Lizzie was a teenager now
and she was living with her parents at their home on the Salt Fork River.
The meandering turning and winding of the river cut an indirect, aimless
path in its destination toward the larger waters of the Arkansas River.
The flood waters would rise slowly, gently over the land, touching it with
a new rich deposit of alluvial soil. The turning and changing of the bed
of the river slowed the velocity of the water. This allowed it to spread
itself as a blanket over the flat land along side its banks. It was this
rich soil that was allotted to Sam and Esther Broken Jaw, Little Cook.
Some of the Indian people's allotments were set on prairie land or other
areas where there was no water of great amount. This one hundred and sixty
acres the two shared between them was set side by side. Esther's portion
ran all the way up to the river. Before the Ponca's had been moved in
their own trail of tears journey from Nebraska in 1876, they had been
successful farmers. History books tell of how they farmed their land with
a gun on their hip to hold the warring Sioux away while their gardens
produce. This soil given them in return for the land that had been theirs
in the gold rich black hills was not equal in any way as far as the Ponca
felt. However, this was where they were put and here they would try to
flourish. It was true many had died on the trek from the north. The trial
of Standing Bear, a Ponca chief, had given them status as humans and
citizen. Standing Bear had won that for them through an American courtroom
after he had taken his family back to the Black Hills.
It was Sam's choice to
become actively engaged in becoming a working citizen. The saw mill Sam
operated at White Eagle helped the family to become prosperous. They had
everything they needed. Their stock provided meat. There was fruit from
the orchard. The wild pecan grove produced in abundance. The nut trees
bounty was a pleasant addition to a diet as were the sweet melons growing
in the sandy loam on their hillside. Esther's husband used this produce to
barter for other things he needed for the family.
Summers had come and gone.
This moved the family through a progression of time rapidly. The progress
of education had begun to imprint its message of promise on the mind of
the girl, Lizzie. Their wise old Native doctor's prediction was coming
true. She had completed six years at the day school which had replaced the
boarding school where she first went to school. The promise the old
medicine man made as to something coming to allow Esther's child to return
home was this very day school. Here, they went to school in the same
manner as the Anglo children. They returned home each afternoon from this
school. Esther's other children; Creth, Annie, Fannie, David and Henry too
attended this same school. Lizzie was the one who seemed to be the
bookworm. Sam encouraged her to be. "Learn the ways of the white race,
because, you now will always live among them. Was this her reason for
wanting to learn or did she just have a joy in doing it.
Sam and Esther's life moved
from one work filled day to the next. Their older children helped their
father in the fields. The girls, Lizzie's older sisters, were large tall
girls and could toss hay, or do any other manual chore right along with
the men. The younger children stayed close to the house and helped in
One evening saw Esther and
Sam relaxing before bedtime on the covered porch off the front of the
house. The cool of the evening after the day was pleasant and this was
their time for conversation.
"How have the girls been
doing as far as helping with the field work?" Esther questioned her
Sam swung down off the
porch and took a couple of steps toward the pitcher pump setting directly
off the edge of the board floor. He jerked the pump handle up and down in
a quick motion bringing the icy cold water up into the pump. The dipper
hung beside the pump. He filled it and enjoyed the refreshing cold water.
One hand hung the dipper back in place and the other he wiped across his
mouth. He stood gazing at the ground while he was mulling over the
question his wife had just asked.
"They do all right. They
are strong girls, you know. Annie can drive a team as well as any man.
Working seems to be a pleasure for them, whether it is throwing hay,
picking melons, or shucking corn." Sam stood thoughtfully for a moment.
He was, indeed, thankful for the health and strength of the girls. They
had been born in the cold lands of the Black Hills. Before they came here,
the whole family lived in tepees. This living in a house was a luxury,
new to them. Living out doors had gifted his children with a strength
they would carry with them their whole life, even unto several
generations. Very few would step across their path, even those of the
opposite sex were not anxious to anger them. This did not mean they were
prone to trouble. Far from it. The fact was they lived by a strict set of
tribal laws. There was a division of clans with each one serving in one
capacity or another. The whole tribe was an ancient order established
generations before. The ultra conservative nature of their government left
little room of tolerance for someone to vary from tradition, no matter how
small the infraction. The women were trained to abide by these law of
their tribe whose very name meant, "those who are gentle leaders."
Each person of the tribe
knew the boundaries. They knew when they were crossing over into another's
space. The person wronged was speedy to call it to the attention of the
offending party with statement like, "You know what you did! Maybe there
might be a direct accusations such as; "they saw you do it. With short
warnings like this there could be a swift and fierce attack. The other
person was aware of the rules of the game and in this way was forewarned.
The large women were strong. Their had a reputation for a clean, hard
working, life. This left no one who wanted to get put into a position
where they would have to defend themselves.
"Yes, the girls are fine."
Sam reassured Esther the second time.
Esther, trained by this
same tribal law, spoke no more. There was no fear of cruelty from her
husband if she didn't accept his judgement. It was more like a matter of
her self-respect. Neither did she want to be shamed if she was not able to
maintain her self-control. The shame that could have made her to be known
as weak was a stronger whip than cruelty. The Native man did not need to
rely on physical punishment. By this time in their marriage, Esther did
trust Sam's judgement and she knew he would not lie to her.
The older girls are not as
interested in books and learning as Elizebeth and I suppose that is as it
should be," Esther confided in her husband. "Those round dark circles
about the size of a dime put on their forehead when they were children
will be with them to their grave. Since we have come to these warm lands
Lizzie has not had this mark of the chief's daughter placed on her
forehead, and I am glad. It is going to be an effort for us all to live in
unity with these people around us. Lizzie will not be held back in this
respect. I suppose if we had known about all that was to happen we
wouldn't have wanted any of the girls marked on their forehead.
Who could have known we
would have to leave our lands in the north and come to this? We didn't
know. Now, we just go on from here. We must not look back. Those places
and those ways are soon to be lost and gone. Where is the place we can
rest from all this? There is no place. We will do this, keeping our hearts
to our old ways, our old people's ways. But. our will we must give to
these new ways. If we are uncomfortable with the climate, this warm
weather, no matter. If we miss the cold we had grown to love we still can
not look back. For Lizzie, well, she is going to belong to the white
world. She will be like a white woman. Her life will not be anything like
we have known. Esther, we will see it--and we will say, It is good. If we
try to fight, like Big Snake did, we can't do it. Big Snake is dead, as
most of our leaders are gone. The only way to deal with these people is to
use our minds. More than that, we must teach our children to do the same.
You are right, my good woman, and I too, am glad that Lizzie does not bear
this mark on her forehead as her sisters. For now, what use would it be
except to hold her back from fitting in with these people. Now, what does
it mean to be the daughter of a chief? It means nothing."
"You must not, don't say
it. These young ones may need to become white, but that is not me. I will
always be, just as I am." Esther closed the subject.