Months later as dusk envelopes Chota, Wild Rose is sweeping the ground outside her lodge with a straw broom when she catches a glimpse of Alissah’ racing along the wood line at the edge of town. Her curiosity aroused, she watches closely as Alissah’ scampers off in the direction of Isaac’s lean-to lodge. As if stalking a wild animal, Wild Rose follows her, crouching behind the bushes twenty yards from Big Man’s lodge. From her vantage point she sees Alissah’ is now within thirty feet of Isaac’s lodge. Wild Rose looks about but cannot find Isaac. Smiling seductively, Alissah’ calls out softly “Big Man!”
Wild Rose catches a glimpse of someone walking up the path through the woods coming from the river. It is Isaac, dressed in only a breechclout and still wet from bathing in the river. At the sight of Alissah’, his smile conveys his desire for her. Alissah’ seductively steps up to Isaac, their bodies nearly touching. She turns away, slowly and intentionally brushing her breast against his chest.
Wild Rose’s anger builds as she watches Alissah’s seduction of Isaac. Isaac grabs Alissah’ by her arms and spins her around to face him. Their lips are nearly touching as they gaze into each other’s eyes. Alissah’ kisses Isaac and he responds with passion. It is clear to Wild Rose that they are openly continuing their courtship. “Isaac will not wait until my year of mourning is ended,” she thinks to herself. “He will accept Alissah’s taking him.” Isaac pulls back the buffalo robe covering the doorway to his lodge, and Alissah’ steps inside. As the door-flap closes, Wild Rose’s regrets and frustrations tear at her soul.
Wild Rose returns to her lodge sobbing, but quickly wipes away her tears and tries to distract herself. Knowing Isaac is naïve about women – and knowing Alissah’s brazen nature –Wild Rose can’t help having deep concerns. She lays on her bed trying to sleep.
After tossing and turning for hours, she steps out of her lodge and cautiously makes her way past Tame Doe’s lodge (and her watchful eye). Moments later, she arrives at Isaac’s lean-to. Listening intently, she can hear Isaac and Alissah’ engulfed in passion, her heart shatters.
Walking deeper into the woods, her pace quickens until she is running. After hours of running non-stop, she falls to the ground, completely spent, her heart overflowing with the pain of loss. “ First I lost Kingfisher at the hands of the Creek, and now I have lost Isaac to Alissah’,” she cries. After hours of weeping, sleep finally overtakes her.
The next morning, the sun awakens Wild Rose. At first she is unsure of where she is, but she gathers herself, gets her bearings and runs toward home.
Three hours later, she reaches a very familiar trail and stops to catch her breath and drink from the river. When she sees her reflection in the water, she realizes she is dirty and trail-worn, so she removes her clothing and slides into the cool waters. Several minutes later, she emerges from the river, replaces her clothing and begins to run again. This time she is running to something, not away.
Still following the river, she seeing her sacred place stone and stops. She wades out into the waist-deep water and plunges headfirst into the water. After a short time, she emerges from the river renewed and sits on the flat rock, contemplating her future. In the distance, she hears a woman’s laughter and follows until she catches a glimpse of Alissah’ standing outside Isaac’s lean-to. She watches intently as Alissah’ takes her time adjusting her breechclout before replacing her vest. As Isaac steps from the lean-to, Alissah’ embraces him fervently.
Alissah’ and Isaac walk casually through the woods toward the river, laughing and talking. When they stop at a rock with a flattop surface, Isaac notices the rock is wet. He places his hand on the rock as his eyes search the woods carefully. “Who has been at his secret place,” he thinks. Isaac is uneasy as he and Alissah’ offer up their prayers, and he constantly surveys the area as they disrobe before entering the river.
Wild Rose works her way through the woods to a point upstream that is in clear view of Isaac and Alissah’. As Isaac steals glimpses of her, she slowly removes her clothing and enters the waist-deep waters of the river. She calls out in an inviting tone, “ O-si-yo Is-aac!” Her greeting to Alissah’ is more subdued.
Isaac’s response is friendly but guarded, but the response from Alissah’ is only a cold stare of contempt. Alissah’ knows Wild Rose’s reason for this brazen display.
Wild Rose calls out again as she splashes the water excessively. “I have already done my daily cleansing at my sacred place,” she says. “The coolness of the water felt good on my body, so I returned.”
She continues to splash about in a sensuous manner to insure Isaac and Alissah’ are very conscious of her presence. Isaac tries to ignore her actions, but his eyes are drawn to her. Alissah’ is very aware of Wild Rose’s intent and of Isaac’s attraction to her.
The seductive display now complete, Wild Rose steps from the river and dresses very slowly before leaving. Alissah’ is angry, and she and Isaac quickly dress without a word between them. Alissah’ takes him by the hand, leading him up the trail and away from Wild Rose. All of this takes place under the watchful eye of Tame Doe.
As Wild Rose leaves the river, she is encouraged by Alissah’s anger and Isaac’s reaction to her display. She slowly makes her way up the hill feeling very pleased and confident.
“Isaac will wait till I am out of mourning before Alissah’ takes him as her husband,” she thinks. As she steps from the woods entering the edge of town, Tame Doe steps out from behind a tree blocking her way. Tame Doe’s face is stern. “ Why do you shadow Big Man? You are in mourning!” she scolds. Tame Doe clutches her arm spinning her around to face her. “ Daily cleansing is for purification, not seduction of a man you are forbidden to take! You bring shame on yourself and your clan! This man has been chosen! He will be taken by Alissah’! They are to be married!” she states sternly.
Wild Rose is dazed by the news
“Alissah’ has come to me asking for the blessing of the Women’s Council,” Tame Doe says. “As mother of the Women’s Council, I gave her our blessing.” Stunned, Wild Rose lowers her head to hide her tears and slowly staggers away.
Over the next few months, Wild Rose endeavors to diminish the growing relationship between Isaac and Alissah’, but her period of mourning hinders her ability to intervene. The day of Isaac’s and Alissah’ marriage is fast approaching, and Wild Rose is helpless to stop it. For the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom choose the rock marking Isaac’s silent spot in the woods next to the river, and the Women’s Council clears the knee-high grass from around the rock to forming a large circle of bare ground. Seven days prior to the wedding, the Ada’wehi comes in with burning embers from the Sacred Fire, builds a small wedding fire and blesses the ground.
With the sunrise of the wedding day, the embers of the wedding fire burn low. The family and friends of Alissah’ are the first to arrive, forming a continuous circle around the fire.
Isaac’s father and mother are unable to make the arduous journey from Seven Springs. Big Foot, Ole Hood and their families arrive, gathering at the circle as Isaac’s adoptive family.
Alissah’s mother and her oldest brother, the Raven, take their places beside the sacred fire. Running Deer, standing in as Isaac’s mother, enters and stands across from Alissah’s mother.
