The ax has fallen
the lance is free
The enemy has awakened
There is no rest
for that of the wicked
A messiah has risen
coming forth is the call
Take Your Possession
In The Shadow’s Rising
Thirty enraged Indian braves and one blond mountain man hid in the trees watching the hated enemy approach the river. The cavalry’s numbers had increased by about twenty-five; probably joined by the patrol from The Forks that had chased the Sioux most of the previous day. Why the US cavalry had declared war on Isaac’s tribe no longer mattered to the warriors ready to ambush the soldiers coming to water their horses. What did matter was that the Sioux were thirsty for blood. Vengeance had fused this small, once peaceful branch of the Sioux tribe — reluctant for war, into a dangerous bond of merciless killers bent on the destruction of anyone associated with the US government. Death would come swiftly to the fools riding into a firestorm of men Isaac had positioned to take the best advantage of the natural cover afforded by the trees and tall ridges that guarded the seemingly safest course to the river. The green commander of the troop was oblivious to the danger, probably feeling safe in their numbers and training: armed with carbines and sabers, still toting the memories of their recent victory against the helpless victims of yesterday’s offensive: the elderly too old to fight and the wives and children of Isaac and Reuben’s adopted tribe.
Isaac’s plan was simple: lined along the ridges on either side, — wait until the enemy columns had made their way into the small valley, don’t fire until they’re so close no one would miss. In the first wave they would catch the soldiers by surprise and the numbers should swing closer to the tribe’s favor. Resist the first impulse to charge, but reload and shoot again from the cover of tree, hill, or natural rock bulwark. The startled soldiers will then call a retreat to regroup; but as they try and run, a rear guard, — that let them pass at first, — would make as much noise as possible and open fire in an effort to turn them back to the river. Undoubtedly by that time the Sioux would have the advantage and any survivors of the cavalry would feel the wrath of men outraged by the unthinkable and forged into a force with one purpose in life — to avenge.
Isaac‘s pistol rested on a rock ledge by his side within easy reach as he stood poised with grim determination; his muzzleloader trained on the captain near the head of the column. His shot would signal the attack as Reuben sat ready to then take out the lieutenant. Any other men of rank would be their next targets as the two marksmen would try and eliminate the command structure.
The blond mountain man took two deep deliberate breaths; exhaling them slowly as he calmed his nerves and steadied his muscles. With the ball at the muzzle end of his rifle resting smooth in the forked cradle of his sight he followed the captain’s head effortlessly as the unsuspecting target moved closer. Suddenly the officer reined his mount to a stop raising his arm to halt his command. The silent order spoke of trouble and although the enemy was farther away then Isaac had hoped he squeezed his trigger smoothly. The report of the weapon echoed over the small valley as a cloud billowed forth momentarily blocking the mountain man’s view, but the impact struck the intended man in the forehead, taking out half of the back of his skull as the ball exited, spinning the captain off the rear of his horse.
Within milliseconds Reuben shot the lieutenant in the chest. The man slumped forward in the saddle and then slid from his mount, his left foot still stuck in the stirrup as the horse bolted. The Sioux war cries and multiple rifle fire told the battle was in full swing within moments as Isaac and Reuben mechanically reloaded. The blond shot a sergeant yelling commands as he tried to organize the chaos and Reuben dropped the bugler amidst a hail of lead aimed at his position. Both men ducked the onslaught and reloaded as the cavalry un-expectantly charged the ridges, taking the offensive to the enemy.
Isaac popped up over his natural rock battlement to shoot again and met a mounted soldier with pistol drawn and aimed at him. The horse reared, startled at the sudden appearance of the blond and Isaac stumbled backwards to avoid the hooves and fell back to his left hip. Swinging the muzzle of his rifle upward toward his antagonist, he instantaneously pulled the trigger. The bullet struck the soldier in the chest causing him to jerk back and drop his Colt. The horse’s hooves hit the dirt to Isaac’s left as the blond rolled away from the danger and picked up his enemy’s fallen pistol and shot two more soldiers in quick succession from his prone position on the ground.
The charge quickly lost focus as some of the cavalry broke rank and bolted for the river. Reuben dropped the one leading the retreat and spun to the brush behind to recover his horse for pursuit.
Isaac scrambled to retrieve his own pistol from the rock ledge by his initial perch while the horse of the man he had shot with his rifle was still pounding the earth and striking the air with its front legs as the mortally wounded rider was fighting desperately to stay on. Isaac grabbed the reins to the rearing horse and swung into the saddle pulling the rider from his perch, then spurred the animal into a charge of the retreating enemy making a break for the river. The acquired cavalry pistol in his left hand clicked on an empty chamber as Isaac tried to fire the weapon so he threw it aside and pulled his revolver which he had tucked in his belt and shot into the fleeing soldiers.
Behind, his victorious brethren were also gathering up their horses to take up pursuit as ten yelling riders led by Reuben joined Isaac in his attack. About fifteen surviving soldiers regrouped at the river edge and turned to charge,— to the Indians surprise.
