A short story
The soldiers told the Laki to camp at Sand Creek and promised they’d be safe from attack there. The sun rose on the horizon as Little Wolf helped his mother pile wood on the outdoor campfire, where she would cook their breakfast. In the distance, a wolf howled a danger approaching yowl, and he tried to tell his mother what the wolf said but she was busy and didn’t listen to what her son of only six summers had to say. Little Wolf ran and woke Whirlwind his father. “The wolves warn of danger,” he shouted at his father. Whirlwind immediately arose from his sleeping pad, dressed, grabbed his rifle and ran from the tipi entrance only to see he was too late to warn of the coming danger.
Soldiers yelled and fired their weapons as they converged on the camp. Whirlwind aimed and shot the lead soldier from his saddle. Little Wolf saw the women already outside falling as bullets slammed into them. Instantly Indians poured from their lodge’s still wiping sleep from their eyes. Some not even dressed and most without weapons. Little Wolf watched as the soldiers rode into camp, jumped from their horses and used their rifle butts to smash in any heads they saw, including women’s and children’s. His friend Chayton ran as a mounted soldier chased him, drew his sword and swung it in a wide arc before hitting Chayton’s head. The blade sank deep into his skull as he screamed and fell to the ground with the sword sticking from his head. Little Wolf stood frozen as the soldier dismounted, grabbed the sword’s hilt, put his foot on Chayton’s head and yanked it free. He returned the bloody blade to his scabbard and drew his knife.
Little Wolf couldn’t look away even though he wanted to. The soldier grabbed Chayton by the hair and yanked on it until he lifted his head from the ground. Chayton still lived and screamed from pain as the soldier jammed his knife into his cranium and started cutting his scalp from his skull. Little Wolf put his hands over his eyes to stop himself from watching, but couldn’t shut out the screams of agony.
Indians ran every which way in confusion as the crazed soldiers charged and killed anything that moved. Whirlwind fired his rifle continuously while shouting to the other braves to form a defense, so they could rescue Black Kettle before the soldiers got him. He shouted in English, the soldier’s language, “Can’t you see both an American and white flag of peace flying over our chief’s tipi?” If any soldiers heard him, they ignored what he said.
His little boy’s spirit turned black as he witnessed soldiers chasing down women and raping them. The soldiers sadistically not only cut the hair from their heads, but cut out patches of pubic hair from their victims for trophies. Many of the women were alive, and the screams streamed through Little Wolf’s entire being as the soldiers cut and mutilated. Whites must be the evilest people of all, he thought. Little Wolf vowed he’d avenge this brutality visited upon his people by these whites. He wasn’t afraid, but anger and hatred filled him. He wanted to kill every soldier he saw. He picked up a tomahawk as hatred blazed through him and attempted to run toward a soldier who was raping his aunt, Dyani.
Whirlwind grabbed Little Wolf by the arm to stop him from leaving his side. He saw where Little Wolf was headed, and he raised his rifle and shot the rapist in the head. Little Wolf wanted to go help Dyani, but Whirlwind picked him up and started to run toward the water with some braves who had formed a band of warriors to try to save the tribes leaders. Some of the tribe escaped across the stream, including Black Kettle, Little Wolf, his father, and mother, and only a few dozen more. Little Wolf shook from anger, and he shook from revulsion too. He knew his heart would never be empty of hatred for whites.
Over the years, Little Wolf learned what happened that day. The elders often told stories around the campfire, and whenever Sand Creek came up Little Wolf listened intently. Seven hundred mostly drunk volunteers known as the “Hundred Dazers” of the Colorado Militia attacked his practically defenseless village on November 29th, 1864. They knew his people came in peace, but they killed them anyway. The elders told how the white people of Colorado celebrated the massacre and honored Colonel Chivington, who led the volunteers, with a dinner in honor of his victory. During the festivities, the Colonel regaled the other guests with his war stories and displayed over one hundred Indian scalps, including the pubic hair of many women. When asked why children had been killed, he answered, “Nits make lice.” This statement echoed over and over in Little Wolf’s head. These savages killed his friends and had the audacity to compare them to bugs. He vowed one day to exact vengeance on Chivington if possible, but any white man he got his hands on would pay. He often prayed the spirits would send him many to slaughter.
