by Mary Bell
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"Come, Robin Hood, our teepee is in the center of the village." Blazing Star said as she guided him in the right direction through the camp.
"Our home. It is called a teepee. When Mother Earth changes her face, the entire village moves to a new camp. We need a home that can be dismantled and erected fast and easy. It also has to be able to be transported to our new camp with ease. Our tepees suit this purpose very well." She explained.
Blazing Star then guided him through the immense village, pointing out items of interest. A woman was outside her teepee cooking and propped up against the side of the teepee was something Robin had never seen before. Blazing Star said it was called a cradle-board. Inside was a small infant. The back of the cradle-board was stiff and the front was made of animal skins. The skins could be closed to protect the baby from the elements. It also had straps so the mother could carry the child on her back while performing her daily chores.
At another teepee or lodge, a woman named Snow Owl, was preparing an animal skin to be used in the making of a shirt for her husband. She used a tool called an Elkhorn flesher to scrape the flesh from the inside of the hide. Blazing Star explained, "Each woman of the tribe receives her flesher at her celebration of womanhood. A warrior can tell the kind of wife she will make by the color and the number of dots on her flesher. She receives a new dot for each deed accomplished, for each item of clothing made for example." Robin was enthralled.
At yet another lodge, a woman was working on what was called "moccasins". The slipper-like shoe was made of softened deer hide and decorated with beadwork. Robin noticed something interesting as they walked through the village, with the exception of the very young or the very old, there were very few men present.
"Where are all the men?"
"Oh, they have just returned from hunting. Our supply of meat is low from the long, cold winter. Soon, we will have a buffalo hunt!" Blazing Star finished excitedly.
" A huge woolly beast that roams the plains in great herds. The entire village participates in one way or another. The men make the kills and the woman skin and gut the animal where it falls. It is then loaded on a travois and brought to camp to be cured and stored for our use. We use every part of the buffalo. Nothing is left to waste, nothing." She explained.
Robin was pondering everything she had said when they arrived at her teepee. "We are here!"
Blazing Star lifted up the outside flap over the door and gestured for him to enter. She made sure to leave the flap up when she followed him inside. Robin was taken aback by the sight of the inside of the teepee. It was larger than he had expected and very well organized. The fire was in the center of the one large room. Huge poles made up the supports while animal skins sewn together were stretched over the poles with one opening for the door and one at the top where the poles met. The opening at the top also served as a way for the smoke from the fire to escape. Blazing Star gestured for Robin to sit . Just as he did so, he heard a rustling noise from outside.
A tall, copper-skinned , powerfully-built man entered the teepee. Robin stood and discovered the man was at least a head taller than he. Following the man were three younger men that looked remarkably like him. After them, Wahea entered the teepee with a guarded look on her face.
"Uh,oh!" Robin said to himself.
"So, my daughter has brought home an injured bird!" He boomed!
Robin was usually pretty sure of himself, yet at this moment, he felt somewhat less sure than normal. Perhaps it was the presence of this imposing man.
"No!" he said to himself. It was because all four men were almost NAKED! They wore what could only be called a small skin "skirt" around their waists and moccasins on their feet and just about nothing else. Each had necklaces made of some kind of animal bones. In their long ebony hair, they all wore feathers, and they all had moccasins on their feet. Robin felt a little overdressed.
All four sets of obsidian eyes were locked on him.
"So, does the bird speak?" the older man asked?
"What do you mean, bird?" Robin asked him.
" A robin is a bird is it not?" the older man countered.
"Oh, I understand now, yes it is." Robin answered.
"I am Chief White Eagle of the Oglala Lakota. These are my sons, Windrider, Soaring Eagle and Talon." He said as he pointed to each one in turn.
Each one nodded his head in Robin’s direction. Robin extended his hand in greeting and Chief White Eagle clasped his forearm. Robin was relieved when a smile crossed the chief’s face.
"I hear you already met my daughter and her friend." He said with a grin in her direction.
"Yes, I have." Robin answered with a smile.
"Come, sit, we eat." commanded the chief.
All the men circled the fire and sat down cross-legged in front of the fire.
