In the tongue of my ancestors, Wachichi means Tall Grass.
The tall grass grows across these open lands to feed the mighty herds of buffalo that roam. The buffalo gives food to my people that we may be strong and live the fullness of our years upon this land the Creator has given us.
Today we hunt.
The sun is changing places with the moon to make room for longer night and cold ahead. The Great Spirit has breathed upon the forest turning trees to color of fire. Soon the leaves will be soft as ash under our moccasins and my tribe must move to our wintering grounds. I watch bird and fox, bear and moose make ready to fly far, to eat much, to sleep long. It is the way of all those who live by the rhythm of earth, sun, sky and moon.
Even now we make ready.
The women will gather the berries that lie thick on the branch. They will grind the buffalo meat and buffalo grease with the berries to make much food that it may be well with my people.
The words are not spoken, but I know my sisters will look long for kymunchia—the small, red womb berries—in hopes that there will be a wedding feast.
Yes, deep in my breast there is a sharpness of longing no food can satisfy.
If my arrow is true, and if the Creator grants me success, I will present Chief Lone Wolf with a bountiful portion of meat and bone and hide for the coming year. I will lead the hunt and prove myself worthy of his daughter Running Doe that we may walk the path of our days together. I have carried this longing for three full years and it is heavy.
But my own mother mocks me. She does not think a High Chief's daughter will give me favor. “Kitiotio!” She laughs. “Dreamer!" I harden my face against her words.
Every day she is saying my eyes are stars and my legs have turned to saplings not able to hold me. She tells me to walk tall, and not be so easily turned by Running Doe. Her form, the blackness of her eyes, her hair—a flowing river down her back.
But I cannot turn another way. The wanting of her gnaws my insides. And so I dream.
Many braves have gathered now to hunt the buffalo. We move as one, men and horses, silent as the shadows. A single untrue step will cause an early charge and we will be shamed.
We must not be shamed.
Holding to the cover of trees, we ease our way closer to the grazing herd. The air is thick with the smell of earth, dung and the hot breath of the animals. The musky stench hits my nostrils and stirs my insides.
And then I see him.
His head sits heavy with power upon his shoulders. His fur is thickened for the coming snows, the flesh is full and fat. Throwing his head, he paws the ground making clouds of dust.
My breath burns in my throat. A warrior must not be afraid.
The horses begin to stamp and snort. The time is now. I give sign to my tribal brothers. My horse beneath me is warrior, too, and we charge out of the woods. Pulling and leaning towards that one, ruler of the plains, my every nerve is stretched tight. I hear the pounding hooves. I breathe the dust. I am one with my horse as I ride beside the galloping beast. The flash in his black eye meets mine. Fever is in my blood as I shoot my arrows deep into his heart with trueness of aim. The battle cry thunders in my chest.
It is done.
The braves gather to me. None can compare to this mighty one I have slain.
We give honor to the Wisdom and Keeper of All Things.
The women will come now and prepare the meat. I mount my horse and ride back through the woods. My head is crowded with questions. Will the longing of these three years be fulfilled? My heart shakes a little.
Will. She. Be. Mine?
I stop my horse and keep still for I have seen a movement.
Not many paces from me, there is a girl leaning against a tall birch.
It is Running Doe, watching me. In her arms, she holds a basket of small, red berries.
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