As leader of the Women’s Council, Tame Doe enters the circle with two blue blankets and one white blanket draped across her outstretched arms. She makes her way around the circle of friends and family, blessing and greeting everyone. All those who have gathered sing Tsalagi songs that reverberate throughout the assembly.
The Ada’wehi completes his blessing of the circle and takes his place facing Alissah’s mother and Running Deer at the Sacred Fire. Wild Rose, Little Carpenter and Oconostota enter the wedding circle carrying cedar branches crossed over their bodies. They take their places to the side of the wedding fire, and the assembly quiets. The Ada’wehi turns toward the Raven. “Raven, as Alissah’s brother, will you accept your responsibility as e-du-ji, as uncle, guiding Alissah’s children spiritually as well as the ways of this world?” he asks.
The Raven nods. “Tuh-huh.”
Alissah’ and Isaac enter the wedding area’s outer circle. She is dressed in a white buckskin breechclout, blouse, leggings and moccasins while Isaac wears a white muslin shirt and crimson wool robe. The bride and groom approach the Ada’wehi standing in front of the wedding fire. Running Deer takes her place beside Isaac, and Alissah’s mother takes her place beside her daughter. The Ada’wehi blesses the couple, taking one blue blanket from Tame Doe to cover Alissah’s head and shoulders and a second blue blanket from Tame Doe to cover Isaac’s head.
After another blessing, the Ada’wehi removes each blue blanket, handing Isaac’s blanket to Alissah’s mother and Alissah’s blanket to Running Deer. The Ada’wehi then takes the white blanket from Tame Doe, covers the wedding couple’s heads and addresses the assembly: “Under the watchful eye of The Creator, this blanket is the beginning of their new life together.”
Running Deer hands a hindquarter of venison to Isaac who in return gives the venison to Alissah’. “My promise is to provide food and protection for our family,” he pledges. Alissah’ hands the venison to her brother, the Raven.
Alissah’s mother hands Alissah’ a basket holding a pone of corn bread and corn that she passes to Isaac. “This corn symbolizes my willingness to care for and provide nourishment for our family,” she says. Isaac then hands the basket to Running Deer.
The Ada’wehi addresses Alissah’ and Isaac. “Your exchange of gifts reflects the roles of Kanati, first man, and Selu, first woman, put here by the Creator to watch over the land and his people and to maintain balance. These gifts of meat and corn are a vow you, Big-Man, the husband, will hunt for and protect the family.”
“Alissah’, the woman, will tend the corn and will bless her house with children either a bow or a sifter.” By this he means a boy who hunts with a bow or a girl who nourishes and gives life.
Tame Doe steps forward with a gourd. “The Tsalagi first man was Ka-nah-tee, the Great Hunter. The first woman was Say-Loo, the Corn Mother,” she says. “To honor first man and first woman’s life together, keep this gourd of strawberries preserved in honey in your home as they did. May it be a reminder to watch the sting of what we say to those we love and to always keep the sweetness of To’-hee-doo, the Good Peace, the harmony of body, mind and Spirit.
“You will live by these vows and the Creator’s law of balance until that day Alissah’s spirit passes to the Nightland or the day she no longer desires you as her husband. Maintain balance, and the Creator will bless you!”
The Ada’wehi backs away, head bowed. “Doh-dah-dah-go-huh-ee – until we meet again.”
The wedding party and guests reply in unison, “Day’-dah dah-goh’ huhn-yuhn’ – until we meet again.”
Oconostota, Little Carpenter and Wild Rose step forward, dropping their evergreen branches on the wedding fire. The green foliage pops and crackles on the hot coals, casting a heavy grey smoke skyward. Led by the bride and groom, the wedding party steps up to the wedding fire and waves the smoke up and over their heads. The ceremony over, Wild Rose rushes away before anyone sees her tears.
The families, led by the bride and groom, make their way to the Chungke Yard where a huge feast has been prepared. The entire town is in attendance with two noticeable exceptions – Wild Rose and Dragging Canoe. Isaac searches the crowd for Wild Rose, but she is nowhere to be found. Saddened by her absence, he joins the celebration, taking Alissah’s hand. At the onset of the rhythmic beat of drums and chants, the wedding couple enters the yard. The bride and groom lead the first dance, joined by all the town’s inhabitants except for Wild Rose.
The townspeople eat, dance and celebrate until dusk. As night descends, the bride and groom make their way hand in hand through town, with the tribe following the wedding couple to their lodge.
Once inside the lodge, the crowd outside erupts in one last celebratory whoop. Alone inside Alissah’s lodge, they slowly remove their wedding apparel. She wraps her arms around Isaac’s neck. Isaac reclines on the river cane bed with Alissah’ on top of him, kissing him passionately.
The joyous celebration reverberates through the town, pounding in Wild Rose’s ears, then only silence. Deeply depressed, she lies on her bed, sobbing. “I know I must accept that Isaac now belongs to Alissah’, and he is lost to me forever,” she mutters.
With a stubborn air of tenacity, she lifts her head and wipes away her tears. “Or is he?” she murmurs to herself.
On a hot summer morning, a sweaty Isaac and Alissah’ are dragging small logs with his horse. Isaac stops beside a partially constructed cabin next door to Alissah’s lodge and unhooks the ropes from the logs.
Walking to the river for her daily cleansing, Wild Rose passes by and pauses to bid Isaac and Alissah’ a good day: “O-si-yo!” They return the gesture in unison: “O-si-yo!”
Alissah’ enters her lodge, but Isaac watches closely as Wild Rose saunters toward the river, her long unbraided hair cascading down her shoulders, Stopping for a moment, Wild Rose takes a quick glance back at Isaac. As he follows her with his eyes, she smiles playfully before disappearing into the woods. Isaac, confused by his repressed feelings for Wild Rose, can’t seem to free himself from thoughts of her.
The following week, the shirtless and sweaty Isaac stands on a wooden ladder that leans against the lower log wall of the trading post he is still constructing with the assistance of Ole Hood and Big Foot. They are straining to push another log up to Isaac for him to set in place. Seeing Wild Rose approach, Isaac ceases to pull up the log that Ole Hood and Big-Foot are desperately pushing up from below. Hood calls up to Isaac, “Are you going to take this log or not? I don’t know about your end, but it’s getting mighty heavy down here on this one!”
Aggravated by the distraction, Isaac yanks the log up just as Wild Rose walks past. Isaac takes particular notice of her playful greeting to Ole Hood and Big Foot. “O-si-yo!”
They return the greeting: “ O-si-yo Wild Rose!” Ignoring them, she gazes longingly up at Isaac with her full attention. “O-si-yo! Big Man!”
Isaac waves at her, “O-si-yo! Wild Rose!”
