Historical Fiction Indigenous

Where The Spirit Horses Drink

By Johanna Lor Rain Parry ---- this story is based on true events, and real experiences.

She could hear them drumming for those praying in the lodge...the heart-beat rhythm reminding her of the thousands of tears that drip slowly into the red earth from the eyes of those who have seen too much. A trail of prayers trickled upward from the fire in front of the sweat lodge. The swirling smoke spiraled, threadlike towards the sky. Life had always been hard in the sacred land. There is always a price to pay for living, it is never free.

The People had already known wrenching hunger and the ongoing agony of life gone awry. Still the interlopers come. Red faced screamers with yellow hair flowing like a horse's mane. They pushed and shoved with no respect at all for Nature, or her People - those who knew the language she offered from the depths of her breast, our sacred land.

The heavy hide door opened and a final load of glowing stone ancestors were settled into the center pit. With a grateful sigh she sank back into the dark womb of healing. She could feel the drumming. The far-away sound slowly deepened in the darkness while a searing heat burned at her sweating flesh. The prayers of the woman next to her mixed with steam from the whispering ancestors. Ancient rocks reverently layered round after round. They first glowed red, then they released vapors hot enough to singe the skin, removing and cleansing the bodies dirt along with the heavy, costly weight of bad thoughts. Thoughts that lack love. Thoughts that pull the heart down, and inexorably force the mind to follow. Becoming pure and clean again was all she wanted to do. Next to her a small form wriggled with discomfort. "Just put your face on the ground, Teyana, you can breath in cool air that way" she whispered. The drumming continued, her heart becoming one with it’s rhythm. Next, the singing. "Tonkashila ... Wankantanka.. Chante' Me Chu Ha. Wopila… Hey ya hey ya hey ya na oh ya ha nay ya…"

Another round of steam on rocks, another round of prayers. Peering into the dark she thought she caught a glimpse of something. Suddenly - a spirit horse leapt from the red glow of a rock and flew into the dark above her head. The wisp of a miniature prancing animal dancing sideways as they do. A good sign, she admitted. The bluish-white glow galloped in an arch above her head. She thought she could hear the most silent of whinnies. Then almost a snort. She smiled inside. Teyana's first pony. This is good. Another round of singing, another round of prayers. "Please, grandfather, please heal the hearts of those who have caused us so much pain. Heal their lives, their thoughts, their dreams so that we can live as one people upon this land you gifted us." She begged. She pleaded. "You who have given me the breath in my lungs, creator - please, please, bring peace to the people, and bless these white brothers and sisters so that hatred can fall from their hearts like a cleansing rain..." Murmers of agreement rippled softly, touching the darkness. "Tonkasila, forgive these people who have crafted so much loss and hunger, clearly they know not of your benevolence and grace. “Certainly they have never understood the fresh face of your dawn, or the closing eye of the sun as he slips into night to greet you..." "protect my family from suffering, please creator - I beg you.”

The anguish of her prayer wavered with her tearful supplication. "Love of all love, creator of everything that has ever held meaning - bring healing to the People. Bring laughter into the eyes of our elders once more." She fell into silence. The sizzle and spit of water from the ladle pouring more liquidlife onto the blistering heat of the healing lodge’s stone ancestors filled the air. In the old days women were never required to enter a sweat lodge for cleansing or prayer. Everyone knew they already suffered enough in daily life with child bearing, cramping and bleeding and putting up with the behaviors of a husband grown complicit and compliant with the years that roll by. Everyone knew she had a sacred relationship with the water within her - and that cleansing and prayers could be just as effective performed in the river. On the mountain. In the lodge while rocking her babies. But now - everyone took any opportunity possible to put up more prayers. Sun dances, sweat lodges, spirit ceremonies, ghost dances - anything, everything, as often as possible.

Only now it is all in hiding. Laws of this occupation made prayers punishable by death. A people bandaging the shredded bloody entrails of a nation. A people begging into a night of horrors to see the light of a new dawn that wasn't hungry. A people making up the body of a nation being crushed by the disembodied government called a democracy. At its head the looming form of a grizzled white man who seemed to think he spoke for everyone in the land. The man who ordered the hanging death of thirty eight of our most valuable holy men and tribal leaders. Even then - Mr. Lincoln held back. They intended to murder a full 300 of them. The 38 Dakota prisoners greeted their captors with grace, thanked them and said good bye as though they were about to embark on a most joyful journey. They called out to our people not to mourn as they were happy to be leaving. In Mankato, Minnesota, it was 1862. An uprising of the Dakota people who were starving, had decided that fighting might be better than dying. It was a very short war. The sins of a nation had already been committed. The people had lost. The robber barons had their railroads, and an ocean of Washeechus were flooding into the land. Washeechus. Those who take all the best and leave nothing for others.

The third round was almost finished. Teyana had darted into the night when the heavy hide was lifted after the second round. She felt her heart lift as she sang boldly into the waiting ears of the beloved. She sang proudly as she felt the heart-bliss of divine energy permeating her soul. Rejuvenation. She now knew she would survive another year. She would make the bridle for Teyana's first horse. She would remember the stories of the ancestors. She would help her children learn to live without hatred or anger. In the searing hot darkness they saw a war party thundering down a slope toward a small army of white soldiers. The fear on their pale faces exploding into terror as the painted warriors let loose their arrows, and fired their rifles while thick black clouds glowing with internal flashes of lightening followed quickly behind the fast-moving cluster of deadly riders. It didn't take long for these poor creatures to comprehend they were no match for the power and glory of a people so deeply loved by nature herself. Nature was always willing to lend them her elements. To show up with a conscious response to the wails and sobs coming out of the lodges and ceremonies. Hugging her knees, she wiped her dripping forehead with the corner of her sweat dress. She could feel the depth of love that had given her the power to survive. She understood the reality that owning the power of love meant owning the power within nature. The creator of all things generated the force of love to hold all things together. This power can heal. This power can manifest the most profound of miracles.

If the people do not stop dancing on her earth - the drumming of their dancing feet will keep her heart of hearts beating into another era. We must keep dancing. We must keep praying in our lodges, she thought quietly. They say the searing ache of the human heart is the most powerful tool available in the land where everything dies. She sighed at the heavy joy her thoughts had ushered in. She began to hum the tune to an ancient ceremony song. She lifted her head, and began to sing: "Every breath taken in..." she offered her song into the final round of prayers. "By a woman who loves, and by a man who loves - goes to fill the water-tank where the spirit horses drink..." soon she was joined by all the voices in the lodge. A crackle of approval sputtered from the rocks into the darkness, and everyone present could feel the thickness of love and see the dancing shapes of the people moving about the village doing the chores and tasks required to live a grace-filled life. The roof of the lodge opened into a night sky - and the people sighed and wept with the joy revealed before them. "Every breath taken in..." they sang. "By a woman who loves... hey ya hey ya hey ney ya...."

August 29, 2022 21:46

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in Reedsy Studio. 100% free.