#26 The Legend of the Dying Chieftain

In 1952 the fire site behind Hovey lodge (Eagle Lodge 2012) was created during its use as a regular site the legend of the Dying Chieftain came about and was used to open our program as it is basically a fire lighting ceremony. It was staged by the Order of the Arrow. It is in two parts, one the narrative and the second the portrayal of the narrative. The narrator says the many years ago there was a tribe of Indians living here who dearly loved their chief. This chief had always lit the ceremonial fires to give thanks to the Great Spirit for whatever battle the tribe had engaged in. Now it cam to pass that the tribe fought a battle during which the chief was mortally wounded. He asked that he be taken home that he might light the ceremonial fire one last time. What you are about to see portrays that plus the struggle between the forces of life and death. The narrator departs and from in back of the audience comes the slow beat of a tom-tom, then a procession with a torch bearer, then two braves supporting the wounded chief, the medicine man in all his finery and a final torch bearer. Upon reaching the area between twin unlit council fires the braves drop the chieftain and with the torch bearers standing in back of the unlit fires. The medicine man begins to dance around the chief to give him the strength to rise. The chief starts to get up about as far as a pushup when out of the black ahead of you “The Angel of Darkness” comes dressed all in black and using a black feather causes the chief to collapse. This is accompanied by the tom-tom beating very rapidly. The medicine man drives off the Angel and returns to the chief where he resumes his dance. This time the chief gets about half way up before the angel reappears and puts him down again. Once more the medicine man drives off the Angel and starts his dance. This time he is successful. The chieftain staggering goes to one torch bearer and takes the torch and inserts it into the fire, when it starts to burn he staggers to the other torch bearer and repeats the process. When his fire has caught the Angel puts in his appearance and down goes the chief. After driving off the Angel the medicine man returns to the chief and must show through his actions he know his chief is dead. The braves come forward and putting the arms of the chief around their necks proceed to drag him back up the path through which they had entered, the medicine man walking morosely behind. When all are once again in back of the audience the camp fire program begins.

(As told by Skip)

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One Response to #26 The Legend of the Dying Chieftain

  1. lou voit says:

    In the early 50s Dick Gilbert and Fred Ward were the actors of this pageant of the opening of the fire. Mike Salotti and I had the pleasure of following them for two years after. Mike was my chief and I was the medicine man.. grease paint, headress, feather and turtle shell rattle, Ankle bells made lots of noise and the battle was on the get the chief to revive and light the fire. Mike made a great chief.. what a fall at the end. Not sure who followed the summer of 1956. I did enjoy all my three years on Camp Staff.. 53,54 and 1955.
    Lou Voit, troupe 43, Rushville, NY

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