The returning War Party rides in silence as they approach the river bordering Chota. They are led by a weary and war worn Nanye’Hi’, her hair hanging loose to signify her mourning. She is leading five captured horses and is flanked by Oconostota on her left and the Ada’wehi, carrying the War Fire on her right. The Tassel and the Raven follow closely behind them with only twenty returning male warriors. Bringing up the rear of the procession are three women warriors and six wives dragging travois that carry the wounded.
A solemn young boy sits at the edge of the river, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the war party. As it comes into view, he is suddenly filled with excitement, his mind racing with thoughts of the day he will be one of those returning warriors. The jubilant boy runs up the riverbank and through Chota shouting, “ The warriors return! The warriors return!”
The elders hear the boy’s news, but they are unmoved. They know the warriors’ return is for the young who have not yet absorbed the taste of bitterness that comes with the ever-mounting grief from the aftermath of war, of death. To the elders, the return of the war party is not a joyous occasion. The old ones have heard this call of victory too many times in their life – they remain stone-faced as if unfazed by the news. They have no tears left to shed for the dead, and they know the joy of victory is short-lived.
The townspeople, hearing the news of the returning war party, drop what they are doing. All feel a mix of fear and hope of this dreaded day. The mothers’ and fathers’ stomachs are knotted, as they fear their sons and daughters are not among the living warriors. Grandparents and great-grandparents have lived the experience of returning war parties too many times – the day brings back sorrowful memories of times past. They concern themselves not with those returning, but with those that do not. They prepare themselves mentally, fearing for their children’s and Grand Children’s uncertain future without a father or mother. Wives fear they may no longer feel the warm touch of their mate or hear their laughter.
The townspeople rush through town seeking an answer to one question: “Does my loved one’s body remain on the battlefield and their spirit walks the Nightland?” Each has the same hope: “My loved one returns to me victorious.”
As the townspeople gather at the doorway of the Council House, all fear the worst, and many are in tears, yet they try to remain hopeful as the War Party makes its way up the bank of the river.
The War Party breaks the crest of the riverbank, coming ever closer to the sacred mound that supports the ancient Council House. There is silence as the stone-faced warriors reach the Council House and slowly dismount. The returning warriors’ thoughts are not on their victory, but on the loss of their fallen brothers and sisters. The only thing that breaks the silence is the wailing and weeping of those mourning loved ones. The wailing mixes with chanting of death songs as the last living warrior reaches the Council House.
Little Carpenter steps out of the darkness of the Council House entrance into the bright sunlight. He stands in silence beside his sister Tame Doe and Nanye’Hi’s young children, Kasewini – Catherine – and Litli Welo – Little Fellow. He holds out his arms to greet the returning warriors, his eyes adjusting to the brightness as the war party comes to a halt before him.
Nanye’Hi’s children rush to meet her, and she hugs and kisses them frantically. Slowly she turns away from her family as Little Carpenter greets her with his arms outstretched. He and Nanye’Hi’ share a loving hug. Nanye’Hi’ presents him with her horses leashes and says, “O-si-yo E-du-ji. Hello, Uncle. To honor you, I give you these horses I took in battle.”
Little Carpenter briefly inspects the horses and replies affectionately, “O-si-yo Nan-ya’-Hee’! Your gifts warm my spirit, but you alone have won these rewards. Runners told us of your victory as well as your loss of Kingfisher to the Nightland.” He returns the horses’ leashes to Nanye’Hi’, and she accepts them. Even though she is consumed with grief and fatigue, she stands tall, her chin held high, responding, “My loss of Kingfisher to the Nightland is much for me to bear, but I choose to carry this weight, my burden, to honor him. It is our twentieth winter of war with the Mus-ko-gee over our Taliwa hunting grounds. This war is no more. Kingfisher and many other warriors gave their lives freely so we can hunt our Taliwa grounds in peace.”
Little Carpenter nods in agreement, full of pride in her strength but holding back his tears of loss. Oconostota steps up beside Nanye’Hi’. Little Carpenter greets him with the warm handshake of an old friend, asking softly as he searches the faces of the returning warriors, “What of my sons Tsi’yu-gunsi-ni and Kit-eg-iska?”
Shaking his head in deep remorse Oconostota states coldly, “Dragging Canoe and Little Owl refused to accept Nan-ya’Hee’ as War Woman. They chose their own path!”
