Coal black eyes peered from behind pine trees mesmerized at the sight of the bloody battle between Standing Bear’s tribe and white soldiers. Outnumbered by the pale faces, Sioux warriors fell dead to the ground one by one until only Chief Red Hawk remained on his horse. Standing Bear gasped in horror as a soldier fired his iron stick into the fearless chief’s chest. His father fell to the ground motionless.
The young Indian wiped his teary eyes with both hands and ran back to his village to tell his mother of the horrific scene he had witnessed.
Rushing inside his teepee Standing Bear found his mother on her knees praying to the Great Spirit as she often did. “Mother, our braves and Father are dead. The soldiers have killed them.”
Little Doe stood, placed her hands on his shoulders and asked, “How do you know this my son? I told you to stay away from the battle.”
Standing Bear’s eyes widened and his voice quivered as he replied, “I saw all shot dead by the soldier’s iron sticks. No one lives except the white men.”
Just then, Little Doe’s mother, Feather Woman, peered inside and said, “The soldiers come.”
Standing Bear grabbed his tomahawk, waved it in the air and yelled, “I will protect you, Mother.”
Little Doe snatched the weapon from his hands, tossed it aside, and said sternly, “No, I do not need to lose you, too.”
Outside, Little Doe faced a stern blue coat soldier who announced, “I’m Captain Adams and we have won the battle. Your braves and Chief are dead. Where are the rest of your people?”
Little Doe pulled Standing Bear close to her, pointed to the small-assembled group and said, “This is all that is left of our village—old men, women, and children.”
“We’ll see for ourselves,” the Captain growled. “Sergeant Raines take the men and search every teepee. While you’re at it, remove all knives, hatchets, bows, arrows, and guns.”
“Yes...Sir.” The stout, tobacco-chewing officer answered, leering at Little Doe.
“Sergeant, stick to business.” The grim Captain reminded him.
Standing Bear turned to re-enter his teepee but Little Doe grabbed his arm and whispered, “No, stay with me.”
“But Mother, we need the tomahawk to cut wood, hunt food, and protect ourselves.”
Thirty minutes later the Captain again faced the Indians. He mounted his horse and bellowed, “Pack your belongings, tomorrow morning you will return to Bear Creek Reservation...”
Little Doe interrupted, “Can we not mourn and bury our dead first?”
The Captain frowned and said, “Let me finish, the soldiers will dig each Indian a grave. I will allow you to come to the battlefield, participate in a short ceremony, and bury your people. We will come for you when we are ready. In the meantime get prepared for your journey tomorrow.”
Captain Adams rode out of the village but left behind two hundred soldiers who watched the Indians every move.
Later that evening Standing Bear watched and listened as the elders gave tributes to his father Chief Red Hawk and sang the death song.
The ceremony closed with a prayer to the Great Spirit from Standing Bear’s grandmother, Feather Woman. Two years ago when the tribe still lived at the reservation, a missionary led many of the people to Christ including Red Hawk and his family.
“Mother, why did we leave the reservation?” Standing Bear asked as they entered their home.
Little Doe pushed back her long, raven hair, pulled him down with her on the bear skin, and replied, “Your father wanted to break the white man’s hold on us and return to our own land and way of life. He wanted you to have freedom to hunt, fish, and dwell upon your own land. He wanted peace.”
Standing Bear leaned his head on his Mother’s shoulder and said, “I will always remember my first hunt with Father two moons ago.”
“Little one, although you are only ten winters in age, keep in your mind how bravely your father defended us. Our way of life has ended with his death, but he will continue to live through our memories of him. You are a son who can be proud of his father. You have witnessed the last Sioux warrior to die with honor.”
Standing Bear lifted his head and said, “Yes, I am proud of my father. I will keep his memory alive."
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