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3/28/2009 1:00:45 PM The story of the Cottonwoods A Lakota Love story  
Over 2,000 Posts (2,360)
Mesquite, TX
42, joined Mar. 2008

THIS IS NOT MINE. I DIDN'T WRITE THIS. (I love this story and thought I would share it)


A Lakota Love story: Cantognake (chan-doe-gnan-keh)

The story of the Cottonwoods (told by Joseph J. Marshall III in his book, the lakota way )

Cottonwood trees can be found along the rivers and creeks in Lakota country. They are tall and strong and live long lives. In midsummer the breezes play with their leaves, rustling and rattling them until they sing soft, joyful songs that everyone-four-leggeds, wingeds, crawlers, and two-leggeds-likes to hear: songs that can soothe a troubled mind, soften even the hardest heart, or heal a broken one. This is the story of two cottonwood trees who began their lives as something else.

Many, many winters before the white man's steamboat brought the running-face sickness (smallpox) up the Great Muddy River and killed off almost two thousand Lakota in the year 1837, two young people met at a summer gathering. She had just gone through her woman's ceremony and he had counted his first victory against an enemy. She had beautiful dark eyes and he was straight and tall.

They couldn't keep their eyes off one another. Many evenings he stood with her in the soft folds of an elk hide courting robe, just outside her family's lodge, as her mother kept a watchful eye. Hidden beneath the robe the young couple exchanged soft kisses and whispered promises. And at the dances, when the rabbit and round-dance songs were sung, she would pull him into the dancing circle. They would dance side by side, moving together step for step as if they were one person, their gentle voices blending in song with the softly pounding drums.

Everyone could see that the hearts of these two young people were only for each other, and the old people marveled at how their two voices together seemed to rise as one. It was only a matter of time, everyone was certain, before White Lance would take a gift of horses to the family of Red Willow Woman to ask for her hand in marriage.

The summer gathering ended and the two yong people reluctantly parted. White Lance rode away with a promise that he would gather many horses.

Summer passed and autumn came. Red Willow Woman's village was encamped near Turtle Butte while White Lances's people were many days' ride to the north near the White Earth River. He had ridden with several war parties against the Arikara and the Crow and distinguished himself by fighting bravely. On one raid he single-handedly captured twelve horses that, of course, were part of the bride price for Red Willow Woman's family.

Leaves turned color and were falling when her village moved just north of the sandhill country to hunt buffalo. It was there that White Lance found them. He and two friends drove eighteen horses into the encampment. But his soaring hear fell to earth like a wounded duck, his dreams crushed by red Willow Woman's own words.

With tears flowing she told him. She had been promised to a young man named He Crow. He was from a respected family and she was honor bound to do her father's bidding.

White Lance had never known such a feeling. The pain in his heart took his breath away; he could not think clearly and his very spirit seemed to curl up inside of him like a lost child. Out of shame and confusion he sent his friends away and rode aimlessly for several days and nights before he returned north. Back in his own village he hid in his mother's lodge and would not eat for days.

In the spring came word that He Crow and Red Willow Woman had been wed. When he heard that, White Lance took his pain and frustration on the warpath against the Crow. On the battlefield he acted recklessly, not seeming to care whether he lived or died.

He Crow, meanwhile, learned that while Red Willow Woman was everything a wife should be and their lodge was always neat and orderly, her heart and mind seemed to be elsewhere.. The following spring a daughter was born, but that only seemed to divert red Willow Woman's attention even more. To cover his disappointment, he Crow rode out often to hunt and accepted every invitation to take to the warpath.

Time passed; many winters came and went. White Lance and Red Willow Woman saw each other once every four seasons at the summer gatherings. Both of them knew that everyone was watching and acted with the utmost propriety, though it was plain to anyone who knew of their situation before that nothing, not even time, could weaken what they truly felt in thier hearts.

In time White Lance took a wife, Good Medicine, the widow of a friend killed during a buffalo hunt. he became faterh to her son, but she understood that while he was a good provider and a dutiful husband, his heart would always belong to another.

More winters passed and White Lance won many war honors, and many men rode with him when he led. he was sought after as a man who gave wise counsel, and he became a leader in peace as well as war. But many, including Good Medicine, saw that he was alone often. In those moments he was seen to be staring off, as if into another time or another place.

Like every good Lakota mother, Red Willow Woman was devoted to her children, for now she had a son as well. But she, too, whilted away many quiet moments, staring off to the north, especially during summer evenings.

White Lance and Red Willow Woman seemed to live for the summer gatherings, when they would have a chance to talk for a few moments. Each asked politely after the other's welfare and how it was with their families, but in their eyes a light would shine and they both seemed to come alive.Neither White Lance nor red Willow Woman dishonored their marriages or acted contrary to what was expected of them. The price of honor was to give up true happiness. And each had paid the price as well; it had not been easy for either of them. During one summer gathering He Crow sent word to Good Medicine. They met secretly and talked.