When he hears the news, deep despair grips Little Carpenter. Dropping his head in shame, he enters the narrow doorway of the Council House. Then the Ada’wehi, carrying the War Fire, enters behind him. Oconostota, the Raven and the Tassel arrive next, followed by Tame Doe leading the Women’s Council and Nanye’Hi’ with her children, and last, the remaining Warriors’ Council. In a show of honor to the Council, there is a short wait before the townspeople enter.
The large Council Room is lined with a stepped sitting area that encircles the Council Fire. The fire’s smoke hangs low over the room before meandering out a small hole in the ceiling.
A few feet from the Sacred Fire, the Ada’wehi with the War Fire takes his seat in front of the A-ni-da-we-hi – the religious leaders. Tame Doe, as leader of the Women’s Council, takes her place on a stump beside the Ada’wehi.
Facing the fire to the right of Tame Doe is a stump covered in buffalo and deer robes for the Peace Head-Man, Little Carpenter. To the left of Tame Doe is a stump covered in bear and wolf robes for the War Head-Man, Oconostota. Little Carpenter and Oconostota take their designated places, sitting down on their stools.
The council members – made up of clan heads, warriors and elders, both men and women – take their own places. On the other side of the Council fire, the large room is quickly packed as over five hundred townspeople sit with their respective clans.
A silence falls over the room as Oconostota kneels down at the base of the center post. He digs out a buried hand-carved box and hands the box to Tame Doe. She opens it and presents it to Little Carpenter who gently removes the white deerskin from the box. He lays it across his lap and carefully unfolds it to manifest the sacred white pipe. With both hands, he lifts the pipe skyward, and then carefully lays the pipe back on the white deerskin.
Oconostota walks straight and tall over to the massive center post of the Council House and removes the Danawa Ahi Galuyasti, the Ceremonial Red Hatchet of War, from the center post. Kneeling, he wraps the Red Tomahawk of War in the red fox pelt. Tame Doe hands him the hand-carved box that held the sacred pipe, and he places the hatchet in the box. He puts the box in the hole at the base of the center-post and covers the box with dirt.
With the slight twitch of his fingers, Little Carpenter signals Tame Doe, who bows her head slightly in acknowledgement. She is holding a white buffalo scrotum pouch that she hands to Little Carpenter.
Untying the leather strings that bind the pouch, he reaches in and takes out a small amount of dried tobacco and puts it into the bowl of the pipe, while Tame Doe walks over to the Sacred Fire. She removes a burning stick used to light the pipe, and Little Carpenter puffs the pipe to life, waving the smoke up and over his head. He then passes the pipe to Oconostota, who repeats the same motion with the smoke.
Little Carpenter and Oconostota stand with Tame Doe. Oconostota takes the pipe and cradles it in his arm as he motions Nanye’Hi’ to step forward.
Unsure of why she is summoned, Nanye’Hi’ respectfully makes her way down from the Women’s Council. Reaching the Head Men, she stands between Oconostota and Little Carpenter, facing the large audience of townspeople.
Oconostota raises the smoking pipe above his head with both hands as he addresses the assembly. “Nan-ya’Hee’ walked beside Kingfisher as a woman, a wife and mother of their children,” he says. “Proving her strength among the Warriors, she is our War Woman!”
The tribe rumbles with approval, and Little Carpenter waves his arms to settle the approving crowd. Once they are silent, their full attention turns to Little Carpenter as he speaks softly, “Nan-ya’Hee’ places her people first and sacrificed all for her people. She is worthy to be called Beloved Woman. What says the Council?”
There is a huge wave of approval from the room. Tame Doe looks up at Oconostota and solemnly proclaims, “As mother of the Woman’s Council, we welcome Nan-ya’Hee’ as our GHEE-GAH-UH!”
With pride, Tame Doe presents Nanye’Hi’ a leather pouch with a strap. Reaching inside, she pulls out a white swan’s wing. “Only an A-gay-yah – only a woman – can give life! Only a GHEE-GAH-UH can spare life!” she says. “The swan’s wing is Beloved Woman’s power to spare a life sentenced to death! She alone has this power to overturn even the great War Head Man’s authority!”
With tears of joy, Tame Doe turns to Nanye’Hi’, throwing open her arms. Nanye’Hi’, however, is quickly aware of the reality of her responsibilities. As Oconostota passes the white pipe to her, she hesitates in her acceptance. “Women are forbidden to touch the sacred White Pipe,” she says humbly.
“You are no longer a-gay-ya, a woman,” Little Carpenter says. “You are GHEE-GAH-UH and granted supreme powers, as well as a supreme degree of accountability for your actions. As Beloved Woman, you are the spirit of woman giving life, and as War Woman you are spirit of man giving death. Take the pipe.”
