Sometimes, I think about lost hopes and last chances; of Two Spears and his people. "Pent-up. Hungry. They're on the reservation because they're made to be. And, yet with quietness of spirit. One that whispers to them, 'more to come'." Two Spears is a Pawnee. His wife was killed by the soldiers. We almost lost Cloud Dancing by his hand. A long time ago, the Cheyenne fought the Pawnee. But, Cloud Dancing told the younger brother the Pawnee were no longer our enemies. Here, at Palmer Creek, we are one people with one common enemy. Cloud Dancing believes the nations should come together. He knows the Arapaho, Utes, and Pawnee are strong, but together they are stronger. Cloud Dancing told them that "although we are different nations forced to live on a land not of our own choosing, we must work together and not fight each other." He said, "only then will we survive. We are one blood. One people."
Two Spears is angry. He doesn't trust us because we didn't trust him. That's where the younger brother made a mistake. He sees the workd in only one way. He wanted Two Spears to stop the fighting. We are here today because Cloud Dancing prayed and grieved for us and because Two Spears raged and fought for us. Our traditions and cultures were kept alive by both. No one's perfect, not even Younger Brother. And, we are not obligated to see things in the same way, in always his way. He doesn't understand. Once, Cloud Dancing asked him: "Is there nothing you would not fight for?" War and peace kept us alive.
With troubled thoughts, Younger Brother sent Two Spears away to another reservation. Cloud Dancing felt he would be free of it too. But, no. "Now, you see! What once was sure, no longer is. Once, the will was there. Now, where's the way?" One day, Cloud Dancing became Two Spears and rode with th Dog Soldiers. It could be him again another day. "There is always a choice." [Washita. One Touch of Nature. Last Chance. One Nation.]
I'm reminded of a story Cloud Dancing told to the Medicine Woman. "It seems a young frog was trying to win the heart of a porcupine. His father said to him: 'My son, how can you fall in love with a porcupine.' The young frog replied, 'The skunk would not have me.'" [Dead or Alive.]
Cloud Dancing: "I will ask the Ghost Buffalo to protect you, as he has the herd and our people.
The Cheyenne believe that a white buffalo guards the herd. We call him "Running Ghost." In our traditions, the buffalo is sacred and is a part of our of life. "Cloud Dancing says that if you see a white buffalo, he is real." Many years ago, "Cloud Dancing was hunting near Cedar Lake when he heard the sound of cracking ice. He climbed a ridge to take a look and saw hundreds of buffalo trying to cross the lake. The ice started to give way. All he could do was wait and watch for the worst to happen. And, that's when he saw the most frightful sight. There appeared before him a great white buffalo, as white as the snow. The herd saw him too; and they stopped dead in their tracks. For some reason, they went back. Then Running Ghost turned and Cloud Dancing could see that his eyes were glowing like two red hot coals in a fire. The ghost buffalo looked right at him. Cloud Dancing said it was like the buffalo could see right into his spirit. Suddenly, the buffalo turned, ran toward the trees and disappeared." [Running Ghost]
Our people have a saying, "there is no warning for an oncoming danger." I will speak plain, "past the skin, through the teeth" about tragedy and healing. We have always camped on the banks of the Washita in the spring. When we were turned away at Fort Cobb, we headed toward the river. It is a long ride, but Washita is a beautiful place. A landscape of greens and blues; the "grass is tall and the river swollen." We thought it would be a safe place, as it had been many times. "Before the sun, the soldiers fell into our camp; we could not escape." We only had time to whisper a death song. Black Kettle ran out to meet the soldiers, clutching the flag they gave him; their flag. Smoke hugged the ground like telltale breaths in the emptiness of sky. Many died that day.
Some women and children were taken as prisoners. The soldiers unable to get enough of killing our people, killed our horses. This was more than killing, more than just making dead. Did Black Kettle think to himself of "another camp, another stream, at dawn, at Sand Creek; a time not far behind when he saw the bluecoats coming. And, Snowbird's words of having "never found killing to be a true path to peace"; did they mock her? Their paths had led them here. Cloud Dancing finds Snowbird dying. He sings a death song. He cuts his arm; something that only women do. His grief is deep. We left our people where they fell to feed our mother. The sound of wailing birds intrudes upon the silence. They had refused to be silent.
Black Kettle told us many times of being able to live in hope. When faced with hopelessness, sometimes the best thing to do is to wait and embrace hope. It seemed an impossible task then. It doesn't matter if you believe or understand what happened. We have memories of the day that still haunt. They break through the freshness of what we already know. Fifty-three of us survived that day. We would have trouble surviving the peace too. This is the first time I have told this story. [Washita]
In our winter counts, there was a time when our stories were broken. When the People were made to forget. Our stories tell how the world began and how the People should behave. Our stories link the past to the present to the future. From elder to youth. From teacher to student. A vision of any story depends on your position in the circle. Each vision is unique.
Children are the greatest possession of our nation. They represent the coming generations; the life of the People. A circle without end. That's why Cloud Dancing was so angry with the Reverend. He's a good man, but the Reverend did not understand until later. If our children don't hear or tell our stories, the circle is broken.
Let the children hear
our stories circling around ...
When we sit in a circle, we hear stories.
I know someone here who
knows many stories. When he
was your age, he learned
stories from his elders.
They p a s s e d their wisdom to him. He
p a s s e d the stories to the children of
w here knows of the Tsitsistas and how they came to be?
The Cheyenne believe that before there was earth, our grandmother, all was water, and the crow he talked to the turtles. The turtles dove down and got some mud and they brought it up ...
The Arapaho are taught that Ni-Anc-An created sun and moon, man and woman to mold and shape the earth ... Old man coyote told the birds to dive into the water for mud. Three could not find mud, but one did and from that he made the earth ...
The elk dreamers of the Lakota believe that Inyan came first and he was there when there was no other ...
Whites believe that the world was created by one God. He created man and woman, named Adam and Eve. And, they lived in a beautiful garden called Eden ...
The children are our circle and the circle is our life without end. [Hearts and Minds.]
"Remember, the two-legged and four-legged were made by the same creator. We are relatives." [Father's Day]
©1997 Larry Sellers