Mike

Claw Foot                                                                

It has now been four days since we left the borders of our territory. Most of us are worried and uncertain as to what will become of our families who have been left behind. Our chief, Golden Bird, has gone to yet another camp meeting with the chiefs of the other tribes and will not be back to us before the moon passes the bright star. We know he is as concerned as we are about our future. Like most of our tribe I have never heard or seen the pale-faced strangers that they say are taking our lands where the sun rises. The great chiefs, who have gathered us together, wish to drive them from our prairies and forest. My tribe are hill and mountain people and do not war like some of the other we have met here. It is like a strange dream crossing the wide and open plains to hunt another people who we do not know and then to kill them. The Jotehahe are not plains warriors like the Apache, Cherokee and the Mohegan. We never do battle with others because Earth Mother would be angry with us and lash us with her rains and storm winds, driving our food deep into the forest and to the mountains. Our bows and spears are for hunting, our knives for cutting strips of bark, skins and to cut meat, not to kill others. Their actions are forcing us to do this or they will destroy our tribe like they did the Shakawney who refused to join them a moon since.

      Apache Braves chased and killed five bison today and only used part of three for food, this is a bad thing as their killing was not necessary. My chief said at the meeting of the chiefs today that the spirits of the wasted animals will chase the braves who destroyed them and bother them forever. The Apache chief and others laughed at him, ridiculing him and our tribe’s belief.  My chief is brave, not foolish and so did not react to that insult but felt great sorrow for their foolishness. We have been told that in five sunrises from now we will be in the area where the ‘Pale Faced Long Knives’ will be trapped and killed and so we should sharpen our knives, spears and arrows in readiness. It is difficult to learn anything of the Long Knives as many of the other tribes do not speak our language and also look upon us few Jotehahe as of little value. From all of our tribe we are the only one hundred and seventeen Braves who the Cherokee thought were capable of being warriors. We had to leave the others; the young and the old behind to care for our womenfolk and papoose. None of us know how to kill another and do not want to. We already miss our land with its rivers of fish and beaver, the forest alive with deer and silver wolves, the mountains with their tumbling waters and who now wear their winter headdress of snow. Some of the other tribes have many braves with horses who show their skills riding and ability to throw their spears or send an arrow whilst galloping at great speed. None of us had even seen a horse until the Cherokee first entered our lands and made us join them.

      I have seen the smoke from the campfires of the Long Knives that are about five hundred fallen tall pine trees away. A group of Apache and Mohegan scouts went closer at first dawn to see how many there were. They said that there are many hundred of them and that they have many horses and smoking sticks that speak thunder that can kill from a distance. We do not understand what magic it is but it does not seem to frighten those who have met them before. At the meeting of the chiefs today, White Eagle, the Cherokee chief said that they would not attack the Long Knives until their big chief Yellow Beard is with them. I have not heard of this Chief but the Apache say they know him and that he has the strange pale face name of General Custer and that he has killed many Braves and taken much of our land. We have all been told that this evil spirit Chief must die, but I do not think that any of my tribe could do that!

      For three full suns we have all kept away from the Long Knives but have watched their every move. They are fully aware that we are here but how many we are they do not know. Just before the morning sky wore its red cloak a horseman rode into our camp “Chief Golden Bird, you will take your braves to that hill and hide in the trees and bushes there. We are going to attack the Long Knives when the sun passes over the river today. Yellow Beard is now with them” The fierce Apache Chief with stripes of blue and red war paint spread across his face and high cheek bones stared arrogantly down at our Chief from his snorting horse. “Should any of the Long Knives try to make their escape in your direction you must stop them. If you let any escape none of you will return to your territory again! You will go now whilst the sun is slowly rising from its rest”

      I believe the Long Knives sense that things will happen today now that Yellow Beard is with them. They are putting their tepees into wagons and corralling their many horses and all of their campfires are out. Many are standing in line with their smoking sticks and the black logs on wheels are pointing in all directions…. We have been hiding amongst the trees and bushes since early light and it has been good to hear bird song again although I do not recognise their voices…. I can see the silver river below us but it has no forest to share its water…. This place has evil spirits drifting like clouds amongst its few trees and onto the plains below…. No forest creatures would ever visit this land of dust and death and an evil omen of a black cloud of buzzards now circle in the morning light.

