Authors: Kathryn Hockett
by Kathryn Hockett
by Kathryn Kramer
and Marcia Hockett
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To Marcia Hockett, my mother, whose love and wisdom have guided me all the years of my life.
Thank you for all the work you did on this book. Your love of the Native Americans and interest in their customs and h
istory is reflected here
You are gone now but will never be forgotten……
And a special tribute to a real hero—a man who died eighty years before I was born—Captain Silas S. Soule.
The Plains Indians of North America were hunters. Living in a land of high mountain ranges, dense forests, fertile river valleys and wide grassy plains, they developed skills and traditions which best suited their natural environment. Wildlife was plentiful, wild plants and berries also abundant. They lived as one with the plants and
animals as nomads and hunters.
The mainstay of
the Indians was the buffalo, which
provided them with food, clothing, bones for dishes and ceremonial rattles. The skins were used for shelter. The buffalo was held sacred as a source of life. Without the buffalo they knew they would perish. Sad
ly enough, they were right.
Several families usually lived together in conical tents made of buffalo hides sewn together and draped around poles. These were assembled and disassembled, constructed for easy transportation
for the tribes were constantly moving about, following the large, powerfully built animal that was the core of their
. Once a year, at the beginning of the summer hunting season, several groups of the same tribe would come together for
festivities and religious ceremonies, an eight day ce
lebration culminating with the s
un dance. In the autumn the tribes separated again and took to river valleys or the foothills of the
to seek shelter from cold winter winds and snow
sweeping down from the north.
With the coming of the white man into the Plains, the Indians way of life changed drastically. The buffalo began to
the grasslands were covered with buildings such as forts and settlements. Times grew hard for the Indians, for the buffalo was their life's blood and as the herds lessened the Indians suffered as a consequence. When the Union Pacific railroad was to be built upon hunting lands owned by treaty, the idea of sen
ding them to reservations took
hold. Like a swarm of bothersome gnats the Indians were swept aside.
Thus it is that two lovers face the ultimate test. She, an Indian girl, granddaughter of the medicine man and he a soldier, must test the strength of their love for each other.
PART ONE: A Heart Held Captive
“The heart has its reasons which reason does not know.”
The early morning sun was just visible upon the horizon as the large band of Indians traveled along the plains toward their summer grounds near the
South Platte River
. At the head of the tribe, astride horses as black as night
tribe's two foremost leaders--
their chief, Let hand,
and the "wicasa waken" or medicine man, called
's Brother. Acknowledging their leadership
the others of the tribe followed closely behind. The warriors rode in a double line side by side, the colorful feathers adorning their lances dancing in the breeze. Following them came the women and children, dogs, spare hor
ses and horses pulling travois
piled high with household goods. For generations they had repeated this same journey, long before the white man had poured into the territory seeking the "yellow m
etal" in the mountains nearby.
At first the
had not been bothered by the white man's prese
nce. They were a peaceful tribe. But with the coming
of more white settlers, followed by soldiers and their fam
even the trees and grasslands were disappearing; the trees
cut to build forts, houses and fences, the grasslands trampled, burned or fenced off. Only a few moons ago the buffalo herds had been so plentiful that they resembled a tremendous black storm cloud in the distance. Now the buffalo, an animal held sacred to the Indians, were vanishing, the plains littered with their white, sun-ble
From the back of the caravan but heading the procession of women, Skyraven the medicine man's g
randdaughter, viewed the passing landscape
with dismay. It was as if a swarm of locust had passed through, stripping the area of its vegetation. Perhaps her tribes' enemy, the Utes, were righ
t after all in what they said--
that the white man should be run off
so the Indian nations could
. But no.
Her grandfather, the wisest man in the tribe, had steadfastly held on to his vision of peace. The Arapaho were skilled with weapons, but as hunters, not as i
nstigators of war he had said.