The blond mountain man noticing one of the men, with four crusted red marks down his left cheek, was flanking his companions nearer the river’s edge. Sashtee had, had skin and blood under her right fingernails and Isaac had assumed she had clawed the flesh of an assailant during her fight for her life. Now the blond felt sure he had found the very man that had assaulted his wife and left her and his unborn child to die. His rage surged as he thought of his beautiful Sashtee slipping away in his arms. Gut-shot was a slow unbearable way to die in itself, but this animal in his merciless assault had put a bullet in her stomach and left her to lie naked and alone on an icy snow bank in agony for hours before death had finally claimed her. Isaac’s soul screamed for revenge; to feel this man’s life drain under his hand sucked all reason as he dashed his mount in a direct line of attack on the man to the right of the regrouped offensive. Pounding down the ridge on a course undeterred by the shower of lead Isaac saw nothing but the single target of his revenge.
Isaac emptied his pistol in the direction of the advancing enemy then tossed the useless weapon aside and pulled his Bowie knife from its sheath. The soldiers drew saber to meet the onslaught of Indians as Isaac drove his animal into the charging scar-faced soldier’s mount. Both horses stumbled at the collision, but Isaac sprang over his saddle at impact, hitting the soldier in the chest, forcing the enemy from the saddle and causing the soldier to land with a thud on his back. The blond mountain man came up grabbing the solder’s throat with his left hand and stuck his blade into the man’s abdomen while spitting in the man’s face. Leaning down over the defeated, Isaac whispered in the helpless man‘s ear, “After I kill your comrades, I’ll be back to peel you slow.” Then he twisted the blade as the man screamed out in agony. Grabbing the man’s topknot he cut to the bone tugging with his left hand as he drove his right knee into the man’s shoulder, shoving the limp body to the earth. The scalp snapped free with a pop. With the Sioux war cry on his lips the enraged blond rose off his vanquished and pounded his chest in fury. Spotting the soldier’s sword in the grass by the bank, Isaac lunged after the weapon and picking up the fallen saber with his left hand — ran to meet the next enemy.
Clashing sword, knife, war-axe and lance echoed over the rivers surface as the battle pushed into the swift water,— when in the distance a bugle sounded announcing the near approach of support coming to the cavalry’s aid.
Reuben flew off his horse and landed behind the saddle of a fighting soldier. Wrapping his left arm around the man’s neck he plunged his knife into the soldier’s kidney and pulled the man from his mount when the bugle’s call caught his attention. A large force was pressing their way from the opposite side of the river. The young looking Crow brave scanned the battle spotting his uncle pushing waist deep into the river after a soldier who had fallen from his mount. The chase through the splashing barrier would lead the two into the path of the advancing support as panic melted over Reuben’s features. “Uncle we must fall back!” He screamed, but Isaac was blinded by revenge and oblivious to the danger’s swift approach.
Reuben seized the reins of his acquired mount and turned, charging his ride into the river after Isaac as a hail of bullets whistled over the banks of the channel. The first volley had little effect other than warn the Sioux of the advancing reserves and the sudden reversal of their victory, but the warriors refused to yield and continued to press on over the vanquished to the other side of the water misinterpreting Reuben’s course as a continuing offensive.
Isaac caught his prey and drove the saber into the man’s back then looked up to face the oncoming onslaught. With only a knife in his belt and sword in his hand he cursed. Taking no heed of his tribe’s following him into death’s jaws; he continued his path to the opposite bank. Resigning his mortality he would surrender his soul with grim determination as he faced the well-armed reinforcements as the survivors of his band came up behind.
The cavalry was almost upon them when a Sioux war cry echoed from the sparse trees around the approaching fresh soldiers and gunfire erupted from the hidden crags and brush of an almost barren landscape. As if from nowhere a party of Sioux and Cheyenne warriors intercepted the enemy catching them off guard. The battle immediately turned in the Indians favor as The Seer’s band, armed with repeating rifles, laid waste to the unsuspecting enemy and Isaac‘s tribe charged into the fray with sword, lance and powder.
“Uncle!” Reuben called out as his mount splashed out of the river on the opposite bank beside Isaac and extended his hand to his blond brother. The mountain man grasped the offer and swung easily into the saddle behind the Crow warrior. Together, with war cries on their lips they attacked. Isaac again pulled his knife, tucked into his belt, as Reuben shot an acquired colt pistol at an enemy hitting his target square in the chest.
The blond mountain man simultaneously launched himself from the back of the horse striking two soldiers off balance and taking one out of the saddle as he plunged his blade deep into the vanquished’s side. The other soldier struck by the blond’s jump, regained his saddle and leveled his pistol at Isaac; but Reuben fired twice, the third trigger pull falling on an empty chamber; but the two bullets were sufficient as the enemy slumped over his horse’s neck. The animal reared spinning the dead man backwards as two other soldiers, now horseless charged Isaac. The mountain man grabbed the sword from the dying man under him and stood in time to parry the saber blow of his first assailant and blocked the second’s jab with his long knife. Clashing metal echoed over the river valley as the two assailants pressed their advantage driving the mountain man back to the water’s edge.