In attempt to remain longer, she remarks, “Alissah’ will have a good strong lodge to raise her children.”
“This is not a lodge!” Isaac retorts. “This is my trading post. She has her lodge!”
They share a longing gaze before Alissah’ appears, bringing Isaac water. Their moment broken, Wild Rose acknowledges her:
“O-si-yo, Alissah’. This is good – you have a husband that is such a good provider.”
Alissah’ glares suspiciously up at Isaac, then back to Wild Rose. Sensing their sexual tension, Alissah’ stakes her claim on Isaac.
“ Tuh-huh! My husband is a good provider!” she replies curtly.
The undertone in Alissah’s voice is very clear. Wild Rose nods, and then gives Isaac a sultry glance as she hurries away. Standing on the top of the ladder, Isaac absorbs her every gesture and smiles back in reply, unaware that Alissah’ is witnessing their unspoken exchange. Alissah’s jaw tightens, and she angrily strides back to her lodge as Wild Rose turns away, and Isaac returns to his task.
The next morning, sitting cross-legged on a buffalo robe in the Council House, Wild Rose is in secret negotiations with the Ada’wehi. She hands him several strands of wampum, he smiles, pleased with his payment. He chants an incantation to her, and she repeats the incantation back to him word for word. The Ada’wehi nods his approval – both are satisfied with the arrangement.
As Wild Rose exits the Council House, the morning sun breaks over the eastern mountains. She makes her way through town, coming to her familiar trail to the river. She darts into the woods, careful not to be seen.
The remains of a fire smolder as Isaac sits outside his trading post, tanning a hide. He catches a glimpse of Wild Rose near the woods by the river. Puzzled that she would take her daily cleansing so early, he drops the hide and follows her. When he sees Wild Rose is at his silent spot, he watches and listens in silence.
Kneeling, she recites an unfamiliar incantation: “Now! Listen! You and I are truly set apart! It was decided that you think of me. You think of my entire body. You think of me from your very soul. You think of me, never to forget that I walk about.”
“This is my name, Nan-ya’Hee’,” she continues. “I am a woman of the Wolf Clan! The morning doves will be calling: Gu:le! Hu:! Hu:! Hu:! Hu:! You say, you man, that your name is Is-aac, that your people are Tsalagi.”
The incantation over, Wild Rose smiles and looks into the sky. “Wa-do Ada’wehi! Wa-do Yo-He-Wa!” she utters softly.
Confused by her actions, Isaac slowly walks along the river, contemplating Wild Rose’s strange incantation. In the distance he hears Alissah’ call out, “Big Man! Big Man!”
Battling his confused feelings for each of these women, he is fully aware of his obligation to his wife Alissah’, but those feelings are mixed with his overwhelming guilt over his enduring feelings for Wild Rose. As he breaks out of the woods, he is caught off-guard when Alissah’ appears in front of him and asks, “Big Man, what are you doing by the river?”
He replies defiantly, “At my silent place for daily cleansing.”
Alissah’ pays particular attention to the fact he is not wet. She passes her hand over his chest and holds it up for him to see it is dry. Dusting her hands together, she holds them up, signifying her doubts. Saying nothing more, she walks past Isaac into the woods. In the far distance, she sees a wet Wild Rose sitting on the rock, putting on her moccasins and leggings. Alissah’ turns and leaves as Wild Rose stands, quickly replacing her breechclout and vest.
Now dressed, Wild Rose makes her way along the path toward the town. She steps from the woods, but when she sees Alissah’ having an intense one-way conversation with Isaac, she stays hidden.
Alissah’ enters her lodge with fire in her eyes, leaving Isaac standing alone. Wild Rose witnesses the situation, but remains hidden behind a tree. Smiling shrewdly, she whispers, “Wado Ada’wehi!”
December 1755, The Great Island Town
On a cold harsh night, Little Owl approaches Dragging Canoe. He is standing by a huge fire outside his asi, looking out onto the river. Dragging Canoe hears Little Owl approach but never turns around. “Brother, is Big Man still at Chota?” he asks.
Apprehensive to answer, Little Owl finally replies, “For now. In the spring he leaves with Oconostota to fight the French and Shawnee. They will join Ostenaco War Head-Man of Tom-mot-ley.”
“What of Alissah’ Kway-tee?” Dragging Canoe asks.
Little Owl pauses, anticipating Dragging Canoe’s reaction. “She is big with Big Man’s child,” he answers.
Dragging Canoe stares out over the river. He grits his teeth and barks out, “Go! Watch Big Man. Shadow his movement.”
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!”
Death & Rebirth
The year is 1754
A crisp fall day marks the nineteenth year of the Cherokee – Creek War over the Northwest Georgia hunting grounds. The red and yellow foliage blankets the misty Smoky Mountains to the east. The rich topsoil has given up its yearly bounty of corn, vegetables and fruits. It has been safely stowed away for the winter that is quickly descending on the City of Refuge, Chota.
The Ada’wehi (A-DA’-WAY-HEE) or shaman builds a War Fire from coals of the Sacred Fire beside Oconostota’s hothouse, keeping it burning for four days as the warriors ready themselves for battle. On the fifth day, the warriors now cleansed for battle, the Ada’wehi places the War Fire in a red clay pot equipped with a wooden handle and carries the War Fire through town. Arriving outside the Council House, he stands beside Little Carpenter. Now in his seventies, Little Carpenter is dressed in his finest robe, turban and moccasins. He is wrapped in the White Feather Robe signifying his position as Peace Headman.
Beside Little Carpenter stands Oconostota. In his fifties now, he is still an imposing figure, dressed in traditional breechclout, leggings and moccasins. To signify his position as War Headman, Oconostota wears the War Headdress made from a wolf’s face and pelt. The face of the wolf pelt sits on Oconostota’s head while the body trails down the length of his back, ending with the wolf’s tail dangling at the back of his knees. All of his visible skin is covered in black war paint that represents death. His choice of weapons are a brass French-made smoker-hawk hanging at his side, his musket and a large flint knife.
Oconostota is flanked by KAI-YAH-TA-HEE, Long Fellow, the Raven of Chota, and the Tassel, dressed in breach-clouts, leggings and moccasins and wrapped in buffalo robes. Both are covered in red war paint with a mask of black war paint over their eyes.
They watch the procession of warriors led by red war-painted Tsi’yu-gunsini Dragging Canoe, now twenty. Stout, stoic and muscular, his face is pocked-marked from his boyhood illness. Beside him is his brother, Little Owl, fifteen, in red war paint. Both warriors have their tomahawks, flint knives and muskets. The black war paint across their eyes enhances their fierce appearance.
