You must login to vote
OF THE WILDERNESS
Skytiyia-Wa-Tissa Stormcloud with
Too-Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekht (also know as):
Thunder Lightning Stormcloud
The first white men of your people who came to our country were named Lewis and Clark. They brought many things which our people had never seen. They talked straight and our people gave them a great feast as proof that their hearts were friendly. They made presents to our chiefs and our people made presents to them. We had a great many horses of which we gave them what they needed, and they gave us guns and tobacco in return. All the Nez Perce made friends with Lewis and Clark and agreed to let them pass through their country and never to make war on white men. This promise the Nez Perce have never broken.
Chief Joseph - Nez Perce
For a short time we lived quietly. But this could not last. White men had found gold in the mountains around the land of the Winding Water. They stole a great many horses from us and we could not get them back because we were Indians. The white men told lies for each other. They drove off a great many of our cattle. Some white men branded our young cattle so they could claim them. We had no friends who would plead our cause before the law councils. It seemed to me that some of the white men in Wallowa were doing these things on purpose to get up a war. They knew we were not strong enough to fight them. I labored hard to avoid trouble and bloodshed. We gave up some of our country to the white men, thinking that then we could have peace. We were mistaken. The white men would not let us alone. We could have avenged our wrongs many times, but we did not. Whenever the Government has asked for help against other Indians we have never refused. When the white men were few and we were strong we could have killed them off, but the Nez Perce wishes to live at peace.
On account of the treaty made by the other bands of the Nez Perce the white man claimed my lands. We were troubled with white men crowding over the line. Some of them were good men, and we lived on peaceful terms with them, but they were not all good. Nearly every year the agent came over from Lapwai and ordered us to the reservation. We always replied that we were satisfied to live in Wallowa. We were careful to refuse the presents or annuities which he offered.
Through all the years since the white man came to Wallowa we have been threatened and taunted by them and the treaty Nez Perce. They have given us no rest. We have had a few good friends among the white men, and I have always advised my people to bear these taunts without fighting. Our young men are quick tempered and I have had great trouble in keeping them from doing rash things. I have carried a heavy load on my back ever since I was a boy. I learned then that we were but few while the white men were many, and that we could not hold our own with them. We were like deer. They were like grizzly bears. We had a small country. Their country was large. We were contented to let things remain as the Great Spirit Chief made them. They were not; and would change the mountains and rivers if they did not suit them.
Chief Joseph - Nez Perce
Suppose a white man should come to me and say, "Joseph, I like your horses. I want to buy them."
I say to him, "No, my horses suit me; I will not sell them."
Then he goes to my neighbor and says to him, "Joseph has some good horses, I want to buy them, but he refuses to sell."
My neighbor answers, "Pay me the money and I will sell Joseph's horses."
The white man returns to me as says, "Joseph, I have bought your horses and you must let me have them."
If we sold our lands to the government, this is the way they bought them.
Chief Joseph - Nez Perce
If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian, he can live in peace. Treat all men alike. Give them all the same law. Give them all an even chance to live and grow.
All men were made by the same Great Spirit Chief. They are all brothers. The Earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it. You might as well expect the rivers to run backward as that any man who was born a free man should be contented when penned up and denied liberty to go where he pleases.
If you tie a horse to a stake, do you expect he will grow fat? If you pen an Indian up on a small spot of earth, and compel him to stay there, he will not be contented, nor will he grow and prosper.
Chief Joseph - Nez Perce
At his surrender in the Bear Paw Mountains, 1877
Tell General Howard that I know his heart. What he told me before I have in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead; Tu-hul-hil-sote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who now say yes or no. He who led the young men [Joseph's brother Olikut] is dead. It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people -- some of them have run away to the hills and have no blankets and no food. No one knows where they are -- perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more against the white man.
Chief Joseph - Nez Perce
Good words do not last long unless they amount to something. Words do not pay for my dead people. They do not pay for my country, now overrun by white men. They do not protect my father's grave. They do not pay for all my horses and cattle.
Good words will not give back my children. Good words will not make good the promise of your War Chief. Good words will not give my people good health and stop them from dying. Good words will not get my people a home where they can live in peace and take care of themselves.
I am tired of talk that comes to nothing. It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and all the broken promises. There has been too much talking by men who had no right to talk.