Ten summers passed since the massacre. At sixteen summers, it was highly unusual for a Laki boy not to have received his spirit animal to guide his way. He waited for his vision to come, but instead had the same dream over and over. Every night for the past ten summers, he dreamed of his village being surrounded by soldiers hiding in the woods, loading their rifles, and laughing at how many Indians they would kill. In his dream, Little Wolf tried to warn his people, but he couldn’t move or speak. Recently a new scene had been added to his dream, and he awoke ready to kill every time he dreamed of three soldiers dragging Aruna toward the woods, tearing her clothes from her as they did. He attempted to rescue her but was knocked to the ground and the dream always ended with a last look at Aruna looking at him as though he betrayed her, and then the sight of a rifle butt rushing toward his face in an attempt to smash his brains from his head. He always awoke sweating and breathing heavily after these dreams and would pray to the Great Spirit. “Please send my vision and give me the power to be sure my dream never comes true.”
He had two priorities for when he was finally acknowledged as a brave. First, he promised Aruna he’d make her his wife, a vow made years ago when they were much younger. They had been inseparable for years, but now her father wanted to build his herd of horses and to do this he put her up for sale. The price was high, and Little Wolf had to become a brave before he could gather enough horses to buy her.
His second goal was to retaliate for the murders of his playmates and friends he had witnessed as a young boy. Thoughts of that day never left his mind and the need for vengeance burned like a fire in his stomach. Remembering how ruthless the white killers had been, he swore to treat any and all whites as pitiless every chance he got.
Braves younger than him had already had their vision, married and wore an eagle feather or two. He couldn’t understand why his vision hadn’t come yet. “Why have I waited so long to receive my vision?” he asked his father.
“We can’t make the dreams come. The spirit animal that will be your guide decides when the time is right. Have you fasted for four days my son? If so you can go to your sacred place and wait for your vision to come.”
“I’ve not eaten for the required time, and I’ve waited many times already without success. As the shaman has already named me Little Wolf, can’t I just take the wolf to be my guiding spirit?”
“My son, we don’t get to choose. There’s something I must tell you, and I do it with a heavy heart. One night long ago, I told my woman, Pari, who was my only wife at the time, ‘listen to the wolves talking, the moon is full, and the animals speak on this bright night. ’Pari listened with reverence because I had proven many times the strength of my magic and understanding of animals.”
”What do they talk about?” she asked.
“They tell of change, death, and destruction.”
“Whose death and what destruction do they talk of?”
“It’s not clear, but we’ll know when the spirits want us to.” Whirlwind reached into his pack and sprinkled some sweet grass on the fire to appease the spirits if they were listening.
The next morning, Pari went to get water from the river with other women from the village. She knew the wolves had talked all night, and when she saw a baby boy sitting astride the big wolf, she knew the wolf was sent by the spirits with the boy as a gift. She had prayed for this very thing for many seasons.
“The other three wolves surrounded her while the gray wolf that carried the baby boy slowly approached. The boy looked to be about three summers old. He slid from the wolf’s back and stood at her feet, standing on a blanket of red and yellow leaves. Pari fell to her knees and thanked the Great Spirit for this gift. She had tried many times to give me a son and failed. She knew the wolves wouldn’t have delivered the boy unless the spirits had commanded them to do so. The village women had witnessed what transpired, and as they trekked through the woods to the village with Pari and our son, Pari sang a joyous song thanking the spirits for their benevolence.”
“Wait, what you’re saying means you’re not my father.”
“I was appointed by the spirits to be a father to you. That’s why we named you Little Wolf, because the wolves brought you to us.”