Peace was the answer, her grandfather had insisted and the chief had listened. How then could Skyraven argue? Her grandfather was a wise man, a holy man, called by Man-Above for a lifetime of service. He did not carry any weapons, only the peace
pipe. He brought not only physical healing but mental and spiritual
as well. Squaring her shoulders, lifting her chin
she felt pride in their kinship and in her duties of aiding him in his ceremonies. Within the tribe she held a position of
and was much respected for her own merit. More than one brave had already asked for her as wife, but so far Skyraven had not found the warrior she wanted
to share her life with.
A warm breeze stirred the air, blowing Skyraven's long black hair into her eyes. Like all the Arapaho women
she wore her hair hanging free, unbound. It hung nearly to her knees, covering her shoulders and back like a thick blanket. As was the custom among Indian women, Skyraven had never shorn a single lock of her tresses, but washed and combed her maidenly glory frequently to show its beauty. Now she sighed as she let the wind whip the long strands about her face. It had been a long, tedious journey and she was tired, anxious to reach that large triangular site formed by the
South Platte River
and Beaver Creek. Soon the sun would be high in the sky
and she longed for shelter before the torturing rays were at full strength. Hopefully the white man would have left some f
oliage in her treasured oasis.
A beautiful girl of eighteen summers
, Skyraven was tall and sleek
blue eyes reflecting the color of the sky. It was to her mortification that white blood ran in her veins, merging with her Indian heritage. It proclaimed her different from the others. Her skin was lighter, her cheekbones not quite as boldly pronounced
her grandfather often told her she was pleasant to the eyes, that she greatly resembled
Skyraven tried to imagine the parents she had never known. Had her mother's love for the white trader really been so fierce that she would have died of heartbreak when he broke his promise to return for her? Anger battled with awe in her mind at such a thought. To perish from passionate longing was foolish. Certainly
would never languish for so silly a reason. She had learned to be strong, to go out on her own if necessary. Let the braves stare boldly at her. She would take her own time in choosing a mate. Until then
she was quite content with the pattern of her routine of gathering the necessary roots
and barks for her grandfather.
Watching the first puffs of a cloud rising to touch the clear blue of the azure sky, Skyraven was reminded of her grandfather's sacred ceremonies. In his possession was the peace-pipe, the most sacred of all things and the heart of the Indian rites. The smoke represented the voice of the people, rising from earth to Man-Above. How then could she look upon her grandfather's noble form without feeling a large measure of pride? But it was far more than
that. He was her sun and moon.
Except for her two cousins he was really the only o
ne of the tribe she could call family
. From the time she was two years old he had given her the protection of his lodge, had guarded her and given her his love. Even now
when he looked her direction
he granted her a smile. Have patience
his eyes seemed to say. We will reach the camp grounds soon. Touching her heels to the flanks of her mare, Skyraven did all she could to speed up the women so that they
would not lag too far behind.
When the sun touched the mountains, Skyraven was granted her wish. Pausing on the ridge of a hill
she welcomed the sight that met her eyes. It was still the same. The white man had left this area alone. There were trees rising up like tall warriors to protect them. The fluttering of birds in the highest
a soaring eagle caused her to whisper gratitude to the
who lived in the sky. The foliage, rocks and clear waters had not changed since she had been here last summer. It was
just as if she had never left.
As the caravan approached the
near the massive cotton wood trees, Skyraven prepared herself for what was to come. She watched as her grandfather dismounted ever so slowly, then walked to the sacred ground. Dipping an eagle feather in a mixture of sweet grass and water she had prepared earlier, he sprinkled it on the ground in a purification ceremony. Only when this was done could
the others in the party dismount
from their horses.
Skyraven swept toward her grandfather, her ankle-length skirt of softest deerskin brushing against her legs as she walked. Skyraven had decorated the dress herself with porcupine
quills, beads and embroidery. H
er moccasins were attached to long leggings, making it more comfortable when riding horseback for long periods of time. Without the leggings
the tender skin of her thighs
"Ah, little one. Skyraven," her grandfather greeted her. His voice was caressing and soft, as soothing to the ears as it was when he was immersed in his chanting. "It is good to my eyes to look upon your smiling face. The long ride has shaken up my bones until I feel as if I might fall apart, but the sight of you is good to a man
who has passed many summers."
