A/N: Just as a little disclaimer, I am in no way Native American what-so-ever. This was a project we had to do for class, and it's not meant to be offensive. We were simply to take what we had learned about post-Civil War life for the Native Americans and create a story.
For those of you who don't know, in the 1870s, many Native American children were taken to a school called Carlisle School in Pennsylvania, in order to force assimilation on them. When they left the school years later, these children had often forgotten their native language, and despite attempted assimilation, many never could be fully integrated into American society.
I hope you enjoy this! It's pretty dear to my heart.
The sun always rises in the East.
It is not something we are ever taught as children, but something we feel, as we feel the earth and as we are one with the Great Spirit. I knew this, as a child, as I knew my own name—it was something so ingrained in my being that it could never be forgotten.
The sun rose in the East the day the white men came with their guns and their hatred. As I lay in the newly growing grass—barely having seen eleven summers, with the scent of spring beginning to tickle my nose—I heard them approach with weapons drawn, ready to tear everything from us in one fell swoop. They were strangers to mercy.
The sun rose in the East the day we were marched to the reservation, where I would spend the better part of my adolescence. Mother told my brothers and me that we would be free there to live as we did just as before the white men came. I cannot say for certain if she believed this or if she meant it only in false comfort.
The sun rose in the East the day the American government decided we would never be welcome in the world if we did not make ourselves like them. They could not change the color of our skin or eyes, but they could teach us—inform our minds until we saw that they were right and our values had no place in this modern world. Again came the white men—this time to negotiate and order and, if all else failed, kidnap—and my darkest nightmare played out before my eyes. As we children were ordered to come with the white officials, I clung to my mother, begging the Great Spirit to let me stay—I was not ready to be taken away.
"Be brave, little dreamer," Mother whispered softly as they took me away. When I could no longer see her sturdy form on the horizon, I wept myself into a fitful sleep.
I do not remember the sun rising from any direction for a long time after that.
Life cycled on, as it always does, but all I recall from that time are scattered images: a school that would make us more American, the separation from my brothers, the English language—the sun never rising, always setting.
At night, when the sun was no where to be found at all, I dreamed of my mother, of the legends she used to tell me on the nights sleep evaded me and left me restless. As time went on, I found her memory faded—like the photographs the teachers showed us in our classes. I would try to recall her face and found I could not.
I never forgot her hands: somehow rough and smooth at the same time, they worked magic; a simple touch could heal any hurt I felt.
The sun finally did rise again in the East the day I left the school—a proper young American woman—but it quickly set again, for I found myself in a world in which I did not belong. No one knew quite where to place the People they had converted.
I was not American because of the color of my skin.
I was not human because of the frailty of my sex.
I was not Indian because I could no longer speak our Language.
The sun still rises in the East, but I am no longer certain of what that means.