Nanye’Hi’ trembles as she receives the sacred pipe. Carefully holding it in both hands, she lifts it to her lips and draws in the smoke. Exhaling, she waves the rising smoke up and over her head, and then passes the pipe to Little Carpenter.
He turns to the large tribe and calls out to them: “Guided by Yo-He-Wa and his law for balance, the Council has spoken. For all her moons, she will be a GHEE-GAH-UH, Beloved Woman, in times of peace, and DA-NA-WA A-GAY-YAH’, War Woman, in times of war! Nanya’Hee’ is no more. She is GEY’-YAH-TAH-HEE’ AH-GEE-LAH’SSS-GEE – Wild Rose Of Chota.”
The council once again whoops its approval. Little Carpenter hands the White Pipe of Peace back to Oconostota who places it back inside the white deerskin pouch and hangs it from a wooden peg in the post. Replacing the Red Hatchet of War with the White Pipe of Peace with is a symbol that Chota is at peace.
As Oconostota returns to his stool, Tame Doe holds up a shawl made of white swan wing feathers. Little Carpenter stands and receives the shawl and motions for Nanye’Hi’ to stand. He gently places the shawl around Nanye’Hi’s shoulders, proclaiming, “This shawl will remain a symbol of Wild Rose’s authority as Beloved Woman.”
Tame Doe then removes a silver broach from a pouch and hands the broach to Oconostota. He holds the broach up for all to see before he addresses the crowd. “This broach is a symbol of Wild Rose’s standing among our people as War Woman,” He places the broach in Wild Rose’s hands. After raising it above her head to show the people, she removes the leather tie of her buckskin vest and replaces the tie with the silver broach.
Oconostota declares in Cherokee, “Wild Rose will take her rightful place between the Peace Head-Man and The War Head-Man at all councils as Beloved Woman and War Woman of Chota.”
Overcome with the honor and responsibility bestowed on her, Wild Rose’s voice cracks as she addresses her people: “As Beloved Woman, my call is for peace. As War Woman, my pledge is to defend this peace against all enemies. My vow to the people is to hold myself and my actions to the highest standard!”
The crowd erupts with cheers and whoops for several minutes, but the jubilant fervor turns to silence at the entrance of the bruised and bleeding Dragging Canoe and Little Owl. They are followed closely by Alissah’kway-tee, a tall and beautiful woman in her early twenties.
Dragging Canoe and Little Owl’s anger is very clear as they strut proudly across the main floor to the inner circle, stopping directly in front of Little Carpenter, Oconostota and Wild Rose. Dragging Canoe poses defiantly and stares coldly at Wild Rose, bringing the proceedings to a halt. Dragging Canoe’s insolent actions anger Oconostota and shame Little Carpenter. Oconostota springs from his stool to face him. “ Your disrespect is not tolerated within the Council House!” he says disdainfully.
To defuse the very tense standoff, Little Carpenter stands and approaches Dragging Canoe. He greets his two sons warmly: “O-si-yo my sons. We will talk of this later.”
Turning his attention from Oconostota, Dragging Canoe looks down at Little Carpenter, then back at Oconostota. He then turns his hard stare on Wild Rose. He calls out loudly, “You look on this woman Nan-ya’Hee’ as a warrior?”
Little Carpenter responds coldly to his disrespectful remark. “Nan-ya’Hee’ fought as a warrior. She led us to victory over the Creek. The Council has spoken! She is Beloved Woman and War Woman! She is now Wild Rose of Chota! For all her remaining moons she will be addressed at Wild Rose!”
Oconostota’s anger grows as he and Dragging Canoe continue their death stare. Having his fill of insolence, Oconostota commands with cold authority. “Abide by the council’s decision or leave Chota! I have spoken!”
Dragging Canoe tries to contain his rage but it is quite obvious. He struts out of the inner circle, followed by Little Owl and Alissah’. Before reaching the narrow hall, he turns and announces, “You, Oconostota, have spoken! I, Dragging Canoe, hear not your words! The day will come that I will be War Head Man! I have spoken!” He quickly vanishes into the dark hallway.
Dragging Canoe’s disrespectful outburst brings rumblings of disapproval from all the clans. It also angers Little Carpenter, but his feelings of rage are soon replaced by disappointment and shame as he watches his sons leave the Council House.
The reunion of the warriors returning and the red hatchet and white pipe ceremony completed, the townspeople exit the inner chamber. Once outside, most of the women hurry off in preparation of the feast later that night. Many of the other townspeople return to their lodges and resume the daily activities of the town. Many, however, remain outside the Council House listening to the war stories and other exploits of the elders, while others cluster together to discuss the politics of the day’s events.
