Our tribe was once as lively as the streams that flow from East to West, the grass that grows taller with each passing day, and the animals that run freely across our land. Our days of livelihood, in the meadow that we have come to call home will soon cease to exist. Our tribe’s leader, Chief Apenimon, which means worthy of trust, came to us one day, and warned us of the grave danger that was slowly encroaching on our land.
“My Friends.” Apenimon greeted us with open arms, trying to decide how to explain the danger that was becoming a threat to our people. “I’ve seen harsh men in my life, but none like these. They fight like a bear that is protecting its young, only these men wish to make a town out of the meadow that we now rest on. If we are to stand and fight, our friends and families will be lost, but if we are to leave, our love for our land will be taken from us.” You could see the grief wash over Apenimon’s face, for he knew that the people would never leave without war. “We are a peaceful tribe and as such we should go in peace, and find a new place to call home.”
The people roared in outrage! Our tribe was mixed in with sister tribes that have already had their homes taken. Broken hearts of which could never be mended, and families that were lost because of war. The White man never cared for what they were taking from others, they just wanted the land. They would drive it to the ground, and then come back and take our home again. I remember the solemn music of which rang through all our ears the day we said goodbye to our dead brethren. We buried them, and sang the mournful songs of sorrow, while trying to keep their families together. Our Chief would always say, “From nature we came, and in time we must return to join the great circle of life. Our brothers and sisters are now, once again, part of the earth itself, and will reincarnate, to guide us through all our future troubles.”
Our people knew what would come of us if we stood our ground and fought. The White man had guns, and our people only had the bows and spears, which were all carved by hand. What match was it if we were shot off before we could even pierce the skin of one of their kind. Worthless bloodshed for a cause we couldn’t win. People spoke:
“Apenimon, what do you ask of us? To leave our home, for some of us AGAIN! We refuse to let our land be taken over by the savages that continually kill our friends. They destroyed every home we every lived in, and yet you stand before us, and tell us to flee. I choose to stand and fight! If any of my brethren choose to join me, it’s of your own free will.”
I watched as man after man lined up besides Akecheta, who was known as ‘fighter.’ I wanted to help as well, so I stepped forward to join the rank of men, but as I moved my mother shouted, “Honiahaka, you must stay with me, you’re too young to fight, and you’re only a girl.”
“Mother I want to help! I don’t want our home to be taken!” I’ve talked to our sister tribes, who have lost loved one, and their home along with it. The turmoil was clearly seen through their seemingly serene faces, and yet they refused to let anyone know how much it really hurt.
“Honiahaka, your duty is here with your people, not fighting in a war that will only lead to more bloodshed.”
My mother was very strong willed. Her name was Doba, which meant ‘no war.’ My mother believed that fighting only made matters worse, and that it was better to leave, then to risk our lives. My father was more of a warrior spirit, I hardly knew him for when I was born he went off to battle to help one of our sister tribes and never returned. As for me, I grew to have the personality of my father, who believed that fighting was the only way to hold onto what was ours, so I was named Honiahaka, which meant ‘little wolf.’
So as for my mother’s request, I respected her decision, which was customary for our tribe, for our chief always said, “Respect your elders.” I disliked this request but I have respect for my tribe, and in such I would obey the rules. So as our men, fathers, sons, friends of mine or my families, prepared for battle, woman like my mother, and I collected food for our warriors. We also collected water for when they thirst after a long day of training, and gave them a place to sleep, so they were well rested for the battle. My mother and many other families in the tribe had other plans that were already discussed with the Chief. We were told to flee to another land as soon as we could, to not only give our tribe the potential to live on, but give memorials for all those who died in battle, in hopes that their spirit will protect our people.
The Battle was nearing and my mother and I decided it would be best to leave a couple hours before the battle, that way we could help as much as possible. I was upset at the fact that I couldn’t fight, but at least I could help as much as possible. The only fact that disheartened me was that our chief was also going to battle. Not because he wanted to, but because part of his tribe, (which was his responsibility), were fighting, and it was the chiefs duty to not abandon his men. So in case Apenimon didn’t return alive, a new chief was chosen, in hopes he would enrich the tribe with all our old customs and morals.
