In The Sign of the Beaver, what did Matt and Attean learn from each other?

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The close friendship that develops between Matt and Attean becomes an education for both of them. As well as teaching Matt crucial survival skills, Attean also gives him an unprecedented insight into tribal culture and traditions. Most white people at the time viewed Native Americans with considerable suspicion and hostility,...

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and this is the tradition which has surrounded Matt his whole life. Through his interactions with Attean, Matt comes to gain a profound respect for Native Americans, their heritage, and their way of life.

Matt teaches Attean how to read by using Robinson Crusoe as an instruction manual. However, Matt also learns something himself through reading the story, namely, that there is something not quite right about the imbalance in power and status between Crusoe and Friday. Attean also learns to become more trusting of white people through his friendship with Matt. Like Matt, he realizes that there is a shared sense of humanity beneath the outward differences of race, culture, and heritage.

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The Sign of the Beaver revolves around the unexpected friendship between Matt, a young white settler living alone in the wilderness while his father returns to pick up his mother, and Attean, a young Indian brave. They meet when Matt has a painful encounter with a beehive in the woods while looking for honey. Attean and his grandfather rescue Matt and nurse him back to health.

Matt attempts to give Attean's grandfather, Saknis, a book to repay him for his help but realizes that neither of them can read. Saknis decides that Attean will come to Matt's cabin for reading lessons so that he can read English. In exchange, Attean provides Matt with food and other provisions.

As Attean learns English from Matt, the boys develop a friendship. They spend their days in the wilderness hunting, where Matt begins to learn about the Indian way of life. He learns to respect the wilderness and to hunt, track and survive like an Indian. When Attean and Saknis, his grandfather, attempt to convince Matt to leave with them on a hunt because his father has been gone months and may never return, Matt teaches them about faith in family. Matt  insists that he will wait at the cabin for his father, who eventually does arrive back home.

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

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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