“He wants you three to come to his hut.”
Snapping turtle signaled Little Dog to come and the rest of the Indians to disperse. His hut was small and it smelled of burnt meat. Folded blankets showed where the residents slept, and a canvas hammock hung in one corner. The clay floor was hard and swept, and on this floor Little Light, the chief’s wife, served them black coffee with lots of maple sugar and other spicy ingredients. It tasted like Makwa-ikwa’s coffee. After Little had poured out the light, Snapping Turtle whispered something to her and she left the hut.
“You had a sister named Birdwoman,” Shaman said to Little Dog. “Is she here too?”
“She’s been dead a long time. I have another sister, Green Weide, the youngest. She’s on the Kansas reservation with her husband. “No one in Tama was from the group at Holden’s Crossing except him, Little Dog said.
Snapping Turtle had Little Dog say he was a mesquakie and that there were about two hundred mesquakies and sauks in Tama. Then a torrent of words followed. Little Dog translated: “He says the reservations are very bad. Like big cages. We were sick with longing for the earlier days, the old life. We caught wild horses, ridden them and sold them for as much as we could get for it. We saved all the money. Then about a hundred of us came here.
We had to forget that Rock Island used to be Sauk-e-nuk, the great city of the Sauks, and Davenport was Mesquak-e-nuk, the great city of the Mesquakies. The world has changed. We gave the white man money for a hundred acres, and we had the white governor sign the contract for us. “
Shaman nodded. “That was good,” he said, and Snapping Turtle smiled. Obviously he understood a little English, but he continued speaking in his own language and his face turned serious. “He says,” Little Dog went on, “the government always claims they bought our vast land. The White Father takes our land and offers the tribes small coins instead of large paper money. He even cheats us out of the coins and gives us cheap stuff and trinkets and claims the mesquakies and sauks get an annual pension. Many of our people simply leave the worthless things on the ground to rot.