Meanwhile, Ole Hood, Isaac and Big Foot cross the river and enter Chota from the far side of town. Chota is cradled safely in the large bend of the Little Tennessee River. Isaac has never seen a Cherokee town of this magnitude and is in awe at its size. The numerous lodges dotting the valley amaze him. Coming from a secluded town of less than fifty people, Isaac cannot fathom a town that houses over five hundred men, women and children. He reminisces about his own town and how the population had faded in the last ten years of his life on Seven Springs Mountain. Even in his youth there were fewer than a hundred people that made the journey to Seven Springs from Virginia. They consisted mostly of elderly men and women.
Life was hard on Seven Springs Mountain. If you were a skilled hunter, you lived; if not, you died or left the mountain. Many of the elderly died off within a year of arriving at Seven Springs. Many families left for an easier life of the larger Cherokee towns. Over the years, the young men and women in search of suitable mates outside their clans left, never to return. That mountain was his whole world, and because he was a skilled hunter and trader his family thrived there, but they were the exception.
The seclusion also made him suspicious of everyone outside the mountain, even the traders he has known for years. He thought the traders’ tall tales were fabrications and lies brought on by the whiskey he sold them. He knew nothing about the outside world except the pain and violence he carried from his boyhood. As the last scene he experienced in the outside world plays over and over in his mind, without thought he strokes the scar left by the Englishman.
“I have never before trusted anyone outside the mountain, except one – Nan-ya’Hee’,” he mumbles. “So why do I trust these strangers, Ole Hood and Big Foot?”
Looking up from his memories of his past, Isaac gazes admiringly upon a huge round-shaped structure on a large mound. He is filled with amazement of the magnificent structure as he points up towards the Council House and asks, “What’s that?” Before him sits a vibrant new world, now open to him at Chota.
Chuckling at Isaac’s curiosity, Ole Hood says, “ Son, you should get off that mountain more.” Isaac ignores the comment, but now realizes the stories of Chota and other great Cherokee towns were not tall tales of drunken traders, but real.
Ole Hood points to the Council House. “That’s the tallest point of the town – it’s a large man-made mound covering many acres. What you see sitting on top of the mound is the seven-wall Council House,’ he explains. “Each side represents one of the seven clans of the Tsalagi. Inside, each of the Seven Clans marks their designated area with the individual colors, hides and feathers of their clan. The Council Houses are designed by the Ada’wehi to adhere to the design passed down from ‘the Ancient Times.’ And, Son, you think Chota is sumpn’ – you should see the Middle Town of Cowee.”
Ole Hood continues Isaac’s education of the Cherokee world outside of Seven Springs Mountain. “The Council House is the center of all activities,” he says. “At all times the Ada’wehi – that’s a shaman, also called the Atsilasvti or Fire Maker – tends the Sacred Fire. The Council House holds all that is sacred.”
As the trio goes by the well maintained and robust fields of corn mixed with beans, squash and potatoes, Isaac remains in awe. Heading toward town, they pass the many mud-covered lodges made of logs and river cane with bark roofs. The lodges randomly dot the valley. Ole Hood explains, “These summerhouses vary in shape and size, depending on the size of the mother’s family.”
Isaac scans the town’s varied architecture; some houses are small, square structures while others are large and rectangular. All of the structures are built with upright poles forming the main framework. The outside wall coverings vary from house to house as well. Some are covered with bark, some wood, and others with woven river canes, but most are wattle-and-daub – a white clay stucco that covers both the interior and exterior walls.
Smoke from the many cooking fires hangs low over the ground as the women heat stones and place them in large clay bowls of boiling water for cooking. Under the supervision of the mature women, younger women and men are buzzing around with their many daily activities. Many of the female children are busy weaving baskets; others are making clay pots, tanning hides or sewing buckskin into winter clothing. Several other women grind corn, pounding large pestles up and down in a huge oak tree stump used as a mortar.
Isaac is dumbfounded by what he is experiencing outside the confines of his remote mountain home. Ole Hood muses, “They must be getn’ ready for sum big doings.”
Ignoring Hood’s comment, Isaac takes particular notice of how the women in Chota are dressed very differently than women in Seven Springs. Chota women dress in various forms of buckskin and woven fabrics for clothing. The older women wear a variety of one-piece dresses that range from just above the knee down to mid-calf with leggings and moccasins. The younger women of childbearing age dress in buckskin and woven fabric blouses, midriff-length vests of various designs or nothing at all above the waist. They all cover their lower bodies with a combination of knee-length breechclouts or skirts with leggings and moccasins. The breastfeeding women wear the same with either no blouse or a blouse with one strap over the shoulder, leaving at least one breast exposed for easy nursing of their babies.