A month later, most of our tribe had scattered. Families said their goodbyes, and gathered their belonging, and walked in search of a new land to call home, knowing that soon enough a white man would want to claim that land as well. My mother and I were the only women left in our home, including all the men that were preparing to fight in the battle that was predicted to happen tomorrow. We readied paint to mark our warriors with the emblem of pride and courage. We had a large feast gathered from all the food our women collected over the past month, and we sang and laughed, and said goodbye to everyone, knowing that all these familiar faces that also were part of our home, would be lost. My mother sent me to bed, because we had to be up early to flee from our home before the battle began. Bullets were unpredictable, and as such my mother didn’t want me in danger of being shot.
As I walked to my home, which was a tent filled with many colors, and bear skin, I curled beneath my fur pelt and slipped into a deep sleep…
“Mother?” I called out; because I was awaken by a rumble beneath the ground. “Mother!” I called out again and still no answer. I peeked my head outside of the tent and found the cause of the rumbling. A line of horses and men, valleys wide, with guns pointed in our direction, ready to attack. I screamed in fear, but Apenimon, covered my mouth and pulled me back into my teepee.
“Apenimon? Where’s my mother?” I said in fright.
“Honiahaka. Your mother was making a quick round up of all her materials and a white man shot her from behind. I’m sorry, she’s dead.” I froze. How could my mother be dead? She didn’t believe in the art of war, the unnecessary bloodshed, and yet her blood, was the first to be shed. I sobbed quietly trying to keep composure over myself. My father is long dead, as far as I’m concerned, and my mother is now gone as well.
“I have arranged for one warrior to escort you away from here, with all of your belonging. He will take you to the rest of our tribe, and assign you to the chief, who is appointed to raise you as if you were his own.
Tears were flowing down my face. “I don’t want to leave with someone else, I want to stay and fight.”
“Honiahaka, respect your mother’s final decision, and flee, don’t let her death be in vein.”
Although I was upset, I knew my mother wanted me to be safe, and what good would it do if I died as she did, so I wiped away my tears and shook my head in agreement.
After agreeing, Apenimon told me to stay in my teepee and gather all my belongings while he went to get a warrior to escort me back to the rest of the tribe. As I gathered my belongs waiting for someone familiar to come through my bear skin tent, fear slowly overtook my body. Then a man stepped in who looked around the age of 14 or 15, which was just a year older then I. He took over half of my belongings and then grabbed my hand, and he ran towards the woods, located on the opposite side of where the White man stood. We followed the path that the rest of our tribe took, but my protector quickly changed directions and pulled me closer to him. I was wondering why we changed course but there was no time to ask. I ran for what seemed to be hours, and yet we never stopped. We could hear the guns blazing behind us, and the cries of men as they fell to the ground. We heard our family yell in triumph as they either approached or killed one of their attackers, but the farther we ran, the less we heard, until the only noise, was the sound of our feet, running through the forest.
After an hour or two of running I tripped over a rock and let out an agonizing cry when a sharp stick drove into my knee. The man who held my hand felt my sudden stop and turned to see why I was no longer running. He looked immediately at my knee, “We can’t stop now, there is no time; we’re being followed.” And with that, he grabbed the rest of my belongings and picked me up, and ran as fast as he could till he found a safe place to rest. After about twenty minutes of mindless searching, he laid me in thick underbrush, and covered everything I owned in leaves. Then he looked at me and spoke. “We should be safe here for a while, besides, we need to take care of your knee.” As he closely examined the wound, I thought to myself, ‘I don’t even know this man, I’m not letting him touch my wound.’
“Give me some water and a clean cloth.” I demanded.
He looked at me, “Let me do it.”
“I can take care of myself.” I said with more pun then intended.
He didn’t want to argue, especially in a time like this, so he gave me what I asked for and I started to clean my wound. I pulled out the stick that was lodged into my knee, and poured water onto the wound, trying to avoid tears or screams. After, I took the piece of clean cloth and wrapped my leg as tight as I could, as to protect the injury from dirt and infection.
“There. That should hold until we get back to the tribe.”I said. But then questions flooded my head. “Who are you?” I asked.
He didn’t hear me, “Who are you? I’ve met everyone in our tribe except you.”
“I am Hemene, and I recently came from the northern sister tribe when I heard of the danger. I was planning to fight but I heard about you Honiahaka, and knew that my path has been altered.”
I didn’t care for what he said, I was just interested in his name, because I understood that Hemene, meant wolf. I was known as little wolf, and for Hemene to have a name meaning wolf meant that he might have things in common with me, but I didn’t let my curiosity stop my questions. “Where are we?” I asked, because we took a different route then the rest of our tribe.
