“I am holding onto the gut.”

Reid Gomez Click to

Reid Gomez is currently working on the novel Bought and Sold, the first two chapters of which have been published in Eleven Eleven and Red Ink. Her work has also been published in Chicana/Latina Studies: The Journal of Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social, Reckonings: Contemporary Short Fiction by Native American Women, Traffic, Chain and Latina: Women’s voices from the Borderland.

wetatuhneesáhUt.  I am holding onto the gut.

Wah.  Once they were accepted they were allowed inside—White men.  D. D. Mitchell, Indian Agent, among them.  They sent a boy.  The Arikara men.  Bear Medicine Men, their society.  They sent him.  Words, he gave them.  Their eyes showed the white of trust, them not having it.  They did not.  Belief—they could not open themselves to it.  They followed the boy, his words out in front.  Walking, they were behind them.

“A band of bears.  They are preparing now to demonstrate their power.  If you would like.  You may come and witness.”

The men, D. D. Mitchell, being one, were fat with the pleasure of the bears’ invitation.  Stories.  They had heard them.  They knew.  Arikara men were known.  Bear Medicine Men Society was famous.  Six bears.  They looked like men wearing skins to the men whose eyes showed the white.  They looked like bears.  They were.  Sahnish.  Sitting.  The bears in the center of the lodge.  The people standing like grass around them.

This is the world.

We live in.

Everyone has their view.  A place for it was provided.  The small up close.  The large in the back.  Sitting or standing.  The men, D. D. Mitchell was one, were let so close they could easily tell.  Deception.  For it, they were looking.  Their faces, with the eyes that showed white reflected their mind.  Doubting D. D. Mitchell.  His thoughts, he recorded.  He was a white man, keeping a journal:  I thought them so grotesquely made up I could not decide if they were ludicrous or frightful.  I was uncertain which response was the best:  laughter or terror.

Time lingers in the great Earth Lodge.  In this world we are living.  A young boy, again, he was called.  Clay.  It was needed.  The earth is particular.  Power has a place, so specific, instructions were detailed.  Where.  The boy, he was to go, a designated spot for digging.

It was soon.  His return from the river bed.  The clay, it was, given shape.  Each piece in the palm of a bear:  buffaloes, men, horses, bows and arrows.  Each clay man set on a mount, armed.  Each mount placed three feet in front.  The line of buffalo they were standing.

The man, his eyes still showing their white thought.  These were thoughts, he was thinking.  Ludicrous solemnity.  They are performing.  Ridiculous.  His thoughts, he wrote them, explaining how they were changing the arrangement.  Each one was placed, then the Bears addressed them, the hunters.

“Children, mine.  I know the time between hunts has been long.  You are hungry.  I know.  Now.  Use strength.  Wah.  Kill as many as you can.  There are people here who are laughing if you do not kill.  They will, laugh.  Go now.  They  have already smelt you.  The buffalo, they have started.”

The men with Mitchell were entirely amazed as the clay figures took off with the last breath of word.  The Bear’s mouth, he was speaking.  Straw arrows shot from clay bows pierced the buffalo three feet away.  The great animals began their falling.  Dead; they were falling.  All but two who completed the circle’s outermost edge with arrows sticking out of their sides, one with three, the other with five.  Finally they finished their fall.  Dead in the center.

At this he spoke, the same Bear Medicine Man, “Run.  Into the fire.”

One, it was lit.  Without fear they ran full toward the flame.  The horses pulled to a stop at the edge.  They were standing.  A clay rider called out—the leader— his anger clear,  “Why are you not going?”

The others of clay whipped their mounts.  The horses finally agreeing.  The flames took them at once—the mounts and their clay riders.  Tumbling into the flame.  The center taking them in, in a tumbling down they lay to bake.

The Bear Medicine Men gathered the slain buffalo and placed them on the fire.


They were pounded down after baking dry.  The Bear Medicine Men spoke.  The men with the ridiculous eyes understood nothing of what they said.  No Translation.  The dust was brought to the top of the Earth Lodge and given to the wind.  The men with the white eyes still believe they were deceived, despite their senses.  They failed to understand the Bear Medicine Men’s Power:  the animated clay, the soul, the motion, the life.  Experience, they denied it, explained it away.  Their senses could not contradict what their thinking said was real.  Their breadth of power limited to them, individually, as one.

Man alone is nothing, shouting into the wind.  Believing the time is over, some, they have strange names, pledge allegiance to city limits.  Then it was our turn, the new everlasting feeling.

wetatuhneesáhUt.  ©NIKIL

Tell another.  I am holding onto the gut.