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The Winter When the Stars Fell

Brookie M. Craig

It was the Winter When the Stars Fell. The white men said it was 1833...August 12. It was our Month of the Snapping Trees. The evening started quietly, the stars and constellations turning slowly silently overhead. Every now and then a meteor, like a falling star, would streak across the heavens as on any evening. But this was to be no ordinary night. For now there were falling stars everywhere, and then more...thousands every minute. Beyond all counting.

The four-leggeds and the winged ones stirred and moaned and no one slept that night. Our wise men said it was a bad sign...that the falling stars were like the white men falling by the thousands upon our land...coming at first a few at a time, but now coming in great steams, pouring from the east upon the lands promised to us for all time. And still they came. And our wise men were right, for we heard that the white man's president, who was proud of fighting Indians, said that very year: "Those Indian tribes cannot exist near our settlements. They have neither the intelligence, the industry, the moral habits, nor a desire for improvement.

Established in the midst of our superior race, they must necessarily yield to the force of circumstances and ere long disappear." Andrew Jackson Could the ashes of the council fires that once stretched across this continent be given the power to speak, what stories they would tell...stories about the long ago time when the world was young, when animals could speak and share their wisdom with us. "The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians: their lands and property shall never be taken from them." U.S. Congress, 1789.

"No white person or persons shall be permitted to settle upon, to occupy, or to pass through any portion of this territory without the consent of the Indians." Treaty of 1868 "The soldiers cut down the trees; they kill the buffalo; and when I see that, my heart feels like bursting...Has the white man become a child that he should recklessly kill and not eat?" Santanta...Kiowa (who committed suicide while in captivity) "The only good Indians I ever saw were dead."

General Phil Sheridan "We were born naked and have been taught to hunt and live on game. You tell us that we must learn to farm, live in one house and take on your ways. Suppose the people living beyond the great sea should come and tell YOU that you must stop farming, and kill YOUR cattle and take YOUR houses and lands....What would you do? Would you not fight them" Gall, Sioux "They talked and talked for days, but it was just like the wind blowing in the end."

Black Elk, Sioux "Brother, you say there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? We also have a religion, which was given to our forefathers. It teaches us to be thankful for all the gifts we receive and to love each other. We never quarrel about religion. Brother, we do not wish to destroy your religion, or take it from you...we only want to enjoy our own." Red Jacket, Seneca "Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians! I have come to KILL Indians, and believe it is right and honorable to use any means under God's heaven to kill Indians."

General John Chivington who led the Sand Creek Massacre. The world has grown older now, bowed with many winter snows. The ground is no longer young. It is the dust and blood of our ancestors. But the stories are like the stars....they never change. The voices pause...there is scarcely any twilight left. The dying fires seem to draw from all directions inward a cool night wind and on that wind comes voices....

There must always be stories. But now...the wind and voices whisper...their windsong now among the stars... I look upward to the stars....into the fire....and beyond. I do not forget the stories....or the stars.....

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The Indigenous Peoples' Literature pages were researched and organized by Glenn Welker.