“I’m not exactly sure. We were being followed, and I couldn’t risk the whole tribe for only us, so I took an alternate path, but I lost any sight of where our tribe might be headed.”
I froze at the realization, “we’re lost?” I almost whispered.
“Yes, but I promise, I’ll take good care of you.”
I wanted to scream, ‘but I don’t even know you,’ but if Apenomin trusted him enough to look after me, then he must have been good. Then tears started flowing down my face.
“What’s wrong Honiahaka?” he asked.
“Apenomin, my friends, all the men that are fighting, and my mother;” I couldn’t bear to say the last words, they’re all dead. It hurt too much to even think about, let alone say.
Unexpectedly, Hemene took me into his arms and let me sob into his chest, until I could control the heart of which was breaking inside of me. Close conduct was prohibited in our tribe, but Hemene realized that I needed someone to cling to, as if so I could hold onto what was left of our reality. Besides, Hemene and I were separated from our tribe, so who would’ve ever knew.
“Thank you Hemene.” I said as I pulled myself together.
He nodded generously and then kept look out until I fell asleep.
Days passed and my leg was slowly healing, although there would be a scar. If I wanted to, I could have made a battle story explaining the scar on my leg, but that would be a mockery to all the men who actually fought and died. Hemene and I wondered through vast majorities of forests, and passed lakes, streams, and towns, of which we were too afraid to go near, but never did we come across our tribe. As for food, Hemene carved a rock and gave it a pointed end, then tied it to a sturdy stick, in order to make a spear, and hunted. I, on the other hand gathered berries, and took care of the water. It was a simple job compared to hunting, but those were the jobs done by women in our tribe.
Days grew to weeks, and weeks grew to months, but still we wandered aimlessly, looking for our home, our family, and our life. If anything, I grew very fond of Hemene. He seemed to become part of my family very fast. I mean he was the only one I had left, for everyone else was now part of the earth again, or far away in a new home, waiting for us to come.
Days grew colder, and the leaves on the trees soon turned various colors. With each sway of the wind, leaves soared high off their trees and fell to the ground, painting it with the leaves many colors. ‘Natural beauty,’ Apenomin called it. I remember exactly what he said, “These natural beauties of the earth come from our ancestors, and the great God above, and yet, the white man can’t seem to grasp its beauty.” He compared it to a blind man who still wanders to see the light. And as each leave fell from the tree, Hemene and I knew winter was coming. We were nowhere prepared to face winter’s cold chills, we had nothing but a bear pelt, a spear, rocks to make a fire, and food and water we collected over our journey.
“Honiahaka we must prepare for winter. I will go hunting and take the skins of bears, and any other animal I come across, but you have to collect large branches, that are straight, so we can build a shelter.”
“Hemene…” I looked at him in discouragement, “I don’t know how to make a shelter.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll show you, now go collect straight branches and I’ll be back with skin as fast as I can.”
Life seemed to be getting more and more difficult with each day that passed; spring to summer, summer to fall, fall to winter, the endless cycle of life. The hardest part to make it through was winter. Because where we lived, winters brought harsh storms, many cold days, illnesses among our people, and death. If either Hemene or I were to die, the other would be left alone, to wonder nowhere in search of a campanion. So I did as I was told and found very large and sturdy branches. Ones that were straight just like Hemene requested. I would not let this winter get the better of me, for I had my tribe to find, my friend to keep company with, and my mother to live for.
The leaves were almost gone from the trees, all dying on the ground over time. Every time you would walk across a pile of leaves, you would listen to them crackle, just like wood being thrown into a fire. Our home was built, which I could proudly say I helped with. It was big enough to be able to have a fire on the inside, thanks to my branch picking skills and his hunting. Hemene managed to get a couple bear pelts, and tons of skin, which I woven together with my mother’s yarn. As for clothing I woven a long sleeve shirt, and pants for Hemene because he would have to go out in search of food, during the harsh winter, but I would have to tend to the fire. Our greatest challenge yet was approaching, and we weren’t sure if our survival skills could handle this great responsibility.
Winter was finally upon us. The branches on the trees hung with icicles of many different lengths, and the ground was covered in blankets of snow. Wind gushed constantly, blowing snow into our faces, and making our bodies shake involuntarily because of how cold it was. Hemene was always hunting for food, because during this time of year, most animals were in hibernation, so he had to hunt far and wide in order to find food.
