They sat in a circle, inside the tipi,

around a small fire,

Five of the Elders,

the oldest and wisest of the tribe,

and they passed around a pipe tamped with tobacco,

while the smoke lifted lazily to the small hole

at the top of the tipi,

and I, a lowly no-account woman,

who had no voice in such matters

sat in a small corner,

waiting to do whatever might be bidden

by the sages of our people.

For a while, they spoke little,

content to smoke

and think about

what course our tribe should take;

should we, they pondered,

continue to travel north

to escape the clutches of the white man?

Even though it would be bitter cold

throughout the winter?

and food would be scarce?

Or should we, as one Elder supposed,

stay where we were?

and hope for the best?

Travel is hard on my weary bones”

said that Elder

and the snow and cold make me ache”

True” said another Elder as he inhaled the pipe,

But the white man encroaches closer and closer

and presents a danger to our people.

“Perhaps they will just go away” said the third,

an optimistic Elder named Red Wing,

Perhaps” he said wistfully,

“A big wind will come and carry them all off”

“More will come” said the fourth Elder.

We must make a decision.

Our people are waiting for an answer!”

Stay or go? Go or stay?

My heart beat fast

because I knew

Either decision would spell calamity.


Sandra Lee Smith

Originally posted May 27, 2009

Updated September 1, 2018



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