How does Attean become a man in the story "The Sign of the Beaver"?

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dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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In order to be able to take his place among the men in his tribe, Attean must discover his manitou. According to Attean, every Indian boy must have a manitou, which, in English, might be called a spirit. Attean's grandfather has been training him for many days, teaching him the things he needs to know to successfully complete his test. The actual process of finding his manitou, however, is something Attean must undertake himself; no one can help him in this regard.

When it is time for him to seek his manitou, Attean must "make special preparation, bathe himself carefully, and take a special medicine to make him clean inside and out." He then must go into the depths of the forest and build himself a small wigwam. There he will stay alone for many days, eathing nothing and drinking only a little water in the evening after sundown. Singing songs and repeating prayers of his ancient people, Attean will wait, in hopes that his manitou will come to him. Then, when his manitou comes, he will receive a new name, and be able to return to his village as a man and a hunter.

The manitou that Attean hopes he will discover might come in any number of different ways. He might see a bird, animal, or tree in a dream, or he might not see anything at all, but might hear a voice speaking to him instead. Whatever the case, Attean will know for certain when and if his manitou comes; he will recognize clearly that it is meant for him. Although Attean is confident that his manitou will come, but there is an element of fear within him that it might not. If the manitou does not come, he will never be recognized as a man in his tribe, nor will he be allowed to be a hunter (Chapter 20).

Attean does indeed discover his manitou, and when Matt next sees his friend, he recognizes immediately the pride and change in him. Attean stands "straighter and taller...he look(s) older." Demonstrating a privilege of his manhood, Attean's hair, which had always hung straight down to his shoulders, is shaved, except for a single patch tied into a topknot and fastened with a string. Attean has discovered his manitou, and is now no longer a boy, but a man (Chapter 21).

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