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Posts Tagged ‘Nez Perce’

This is information I have collected for a poem. I have put it here as a quick essay.

STICK WOMAN

She shuffled along slowly, her leathered
feet kicking up dust with each step. Her back
bent under the weight of a load of sticks.
That was To-ka-map-map-e, woman of the Nez Perce
who attained a niche in the lore
of her people, when her brave deed
had counted coup. And so it was,
before the Nez Perce fled from the hated army
of U.S. soldiers. Chief Joseph and his tribe,
displaced from their beloved Wallow Valley
in Oregon, were fleeing to Canada.
Suffering from the cold and lack
of food, and ill equipped for fighting,
they were vulnerable to skirmish attacks.
In one such attack, To-ka-map-map-e
was captured and carried to the front
for interrogation. Hands tied,
she was placed on a horse, behind her captor,
and as they neared the front, she was able to free
her hands. She slid the soldier’s knife
from it’s sheath, and before he could react,
she plunged it into his back. Slumping sideways,
he slid from his saddle. To-ka-map-map-e
turned quickly and rode back
through the battle to Chief Joseph,
informing him of troop positions
and the size of each unit.
Although the information was helpful,
cold, hunger, and lack of weapons
led to final surrender of the Nez Perce tribe.
Chief Joseph acknowledged his defeat,
with his immortal words,
“Where the sun now stands,
I will fight no more forever.”
The brave attempt of To-ka-map-map-e to help
save her people, failed, but she refused
to live out her days on the reservation.
And in time, she escaped. A photograph
gave her more notoriety than her heroic act,
and gave her the name
by which she became well know, titled simply …
Stick Woman.

10/7/96 Phyllis DeWitt VanVleck

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