Discussion Topic

Matt's observations and timing of his first sight of the Indian village in The Sign of the Beaver


Matt first observes the Indian village in The Sign of the Beaver when he is taken there by Attean, his Native American friend. He notices the village during their journey, which occurs after he and Attean have developed a significant friendship. This visit marks a crucial point in Matt's understanding and appreciation of Native American culture.

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What does Matt observe in the Indian village in The Sign of the Beaver?

In Chapter 16, Attean's village is having a feast, and he invites Matt to attend. Pleased that he will have an opportunity to savor bear meat, Matt consents to accompany Attean back to his village.

Both Matt and Attean have to take a canoe to the other side of the river. After they disembark, both boys walk through the woods until they come to a "solid wall of upright posts." They then enter the stockade through a gateway that opens up to a spacious area "filled with smoke and moving shadows and wavering patches of light cast by birchbark torches."

In the open space, Matt sees "cabins and cone-shaped wigwams" in a circle. In the middle of the circle, a fire burns between "walls of logs." Suspended upon timbers over the fire are three iron pots. Although at this point Matt can't tell what the pots hold, he thinks that he can smell boiling meat and herbs. The delicious smells make him feel hungry.

Then, he realizes that they are not alone. On either side of the fire sit Indian men clad in "an odd medley of garments, some in Englishmen's coats and jackets, others with bright blankets draping their shoulders." Some of the Indians also wear feathers in their headbands. Matt also sees Indian women in "bright cloth skirts and odd pointed caps." Everyone appears to be wearing jewelry of some sort. Matt concludes that the Indians have put on their best clothes for the occasion.

Matt enjoys a wonderful evening with Attean and his people. They feast, hear stories, and dance. Matt spends the night in one of the wigwams. The next morning, he notices that the village isn't as forbidding as it looked the night before. The wigwams are, for the most part, "ramshackle and flimsy." By each wigwam's side hangs "racks of untrimmed branches" holding rows of drying fish. There are discarded bones and clam shells littered all over the ground from the feast the night before.

In the daytime, Matt sees how busy an Indian village can be. Women pound corn, cook, or weave baskets. Meanwhile, the men have left for the day's hunt. Matt leaves the village happy with his experience and grateful for Attean's invitation.

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When did Matt first see the Indian village in The Sign of the Beaver?

Matt sees the Indian village for the first time after he and Attean manage to kill a bear together. He is invited for a feast of the bear meat at Attean's village.

The invitation might not have been forthcoming had it not been for Matt's part in slaying the bear. Killing the bear together brought Matt and Attean closer. Not only do they now share the connection of having killed the bear, but Attean has gained a newfound respect for Matt.

At the time of the slaying, the boys had been hunting. Matt had successfully killed a rabbit with his bow and arrow. While Matt was pleased that Attean witnessed his rabbit kill and felt that he had earned Attean's respect, what occurred next reinforced that even more. When the mother bear approached the boys, Matt threw his rabbit at the bear, distracting her long enough for Attean to shoot her with an arrow, then kill her with his knife. Matt's actions, Attean said, were the quick thinking and acting of a real Indian.

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