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Lizzie
Page 4


The agent's demeanor was not softened by the charm of the child and he kept to business. "Meka-Thee-Ing-Gay, from this day on you will have a new name. You will be called Elizebeth. See here, I will write it in this book and you will be registered as Elizebeth Little Cook.  This is your Christian name and that is what you are to be called from this day on."

"There is another matter I must discuss with you." The man who had ice water in his veins turned his attention away from the child and spoke to Sam. "There have been some new laws passed as to education. I must tell you, Elizebeth will be expected to attend the boarding school at White Eagle."

The announcement seemed to echo back and forth through the room, bouncing about from here to there before the full impact of it struck at Esther's heart. Her inherited trained control would not let her change her expression. There was only a sharp catch of an instant change in her eyes as they momentarily pierced the countenance of the man in front of her. This let her husband know how deeply affected she was.  The agent in his ignorance never knew how his quickly rattled statement struck the woman. Her quiet serenity served her, and the Anglo man could never know the workings of her mind. This peacefulness she willed upon her psychic in order to bring her strength for the battle she was seeing before her.

Nevertheless, the matter had been stated and there was no need to rebel or try to change it. The word of the Indian Agent was law. There was nothing that could be said or done to change it. Esther had no choice but to go through the motions of preparing the child to leave their home. The grief she felt was so complete, she could not allow herself to give in to it, for fear she would be totally lost to its despair. When, finally, the child was to be taken to the boarding school and left there, Esther held the same hard unchanged expression of control. She handed her child over to the white women who was in charge of the boarding school. The last tight hug she gave the child still did not break her facial expression.

"Go with them Elizebeth. Be a good girl. Do all they tell you, just as I have taught you how to do--Elizebeth. By using the girl's new name, she informed the child of her expectations she had for her.

Meka-Thee-Ing-Gay saw her mother did not seem to be worried, so she wasn't either.  Obediently,  she followed the women into the building. Her mother had taught her the many ways she could be a willing learner. They had practiced together, those things. It was all a game for this four-year-old child.

Esther did not complain as she quietly rode home with her husband. That night when they arrived home, she didn't go into the house.  Instead, she went immediately toward the woods lining their property. Late into the night Sam could hear his wife's mourning cries. The calls she made to her Great Spirit were the grief wails the women made at the time of a death. Years later the chilling cries would be heard by the white man. Those cries grabbed at their Anglo hearts to cause cold shudders until they made the statement, "Nothing has ever been heard like it."

Sam did hear, but he did not go to the woman. This was a time with her Great Spirit and he did not intrude. It would be disrespectful for him to do so. When she returned to the house, her hair was cut short. The mud she had covered her head with as a symbol of her grief was caked and dried. As the days continued, slowly, so did the woman's pain.  She cried out every early dawn, and again at night. There was no breaking her away from it. This went on day after day until Sam in seeing her become gaunt and thin knew she would will her own death if he didn't do something to stop it. Her hollow eyes showed the agony of her suffering.

"Today, my wife.  Today, you must put aside your mourning. I have sent for our doctor. Mind you, not the white doctor, but our own.  It is time for you to turn to him for help. Today--you must put this aside long enough to make him welcome and let him pray with you. You need his help. Let him speak to the Great Spirit with you.

Esther listened to her husband and she was willing to receive the tribal doctor. This doctor would have insight and he could tell her what she didn't know and couldn't understand.

She began to clean her body and her hair.  The days of mud she washed and washed again in order to remove it along with the days of mourning. The cleansing of her body seemed to help her, too. However, she would not bend to braid the short bits of her hair together again. She simply combed her hair and left it loose to hang bluntly about her face. Her life was not to be braided together easily and the looseness of her hair symbolized her condition of grief.

As the medicine man, arrived they could hear him coming down the road, singing as he walked along.  Already, Esther's heart began to lift.  To know there was someone else approaching who cared for her seemed to give her strength. He was singing a prayer song even now as he was arriving. Already, she began to feel the strength of this man's spirit. The fogginess of her despondence began to clear just a little. As she stepped out onto the porch, the man greeted her.

"I have come to speak with the Great Spirit for you, my daughter."

"I am grateful." Esther's response was simple.

The man stayed with them a number of days. Just before he left, this was what he told Esther; "I know this is not something you can understand. You must believe that I know of the ending of this matter. One of these days you will have your daughter back. When you do, you will know this was all for a reason. There will be a greatness coming from this but it will not happen for many years. Maybe, not even in your life time. Today, I will ask you, yes, plead with you. Do away with this mourning. Brace up. Strengthen yourself. Your daughter is not dead. You must go on living in order to be here when she comes home.

This was exactly what Esther did. She, from that day on, was never happy.  But,  she was able to bring herself back to the living. There was no more mourning at night alone in the woods. Her habitual prayer at dawn was not filled with her despair.


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