“Thank you, Whirlwind. You’ve treated me as your own, and the spirits will reward you. I’ll never forget. But, why have I waited so long to receive my vision? I can’t allow another brave to marry Aruna. I know deep inside me that the spirits created her for me and no one else.”
“Come to the medicine lodge,” Whirlwind said. “I’ll help you prepare for your quest.” He opened his medicine bag and took out a container that held a mixture of plants passed down from ancient times. Whirlwind smashed the many different leaves and berries between flat stones and mixed them with water in a clay jug. Then he handed it to Little Wolf. “Drink this. Your dream may come if you do.”
Little Wolf hoped his father’s magic would bring his vision. He went to the hilltop behind the camp to find a sacred place to wait for his vision. When he looked to the far horizon, hills rose from the ground and swelled into mountains, and the sky met the ground. Around where he stood tall grass, shrubs, and a few trees grew. Little Wolf chose a spot near the water with tree branches over his head, and he sat on a rock to wait for his vision to come. The dream powder quelled his hunger, and he sat for three days and three nights. Animals came to watch the Indian boy. An eagle flew by. He knew that was a good sign. In quiet reflection on the fourth day, Little Wolf looked deep within, but no vision came.
He couldn’t understand why the Great Spirit has denied his vision so many times? Weak from lack of food, he returned to the village. Little Wolf told his father his vision hadn’t come. He thought maybe the spirits were angry at him, why they had withheld his vision for so long. Or could it be that he was would never have a vision? Maybe he should make one up? Who would know if he did? By lying about his vision he could choose his guiding spirit, and he thought how great it would be to have an eagle as his guiding spirit. But his conscience told him he couldn’t live a lie.
“This is very unusual.” Whirlwind took out his medicine bag and unrolled it on the earth. “There must be an important vision waiting for you.” He took a rolled-up leaf from the bag on the ground.
He carefully unrolled the leaf, and Little Wolf saw a yellowish white powder. “Can I eat something, I’m so hungry?” he said.
“No, my son. I’ll mix this medicinal powder from the Pawnees. It comes from the far south. Once you drink of it, your hunger will disappear, and your vision will more than likely come.” He mixed the powder with plain water in an earthen jug. He watched as Little Wolf drank the mixture. “Return to your sacred spot for one more day.”
Sitting in his spot close to the river, Little Wolf’s thoughts wandered as he waited for his vision to arrive. He pictured the elders sitting around fires telling stories of old. How the white man came with rifles and other guns to drive the Laki away from their farms many summers ago. Now they lived in tipis instead of huts and hunted instead of farmed. They told how an Indian’s thoughts of war were so different than whites. Indians fought to prove their courage, not to gain territory. Burning Wolf thought how Awkio, Laki, or Sixtou war parties rarely fought to the death or destroyed each other’s villages’. One of their war customs was getting close to their enemy and touching him. This showed bravery but took no lives and made more sense than the white man’s method of destroying everything.
When he dozed off, Little Wolf had the same dream he’d had for the last ten summers. He thought if he told his father about this dream, he might know if it was related to his delayed vision.
“Tell me, my son. What did the soldiers look like and what weapons did they use in your dream?” Whirlwind asked.
“They were dressed in blue and wore high boots. Each one had a rifle, a pistol, and some carried long knives too. They had white skin, just like the soldiers who killed us at Sand Springs. There were more soldiers than braves in our entire tribe. What does this dream mean? Are they coming to massacre us again?”
Whirlwind sat silent for a long time. He then took some substance from his medicine bundle and threw it on the fire, causing a white puff of smoke to rise. He got up and danced, shaking his magic beads, chanting the ancient prayers, and throwing powders from his medicine bag on the fire every time he completed a circle around it. He danced and sang, asking the spirits to tell him what Little Wolf’s dream meant. Hours went by, and he fell exhausted on the ground. “The spirits don’t answer. You need to dream more to finish your vision.” Whirlwind mixed more powder. Little Wolf drank it all.