Reuben, under attack by another rider dropped the pistol and pulled his war axe and charged. The steeds collided as saber and tomahawk missed their intended targets, but the close quarter limited the sword’s usefulness and the Crow brave caught the enemy with his next effort under the chin as the warrior’s horse regained its footing. The soldier’s busted jaw stunned his attack as Reuben then swung a savage backhanded blow, driving the blunt end of the ax into the man’s temple knocking the man cold.
Isaac, tied into close conflict with one of the assailants as the other had tripped, kicked the enemy in his manhood then plunged his blade into the man’s abdomen. With a cough the man spit up blood dropping to his knees as Isaac deflected another blow from the second man, intended to decapitate the blond. The mountain man ducked and spun, kicking at the soldier’s knee with his left foot. The strike landed against the joint as a thunderous crack sounded and the man’s leg buckled backward. The pain caused the saber to drop as the blond plunged his sword into the fallen’s chest. As the mountain man pulled his weapon free he scanned the battlefield. As the last soldier fell, the victorious Indians began whooping and cheering their triumph.
Isaac fell back against a rock catching his breath and scanned the devastation rent on the cavalry. An unknown tribe had come to their aid saving the day. How they got there the blond had no idea, but as the mountain man caught his breath he took notice of a short warrior walking toward him with purpose. With steely eyes locked on the small Cheyenne, Isaac took a deep breath and stood up, not sure of the man’s intentions. Others of the short warrior’s tribe began to gather around, but the blond remained undaunted at the unnerving assembly. Isaac, the only white man still standing on the battlefield and perhaps viewed as an enemy by this new group of Indians at war with the whites, felt alone among this new throng.
Silence fell over the once chanting victor’s as the apparent leader of the Cheyenne and Sioux war party stopped in front of the blond. The men from Isaac’s tribe began to gather to their adopted brother’s side not sure either of this leader’s intentions. The two men studied each other with a long pause then the eyes of The Seer dropped to the bear claw adornment around the blond’s neck. The mummified finger of The War God’s hand rested center on the mountain man’s chest and an expression of wonderment melted over the stone features of The Seer. The leader slowly reached out and touched the digit, taking it between his thumb and index finger and began to gently rub the token just as Isaac often did out of habit then let go and stepped back. Turning to his men he cried out in the Cheyenne language, “Behold! The one who is to come!” The medicine man looked skyward then back to his tribe. “The Great Spirit has heard the cry of his children and sent us a brother not of our flesh. A warrior forged by his battle with the gods. It marks the time of our end. A time of change... The gods have demanded sacrifice.” The warrior paused for a long moment — then shouted, “The time of the calling has arrived.”
The gathered men began to mutter. Questioning looks passed among the warriors — one to the other. The braves of Isaac’s tribe were bewildered as they watched in confusion the events unfolding. With the skill of a practiced orator the medicine man had the full attention of all as the throng stared in amazement at the blond mountain man standing like a statue before the gestures of The Seer. The preacher’s voice dropped to almost a whisper as he looked back to Isaac. “We must join under The War God’s lead.” Pounding his chest, his words then lifted in tempo to a rhythm of poetry. “We must kill the hated enemy.” And in a crescendo he cried, “We must finish the task the heavens have loosened on our land.”
The Seer turned back to Isaac with his last word and pulled a knife from his belt. The mountain man stood unwavering as the small man came near. Was he the sacrifice the gods were calling for? What prophecy was this medicine man referring to? Isaac met the steely gaze of The Seer. Any fear the blond had of death had washed away with the passing of his wife, but Isaac felt he had more to do. For what purpose did this little man speak of?
The short warrior unflinchingly dragged the edge of his blade across his own palm while his gaze never faltered from the mountain man’s. “You are the warrior who is young, but old,— a brother, yet not. To the death I pledge my life to you.” The Seer handed the knife to Isaac. “May our mingled blood seal my loyalty.”
The blond took...
She was up before the rooster crowed. Ready to begin her day before the rest of her escorts joined her. First, she made sure to check to see if he, the one who was the Head of the group was awake. His hippo like yawn made her freeze in her tracks. O, thanks be to Nyambe, he was just stretching in his sleep.
Nasilele quickly dashed out of the royal hut and scanned the palace grounds. The guards had not yet taken their guarding posts. Ah, things were looking up. She ran to the Luyana river and waited for the sun.
As the rays hit the water- & the sky started to change colour— Nasilele smiled, how she loved watching the sunrise. Seeing the earth wake up to a new dawn. Another bright morn’.
She placed one hand over her eyes and smiled. Taking in the orangey-reddish view of the sky.
Oh no! The drummers were up and letting the rest of the kingdom now that their King was up. Ready to lead his people.
Nasilele felt her heart skip beats. The King never liked it when one of his wives left the palace without his approval. She placed some mud over her face. Maybe if she disguised herself, she’d be safe from the King’s wrath.
