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Pigeon Egg Head's Mistake

Ethelyn Pearson

Wijunjon, Pigeon Egg Head to you, was handsome and fearless, someone the Assiniboine Nation could be proud of. He was a warrior without peers. The scalps of his victims swung by the dozens from his doeskin clothes. His father was a chief. When Indian agent Major Sanford invited Pigeon Egg Head to accompany him to Washington to represent his tribe, he agreed. It was an honor.

In the winter of 1832 a delegation that included representatives from many tribes floated down the Missouri to meet in Washington. They made the trip in a Mackinaw boat. Each time they floated past a white man's dwelling Egg Head carved a notch in his pipe, then on a stick. When they passed towns, he gave the project up. St. Louis had 10,000 inhabitants.

In St. Louis Egg Head reluctantly stood while he was painted, almost against his will. He was an arresting figure dressed in mountain goat skin leggings covered with beautiful quills of porcupines and fringes taken from the scalps of his victims. His long braids nearly touched the ground and held war-eagles' feathers. He wore a robe of young buffalo bull richly garnished. His shield was of a bull's neck.

Pigeon Egg Head was not shy, first at most gatherings and a favorite of the opposite sex which irritated white men no little. Egg Head was curious, wanting to see everything - great ships, guns, balloons and steamboats so that he could tell his tribe about them. He often appeared in a fine blue broadcloth suit, a gift from the President. He wore shiny high boots and a high beaver hat. He made an arresting picture. At last he headed back up the Missouri toward his fireside and wigwam, whistling Yankee Doodle Dandy. He wanted to get home.

Wijunjon's friends welcomed him home, anxious to hear about his adventures. When he told them about seeing too many houses to cut on a stick, about steam that drove big ships, about powerful guns and much more they reminded each other what big liars white men were and doubted Egg Head. The more he tried to justify what he had truly seen, the further he sunk into disgrace. Chiefs ignored him as if he did not exist. He was shunned by friends.

Sick with regret for ever going to Washington, Egg Head did everything he could to regain respect. He took a fancy laced frock and had it made into a pair of leggings for his wife. He had the trimmings made into garters. Extra cloth made his brother a cape. His own shiny boots were replaced by comfortable moccasins. Sadly, it was whiskey that flowed from the bung hole of the keg he brought from Washington that loosened his tongue, doing him no good. Keg under his arm, he swaggered from lodge to lodge, his broadsword dragging on the ground between his legs.

There was a time that Egg Head was redeemed by what his tribe saw as his ability to lie. Surely anyone who told such fantastic stories had great medicine, they thought. It was claimed that even a speeding bullet would not kill him. After three years it was deemed that Egg Head's medicine was so great that he was called a wizard who could bring evil forces to their tribe.

Admiration swiftly turned to terror and fear. They decided he was a monster and must be stopped. He had to be cut down, killed. One of the young warriors was chosen to find a way to be rid of him, since it was believed that a bullet could not kill him.

One of the appointed warriors had a dream. He dreamed he stole an iron pot from the store of Yellow Stone. He spent the day straightening the handle of the pot and fitting it into the barrel of his gun. Then he hid the gun under his clothes, got behind Egg Head and blew his brains out. The warrior acted the dream out, using bullets instead of the pot handle in the dream. The bullets did not bounce off Egg Head as suspected.

That was the end of poor Egg Head's story. How much better for him if he had never been chosen for the honor of seeing such miraculous things, never tried to share those wonders with a tribe who did not comprehend them. Wijunjon fell in disgrace and was killed for being a lying wizard.