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Lizzie
Page 6


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 smaller ways.

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 husband.

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.


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