She bent a bit lower as if she had broken her spine. Then proceeded to march over to the palace. The King squinted his eyes when he saw her approaching him.
King: What nonsense is this now?
Nasilele: (clears her throat & bows) My King. (quietly) I went to try a new morning wake up routine. I call it a facial mud bath.
One of the guards who was standing by the King’s side tried to hold his laugh. He shook his head and stared in shock at the Queen’s new morning scheme.
The King sighed. Then waved his hand, he let his darling wife go. Among all his wives, he loved Nasilele the most, she was the seventh and last wife (maybe for now). If she kept acting in such a way, and not bear any children, he might have to go to lucky wife number eight. Hmm, as he thought about this, a messenger came storming in and fell at the King’s feet.
Messenger: (panting) My King. (sobs) Things in the other nearby Leya tribes are not looking so good. They are sending troops here as we speak.
The King rose to his feet. He grabbed his spear and shield. Several of the guards sounded the battle cries. The horns cry was carried into the wind. It moved across the Kingdom for all its people to hear. Nasilele heard the battle cry and rushed to the King. He told her to gather the old women and children. They had to leave to a safer ground. Hide in the furthest hills that were beyond the Luyana river.
Nasilele moved with quick expertise. The King assigned a couple groups of the younger guards in training to follow their Queen. They did as told and fled from their home grounds.
The King watched his beloved wife lead the way to safety. His heart and soul would be with them as they fled to a safe spot.
While Nasilele led the group of women and children. The Leya tribe were right by the palace gates. They brought torches with them and shouted for everyone to surrender.
The King marched with his troops to the front of the gates and closed them behind him. This made the Leya Chief to act even crazier. He clapped his hands and stomped his feet.
Chief~ (laughs) You think you’re being clever. We can break these so called gates of yours. They are only made out of grass. So, I really don’t see how you can keep us out.
King~ (clicks his tongue) Wena! Be respectful. I am the leader and sole protector of my people. My troops and I are not afraid of you. We have fought creatures much wilder than you!! (grins)
Chief~ Uh! (smiles)
The Chief raised his spear and pointed it at the King. This made his troops all start to ululate.
Meanwhile, Nasilele had led the other group to safety. She could still pick up a faint sound of a cry from the battling troops. She clasped her hands, and asked Nyambe to protect her King, & to give him strength.
The Leya Chief leaped in the air and then fell on his knee. He was ready. After that entire act of his, he charged toward the King. The Leya troops followed suit.
Sand, dust rose in the air with the pounding of the feet into the dusty ground. Dark clouds gathered in the sky. And as the troops faced each other head-on, a rushing pour of rain fell on them. The King wiped the water from his face, and aimed his spear for ghe Leya Chief’s heart. He dodged the attack and spun around to the King’s left side. The King quickly moved away from the Leya Chief. The Chief kicked some dust into the King’s face. Then chuckled. Who said this was going to be a fair fight?
King: (spits) Seriously? Huh. That is not the way we fight.
Chief: Yeah. Quit whinnying. Pick up the pace. I need to get back home soon. I promised my sons that I’d be back before half-day.
The King rubbed his eyes and looked around. He still had some dust in his eyes. Well, he didn’t really need his eyes to see.
Chief: (applauds) Okay. You’re going to do this with your eyes shut.
The King placed a tighter hold on his spear and his shield, too. He listened to the Chief’s voice, then charged toward him. The Chief was startled. How did the King almost strike him?
Chief: Mmm.That was a close call.
The King looked at the Chief with one eye and smiled.
King: Are you going to retreat? It looks like my troops are pushing yours back and away from the gates.
The Leya Chief raised his spear and hit it on his shield. His troops stopped their attacks. And turned to their leader.
The King was shocked. He did not expect them to give up so easily. But then a spear came flying toward the Leya Chief. The King wondered who had thrown it. He looked aorund and saw it change to lightning.
The Leya Chief fell to the ground and a couple of his men picked him up. They carried their leader back home. The King felt that maybe he would make it. The Leya’s did have great healers after all.
The King instructed all his troops to play the drums. This was the signal that would inform Nasilele to head back home with the rest of the group. When she heard the drums playing, she leaped for joy.
Later that night, the King informed Nasilele that she was free to go to see the sun rise. Maybe, he’d come along to see it with her as well. Nasilele laughed. Now she wondered how the King would react if she asked to get some training for battle done. She was familiar with the tools/weapons. She just needed someone to show her how to use them effectively. Who knows, they could use more new battle ideas in their training. And one thing that she knew she could easily come up with were creative maneuvers for the battle troops. The King looked at his wife, and wondered what she was planning and getting all happy about now. Only Nyambe knew!
