Sep 21, 2012

The Bison People

By Sultan Khawaja

The sun was rising in the distant as he plunged the spear into the fish. It bathed everything in its light. The boy lifted the spear out of the water with the fish impaled upon it. The spear’s handle had engravings carved upon it; sacred words of the boy’s tribe, which had been dyed red. The lower half of the handle was covered in the crisp, leathery skin of a bison and, what the flapping fish was impaled on now, was the curved horn of one as well. The bison roamed on these plains freely and were sacred to the people who lived here. Giant, majestic beasts whose bellows could be heard from miles away. They possessed great strength, yet they were gentle creatures by nature.

The boy took the fish off the spear and gently placed it in a pouch, making sure that the pouch was tied up so that today’s catch would not be carelessly dropped. Spear in hand; he started to walk in the direction of the sun, ready for what could be the most important day of his life.

The boy’s name was Cherokee and he belonged to the tribe of the Sioux. His tribe was the largest of all the Native American tribes belonging to these plains and thus belonging to the Sioux was a great honour. Every year the Sioux people would have a ceremony in which any Sioux child, the age of fifteen, would complete his transition from boy to man. The ceremony pitted the Sioux children against a challenge that could last for days on end and there was no assurance that the child would come back alive. Cherokee had been waiting for this ceremony all his life, and as he stood before the tribe’s elders a sense of relief had washed over him. He was determined, clever and quick. Together with his strength, Cherokee was ready for the challenge and knew he could succeed.

“Great Mantou, look upon these children with kindness for they are about to embark on a journey that will push all of them to their limits,” shouted the village chief before a huge, crackling bonfire. The chief wore a large pastel robe, which swept the ground every time he took a step, and his head had been covered in a crown of feathers. The feathers themselves were intimidating as each was the size of an arm, and if one looked closely, one could see that underneath the feathers were numerous, colourful beads, woven into the chief’s long, burnt brown hair. Though nobody would dare make eye contact with the chief, much less inspect his feathery crown.

“Let the Tomahawk ceremony commence.”

As soon as those words were uttered Cherokee knew it was time. Before him stood a small stone axe bound to a wooden handle, known as a tomahawk. With one last glance behind him, to see his family, Cherokee ran forward, lifted the tomahawk, and with it sprinted out onto the prairie, letting out a high pitched shout, making sure that it was one that the Sioux people would never forget.

“Do you think the boy will succeed?”

“The boy has a great heart, chief, and...” replied the elder.

“But will he succeed?”

“Yes chief, I believe he will.”

The chief looked out to the horizon where Cherokee was sprinting away and under his breath uttered a blessing.

“Great Mantou, watch over this boy and see that he may return to us one day with the horn of bison….”

And with that the sun slowly sank into the horizon, as if to seal the blessing in the dark of night.


Zoha said...

Love this!

Farwa Haider said...

Interesting setting.

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