He returned to his sacred spot hoping his vision would finally come. He sat on the ground under the tree and inhaled the moist air, laden with the aroma of spring growth. The moon came out and animals talked with wolves howling. The wolf talk bought back memories of when he lived with them. Once Whirlwind told him about the wolves, bits and pieces of their language had returned to him. Now he understood it better than his father did. He let out a yowl that matched any wolf howl.
Soon three gray wolves stared at him from the woods. He howled again, and they trotted to where he sat and they lay on the ground beside him. He became warm from the fur of his friends against his body, and he drifted off into another world.
While awaiting his vision to come Little Wolf watched as a fire burned and in a shower of sparks erupted as a spirit rose from the flames. Dressed in a robe of flames with skin the color of the sun the spirit appeared to be an Indian. Blue and red flames flickered about this spirit and Yellow flames emanated from his head. The spirit floated from the fire, and the flames surrounding him increased in intensity as the colors shimmered and changed. An aroma from the spirit caused Little Wolf’s nose to burn.
“Are you Maiyun?” Little Wolf asked. He prayed this was his vision and not just another dream.
“I’m known by many names.” The spirit floated around Little Wolf, flickering flames surrounded him wherever he went. “But you will call me ‘The Wolf.’ You are to be granted the power to protect your people from the coming horde, but only if you remain true to your word.”
Little Wolf knew that an Indian’s word meant everything. All distrusted one who didn’t keep his word.
“You’re going to be granted a great power that few before you ever had. Watch, and you’ll see what you will be capable of once you learn to control the gift I will bestow on you.” The Wolf demonstrated his power by holding out his right hand. A stream of bright red and blue flame shot out and hit a tree fifty feet away. With a loud whoosh, the tree instantly turned into an incinerated stump. The spirit held his hand toward the river. The flame shot out and landed on the water turning into a ball of flame that spread across the water until the water burned from shore to shore. “This is the power you’ll have as long as you remain true to your word.”
Little Wolf awoke with sweat on his brow. He hardly believed his own vision. Excitement overcame him as he imagined the things he could do with this immense power. But was it true? He couldn’t wait to tell his father what his vision showed, and to ask him if it were true. He returned to the village, and the wolves followed him. When they approached the village, dogs barked and growled at the scent of wolves. The wolves were quiet, and stuck by Little Wolf, one on each side, and one behind.
He and his wolves sat in front of his father’s tipi and waited for him to analyze his dream. The wolves lay by him as they had walked. He knew the Wolf Spirit sent them to protect him as before. His father soon sat opposite him, and he revealed his vision.
“I have prayed,” Whirlwind said, “That your name will no longer be Little Wolf. From this day forth you will have a new name once you show me the powers the Spirit has given you.”
Little Wolf stood and stepped several paces from his father. The three wolves walked with him in their usual order. He held out his hand as he had seen the God do in his vision. He envisioned a whooshing flame burning everything in its path, but nothing happened. He shook his hand, held it out again, and concentrated very hard on the image of a flame shooting from his hand. He felt warmth spread from his heart, down his arm and a burning sensation in the palm of his hand, but no flame exploded from it as the Spirit had shown him in his dream. He felt Despair flowing through him. What had he done wrong? Why wasn’t his gift operating? He believed that the spirit gave him the promised power, but he didn’t know how to use it. “I’ve failed father. I cannot do as the Wolf showed me.” He sat across from his father again and hung his head in shame for his failure, his eyes moist with tears that he couldn’t shed.
“You’re weak from not eating for days my son. Maybe your body needs fuel to create this fire. Eat and then try again.”