The procession consists of thirty male warriors in buckskin and buffalo robes. Their faces and heads are hairless with the exception of topknots. They too are covered in red war paint with black paint masking the eyes. Ten War Women, wearing the same clothing and war paint as the men, follow them. They remain bare-breasted and carry an array of weapons as the men do. A few have muskets, but most carry bows and arrows as their long-range weapons. The Tsalagi, who prefer close fighting, each carry flint knives with their main weapons of choice being either French-made smoker-hawks or traditional war clubs made from buffalo jaw bones.
The warriors make their way through the town toward the Council House. They are leading their horses, both men and women warriors, joining the war party. At the rear of the procession are the wives – their lack of war paint signifies they are non-combatants and safe from attack. Each wife leads horses that pull travois loaded with food and other essentials for the long campaign.
The procession passes Nanye’Hi’s lodge. Outside is her husband “Tsu-la” Kingfisher, age twenty, six-foot and muscular. He is in red war paint wrapped in a buffalo robe carrying two muskets, a bow, and tomahawk and flint knife. He is standing beside his wife Nanye’Hi’ – now seventeen, a tall, physically powerful woman with long, dark brown hair braided and arranged tightly on her head. She is wrapped in a buffalo robe, covering her knee-length breechclout. She wears a loose fitting vest held together by a single leather string at the base of her breast, with knee-high leggings and moccasins. As a wife and not a War Woman, she wears no war paint. The couple are giving their two young children, KA-SE-WEE-NEE, Catherine, age two, and Litli Welo, Little Fellow, age three, the last good-bye hugs and kisses.
Nanye’Hi’s mother, Tame Doe, approaches them as Kingfisher jumps up to mount his horse bareback. Nanye’Hi’, with tears in her eyes, tries to comfort her crying children. “Kasewini, Litli-Welo, I must go with your father to fight the Muskogee. Do not cry – I will return. Stay with OO-lee-see (Grandmother),” she tells them. “ Doh-dah-dah-go-huh-ee – two person, until we meet again.”
Tame Doe takes the children by their hands, leading them away as they cry out for their mother. In the distance, an owl calls out its mournful omen of death, causing Tame Doe to wince. She watches as the owl flies southeast from his perch in the large poplar tree. She turns, looking back at Nanye’Hi’ in horror. Nanye’Hi’ also hears the owl’s call of certain doom. With tears and a hint of uncertainty, she tells her Mother, “doh-nah-dah-go-huh-ee – one person, until we meet again.” Tame Doe rushes to her side, whispering, “Nan-yah’-Hee’! The owl calls for someone to fly to the Nightland with him. Who will accept his call?”
A light snow begins to fall on Nanye’Hi’. Heavy-hearted, she peers up into the overcast sky in deep thought and prayer as the snowflakes fall upon her tear-stained face. But she must focus on the task ahead. Nudging her horse’s flanks, she rides out beside her husband toward the Council House.
Once they reach the Council House, the people form a semi-circle around Oconostota and Little Carpenter. The warriors gather close, and the wives remain at the rear. The warriors receive their final instructions from A-DA’-WAY-HEE, the shaman.
“It is the responsibility of the War Head-Man and I to see that the fire never fades out. If the fire should fade while the war party is away from Chota, return home with defeat upon you. If the fire fades out during battle, Oconostota must retreat, and the war party must return to Chota. Should the war party be in battle and defeat is on them, it is the responsibility of Oconostota, the Ada’wehi and any living warrior to shatter the fire pot and scatter the War Fire. The fire pot must be shattered, and the War Fire scattered, denying our enemy the gain of our War Fire’s powers!”
Mounting up and leading the war party, Oconostota and the Ada’wehi with the War Fire depart Chota. Bringing up the rear, Wild Rose joins the other wives following their warriors and husbands with the horse-drawn travois. As the war party heads southeast to the cheers of the townspeople, two white men watch as they leave. These are two gruff traders dressed in buckskins and carrying muskets, tomahawks, metal bladed knives, buffalo powder horns and minie-ball pouches made from buffalo scrotums. One is Ole Hood, a rather scruffy man in his forties. Alongside him is the cleanly dressed Big Foot Spencer, a Scotsman and giant of a man nearly seven feet tall. Over his buckskin hunting shirt and breaches, he wears a green and black plaid Glengarry wool blanket, and his huge feet are covered with knee-high moccasins. After the war party leaves, Ole Hood and Big Foot mount bareback horses and ride out of Chota, crossing the river headed northeast, leading five packhorses loaded with buffalo robes, deerskins and beaver pelts.
Several days later, they arrive at a stream circling the foot of a very steep mountain. Looking up, Ole Hood in disbelief points up at smoke from campfires on top of the mountain. “Ah, hell! That’s got to be it up yonder. Never heard of a Tsalagi puttin’ a town on top of a mountain, though. It puzzles the mind.”
“Quiet your griping, you old Bodach,” Big Foot replies in a strong Gaelic accent, “We have only one more mountain ta climb.”
“Yeah, and a cold stream to cross first,” Ole Hood grumbles.
Aggravated, Big Foot shakes his head. “I say quiet your bellyaching.”
“Just kind of queer is all,” Ole Hood retorts. “Don’t be getting uppity.”
The two seasoned mountaineers continue to feel their way around through the tree-covered mountain from the south side to the west where they discover a stream that forms a small waterfall for the last hundred feet. Beside the stream is a steep trail snaking its way up the mountain.
“This must be the gap to Seven Springs that Little Carpenter told us about,” Big Foot says.
After almost four hours on the tortuous trail, the two mountaineers break the crest of the mountain and cautiously inspect the situation before exposing themselves further. The town has many log structures on the tree-covered summit, blanketed by a light snow and cloaked in a mist. They can see several springs bubbling up, trapped in man-made pools to hold the water. At one end of each pool are man-made rock gutters for the overflow that leads from the pools to the stream the men followed up the mountain.
As unannounced strangers in this town, they are startled that no guards have confronted them. In fact, the opposite is true – Cherokee men and women alike nod and greet them with a friendly “O-Si-Yo!” Big Foot and Ole Hood return the gesture with a smile, but they remain wary as they roam about the small town, admiring the ample trading of goods. Inwardly, they are filled with anxiety about being allowed to continue unimpeded. Slowly Ole Hood terminates all movement except for placing a hand on Big Foot’s arm. Big Foot suspends his own actions except for a glimpse back over his shoulder.
Ole Hood’s keen gaze is locked in place, he points with his chin toward a group of men huddled around one particular trader. The two observe the men locked in an active banter of mixed English, French and Cherokee languages. The three English-speaking traders are wearing long wool hunting coats. The two French-speaking trappers, however, are dressed in buckskin with buffalo robe ponchos draped over their shoulders, making it difficult to separate them from the Tsalagi gathered around them. The English and French are in forceful conversations, trading goods with a huge young Tsalagi man who remains silent. He is sitting outside his small trading post, a log lean-to with a low roofline. Ole Hood gives a sly nod to Big Foot, pointing out that a much larger lean-to in the rear houses a copper whiskey distillery.
