Sunday, August 26, 2012
In the fields where their cattle now graze, North Dakota relatives still find circles of rock that mark where Native Americans pitched their tepees and smaller circles of blackened stones where their campfires once blazed. The Indians that left them are long gone, but when Grandpa Tom and Grandma Ethel came to their homestead near Williston in the early 1900s, some First Americans still lived on the prairie. The buffalo herds that had sustained them were dead. They scratched out an existence any way they could.
Thomas and Ethel’s third child, my Aunt Alma, told this story: “One Sunday morning when my parents were having breakfast on the homestead, the door opened and in walked three Indians. The leader, seeing my sister and brother, went to their crib and gravely shook hands with them. Then, turning to my father, he asked, “Your papoose?” When my father assured him they were, he said, “Heap fine papoose.”
Then he came to the purpose of his visit. My uncle had shot and skinned a bobcat, then thrown the carcass out back of the barn. The visitors wanted it. My father gave them permission to take it but asked, “What do you want with that thing, anyway?”
“Him eat! Good!” said the old Indian. And as quietly as they had come, they left, taking the carcass with them.”