Little Wolf ate what Pari set before him. Although food made him sleepy, he wanted to see if he had the gift the Wolf promised him. He stepped away from his father and the wolves followed his every move. He held out his right hand and pictured fire erupting from it to burn the tree to a cinder. He felt heat spreading from his heart through his arm to his hand, and a small flame erupted from his palm. It fell to the ground igniting the grass at his feet. Excitement coursed through him at the sight even though the flame was small and ineffectual. He used his feet to stomp out the fire, and the onlookers laughed at this inadequate display, not knowing the power he had been given. Little Wolf became enraged and aimed his hand at those who laughed. He tried to send a flame at them, but this time the heat from his heart felt hotter and the flame that shot from his palm reached a few feet farther than before. He had to dance through much grass to put out the flames.
“Flaming Wolf, that’s your new name,” one of the Braves said and laughed. Why can’t they understand I’ve been given this power to save them? They are humiliating me with their laughter. I’ll teach them to respect me he thought. He attacked the ones who jeered with his closed fists. He swung and hit one of the hecklers in the nose, another in the lips and both were bloodied. They backed away from his devastating punches, “Okay, we’ll call you, Fighting Wolf instead.” They said, but Little Wolf continued his attack and went after another one.
His father arrived and put his hand on Little Wolf’s shoulder to stop the fight. “Burning Wolf is a fine name, and your spirit guide, the Wolf, would be happy with that name.”
Exhausted from his ordeal, Burning Wolf went to his tipi and lay down to sleep. The wolves surrounded him. He dreamed of Aruna and his dream was full of images that aroused him. His desire melted all resistance, and he wanted to wake and go to her tipi now and take her for his wife. The Wolf appeared in his dream and said, “You must remain true to your word, or your power will be no more.”
Burning Wolf awoke in a sweat. He remembered he had given his word to White Cloud, Aruna’s father, that he wouldn’t touch her before he paid the full price. He knew if she remained untouched, she was worth many more horses,. One side of him wanted to go and take Aruna, and the other side resisted because he knew he’d need his Spirit-given powers to protect the tribe. He made ready for the day. Now that he had his vision, a brave deed would earn him the right to wear an eagle feather in his hair.
Burning Wolf painted his face in the colors of war, put on his war-shirt and loaded his shield, spear, and bow on a painted horse. “Today I’ll gather many horses for my wife-to-be. Any who want to join me may,” he told the other young braves.
Because he had just been given a new name and was unproven as a full-grown brave, not one joined him in his quest. He rode off, a wolf on each side and one walking in the rear.
If he stole horses from the Sixtou he could count coup and would bring honor to himself and his tribe. He headed for Sixtou territory with three wolves marching in their usual formation following him as leader of the pack.
Reaching Sixtou territory after riding for a day, he made camp. With no fire for warmth, the wolves snuggled in close and shared their body heat with him. He dreamed of Aruna and ached for her touch. He awoke with the realization that she was within reach and would finally be his as soon as he returned with enough ponies to pay her price. His burning desire for her and the thought of sharing his tipi with her was constantly in his head. His desire to love her was so strong that he almost broke his promise to her father to keep her pure until they married several times during the last moon.
Howling came with moonrise, and Burning Wolf looked to the sky and the full moon. He answered with a howl of his own. The resounding howl told him Sixtou were camped nearby. Other howls told him the Sixtou were returning from a raid on a Awkio camp and held many horses.
His chance had come. He readied his horse and weapons and told the wolves’ how to drive the horses back to Laki territory once he set them free.
Finding their camp, he saw twenty or more Braves. Tied to trees were about forty horses. He knew this would be more than enough to buy Aruna for a wife. Little Wolf wondered if his powers would allow him to defeat so many? Should he kill them with flames, or try to scare them off and count coup? He decided he wouldn’t kill, only drive the warriors away so he could take their horses as his own. His body tingled from excitement, not fear. “Oh Heammawihio,” he prayed. Give me the courage and strength to defeat these horse thieves.” He held out his hand and felt the heat from his heart travel to his right hand. He aimed his hand at the high grass between the horses and the Sixtou camp. He let loose with a burst of flame that set the horses to neighing. The Sixtou came running. Burning Wolf aimed his hand. The flame whooshed out and set the surrounding grass aflame. The Sixtou ran and tried to go around the flames. Burning Wolf aimed in that direction. Soon they had only one way to go or be burned from the flames.