Because most of the trading centers on this one trading post, Ole Hood sizes up the Indian trader.
“He looks to be no more than about twenty years old,’ he mumbles softly to Big Foot, “He seems to be a fair trader, but from the looks of that deep scar on his face, it appears he takes no guff.”
The Tsalagi trader stands silently beside by the lean-to that houses thirty clay jugs with corncob plugs. The interchange between the French and English intensifies over the trading of pelts and buffalo robes owned by the French trappers for the wool blankets, powder and ball owned by the English traders. The French are vigorously waving their arms about while the English are pounding their fists in their palms.
Then the Tsalagi trader makes a sudden chopping motion with his arm. All is silent as he speaks in Mobilian sign language first to the French, motioning them to take five of the clay jugs, one box of ball and one small keg of powder. The French reply in kind, gathering up their bounty and walking away, leaving their furs and robes on the ground. The Tsalagi trader then signs to the English traders who leave their trade goods at his feet and quickly gather up twenty of the clay jugs and half of the furs left by the French trappers, load them on their packhorses and leave.
As the Tsalagi trader puts his goods away in the lean-to, Ole Hood nudges Big Foot toward the trader. They approach carrying their muskets cradled in their arms, leading their horses and pack mules that are loaded with furs and buffalo robes. Ole Hood never taking his eyes off the young Tsalagi, but whispers to Big Foot, “He’s a strange one. Damn, he might’n near tall as you.”
The young trader quickly sizes up both of these white traders with a sharp penetrating stare, addressing them in a Cherokee dialect that is not familiar to the strangers:
“O-si-yo! What’s your business?”
They stop a few feet short of the trader, careful not to come too close until properly asked. Big Foot replies warmly in Overhill Cherokee, “O-si-yo. Name’s Big Foot. This here is Ole Hood. Needing staple goods, powder and ball.” The young trader looks down at Big Foot’s huge feet straining at the buckskin moccasins and snickers. “Big Foot, uh!”
Carrying his cradled musket, the affable Ole Hood steps up to the young trader. He reaches out to shake the young trader’s hand, but the trader declines his invitation of friendship. Disappointed, Ole Hood withdraws his hand and scratches his head with a puzzled look. Turning to Big Foot, he whispers, “Never seen a Tsalagi that didn’t like a good story or a joke.”
The reserved Big Foot scowls, “Hood, don’t ya be startin’! No one wants to hear them damn old stories!” The affable Ole Hood looks up at Big Foot smiling, “Watch this!” Then he turns smiling away at the young trader and says in Cherokee.“O-si-yo! Name’s Hood, they call me Ole Hood. Got a story for ya!”
Still no reaction from the trader. Ole Hood reaches into a small leather pouch on his side and offers the tobacco to the trader, but the trader declines. Hood shrugs, wads the tobacco leaves up and puts them in his jaw. Hood chews the tobacco vigorously while he looks the young trader in the eye, staring at him intently. The trader just stares back blank-faced, never blinking. Turning his head to the side, Ole Hood spits a large plume of brown tobacco juice on the snow. The young trader watches the brown syrupy juice hit the white snow then he slowly returns his full attention back on to Ole Hood. The two men share a short moment just staring at one another.
“Ok then!” Ole Hood remains still a second then suddenly calls out, “Oh, hell! Since you asked.” He cranks up with arms waving and pointing. This causes the stunned Tsalagi warrior to step back with his hand on his smokerhawk and at the ready as Ole Hood starts his story in Cherokee.
“When Big Foot first came to the Overhill Country, the Real People saw these huge tracks, and they thunk it was a giant bear or one of them huge hairy wild things that roam this country,” he began. “They was scared enough, but when they saw this huge hairy creature up close, they messed their breach clouts, I tell ya! Thought it was one of the wild people. A half-man, half-bear sort of sumpun! Since I had a gun, they sent me aftern’ him. I tracked him down – weren’t hard with them huge tracks.”
With a playful nod, Hood smiles up at a snarling Big Foot. Turning his attention back to the Tsalagi trader, Ole Hood carries on in Cherokee. “I found him living in a huge hollow beech tree like some sort of wild animal. He was a dreadful sight all right, hair everywhere. Hell, all he be a-wearn’ was hair. He weren’t wearn’ no clothes! I took aim, but when I saw it might be a man – well, sort of – -and not a giant bear or one of them half-creature, half-man sort of things they talk about at Chota, I didn’t shoot. But I tell you for sure he was a scary sight, but the scariest thing was them big ugly feet. They are so big and ugly they just sit up and stare at ya!”
Hood pauses, shaking his head. “Never seen feet that big before. On nothing!”
Big Foot is clearly not amused.
The young trader laughs and once again sizes up the two men. “Why you called Ole Hood?” he asks in English.
“You speak English?” Ole Hood replies, a little surprised.
The young trader laughs again: “Tuh-huh!”
Angered at being the center of Hood’s joke, Big Foot pushes Hood to the side and steps up to the trader. “Let me be a telling ya why he is called Ole Hood,” he begins. “He be called Ole Hood because he’s been old since the day he be born. His father came in the room the morning he was being hatched and was gonna shoot his mama, ‘cause he thought Hood was an old man in bed with his young wife. But he decided if she was poking summup that old and ugly, he didn’t want nothing else to do with her anyways.”
Laughing heartily, the Tsalagi trader puts out his hand in friendship, now greeting his guests properly. “Welcome to Seven Springs. They call me Is-aac.”
Ole Hood shakes Isaac’s hand, but quickly offends the young man with his next remark: “Kind of strange Tsalagi making a town on top of a mountain. What’s the story?”
Affronted by the comment, Isaac whips out his flint knife and puts it to Ole Hood’s throat.
“Why? You English spies?”
“Now hang on there, Isaac,” Ole Hood nervously replies, dropping his musket and holding up his hands, “We are traders from west of the mountains at Chota.”
Unconsciously rubbing the scar on the side of his face, Isaac apologizes. “The English dogs drove us from our lands in Virginia, killing nearly all our people,” he explains. “My father, William, led us to this mountain to keep us safe from the English.”
Big Foot slaps his thigh. “So, William The Emigrant be ya Pappy? I be damn!”
“Tuh-huh. Why?” Isaac asks.
“He’s well thought of by the Tsalagi in the western towns. Is that where you got them scars?”
Isaac’s eyes grow cold. “I hate the English dogs and the Irish that run with them,” he says.
Ole Hood and Big Foot look briefly at one another with concern, and then smile at Isaac in unison. Ole Hood leans in toward him and whispers, “There is a girl in Chota that has spoke fondly of ya. Said she met you some years back. Her name is Nan-yah’-Hee’! Said if’n we saw you to tell you o-si-yo for her.”
