“By the shores of Gitchee Goomiee, by the shinning big sea water, stood the wigwam of Nokomis, daughter of the moon Nokomis.” This is the first line of an Indian story my dad used to read to me as I was growing up. A “wigwam” is an Indian “tepee,” a tent that many Indian tribes lived in. As many people know who have read certain ones of my blogs, my family originally comes from Oklahoma, a state in the United States just north of Texas where many, many Indian tribes were sent. When my grandfather grew up there, it was called Indian Territory and wasn’t even considered part of the United States. Now, it is considered part of the United States, but the southeastern part of Oklahoma is still considered land that the Cherokee nation and the American nation share, and the Cherokee capital is in south eastern Oklahoma. If you look at Oklahoma on a map, you will see that most of the counties and towns have Indian names. For example, I graduated from Choctaw high school, and my aunt lived at Wetumka. There is a tribe in Oklahoma called the Kiowa. The Kiowa have a very interesting story.
There were a group of eight Kiowa children playing. They were seven sisters and one brother. They were pretending the brother was a bear and he was chasing the girls. A terrible thing happens in the course of the game. The brother actually turns into a bear. The little girls are extremely frantic and run even harder. They don’t know what to do because they are sure the bear will catch them. They come upon a stump in the forest. The stump says to them, “Climb up on me, and I will save you.” The little girls listen and climb up onto the stump. The stump rises up into the air and becomes so tall that when the bear gets there, he can’t get to the girls. He claws at the stump and puts claw marks all over it. The girls are borne into the sky and become stars. They are the stars of the Big Dipper. The stump is a place known as Devil’s Tower, a huge rock that looks like an over sized tree stump. The Devil’s Tower is a National Monument in the Black Hills of Wyoming. However, the Kiowas are now in Oklahoma.
I saw another place in Texas that has a place like Devil’s Tower. The ironic thing is it is also named after some of those Indians who came into Oklahoma. It is called Comanche Peak outside of Granbury, Texas. The story about that huge rock or what some call a mesa, a table top mountain, is that the Comanche, the Indians who lived in Texas, used to get up on Comache Peak and look out into the a distance. It is one of the ways they kept Texas when the Spanish from Mexico and the Tennesseans from the United States came trying to take their land. It was a look out point because you can get up on top of Comanche Peak and see for miles and miles in all directions. They kept people up their watching to see if the enemy was coming. Now, the Comanche are also in Oklahoma, the state that was called Indian Territory.
The United States sent all these Indian tribes to one state, but each one had its own culture. When people see an American Indian, they put them all in one category, but each tribe was different. The Cherokee were considered civilized by the white man. They lived in long houses, but have now adapted white men’s houses. They had a written alphabet. They were not warlike nor aggressive. They believed in the Great Spirit that many have come to think of as the Indian word for God. However, the Comanche were warlike. They lived in tepees. They stole children and did all kinds of horrific things to the white settlers who came. They had the best cavalry in the history of the world. Some Indian tribes actually thought that the bears were related to human beings because they walked on two feet like people do, and they refused to ever kill a bear because they thought they were their brothers. The poem/ story that I began this blog with actually also mentions the stars like the Kiowa story. It saw that a warrior became very angry and threw his grandmother into the Heavens, and when you look at the Milky Way, that is her body that you see there. The name of that long narrative poem in “Haiwatha.” I can almost quote it I have heard it so many times. However, it wasn’t actually written by an Indian. It was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow because he felt the Indians were such a integral part of America that they needed to be represented in our literature. Each Indian tribe had their own beliefs and values, but they are nowadays all lumped into one group, and many of them are in Oklahoma.