      Many war drums are beating all around the Long Knives and signal smoke is rising into the sky from different places in the hills. They have now made a big circle with their wagons and have put the black logs on wheels at different places along its length. We can often hear a strange sound coming from a Long Knife holding something that shines to his mouth. I do not think it is a bird! Some move in long thin groups to different parts of their round camp like a line of ants. I do not know what will happen next and I wish that I was a bird, I could fly away, and I am not brave like the others. I do not understand why the Cherokee made me come to this place, I cannot run like most. I have always been weak and my foot only has three toes and is bent over. This is why I am called Claw Foot. My tribe have said that I will never stand proud like a deer or a mountain lion or a bear but always like a rabbit in a snare. No one will mention my name when I have gone to the Happy Hunting Ground as I have never done anything for which to be remembered!

      I can see many Apache, Cherokee, Mohegan, Mohawk and Shakola crawling through the long grasses leading up to the ridge that overlooks the Long Knives. On the far side of the river there are many warriors waiting for their chiefs to signal when to begin the attack. The Long Knives can see them and many are facing their way. I am glad we are back here as I am very nervous and wish that I could fly away like the eagle. I hope that none of the Long Knives come this way as we only have hunting bows and arrows and not the longer bow and arrow of the Plains Indians. What could we do if they did? We must not, cannot run away!

      The air is filled with smoke, the noise is like many storms and there is a non-stop sound of the smoking sticks and the roar of the big black logs on wheels as they spit their long flame. Many Braves have fallen into the river and onto its bank as they cross and are just unable to reach the pale-faces who are standing behind their wagons. But still the brave warriors keep attacking. The Apache, Cherokee and the other tribes are racing down from the ridge behind the Long Knives who have now seen them and are turning in their direction. Many have fallen but now a river of the tribes has washed over the barrier of wagons and are now amongst the enemy. One by one the black logs stop their orange tongues burning the air and the sound of the smoking sticks are few and now no more. The cries and drums of victory will echo over the dead before nightfall!

      We can see about fifty Long Knives coming up the hill towards us. I am trembling like a startled deer. In amongst them is one with a golden beard; is he the Evil Spirit Chief? I only have four short hunting arrows whilst he and his braves have smoking sticks but we must not let them get away. Brown Moose has fired an arrow into one of them who has fallen. The others have turned his way and have pointed their smoking sticks at him and now he has also fallen like the dead crow. Grey Cloud, Wolf’s Paw and Beaver Eye are amongst them. I must help and not lie on Mother Earth like a fallen leaf. Bear Tongue is grappling with one who is going to pierce him with his long knife. I cannot let him do that, I send my arrow to his back but before it can strike him they struggle to the ground. My arrow passes above and has now buried itself deep into the chest of the evil spirit, the pale-face they call General Custer. The other Long Knives loose heart at the sight of his death and are quickly sent to follow him. My Chief and others of my tribe had stopped their escape and only twelve of our tribe are dead, I have also killed a man that our Earth Mother and I will mourn

       After the long battle on the plains below had ended and the Apache chief had learned of the death of the evil spirit Golden Beard he came alone up the hill to join us. He looked at my arrow sticking out of his chest, broke it off and released one of his own with its Apache feathers into the fallen body. I could not understand why he would do this to a man who was already dead. We were all annoyed why he would harm again a fallen warrior “This day will be remembered forever as the day the Apache killed Golden Beard.” he said staring hard at us as he put the General’s body onto the back of his horse and returned to his people on the plains below yelling, hooting and calling out triumphantly.

          Upon our return to our homeland, from that evil place that I now know is called Little Big Horn. My brave and wise Chief, changed my name; I am now known as Flying Arrow and will forever be remembered by my tribe as the brave that killed the evil pale faced spirit chief Yellow Beard. But I choose to forget that terrible day and hope for forgiveness!

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