That autumn, long after the summer gathering ended and when the villages had finished their buffalo hunts to make meat for the winter, Good Medicine asked White Lance to take her to visit her relatives, who were encamped to the south. Likewise, he Crow announced his plans to visit relatives to the north and invited Red Willow Woman to accompany him.

[Edited 3/28/2009 1:03:44 PM ]

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3/28/2009 1:01:59 PM The story of the Cottonwoods A Lakota Love story  
Over 2,000 Posts (2,360)
Mesquite, TX
42, joined Mar. 2008

The morning after the first night of the new moon, both couples left their villages. They traveled alone because all their children were now grown. After several days White Lance and Good Medicine arrived at a certain place near the Smoking Earth River, a place where hunteres often camped along Horse Creek. Good Medicine said she wanted to camp there for a few days.

He Crow and Red Willow arrived a day later. It was awkward, but the couples were happy to see one another. Near the end of that first evening, as cool breezes crawled along from the northwest warning of a hard winter coming, he Crow did a strange thing.

As they all sat in the light of a crackling fire, he tossed a stick to the ground and spoke to Red Willow Woman.

"That stick is you," he said. " I cast you away. You know that in our ways a Lakota husband can cast away his wife by doing so. I have my reasons for this, and now you are away from me, you are free to go where you choose."

Red Willow Woman was stunned. Before she could speak, Good Medicine also did a strange thing. She brought White Lance's belongings out of ther lodge and placed them on the ground near the door.

"I give you you things," she said to White Lance. "There is no longer a place for them in my lodge. You know this to be a Lakota woman's right, to cast out her husband in this manner. I have my reasons. You are free to go where you choose."

White Lance was stunned. After a moment he and Red Willow Woman understood what was happening.

"You are the man in her heart, " said He Crow to White Lance. "You should be the man in her life, and you shall be."

"And you are the woman in his heart," Good Medicine said to Red Willow Woman. "Take your rightful place with him, as you should have been allowed to do long ago. You have both done you duty, now you must follow your hearts."

The next morning Good Medicine took down her lodge, and he Crow promised to see her safely to her relatives. That night White Lance and Red Willow Woman came together as man and wife twenty-five winters after they had first met.

They lingered in the valley of the Smoking Earth River for days, walking along the river even as the last leaves of autumn floated to the Earth. The world seemed new to them. The sky never looked so blue and the call of the high-flying geese no longer sounded like a sad song. Like the sun chasing away shadows, every new moment together chased off the memories of what should have been. Their hearts soared like hawks on the winds.

The first cold gusts of winter chased them to the sheltering gullies near the Great Muddy River. There they pitched their lodge and White Lance hunted so they could make meat for thier journey to Swift Bear's village, many long days to the northwest.

One afternoon he returned from the hunt to find the lodge empty, the ashes in the fire pit cold. Red Willow Woman was nowhere to be seen, and her horse was gone, too. With a little daylight left for tracking, a worried White Lance grabbed his weapons and set out. It was not long before he found her footprintsover a set of hoof prints. From the tracks it was plain that Red Willow Woman was trailing her horst. Snow began to fall, lightly at first as he followed their tracks. As the afternoon wore on the snow became thicker and thicker.

Soon White Lance could no longer see any tracks. He began to call out her name, shouting over and over again. Daylight was fading; he knew it was nearly sundown. The snow covered the ground and hid the sky; there was nothing but whiteness. Then he heard a faint cry, a voice carried by the wind.

White Lance ran toward the sound, and soon dark shapes appeared out of the whiteness and his heart pounded like a fast drum. One of them was Red Willow Woman, huddled on the ground, the snow beneath here red with blood. Over her stood an angry and powerful bear with blood on his claws, roaring as it turned to face White Lance.

As a cry of anguish and rage like an angry summer thunger-clap rose from his chest, White Lance ran and thrust his lance. It went true and pierced the animal's great chest, but the bear was powerful and he fought back. It's sharp claws slashed and slashed until White Lance was covered with his own blood. But he stabbed with the lance again and again, piercing the bear's chest each time. The snow turned red with thier blood and the cold air was filled with thier bellows of rage and pain.

They fell almost at the same heartbeat, the great bear finally weakened by a final thrust of the lance deep into his heart. But he had ripped open the throat of his killer.

With the last remaining heartbeats of life, White Lance crawled to Red Willow Woman and took her in his arms. She summoned her waning strenght to pull him close. And so they walked into eternity together as husband and wife.

