couch was lifted and carried onto the ship, where Gaiänt'wakê was able to better admire the view. He was impressed, but bit back any praise.
"White men will do anything to avoid using their muscles,(1)" he grunted.
Gaiänt'wakê turned in his sleep, groaning as his dream shifted.
"We appoint these fifteen-hundred acres along the Allegheny River to Cornplanter. It will be forever in his and his heirs possession."
Gaiänt'wakê felt a rush of pride at the proclamation...until he found himself standing in the far future, on the land. Water was rushing over the promised acres, flooding the final resting place of both himself and most of his heirs.
Jesse Cornplanter, last of the Cornplanter lineage, fixed his dark, sad eyes on Gaiänt'wakê's, "They took your land, moved our family's graves, and built the Kinzua Dam. They broke their promise."
Gaiänt'wakê stood and watched as all but one corner of the Cornplanter Tract was submerged. As the water rose, he clutched at his throat, feeling as though he was drowning with the land.
With a gasp, Gaiänt'wakê jerked awake. Unable to sleep after such fitful dreams, he sipped a cup of cold water, remembering how the Kinzua Dam had spilled over his final resting place.
Dawn stretched her fingers over the Seneca land, and with the light came Handsome Lake's eager face.
"Well...? Did you dream?"
Gaiänt'wakê nodded and set his cup down, sloshing the liquid onto the floor, "I dreamt of the future. Of an honor given and snatched away. I dreamt of my death and the desecration of our graves. And I learned."
"Learned?" Handsome Lake cocked an eyebrow, "Learned what?"
Gaiänt'wakê grinned, "That I need to learn how to swim!"
(1)"State and Union: River-traffic dreams never realized at Olean Point". Olean Times Herald (May 22, 2016). Retrieved December 29, 2017.