Chief Joseph 1877
The Players & the Prayers
The small family group rode through the wilderness in silence. It could have been 1861 or 1961; their clothes were buckskins and furs. It was only the first part of December and Grey Wolf knew that they had to get the horses and cattle out of the mountains before the next snowfall. He looked toward his wife, Son-Sera; she was heavy with his child. She had assured him that she could make this trip; the child would not come until after the New Year. Still, he was glad that his mother and two of his sons had made the trip with them. He was proud of the women in his family; they were strong and walked with much honor. His people, the Nez’ Perce had called this land of the Wallow Valley, home. His Grandfather, Chief Joseph, had done everything in his power to keep his people together and keep peace with the incoming flood of Americans. He had been taught that in order to survive, he must accept the ways of the new Americans, to learn to live their way of life. Though in his heart he would always walk the way of the ancestors and teach his children the old ways along with the new Americans.
The Creator had blessed him with many children, fine sons and beautiful daughters. However, as he looked at his wife, he thought this child will be like no other. He had had many disturbing visions in the last few months and had wondered at their meaning.
Te-pahle-wan rode slowly following Son-Sera’s horse. Her daughter-in-law was a strong woman. However, all of Geronimo’s blood was strong. It was good that the blood of her father, Chief Joseph and the blood of Geronimo will flow through the veins of the child of Geronimo’s granddaughter and her son.
Te-pahle-wan had seen 87 winters. She had watched her people and their numbers grow smaller. In her life, she had seen many changes. Born in 1877, at the time when the very existence of her people lay in the balance of the US Government’s judgment of her father, Chief Joseph. He had tired to keep peace between the swarm of Americans that invaded their valley, through treaties and many talks he had hoped that all could live in peace. That peace was broken when General Howard, known as the one arm General, was given orders to move the Nez Perce Nation from their winter camp to the high country where they usually summered.
There was no way the nation could survive the harsh mountain winters, the government knew this, but their greed for the land was so great, it didn’t matter if the cost was the lives of the natives that had called this land home for as long as could be remembered. Chief Joseph had asked for time to gather his people and safely make the trip. The General was given orders to take the land no matter what. Chief Joseph and his brother, Olikut chief of the young warriors, had notice the soldiers camped on the other side of the river. Remembering Wounded Knee, Chief Joseph decided to put distance between the soldiers and his people. So during the night General Howard took his soldiers across for a sunrise attack. What he found as he fired into the lodges was an empty village. Chief Joseph and his people had crossed going the opposite way across the river up to Rattlesnake Mountain. As General Howard pulled his spyglass in search of his prey, he spotted Chief Joseph and his people. He had always had a great respect for the great chief, but never in his entire military career, was he ever taught the great strategy shown by what others called a man of Peace. Without firing one shot or losing one of his people he had out-smarted the seasoned General. With a smile on the general face at his old friend’s feat, he was heard to say, “He has won this battle without a shot.” “Headquarters has no ideal the man they have tried to cage. You can cage an eagle, but never their spirit.” There was no easy answers for her father, she had often wondered how different this country would have been if they had honored their words of peace to her grandfather and father.
Old Joseph had known that the whites would keep coming, had he not sent a delegation to Saint Louis in 1831 for white teachers. He knew the only way for his people to survive and not suffer the same fate as the eastern nations, was to learn the white’s way. It took 5 winters to answer the great chief’s request. Dr. Whitman and Rev. Spalding with their wives by their sides sparked a missionary movement to the northwest. They traveled what would soon be the Oregon Trail to arrive at the junction of the Columbia and Snake Rivers. They established a mission there, to bring Christianity to the Native Americans of the northwest. What they brought were an on rush of settlers, their lies, greed and their epidemics that spread through the nations. In 1847, warriors massacred Dr. Whitman, his wife and 12 others at Waiilatpu, their mission, in reprisal for deaths caused by a measles epidemic among their tribe. Three years later, five Cayuse warriors, among them, the tribe’s war chief, Tiloukaikt, went to Oregon City for the Whitman Massacre. The citizens of the town hung them. All five had turned themselves in to spare their people from persecution. “Did not your missionaries teach us that Christ died to save his people? Tiloukaikt said on his way to the gallows. “So we die to save our people.”
Te-pahle-wan thought of just how many had died to save her people. She had asked the Great Creator to show her the way to bring her people together, to remember, so not all of the lives lost were lost in vain. She thought to herself, there are many ways to die. She remembers growing up in a strange land, under secrets to keep her safe. Her father had insisted that the great warrior Yellow Feather take her and her mother, Springtime, on into Canada, and into the safety of Sitting Bull’s camp. At eleven weeks old, her father saved her from the imprisonment that her people, including her father endured at the hands of the Americans and still 87 winters later, her people were still considered prisoners of war, sentenced to waste in the Coalfield Prison Camp that the Americans called a reservation. Her people were separated, families torn apart when the women and young children were torn from their husbands to live in the Lapwai Prison Camp. They used this method to keep control over the warriors. Yes, surly the Great Creator would answer her prayers. She would see the signs when he showed them to her. For what other reason could the Great Creator have for allowing her the greatest gift her father could give…Freedom.
