The Falls At Cohoes





When Occuna, a young Seneca, fell in love with a girl whose cabin was

near the present town of Cohoes, he behaved very much as Americans of a

later date have done. He picked wild flowers for her; he played on the

bone pipe and sang sentimental songs in the twilight; he roamed the hills

with her, gathering the loose quartz crystals that the Indians believed

to be the tears of stricken deer, save on Diamond Rock, in Lansingburgh,

where they are the tears of Moneta, a bereaved mother and wife; and in

fine weather they went boating on the Mohawk above the rapids. They liked

to drift idly on the current, because it gave them time to gaze into each

other's eyes, and to build air castles that they would live in in the

future. They were suddenly called to a realization of danger one evening,

for the stream had been subtly drawing them on and on until it had them

in its power. The stroke of the paddle failed and the air castles fell in

dismal ruin. Sitting erect they began their death-song in this wise:



Occuna: Daughter of a mighty warrior, the Manitou calls me hence. I hear

the roaring of his voice; I see the lightning of his glance along the

river; he walks in clouds and spray upon the waters.



The Maiden: Thou art thyself a warrior, O Occuna. Hath not thine axe

been often bathed in blood? Hath the deer ever escaped thine arrow or the

beaver avoided thy chase? Thou wilt not fear to go into the presence of

Manitou.



Occuna: Manitou, indeed, respects the strong. When I chose thee from the

women of our tribe I promised that we should live and die together. The

Thunderer calls us now. Welcome, O ghost of Oriska, chief of the

invincible Senecas! A warrior and the daughter of a warrior come to join

you in the feast of the blessed!



The boat leaped over the falls, and Occuna, striking on the rocks below,

was killed at once; but, as by a miracle, the girl fell clear of them and

was whirled on the seething current to shoal water, where she made her

escape. For his strength and his virtues the dead man was canonized. His

tribe raised him above the regions of the moon, whence he looked down on

the scenes of his youth with pleasure, and in times of war gave pleasant

dreams and promises to his friends, while he confused the enemy with evil

omens. Whenever his tribe passed the falls they halted and with brief

ceremonials commemorated the death of Occuna.





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