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Chief
By Donna Flood
Chapter 1 - Bertha, Warrenís Mother, Year 1919


    Metzahe Bertha Big Eagle Jones was not one‑half, one quarter, or a fraction of another tribe. She was full‑blood Osage. Her lineage came through the grandfather, Big Eagle or sometimes called Bloody Hands,  because of referring to the talons of the eagles, as they made their kill. The Big Eagles were  large and  strong people, who had the gentleness, kindness, and meekness of a lamb  but the courage of a lion.  Bertha was no exception.  This was the way of their personalities going back to the mighty chieftains of the Osage. It was how they led their people.

    Metzahe (First Daughter) Bertha waited at the edge of the small stream that was a tributary flowing into the Arkansas River. Her tribe's encampment was close,  but she had slipped away from the teepee. The girl did so at the risk of causing the death of the duenna*,  an elderly female guardian who was appointed to watch over the young maidens of the tribe.

    Guardians accepted the position of duenna, knowing they would have to give up their lives if one girl slipped away while under their watch. This ancient Osage tradition was a way of preserving social order in tribal communities,  and it had the added benefit of keeping a young woman pure before marriage.

           As Metzahe looked out across the stream,  she could see the bright reflection of the moon playing like a child in the quiet waters. Suddenly she was aware as her loverís  approach.   Dean was a young American boy with Scots‑Irish ancestors. They knew each other well, in fact since they were children. Later on as she matured,  the girl had fallen in love with him. He, too, had slipped away from his people's place to meet her here. When she looked toward the woods the foliage broke apart as he stepped out into the light of the moon. His lithe body and  strong stride could have been that of one of her people, and the boy‑man covered the distance between them in a moment,  it seemed.

     "Dean, Dean! This is so dangerous! If they miss me, Old One will give up her life."

           "I know, Metzahe, but  this is to be the last time. Tomorrow, be here at the same time and we will leave together. I have everything arranged for our marriage in another state."

            True to his word, Dean met Metzahe the next night, and together they fled the area. Because Metzahe simply disappeared into the night, there was no blame attached to the guardian.  It could have been kidnapping, or animals might have killed the girl. Meanwhile, the couple was married in a civil ceremony and they stayed at a hotel in the largest city at the time, Kansas City, Kansas. The lavishly decorated  rooms and fine linen were what Bertha, Metzahe,  would never forget.  Even then, Kansas City was a center of civilization for the western states and was truly a place of awe for a young girl,  who had just stepped away from the place of her teepee.  She was fourteen, and Dean was nineteen.

             They were young lovers  who were  learning to know each other. Certainly their lives were meant to be shared  Dean was one race and Metzahe wass a Native granddaughter of a mighty chief.  The girl soon  learned she had conceived their first child.

            "We  must return home." Dean  told his wife, "Now that you are with child,  your people will have to accept our marriage."

           "No,  Dean!  It will not be that easy. They will try to kill you. I have broken one of our most  sacred laws by marrying outside my tribe, and you will be held partially to blame.Ē

    "I will not be killed that easily," Dean spoke emphatically.

             As soon as the two returned,  the war against Dean and Bertha began.  Dean knew he must carry a small  pistol with him at all times. The prairie nights were black without a moon and this was protection,  too. They were constantly on the move,  so never could there be  more than one night in the same place. Fortunately, some people came to their aid and hid the couple away from the men of Metzahe's family, who were duty bound to kill Dean.

            The young married couple could not hide forever, and they were eventually discovered. One night,  the Native men of Berthaís family came upon their resting place. One called out to Dean. His deep, strong voice almost echoed through the darkness. That was enough to suddenly awaken the two.

     "Come on out, White Man, it is time for you to meet your God!"

           Dean  picked up the little pistol he kept with him  even as he slept,  and he waited. The oldest and biggest of Metzahe's brothers was now coming toward him. The young man knew the MEN would beat him to death if given the opportunity. In a flash, they were on Dean: When one large man grasped him in a bear hug, Dean brought the cold steel of the pistol  up against the larger man's head.

          "Enough! Enough!" The attacker was not willing to die.

          Standing up against the men showed that Dean was willing to fight for the right to keep his Native wife and they left him alone.  They were warriors who respected him, because Dean had  no fear. Was this characteristic of courage from his Scottish blood, Irish, or maybe even from the strong vein of Welsh he carried through his fatherís family?

    Now that a small bridge had been built, the women of the tribe were  communicating  with Metzahe.

           "You know it is very necessary you be married in the ways of our people," they told her.

         "We are married, by his ways," said Metzahe.

           "No, you are not married," they were firm with her. "Not until you are joined in our tribal  ceremony. Our children, as you know, mean everything to us.  If you donít have the blessings of the tribe,  how can the child you are carrying be considered as one of us?Ē  Bertha understood and even though the American schools had fostered in her a different way of living, still she felt obligated  to hold to her traditional ways.

    With Metzahe's and Deanís agreement the wedding was planned. The dress Bertha  wore was the customary coat of a United States officer, which was given to the respected chief as a gift. All in all there were probably five brides in one ceremony that day because this was the custom.  Some of the brides wore traditional stove pipe hats made tall with long, standing feathers. The hats were at least 36 inches tall and the girls were forced to hold them on their heads while the prairie wind, always present,  tried to jerk them away from their heads.

    The coats now worn by the women held  no interest for the men, but somehow, the young brides were attracted to them,  so they were used as a wedding coat. It reflected to those around that this was, indeed, the daughter of the chief, and in Metzahe's case, the granddaughter of one of the mightiest chiefs. He was the chief, who was respected for his valor and intelligence in protecting and  governing his own people with strength, love and kindness.  He would be sensitive to every individual's needs and that went down to small things such as school clothing for the children, food for those who needed that, and any other thing to make their living happier.

           Dean wore a full regalia of Metzahe's tribe, except for headgear.  The beaded garters on his leg below each knee were that of the Faw‑Faw design. There were  broadcloth leggings under the fully beaded britchlot. The colorful ribbon shirt was out of the finest silk. Finger‑woven belts drops hung down the side of his legs from the  waist. The groom  wore no roach  because he was American,  not Osage, and he had no Osage name given to him.

    The bridesmaids wore the traditional wool  blanket which was folded in such a way as to keep their right arm free. This was so the girl could cook or work without the blanket hampering any of her activity. A mixing of blood between the Scot‑Irish, French and the Natives had already taken place. These  bridesmaids had  beautiful features inherited  from each  race as well as their Osage lineage.

    The finalizing of their vows was to have the inner forearm of the bride and groom slit with a sharp knife. The two then placed their arms, one upon the other, so  blood flowed from their veins, together. The wide strip of a finger‑woven chevron‑patterned belt was draped over the coupleís  arms and the native blood  from Metzahe's veins mixed with that of Deanís blue blood from  Scotland, Ireland and Wales causing him to become  as one known to be of her native tribe, Osage and she to be equally as accepted by his family.  Years later this tradition was honored by the tribal leaders when it was time for Dean to inherit Bertha's estate.

    A White man could not be a beneficiary but Dean was now considered to be Osage and did inherit, by blood, a fact for which he was proud and told to those around him.

    "I'm Osage,"  he would say.  Not documented today, are the roots that would again agree to this heritage.

* A Spanish word meaning, chaperone.


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