With winter approaching, other women and the younger men go about preparing their asi or winter house. Asis are very different from the summerhouses – small, dome-shaped, wattle-and-daub structures that resemble a beehive or an upside-down basket that is partially sunken into the ground.
Ole Hood leads them to a large corral where they unload the pack mules and settle in their horses. Having put their horses away and stored their goods in the lean-to, Isaac, Ole Hood and Big Foot walk up to the outside of the lodge belonging to Running Deer.
Little Bird, age ten, and Dancing Rabbit, fifteen, look up from sewing hides to see the massive Big Foot walk up with Ole Hood and the stranger. Huge smiles cover their faces as they drop their work and race to Big Foot’s side, giggling and squealing with excitement.
Running Deer, a pretty woman in her late twenties, hears the commotion and walks around the corner of the lodge carrying two large water bags. Upon seeing Big Foot, she drops the bags, spilling water all over the ground. She jumps up on Big Foot, wrapping her legs around him and kissing him all over the face.
Big Foot lifts her in his massive arms and kisses her passionately. “This is my wife, Ah-wee ah-dee-see – Deer Running,” he tells Isaac with pride.
She slides down from Big Foot’s arms to the ground, but remains at Big Foot’s side, her arm wrapped around his waist. Big Foot points out his daughters with even more pride.
“And my daughters Gee-sss-kwah uh-chee’ (Bird, Little) and – “ he begins, but before he can finish, Dancing Rabbit steps up to Isaac with an admiring smile. “Gee-sss-doo gah’-lee-sss-gee-ah – I am Dancing Rabbit!”
Taken aback, Isaac smiles and nods. “O-si-yo!”
“Oo-lee-hey-sss-dee to Chota.” Dancing Rabbit’s flirtatious welcome makes it quite clear to Isaac she is of marrying age and interested.
Ole Hood has other things on his mind. “ Running Deer, what’s the ruckus at the Council House?” he asks.
“Runners brought news of the Creek defeat, and Oconostota has returned to Chota,” she answers. “There is word of a new War Woman carrying the battle to the Creek after Oconostota was wounded.”
Smiling, Ole Hood whispers to Big Foot and Isaac, “Let’s go see what’s going on.”
A suddenly prideful Ole Hood pokes out his chest and tries to suck in his gut. “Let’s get a closer look at this here new War Woman!”
With a lively step, Ole Hood and Isaac make their way toward the Council House, followed closely by Big Foot’s giggling daughters, not able to hide their infatuation with the stranger. Trailing behind the group are Big Foot and Running Deer, wrapped arm in arm.
As they pass one lodge, a robust woman in her thirties steps out with six young female children from three to ten. She sees Ole Hood and storms toward him with a look of vengeance in her eyes, berating him at the top of her voice while shaking her finger at him with every word.
“Hood! Where you been? You been drinking whiskey and taking other women?” she demands to know.
Her six daughters echo her every word while shaking their fingers at Hood.
Hearing the outburst, Ole Hood and Isaac stop and turn slowly to face the source of the onslaught. A lily-livered Ole Hood waves his arms, trying to calm the irate woman. “Now, June Bug, you know I, I, I wouldn’t do anything like that,” he stammers.
The six daughters echo his every word and action.
Ole Hood cowers from the woman’s continued badgering and the echoing ensemble. but Big Foot grins from ear to ear. “Ah, to see such a loving family,” he says gleefully.
Leaving Ole Hood to his browbeating, Isaac, Big Foot and his family walk on, striding up the massive mound crowned by the Council House. Big Foot is still chuckling. “ If ya be wondering? That be Hood’s loving wife, June Bug, and the pride of his loins, his loving children,” he informs Isaac.
From down below, they hear Ole Hood trying to run up the hill after them. “Oh, hell! Don’t leave me!” he calls out in a pitiful tone. Isaac looks back down toward the bottom of the mound and shakes his head, unable to comprehend the situation. They all come to a stop watching in amusement as Ole Hood struggles, gasping for air. Down below they hear June Bug coming toward them, hot on Ole Hood’s heels.
“Hood! You come here!” she yells.
Ole Hood whispers to Isaac and Big Foot, “I wonder what this War Woman looks like?”
“Aren’t you in enough trouble with the Missus?” Big Foot asks.
