Transcontinental Railroad

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Juana and I were sitting under the big pine tree, listening. We were listening to the elders of the tribe; they were having an emergency meeting. We never had emergency meetings unless something was irrevocably wrong. For the past month or so everyone had been worrying. I honestly had no idea what was going on, and I was always afraid to ask.

My father was the chief and he knew what was going on more than anyone else. I could see that in his eyes. Most people in my village were easy to read, their eyes said it all.

Once the meeting was over I could see the deep-set furrow on my father’s face. Obviously the meeting didn’t solve anything. That didn’t exactly boost my self-esteem enough for me to finally find out what was going on. Later on that night I started preparing our buffalo meat. While I was skinning the meat, I felt a burst of energy within my system. I felt the pressure building within me. I knew it was the time to ask my father what was going on. So I did. I didn’t exactly know what he was going to say in response to my random question, but I had a strong feeling he wasn’t going to welcome the question.

Feeling that feeling, as though it was my last day on this earth, I stepped forward.

“Father,” as soon as that one measly word came out of my mouth, I instantly cowered in my mind.

“Yes, Paramita, may I help you?”

My name, Paramita, meant wisdom, but at that moment, I didn’t feel like I was living up to that. However, I thought that if I made it through the psychological mess, I might as well ask.

“I was wondering…What was the meeting about earlier? Is there a problem?”

“Nothing you need to worry about,” He said, but then, just under his breath, “Yet.”

My mother entered then, and she told my Father, “I think Paramita has every right to know!” Thanks to her, my father proceeded to tell me.

So, my father sat down and began his story. “By the tenth moon of the fifth month, a golden stake shall be driven at Promontory Summit. This will commemorate the Transcontinental Railroad, the one that is ruining our way of life.”

I had heard absolutely nothing about this railroad, but I knew that there was a reason behind that; there is no solution to our predicament. This railroad brought many problems such as the fact that we could lose all of the good game around this area. European-Americans shot buffalo for fun, not for food, and shelter. We believe that the spirits put buffalo on this sacred planet as a source of survival and a part of the circle of life. The European-Americans just wanted to have some fun with the amazing beasts. Also, the buffalo herds could not travel over to the plains because the tracks were too high for them.

Father continued his story, “With the building of this monstrosity, it shall bring more and more white settlers into our turf. If they keep coming, they will continue to push us into a smaller and smaller corner of the world. A world where we have an equal opportunity to live in! This railroad is just preposterous!”

My mother then butted in, “Now, calm down, we can get through this.”

Father said, “You’re right, I agree I should calm down, but there is no way we can get through this, we even sent some of our own people to negotiate with a man named, William T. Sherman, unfortunately his head is thick as that of the buffalo. He told us, "We will build iron roads, and you cannot stop the locomotive any more than you can stop the sun or the moon."”

Now I knew why he kept this from me, Father would never want me to feel like my life as I know it is going to end at the drop of a pin. When Father was done telling me this, I ran over to meet Juana and tell her what was going on. I now knew the pain of life ending, however I also knew the pain of not knowing, I felt that that was greater. If not greater, at least more important.

When I walked outside, I saw Juana still sitting under the great oak. When I told her all of the news, she was appalled. We both wanted to do something but we knew there was nothing to be done.

That night, Father called a tribe meeting, this time; it wasn’t an emergency meeting, just a normal meeting to alert the whole tribe of his consensus. I must say I was eager to know what he was planning. My father was a brilliant man, that’s where I got my name from.
Juana and I left our tree to go meet around the fire with all of the others. When we got there, Father was in the middle of speaking to everyone.
"The white people have surrounded us, and left us nothing but an island. When we first had this land we were strong. Now we are melting like snow on a hillside, while they are growing like spring grass."
I heard someone from our tribe talking to their friend and they said, “Chief Red Cloud is so brilliant, even in a crisis situation, he can remain as calm as still water.”
When I went to bed that night, I wasn’t thinking about the fact that life for my people was ending, but of the words of the members of my tribe. I thought to myself, “That’s my father! Everything is going to be figured out, one way or another.”





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