“Mandan Indians,” Karl Bodmer, 1843, WikiArt.

Part 3: Beaver Dam Indians

Everything I knew about this land was wrong.
Sheltered life outskirts of Edmonton, I knew
More about Red Deer than points north, east
Or west. As weeks passed, I learnt of trading
Networks from Hudson Bay to Whitehorse,
Forts and outposts at convergence of rivers,
Highways moving tons of cargo, baggage,
Men, women, children homesteading these
Vast prairies, forest wilderness, eyes and
Thoughts fixed on Lake Athabasca, measured
Not in miles but degrees north. Yes, I, Aaron
Ross, had been awakened, transformed.

Beyond falling rapids, cold-water swamps,
And burdensome portages, no line delineated
Prairie from forest, they undulated across
North country, with one constant: far west-
Distant Rocky Mountains. If they were the
Backbone of Alberta, prairie was its soul,
Navigable streams and rivers, its arteries.
Humbling at first sight, were Indian tribes.
My first encounter, Beaver Dam peoples,
Or so they were called, held this fine-pelt
Animal in high regard, builder of ponds,
Lakes, creating living places for all wildlife.

Upon meeting the “Dane-zah” Indians, I was
Conflicted with Griz McKenzie. Whilst he
Knew their language, he dismissed them,
Or worse yet used them for his gains, more
Exploiting than honest trading. I know they
Saw through him, yet without Griz we could
Not converse, until one morning, frustrated
To anger, Griz and I parted ways, leaving me
Without freighter or “northern canoe.” Alone
And afoot, sans pack mule, horse, I remained
Near, not with, the Dane-zah, until another
Group of trappers, prospectors came along.

Thanks to Gerald Aldridge (@Aldridge_On) for his historical insights. 
For more, see this link of South Peace Historical Society.

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