I always kept the fire burning, adding dead leaves that I collected, and wood that I have kept dry. I have berries that I have harvested before winter’s first snow fall, and found water under thick layers of ice, which I collected and put it in my pouch, and brought it back to the tent, to keep it from freezing. I was doing my job as a woman, which was to make sure the fire kept burning, and that there was a fresh supply of water at all times, in case of emergency. One very frightful night, Hemene came into our shelter and passed out immediately. No food, no pelts, nothing. When I looked at him, beads of sweat were pouring down his face, and he was slightly shaken. Hemene was sick; very sick. I didn’t want him to die, but I knew that he would not be able to do his job, in the state he was in, so I had to make the tough decision as to whether or not, I was up to taking on his responsibilities.
I first pulled a fur pelt over Hemene, making sure he kept warm, but I also ripped a piece of cloth off my dress, soaked it in water, and placed it atop his forehead. Then after I let him rest, I lifted his head up and poured water down his throat, forcing him to keep hydrated. While he was sleeping, I went out with Hemene’s spear and hunted, although I wasn’t very successful, due to the fact that I’ve never hunted before, in my life. But over a week’s time, I was able to catch small critters such as rats, fish, and other animals that were roaming across the snow. Hemene seemed to feel better little by little. He was rarely conscious due to his temperature, but he was still alive. I took care of Hemene. I fed him, and made sure he had water, I kept him warm, and made sure there was a cold cloth on his forehead. It has been two weeks since Hemene came down with this illness, and after a long days works, I fell asleep beside him.
I was awaken the next morning, not only by the bright light shining through the skin wall of our shelter, but also to the sensation of someone nudging my arm. It was Hemene! He was conscious, and the beads of sweat that usually collected on his forehead, were almost gone.
“Hemene!” I shouted. “You’re awake. How do you feel?”
“Sick. What Happened?”
“You had a fever, you were dehydrated, so I gave you water, and hunted for food, and kept you warm.”
“You took over my responsibilities?” He said in shock.
“I had to. You were dying, you wouldn’t survive without food, and I couldn’t just leave you here to die.” He was still weak. He struggled to sit up, but he was talking. It was nice to finally be able to talk to him again. The past weeks have been very quiet, due to the fact that Hemene was sleeping constantly.
“Thank you Honiahaka, for saving my life. I’ll never be able to thank you.” I looked into Hemene’s eyes realizing he was looking at me in a different way; a way that seemed full of admiration, and trust, and love. “Honiahaka, your parents were right to give you the name of little wolf. You’re so brave, but also have compassion for others. You are willing to risk your life, for the life of someone you barely know.”
Since Hemene, couldn’t do much other then talk, since he had to gain his strength back, I decided to ask him questions. “Hemene, if I don’t know you that well, why don’t you tell me a story about yourself.”
He thought about it for a few minutes and then began. “I came to your tribe to help with the battle because when I was younger, my tribe was in danger of being overrun. A white colony wanted to take my peoples home, a home of which we lived on for many generations. Our men were sent out, far and wide, to ask our sister tribes for help. The only tribe to respond to our call was yours Honiahaka. Many warriors came to our aid, but one that stood out among others, and his name was Cheveyo.”
I knew this name all too well, but I wasn’t sure, “Hemene, when was your home going to be taken?”
“Five winters ago.”
I counted back the winters to when my father left to help our sister tribe, and I came to the realization that, It was five winters ago that he left. This couldn’t be just coincidence that this warrior had the same name as my father, and left the same time that my father did.
Hemene continued his story. “Cheveyo fought with such courage and bravery, he refused to let anyone take our land, just like he would refuse to let anyone take yours. He filled our warriors with hope that they could win the battle; which we did, but Cheveyo was badly injured. He was shot in the chest. We tried to save his life, but his injuries were too much for our people to bear, and he died. We buried him in our most sacred land, and he seems to watch over our people every day.”
“Cheveyo was my father.”
He looked at me in shock.
“Five winters ago, my father left. He told my mother and I that he had a duty to protect our sister tribe, and that there was nothing we could do, to keep him from going. After all he was the ‘spirit warrior.’ So he left, and never returned to my family, or my people.”
Hemene was in shock. “I’m sorry Honiahaka, I didn’t know.”
“It’s ok. And it’s nice to know that my father helped you keep your home.”
“Your father would’ve been very proud of you.” Hemene said with no hesitation.
“You think so?”
“I know so, any woman who is brave enough to risk her life, for a person she barely knows, would make any father proud.”