Son-Sera rode in quite thought, thinking of the child that moved inside of her. This child was not like the others she had carried. It felt as if it knew every thought and fear she had. She had heard her husband’s talk in his sleep. Although he reassured her, he too, had felt this child is different. She wanted to love this child of her husband but she was afraid. She prayed to the Creator to give her the strength that she needed to fulfill whatever he had in mind for her. She would be happy when the child came and she would see how silly her fears were. It would not be long now, she could feel his impatience at being confined, it was as if he knew he had an important journey to make and wanted to get started. She felt so much love for her husband, although they were so different in temperament. He treated her with respect, and she knew he loved her for herself. They watched out for one another and although they both had children from past marriages. The Creator had blessed their union with a child. It was important to have Geronimo’s blood and the blood of Chief Joseph’s blend. The many Nations showed traits diminished through bloodlines; she knew the child she carried would have an important path to follow. She had heard the Elders speak that maybe this child would be the one to bring greatness back to the Nations. She knew in her heart that the Great Chiefs watched over them. They had alerted the animals of the wilderness to keep guard; she could feel their eyes watching, not to harm, but to protect her child, the Prince.
Lightning, Grey Wolf’s 18 year old son, was in the lead of the small party. He was a giant of a man with classic Nez Perce qualities. His long blue black hair hung freely to his waist, his broad shoulders showed he was not afraid of a day’s work. He towered over his 15 years old little brother, Lance. Though fiercely protective of his family, he had a gentle heart toward the younger ones. He was already over seven feet tall, strong of heart and character. You could see the great chief in him that was his great grandfather, in the way he handled each individual, treating them with respect.
Lance rode up to his brother, without saying a word to one another; they knew that they would have to stop soon to make camp. Lightning did not want to push his mother or grandmother too much on the trail and the weather was starting to get worse. It was starting to snow harder and as he looked back up the mountain, he heard thunder roll over the mountain and flashes of lightning in the skies. As the sky was ablaze in light, he saw the outline of a great buffalo, he felt the animals following them and wonder if the others had also seen the signs. An eagle had led the buffalo to the top of the ridge; it was if the whole forest was pulsating in attentiveness in what was to come. He needed to stop soon in order to make camp, the weather was getting worse and he felt a great need to protect the unborn child of his father.
Lance rode toward his father and told him they would be stopping soon. Lightning and he would ride ahead to find a safe place to seek shelter for the night. Grey Wolf agreed that they could not make it down the mountain before the storm hit full force. It was already hard to see through the falling snow with thunder and lightning on the mountain. The weather this season so far had been unpredictable. He looked toward his wife and mother and knew he needed to find shelter for them. The whole mountain felt charged with an atmosphere of ascendancy. He felt as if he was starting to live one of his visions that had plagued him in the last few weeks. He would be happy to get his family and livestock back safely to the ranch.
Lightning and Lance found a clearing not far from the main trail. By the time Grey Wolf and the women caught up with them, they had started a fire. They had the livestock secured for the night and they had found a natural hot spring nearby for water, at least the water would not freeze.
Grey Wolf rode up to find his sons building a shelter against the oncoming darkness. The boys were just about finish when Son-Sera rode up to him. By the look on his face, he knew that she was glad that they were stopping for the night. The child felt so heavy and she needed rest.
Birth of the Guardian
Te-pahle-wan had made Son-Sera as comfortable as possible; she lay back onto soft thick buffalo robes covered by one of the many quilts Te-pahle-wan had sewn over the years. There was fresh meat roasting over a small fire. Son-Sera felt very tired all of the sudden. She felt a tug and a warm rush deep in her belly and then between her legs. She was astonished that there was no pain. Her water had not even broken. She called out to Grey Wolf to come to her. As Grey Wolf saw to his wife, Te-pahle-wan picked up the birth sack containing her grandchild. She prayed to the Creator that the child would live. She knew it was too early for him to come. She felt a pulsing flow as she moved closer to the fire. Quietly and with deftness, Te-pahle-wan took the knife from her belt and made a slit along the length of the birth sack. She did not know what to think as she looked down into the birth soaked ground. There was a small ball of what seemed to be long soft white hair. She stared for what seemed like forever but in reality was only a few seconds. She heard a gasp from Son-Sera; their eyes meet for a moment. Then Te-pahle-wan look back toward the bundle before her, she carefully pulled back the long hair. To her surprise, two very intelligent shinning black eyes met his grandmother’s stare. In that moment, Te-pahle-wan felt such a rush of emotions. She looked into the eyes of her people and into the eyes of all the nations. She knew that the Creator had answered her prayer at last.