Lyttelton (Bay of the Raupo Reeds), New Zealand
High summer. The rich, heady fragrance of the harakeke red flax flower fills the air, the majestic kauri trees bleed sticky, viscous gum from weeping wounds, and the sooty black beech trees attract swarms of industrious bees with intoxicating, honey-scented inducements. A petite native green parrot screeches and calls bossily from his perch in the kowhai tree, his emerald feathers a perfect complement to the bright yellow flowers whilst kereru, the plump native pigeon, preens his iridescent purple and jade plumage from his vantage point in a spiky-headed ti kouka or cabbage tree. From somewhere unseen, the bellbird chimes her musical, lilting tune and a friendly tui answers her back.
Tama crouched down and peeked through the sharp, lance-like leaves of the horeoeka tree, unsure if he were seeing things. Only last night, as the embers of the cooking fires died their slow, orange death, Father had warned him about his propensity for telling tall tales and his penchant for living in his dreams rather than getting on with the serious business of hunting. Tama, sullen and unrepentant, had stared down at his feet whilst his father ranted and his mother silently entreated him with imploring brown eyes to pay attention.
After a restless night spent tossing and turning, running towards and then away from wisps of barely snatched dreams, Tama made up his mind. Early this morning, as the sun made her drowsy pink and yellow entry into another new day, he crept away from the huts intent on proving himself. He knew his dreamy ways disappointed his father, a brave and much honored warrior, but Tama’s character was woven of very different materials than that of his father. Since birth, Tama had favored his mother’s attributes, echoing her introspective nature and her genial, accepting approach to the challenges of life. Besides, it wasn’t as if Tama had any control over his dreams. They were just there, waiting for him whenever he slipped into the warm, affectionate arms of sleep.
However, he now had a plan that would prove his merit and reignite his father’s pride in his oldest son. This morning, before Father awoke, Tama would hunt and capture the elusive and shy kakapo, a bird whose feathers were much revered for the pleasing softness of their texture and the magnificience of their colour. He would proudly take his catch back to the whare, modestly brushing off the admiring cries and exclamations of his peers. Mother’s clever fingers would weave the kakapo feathers into a cloak for Father to wear and he would always have with him a reminder of his son Tama’s fine, unrivaled abilities as a hunter.
Tama winced as the piercing thorn of a matagouri bush stabbed through the sole of his bare foot. He irritably pulled the vicious prickle from his tender flesh, his eyes still fixed on the azure blue of the bay. This viewpoint generally allowed a panoramic view of the serene waters, the indigo and fawn hills, and Awaroa, the headland guarding the entrance to the harbor. However, today there was more. Today the pale-skinned strangers had arrived in their giant ships, their wakas as large as mountains with decks adorned with oddly white foliaged trees, just as his dreams had warned him. He could see three of the wakas already, trailing into the bay as if they were a row of ducklings on the languidly flowing Opawaho River, but his dreams had told him that a total of four wakas would make landfall and bring with them changes never before anticipated.
He glanced back at the hills behind him, hills bearing the name Okete Upoko or Place of the Basket of Heads after the ferocious war once fought on their temperate slopes. Many years ago, Te Rangi Whakaputa and his savage warriors slaughtered large numbers of the gentle local tribespeople and adorned the hillside with the horror-stricken, decapitated heads of their captives as a warning to others of his mighty power. Tama shivered, feeling the ghosts of long dead warriors, war-like and merciless, crouched alongside him as the great ships drew closer. He needed to warn the others. Too many of his people had already died here and too many drops of his ancestors’ blood mingled with the loamy soil beneath his feet.
His heart beating as loud as the Ngai Tahu warriors’ war cries in his ears, Tama turned and pushed his way back through the clumps of scratchy, feathery ferns, intent on finding his father. This was his chance. He could warn his fellow tribesmen, allowing them time to prepare for the intruders and in doing so, he would regain his father’s respect. Propelled by the urgency of his mission, his feet given wings by the whispers of the ancient ones, Tama jumped over the fallen, rotted remains of a totara log and broke into a run.
Just us people
It’s not truth to paint it all as idyllic shades.
They, fought each other.
Onerous demands of the powerful,
tributes and rapine was no stranger to the new land.
Stamping down the weak
Came with us all, from the jungle.
And the land moved between times.
Times of pleanty and peace,
Times of drought and blood.
They chopped trees,
They drove extinctions
Dumb animals in thousands,
Stampeding to the edge.
And when the Europeans came,
They showed kindness,
They showed pity.
They were not heartless , after all.
The pilgrims, also differed.
Some brought the cross,
To brand and burn the skin.
Some brought just a hand stretched.
A hand stretched in love.
A hand stretched in need.
A hand stretched in blood.
Some saw the natives as innocent,
Some saw them as cruel.
Both relied on anacdotes witnessed,
Both relied on exxagerated lies.
We were not different.
We all know the ten commandments,
But we keep just two or three,
What is easy for our concience.
We were equally murderous,
When the natives,
Slaughtered each other,
We cried in cheers and shock.
When we slaughtered the natives,
We cried in cheers and shock.
When we slaughtered each other,
We cried in cheers and shock.
Our guns were stronger.
Our regiments well fed, clothed, led.
They had advantages as well.