Isaac’s face lights up. “I think of her often.”
Big Foot smiles, “She’s still there – with her children and husband, Kingfisher.”
Subdued by the news of her marriage, Isaac changes the subject.
“What you trade?”
“Beaver and buffalo hides from west of the Little Tennessee River and east of the Mississippi. Yeah, heard you had about the best trade stock in these parts. We ‘bout out of everything.”
Big Foot chimes in, “We trade with the Tsalagi west of the mountains at Chota and in need of supplies.”
At the mention of Chota, Isaac shows interest. “I have heard of Chota over the mountains,” he says. “I have long thought of setting up trade there.”
Ole Hood spits out the spent tobacco he had been chewing and reaches back in the small leather pouch. He puts several more leaves of tobacco in his jaw and also offers tobacco to Isaac. As Isaac accepts, Old Hood looks him dead in the eye and says softly, “Well, no one knows the over-the-hill country better than me and Big Foot. Maybe we can work something out, if you a being interested?”
Isaac smiles. “You look thirsty. Come, let us talk.”
Ole Hood is shocked. “You got whiskey?” he blurts out.
Tuh-huh! My father made whiskey in Virginia,” Isaac says. “We trade Tsalagi for corn. Father makes the whiskey. We trade whiskey to the English dogs and French for blankets, tomahawks, guns, ball and powder.”
Ole Hood and Big Foot break out in huge smiles.
“Damn good system! Everybody’s happy. Ain’t had a taste of the spirits in quite a while.”
Following closely behind Isaac, the two mountain men enter the trading post filled with goods and trinkets. Isaac takes a seat on a buffalo robe laid on the dirt floor. Ole Hood and Spencer lean their muskets against the wall and sit down on wooden kegs. Isaac pours whiskey from a gourd into hand-carved wooden cups, and there is a moment of silence as the three men sip their whiskey. Then Isaac asks about rumors he has heard lately. “I hear that the Tsalagi over the mountains are troubled by the English dogs,” he says.
Ole Hood shakes his head. “The Tsalagi hedged their bets with the British by letting them build Fort Prince George and Fort Loudoun on their ground,” he answers.
Big Foot butts in. “But lately the Tsalagi have been pressed to find new hunting ground to make up for what they are losing to the white settlers crossing the mountains into overhill country.” Big Foot takes another sip of whiskey, and then continues, “In the Northwest Georgia territory, the Tsalagi are still in a war with the Mus-ko-Gee over a dispute about hunting grounds.”
“They left Chota a few days ago the same day we did,” Ole Hood adds, “They were headed south in the direction of the Taliwa hunting grounds. They left in war paint, so it won’t be no buffalo they be after.”
“Tell me more of Chota,” Isaac asks eagerly as he refills their cups with whiskey.
Taliwa, Northwestern Georgia, January 1755,
It was a frigid cold winter’s morning. The hardwood and mixed pine forests of the Southern Smoky Mountains are blanketed in a heavy snow. Materializing out of the wooded embankment is a lone warrior on his bareback horse. Oconostota. He is adorned in black war paint and wolf headdress and is wrapped in a buffalo robe. His musket is resting at the ready across his lap and his French smokerhawk is at his side. His normally fierce eyes are tired and weary as he inspects every bush, tree and rock in the area for any lurking Creek warriors. Every nerve senses danger is near, but his eyes and ears fail to detect the enemy.
The Mortar, a fierce adversary, leads the Muskogee, and Oconostota knows his opponent all too well. His prowess as a fierce warrior and a brilliant strategist has earned him Oconostota’s respect and admiration. A part of Oconostota dreads the day they will meet once again. He knows many of his own valiant warriors will meet their end, yet the warrior in Oconostota craves the battle he knows is soon to come.
Now appearing from the shelter of the woods are The Tassel, The Raven, Dragging Canoe, Little Owl, the Ada’wehi, Five Killer and Kingfisher in war paint. They ease slowly out onto the snow-covered bank of the river. Moments later, more than twenty men and women warriors follow suit. The remaining warriors make their way to the edge of the woods and pause before exposing themselves fully in the openness of the stream bed. Remaining in the safety of the woods are Nanye’Hi and the other wives.
The horses’ nostrils shoot out rhythmic pulses of steam as the nearly frozen Tsalagi war party descends the sloping embankment onto the rock-lined stream bed. As the warriors’ horses enter the knee-deep icy stream, the cracking sound of the ice breaking shatters the winter silence.
Concealed in the evergreen trees upstream is the Mortar, the Mus-ko-gee (Creek) Head-Man, watching intently. Behind him in the woods are fifty of his seasoned Creek warriors, poised for attack. The Mortar continues watching through the branches of the evergreen tree as the Tsalagi War Party advances slowly toward his trap. His eyes focus on the lone warrior he respects most, Oconostota, but he restrains the impulse to strike.
Oconostota hesitates in midstream, his body motionless as he continues to inspect every bush and tree. His uneasy eyes seek but cannot find his adversary. Next to Oconostota are his lead warriors, The Tassel, The Raven, Kingfisher, Dragging Canoe and Little Owl. They sense Oconostota’s uneasiness and become even more wary, cautiously proceeding toward a bend in the icy stream. Oconostota’s inner voice tells him the enemy is close. He comes to a halt, and his heightened tension is an unspoken warning that quickly spreads throughout the entire war party, reaching Nanye’Hi’ who remains in the safety of the woods.
From the protection of his wooded vantage point above the stream, the Mortar slowly draws back his bow, holding the arrow until Oconostota is in position for the clean kill.
Oconostota slowly eases further out into the stream, but stops when he hears a scout on horseback racing up from behind him.
The Mortar releases his arrow.
The scout pulls his mount to a sliding halt just in front of Oconostota and points to the bend of the river that hides the Mortar.
Just as the warrior opens his mouth to speak, the arrow meant for Oconostota strikes the scout in the eye, sending him backward into the icy waters. His blood sprays the white ice and turns the snow a brilliant crimson.
From the tree-lined ridge, the Mortar screams a bloodcurdling war cry, igniting the Creek warriors to attack. Remaining hidden from their prey, the Creek warriors open with a heavy fusillade of arrows and musketry.
The Tsalagi warriors scatter, splintering off in all directions, searching desperately for cover. The chaos of battle ensues as the Tsalagi war party quickly disperses, desperately using what little cover is available on the open stream bed. Many reach the safety of the woods while others find cover behind their dead horses.
Under intense fire, Kingfisher kicks his horse to a full run through the icy waters, hoping to find a better vantage point. He reaches the opposite side of the stream. With musket in hand he dives headlong over a log. Arrows and musket shot pepper the log, pinning him down.