Burning Wolf cut all the rawhide strands that held the horses. They all ran away from the flames. He felt the heat as the grass glowed with brightly burning flames. He let the wolves drive the horses while he stood still thinking what he could do with this vast power given to him when the whites came as he knew they would. Maybe he could chase them away by using his new power.
He rode after the freed horses and stopped and dismounted when he saw his wolves sitting on a cliff’s edge. His stomach turned with fear as he prayed to the Great Spirit, “No, please don’t let it be what I think it is.” Burning Wolf had seen wolves drive their prey over a cliff more than once before. If that’s what happened to the horses, he couldn’t make Aruna his wife. He walked close to the edge saying all the while, “Please, please don’t let them all be dead.” His prayers weren’t answered. On the canyon floor lay dead horses. Carrion birds already swooped around. The wolves looked at him with their gray eyes ablaze from the setting sun. He knew they did their best. It was just natural for them to kill their prey. Anger flared and subsided because he realized it was his fault for turning the wolves loose on the herd. He imagined another brave with many horses buying Aruna for his own. Her image haunted him. He couldn’t return with empty hands. The Sixtou were now warned a horse thief was in their territory. He couldn’t give up. After almost succeeding, he felt the first pangs of doubt. When he thought of Aruna married to another, he had no choice but to head for Chemack territory where he might find more horses. He went to the bottom of the canyon where the perished horses lay and cut enough horse flesh for him and the wolves to last for days.
Something in the distance moved. He saw movement but couldn’t see what it was. He prayed that it might be a herd of wild horses. He mounted and sped toward the movement. Burning Wolf thanked Heammawihio for giving him another chance to acquire the ponies he desperately needed. He rode toward the movement, and as he got closer he saw not only horses, but wagons, cattle, and white people walking alongside their overloaded wagons.
Concealing himself in the tall grass, he watched as a hundred wagons passed. These were the very first white people he had seen since the massacre, and pictures of his friends being raped and murdered returned. Thoughts of vengeance filled him, and his body shook with pleasure at the thought of using his powers on these invaders.
He’d stop them before they moved onto Laki land. He and the wolves circled around while he planned his attack. The wind blew from west to east. Burning Wolf had seen plenty of grass fires and knew how fast they traveled when a strong wind blew. He rode far enough west to start a fire that would speed toward the wagon train and engulf it in flames.
He rode through the tall grass, letting out battle cries as flames shot from his right hand setting large fast moving fires in the tall prairie grass for two miles in a straight line before he stopped and watched as the long wall of flames bore down on the whites and their wagons. They saw the flames coming and tried to escape by turning their wagons and whipped the beasts that drew them. They couldn’t escape the fast-moving flames and Burning Wolf watched in joy as wagon after wagon burst into flame.
In his head, he thanked Heammawihio, for helping him to find these invaders before they stole Indian land, and for sending so many whites for him to kill. He faintly heard screams coming from the whites as they burned. He thanked the Wolf, for the powers given him to protect his people. Burning Wolf let out a long loud victory cry. His spirit’s lifted because finally he had done something to repay the white skins for what they did to his people.
He came upon two wagons that escaped being burned by rolling into a small pond. Two men and a woman stood by the wagon, and when the men saw him, they both pulled pistols and shot at him. Little Wolf rode his horse in a circle around the wagons diverting their attention as they tried to shoot him from his horse. Meanwhile the wolves moved silently through the tall grass and unseen by the men, surprised them when they leaped upon them. Both men were knocked to the ground and lay motionless as the snarling wolves showed their razor sharp teeth and snapped their jaws within inches of the men’s throats every time they moved.
Burning Wolf wanted to see what the wagons contained, and he pulled back the canvas covering the opening of the first covered wagon. He was surprised to see about twenty white children of many ages.
