Today my guest, Grace Cummings, the heroine in White Heart, Lakota Spirit is here to tell us how she survived being held captive by Indians. So, without further ado, let's begin the interview:
Just for clarification, HOST will indicate the interviewer’s questions below:
HOST: It must have been a very traumatic ordeal for you. Can you tell us about it?
GRACE: It was horrid. (She shudders) I still hear my mother's screams in my head. I…
HOST: Do you need a moment to compose yourself?
GRACE: No, I'm fine. (Deep breath) It was 1874. My family had moved around a lot because my father, bless his departed soul, was a restless man. It was hard for a girl my age to make friends, not living in one place for very long, and just when Ma, Kevin and I thought we might settle down, General George Armstrong Custer made an announcement about gold being discovered in the Black Hills of Lakota territory. That's all it took! Pa loaded everything back into our Conestoga and insisted this was his chance to strike it big.
HOST: Why didn't you mother put her foot down?
GRACE: You have to understand that back then, women were expected to know their place. Ma pretty much did as Pa said. Besides, he promised her that when he hit the mother lode, he would buy us a new house; new furniture and we'd never have to move again.
HOST: I can see how that might have sounded pretty enticing.
GRACE: It was. We all had visions of putting down permanent roots, so being out on the plains, cooking over a campfire again and roughing it for a just a little longer was worth it if Pa and my brother, Kevin, found gold.
HOST: Tell us more about your experience, please.
GRACE: Okay. We had made camp at the base of the Black Hills, near a sparse stand of trees. There was a small stream nearby, so water was plentiful. Ma and I slept on a pallet of blankets in the wagon, while Pa and Kev slept in a makeshift tent. We had just finished breakfast one morning and were laughing and talking before Pa and Kev went off to the mine, when I happened to spy some riders on the horizon. It soon became clear from the whooping and hollering that they were being attacked by Indians.
HOST: Oh my goodness, what did you do?
GRACE: Pa immediately yelled for Ma and I to get back in the Conestoga, and he and Kev grabbed their rifles and crawled underneath. I hunkered down behind the tailgate, waiting for Ma, but she never came. I was so scared, hearing the sound of gunfire and those blood-curdling war cries, I covered my ears, but it didn't help. When I got the courage to peek outside, I saw the Indians circling our wagon and Ma running in the opposite direction. I think she was trying to draw them away from me. I didn't realize it at the time, but Pa and Kevin were already dead. They were easy pickings with no real shelter.
HOST: How awful.
GRACE: You have no idea! (Stopping to bite her knuckle, then staring straight ahead). They…they shot my ma down in cold blood right before my eyes.
HOST: Oh you poor thing. What did you do then?
GRACE: (Dabbing at eyes with hanky) I curled myself into a ball and prayed that it was all just a bad dream, and that I'd wake up. When I didn't hear anything for a while, I found the courage to rise to my knees and peer over the tailgate again. I almost had heart failure when I came face-to-face with the ugliest sight I'd ever seen.
HOST: Oh my gosh, I have goose bumps. What was it?
GRACE: It was the person I later learned was Black Crow. His face was painted with bright yellow lightning bolts, and he had a scar that ran from ear-to-ear. He pulled me out of the wagon, barking orders in a strange language, and threw me to the ground. I felt like my heart was going to pound its way right through my chemise. (Holds hand against chest)
HOST: Oh my goodness, what was going through your head?
GRACE: I was certain he was going to kill me, too. I think he might have had it not been for one of his friends. The one, called Little Elk, seemed to step in and calm Black Crow down. Still, it was an awful thing to go through, wondering if you were going to live or die. After Black Crow tethered my arms together and dragged me along behind his horse, like I was nothing more than an animal, I almost wished I had died. I fought to keep up all the way to the Indian village.
HOST: How far was it?
GRACE: (Holding out her wrists). I'm not sure, but you can still see the scars where the rawhide bit into my skin. I didn't have time to get my shoes on, so my feet were pretty raw, too. I'm used to walking beside the wagon every day, but being dragged is quite different. It took forever.
HOST: What happened when you got to the village?
GRACE: I was so tired I could barely stand, but I dared not drop to the ground when it seemed like the whole village stood in a circle around me, staring and laughing. I thought for sure I was about to meet my maker, but something very surprising happened.
HOST: Don't stop now!
GRACE: A beautiful green-eyed woman walked into the midst of things and protected me. She spoke their language and dressed in their clothing, but it was evident from her flaming red hair that she was white. If it hadn't been for her I would never have survived to tell this story, that and the fact that Black Crow's mother didn't like having a white woman share her home. (Grace chuckles)
HOST: What happened?
GRACE: After only one night in her tepee, Black Crow handed me over to Little Elk. He, at least treated me with kindness, allowing Green Eyes to help me bathe and wash my hair. I was still scared, but not nearly as much. Pa always said I was headstrong, and it almost got me into trouble when Little Elk gave me a new name. (Sitting up straighter, squaring shoulders)
HOST: Oh gosh, we're almost out of time and I hate to make you stop. Can you give us a brief summary, and quickly?
GRACE: Although there is so much more to tell, I'll just say that Little Elk played a big role in the decision I made when the white soldiers raided the camp. Unless you want to invite me back for another visit, I guess you'll just have to read the book. (Holds out a copy)
HOST: Is this for me? How nice, and it's autographed. Grace Cummings, thank you so much for spending time with us and sharing your captivating story. I'd like to remind our readers that White Heart, Lakota Spirit by Ginger Simpson is offered at http://www.moongypsypress.com. It’s supposed to be offered in print on Amazon any day now. There's more to story, and if you're like me, you want to know how things turned out. Happy reading!