"How do you come to be here Robin Hood?" Chief White Eagle asked.
" I’m not sure where here is."
"We are close to the Paha Sapa, the Black Hills." White Eagles explained.
" I have never heard of the Black Hills." Robin said. " My home is Sherwood Forest."
" I fear you are far from home, young Robin. This Sherwood Forest is unknown to me."
Robin then told them all he could remember. " I was riding in the forest headed back to camp when my horse lost his footing in the wet soil. I was thrown and hit my head. When I awoke, I was here."
"Wakantanka, the Great Spirit, works in mysterious ways. We do not always understand what his purpose is for us. Eventually his plans for us will be known. We must be patient and all will be revealed to us. Until then, you are welcome in our village and in the teepee of White Eagle." White Eagle assured Robin.
"I thank you for your hospitality, Chief White Eagle." Robin responded with sincerity.
Blazing Star and Wahea then began dishing out the food. It was a venison stew with wild vegetables. Everyone ate with their fingers , so Robin followed suit. He was so hungry and it was so delicious, that he did not mind it dripping down his arms. Robin noticed a few interesting things while they were eating.
When dishing out the food, the women did not pass between the men and the fire, the passed the food from behind. Robin assumed that to step in front of someone and the fire would be rude. They had also remained silent while the men were conferring, even though they knew the answers to some of the chief’s questions. The most unusual thing was that the women did not eat until all the men were done. Their customs were alien to him, yet he must learn them if he was going to be here for a while. It would not do to offend these proud people.
That night, drums were pounded and Windrider explained to Robin that they were the "Ominiciye Ktela", the summons to council. A meeting was going to be held to introduce Robin to the rest of the village. Upon arrival at the massive council lodge, they all sat around a huge fire. Robin estimated at least 140 men and Wahea were present. He was not as surprised as he would have been by her presence as he had noticed a difference between her and the other women of the village.
The other women of the village wore soft doeskin dresses while Wahea wore breeches and a vest. The other women did not wear feathers in their hair as she did. The warriors of the tribe seemed to accept her as their equal and not their subordinate, as they did the other women. These differences intrigued him and reminded him of another woman. His beautiful Marion. His strong-willed, stubborn, opinionated Marion! His heart ached with his love for her. He missed her.
Wahea was seated between her father and Talon. She was almost regal in her posture. Then Chief White Eagle spoke to the council of warriors.
" My koda, friends, we have a visitor from many days walk, in our village. Some of you will be angry as he is wasichun, white, but do not judge him from the deeds of others. He has done nothing to show he is our enemy. Treat him well and help him understand our ways. His name is Robin Hood and his home is called Sherwood Forest."
He then instructed them to introduce themselves. Next to him an ancient, wrinkled old man struggled to rise. Upon doing so, he said, " I am Eagle Eyes, Shaman of the Oglala, I welcome you Robin of Sherwood."
Windrider, who was sitting next to Robin whispered to him that shaman was the medicine man and Eagle Eyes was the oldest person in the village.
Robin nodded his head towards Eagle Eyes as Windrider had instructed him to and watched in disbelief as the old man sat down without help. The next to introduce himself was a scarred warrior no older than Robin himself. He bore marks of terrible wounds on his arms, chest, face and neck.
"I am Sly Fox, War Chief of the Oglala. Welcome."
Again Robin nodded his head. Next came an older warrior, perhaps of middle age.
"I am Spotted Tail of the Big Belly Society." Windrider explained that the big Belly Society was a group of older warriors. They were proven in their prowess and held high ranks of honor within the tribe.
The introductions went on until all 148 men had introduce themselves. Then came Wahea’s turn.
"I am Wahea, warrior princess, daughter of Chief White Eagle and Princess Blazing Star." she proclaimed with great pride. So, Robin thought to himself, she is a warrior princess, that explains a lot. She was more and more like Marion, he thought. Strange.
After the introductions and welcomes, the chief excused them all to their lodges as the hour was late. Many of the warriors came over to Robin and clasped forearms with him. Others slapped him on his back, and some just nodded in his direction. There were a few that gave open looks of hostility. Robin had to assume it was because he was a stranger. He hoped he could earn their trust. He and Talon and Wahea returned to the teepee with Chief White Eagle, while Soaring Eagle and Windrider went to their own as they were married. Soaring Eagle was also the father of a two month old baby boy.