Chivington’s words rang in his head. “Nits make lice.” Now he understood. With so many children, these whites would soon greatly outnumber the Sixtou. He did what he thought he should and held out his hand to the wagon, and his heart got warm and heat spread to his arm. He didn’t want to kill all these helpless children, but those words Chivington spoke long ago rang through his head. He knew in a few years these children would be grown and become Indian hunters like the other whites. The whites never hesitated to kill Indian children.
“No! What are you going to do?” The woman screamed.
Reluctantly he let the flame spring from his hand and watched as it exploded against the wagon. The children’s screams tore through the roar of the passing fire. The wagon burned to the ground in a short time. Silence filled the air, except for the white woman’s sobs. The two men lay on their backs with wolves’ teeth inches from their throats. They didn’t dare move, but tears flowed from the eyes of one man.
Burning Wolf looked in the other wagon and found it loaded with crates of rifles and bullets. A valuable cargo that would pay for Aruna a hundred times over.
Burning Wolf took possession of two saddle horses that stood in the water along with eight oxen used for pulling the wagons. He searched the men, took their guns, and used sign language to tell them to harness the oxen and drive the wagon with its horde to Laki Territory. They didn’t want to do what he said until he raised his right hand and pointed it at them. Burning Wolf released a stream of flames from his hand that hit the water two feet in front of them. He raised his hand a little higher, and they hurried to comply and hitched four oxen to the covered wagon. The white woman, still crying, climbed into the wagon, the two white men sat on the driver’s bench. Both looked forlorn and helpless without their guns. The wolves took up their guard positions of one on each side and one to the rear. He stayed behind his captives because when he rode close, their long unwashed bodies gave off aromas that made him unwell. Burning Wolf and his wolves drove the two horses and the other four oxen along.
Satisfied because he had killed so many whites, Burning Wolf decided to give the white prisoners to Chief Black Kettle so he could exact his vengeance for Sand Creek. The wagon, horses, and some of the rifles would go to Aruna’s father in payment for her, and he would use the other rifles to arm his fellow Braves.
Burning Wolf thought of how sweet life would be once he and Aruna lived together. His thoughts were interrupted when he heard battle sounds echoing from his village. Without hesitating, he kicked his horse to make it run for home. Who could be attacking his village? He couldn’t wait to join the battle, so he could use his new powers on the enemies of the Laki. The wagon driver whipped his oxen and headed the opposite way. The wolves followed Burning Wolf, ready for battle.
Blue clad soldiers rode on horses through the village with flaming branches setting fires to Laki tipis. He raised his hand and aimed it at one rider who carried a flaming torch. The flame from Burning Wolf’s hand set him on fire, and he rode through the camp screaming in pain. Burning Wolf felt his heart burn from the heat as flame after flame shot from his hand and burned any soldier he aimed at. The leader of the bluecoats saw what he was doing and ordered his men to attack Burning Wolf. They formed into a group and charged toward him. He released a tremendous flame that engulfed all twenty soldiers attacking him. They all burst into flame, and the terrified horses ran every which way. They bucked and neighed as they tried to remove the screaming burning loads from their backs. Once the other soldiers saw what happened they rode away. Burning Wolf walked through the camp looking for any soldiers that may be hiding from his flame. A boy pointed to a tipi where soldiers hid inside. Burning Wolf set the tipi on fire with a blast from his hand. Two soldiers ran from the fire with pistols in their hands. Burning Wolf aimed the flame at their hands, and the heat caused their hands to blister and drop their weapons. The men screamed in pain. Many gathered around the screaming soldiers with their knives ready.
“These killers of women and children are yours,” he told the angry gathering. He left with the screams of the soldiers in his ears.
He went to see that Aruna, Whirlwind, and Pari were safe.
“You have saved us this day,” his father said. “Now the soldiers know that the spirits are on our side.”
