“I was baptized by the priest at the Tongue river mission when I was almost fifty years old. My wife and our two daughters were baptized too… I do not go often to the church, but I go sometimes. I think the white church people are good, but I do not trust many of the stories they tell about what happened a long time ago. I have made many friendships with the church people and am glad to have the white man churches among us, but I feel more satisfied in my prayers when I make them in the way I was taught. My heart is much more contented when I walk alone with my medicine pipe and talk with God about whatever may be troubling me. […]
Both of my daughters went to school at the Tongue river mission. They lived there during the school months. Each Sunday we were allowed to take them to our home… Later, I built a house only a quarter of a mile from the Mission, and on a sloping hillside above it. We could look from our front door and see the children at any time when they might be outside of the school buildings. My wife and I were pleased at their situation in life. ‘They will have more of comfort and happiness than we have had,’ we said to each other. […]
It is comfortable to live in peace on the reservation. It is pleasant to be situated where I can sleep soundly every night, without fear that my horses may be stolen or that myself or my friends may be crept upon and killed. But I like to think about the old times, when every man had to be brave. I wish I could live again through some of the past days when it was the first thought of every prospering Indian to send out the call:
‘Hoh-oh-oh-oh, friends: Come. Come. Come. I have plenty of buffalo meat. I have coffee. I have sugar. I have tobacco. Come, friends, feast and smoke with me.’”
Pulled from the ending of Wooden Leg: A Warrior Who Fought Custer by Wooden Leg and Thomas B. Marquis.
Wooden Leg (1858-1940) was one of the thousand or so Cheyenne warriors who joined up with the Lakotas during the Battle of Little Bighorn. As book’s title suggests, that fight makes up the center of his story, though the before and after of WL’s life, including his sober and remarkably evenhanded reflections on Custer’s last stand, are the most interesting parts of the story. This excerpt makes a fitting end to it, not only because it captures the nuance of WL’s temperament, but also because it strikes a tranquil tone in finishing a story that’s in many ways wild.
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