On the Trail - The Story of Estevanico
Cabeza de Vaca
We have trusted in our Lord for his protection.
He has kept us safe, provided what we need.
We are faithful to the Crown and must continue.
Keep your courage, keep your faith, we shall succeed.
We have had a long and terrifying journey,
As we suffered through those sad and fateful years,
But we are free and with our great endurance
We have strength to face the future without fears.
We are here because we were the very strongest.
We will finish this adventure, come what may.
With our proven strength of four, we can ask for nothing more.
I'll wager that we make, day by day.
The past is done and over; we can now move on again.
We will beat down every challenge where it may lie.
Let each do his rightful share, in every way be fair,
For we all must help each other, else we die.
Moving as fast as possible for fear of recapture, near sunset, they saw the smoke of campfires and came to an Indian encampment. To their surprise, the Avavares welcomed them and knew them as shamans or medicine men. Somehow their reputations as healers of the sick had preceded them, although that had been ended in the coastal tribes a few years before.
When several men asked to cure their headaches, it became a very serious decision. The Indians were lavish with gifts when a patient recovered but could be deadly enemies if one of their family died. As medicine men, they had only the power of their faith, a prayer of blessing, and the sign of the Cross. Again, they had no choice.
So many Indians came for relief that eventually all four had to become full fledged healers to handle all the cases. Estevanico, though not a Christian, was as effective as the others. All were highly successful. It matters not whether their cures were the result of positive thinking or something more. To the Indians they were Gods of the Supernatural.
The Avavares convinced them that going farther north or west during the winter months would be disastrous. This resulted in a seven months stay with the tribe.**
On the return of Spring, they left the camp at night to avoid any obstacle with their hosts. To the Marianes, the Arbadaos, and numerous other Indian tribes, they progressed across what is now called the Texas plains. It was imperative to follow the Indian trails to make any headway.
Everywhere their fame as medicine men had preceded them. The Indian towns welcomed them with receptions and hundreds would follow as they moved onward. As the summer went on, this became a major dilemma. The camp followers were becoming a riotous mob, robbing and looting the villages they passed through. Their quartet of idols were "Children of the Sun" and must be presented with all manner of food and gifts. These were generally blessed by Cabeza de Vaca and returned to the givers.
Two incidents should be mentioned. At some town along the Colorado river of Texas, they were given two gourd rattles by the Indian medicine men. These were highly revered and used for special occasions or healing ceremonies. Only their owners were allowed to touch them. The Indians said they came down the rivers in the spring flood. Estevanico and Cabeza de Vaca both accepted them as added symbols of their authority. Actually, they were medicine rattles of the Pueblo Indians. Whether they had come down the river of been obtained by trade was never determined.
At another point, Andres Dorantes was given a large copper bell with a face cast into the surface. The four men were equally surprised and elated. Indians didn't have foundries! It had to have come from Mexico, regardless of what stories they might be told. They were heading in the right direction and must continue west.
**Historical note: In writing of this period, Cabeza de Vaca makes the first printed mention of the American buffalo.