A hunting party returning to the village had recaptured the wagon with the two white men and woman in it. The Indian women had tasted blood and wanted more. They all remembered that day ten years ago. They wanted revenge for the mutilations that had been performed on the bodies of the dead Laki. They ripped the clothes from the woman and whipped her with a rawhide lash, and then the children threw stones at her. The Indian women reluctantly gave the bloodied white woman to the Braves to do whatever they wanted with her, and the Laki Women stripped the two men and whipped them. An older woman, Running Deer, whose daughter had her pubic hair cut off at Sand Creek, cried for her right to vengeance. The women tied the two whites to wooden stakes driven into the ground and stood in a circle around them. Running deer approached the men with a hunting knife held in her hand. She carved a section of skin off one man’s arm. As he screamed and pled, she turned to the other man who tried to remain brave. Once Running Deer took his penis in her hand, he forgot all about bravery and begged and pleaded that she kill him first.
Unmoved by his cries, she slowly sawed his penis. The man’s scream filled the camp. The other man looked around trying to find a sympathetic face, but all he saw were faces that appeared to enjoy what was happening. Once she had severed the penis, she danced around the two whites with the penis in her hand. She stopped dancing, turned to the other man and stuck the severed penis into his mouth. She then started to cut his penis slowly off. He couldn’t scream because his mouth was stuffed. Once she cut off his penis, she stuffed it into the other man’s mouth. “For my daughter you mutilated,” she said and ran crying from the men. The women converged on the dying men with sharpened knives and finished what Running Deer had started. They believed this action would somehow erase their grief and memories of Sand Creek.
“The wagon was mine to trade for a wife, but when I heard the battle I let it go to save the village. It should still belong to me. I needed it to get Aruna for my wife.” Burning Wolf told his father. “I was going to distribute the rifles free to our warriors. Those hunters have traded the rifles for firewater.”
“My son, you know our law. If it’s free to roam, no one owns it.” He put his hand on his son’s shoulder in sympathy. His face showed his regret, but as shaman, he had to follow the law.
Burning Wolf felt it was unfair. He was unable to buy his wife because he sacrificed her price to save his village. The spirits were against his union with Aruna it seemed. Twice now, he had enough to buy her, and twice it was taken away from him. A brave handed him a container of whiskey. “Take a big gulp. It’ll soon chase your worries off to the stars.”
Burning Wolf swallowed as much as he could. It burned his mouth and his throat. Soon he felt mellow and wanted to dance. He walked to the campfire and danced his story of chasing the Sixtou and of the horses running off a cliff. He danced and sang how he had killed and chased off the whites coming to take their land. He stopped and emptied the container of fluid and howled to the moon.
Burning Wolf slept, and his brain cleared from the haze. He went to the river to bathe. Aruna was taking her bath when he arrived. She didn’t know he was there watching her. Her nakedness caused his desire to burn and then roar. He lost control, took her by the arm, and led her under the trees. Wrapping his arms around her he whispered into her ear, “You know I saved your life yesterday. You should be my wife now, so you must give me what I need.”
“But the spirits insist you keep your word, or you’ll lose your power.”
He put his hand on her thigh and couldn’t refuse the devil that called. Aruna reluctantly submitted to him. Afterward Burning Wolf returned to his tipi and his wolves were nowhere to be seen. He slept and dreamt of men dressed in blue surrounding the Laki camp that night. He awoke to screams and shouts. Soldiers were shooting everything that moved. His chance had come again to save the camp. He held up his arm and aimed his hand at the men in blue. His heart didn’t get warm. It got cold. And it got colder yet as he knew his dream had indeed come true when he looked up and saw three soldiers dragging Aruna off towards the woods and were tearing her clothes from her. He attempted to rescue her but was knocked to the ground. He looked at Aruna who returned an accusing look, as though to say he had betrayed her, that he wasn’t a man who kept his promises. From the corner of his eye, he saw a rifle butt rushing toward his face in an attempt to smash his brains from his head.
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- Heammawihio – The great spirit
- Maheo – Supreme god or great spirit and creator
- Maiyun – The great spirit