She had to chuckle at the small babe, as the cold air touched his skin for the first time an angry growl escaped from his little body. To her and the family’s astonishment, they saw little fangs and a mouth full of teeth shinning in the firelight at them. As the thunder rolled over the mountains and lightning flashed across the snow-filled sky, they saw three stars fall to earth.
She had heard the stories as a young woman, that one day the three greatest chiefs would come back to led the nations, could it be that they had returned tonight in the form of this small strange child? It was true that the blood of the greatest warriors in recent memory flowed through his veins. She could see all three in his small face. He had her father’s wise eyes and the stubbornness of Geronimo’s chin and lastly the fine feature’s of Crazy Horse was known to have. Legend was that a guardian would be born; he would be of both man and beast. He would be the Protector of the Nations and bring all the people together as one great Nation. She would name this child Too-Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekht after her father. He would need the wisdom of the great chief as he grows into his destiny. She quietly prayed that the Creator would give her time with this child to instill him on the path he was born to take. She knew like all great leaders, it would be one filled with pain. She prayed that the Creator keep him strong for the journey.
Lance had pulled the roasted meat to the side of the fire to cool. He watched this little brother be born into the cold wilderness night. He too, had felt the gathering of the animals starting to surround them, though he did not feel threatened, he moved his rifle closer to his side. The babe was wrapped in soft deerskin, as so of his ancestors had lain.
Lightning was watching the baby wrapped warmly in the skins, his new little brother’s eyes watching everything around the camp. He was like no other child Lightning had ever been around, as he watched his little brother, to his astonishment, the baby reached toward the pan of roasted venison and took a chuck of the warm meat in his hand. He took a bite of the meat as if he was already grown. Before anyone could react to this unusual event, something even more surprising happened.
A large male wolf boldly walked into the camp, up to the fire, he stood between the family and the baby. His large golden eyes rested on the child for a moment, and then he called to his mate to come forward. The female wolf came up to the babe, licking the meat juices from his face. The baby cooed and smiled at the she wolf, she accepted the piece of meat the child offered. Both wolves snuggled close to the child to keep him warm.
Te-pahle-wan knew the wolves would not harm the child. She knew they were here to protect him. She and the others could feel the many eyes that surround them. It seemed as if every animal in the Forrest wanted to be witness to the child’s entrance into the world. She looked into the eyes of wisdom of the great grizzly bear and the great black bear, wolves, cougars, badgers, wolverines, bald and golden eagles, owls, raccoons, elk and mule deer. Something deep inside her heart told her that they had gathered in a protective circle to welcome the child. And that these creatures and their offspring would help guide her grandson to his destiny. She knew that the family need to have no fear of the great creatures of the Forest, they were part of the future that had been foretold so many years ago.
She asked Lightning to gather milk from a doe that had walked up to him. The baby needed milk and she did not think that the wolves would allow Son-Sera to nurse. As the child watched his grandmother come toward him, he heard his grandmother tell the wolves that he needed milk to live. They moved enough to let the grandmother close enough to feed the warm milk from a tin cup to the babe. When the she-wolf felt the child was full, she gathered the baby up in the deerskin and carried him toward the forest. All the great animals parted to let the Alfa Female pass with the new prince. Her mate looked directly at Lightning as if to tell him to have the family to follow them.
The female wolf held the baby’s robe tightly in her mouth, as she made her way through the underbrush to the cave that had been prepared for the arrival of the child and his family. Her name was Mariah and she was the Alpha Female of the pack, Silver was her mate. They had watched the family make their way down the mountainside, keeping behind them; waiting for the coming birth of the child.
When she made her way through the mouth of the cave, the baby squirmed in recognition; through ancestry; long forgotten, he knew that he was home. He snuggled down into the bed of pine needles and fir that the pack had prepared for him. With a full belly and the warmth and closeness of Mariah’s body, he was soon fast asleep.
Silver slowed, making sure he was being followed. The parents and the one called Lightning were making their way through the oncoming storm through the forest. The other three were still in their camp, Silver called to the other members in their pack; they would make sure the rest of the family stayed protected and would soon follow.
When Silver led the group into the warmth of the hidden cave, they were astonished at its size. Lightning realized that not only the family could find shelter from the coming storm, but also the livestock. He made sure his little brother was safe. He smiled as he looked down at the sleeping babe. The she wolf looked up at Lightning and he could swear he saw love in the golden eyes. He knew in his heart that no harm would come to any of them as long as the wolves were protecting them. He settled his parents safely in the warm cave and with Silver close to him; the pair went into the storm. Together with Lance, they would gather the stock and bring them to the warmth and safety of the cave. Thanks to the protectors of the wilderness, his family would be safe in the coming storm.