*pic taken of my reservation by my friend Father Bucko
"Breathtaking! Just Breathtaking!" said the agent who was showing the family of 5 their new land.
"Under the Dawes Act this land is now yours and your family. Well of course we will hold it in trust for you for 25 years before you are allowed to sell it. At that time you may sell it. Materials will be provided for you to build a house so the days of the tipi will be gone. You will now be civilized." The agent turned to the family of five and shook the hand of the father, Kills Enemy.
Kills Enemy watched as the agent rode away and his wife and daughters set up the tipi. He looked at the land that was to be his own. He was now expected to farm. The thought made him sick. How could he, a great warrior be expected to farm? Only a little over ten years earlier he was in the Battle at Greasy Grass where they had taken out General Custer (Long Hair) and took the flag of the 7th calvary home.
He jumped on his horse and rode looking for something for his wife to cook. When he looked back Red Shawl was watching him go. He rode on all of the land the government gave him. It was dry, even the wild weeds were dead. He couldn't see anything moving, perhaps it was too hot. Maybe if he rode near the water. It took him forever to find some water but when he did he also was able to shoot a rabbit. It was a small rabbit, but he was the man. He had to provide for his family.
When he arrived back at his tipi, the white agent was there again. He had brought blankets.
"I forgot to tell you Kills Enemy, you are no longer allowed to hunt. You can go into Pine Ridge once a month to pick up your rations."
"Those rations are full of worms. We cannot eat those." Kills Enemy told him.
"You shouldn't complain, they are free." The agent rode away. "We will be bringing your supplies to build your own house tomorrow."
Red Shawl went to work butchering the rabbit. Their daughters had gone out and dug up tinpsila's (prairie turnips) to go in the soup. The word the agent used to describe this land, breathtaking. she wondered about it. What did he mean by it? Did he really mean breathtaking? Was this land going to take their breath? Because it felt like it. She felt as if she couldn't breathe here. Her husband couldn't hunt. They couldn't live in their beloved tipi. How much worse was it going to get?
After dinner their girls ran around and her husband sang her a song by the fire. Red Shawl was lonely for the other women of the camp. For her mother and sisters and her husband's mother. Why did life have to change so much?
Only years earlier they were allowed to live in the Black Hills. Allowed to hunt under the 1868 Treaty. Then the Great Chief of Washington came and took it all away again. After the Greasy Grass Battle, then Crazy Horse was murdered. Nothing went good for the people after that.
Red Shawl remembered hearing of the last time Crazy Horse spoke.
"My friend, I do not blame you for this. Had I listened to you this trouble would not have happened to me. I was not hostile to the white men. Sometimes my young men would attack the Indians who were their enemies and took their ponies. They did it in return. We had buffalo for food, and their hides for clothing and for our teepees. We preferred huntiing to a life of idleness on the reservation, where we were driven against our will. At times we did not get enough to eat and we were not allowed to leave the reservation to hunt. We preferred our own way of living. We were no expense to the government. All we wanted was peace and to be left alone. Soldiers were sent out in the winter, they destroyed our villages. The "Long Hair" [Custer] came in the same way. They say we massacred him, but he would have done the same thing to us had we not defended ourselves and fought to the last. Our first impulse was to escape with our squaws and papooses, but we were so hemmed in that we had to fight. After that I went up on the Tongue River with a few of my people and lived in peace. But the government would not let me alone. Finally, I came back to the Red Cloud Agency. Yet, I was not allowed to remain quiet. I was tired of fighting. I went to the Spotted Tail Agency and asked that chief and his agent to let me live there in peace. I came here with the agent [Lee] to talk with the Big White Chief but was not given a chance. They tried to confine me. I tried to escape, and a soldier ran his bayonet into me. I have spoken."
Now that he is gone, she wondered if life would ever be like it used to. Would the people give up the fight? Would the Oglala Lakota stop fighting? They were forcing the people to live like they were poor, how long would this go on?
She started to grab the blankets the agent gave them.
"Hiya" (NO) her husband said and he threw them in the fire. "They may have sickness on them. My cousin died from government blankets."
Thye went to bed that night under buffalo robes and dreamed of the days they were able to roam and follow the buffalo. Someday those days would be back. Someday.
For Carol's Random Writing Challenge