Looking down in despair, Ole Hood shakes his head. “Yep. And you don’t know the half of it! She’s pregnant.”
“Again! To hell with ya!” Big Foot bellows, throwing his arms in the air. He snatches up Running Deer’s hand, leading her up the hill. She is half-running just to keep up with the long-striding Big Foot as he stomps up to the crest of the mound.
“You don’t understand!” Ole Hood calls out to Big Foot as he desperately tries to keep up.
“The only time she ain’t mean is when I am poking her! It ain’t my fault her fields are so fertile!”
Following close behind Big Foot and Running Deer are Little Bird, Dancing Rabbit and Isaac. Lagging further and further behind are Ole Hood with June Bug and children in tow, harassing him all the way.
Reaching the crest of the mound, they make their way through the crowd to the narrow doorway of the huge Council House. As they arrive, Oconostota, Little Carpenter, Tame Doe and Wild Rose step outside. The awaiting crowd quickly gathers around the war heroes. Oconostota and Wild Rose visit with family, friends and other townspeople briefly, but their main focus is on consoling the family members that lost loved ones.
Spotting Isaac, Little Carpenter is drawn to the tall stranger and approaches to within inches of him. Isaac stands a foot taller than Little Carpenter who inspects him closely from head to toe and back up, staring him in the eye. “O-si-yo. Who are you, Big Man?” he asks.
“O-si-Yo! I am . . .” Isaac begins to reply.
Ole Hood steps forward and addresses Little Carpenter respectfully. “O-si-yo Little Carpenter! This is Isaac. He is from the Upper Middle Town of Seven Springs. He is with me and Big Foot.”
The tired, battle-worn Wild Rose is still reeling from the death of Kingfisher. She fails to recognize Isaac as she walks past him, but after a few steps, a deep feeling grips her soul. Glancing back, she sees Isaac’s scar, reminding her of an old friend from long ago. She spins around briskly and strides with authority directly back to the tall stranger, stopping just inches from him. Her abrupt actions capture the curiosity of the crowd.
Looking up, she examines the stranger’s face, looking deeply into his sad brown eyes. Without hesitation, she reaches up and touches the scar on his face, the same scar she touched as a child.
Taken back, Isaac steps away, but her touch on his scar ignites Isaac’s reminiscence of their time together. He remains speechless, searching deep into her dark eyes. “Is-aac! It is me, Nan-ya’Hee’!” she says.
Regaining her composure, she turns to the now silent but inquisitive crowd. “When I was a child, my father and Little Carpenter took me to Seven Springs Town on the mountain to trade,” she tells them. “Is-aac and I became great friends over the weeks I was there.”
Peering intently up at Isaac, Little Carpenter says, “I know this town and your people. Big Man, you are welcome at Chota!”
Little Carpenter, Wild Rose and Isaac join hands, lifting them up to the crowd’s shouts of approval. Wild Rose calls out to the crowd, “I had lost my friend and now have found him!”
Purposely separating themselves from the rest of the crowd are Dragging Canoe, Little Owl and Alissah’. Seeing Wild Rose’s camaraderie with the stranger, Dragging Canoe’s antagonistic attitude and jealousy toward both of them increases.
With his arms widespread Little Carpenter calls out, “We celebrate the return of our victorious warriors and the Beloved Woman’s reunion with her friend, Big Man. After the warriors’ five-day purification, we gather for a Victory Dance!”
Standing behind the crowd is Little Owl and an annoyed Dragging Canoe, accompanied by his woman, Alissah’. Ignoring Dragging Canoe, Alissah’ gazes longingly at the tall stranger called Big Man. Dragging Canoe sees Alissah’s infatuation with the stranger, but as a man he has no power over her actions.
The crowd soon disperses and Dragging Canoe is ready to leave. Impatient, Dragging Canoe clutches Alissah’s arm, but she jerks her arm from his grasp and glares at him. Dragging Canoe’s jaw tightens and he leaves in a fury. She stays, catching another glimpse of the stranger as he looks in her direction. She says nothing, but her eyes and smile speak for her. As the stranger’s attention returns to Wild Rose, she giggles. Skipping lightly away from the crowd, her thoughts are on the tall stranger they call Big Man.
As Wild Rose, Isaac, Big Foot and Ole Hood, followed by their families, leave the main part of town, Wild Rose takes Isaac’s arm, pulling him to the side. “Is-aac, I have been gone many moons. I must be with my children,” she says. “We will talk more after purification.”
Understanding Wild Rose’s responsibilities to her warriors and family, Isaac nods in agreement. “I look forward to that time.”
