What gifts are exchanged between Matt, Saknis, Attean, and Attean's grandmother in The Sign of the Beaver?

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dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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When Attean comes to visit Matt for the last time, he brings gifts from his grandfather Saknis, his grandmother, and himself. Matt in turn gives a gift to Attean.

Attean's grandfather Saknis sends Matt a gift that is extremely practical, without which the boy might not make it through the winter. It is a pair of snowshoes, "new, the wood smooth and polished, the netting of deerhide woven in a neat design." The snowshoes allow Matt to stand lightly on the snow, enabling him to tramp through the woods with ease once he learns how to walk on them. It is only after the first heavy snowfall that Matt realizes how the snowshoes "set him free" (Chapters 23 and 25).

Atteans's grandmother sends Matt "a small birch basket of maple sugar." Matt, knowing that sugar is "scarce and dear to the Indians" late in the season like this, appreciates the heartfelt value of the gift.

Attean himself gives Matt his beloved dog. Although Attean always speaks roughly to the dog, calling him "no-good," it is clear that Attean loves him. Attean says the dog is "good for stay here with medabe - with white brother." Attean knows that the dog will be the only company Matt has until his family arrives, if they do indeed arrive, and Matt is overwhelmed by his generosity. Even more than that, though, Matt is touched because Attean has called him "brother."

Matt struggles to find a gift to give to Attean that is a worthy recompense for all Attean and his family have given him. He considers giving the Indian boy his copy of Robinson Crusoe, but understands that now, Attean will most likely never learn to read it. He has only one thing that can even come close in value to the gifts he has received - his father's watch. In all likelihood, Attean will never learn how to use that either, but the boy realizes that it is a thing of great importance to Matt, and so a worthy gift (Chapter 23).

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