"I Will Fight No More, Forever" -- Chief Joseph, Nez Perce Indian
The winter wind screamed amidst blowing snow interspersed with tiny diamonds of sleet. Inside the tipi the old couple sat as close as possible to each other and the small fire. From time-to-time the old woman rose and added more wood to the fire but it seemed to make little difference. Even the buffalo robes that covered the couple’s frail bodies weren’t sufficient to ward off the insidious, creeping cold.
“The time is near, woman,” said the old man. His statement was straightforward and succinct. His wife did not answer but continued stirring the meager meal on the fire in front of them. “The years have passed quickly and soon our age will prevent us from following the village when it moves.”
“You’re right, my husband,” replied the old woman, “how quickly the years have passed and how soon we’ve become old. I often wonder if the years might have been kinder if we’d had more children?” Silence again fell over the pair as they both, lost in their own thoughts of bygone days, preferred to say no more on the subject.
“Should we survive the winter; we must move with the village in the Spring,” the old man said, talking as much to himself as the woman. “When we once again set foot on our country we must perform our last duty as soon as possible as our days on Mother Earth are surely numbered.” The old couple, after eating and still remaining as close to the tiny fire as possible, rolled themselves tightly in their buffalo robes and slept.
“You must leave some of your belongings here” the weary, young Indian told the old couple. “You will not be able to walk the whole way to the Big Country and must ride on a travois. Age has diminished your stamina and you are no longer steady on your feet. There is not room for you and all you wish to take with you.”
“We will walk as far as necessary,” replied the old man. “I will dispose of a few things but most are important to our survival when we reach the Big Country.”
“How much does a man who can no longer hunt need for survival?” the young Indian asked. “You do little these days but sit in front of the tipi and nod off in the sun. What is that big bundle there?”
“That is the most important possession in my life,” the old man replied, “and it will never be out of my reach as long as I live.”
“What does it do and what is it for? If it doesn’t have a use it can be disposed of and our load lightened,” the youngster said with a bit of attitude.
“If necessary,” replied the old man, “I will carry it in my hands. Everything we own will be discarded before this bundle,” and with that he picked up the bundle and pressed it tight against his chest. There was obviously some weight to the bundle as the old man huffed and puffed as he lifted it. A strange object, it appeared something of no particular shape had been gathered up and tightly rolled in an animal skin. The skin had then been sewn with rawhide strips in every direction with many seams so it was impossible to see its contents or ascertain what it was.
The young man departed, shaking his head as the old people continued to ready their belongings for the trip. The old woman set aside some baskets and a few hand tools that weren’t of absolute necessity. They then placed the bundle the old man had been holding on the travois first and piled the rest of their meager possessions on top of it. They fell in behind the last horse and travois as the village began to move out. They looked at one another and smiled mysteriously as they began their journey.
The cool breeze blowing off the gentle stream beside which they’d placed their tipi seemed to breathe new life into the old couple. The long trek to the Big Country was over, they were there and comfortable and a new serenity had come into their lives. The old woman sat sorting berries she’d picked that morning while her husband dozed in the soft sunlight of afternoon. He suddenly woke without warning and immediately spoke as though they’d been having a conversation.
“We must make a plan soon. The time is nearly here for our agreed upon journey. I see age overcoming each of us so quickly now and if we do not make the journey soon all will be lost. Are you ready, old woman?”
“Yes, husband, I am,” she replied. Their gaze met in understanding and silence fell between them.
“The Great Spirit has provided us a beautiful day for traveling,” said the old woman. Her husband, winded and tired after gathering up the few things they would take with them only grunted and continued packing.
The sun was high in the sky when the pair left the village. Little notice was taken of them by their relatives and neighbors as it was not the custom among the tribe to pry into others’ business. The young brave who had scolded the old couple about the things they were taking with them before they embarked for the Big Country, stood and watched the old couple slowly walk away from the village. The woman was carrying a few camping necessities and the man was carrying the large, strange, mysterious bundle he treasured so much. It was all either of them could do to walk upright.