With a warm smile, she departs with her two children, but stops momentarily to wave goodbye. His heart soaring, Isaac continues to gaze at Wild Rose as she disappears into the crowd.
Stepping up beside Isaac, Ole Hood clears his throat to get Isaac’s attention. Isaac turns to Ole Hood, who becomes very serious. “Isaac. Uh, failed to mention she is in mourning. But that aside, you know a stranger living at Chota is required to be taken by a wife,” he says. “To be truthful with ya, they are more of a spy than a wife. It’s their job to keep an eye on ya till they know you can be trusted.”
Big Foot adds with a smile, “Hope a pretty one sets her eye on ya!”
Ole Hood adds, “Hell, I believe June Bug still tells the Head Men every time I take a squat. Can’t grudge her for that. It’s her duty.”
With a smirk Big Foot says, “Yeah, ask Ole Hood for matrimonial advice!” Ignoring Hood and Big Foot’s babbling, Isaac concentrates on Nanye’Hi’, his memory and thoughts of her unbroken.
Later that afternoon, Wild Rose and all the men and women from the war party, with the exception of Dragging Canoe and Little Owl, arrive at the sweat-house to begin the purification ceremony. Each warrior steps inside the structure covered with buffalo hides and takes a seat on the floor around the War Fire. Tame Doe, as head of the Women’s Council, had prepared the Black Drink from yaupon bush leaves, and Wild Rose, as Beloved Woman, serves it. The Black Drink initiates their purification through regurgitating and releasing bodily fluids into pots. As the pots fill, the mother of each warrior’s clan removes his or her pot and replaces it with another. Once cleansed by the Black Drink, their fasting begins.
On the fifth day, cleansed by the Black Drink and their fasting completed, the men and women emerge from the sweathouse. Led by the Ada’wehi and Oconostota carrying the War Fire, the warriors walk to the river’s edge where Ada’wehi instructs them, “You are to prepare for your second purification, the Go To Water Ceremony! Remove all clothes worn on the warpath!”
The men and women remove all their clothes, placing them in a pile. The clan mothers then gather the clothes and place them in the War Fire the Ada’wehi has built by the side of the river.
As the clothing burns, the Ada’wehi, prays, “Yo-He-Ya! Hear my words! Take this, fire. Burn away and fend off all disease and evil cast on them by their enemy!”
As the last of the clothing burns, the Ada’wehi calls out, “Go to the water! Cleanse your being!” One by one, the warriors enter the river, dunking their heads seven times, then vigorously washing their bodies from head to toe. Cleansed inside and out from war, they step out of the river. The Clan Mothers meet each warrior with new clothes made by their clan. Clean and dressed in the new clothing, the warriors’ bodies and souls are now purified.
The Ada’wehi calls out once more, “Pass your weapons of war through the purifying flames of the War Fire!”
The Women’s Council brings their weapons to their respective warriors. The warriors accept the weapons and approach one at a time, passing their weapons through the War Fire as the Ada’wehi chants over and over, “The warrior and weapons are now purified!”
The purification completed, the Ada’wehi and Oconostota carry the fire pot – followed by Wild Rose and all the warriors of the war party – to the Council House. Once inside, the entire war party gathers around the Sacred Fire. The Ada’wehi prays while he adds the War Fire to the Sacred Fire as he chants. “Yo-He-Ya! We offer the War Fire’s power of victory unto the Sacred Fire, increasing the power of the Sacred Fire. We take our enemies’ power and give their power to our people!”
The ceremony complete, the Women’s Council brings food and drink to the warriors. Having fasted for five days, the warriors gorge themselves in silence.
Later that night a huge fire is built outside the Council House. The Victory Dance commences with the beating of the drums. As the drummers chant, a great feast takes place. Dressed in their finest white muslin shirts and crimson muslin robes, the Head Men, Ada’wehi, Elders and Women’s Council take their places around the fire with their clan and families.
A large deer and other meats are roasting on the fire. The women of the town bring corn, sweet potatoes, squash, corn, beans, cornbread and other foods, laying them out on blankets. The townspeople take their time eating. Many of the men and women take their places in the dance around the fire, while others lie about, talking and laughing.
Sitting with Ole Hood and Big Foot’s family, a very somber Isaac sees Wild Rose arrive with her children, as well as Tame Doe and Little Carpenter. He eases through the crowd until he is standing alongside Little Carpenter who welcomes him. “Big Man, it is good you are here. Enjoy yourself.”
