What does Matt learn when Attean takes him to the beaver wigwam in The Sign of the Beaver?

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dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Matt learns a number of things when Attean takes him to the beaver wigwam. It is the first one that he has ever seen, and he is startled to discover that with their tails, the beavers make a sharp noise that is similar to a rifle shot. Most importantly, however, Matt learns from Attean the importance of the beaver wigwam to his people. Near the house, engraved in a tree, is a sign that shows that the hunting ground belongs to Attean's tribe, the "people of the beaver." Attean tells Matt that any Indian who sees the "sign of the beaver" will respect this fact, and will not hunt there. For their part, Attean's tribe will hunt the beaver with utmost respect for nature, waiting until the young beaver are ready.

On the way back from the trip to see the beaver wigwam, Attean takes concrete steps to teach Matt to find his way in the woods. He sternly emphasizes that this is a skill Matt needs to learn, and teaches him how Indians make signs when traveling through the forest "to tell the way." The Indian trail marks are more subtle than those made by the white man, so that their wherabouts will not be so easy to detect to the untrained eye. Attean cautions Matt that he must make signs when traveling through the woods, so that he will always be able to find his way back.

Perhaps the most important lesson Matt learns on the journey to the beaver wigwam is that he can trust Attean. Attean is hostile towards white men in general, and Matt is suspicious of him, but despite themselves, the boys are slowly getting to know each other as individuals. On the trip to the beaver wigwam, Matt realizes that

"for some reason he could not explain to himself, he trust(s) Attean. He (doesn't) really like him...but...something (has) changed...They (don't) like each other, but they (are) no longer enemies" (Chapter 11).

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