What a strange pair they were, he thought. Years ago, when the young brave had been only a small child, he’d heard his parents discussing the couple’s arrival. All he remembered of that conversation was that they had come from the Red Cloud Agency, bringing the body of their son who had been murdered. The son's remains were put on a funeral pyre and burned and afterward the old couple remained. Only with age had he become aware that the old couple was treated with great reverence by the rest of his village. That, too, he found strange as to his knowledge the old man was no one important – certainly not a chief or a medicine man.
The elderly couple walked many days and when the old moon disappeared and the new moon cast down only minimal light the aged man and woman stopped walking and established their camp. There was no tipi, only a hastily constructed arbor -- a place to sleep and also place the huge, hide covered bundle – which provided protection for both from the elements. The old Indian man was able to provide them with small game and his wife gathered berries and roots, which although minimal, sustained them.
“The sky says it will snow tonight, woman. The time has come – we must be on our way,” and the old man picked up the huge bundle from beneath the arbor. His wife arose, drew her blanket closer around her and together they began walking toward the mountain. They stopped to rest from time-to-time but were still walking when the blizzard began to roar around them.
“I fear we can travel no farther,” said the woman as she struggled to remain upright in the wind. Her husband lowered the huge bundle to the ground and sat upon a rock. “We’d best find a suitable place before we’re unable to see at all in the wind and snow,” the old man replied, “but I must rest a minute first.” They had just begun ascent of a mountain range and by huddling among the huge boulders they were able to briefly warm themselves.
“My husband, do you find fault with the very place we are sitting?” the woman asked. The old man peered around him in the rapidly fading light and realized where they were was indeed suitable. He agreed with his wife and together they placed the bundle out of sight among the huge rocks and shoved another boulder in front of the bundle so it would not be visible from any direction. They stepped back and stood together, silently, while they caught their breath.
“Are you ready, now?” asked the old man. “I am,” said the woman, “shall we sit where we are?”
“No,” he replied, “we want nothing left here that would ever cause another to search this place should someone happen upon it.” Holding on to one another, the pair descended the mountain and were nearly again on level ground when the old man stopped. “This is an open place where the wind and snow blows strong. We should not have to suffer long – it is a good day to die.”
A small hunting party found the bones of the old couple where, by choice, they’d waited for death to overtake them. The braves stood around, silently looking at the already bleached bones of the skeletons. “Looks like they just laid down and died,” said one man. “Yes,” said another, “it appears to be a man and woman. See how they’re holding one another? Could have gotten lost and frozen to death last winter.”
Little did the braves know that indeed, the elderly couple had died just as they supposed. They had no way of knowing, of course, that death had been a studied choice by the man and woman once they’d made their last dream come true. A mother and father had accomplished their fondest and last wish. They had secretly buried the bones of their son where no one, white or red, would ever find him and his name would ride on into eternity in peace.
The red man had honored, followed, fought beside and adored him. His name would be honored as long as an Indian, of any tribe lived. The white man had taunted and harassed him even after he had untied his pony’s tail (surrendered to them). Finally, finding themselves up against a spirit too strong to be broken; they murdered him.
The burial place of Crazy Horse, famous for his victory at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, has never been found.
Author’s Note: The foregoing tale is a complete work of fiction.
Fact: Crazy Horse led his people to Camp Robinson, Nebraska where on May 3, 1877 he peacefully surrendered. He and his people were made to reside at the Red Cloud Agency. Jealousy and lies from the red man and fear, mistrust and anger from the white soldiers, was the eventual cause of Crazy Horse being slashed in both kidneys by a white soldier’s bayonet in the afternoon of September 5, 1877 when he tried to resist incarceration in the fort's jail by the army.
He did not die immediately but suffered greatly. He was laid out on a blanket on the floor of an army officer's office and his father “Worm” was allowed to be with him during that time. Crazy Horse died at 11:40 p.m., September 5,, 1877. After the government’s formalities his body was released to his father who left with it in a wagon. It is said Worm cremated his son but kept his bones and buried them in an unknown place. Thus…the body of Crazy Horse was carried into the mists of history – never to be seen again.
Copyright 2012 by Angela T. Blair – All Rights Reserved