Chapter Thirty-Eight

Fawn still sat by the river with Arctic Sun drinking from the water’s edge. Memories assaulted her spirit. When she was ten years old the year was 1868. She, her mother, and Nana visited the graves of their fallen men. The journey had been arduous. The roads were nothing but mud tracks from the early morning rain. Wagon wheels slipped and spun causing the horse to strain forward and sometimes misstep. Along the way they still passed broken muskets, canons, canteens, and pieces of uniforms from both sides of the conflict. Tears could not be contained as grief gripped their hearts.

Burned out cabins and clapboard houses dotted the countryside. Some of them had blood stains on the doors and house exteriors. There were blood spatters still on the ground in some places, a constant reminder of the war that divided families and pitted brother against father, neighbor against neighbor.

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She did not understand why the war had been fought. Why could people not just let each other live as they pleased? She asked her mother.

Lottie was distraught herself and wrapped in her own thoughts and grief. She looked at her ten-year-old daughter and saw a weak and frightened little girl, a Shawnee who should be more mature than to ask such a question. “What a stupid question. Our decisions all affect each other. You need to learn this. Like when you wear your Shawnee clothes to a white school. Then you come home crying because they were mean to you. What did you expect? You as much as told them you wanted nothing to do with them.” Lottie turned her head away from her daughter and looked at the passing countryside.

Silence reigned for several minutes as Fawn sat and wept in silence.

But Lottie heard her sniffling. “Stop that right now. You have nothing to cry about. Save your crying for the families who have lost everything in this crazy war.” She again turned to watch the countryside.

Fawn stole glances at Nana who sat on her right in the wagon. She had remained silent but Fawn noticed Nana’s soft expression as she patted Fawn’s hand. Nana usually managed to make Fawn feel better but not this time. What was wrong with the question she had asked. Was she supposed to understand war? She had just returned last week from spending two years with her white cousins in Harper’s Ferry. The gory details of the hanging of Frederick Douglas still made her feel ill. Her cousins had laughed and mocked her about her squeamishness.

Fawn’s habit was to retreat to her Shawnee heritage whenever she felt nervous, frightened or upset. It always seemed to make things worse but she couldn’t seem to help it.

As she sat on the rock ruminating, it occurred to her that maybe she didn’t respect her heritage enough. It wasn’t enough to dress in the clothing, which had all been destroyed in the recent fire; she needed to live Shawnee. That had to be why her prayers weren’t being answered, why her ancestors were not answering her or helping her. They felt she was not sincere in her devotion to them. She would prove them wrong.

She wandered the woods along the water looking for wild onions and other plants she could use as dyes. She would paint her face and pray. She would fast and seek the wisdom of her elders. She would sacrifice her own comforts, forsake her friends if necessary, if that would bring her the peace she craved.

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