The Wendat people lived well. They grew enough corn and vegetables to last the entire winter. They hunted and fished when they wanted and travelled widely throughout the region. Above all, they were self-reliant and fiercely independant. The Wendat firmly believed they had the best and most prosperous nation anywhere. And for good reason.
The Old Chief of Thunder River looks back on his life.
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Excerpt from the book
The Old Heron rose to her feet and signalled to the people in the longhouse that the Old Chief was going to speak. They moved in closer to hear him and when everything was silent again, he began to speak in a low voice.
“My people, these are my last words to you. I have tried to live bravely, and I will die bravely.” He looked up through the roof to the sky above and continued.
“It has given me joy to live among you. Our people are strong and generous. We take care of each other. We live in the most beautiful, most abundant land anywhere on the turtle’s back, surrounded by beauty from the moment we come from our mother’s body until we die. We have the trees and the water and the sun – cornfields in summer and snow in winter. No people have ever had a better life than we have now. And no one will ever have a better life.”
Orchid choked back her tears. She reached over to the Old Chief with a bowl of water and wet his lips, before taking a drink for herself.
“My own life has been filled with happiness. My family and friends have given me endless joy. I have felt the pleasure of sharing with others and helping them to flourish. Even in times of sadness and pain, I have known the thrill of intense feelings. I am grateful to each of you.
“I leave the movement of the sun through the sky,” he said, turning to Willow. He looked at the grieving faces of the villagers surrounding him.
“I leave the great forests and the birds and animals in them. I leave the flowers and soft sand beaches on summer nights – the touch of a loved one. I leave Thunder River and the Beautiful Lake and all the fish in them. I ask you . . . I beg you . . . to cherish them as I have and to care for them always, as they have cared for us.”
The Old Chief lowered his head and sat in silence. The longhouse was still, except for the sputtering fire. He looked up with a faint smile on his weary face.