“I am Naduah!” she shouted at them. She stood in the howling winds of winter and they swallowed her words. They ate her defiance. No one could hear the anger that swelled in her heart, the sorrow that overwhelmed her soul.
They had caught her as she rode away, Topsannah, her little flower, held high in her arms. They had acted differently when they saw the blue of her eyes, making a show of them. She insisted she was Naduah, wife of Peta Nocona, chief of the Noconi band of Comanche. They claimed she was Cynthia Ann Parker, a little girl lost long ago. She tried to tell them that her family was not the one she had left so many years ago, but the one that had adopted her into the warmth of its hearth. They acted as if her wishes meant nothing.
She began to mourn when they ransacked all her precious belongings and set fire to her lodge. Her mind ran backwards, to the day she was carried away for the first time …
The air was still and quiet, the grass wet with dew. She had been helping her mother with the washing. Her brother Johnny had been playing in the dirt, agitating a family of ants. The saccharine, yeasty smell of baking bread filled the square.
The gates to the fort had been left open and their approach was watched closely. They rode arrogantly forward, their mounts prancing. Tiny bells jingled in their manes and tails, dangled from the saddles. Papa walked toward them, gesturing angrily that they should leave. One of them laughed aloud. Papa pulled his gun from its holster.
When the dust had cleared he lay facedown in the dirt. A feathered shaft protruded from between his shoulderblades. The settlement erupted into chaos.
I herded Johnny away as quickly as I could. It was no use, we were almost there when we were scooped up.
It was hard, trying to please them. The buckskin chafed against my skin, but it was lighter and less confining than the cotton skirts I had worn in that other life. Maybe thats why all the women seemed to move so gracefully. Sometimes she knew she looked like a clumsy, lumbering giant beside them. Her tongue stumbled to make the melodious sounds they used amongst themselves.
She made friends, slowly but surely. She grew taller and more graceful as the other girls in the camp did. She began to look forward to the visits of Wanderer, Peta Nocona as he was called. His eyes always laughed at her, but she felt something more in them, a tender regard and a growing appreciation of her transformation from girl to woman.
He came with many horses to buy her from her parents. A herd of one hundred mounts stood outside in the clearing when she lifted the flap to discover the source of the soft whickering. Her father went with Wanderer to settle the horses and he knew that his suit had been accepted. That night he came for her and she left behind her childhood forever.
She sighed, remembering those days of young innocence and love. Nothing had been able to mar her happiness. She seized the joy of each moment and squeezed it dry, unaware that the memories of such joy would one day bring her pain. She and Wanderer had been inseparable. Their marriage had been an equal partnership. He respected her courage, her strength and her intelligence. He had both protected her and consulted her. Such a devoted union was unheard of among the People, and rare among the civilized whites. She missed him with an acuteness that never went away, it boiled in her stomach.
She grew weary of their pity and compassion. Their eyes pierced through her and looked beyond her. They thought her sadness was inappropriate and unnatural. They did not appreciate the worth of her husband because he was a savage and a heathen.
Her little prairie flower, Topsannah, had fallen ill. Her forehead was hot to the touch and her words were delirious, spoken through parched lips. Naduah had told her the stories of her childhood, piecing together pictures of her fathers and brothers. These pictures were part myth to the little girl who could remember nothing of that long ago time.
When Topsannahs grasp became cold in her own, Naduah began to mourn in earnest. She cut her fingers and chest and wailed a lament. Her daughter had been her final link to the life she had been cruelly stripped of. She had resolved that she would simply stop eating.
Her body had become gaunt and skeletal. She felt the hand of Death at her door, and knew that release would come soon. She imagined the warm sunlight caressing her face as she rode behind Wanderer on his swift pony, Night. Those days were gone forever, she whispered, and slid into their reverie.
Cynthia Ann Parker was captured in 1836 and perished by her own will in 1870. Her life was a testament to the difficulties we have encountered in understanding the native heritage of our country. We can learn much from her indomitable spirit.
– Life is a journey, not a destination.
– Life holds great sorrows as well as great joys, and each may spring from the other.
– Our strength to hold on lies deep within our sense of self.
– Your family consists of those with whom you willingly give and exchange love, whether or not you are bound by blood.