Friday, May 6, 2016
The trapper now could go to his rendezvous. At first Nest stayed close to her own teepee, but her brother was making friends easily. There was a huge garden surrounding the village. This would be her place to work. It was so large that it took many hands to tend it. After weeding, she then would stand and stretch and shoo the birds away. The other Cherokee women followed Nancy's example by accepting her easily. As time went by, they were no longer considered newcomers. One did not have to have Cherokee blood to be considered part of the tribe.
Nest did not see Ruth often, but the two became fast friends. Ruth was only two years younger. When the father came to meet with the council, his daughter came along as an interpreter. Nancy had once told Nest that they had adopted Ruth into their Wolf clan of the Cherokee.
Ruth's father, John Sevier, was Governor of Tennessee. The man was known for his many campaigns against the Cherokee, but Nancy and the Little Carpenter Chief had helped bring peace. He was known as Nollichucky Jack or Chucky Jack, but this tribe called him Treaty-man and was considered a friend now. Not all wanted peace however. Dragging Canoe and the Chickamaugas attacks kept them under a dark cloud.
As time went on, Nest was surprised to see more and more Cherokee leaving the villages, living in log homes, some even living on plantations with slaves. Nancy herself had been given slaves as spoils of war when they had been captured from the Creeks. Nest worked alongside these slaves in the garden. They knew some of Creek and little of the Cherokee language. She was able to translate some for them.
Cherokee women married white men and white women married Cherokee men. The Cherokee were quickly learning the ways of the whites. President George Washington had sent then plows and seeds, hogs and cattle. Now the Indian braves did the woman's work in the field instead of always hunting as had been their way of life. The white-tail deer were now scarce and the buffalo were gone. Nancy had told it was the tribe's only hope of surviving by raising crops and assimilating into the white man's world. Fighting would only leave a trail of blood.
Nest asked her one day as they worked in the garden, "Teel me about your husband Mr. Ward. How did you meet him?"
Nancy chuckled. "My father Oconostoto was a great warrior. He captured Bryant Ward on a raid. He was to be tortured and killed, but the man showed no fear. Bryant was very large with a bald head and a thick beard which he had kept braided and tucked into his pants. I begged for his freedom suggesting a contest between him and a brave. He was given to my care, and I prepared him for the great race. He won the race, the respect of the tribe, and my heart. We were married, but I did not know he also had a white family."
Nancy herself was known as "Ghigau" and "War Woman." When she had followed her first husband Kingfisher to a battle against the Creek, he had been killed. It was then she took up the gun, mounted his horse and helped to defeat the enemy. It had earned her a voice in the tribal council, even the high privilege to free prisoners with a wave of the wing of a swan. They also called her "Beloved Woman."
That's how Nest thought of her. The time spent in her village had taught her that. Nest had been a scared thirteen year old when they arrived. Now at fourteen, she was apart of the Cherokee tribe, Nancy's Wolf clan. Under her wing, village life was good.
Once Nancy sat with her around a campfire and told Nest her story. "My Cherokee name is "Nanye'hi." Wildrose was the name my mother gave me, but since I have seen things for my people in my dreams, this became my name. My father Oconostota and my uncle Attakullakulla and five other chiefs went to London across the Great Waters on a ship and met the King in 1730. After my father came home and his first wife died, he asked one of the Queen's Ladies in Waiting he had met to come over and marry him. She did. That was Lucy, my mother. Lucy's brother had come from England to work with the tribe and married Tame Doe. Lucy and Tame Doe were pregnant at the same time. They were sisters-in-law. The two women even delivered the same night, but only one baby survived. Lucy raised me as her baby. It wasn't until the day I was to be married that Tame Doe told me that Lucy was not my mother, she was. They had decided that night long ago that they would not tell Lucy that her baby had died. Lucy had lived her whole life thinking I was born of her flesh when it was Tame Doe who had given me up as a baby to her.
Nest pondered the tangled web of Indian and white, mothers and Ladies in Waiting and Cherokee squaws. She wasn't the only girl whose people came from across the Great Waters. Lucy was Nancy's adopted mother, as well as her aunt. Nancy, once an Indian squaw, married a white trader who also had a white family. She was an honored leader of her people. Nest had been quiet that night. They sat side by side deep in thought.
Then Nancy spoke, "Nest, there is a prisoner I would like to set free. I wish I could set you free from your pain, the loss of your mother, the los of your father and brothers and your people, your home. I too have lost family. Don't let sorrow be your prison. The trapper is a good man. I think you can trust him. He cares for you as a daughter, but you won't let him. He has had many offers for you to be a Cherokee squaw. He thinks no one is good enough for you. Many of our best braves, even my grandson, has offered him plenty of peltry and horses, but he says, "No."
Nest looked wide-eyed at Nancy. Such thoughts had not entered her head. Her concern had only been for raising her brother. She was realizing that the trapper was a good man, even if he wasn't her real father, even if he was white. Now, she was deeply grateful that he had not agree to any offers of marriage. To the Cherokee, it was the clan's job to arrange marriages Nest held her head in her hands. It was swimming with all the words spoken. Nancy smiled and waved her swan's wing cooling the girl's hot cheeks.
"Your life is just beginning, Nest. Trust those who love you. I think of you as my daughter. I had two mothers. You can too, if you choose."
Nest laid her head on the Beloved Woman's shoulder and hugged her arm. The orphan let the wind of the waving swan's wing bring healing.
at 1:53 PM