Robin could not believe how utterly exhausted he was, yet he felt he would still not be able to go to sleep. His mind was whirling with all the happenings of the day. He was immensely relieved when Blazing Star announced that out of respect for their guest, they were to remain clothed! She explained that they usually slept without clothing especially in the warm summer months, as the nights could be quite warm. Thank the Lord for small favors! Sleeping was going to be difficult enough without the thought of two naked women sleeping so close to him!
Robin’s "bed" consisted of a buffalo robe. It was incredibly soft and comfortable. Given his aching head and body, it made getting relaxed all the easier. Talon slept near him while Blazing Star and Chief White Eagle shared a buffalo robe on the opposite side of the lodge. He sincerely prayed they would go straight to sleep this evening and would not feel amorous! Wahea slept near her parents on the other side of the lodge. It was a long, long time before Robin was able to get to sleep.
Morning came all too quickly for Robin’s liking. He awoke with a horrendous headache and was sore all over.
"Ughhhhh!" he moaned as he opened his eyes and tried to get up.
"Robin, are you feeling okay?" Blazing Star had heard him moan. She had been up for quite awhile now and was already doing her morning chores.
"My head is throbbing and my body feels like I fell off a cliff!"
"I have something for you." She said.
"Eagle Eyes came to me this morning and said you would need this." She handed him a small bowl which he was sure had once been a living thing. He pushed that thought to the back of his mind as he sipped the foul liquid inside.
"Yuck! This is AWFUL!" he wrinkled his nose at the smell.
"Now, there, cinstinna, little one." Blazing Star said in her best placating voice. "Drink all your medicine like a good little boy." Robin raised his eyebrow at that. When he raised his head, he looked straight into her laughing eyes.
"Yes, Mother." he deadpanned. It was uncanny how familiar this seemed.
"Hau, good." she replied. "You will feel better soon. You are lucky Eagle Eyes recognized the pain in your eyes last night at the council meeting and thought to bring you some of his herbs. Lie down and rest a little longer, while I fix the morning meal." She got no argument there, Robin lay down and was soon fast asleep.
The smell of the morning meal brought Robin out of his lethargy. He opened his eyes and was surprised to find the throbbing in his head was gone and his body aches had virtually disappeared.
"What was in that drink?" he asked Blazing Star.
" Some of Eagle Eyes’ private herbs. We would be lost without his knowledge. He has helped more than one of us with our ailments. He is passing his knowledge down to Dreaming Deer now, as he is getting quite old." Blazing Star explained.
"Well, I must remember to thank him." Robin stated as he rose from the robe to begin his day.
After the morning meal, everyone went down to the river to bathe. The men and women did not bathe together. Each had their own area, private and seclude from the other. After bathing, Robin was surprised to find clean doeskin breeches and a shirt waiting for him on the bank. The shirt had a wondrous designs on the front and long fringes on the sleeves and tail. There was also a pair of moccasins with the same design as the shirt.
"Who would have done this?"
Talon was laughing, ‘These are a gift from my mother and sister. They thought you needed clean garments."
"I am truly grateful. How did they know my size?" Robin asked.
"You were measured while you slept this morning!" Talon replied.
"While I slept?" Robin was overcome with the compassion of these people.
"They were supposed to be for my father, so they just took them in… a lot!" he said.
" He won’t be angry that I have his clothes, will he?" Talon shook his head. "Be glad it was not a breechclout!"
Robin looked puzzled. He was not sure he wanted to know what that was. Talon snickered as he pointed to his "skirt"! Robin’s eyes opened wide as he envisioned himself in the skimpy breechclout. "Not a pretty sight!" he shook off the image.
As he put on the clothing, he remarked on their softness and the moccasins were soooo comfortable! His toes were happy!!! He and Talon left the riverbank in tears they were laughing so hard. Robin thought how Talon reminded him of Little John, his giant friend.
End of Chapter Two
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