Burning Butterflies

February 16, 2017
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I was on my father’s lap. I giggled as he rubbed his fingers through my hair. He smiled and said, “Never stop dreaming Dakotah. Remember the butterfly and what it represents. Do not forget the butterfly.”

By the time they take our blankets away, the frost has already painted my fingers crystal. We are huddled around the fire in the early morning after being torn from our nightmares. My brother clasps his frigid hand in mine and we curl together, embracing the brittle heat.
I gaze around, noting that Wounded Knee Creek has frozen overnight, now an icy splinter dividing our pathetic camp from the barracks of our captors.
The pale-faced beasts are tearing apart shelters and belongings in their desperate search for our arms. We are peaceful; our blankets hold no guns, only tears and dreams caught during the night. But our innocence can do nothing to stop their plunder.
My eyes fog and my lips swell with the iciness of the air. I begin to lose consciousness. I try to focus on something, anything, but it is too cold. A muted rainbow blinks in and out of my vision as I collapse.
The sun beamed down as I was lifted into the air by a whirlwind of butterflies surrounding me. My brother held my hand and together we absorbed the multitude of yellow, red, and white fluttering wings. I closed my eyes and inhaled the hope and good luck that was sure to come from these magnificent creatures. The butterflies continued spiraling upward when my dreamworld was ripped in half.

I had blacked out. Now the sound of bullets whistles through my ears and blood stains the air as I struggle to get back on my feet. I glance around and immediately find my brother’s bullet-ridden body in a basin of red snow. I scramble to my feet in shock and begin to run.
“What happened?” I scream silently, struggling to understand why the pale-faces have launched an attack against us. Why is this happening? Why are we being attacked again? Why is my brother dead? All we want is the safety and the life that these monsters so convincingly promised us.
I want to mourn my dear brother, but the iciness has imprisoned my tears. I collapse in a mound of dry heartache. I am now officially alone in this monstrous world.
A wasp-like hum fills my ears, but I ignore it. What is going to happen to me? Suddenly everyone around me is no longer there. The world is a hellstorm of burning steel and I am in its path.
Within seconds the snow is glowing red with the tears of my ancestors and I am gone.

Dakotah awoke in the ether above Wounded Knee Creek. His eyes, overwhelmed with sadness, surveyed the gruesome scene below. As he scanned the landscape, he noticed that his own body had been crippled beneath the hateful stare of the pale-faces’ cannons. His brother’s was far concealed within the ice, forever erased from the story of their world.
The remainder of Dakotah’s people were lifeless below, tears rested uncried within their eyes. But Dakotah could see something else in their stilled countenances, something that had died there in the bloody mud. It was the dream of the people—the dream of hope, freedom, and peace. Dakotah started to cry; it had been a beautiful dream.
Slowly, citrine-colored butterflies began to stream out of the chest of every frozen corpse scattered across the massacre site. The flock drifted upward, bringing with them the Sioux’s hopes and dreams until they encircled Dakotah’s spirit.
With one final breath, they erupted into ebony flame.

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