Meanwhile, at the edge of the woods, Nanye’Hi’ – who is carrying the ball, powder and most of the reserve muskets in her travois – sees her husband’s perilous position. She looks skyward a brief moment and calls out, “Yo-He-Ya! Give me the cover of invisibility!”
Breaking out of the safety of the woods with the travois bouncing erratically behind her, she races through the fray at a fevered pace but slows briefly as she passes the warriors so they can grab the sacks of powder and ball from the travois. Now that the travois is nearly empty, her focus is on her husband. She kicks her horse to a faster gait and rides hard across the stream, heading directly for Kingfisher, still pinned down behind the log. Covered with a shower of bullets and arrows, Nanye’Hi’ and her crazed horse jump the log and Kingfisher. The travois hits the log, sending muskets, ball and powder flying in all directions as Nanye’Hi’ bails off the horse. Landing hard on the rocky stream bed near Kingfisher, she crawls around and quickly reclaims another musket, powder and ball thrown from the travois.
Proud of his wife’s action, Kingfisher smiles briefly, grabs the musket from her, and turns and fires. He quickly exchanges the spent gun with another loaded musket from Nanye’Hi’. Taking a spent musket, she loads the powder, patch and ball and uses the ramrod to pack down the charge. She quickly dispenses powder in the flintlock breach and cocks the gun while exchanging it for the next spent musket from Kingfisher. They repeat this action over and over as the battle escalates.
From the far side of the stream bed, the Mortar points to the log on the opposite side of the stream. Instantly a Creek warrior quickly scampers up a leaning tree. From this vantage point, the warrior releases an arrow at his target.
Suddenly Kingfisher is still. Dropping his musket to the snow, he looks up at Nanye’Hi’ with a glassy-eyed stare, then slumps to the cold ground with the Creek warrior’s arrow in his chest. With his last breath, he reaches out to Nanye’Hi’.
Under a hell of arrows and shot, Nanye’Hi’ manages to cradle his head in her lap. She screams at him through her tears, “Kingfisher! Kingfisher!” As Kingfisher’s blood flows from his chest covering Nanye’Hi’ and the snow-white ground, shock consumes her. The battle continues to swirl around her as if she was in the eye of a massive whirlwind, but everything goes silent for her. “How did we get here, to this place, to this time?” she whispers to her husband.
The Tsalagi warriors continue to fight valiantly to ward off their unseen enemy, returning musket balls and arrows into the trees on the ridge above. Seconds later, Dragging Canoe screams a war whoop, bringing Nanye’Hi’ back to reality. She shakes her head to clear her mind and wipes away her tears with her blood-soaked hand, giving her the ghastly appearance of a war-painted warrior. Concentrating clearly now, she pulls Kingfisher’s tomahawk from under his lifeless body. Peeping over the edge of the log, she sees Dragging Canoe waving his tomahawk as he runs headlong toward the charging Mortar and his Creek warriors.
At midstream Dragging Canoe and the Mortar furiously collide in hand-to-hand combat. Dragging Canoe swings at the Mortar with his tomahawk, but the more experienced Mortar ducks his blow, leaving Dragging Canoe catching nothing but air. The Mortar comes up swinging his war club, striking Dragging Canoe in the head, a blow that causes Dragging Canoe to stumble backwards and fall unconscious over the log. He lies lifeless beside Kingfisher’s body and Nanye’Hi’. Racing after Dragging Canoe, the Mortar leaps up on top of the log.
Looking to finish Dragging Canoe, his attention is diverted when he sees Nanye’Hi covered in blood, staring up at him. The Mortar mistakes her for a warrior in war paint. With all his might, the Mortar brings down his war club on her. She dodges the deadly blow, rolling out of his reach. Recognizing Nanye’Hi’s peril, Oconostota races to her defense at a full run, clutching a shiny brass smoker-hawk. Only a few yards away from reaching the Mortar, Oconostota falters as an arrow pierces his thigh. and the Tassel steps in front of him. Suddenly another Tsalagi warrior attacks the Mortar from the side, but the Mortar defeats him with a single blow from his war club.
Crazed with anger, Nanye’Hi’ stands, throwing off her buffalo robe. Dressed in only her breechclout, leather vest, leggings and moccasins, she clutches her dead husband’s tomahawk. Instantly a Creek warrior descends upon her with his flint knife. Without uttering a sound, she sinks the weapon in his head. Staring with wild eyes at her victim, she quickly jerks the tomahawk free. Now completely consumed with rage and fear, Nanye’Hi’ rushes past Oconostota, waving the bloody tomahawk above her head, with a blood-curdling scream. She battles one Creek warrior after another, coming face to face with the Mortar midway of the icy stream. Nanye’Hi’ stares into the Mortar’s cold black eyes just inches away from her blood-covered face. She raises her tomahawk and screams a war whoop.
Realizing she is covered in blood instead of war paint, the Mortar slowly lowers his war club, backs up and walks away. Blank-faced she stands there, her bloody tomahawk still raised, as the Mortar retreats up the hillside with only sixteen warriors. Before entering the safety of the wooded ridge, he turns to look back at Nanye’Hi’ and raises his war club in her honor. In a blink of an eye, he vanishes into the woods.
The battle over, her adrenaline subsides, and her arms become heavy. Shivering from the cold, Nanye’Hi’ staggers around and around in circles, dragging her bloody tomahawk through the icy stream running red with blood of the dead and dying. Wet and chilled to the bone, her lips quiver and her teeth chatter violently. She gazes about until her tear-filled eyes find her dead husband. She screams out at the top of her lungs, “Kingfisher!”
Still clutching the bloody tomahawk, she runs over to the lifeless body, staring down at the man who was her husband and the father of her two children. She falls to her knees in the blood-covered snow beside him. Consumed with unbearable grief, she gently places his head in her lap and strokes his forehead. “Dah-nah-dah’ goh’-huh-ee’. Ah’s-gah-yah’-ah-nayla,” she says softly. “Until we meet again, my husband.”
With tears running down her bloody face, she reaches up and releases the two long coils of braids wrapped tightly about her head. Loosening the leather ties from the ends of the braids, she lets her long hair hang unbound, enveloping her. In her sorrow for her dead husband, she cries out, “Yah-ah-Yo-He-ta-Wah. Master of Life, I mourn. Yah-ah-Yo-He-ta-Wah. Master of Life, I mourn. Yah-ah-Yo-He-ta-Wah. Master of Life, I mourn.”
Oconostota now approaches Nanye’Hi’ and gently touches her shoulder. He removes his buffalo robe and wraps it around her shivering body. She looks down at her bloody buckskins. “Oconostota, this is not me,” she says. “I am not a warrior. I am a wife. A mother.”