Isaac nods, but his mind is on Nanye’Hi’. His plan to talk to her is quickly dashed as her children, Tame Doe, Five Killer, Big Foot, Ole Hood, June Bug and families gather around her, vying for her time. Not wanting to be rude or forward, he stands back from the crowd.
Oconostota, the Raven and the Tassel are sitting with their wives and children, eating, talking and laughing. Oconostota’s mood is broken momentarily as he gives Isaac a suspicious stare. Isaac catches the meaning of Oconostota’s look, yet he returns his attention back to Nanye’Hi’, watching her laughing and playing with her children and talking with friends. She catches him staring at her, and he shyly diverts his eyes, only to quickly return his gaze toward her. But she is still watching him intently, embarrassing him further. She laughs for the first time in months. Because she is in mourning, she tries to conceal her joy, but she can’t hide from her ever-guarding mother.
Isaac makes his way slowly toward her. “Nan-ya’ Hee’, will you dance?” he asks her.
Impulsively, she steps toward him, but her gatekeeper and mother, Tame Doe, instantly steps between them and gives Isaac a disapproving look.
“Her name is no longer Nan-ya’Hee’! She is now Beloved Woman and as Wild Rose of Chota she is held in high honor and standard!” Tame Doe proclaims. “You see her hair is down in mourning for Kingfisher! Her time of mourning must be honored! Be gone from her!”
Tame Doe then turns her disapproving stare on Wild Rose. “It is taboo. You wear your hair in mourning!” she chides her. Shamed, Wild Rose steps back.
With the Victory Dance in full swing, Dragging Canoe, Alissah’ and Little Owl approach the fire. Isaac keeps his eye on Dragging Canoe and Little Owl, and they return his intense stare. When Dragging Canoe notices Isaac and Alissah’ exchange glances, he angrily grabs her by the arm, but she violently jerks her arm away, turning her full attention back on Isaac.
To further demonstrate her independence as a Tsalagi woman, she leaves Dragging Canoe’s side. She walks with purpose directly toward Isaac. Dancing Rabbit shyly approaches Isaac, too, but she is intercepted by the more aggressive Alissah’ stepping in front of her. Alissah’ maneuvers into a position that is clearly visible for all to see her intentions with the stranger. With amorous admiration, she whispers, “O-si-yo, I am Alissah’-kway-tee – join me in the dance.”
Ole Hood, trying to be discreet, nudges Isaac with his elbow. “You have to accept. The women choose who will be their mates. If you don’t accept, she will be offended, and you can be cast out of Chota or worse,” he whispers. He notices that Dragging Canoe is watching Isaac and Alissah’s interaction intently and nervously makes a motion across his throat with his finger.
Isaac returns Alissah’s gazes of admiration, shyly responding, “O-si-yo, I am Is-aac.”
“Alissah’-kway-tee accepts you,” she replies softly, and leads him out to the fire where the couple joins the dance.
Isaac, already very unpopular with Dragging Canoe, makes the situation worse by accepting Alissah’s invitation. Wild Rose, too, is unhappy, watching with displeasure at Alissah’s advances and Isaac’s acceptance of her flirtation.
Ole Hood whispers to Big Foot, “The Canoe sure had his eye on Alissah’.”
Big Foot whispers back, “The problem is, she didn’t have her eye on him – she has her eye on Isaac.”
After several dances, Alissah’ leads Isaac over to her blanket just outside the glow of the fire. Alissah’ sits down, guiding Isaac by the hand to join her. As they sit on her blanket Alissah’ initiates all the talking, flirting and laughing, but Isaac is a more than willing participant. After a short while, Alissah’ leads Isaac away into the darkness.
From the back of the crowd, Wild Rose is keeping a sharp eye on the couple, deeply saddened by their obvious attraction to one another. Unable to tolerate their flirting any longer, she takes her children and leaves the dance.
Across the fire from Wild Rose, Dragging Canoe is also enraged at their fascination for one another. He and Little Owl quickly leave the Victory Dance.
A worried Big Foot, observing the situation, shakes his head. “This ain’t good.”
Caught up in his own delusions, Ole Hood is disgusted and hurt. “Ain’t that a hell of a note?” he complains. “In town one day and Isaac up and steals Alissah’-kway-tee right out from under me!”
“What world ye be living in, you Old Bodach?” Big Foot exclaims. “What makes ye think you could get a fine young lass like that?”
“You know she had a thing for me!” Ole Hood continues.
Shaking his head in disbelief, Big Foot takes Running Deer by the hand and walks away from the festivities with Ole Hood following after them.
Right on Ole Hood’s heels is June Bug. “Hood, where are you going?” she rags him. “Don’t run from me! Come back here!”