Two summers were to pass before a group of hunters found the bones near the shore of the Great Muddy River. Two skeletons were entangled. Nearby lay the bleached bones of a bear, the point of a lance embedded inside its ribs. It was not difficult for the hunters to imagine what had happened. They also saw two cottonwood saplings growing side by side in a grassy slope near the water, as if growing from the same root.
Their families placed the bones of White Lance and Red Willow Woman on the same scaffold. As the years passed the saplings grew into tall, strudy trees, their upper branches twisting around each other like hands interlocking fingers.
As more seasons and years passed, people would come to sit under the two cottonwoods, and in thier cool shade they told the story of two young people: she with dark, beautiful eyes and he who stood straight and tall. And as the story was told, the breezes rustled the leaves of the two cottonwoods until they sounded like two gentle voices blending in song, two voices that rose as one.
Several years ago I went to the Great Muddy River, now called the Missouri. I went there alone. I had lost someone dear to me, a friend whose own life was only just beginning when it was taken from here. I walked those shroews and watches the rolling waters and recalled the story of the woman with the dark beautiful eyes and her warrior who stood straight and tall. In a grove of young cottonwoods I rested in the shade. There was no way to know is I was near the spot where the two cottonwoods had stood, but I had heard that long after the two trees had fallen and were taken back into the Earth, their stumps could be seen. I found no stumps, but I could hear all around me the rustling of leaves of the young cottonwoods coaxed by gentle breezes; and I though I could hear voices singing. Perhaps it was noly my broken heart yearning for comfort, but it was easy to imagine that these young cottonwoods were the children of those two who stood so long ago. My heart wanted to believe it because there was something soothing, something full of promise in the songs of those young cottonwoods.

[Edited 3/28/2009 1:03:29 PM ]

3/28/2009 1:14:23 PM The story of the Cottonwoods A Lakota Love story  
Over 1,000 Posts (1,185)
Bloomington, IL
57, joined Feb. 2009

Thank you so much for sharing that. It was absolutely beautiful. Now this is my kind of story....ahhh

3/28/2009 1:16:00 PM The story of the Cottonwoods A Lakota Love story  
Over 2,000 Posts (2,360)
Mesquite, TX
42, joined Mar. 2008

I'm glad you enjoyed! It took me forever to fit it on here... LOL

It is a beautiful story.

3/28/2009 1:19:19 PM The story of the Cottonwoods A Lakota Love story  
Over 7,500 Posts!! (9,116)
Suffern, NY
29, joined Mar. 2009

That was wonderfull ....makes me want to go and find a good book to read right now..I think I will...

3/28/2009 1:22:24 PM The story of the Cottonwoods A Lakota Love story  
Over 2,000 Posts (2,360)
Mesquite, TX
42, joined Mar. 2008

It is a beautiful book!! I hope you do go get it. I love it!!

3/28/2009 2:15:06 PM The story of the Cottonwoods A Lakota Love story  
Broken Arrow, OK
61, joined Jan. 2009

that is a beautiful story, thank you so much for sharing it.

3/28/2009 2:20:23 PM The story of the Cottonwoods A Lakota Love story  
Over 2,000 Posts (2,360)
Mesquite, TX
42, joined Mar. 2008

Your Welcome

3/29/2009 9:10:35 AM The story of the Cottonwoods A Lakota Love story  
Over 7,500 Posts!! (8,310)
Westfield, MA
51, joined Aug. 2008

3/29/2009 9:13:02 AM The story of the Cottonwoods A Lakota Love story  
Over 7,500 Posts!! (7,504)
Poynette, WI
54, joined Oct. 2007


3/30/2009 10:03:33 PM The story of the Cottonwoods A Lakota Love story  
Over 2,000 Posts (2,360)
Mesquite, TX
42, joined Mar. 2008

Thanks... please share this story with others.

4/21/2009 6:13:14 PM The story of the Cottonwoods A Lakota Love story  
Over 2,000 Posts (2,360)
Mesquite, TX
42, joined Mar. 2008

4/22/2009 5:13:39 AM The story of the Cottonwoods A Lakota Love story  
Over 1,000 Posts (1,702)
Leesburg, FL
55, joined Nov. 2008

I have read this before and it seems
no matter how many times or how often I read it,
It stills does my heart good.
Thank You

4/22/2009 3:13:25 PM The story of the Cottonwoods A Lakota Love story  
Over 1,000 Posts (1,532)
Braidwood, IL
54, joined May. 2008

Pilamaya (pee la ma ya) = Thank you!

Atanikili (ah tah nee key lee) = You are awesome!

The Great Spirit lives in you

4/22/2009 4:27:54 PM The story of the Cottonwoods A Lakota Love story  
Belfast, ME
71, joined Mar. 2009

Thank you, thank you, thank you...

4/25/2009 12:10:50 AM The story of the Cottonwoods A Lakota Love story  
Over 2,000 Posts (2,360)
Mesquite, TX
42, joined Mar. 2008

Glad your enjoying this beautiful love story.

5/16/2009 10:06:58 AM The story of the Cottonwoods A Lakota Love story  

Louisiana, MO
70, joined Apr. 2008

I am Native American, and your story was beautiful and sad all at the same time. It brought tears to my eyes and touched my soul. Thank you for writing it. and letting the people here know it was not written by you. Only a kindred soul would do that. Thank you again.

6/18/2009 4:07:45 PM The story of the Cottonwoods A Lakota Love story  
Austin, TX
42, joined Jun. 2009