Looking at him with concern, Skyraven noticed a grimace of pain etched around his mouth as he stretched his arms and legs. He was growing old, his face pale and lined. Even so, he was a magnificent sight. He w
as simply dressed in a buckskin
shirt and leggings and beaded moccasins. Around his braided gray hair was a
n elaborately beaded headband with a
thunderbird design, a group of short feathers protruding from the front. Skyraven had worked the beading and felt pride whenever he wore it. Two round silver earpieces were attached to each side
from which flowed strips of dark and light tanned animal skins, reaching to below shoulder length. Around his neck, a close fitting necklace of silver
squares completed his attire.
"You will pass many more summers, of that I am certain
she told him, her eyes
gentle as they met his. She could not imagine life w
ithout this wise and brave man.
"Enough summers to see you married to a brave who will protect you as I have all these years." He tugged at a stray tendril of her hair in a gesture of affection, his expression brightening as he recalled the years she'd spent in his lodge. He had witnessed her birth, had heard her first wails. From that very first moment he had loved her. He saw her as a creation of incomparable beauty. Her hair was shining like the black wings of a raven
but her eyes had been as blue as the sky, not the onyx of his people. Skyraven
he had named her, wrapping her in deerskin and put
ting her in her mother's arms.
The fate of his granddaughter was a constant worry to him because of her white blood. When the whites had first come into the area he had known that marriages between whites and Indians would occur, especially since they had not brought their women with them.
's Brother had hoped that this mixing of blood would bring peace, would bind Indians and their white brothers closer together. He had been wrong.
Take not give
was the whiteman's creed. They looked upon the redmen as little better than the ants that crawled upon the ground. His daughter had given her heart to a white trader, had married him only to be deserted soon after their child was born. The medicine man had taken the two females into his household, had trained Skyraven in herbal potions, instilling his wisdom in her head.
She had not disappointed him.
"You have become a lovely young woman," he
, his gaze scrutinizing her delicate features. Her complexion proved her mixed heritage. It was a light creamy olive, a shade between the skin hues of her parents. "But then I
you would rival the sunrise for beauty. And you have...." He smiled as she blushed. "We must find a
very special husband for you."
"Husband?" She shrugged her shoulders. "I am in no hurry. I'm happy to stay with you." Being a squaw could be a life of drudgery. Skyraven wanted to let a few more summers pass before she had little ones clingin
g to her legs.
"We'll see." He could not help but notice how many male eyes were turned her way. Lone Wolf, Eyes -of- Night, Lame Rabbit. Each would make a good husband for her. All were handsome, as the people of the Southern Arapaho were comely. Tall, stately and slender of build, not short and squat as were their enemies the Utes.
"We'll talk of this tonight."
hey ended their conversation, for it was time to set up
the ceremonial lodge. Only after it was completed could the personal lodges be assembled. Braves, children and women were smiling
for it was a
occasion. The summer hunting would begin after the eighth day
the Sun Dance celebration.
The trunks of the massive trees swept upward toward the sky, their thick foliage filled with chirping birds. The din of voices from the camp blended with the woodland sounds as soft strains of music sounded and the pungent smell of burning wood wafted through the air. From across the camp
proudly stuck out his chest and strode about with manly pride. Skyraven did have t
o admit that he was handsome--t
all, proud and impressive. In his long black braided hair was one lone eagle feather. His tan deer skin shirt and
rippled with the strength of his muscles. Lone Wolf was the Chief's son, the eldest son of Left Hand's loins.
Skyraven had to smile at his pride. She had grown up with him, r
omped, climbed trees and raced him on her pony. They had joined in games such as spinning bone or wooden tops, whooping and hollering, chasing and teasing each other. Then they had reached the age of twelve and assumed adult responsibilities. Lone Wolf had become a warrior and a hunter at thirteen summers and could participate in the hunt. Since
then they seldom
time in each other’s company.