Each one using the
the weakpoints of the other cruelly.
In the end it made no difference who bled.
We all lost.
Our teeth, our decendent dentition
Made weak, worn out before we’re born.
From the unwripe bitter fruit consumed,
In ages gone.
And we turn again, as always,
Dividing, stamping, abusing, polluting.
We close doors, we break windows,
We burn and we condemn.
But life is stronger than anything.
The grass will grow after the blood flows.
But will we?
The Numbing Water by A.C. Wolfe
Bitter wind lapped at my feet like an ice crusted dog. Ice-cold, foot numbing water was pooled up to my knees. I had been standing stock still for so long that I could no longer feel the cold burn.
“Serbi? Serbi, where are you?” My grandmama is looking for me. Her scratchy voice almost manages to pull me from the water, dry myself off, and go home.
But my feet remain in the water. A chunk of ice brushes against my kneecap. I bite my lip.
I bite harder.
I bite so hard I draw blood. It drips from my mouth to the water. Small beads of red lay on the surface of the water, spreading until they all but fade away. I take a knife and slash my arm. So much blood pours into the water. Soon, the pool I’m in is pink.
I still can’t feel my legs. It’s fun not to feel anything. The water is magic like that. It can numb you.
The water is bright red now.
My legs are beginning to prickle now. I hope they aren’t regaining feeling. They look blue. How interesting that my dark brown skin could turn blue. How fascinating.
How fascinating that my bare breasts are paler than my face and back. Maybe it has something to do with sun exposure, but maybe not.
How fascinating that my blood is red. How can the red come from my brown? From the fleshy pink of a scrape? Where does the red come from?
The pool is dark red.
How fascinating that the simple knife can take down the strongest man.
How fascinating that I can carve lines into my skin the way the men do to trees, creating art and beauty out of an ugly slab of rough wood.
My skin is like rough wood. Brown. When I run my fingers over it, scrapes and scars and all kinds of mountains and valleys appear as if by magic. As if my fingers can shape the earth.
My dress is short. The pattern of stars is melding together in the water, blurring together, refracting, bending. But when I pull it out of the water, they are stars again.
The water is so dark it is almost black. The sun is going down. I can no longer see my legs. My blood has clogged the water.
How fascinating. Grandmama is still looking for me. Why is that? I don’t know. Some questions can only be answered by the great spirit.
How fascinating that my coat is made from wolf skin, the fruits of an animal that was once alive. Like me. Maybe one day, when wolves rule the earth, they will use my skin as clothing. Or maybe a tent.
How fascinating. My mama says I shouldn’t think. She says I am a woman, and woman aren’t made to think. But I say that I am. I can think just as well as anyone else. And I think that I don’t want to marry that man, Andreas. He is so much older than me.
How fascinating that the white man seem immune to the diseases that plague us. There is one going around right now, one that has killed many. My people jump into ice cold rivers and drown to escape the pain. It starts in the legs. Then the chest. Then neck, then head, then arms, then death. That is why I’m standing in this numbing water. It is the only thing to soothe the pain.
The water is very dark now. I stick a finger into it and stir my finger in circles. Circles supposedly release tension. I hear an almost sigh from behind me, as if the great spirit himself is relaxing.
Then a crack, as if the great spirit is not allowed to relax. I continue to spin circles of relaxation. My soul is tense, like a wolf preparing for the kill. My dad says my spirit animal is a wolf. He says I am a fighter. Mama did not agree. She says I should be a dove, sweet and docile and caring. But I like Dad’s explanation better. I am a fighter. Just like him, before disease beat him.
I want to be like my father. But I am not a man.
If only I could have been born a son. My mama says she prayed for a son. I told her she had a son in a woman’s body. She had no reply to that.
My cuts have stopped bleeding. My legs have stopped tingling. I am truly numb now. My eyes stare to the ceiling of the cave.
“Oh great spirit; I thank you for your mercy!”
The roof falls towards me, rushing in like a vulture to pick my bones clean.
I pull my feet out of the water to run, but as soon as I do, the pain is back. My three hours of standing here waiting to be numb, all wasted in a moment of panic. I tremble in the ground. My veins are bulging so much they must have popped out of me. I must be bleeding. The roof comes closer, cracking, breaking, shifting, trying to crush me. I position the knife so it is above me heart.
“Holy Spirit, have mercy...”
The cave ceiling crashes down.
Right before it hits me, I see the stars. They are so beautiful tonight.
The Thanksgiving Reality Check
I struggle with the imagery associated with Thanksgiving. From preschool through high school we are taught that the Pilgrims and Native Americans came together and broke bread at the first Thanksgiving in a moment of brotherhood. Fine. It's true in a round about way.
What bothers me is that the reason to give thanks was short lived for the Native Americans. The tragic reality is that the meal was a brief interlude in a genocide that was already well underway. Estimates vary as to the numbers of Native American lives lost, but it is generally agreed that Europes arrival in the New World led to the decimation of anywhere between seventy-five and ninety percent of the Native American population.
