Last Real Indians

“Shoes” By Sara Jumping Eagle

I was taught this at a young age, to start caring for others, at least in our family we did.  We had to.  There wasn’t time for anything else.  Learned how to be a big girl – how to do the laundry, even without laundry soap, even when there was no washer – still had clean clothes.

Had hair brushed, all the time – when it wasn’t, I heard about it, felt it, remembered, that wasn’t going to happen again, that bushy head – we were just having fun, wrestling around in the grass, but she had a bad day; so I got my hair chopped off, looked goofy for awhile.

I remembered to keep my hair looking nice after that, no more chopping off for me.  We figured things out, how to get where we wanted to go, how to have fun, how to make do.  Rolling skating all the way across town in the mid-day heat to swim all day.  We always had enough it seemed.  Or I did I should say, because sometimes my brother’s shoes were too tight for a long time, toes all scrunched up, too scared to ask for anything because we were lucky to be here.

We weren’t really told that, but he must’ve felt that more than me, we must’ve known we better be good or else.  She loved us…she didn’t know how to show it.. she had to work a lot, nursing school, busy, priorities….. Yet I remembering washing that pair of pants that my friend gave me, because I didn’t really have any other “cool” ones, even though they were a little bit high wadders.  I washed them over and over in the sink.  I rung them out to dry, hanging them over the shower curtain bar, wearing them to school with damp edges.

Once I had a speech to give, it was a big deal to me – for the Legion, a regional event.  I didn’t have any nice shoes to wear.  I dug around in my Grandmas closet, I found these high heeled boots, tan, with fur on the edges – I thought they were so nice.  If Grandma catches me, she will be sooo mad!  I will get whacked in the head, but she won’t find out, she won’t be there!

So I wore those boots my favorite jeans.  I gave my speech and did pretty good.  I snuck those boots back into Grandmas closet.  I look back at those pics, those boots so out of place, my large glasses, and that attempt at feathered bangs, with those American Legion guys standing next to me, I look so scared– and I think I had some courage.

To think I had some courage, at such a young age. I appreciated my space on that bed, that I shared with my sister, until I graduated high school. I appreciated that space in the closet, that space was mine. And when I got the chance, I bought my brother some shoes.

 

Sara Jumping Eagle, MD (Oglala Lakota and Mdewakantonwan Dakota)