Chapters 16-18 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 694

Chapter 16

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In the afternoon, Attean returns to Matt's cabin, with his face "hideously painted" and a row of bear claws on a cord around his neck. His village is preparing a feast with the meat he has provided, and his grandfather has invited Matt to attend. The boys walk through the woods for over an hour and cross a small river in a canoe; the Indian village is on the other side. When Matt follows Attean into an open area filled with smoke, the Indians gathered around the fire at its center do not seem to notice him at first, but when Saknis, who is clearly their leader, welcomes him, they greet him with a "terrifying yell."

Matt watches as Attean shares a pipe with his grandfather, then begins to tell the story of their morning's adventure with the bear. The listeners respond with shouts of approval, grinning and pointing good-naturedly at Matt when Attean demonstrates how he flung the rabbit at the bear's head. When the narrative is over, everyone rises to dance, then the feasting begins, and Matt is given a delicious bowl of bear stew. More storytelling follows, but Matt can barely keep himself awake, so Attean takes him to an empty wigwam, where he sleeps.

Chapter 17

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When Matt awakes, it is daylight. He steps out of the wigwam and examines his surroundings; the village, which had seemed large and mysterious the night before, now just looks "shabby and cluttered." The men in the tribe have gone deer hunting, but Attean has been left behind. Matt at first fears that he is the reason that his friend did not go with the others, but Attean explains that they would not take him because he does not have a gun. Attean says that one day, Saknis will buy him a gun, but it will cost many skins, and the beaver are getting scarce. Matt thinks about the poverty that is so evident in the village and realizes for the first time what it must be like for the Indians to see their old hunting grounds being taken over by white settlers.

As he moodily takes Matt back to the cabin, Attean reveals that his grandmother had not wanted him to come to the village. Attean's mother had been murdered by white men for her scalp, and his father had died trying to avenge the atrocity. Matt observes that Indians did the same thing to white settlers, but Attean counters by asking, "Why white men make cabins on Indian hunting grounds?" Matt has no answer to this question, and he begins to wonder if it is right for his father to bring his mother and the children to this place.

Chapter 18

Autumn has come, and Matt wonders if something terrible might have happened to his father to keep him from returning as he had promised. To make matters worse, Attean has become distant and preoccupied; he rarely suggests that they go hunting or fishing, and on some days, he does not come at all.

One day, out in the woods, Matt hears the high-pitched yelp of a dog in distress. He discovers Attean's scrawny pet caught in a trap, frantic with pain and fear. Matt tries to free the dog, but cannot do it alone. Though he does not know if he will be welcome, he runs to the Indian village, in search of Attean.

At the village, Matt learns that Attean has gone hunting with the other men. In desperation, he seeks out the boy's grandmother, who stares at him coldly as he tries to explain the situation. Attean's sister Marie translates Matt's words for the old woman. The girl begs to be allowed to help Matt save the dog and rushes off with him through the forest.

Matt and Marie manage to free the dog, who limps slowly behind them as they head back toward the village. When they are halfway there, Attean, having been sent by his grandmother, appears on the trail. When he sees his dog, he mutters, "Dog very stupid...what for I take back such foolish dog?" Matt is not fooled at all by his harsh words.

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