In Search of CourageMay 15th, 1998 | By kcrawford | Category: Student 1998
By Kevin Crawford
Red Deer’s grandfather told him that in order for him to have courage he had to find it first. What Red Deer’s grandfather failed to mention was that courage is a feeling within one’s inner self. Red Deer had heard many stories of how young warriors achieved strength and courage from different types of birds and animals.
Early one morning Red Deer left the security of his family’s lodge to go on a long journey in search of courage. He did not tell anyone where he was going because he knew that if his family members found out where he was going, they would not let him go. He was only eight winters old, and to become a warrior a young boy had to be at least thirteen or fourteen winters old. As Red Deer left his camp, it began to snow, which covered his tracks so that no one knew exactly which direction he went.
Red Deer decided to follow the river as it flowed down the valley. He had once heard a story of how a hawk had taken pity on a young boy, giving him strength and courage. This enabled the young boy to become a great warrior respected by both his enemies and his tribesmen. Red Deer did not know exactly where the hawk lived, but he knew he must find him. Red Deer traveled all day and half the night, only resting long enough to catch his breath and to nibble on the pemmican he had brought with him. Red Deer finally decided to rest under a fallen log that made a natural shelter from the cold.
Red Deer did not waste any time falling asleep. While he was sleeping, Red Fox came to him in a dream. The Fox asked Red Deer, “What is the purpose of your journey?” Red Deer replied, “I am trying to find the Hawk who lives near here. I want to ask him to take pity on me and help me find courage.” The Fox said, “He no longer lives here; he moved away two winters ago.” “Do you know where he has moved to?” asked Red Deer.
The Fox hesitated for a brief moment and then replied, “The Hawk has died and gone to the Spirit World.” Red Deer began to feel sad and wondered what he should do next. “How will I find courage now?” he thought. Before he could answer his own question, he was awakened by the sound of brush cracking behind the shelter where he was sleeping. Just then he realized he had no weapons to defend himself. He heard a voice inside him say, “Take courage, my son, for you are a warrior.” He slowly bent over, picked up a rock in each hand, and braced himself ready to fight whatever was behind the shelter.
Then Red Fox ran out from underneath the shelter and disappeared into the underbrush. Red Deer began to get an empty feeling inside himself because he knew he had failed to find courage. He walked with his head down in disgrace, not caring if he would make it home or not. Red Deer would never be a warrior like his father or grandfather.
Red Deer traveled day and night heading for his camp up the valley. He came to a bend in the river and stopped because he knew his camp was only a fourth of a mile away. He sat and began to cry, calling himself a failure for not finding courage.
Suddenly he heard a loud voice in a tree above him: “Young man, why the self-pity?” Red Deer looked up to see where the voice was coming from. In a tree not more than ten feet away sat a huge Red Tail Hawk. Hawk said, “It is not right for a warrior to cry over anything.” Red Deer replied, “I have failed to find courage.” “How do you know you have failed to find courage?” said Hawk. “I have traveled many miles to find you so I could ask you to take pity on me and help me find courage,” replied Red Deer. Hawk laughed aloud in a deep voice; then stopped as fast as he had laughed. “I am not the one who can give you courage, young man. If you want courage you have to find it within yourself.” Red Deer asked, “How is this possible?”
Hawk replied, “When you started on your journey, you were by yourself and had no one to guide you. Although you did not know where I lived, you still kept going because you wanted to find me. When the Fox came to you in a dream, you did not show fear toward him. You did not know what was behind the shelter and stood your ground with only rocks in your hand waiting to fight whatever came from the bushes. Then on your way back home, you did not care if your enemy saw you. You wanted to die because you felt disgraced for not finding courage. You never ran away when I yelled at you. Everything that you have done is a sign of courage, so do not be ashamed because you are a warrior and you must start acting like one. Run on home; your relatives are looking for you. The next time you want courage just think of all the things you have done, and you will find all the courage you need deep within yourself.”
Kevin Crawford is a Native American father of three. He is working toward his Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education at Blackfeet Community College, in association with the University of Great Falls.