I can only wonder what might have been if that shared meal had become the standard for relations between Native Americans and Europeans. Sadly, wondering is all the brutal truth of history allows. The tragic reality is the white man had no intention of embracing a spirit of brotherhood with those who called this land home first. Instead, Europeans in the name of Christianity and Manefest Destiny robbed the native peoples of their lands, compromised their intricate culture and belief systems, introduced illnesses that would kill them by the thousands, and created treaties that were not honored by politicians or land hungry settlers.
Though the injustices experienced by Native Americans have become part of the history taught in American schools, these injustices are often viewed through a lense that puts the systematic genocide and robbery of the First Peoples in the darkness of the past. Sadly, the injustices continue today. Of course, the crimes against these former stewards of the land have become more subtle. Politicians, industrial interests, and other groups complicent in the continued suffering of Native Americans now hire PR firms to spin the plight of the Native Peoples into something that is portrayed as being self-inflicted. Thanks to brilliant advertising provided by the hired professional damage controlers, the sterotyped welfare, alcoholism, crime, and violence that are portrayed as being part of the current Native American culture is conveniently placed in the laps of the tribal leaders and not the circumstances the tribes are forced to endure. If that doesn't work, the professional media manipulators are quick to remind the viewing audience that the Natives could always open a casino to better their circumstances.
What often doesn't get told is that unemployment, high school drop out rates, poverty, suicide, and instances of mental illness are exponentially higher in Native American communities than those experienced in almost every other minority group in the country. Of course, these circumstances are difficult to remedy when the reservations are often geographically isolated and forced to exist in a perpetual state of economic crisis. This makes it nearly impossible for the First People to access mental heath services, find jobs, and send their children to the quality schools that only those who reside in suburbs can access. The problems suffered by Native Americans can hardly be placed in their laps when they have been forced to live in conditions that would require Herculian effort to even contemplate overcoming.
So, I struggle with Thanksgiving knowing that the heroes of the first have been so inhumanely treated. We gather around the table in homes that we, "own" to give thanks and to celebate attaining the American dream. Yet, we forget that in all likelihood, the land our homes are built upon was stolen from its rightful owners generations ago. I can't help but think that we are the ones who belong on reservations, subject to those who were here first. Somehow, I have a feeling that they would treat us better than we have treated them.
I like the few pictures we had of her. In one, she stood beside her husband, both dressed up fancy and staring at the camera stone faced, in another she was with her kids, standing to the back a little bit, still unsmiling. She was alone in my favourite picture, wearing a plain dress with her hair piled ontop of her head. I have her lips and her eyes, I think we hold ourselves in the same way.
She's a great-grandmother, or an aunt of some sort, I'm not sure. I found the pictures in a pile of documents; letters, postcards, obituaries, wedding acouncements. They're all written in French, I can pick out a few words.
This is what I can piece together:
1. She lived in New Brunskwick, somewhere.
2. She had several children, a husband.
3. My mother mentioned, in the vaugest terms, that she was Aboriginal. Either Mi'kmaq or Maliseet, if you go with geography.
4. My mother mentioned, in the most descete way, that we don't talk about her.
5. I don't know her name, I will never know her name.
She is barely a relative, my family has made sure of that. She is my eyes and my lips, but she will never be the subject of our family anecdotes, our fond rememberings. I did not go to her funeral, did not stand around with adults I hardly knew, eating sandwhiches and trying to look sad. I did not dread visits to her house, I did not hold her hand or play with her hair, or hold my breath while she hugged me.
My understanding of this will always be vauge, white, and bourgeois but here's the thing - The role of First Nations in Canada's history has always been pushed to the side, something lying below everything else, reduced to photographs and lips and eyes. We cannot forget that our country was built on the bones of those who have a rightful claim to the land - I cannot forget the ways that my family may have built itself up by cutting away this woman, cutting away anything that did not make us white and bourgeois, a family who's understanding of this is allowed to be vauge because we no longer have to live with the consequences.
I know I should be thankful for my country, for the opourtunity of the new world, but forgive me if I find it impossible to put our history of genocide aside. I am thankful for life, I am thankful for the food I eat, I can never be thankful for Canada.
The sickness spread through the tribe, and they buried more every day. Painstakingly decorating each corpse with ritual silks, placing two coins on the eyes, following tradition to give them a better life in the afterword.
More died, and more were buried with silk and silver coins. The tribe grew grew poorer and poorer.
The last to die were those who starved, and they had no silks nor coins in the afterlife.
“Father, Father, how I doeth protest your command! A grown man moste follow his own path. Thy moste knoweth meseems, after traveling aside thee to this new land, swinking side betwixt side, every bit as tedium, why would I nary follow in thy footsteps? It is in thy mind of making thy future endeavours, whencesoever they may be!”