Oconostota kneels down and consoles her. “Nan-yah’-Hee’! In every human lives a warrior. All warriors are judged by their enemies to be good or evil. The truth lies only in the heart of the warrior’s people, not the eyes of the enemy,” he explains. “You must seek your own truth of what you are and what you are destined by Yo-He-Wah to become.”
Joined by the Ada’wehi holding the War Fire pot intact, Oconostota raises Nanye’Hi’s arm up, still tightly clutching the bloody tomahawk. As he pulls her to her feet, the remaining warriors slowly gather around her. Once she stands fully erect with the bloodstained tomahawk outstretched to the heavens, the warriors release an explosive war whoop of approval, a sound that reverberates through her body and soul. Her skin is covered in goose bumps, not from the cold, but from an unexplainable transformation of her whole being.
Awakened by the war whoop, Dragging Canoe regains semi-consciousness and is filled with anger and shame. He hears the unrelenting chant, “ War Woman! War Woman! War Woman!”
He sees the warriors gathering about her, repeating the chant over and over:
“ War Woman! War Woman! War Woman!”
Trying to stand on his wobbly legs, Dragging Canoe staggers over to Oconostota and grabs his arm. With rage in his eyes, Dragging Canoe informs him, “I will not return with her looked upon as a warrior. Nan-yah’-Hee’ is no warrior! If she is a warrior, I take my own path!”
Oconostota replies grimly, “Nan-yah’-Hee’ is a warrior! Nan-yah’-Hee’ returns a warrior! I have spoken!”
Setting the War Fire pot on the blood-covered snow, the Ada’wehi stands in support of Oconostota’s declaration and stares at Dragging Canoe.
He proclaims so all can hear, “Nan-yah’-Hee’ stands as a warrior on this bloody ground of Taliwa! Nan-yah’-Hee’ will be presented to the Council as a DA-NA-WA A-GAY-YA, a War Woman!”
Dragging Canoe’s jaw tightens. Turning his back to the other warriors, he looks about the scene of battle with disgust and shame. Seeing his weapon lying in the blood-soaked snow, he angrily snatches it up and jumps on his horse, quickly kicking it into a full run. As he leaves the bloody ground, he is followed closely by Little Owl. With deep concern and pity, Wild Rose watches as her cousins ride out of sight.
Days later, Isaac, Ole Hood and Big Foot make their way west through the Smokey Mountains. They are riding horses and leading five loaded pack mules down a narrow trail on a thickly forested mountain ridge. Ole Hood leads the way with Isaac riding directly behind him.
“Isaac, we usually do most our trading with Fort Prince George and Fort Loudoun,” Ole Hood tells him. “But we’re fearful of catching the pox from the English.”
Riding to the rear of Isaac, Big Foot adds, “The Virginians purposely infected the trade blankets going to the Tsalagi. They have spread the pox through most all the Tsalagi towns.”
“Tuh-huh, the pox has killed off nearly half our people,” Isaac adds.
“That’s a lot of Tsi’yu-gunsini problem with the whites,” Ole Hood says sadly. Isaac is puzzled and asks, “Why does he let you be?”
“Hell, me and Big Foot has known him since he was a pup,” Ole Hood replies. “Besides, our wives are his cousins.” A sly smile comes to Big Foot’s face. “Aye, then there is his other cousin. What a lass!”
“Damn, she gets my nature up just thinking about her,” Ole Hood replies.
Big Foot looks at Hood with disgust, “You be poking a snake if one would hold his head. And poking a bush if you think a snake be in it! Get your mind outta your britches an’ back on your business!”
Suddenly Ole Hood’s face fills with concern. Pulling to a halt, he searches the valley below with a troubled gaze. Isaac and Big Foot halt as well. “What the hell are they doing out here?” Ole Hoods wonders. “They left Chota with Oconostota to fight the Creek weeks ago.”
Slowly nudging their horses onward, the three of them watch two tattered warriors head down another trail into the valley.
“Who are they?” asks Isaac.
“Nan-yah’-Hee’s cousins. The big one’s Tsi’yu-gunsini – Dragging Canoe – and his brother, Little Owl,” Big Foot answers quietly, “Both of ‘um bad news and itching to make a name for themselves.”
“Well, let’s see what’s going on,” Ole Hood says and reluctantly nudges his horse forward. “This should be interesting.”
The three slowly make their way down the narrow mountain trail with their packhorses.
As they reach the bottom, Dragging Canoe sees them, tenses and pulls up. Ole Hood calls out, “O-si-yo Tsi’yu-gunsini, Ki-teg-is-ka. It is Ole Hood and Big Foot.”
Still bloodied and in smeared war paint, Dragging Canoe and Little Owl ride the twenty or so yards to meet them. Both parties come to a stop with neither party speaking. Dragging Canoe’s attention is centered on Isaac. He rides slowly up alongside the tall stranger, inspecting Isaac from head to toe.
“Hood, who is this stranger?” he asks irately. Hood nervously stammers out, “A, a, a, a friend from Seven Springs Town.”
Testing the stranger’s resolve while relieving his own frustrations, Dragging Canoe begins chastising Isaac in Cherokee. This only increases Ole Hood and Big Foot’s uneasiness. Riding around and around Isaac, Dragging Canoe pokes at him with his bow. Isaac, disdainful, can take no more taunting. As Dragging Canoe pokes him again, Isaac grabs the bow and jerks the warrior from his horse. As Dragging Canoe falls, Isaac whips out his smoker-hawk and slaps Dragging Canoe’s head with the handle, reopening his wound. Dragging Canoe falls unconscious to the ground. Enraged by the attack on his brother, Little Owl attacks Isaac, but with a single blow from his smoker-hawk, Isaac slaps Little Owl from his horse.
Ole Hood looks down at the two of them lying unconscious on the ground and shakes his head. “Don’t let Dragging Canoe bother you,” he tells Isaac. “It is just his cantankerous spirit. Dragging Canoe is scarred real bad with the pox, inside and out. He hates ‘bout everyone. Guess we can add you to the list.”
Out of habit, Isaac unconsciously rubs the scar on his face. “We all carry our demons and tortured spirits,” he says, undaunted. The trio of traders rides away with their pack mules, leaving Dragging Canoe and Little Owl lying in the snow.
After several more miles of heavily wooded mountains, the terrain mellows out to lush hills and valleys. They come to the peak of a hill and stop. In the valley beside a wide river is a large Cherokee Town. “There it is – Chota,” Ole Hood says.
Isaac is awed by the sight of a Cherokee town the magnitude of Chota and slides down from his horse to take it all in. “How many Tsalagi live here?” he asks. Old Hood scratches his head. “I ‘spect close to five hundred or so, counting men, women and children.”
Big Foot points toward the river below. “Look. Oconostota and the War Party return to Chota.” They watch the battered war party cross the river entering the town. Then the traders mount up and make their way down the hill with their loaded pack mules.