“Poppycock my son. It has been set in stone since afore thee were birthed. Elizabeth Hicks will be thy bride eftsoons her arrival. Moste I summon Brethren Thomas to recollect thy thoughts respecting the proof in God’s word? Never thy mind, never thy mind, I can recite it in haste for thee thyself......”“Honor thy father and thy mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord thy God gives thee.”″
Cyrus Brewster, always even tempered, was about to lose his mind at the thought of his son’s disobedience. Having raised his son Stephan with an iron fist, he also couldn’t help but stress the value in independence if not merely by example. After all, that independent streak was responsible for getting the family Brewster to the New World. Holding his head in his hands after his son stormed away, he cried out, “Woe is me!” Wist father. Wist son. Alas! What have I done by casting my newfangled ideas upon my first born son. Is it now thy curse eft teaching him so verily? Alas, my faith moste sustain me. Dear God hear thy wellaway.”
Stephan Brewster considered telling his father the whole truth behind his obstinance, but he knew he would be met with outrageous refusal over whom he set his sights upon, so he held his tongue. By nature he was not an angry young man, although the very idea of Elizabeth as his betrothed made him wretch with fury, so he remained quiet with his deepest thoughts, speaking only to God.
“Pray pardon thy God I call up on thee for guidance. Moste I obey thy scripture or follow my own heart? Was it not thy word also spoken to me of my very plight?” ”“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”″ “Which is it I moste follow Dear God? I am without fear as my love for Saqui abounds. Barely can I speaketh of my first gaze upon her beauty. As I wondered the dale to gather wood, she, in all her lovliness, down at the river was gently fetching water along with my breath. Her loose silken black hair and brown velvety skin caught the sun’s rays and rigthtly caught me into a tangled web of my own making, but it was not just her beauty holding me in captivity. Forsake me if I am lying. It was as if the whole voyage to the New World was predestined for that very moment when she looked up and into my soul, finding in me exactly what I found in her. For some time neither of us approached the other, but it could be felt in the same way a bolt of lightening strikes its target. Eventually, both of us found ways to travel the hills and dales in close proximity, as a mere excuse to inhale the same air.”
“Squanto, as our blessing, had been all along sorting our tongues to the point of know, allowing us, in secrecy, to hear the melodic words of our professed love. After the great feast, we began to meet as the morning dew subsided each morn, keeping chores that allowed our synchronicity for some seasons and now time is set. No turning back. Saqui is heartbroken witherward leaving her Noeshow and Nitka, yet swith betimes the joining ceremony to their strait choosing, alas whereagainst her pardie. It is only eyne for me shall she choose, and likewise thine eyne for her. It pains us enow to disobey our forthwith flesh and blood, ruth they leave us no choice. In the morrow morn, unbeknownst to all but each other, off we will go on venture to our own particular New World. God it was thee that brought me into the world, sith to Saqui, and no man moste athwart that love. Not even thine own father earth and above in most high. Forgive me Father if thy find proof of sin. If so, thee may strike me down. Thy own restless heart and thinking mind in reading thy words speaks nary of.”
The next morning, after a fitful sleep, Stephan was long done talking to God as he headed out to meet his beloved Saqui at the top of the river. Standing taller than his height, while walking into his dreams, he whispered to the wind, “Pray remember me blood of thine and of this soil. If thee wills, my betrothed Saqui and thy in a time to come will unravel thy distance, and if never to be, fare thee well.” Saqui approached him through the thicket and his heart lurched into his throat. “Thy sweven sooth.” “"Now are they not twayne then, but one flesh. Let not man therefore put a sunder, which God has coupled together.”″ Not all of his words were comprehended by Saqui, but in leaving his loving lips, she trusted. They reached for each other as do the sunflowers to the light, and began day one of their journey together into the complacent unknown.
Thanksgiving in Plymouth: Poem
Trees saying bye,
as wind blows it's leaves
The sound of crunching,
as kids run by
Adults setting up tables
made of strong wood,
as hunters shoot turkey
with a side course of chicken
Because the 2 tribes are going to meet
Kids making presents
to share and give to the other tribe
People helping others
harvesting crops and feeding animals
While everyone shouting timber
looking for more wood
to build shelters
for twice the population
Because the 2 tribes are going to meet
Night was nearing
so the kids went to bed
as it was curfew.
But still the adults were working
Because it is going to be thanksgiving tomorrow.
The next day came
and everyone was ready.
As the other tribe came,
they were greeted with gifts,
as they gave gifts
As the adults were talking to each other,
the kids greeted each other playfully,
and played games together.
When it was lunch,
the tribes had a meal,
which was enormous,
as the other tribe brought
their food too.
Everyone resumed their relaxation,
while a few hunters from each tribe
went to hunt and share tips to each other.
Finally, it was evening.
Maids set up the table, while people came
to sit down for dinner.
The appetizers came first,
making their way into the tablecloth.
After everyone had a quick taste
of the food, the big turkey came
with the leftovers from lunch.
Everyone was excited as they ate
big pieces of turkey.
Then rice pudding finally came.
After that, everyone was full.
As everyone said their goodbyes,
the other tribe left.
And that was how the first Thanksgiving went.
Poem Created By: Sriram Srinivasa Kalki